Friday, October 26, 2012

COM Ch 6: Then Comes . . .

Chapter 6:  Then Comes . . .

            I married Jason a few weeks before I turned twenty-four.  I was attending graduate school, and I was finally learning to relax and trust after working out my issues and my fears.  I was enjoying setting up house for the two of us and learning to cook.  Basically, I was just having fun being young.  And I had clear plans for my future.  I was going to get my counseling license.  I was going to work a few years to pay down school loans.  I was going to enjoy the unbridled freedom that comes with being on my own. 
            I was going to get a big surprise! 
            After feeling “not quite right” for a little while, I took a pregnancy test one day as my husband played video games in the other room.  I didn’t tell him that I was taking the test.  I was taking it just in case, to rule out pregnancy. 

            I stood there at the bathroom sink the entire two minutes, holding my breath, watching the color develop, trying to decipher as early as I could if there was a hint of color where the second “you’re pregnant” line would be. 
            And after two minutes, it was glaringly obvious.  One tiny, little line of color changed everything.  Four months after getting married, I was pregnant.  Yes, I know how it happens.  But I was young and thought, Hey, it won’t happen to me till we are ready.  We just got married.  And we have plans! 
            But God had plans, too. 
            I must’ve looked at the test at least five times just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.  There were two lines, right?  My hand automatically went to my belly, and I chuckled in disbelief. 
            After standing there a few stunned minutes, letting the shock wear off, I froze . . . Oh, dear!  I have to tell Jason! 
            I mean, this is probably the biggest news you could drop on someone, besides something like, “Hey, guess what?  Did you know that I am actually an alien and can change forms?  Wanna see me turn into a platypus?” 
            His world was about to go from relaxation and freedom to responsibility and financial catastrophe.  (Okay, not really!  But I knew that’s how he’d see it.)  I, at least, already had a “maternal” mindset since I was the oldest of six.  And I was used to changes.  I didn’t like them, but I could roll with them.  But even last minute changes, like which night we grocery shopped on, would leave Jason feeling discombobulated.  (That’s one of my top two favorite words – discombobulated.  Along with the word ‘creepy.’  Cracks me up.) 
            Jason is the baby of the three kids in his family.  And he lived at home until we got married.  So he had only been on his own for four or five months.  And Jason, as anyone who knows him will agree (and I love it about him), is pretty much a big kid himself.  He loves toys and games and mischief, just as any kid would.  How would he take the news that he was going to be a father?  We had thought for sure that we would have at least a couple years before kids arrived.     
            I stood there in the bathroom for a few more seconds, trying to wipe the smirk off my face.  I didn’t want to alarm him with my expression before I could deliver the news.  (Oh, yeah, cold and stone-faced was so much better!)  For him, this would be coming out of nowhere because, as I said, I hadn’t told him that I was taking a pregnancy test.  I don’t remember if I even told him that I thought I could be pregnant. 
            Well, I walked over to the room where he was busy playing his computer game, and I solemnly and rather robotically asked him, “Would you turn off the computer, please?” 
            “Okaaaaaay?” he said, with one eyebrow cocked in a quizzical expression.  I couldn’t think of any words to deliver the news, so I just raised the test up in the air and stood there giggling (I do that when I’m embarrassed or nervous) with an “Oh my goodness, I don’t know how this happened” smile. 
            A fleeting look of confusion came over his face, followed very closely by one of wide-eyed terror.  (I will always remember that face!  Seriously, I don’t think he could have looked more terrified if my head had exploded while I stood there.)  His hands flew to his mouth and he stumbled backward as he yelled, “NO, NO, NO, NO!” 
            But YES, YES, YES!  It was God’s plan and nine months later we welcomed our first child into the world.  Within thirteen-and-a-half months, we were blessed with a new marriage, a new rental home, and a new baby boy who (Thank God!) had made it into the world safely.  That, in itself, was a blessing from God. 
            The pregnancy itself wasn’t that bad.  Other than the morning sickness, which, oddly enough, started the day after I found out I was pregnant.  And it hit several days out of each week for a couple months.  There’s nothing quite like leaping from a still-moving car, holding your hand over your mouth, struggling to unlock the door, rushing through the house to the bathroom, and barely making it to the toilet so that you can throw up everything you ate that day.  (The only meal I could stomach at those times was Burger King fries with a Sprite.  And I didn’t even like Burger King fries.)
            It’s even more fun when you have absolutely nothing in your stomach, yet you still have to throw up, and so you run to the kitchen to get a glass of water so that you can chug as much as you can while you are gagging so that at least you have something to throw up and your body doesn’t have to strain as hard. 
            I also became majorly repulsed by chicken.  What is it about pregnancy that causes irrational, uncontrollable repulsions or cravings?  It is a physical urge stronger than the need for sleep or to go to the bathroom. 
            I remember being so sick one week that I had to go to the store for some soup.  But I began to grow terrified on the way there because I knew that somewhere in that store . . . was chicken.  And I knew that chicken germs and chicken scent and tiny particles of chicken were floating through the air and were going to make me spontaneously throw up all over the aisle.  I avoided any aisle that took me by any kind of meat as I ran to the canned soups, grabbed what I wanted without barely looking, paid as fast as I could, and got outta there.
            I only really had one craving with that pregnancy.  One day, I realized that I just had to have something that I never had before . . . strawberry cheesecake ice cream.  Nothing else besides “strawberry cheesecake ice cream” would do.  And I just knew that it had to be out there somewhere.  So I scoured the ice cream case at our local store and . . .  there it was . . . in all its glory.  I bought it, took it home, opened it, took one bite, and put it away and never touched it again.  But it was the best bite ever!  (With another pregnancy, I craved grapefruit, even though I never ever bought grapefruit before.  And I have been a grapefruit eater since, as have my children.)
            The only other hard part about pregnancy was trying to stay awake when my body wanted sleep.  That was actually my first clue that something was up.  I would fall asleep in my graduate school classes, as if some evil spell in green smoke wound around me and forced my head down and my eyes closed.  I couldn’t fight it if I tried.  And if there is one place you do not fall asleep, it is in a graduate class that you are paying thousands for.  I remember thinking, “What the heck is wrong with me?” 
            After we found out we were pregnant, we decided it was time to move back to our hometown.  But we were still close enough that I could commute the next year to finish my last year of graduate school.  So we left our cute little apartment and moved into a tiny rental house that my parents owned.  I had said, “Yes” to my step-dad’s offer before seeing the place.  And as it turned out, it was filthy, filthy, filthy.  (Think crack-house with pets.) 
            So for my eighth month of pregnancy, we lived with my mom and dad (I go back and forth between referring to him as “dad” or “step-dad”) while the place was being cleaned.  And I tell you, nothing is more wonderful than being twenty-four years old, eight months pregnant, and having to live at your parent’s house for any amount of time, with several younger brothers.  Especially when one parent loves to scream all the time.  It was a magical, magical time!  (Note the dripping sarcasm.)
            Actually, there was one thing more wonderful than that.  One day, very late into my pregnancy, Jason decided to take me out to dinner as a special treat.  I had been feeling hugely fat and hadn’t dressed up and gone out for a nice relaxing meal in months.  And I was excited.
            I did my best to find a tent that could pass as a nice dinner dress and I prettied myself up for my husband.  And as my husband opened the door of the restaurant and placed his hand on the small of my back to usher me in (I love that!), I actually felt quite feminine for the first time in months.  A little desirable.  And I smiled to myself. 
            And then, as we sat there, waiting to be seated . . . a gorgeous, thin girl in a skimpy little outfit walked by.
            And then another.
            And then another.
            I kid you not, it must have been “Gorgeous Girl Night” at the restaurant, as groups of them walked by us.  Not just one or two girls, but groups of them.  Herds of them!  All right in front of us.  I got fatter and shorter with every girl that paraded past us.  By the time they called our names to be seated, I felt like an Oompa-Loompa-sized Violet after she ate the gum in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and turned into a blueberry.  I was an Oompa-Loompa blueberry.  I should have laid down on my side and let my husband roll me to our table.  It wasn’t the best meal for my self-esteem! 
            Anyway, we eventually got out of my parent’s house (not fast enough) and into the rental.  (And eventually, those skinny girls will be hugely pregnant, watching new skinny girls parade past them.  It’s a beautiful “circle of life” kind of thing.)  And we had several weeks to finish projects before the baby came, to try to make the house more livable. 
            A bit of advice:  Do not try the old-fashioned way of getting a baby to come out (which is doing the same thing you did to get the baby in) when it is 11 p.m. and you are exhausted and your house still isn’t ready for a baby but you don’t care because you just want the baby out now.  Because it works!
            Moments after our “just for fun, let’s see if it really works” attempt, I felt a huge ‘pop’ and a rush of warm water.  My water had broken. 
            “UMM, HONEY!”  I yelled, as I held a shirt under me and waddled from the bed to the bathroom.  “I THINK MY WATER JUST BROKE!”  Yeah, the rushing stream of fluid all over my hand was a dead giveaway. 
            We both froze in terror when we realized what we had done.  Stupid, stupid people!  We weren’t ready for it.  I take it back!  We were just kidding!  It wasn’t supposed to work!  It’s just folklore, an old wives’ tale! 
            As we scrambled around to call the doctor and get everything in order for the homebirth, I realized that I just blew my chance of getting the last good night of sleep I could have gotten before the baby came.  I wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night (or for many months after), and after a whole day of being up already.  Stupid, stupid me!  Next time, wait till after I had a good night’s sleep.  (Actually, next time, no old-fashioned attempt during the whole last trimester.  That sounds much better.)
            We had planned on a homebirth.  But since our house was in no condition yet to deliver a baby, we went to a friend’s house (a husband and wife) to deliver there.  It was also the house we would be staying in for the week after.  The nurse showed up and we all got ready.  And since my water broke first, I figured it would go quickly. 
            Apparently, the baby never got the message.
            For twenty hours, I writhed in pain.  I walked around the house in pain.  I sat and stood in pain.  And for the last several hours, I couldn’t stand any sounds at all.  I needed it completely silent so that I could concentrate on the pain.  So when my husband said something quietly from the corner of the room while I sat on the bed with my eyes closed and concentrated on making it through another contraction, I shushed him.  It wasn’t mean or anything, just a simple, raspy, hissed “Shut up!” 
            And you know what he did? 
            He got offended and pouted, telling people, “She yelled at me and won’t let me talk.”  He didn’t like being shushed.
            I wanted to punch him in his face! 
            I wanted him to lean in close so I could grab him around the neck and remind him of why I was in this condition in the first place! 
            He also got miffed when I borrowed his t-shirts when my clothes stopped fitting my ever-expanding belly.  I wanted to reach around his neck then, too, and remind him of why my belly was growing!  YOU did this to me,” I wanted to yell.  “That is why my clothes don’t fit anymore.  I’m sharing my body with a whole person because of YOU.  The least you can do is share your t-shirts, you child!” 
            (Honestly, when you’re pregnant, take those opportunities to say things you wouldn’t normally say but that feel so good to say.  Because you won’t get them again, especially if you are too nice like me.  Pregnancy is the perfect excuse.  Unfortunately, I never took the chance to let it all fly.  I was still too nice, even in the throes of labor.  During the awful transition stage of labor with my second pregnancy, instead of swearing up a storm like I wanted to do, all I could get out was, “Gosh, golly, gee, this hurts!  I hate Eve!”  In a calm, hushed, strained tone.)
            Anyway, so I had been in labor for about twenty hours by this point, and the nurse decided it was time to go to the hospital and see what was going on, especially since my water broke almost a day before and infection can set in.
            At this point, I was obviously afraid of taking an hour-car-ride to the hospital.  I had visions of me on the side of the road in a major city, giving birth as motorists drove by and took pictures.  And I was afraid of being strapped in a car with no place to go, in the pain that I was in.  This can’t be good. 
            But we had no choice.
            So I settled my 46-extra-pounds body (Yep!  On a 5-foot-and-3/4-inch tall frame.) into the car and we started off, at rush hour, to make it to the hospital an hour away, while the nurse drove behind us so that she could be there to deliver the baby on the side of the road, if need be.  Yeah, thanks.  Very comforting!
            But you know what?  Oddly enough, it was the best part of the whole labor.  I relaxed like I hadn’t relaxed in twenty hours.  And in the hour-long-drive, I dilated from four to nearly ten centimeters.  It was wonderful.  Really, it was.
            We made it to the hospital okay, and I walked from the car straight into the hospital while Jason parked the car.  I had no idea where I was going, but I just kept walking on auto-pilot, assuming that I’d end up where I was supposed to be eventually.  If I didn’t drop down on the floor and give birth in the hallway, that is. 
            Finally, someone rolled a wheelchair up to me and, even though I didn’t really look at him to see if he was a hospital worker or a patient, I climbed in and let him push me wherever he wanted.  I remember thinking, I hope this guy knows where to take me and I hope that Jason can find me because I have no idea where I am going or who is taking me there. 
            When you are having a baby, you are so out of it that you don’t care about the little details, like who is wheeling you where.  Or how many people see you naked.  Or how big that needle is that they are shoving in your back.  Or how the nurses have to wipe up your delicate areas when they change your “diaper.”  And how terrifyingly big and ugly that stretchy, mesh “underwear” is that they make you wear after having a baby.  Tiny, insignificant details. 
            [Although, I did get a little bothered when my doctor invited Jason to come see things from his view when I was getting an exam once.  I was spread eagle in front of him with those duck-bill things holding me open.  And my doctor said, “Hey, Jason, come here and have a look up there.  I like to involve the husbands and let them see these things so they can really understand what is going on with their wives.” 
            Umm, yeah, thanks a lot, says the woman laying immobile on the table who wants to leave certain things up to the imagination.  My husband has now seen more of me than any husband should.  It’s a wonder that he ever wanted to be intimate again.]
            Well, I eventually got to where I should be.  I guess the wheel-chair-driver knew where to take me, given my giant belly and my panting and all.  And Jason caught up with us just after I stripped out of my clothes and put on one of those “dignity-preserving” hospital gowns.  I think they make you wear these so that you feel weaker in their presence, making them feel stronger.  And so that they know you are not going to just get up and run from the hospital in the middle of an uncomfortable exam or procedure. 
            (Oddly enough, as I was changing out of my clothes and standing there butt-naked, a nurse walked in on me and actually looked embarrassed and apologetic.  And I thought, Why are you embarrassed and apologetic?  You see naked people all the time and you are about to see all of me in ways I never have.  I’m the one standing here in all my super-fat glory.  I’m the one who should be embarrassed!  And yet, I really wasn’t.  Tiny, insignificant details.)
            I spent the next four or five hours in the hospital in labor, on top of the twenty hours of labor I already went through.  And thankfully the drive was so nice and relaxing because those four or five hours were worse than the previous twenty. 
            I couldn’t stand the feeling of the oxygen mask on my face.  I felt suffocated.  So I kept swatting it off, and they kept scolding me and putting it back on.  And I couldn’t stand the feeling of the baby-heart-monitor strapped to my belly, so I kept pushing that off.  They didn’t like that either. 
            And then, there is a wonderful thing that happens after getting an epidural and a shot of pitocin.  I began vomiting up bile (I didn’t have any food or water in my stomach to throw up) into a little dish next to me, as my husband watched.  And even when there was nothing left to throw up, I threw up some more, with every muscle in my body straining and contorting.  I’m sure it was lovely to watch!  (I tell you, you have no dignity left after having a baby!) 
            And while I couldn’t necessarily feel the acute pain of the contractions anymore after the epidural, the pitocin made my contractions so strong that I felt like I would split wide open from the inside out with every contraction, like filling a basketball with so much pudding that it bursts a seam and spills its contents everywhere.  It was awful.  And it still didn’t do the trick. 
            During this time, even though I was at ten centimeters, I never really got to the pushing stage.  But I was done!  I was fed up.  I wanted this baby out NOW!  And by golly, I would just do it myself if I had to.  So when the doctor was out of the room, I tried to push on my own.  I seriously envisioned the doctor walking in and me sitting there holding a newborn and saying to him, “See what I did when you were out, you unhelpful, worthless blob of flesh.” 
            But the nurses caught me.  They came into the room and said, “Are you pushing?  Because the baby’s heart rate keeps dropping on our monitors.”  (Bossy, nosey nurses!)  It was then that the doctors decided that something must not be right and that we had to do a C-section. 
            And at 1 a.m. in the morning – twenty-five-and-a-half hours after my water broke, twenty-five-and-a-half hours of painful labor, a soothing hour-long car ride, suffocating mask and monitors, and violent vomiting spells - they wheeled me into the operating room.
            And in a few short moments, I would be holding my baby - the one who made me violently ill for the first few months of pregnancy.  (Don’t worry, kid!  I won’t hold it against you!  But I do reserve the right to use “the guilt card” if ever I need to.  And your poor father had months of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for lunch because the mere smell of food cooking made me run for the bathroom.  And if he so much as mentioned the word “chicken”. . . !)
            Anyway, months of sickness and back pain and struggling to get my shoes on my swollen feet and young, gorgeous girls parading past me as I grew fatter and shorter would be over in moments.  Hours and hours of exhausting labor were coming to an end, and I was looking forward to meeting this new little person.  And as they wheeled me into the operating room, I only had one burning question that I just had to have an answer for.  Just one!
            “Will the contractions stop immediately after you cut me open?” 
            Seriously, nothing else mattered to me at that moment!  I’d have done it myself on the trip through the hallway if I had a pocket knife. 
            [And guess what the first thing was that I asked after they took him out, let me look at him for all of three seconds, whisked him away, stitched me up, and sent me to recovery?  I tell you, it felt like they wheeled me off to the other end of the hospital and opened some closet door, shoved me in, and called it “recovery.”  I didn’t hear any noise or see hardly any lights.  Okay, so it was one o’clock in the morning and I was on a lot of medication.  And there was someone there with me, some disembodied voice that came from the other end of the room.  I don’t remember ever seeing his face, though. 
            But as I laid there in this lonely . . . room? . . . closet? . . . morgue? . . . who knows? . . . all I could think was that I just had a baby and he was floating somewhere out there in the hospital and no one would remember where I was.  And how long were they going to leave me in “recovery” when I was wide awake and coherent?  Okay, not really coherent, I guess.  It felt like I was swimming through a swamp in my head. 
            Anyway, so I had these thoughts going through my swampy head, and then I called out to the disembodied voice and asked one question.  Now, if you asked one question to a mysterious disembodied voice just after delivering a baby by C-section, you would think that it would be something like, “When can I see my baby?” or “How is he?  Is he healthy and doing well?”  Maybe, “Where are we and how long do I have to be here?” or even, “Can I have more drugs, please?” 
            No, the one and only question that I remember asking is, “Do you guys take Blue Cross BlueShield?”  It dawned on me as I laid there that we hadn’t expected to end up at the hospital and that we just had an unscheduled C-section.  And since I was already at ten centimeters by the time I got to this hospital, I never thought to check about our insurance, you know, being so busy having a baby and all.  “Yes,” the voice said, “we take Blue Cross BlueShield.”  And then I heard him snicker.]
            Well, after they took him out, we found out that the cord was triple-wrapped around his neck and that he was curled up in a contorted, sunny-side-up position.  (Thus the back labor I apparently had.  So much worse than regular labor!)  He would not have made it out alive had it been a natural birth.  So God, in His grace and wisdom, allowed the labor to progress slowly enough that I ended up at the hospital and barely made it into the pushing stage.
            And while I was still laying on the table, splayed open like a gutted deer, the doctor asked my husband, “Do you want to see your baby’s home for the past nine months?”  And then he lifted up my uterus and held it for Jason to see, like a prized fish that he just caught.  What is it with male doctors showing off parts of my body to my husband, like a trophy fish?  I just caught a whopper.  Look how big it is!)      
            It was a rough labor and delivery.  But God was good.  And we had a healthy baby boy! 
            Unfortunately for us, though, the hospital badly needed our room. 
            “You don’t mind leaving right now, do you?” they asked. 
            Well, I guess not! 
            And so not even a day and a half after being sliced open from hip to hip, we were kicked out with a brand-new baby.  Another word of advice: If you ever have a C-section, bring a pillow with you so that you have something to hold against your stomach on the drive home.  Every little bump is torture.  Not to mention going over train tracks! 
            And we went to our friends’ house to spend the next week.
            However, after a day there, the wife began to get really upset with having other people in her house.  And we felt like such an imposition and burden that we left there, too.  (We did not stay friends with her after her divorce from her husband, not even a year after their wedding.) 
            Thankfully, though, Jason’s sister and her family were out of town and let us stay there for the week, while Jason returned to our crack-house every day after work to fix it up so that we could move in.  And finally, we had a chance to enjoy our new little family without any interruptions or disturbances.  (But I really, really missed having the hospital staff bring me my meals and being in a hospital bed that goes up and down with the push of a button.  In the normal bed at my sister-in-law’s house, I tore a stitch trying to sit up.  That really hurt!)
            But other than all that, everything was good.  And Dakota was beautiful and healthy and just perfect.  In fact, he barely made a peep when he was born (which momentarily scared us all), and he immediately assumed a wide-eyed, innocent look that is characteristic of Kody (his nickname).  He also assumed the look of an alien, with his large, cone-shaped head.  That really terrified Jason, who didn’t know that it was normal after a baby has been wedged in the birth canal for over a day. 
            “I’ll love him anyway,” he said. 
            I looked at that tiny, little bundle that first day in the hospital and thought, Wow!  What an amazing blessing! 
            And then I immediately thought, Oh, no!  He’s going to leave someday and go to college, and I won’t be there to protect him or help him know what to do.  (I’m a catastrophizer.  I do that!  I can ruin any situation by finding the worst in it.)  He was so innocent and helpless that the thought saddened me.  And it scared me!  Time began to speed up.  I only had eighteen years to mold him before he would be set free into the world.  And eighteen years is not a lot of time!  
            I was determined to do things right.  I devoured the parenting books.  I was going to do everything by the book, from feeding the right kinds of food, to discipline, to toilet training.  I was prepared and confident.  And being the oldest of six, (Yes, there’s that annoying phrase again.  Trust me, I’m not bragging about it.  It just has a lot to do with who I am.) I was rather comfortable as a new mom. 
            And my first son proved to be a breeze.  He was incredibly content and easy going.  He loved nothing more than just being in the same room as us and watching life go on.  Compared to other more “busy” children, his mild, good-natured attitude made it easy to feel smug.  I couldn’t help but think, Wow!  I must really be doing something right!  (This thought is actually a prayer in disguise - a challenge to God to send you more difficult children.  My third child was the answer to that prayer!) 
            He did have a fit when I had to leave to go to work, even though it was only part-time and he stayed with his Daddy or Grandma.  And he would scream till his whole body was red when he was in his car seat.  But other than that, he was a charmer!
            Having children changed my world.  Life was good before kids.  But looking back, I realize that it was like living in various shades of gray.  But having kids lit up my world like a rainbow.  Life became vibrantly colored.  The highs were higher and the lows were lower.  And while there was more love than I ever knew possible, there was also more fear. 
            I’m not kidding.  Your heart will be ripped out of your body every time you hear about a tragedy involving a child.  Every time your child looks at you with an expression that says, “Please, make the pain stop,” you will be reduced to a pile of helpless blubber.  (Seriously, you can’t do this “parent thing” unless you are on your knees in prayer all the time.)
            As soon as Kody was born, every bad news story about a child had my child’s face on it.  And I would get a profound, tangible feeling of anger and sadness that would make my stomach churn whenever I heard the word “abortion.”  (They don’t prepare you for this in the parenting books.  I had to stop listening to the news for a long time.)  Even my wonderful Grandma K would tell me about sad baby stories she heard, not noticing the shudders than ran through my whole body.  (Really, Grandma, I love you.  But you gotta stop that.)
            Well, moving on . . . Kody was such a delight that, two years later, we decided to add a sibling.  We always said that four sounded like the perfect number.  And God blessed us with another boy!  (And a successful, rather pleasant homebirth, even if it was sixteen hours of labor!  And interestingly, I knew I was pregnant with him the day after he was conceived.  That's the only pregnancy when I absolutely knew right away!  And my friend Jen - I'll talk about her in a bit - knew the next day with her second one, too.  Weird!) 
            And I really did want another boy, too.  As the only girl in the family, I had often wished for a sister.  So it was very important to me that my first two kids were the same gender.  Then they could be playmates.  Not that a brother and sister can’t be, but I would rather have another boy than have one of each. 
            Our Hunter came into the world with a feisty scream.  (And he made me sicker than Kody during the pregnancy.  Thanks, kid.  Just had to start competing with your brother early, huh?).  And, likewise, his personality is a little feistier.  (I wonder if his name has anything to do with it.)  He was not as easy going, and he was a bit more demanding.  Compared to our first, we said that he was a firecracker. 
            And he would bust out in a screaming fit a few times for no reason.  This, of course, would panic me and send me on a search over his whole body to see if anything was pinched or red or blue.  (Now, I would say that it was probably trapped gas.)  And he cried more than Kody.  Whenever he got crying really hard, we would grab a rag and get ready.  He would work himself up so much that he would throw up nearly every time.  We tease him about it to this day.   He loves hearing the sound effects.
            But, other than that, life was still relatively easy.  We adjusted just fine to having children.  We were homebodies anyway, so that part was easy.  And we had always been pretty cautious with our spending, so we didn’t have bad spending habits to curb. 
            And Jason adjusted well and turned out to be a wonderful father.  I think having boys was quite a blessing, because Jason has playmates now and they share a common interest in toys.  It makes Christmas shopping easy!  (And, once again, I love it that Jason is such a kid at heart.  He’s great with young children, and it’s fun to watch him run around in the yard with them!)
            With two small ones at home now, I decided to quit my part-time counseling job and stay home.  I planned on going back someday, but I wanted to be home while the kids were young.  Actually, to be honest, I didn’t really want to stay home at first.  After all, I got my counseling license so that I could counsel.  Not stay home and change poopy diapers.  I even half-joked to Jason that I would work and he could be the stay-at-home dad. 
            So staying home full-time was a little bit of an adjustment.  For the first few months, I felt like something was missing.  Like I just had a limb amputated, and I kept reaching for it but couldn’t grasp it.  I felt like I was supposed to be doing something, but couldn’t figure out what it was.  Was there somewhere I was supposed to be?  What time was it?  What day was it?  And when was the last time I took a shower? 
            But after a few months of feeling like I was wandering through life aimlessly, I was getting used to not having to be anywhere.  And once I accepted this as my responsibility in life, I started to really love it.  I came to embrace it and to see it as my job, my role . . . my mission field. 
            I had once stood on a small island in the middle of a paradise and vowed that I would be back to missions one day.  I thought of Africa, Europe, Jamaica.  I never thought of my living room or my backyard.  But that had become my mission field.  And it was more than just raising kids!  It was being there to feed their hearts and their bodies, to kiss their “owies” and to celebrate their first foods, first steps, first words.  It was building their character and living in a way that would draw them to Christ, praying for their salvation and helping them to understand God’s Word.  It was raising them (hopefully, prayerfully) to be godly, to stand by their convictions in a hostile world, to keep their faith in the face of adversity, and to reflect Christ and draw others to the Lord.  This is no small task.  But I couldn’t see myself doing anything else!  PNG didn’t hold a candle to this. 
            The most basic, fundamental, non-negotiable task that God gave us is to go out and make disciples.  Sometimes that means by remaining single or childless and filling a role that only the single and childless can fill.  Sometimes, it’s by going into the mission field in other countries or in our own country.  Always, it’s by living your life in a God-glorifying way so that others may see the light of Christ in you.  But, sometimes, it’s just by raising children in a godly home, so that we can build up another generation of God-fearing people.  Never diminish the importance of this humble, humbling task. 
            And for a while, I felt really good in my role as a mother.  Of course, I had moments when I did things wrong: when I disciplined before getting the whole story, when I yelled more than I wanted to, when I didn’t put enough thought into dinner so we ended up with cereal or toaster waffles again.  (I loved toaster waffles!)  Or my favorite, the thing I said I’d never do . . .
            I would never just say “Mmm-Hmmm!” when my child was talking to me, while my mind was elsewhere.  No!  I was always going to make sure that I gave my child my full undivided attention, so that I didn’t scar them for life when they felt that I wasn’t really listening to them. 
            But, honestly . . . that was one of the first things to go.  After being interrupted for the eighth time in three minutes with, “Mom, watch me . . . watch me . . . watch me . . . ,” I realized that “Mmm-Hmmm” was a perfectly acceptable response. 

            “Mom, he won’t let go of my shirt.” 
            “Mom, want to hear another funny joke?”
            “Mom, look at the next piece of Thomas track that I put down.”
            “Mom, he’s holding onto my leg!”
            “Mom, he took that toy from me when I was going for it, even though it was on the ground and I didn’t want to play with it until I saw him going for it first.” 
            “Mom.  Come wipe my butt!  Moooom?  Come wipe my buuuuuttttt!”
            “Mmm-Hmmm! . . . No, wait!  Sorry, I’m coming!” 

            It’s really a matter of practicality.  Children have an amazing ability to demand your attention every few seconds for one reason or another.  Especially so when you have more than one child and they form an attention-demanding brigade.  It’s like having a rotating door in your house where one kid comes in as the other goes out.  Or they all cram in at one time and make your head want to explode.  And it’s just not practical to keep stopping what you are doing to give your full undivided attention when a simple “Mmm-Hmmm” usually suffices.  (Wouldn’t it be great to actually find this advice in a parenting book!) 
            But if - after my “Mmm-Hmmm” - I get an incredulous response from one of my kids or a long pause with a confused look then I know that “Mmm-Hmmm” is not going to work.  So I sit up and pay more attention to what they are saying.  But it does help to weed out the times that they are just looking for a little acknowledgement.  (Yes, I know!  Once again, I’m awful.  But I bet my kids will read this with a little more understanding after they have kids of their own.  Hee-hee-hee.  Giggle, giggle, giggle!)
            Although I must warn you that when you do this, keep your wits about you.  Kody came up to me once as a toddler, crying about his finger.  I was busy and didn’t want to be bothered by a little owie. 
            “Mmm-Hmmm,” I said, as I pulled his finger to my lips and gave it a big, exaggerated kiss to make it all better.  His horrified look and the smell that was beginning to register in my brain told me something was not quite right.  His owie wasn’t an owie at all.  It was what he found in his messy diaper when he stuck his finger in.  I’ve never washed my lips so much in my life.      
            Anyway, as my second son got older, he got a little easier to manage.  But he did have a way of keeping things lively.  He had a fearlessness that terrified me and kept me on high alert.  At the playground, I had to watch him closely because he wouldn’t think twice about walking off the end of a six-foot-high platform.  And he would leap from the top of our staircase, trusting us to catch him while we walked behind him, even though we had no idea he was going to jump.  He kept us on edge. 
            But so far, we thankfully had no necessary trips to the emergency room, our health was good, and things were going smoothly.  And I felt really confident.  (May as well just get used to seeing this word.  It’s kind of the whole point of the book.)  I was handling things well and the Lord was good to us! 
            And then . . . we had our third son!  Maybe it’s just having three kids to manage (or maybe it really is just him), but our third has been more intense than the other two combined.  If my second was a firecracker, then my third was an atomic bomb.  I believe that the moment of his birth, he began screaming and immediately started climbing furniture and throwing things.  And we haven’t been able to get him down since. 
            They say that you can tell the temperament of your child within the first few days of their lives.  Kody was incredibly sweet and quiet and had a wide-eyed innocent look that he never really lost.  Hunter had a look of amusement and feistiness, like “Oh, am I gonna have fun with you when I get mobile.”  But, Ryder . . . Ahhh, my dear, wonderful Ryder . . . had a look that said, “You better hang on tight, ‘cuz I’m going to blow . . . your world . . . apart!”   
            He had a look of mischief in his eyes that was unmatched by his brothers.  It made his eyes dance.  He was not even a week old when I noticed it and said to my husband, “Uh, oh, this one has a look of pure stinker in his eyes.”  (I really did say that.  A week old!)  It was the way his eyes smiled with a rascally-gleam and how he would scan the room rapidly.  I could almost hear him thinking, What can I do?  What can I get into and destroy?  Oooh, the minute I get up and start moving, you’ll be in trouble.  And he didn’t prove us wrong! 
            And then, there’s that scream that he does.  It’s a long, loud primal scream that reaches an ear-shattering, glass-breaking pitch.  He’s hurt more than one of our eardrums.  He does it randomly throughout the day for any reason whatsoever: when he’s happy, sad, frustrated, angry, excited, surprised.  It doesn’t matter. 
            For the first year-and-a-half, I would be doing the dishes, going to the bathroom or whatever, and I would hear this scream.  I would come flying out from where I was, panting and terrified and fully expecting to see a hand lying on the ground or an eyeball rolling across the floor.  But no!  He just wanted a toy his brother had. 
            I tried again and again to break him of his screaming habit before I finally just laid down in exhaustion and gave up.  It is so not by-the-book, but when I hear him scream now, I just mumble a defeated, “Ryder, do not scream.  That is owies for the ears.”  And then I walk away or I ignore him.  I’m sure more than one guest has thought, What a terrible mother! when I didn’t run in to check on him after hearing his blood-curdling scream coming from the other room.  I like to think that I just got smart and decided to put my energy into a battle I could win.  Chalk one up for the two-year-old.
            I also decided to relax in certain other areas that I just couldn’t control as well as I could when I had just one or two children.  This explains why Jason came home from work one day and asked, “Why is our two-year-old playing with the pizza cutter?” 
            There was Ryder in the other room, happily hacking away at a cardboard box and making tracks in the carpet with the pizza cutter.  I knew it didn’t look good to let a small child run around with the pizza cutter, but I knew that he couldn’t really hurt anything with it.  (I hoped!)  Sure, it can cut pizza, but it’s really not that sharp. 
            “Because it keeps him happy and quiet, and I needed him out of the kitchen so I could finish dinner.”  It sounded logical to me.  So what if my first born wasn’t allowed to touch a regular fork until he was three years old because he might poke an eye out?  So what if my second couldn’t walk with a popsicle in his mouth because he might fall over and stab his throat with the stick?  I think, for better or worse, you just relax more with your third (read: you have less time and mental energy to care anymore). 
            He’s also been able to (not allowed to, but able to because I can’t catch him in the act) write all over any paper or table or toy he finds with a pen, run around with my car keys, use scissors, eat in the living room (Ok, maybe I do allow him to do that one, but only because it keeps him out of the kitchen when I’m busy.  It drives my husband nuts.), and play with a myriad of other non-toys that my first two weren’t allowed to have: garden rakes, shovels, can openers, my whisks, my tongs, and my vegetable-steamer baskets (they do make cool UFO’s).  All because he was so much more skilled at getting his way with his screaming and persistence. 
            Isn’t it Biblical that we are supposed to persevere till we finally get what we are working towards?   I believe the verse has to do with running the race to get to the end, persevering until you finish?  And, boy, does Ryder “run every race” to win.  I think that I just missed the part of the verse that said I’d be running after him all day. 
            You know how they say having children changes everything!  Well, they weren’t wrong.  It really is so true in so many ways.  I used to spend hours getting ready . . . curling my hair and teasing my bangs up into a big poof back in the 80’s and carefully applying the full arsenal of eye-shadow, blush, lipstick, and mascara in the 90’s.   But the 00’s?  Those will be years of no make-up, unbrushed hair, and spots of food and baby-spit all over my clothes.  Sometimes, I don’t even notice it anymore.   
            I’ve actually gotten good at just shrugging and saying, “Oh well, that’s what happens when you’ve got little ones!” and then getting on with life.  And then I longingly look at all the mothers who have time to do up their hair and wear cute, girly things as they sit and talk about life and dreams and hobbies. 
            By comparison, I’m the spit-covered, frizzy-haired, “I don’t think the elevator goes all the way to the top floor” woman just trying to get her kids across the parking lot safely and remember where she parked the car (while trying to make it look like I really do know where it is, as I rapidly scan for any sign of it and pray that I don’t pass it up and have to back-track).       
            But I wouldn’t trade a minute of my life as a mom for all the clean shirts and good-hair days in the world.  It has been and still is the most rewarding job in the world.  But it’s not an easy one, and it’s not one to be taken lightly.  Be not deceived!  Motherhood is more difficult than any other job out there by far.  (Ok, I haven’t tried all jobs.  And I guess being a brain surgeon or an engineer for NASA would be harder!  It’s just an expression.) 
            But it is one of the longest jobs in the world.  After all, it’s the only job in the world that takes at least eighteen years.  And even then, it’s still not over.  (Thank God!  Or I’d be really heartbroken!)  A mother’s job (and a father’s, of course) is to make a fully-functioning, well-adjusted adult out of a twenty-one-inch tall, seven-pound, naked, screaming bundle of pure will and stubbornness.  (I’m not exaggerating.  Have you ever seen an eight-month-old fight limb for limb to keep the piece of paper in his mouth that you are trying to take away?  Nothing makes a baby angrier than taking away the paper they are chewing on.  And they will take you to the mat on everything.  No wonder moms are tired.) 
            I liken raising kids to building a skyscraper with Legos.  Every day, you wake up at the crack of dawn to begin laying down layer after layer after layer of tiny, little blocks.  Over and over again, endless stacking!  And every night you go to bed going, “What did I accomplish today?”  And then you get to wake up the next day and do it all over again.  It never looks like it got any taller. 
            But eighteen patient, tedious years of this - day after day, Lego after Lego - and you will be able to stand back and see what you couldn’t see during the daily grind: a magnificent building standing tall and strong.  And you’ll say, “It was worth it.”  This job is not for the faint of heart. 
            I don’t know about you, but I have always been a bit of a pessimist when it comes to time.  Whereas others may think that their life is just beginning when they turn sixteen or twenty-one or twenty-five, I mark my birthdays by thinking, Wow, a fifth or a fourth or a quarter of my life is already over!  And when I hit thirty, forget it!  I’ve already got one toe in the grave.  (I’m depressing, I know.)  I’ve always felt time was slipping away at an incredible rate.  And it got a whole lot faster with children.  Eighteen years to raise kids?  That’s just not enough time! 
            Every few years as my sons get older now, I think, Oh, no!  He’s already a fifth of a way to being on his own, or a quarter of the way to being on his own.  And now, with my firstborn, it’s almost halfway.  He’s only eight (as I write this in 2008), but I am already having freak-out moments when I realize that he is growing too fast.  And some days I forget to hug him with conviction and strength, and I can’t get those days back. 
            It saddens me to think about how I’ll never feel his chubby little arms around my neck anymore.  He had these great sausage-rolls for arms.  And when he was a toddler, he would wake up next to me every morning, put his fat, little arms around my neck, smile and say, “Morning, Mom-mom!”   Every morning!  I loved it and it never got old! 
            But he did.  And now, I won’t get any of those moments again.  I actually snuck into his room the other night and just laid my cheek against his while he slept, listening to and feeling his breathing.  I loved doing that when they were little.  While they slept, they would finally be still long enough so that I could have a conscious moment of just being near them.     
            Paradoxically, the years might fly by while the days themselves can seem sooooo long, especially with three young children indoors on cold winter days in a small two-bedroom rental (which is how it is as I write this).  These are the kind of days where I see myself opening up the front door, picking up my child like a suitcase and throwing them out into the front yard (you know how you see people or puppets getting thrown out the front door of some shows - flying through the air?) while I yell, “And don’t come back in until you run off some of that energy!” 
            And you know you’ve got cabin fever when you hide out in the bathroom just to get a few moments to yourself.  I’ll be washing my hands in the bathroom when I suddenly realize that no one is looking for me or calling my name.  It’s peaceful!  And I know that the moment they see me, they will remember that they were fighting about something or desperately in need a snack.  So, sometimes, I just hunker down in the bathroom for a few more minutes of peace. 
            I’m sure it would look pretty amusing from an overhead view.  There’s Mom, waiting on the toilet seat (closed, of course), holding her breath and looking like a nervous, caged animal as she tries to enjoy as many quiet moments as she can, while the children are doing God-knows-what throughout the house.  But, hey, at least they are not looking for me. 
            I’ve been thinking that I should do what the men do - bring something with me to do in there.  Then I can get a pass for twenty minutes, too.  I should bring a book I’m reading or a blanket I’m crocheting.  Then when one of the kids or my husband calls me, I can be like, “Sorry!  You’ll have to wait.  I’m going to the bathroom.” 
            But as moms, we are not as fortunate.  Most moms I know are speed pee-ers, as though it were an Olympic sport.  They can be in and out of the bathroom in ten seconds flat, and that includes washing hands.  We’ve trained for those moments since the first child came.  It’s a finely-honed skill.  We are unzipping our pants before we even get to the bathroom door.  One friend of mine told me how she was so rushed that she was going to start washing her hands while sitting on the toilet, before she realized that it wouldn’t work that way.   
            And if hiding in the bathroom for a few minutes is a mom’s idea of a break, then it’s a tropical vacation when you can take a shower without having to play peek-a-boo behind the curtain or referee a fight while trying to shave your legs.  That is, if you ever have the rare extra minutes to actually shave your legs.  I have found that once the hair gets past a certain point, it’s kind of soft and silky.  So why bother?  (You think I’m kidding?  I’m not saying it’s a good or desirable thing.  It’s just that I don’t really ever wear skirts, and so unless I’m in shorts, I don’t have to shave.  My poor husband gets to look at my man-legs all winter!) 
            For the most part, having children just makes you feel more alive.  But there are those days that can drain the life out of you.  Days that feel like the same day over and over again: washing dishes, cleaning clothes, making food, washing dishes, wiping noses, making food, etc., etc., etc.  These are the days when you ask yourself if anything you do really matters, if you are doing anything that will have any lasting impact.  Is this all there is to life?  Am I destined to live a monotonous, flavorless existence serving others, striving for “more” or “better,” and yet never getting ahead?  How do I honor God in the daily grind of life?    
            My college roommate, Jen, (one of my best friends to this day) was having one of those days of contemplation.  One of those How-did-I-get-here-and-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life days.  (Ironically, both of us have three boys nearly the same ages!)  And she sent me an email about it.  With her permission, let me give it to you in her own words. 

                        Well, here I sit, a lowly wife and mother of three boys, no degree, no career. I sit here with a heavy heart wishing to share my thoughts to the world.  Will I be speaking to multitudes? Never.  Likely no one will ever hear my thoughts, or at least take them to heart.  Possibly, some may for a moment, and then go back to their lives, pondering what they can do to prove to the world their love and dedication to God, as if it is a competition.  While I sit here a lowly wife and mother of three boys, no degree, no career, wishing to share my thoughts to the world.  Who will hear?
                        I sit here not in quietness, since the kids are making their usual noises, you know the kind boys make when they’re together having fun.  I still find a moment to slip away and speak to God.  I ask, “Why is it no one sees my love and dedication to you, Lord?  Have I not done enough?  Should I become a missionary overseas, Lord? Would that prove my love and dedication to you, Lord?  Should I get a ministry degree and get a job in a church?  I could plant so many seeds.  This would surely prove my love and dedication to you, Lord.  Should I get involved in an organization that feeds the hungry?  Should I become President, Lord, so I can let my light shine across the nation?  What is it, Lord? What can I possibly do to prove my love and dedication to you?” 
                        Questions, questions.  I sit here calming my newborn back to sleep, the boys still playing and making their typical noises. I strain my ears to hear some response from God.  A calling that would be above any other calling. 
                        Then in a still, small voice I hear:
                        “My child, these questions come from insecurities.  The world has made you ask these questions.  You know in your heart you are right where I have called you to be. 
                        Hear me now - my words of encouragement.  Just between you and me, are you not a missionary to three little boys every day? Have you not taught many children in your 7 years commitment as a Sunday School teacher?  Do you not feed the hungry every morning, noon, and night? Have you not used your voice, my politically-empowered child, to shine light on values and what could truly change the world for the better? You have planted seeds, my child, seeds you may never see grow, but they are out there.  Possibly some may be missionaries, youth ministers, ambassadors, or even President of the United States.”
                        I ponder these words for a moment and an overwhelming sense of pride comes over me.  I can’t wait to run and tell the world what I have done to show my love and dedication to God.  Surely this will prove to the world my love and dedication to you, Lord.
                        Suddenly, flashes of insecurity consume me.  I reflect on my past short-comings.  Like the times I have taken off from teaching Sunday School to care for my newborn.  That must mean I am less dedicated to God during those times. Also, I have not always cooked wholesome meals for my family.  We have had many pizza nights recently.  As for my political agenda,  I’m not so well spoken and I’m sure I’ve offended many.  I’m sure my light was more of a flicker than a lighthouse beam.  I could have done so much better, Lord.
                        As my mind fills with thoughts of failure. I feel a sense of inadequacy  with the calling I have.  I am just not good enough at these things.  I question that maybe I could prove myself better by achieving a title, joining a ministry, and saving the world. 
                        God speaks to my heart asking, “Are you forgetting my Son was a carpenter.  Did he let that hinder him from being the ultimate light of the  world?” 
                        I think to myself, “Oh yeah! Good point! But…” and God stops me. 
                        “My child, you have nothing to prove to the world.  You are mine and you are right where I’ve called you to be.”
                        With hesitancy I allow these words to sink in until slowly my heart begins to believe.  I gradually feel a peace come over me and a renewed strength.  Yes, I am a child of God.  I may not be perfect, but he knows my love and dedication to him. The world needs no proof!  None at all!
                        P.S. Thank you, God. Thank You.
                        (Can you see why I love her!)  Motherhood is difficult.  It is a long, behind-the-scenes job filled with insecurities, doubt, sometimes temporary un-fulfillment, and very little recognition.  And the only ones who really seem to benefit from it are the tiny handful of people under your roof.  And they are not always thankful.  The lesson I learned in PNG about doing our job for God’s glory and not our own, about working and serving without any recognition or praise, was coming alive for me.   
            But I believe it’s what God intended when He planned the family.  He intended that a mother and a father sacrifice and give of themselves to raise their children, to “live Christ” for them, so that their kids would grow up knowing something about who God is and how much He loves us and sacrifices for us, just so that we can have a relationship with Him.  This is the job that He calls many, many people to do, regardless of what the world says or offers. 
            Occasionally, the lure of “worldly success” calls to me again.  Usually, it’s when I hear references to counselors from someone or on television.  And I think, Oh, I can be that counselor to someone.  I can help people sort out their thoughts and problems.  I love doing that and I have that gift.  (At least, I have the license.)  I could help so many people . . . have my name out there like “You know, my counselor is Heather and she’s fantastic!
            But then I think about my children.  And I remind myself that I could be someone to the world or I could be the world to someone.  (Well, a few “someones” actually - those who call me “Mom,” as well as the one who calls me “Honey.”)  The point is, if I’m called to be home with my children then that’s where I need to be.  No one can take the place of Mom-mom.  There is nothing insignificant about that role, no matter what the world says.  And I need to glorify God as much as I can wherever He puts me.  This means being the best Mom I can be by daily seeking after God and asking for His help, His forgiveness, His guidance, and His strength.  Because I can’t do it on my own.  And there is no shame in that!       
            For a few years in college, I babysat for a mother of four kids.  She had a daughter and then, a few years later, she had triplets.  And I asked her once, “When do you feel like you’re grown up and know what you are doing?”  And I never forgot what she said, because it was so simply profound to me at the time. 
            “You never do!” she said, very matter-of-factly, with no shame or embarrassment.  And I have come to believe it, too.  I think a sign that you are growing up is that you realize that you know less now than you did when you were younger and “knew it all.”  (Or as I like to say, “The older you get, the more you learn, the less you know.”   Except when it comes to the Bible, of course.  That truth always remains the same.) 
            Even though I’m in my thirties now (and thirty was old when I was a kid), I still feel sometimes as though I am hovering somewhere between childhood and adulthood.  Is this how young some of my teachers were when I thought that they were seasoned adults?  When can I call myself an adult without snickering?  I feel like I’m just a kid playing dress-up in adult clothes. 
            I think we never outgrow our need for someone bigger and smarter than us to come and take care of us and to watch out for us; because the world can be big and scary, and I don’t always (or really ever) know what I am doing.   
            Which is where my faith in God really comes in.  I’m not alone in this world.  I didn’t hit eighteen, get kicked into adulthood and told, “Okay, you’re all grown up.  You’re an ‘adult’ now.  Get out there by yourself and good luck.” 
            I think that a toddler shows they are growing up when they get to the point where they can say, “I know what I’m doing.  I do it myself.  I don’t need your help.” 
            But an adult shows that they are growing up when they get to the point where they can say, “I don’t know what I’m doing.  I can’t do it myself.  I need Your help!”
            Some may not like the idea of being accountable to or under the “thumb” of the God of the universe or of running to Him for help.  But I find it very comforting.  (Although sometimes I do fight it.  A lot!)  It gives me a sense of security and peace to know that I don’t have to have all the answers.  I’m not left here to navigate this great, big world all on my own.  I always say that I don’t know how people handle life without knowing God.  It seems so big and hopeless and scary at times. 
            However, it wasn’t a natural thing for me to feel that I needed God.  It’s one thing to have the luxury of wanting Him; it’s another thing to need Him.  And it’s one of those things that I had to learn.  And it’s one of those lessons that I could only learn when I came to the end of myself and my ability to handle everything.  I thought I had done so much growing from PNG till now.  I was a first-born, overachieving adult with kids of my own now.  I was strong and confident. 
            But I had so much more to learn about trusting the Lord, and I couldn’t learn that in the comfort of the boat.  So God called me to step out onto the water.  Actually, it was more like I got thrown out of the boat, kicking and screaming, as the storm raged around me.  And this was when I would find out if I would sink or swim.  (I’m coming to that life-altering trial in a bit!  But before I get to my confidence-crushing fall, I want to share the important lessons that I learned as a parent!  Lessons that are also good for life!)     

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