Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shapin' it up this summer...

I subscribe to SHAPE magazine off and on, whenever they've got a $5/year type special going on. Mostly, I like the new workout ideas, but they also have pop culture in (very small) doses that I can handle. You know, two or three pages of beauty tips. Two or three pages of the cover celebrity's bio (the ones who have gotten fit after one, two, three kids are my absolute favorites!!). Two or three pages of fashion tips that I can almost copy and/or afford.

This month's issue came though, and provided little in the way of inspiration. I would have been disappointed, except that I found that nearly every single article had a title that could not have screamed more loudly: as for you, DO NOT try this at home!!! (if you are a sort-of-high-risk-pregnant-with-twins-mommy, that is.) The forty cent subscription was well worth the laughs I got just off the cover.

"Bikini body detox - beat belly bloat, drop pounds fast."
Doc's orders - second trimester - gain pounds fast for twins and deal with the nightly bloat. Oh yeah, and trade in the bikini for a tankini and hope it lasts at least half way through summer.

"Look 10 lbs. thinner. Instant tricks."
Dream on. Look 20 lbs. heavier by August. For the health of the babies!

"Sculpt every inch. Get flat abs, a toned butt and jiggle free arms."
Pad every inch with extra baby insulation. Kiss the abs and butt goodbye for at least a year.

"The best swimsuit for your body."
Maternity styles mysteriously omitted.

I seriously just cracked up reading these, and that was just the cover! Ahhhh, until, at last, I found the article hidden away at the bottom for pregnant girls like myself.

"PLUS! Tasty ice cream treats."
Now that's something I can do :).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hesitating to say "thanks"

spoiler alert! - if you haven't read the previous post "Overrun", you should probably read that first to understand where this one is coming from :).

When life’s worries catch up to me, I turn to God. They may be my own worries, your worries, or the worries of the world that send me running. I become confident in a God that is “big enough”, “bigger”, the “biggest” – the only one with enough love and power to touch a situation.

When life’s blessings catch up to me, I again turn to God, offering thanks for our family’s health, home, the majesty of nature, and more.

It’s when I am caught somewhere in between that I hesitate to turn to God. Stuck somewhere in between the request for help and the blessing received, I stall out. Yes, my God is the only one I dare ask for such big things, but do I trust that his bigness can really be displayed in the answers? I rationalize that maybe his “answers” are just a coincidence, not the fingers of God at work. (Not always an incorrect assumption, maybe?) I balk because if the answer falls short, what do I do? Blame God? Discount the initial answer? Come face-to-face with my limited understanding of God’s ways? Be left speechless to those who question my faith?

I’m caught in the middle this week, as we celebrate that twins are on the way. As several friends have pointed out, and I’ve thought myself, this double helping of kids is a ridiculous and amazing answer to my laments to God. But I find that rather than exploding with joy, I’m withholding my gratitude until the blessing is complete, and they arrive healthy in the outside world. The risks are many, twins are a natural occurrence (not only divine!), and if I go on about how this is God’s great answer and then something happens…? My doubts are many, woefully holding back my thanksgiving.

As I laid awake in the middle of last night (pregnant hunger pangs!), a random story came to mind. Ten lepers cried out to Jesus to heal them. He sent them to the priest to get healed. Only one returned to say thank you, and he was a foreigner at that. Jesus wondered – “Where are the other nine? Was no one else willing to come back and give glory to God?” (Luke 17:11-19) These men had their lives radically changed – restored physically and then socially into society. Yet they too neglected to return and say “thank you”. Maybe they weren’t so sure that it was really Jesus’ power at work. Maybe they thought they’d give the miracle a few years to “stick” before they gave credit where credit was due. Maybe they just forgot and went out to tackle the next challenge of finding a job. I see myself in their shoes. I want to pause and acknowledge God instead.

God, you are big enough for me to ask things of. You are big enough to answer too, and deserve the credit when you do – and so I thank you for these two little lives. Give me faith and courage to keep returning and saying “thanks”.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Overrun - but in a really, really good sort of way.

(Inspiration has finally hit and I have some thing to write!)

Our garden is being overrun by lettuce.  Yeah, there are a couple of bushes that are thriving in the background, (and a couple that are not!).  There is even still room for a few brave impatiens way down at the end there.  But mostly, the lettuce is dominating!  Our lettuce has never lived past about three inches tall, so this is a little surprising...  I'm actually going to have to plan salads for every night this week, when you add in the stuff I picked at our "big" garden plot this morning.

We thought we would prefer to be able to finish the lettuce off and get our colorful annuals in.  But being overrun by lettuce is an undeniably good thing, really.  There is so much, we can't help but eat the healthy stuff!  On top of that it tastes really good and is free, so I guess that we'll gladly give a few more weeks of our gardening season over to the leafy greens.  

In other news, our house is going to be overrun by kids.  A couple of months ago, we found out that I was pregnant.  (Hence my tired-ness, worrying, sick feeling posts for a while now.)  Last Wednesday, we got the shocking news that it was actually TWINS!  They don't run in the family.  They are most likely identical, which happens purely by chance, about 3 in 1000, (fraternal are the ones that run in families, I've learned).  They are due December 3, which means that we will be overrun sometime before that.  

We planned on having a third baby, and finishing my childbearing days there - still squeezing into a Civic, a two bedroom house, a pack'n'play instead of a crib, road trips and the occasional flying trip.  But amidst throwing all those great ideas quickly the windows, we are coming to realize that being overrun like kids will be an undeniably good thing.  The big sisters will still have their tight bond, the twins will have theirs.   The questions of where the majority of our family efforts and my 5-year-career plan should lie - well, raising the kids becomes the obvious answer.  We sometimes prefer the obvious answers to the ones we get to over-analyze. All those worries about birth order or what if it's a little boy with only big sisters have evaporated.  As Abby will tell you, we pretty much haven't stopped talking about what this change means since last Wednesday.  But our realizations have been amazingly positive.

There's plenty to worry about and some temporary sacrifices (not unlike the annuals in our garden), but I guess that we are about to be overrun in a really, really good - if unexpected! - sort of way.  And here's the proof to show it - yikes!

PS - Oh, and John?  He agrees with me on this one - both the overrunning and it being a good thing.  As we gulped our way into Target to window shop car seats and double strollers last weekend, he looked at me and said - "well, I guess this is our next big adventure together, isn't it?"  We may have to postpone our family trip to Europe for another decade, but times won't be dull back here at home!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

When you're with us, you're royalty!

As I bumbled out of bed this morning, a mini-Snow White greeted me immediately from the couch. "Hi Ariel, I've been calling for you!" Ariel, as in Disney's Little Mermaid, who I hardly resembled no matter how much imagination you have! Then again, she calls me that all day, every day that she is in the mood for it.

Cheesy as it was, Rachel's greeting made my morning. In her two-year-old way, she says: "there is something about my mom that is like a princess". (A privilege that every girl they know is granted, but still!) Oh, and "mom, I want you to be part of our never-ending-make-believe-princess-world". I'm royalty, and included in the game. Does it get any better?

As an aside, I thought princesses were pretty corny up until a year or so ago, even for little girls. Isn't reading about real stuff more interesting, or pretending to be something that actually exists more practical, like a doctor or teacher? But then grandma gave the girls some princess costumes, and we "met" the princesses at Disneyland over Christmas, and I had no choice but to go along with the frenzy. I'm coming around to see that instilling my girls with a sense of beauty, grace, and kindness - even through a lot of fairy tales - isn't so bad.

Anyhow, all these royal thoughts made me think a bit about how I treat others. Do I greet and treat them like royalty, even as they roll out of bed? Do I find them a role to play in my activities, games, meals? A little lesson in real-life love from my two-year-old...

The pictures are old - from Christmastime - but you catch a glimpse of our royal family. Yes, we all posed with "fake" Snow White, because after an hour in line, that is what you do!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spring, seeds, and me

It is gardening season like never before around our house! As I sat soaking in the sun on a "backyard picnic" with Rachel today, I looked at the rows of lettuce in our little planter with amazement. See, I've never grown lettuce that made beyond about two inches tall. This year, it's made it through thinning and is pushing seven or eight inches so far. All pretty amazing considering that the seeds are about the size of half a tiny ant. (That's my "baby spinach" up on top.)

This will be our third summer in a house with a (little) yard, and our third attempt at growing vegetables. In fact, we expanded by renting a bit of land from the park district this year too, which means if all goes well I will consider myself a bona fide LA-born farmer by the end of summer.

Now, as much as I've learned to love all-you-can-eat-cherry-tomatoes by the fence and green beans that were just picked, I still loathe planting seeds. Especially the little ones. And especially for the first time. Lettuce is really annoying. Carrots are too. As I planted a 30-foot row of them at our park garden, I am sure that my complaints and nay-saying about their chances of growing could be heard for miles. It was at least loud enough to warrant many groans and "pleeease stop complaining's" from John.

Whether the lettuce keeps growing and the carrots ever grow, I was thinking today about something that we've talked about around our house a lot lately. The only seeds that don't grow are the ones that don't get planted (OK, with the exception of the sprouting onions and potatoes in my pantry). Jobs that aren't applied for aren't gotten. Funding for John's research that isn't requested stands no chance of being granted. Respectful kids don't just happen.

That said, the act of planting seeds is incredibly un-rewarding (though at least it only takes a season to get some fruit!). Add to that the fact that only about one in ten of my lettuce seeds make it to maturity, and you may glimpse why I complain. Seeds of kindness, faith, you name it, those are pretty un-rewarding planting endeavors too, taking years to grow, and the fruit isn't found in my backyard! Having little kids might be compared to planting a garden for years - and having very little idea what might grow in it...

Besides the non-gratification that planting seeds bring me, planting (never mind all that soil prep, watering, and seedling care) takes a lot faith that something will come of that seed. Excuses for not planting are much easier to come by than reasons to set myself up for a failed gardening attempt.

But in spite of myself, I think longingly of last summer's tomatoes (or just visit the grocery store!), or I'm the recipient of kind words from a friend. I'm suddenly reminded to be thankful that some farmer or parent had the foresight and ethic to plant those tiny seeds long ago. I'm inspired to plant for the future, in spite of the work and the odds. I realize that the only way to raise my odds above zero is to put _something_ into the ground.

Come on over later this summer, and hopefully I'll pass on a bit of my own inspiration to you - in the form of a home-grown garden salad!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A happy mother's day

I've got nothing profound or poetic for the day - except to say that I am one happy, thankful mom.

For a few years, mother's day was quite bittersweet for me, since my mom had passed away when I was 16, and it was another seven years before I became a mother. There is still a bit missing on the day, but let me tell you what I've got: the precious little things that count.

One beloved husband to bring me breakfast in bed.

Two little girls ready with hugs and kisses the moment I get out of bed.

An eager five-year-old daughter who proudly gave me her third and fourth handwritten cards (yes, that's four this year!) this morning.

A husband who never fails to surprise me with presents beyond my expectation - today, a new bracket and plant for our patio - followed by half a dozen fix it jobs DONE now!

A two-year-old daughter who eagerly helps eat up all the candy that she and big sis picked out to give me.

Two little girls on a date with mom this morning. First, both raced ahead on their bikes, strong legs pedaling, hair flying like crazy, and big grins when they see how far behind they've left me. One picks the other up and pushes her on the swing then. Two little girls, so grown up, bring so much joy to my heart, just by having them around for company.

Sitting at lunch on the deck, our little family of four together, eating less-than-special-PBJ's (Abby's declaration), new flowers hanging nearby. For me, it couldn't be any better.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Checking in...

It's been a couple of weeks since I've had the inspiration (or time?) to post, but here are a few things that have popped up this week. I taught my last class of the semester last night, with just a final to go, so I'm looking forward to a few weeks of less craziness before summer school! For today, here goes a book, some hobbies, a quote, and the benefits of being sick.

I devoured the book "The Color of Water" by James McBride this week. A couple of friends had recommended it, I finally requested it from the library. Took me three days to read (a post-kids record for a novel?) - and if you haven't read it since it was published years ago, it's really good. Blacks/whites/Jews in the north and south during the 30s to the present - all wrapped up in one family's amazing story. Good stuff.

My usual top hobby is all things food - but some stomach issues for me and the fam have put that on hold temporarily. (I never realized how much time and interest food absorbs for me until I've stepped away for a bit. I mean, I'm still eating, but no cooking magazines or fancy meals!)

In spite of the busy-ness around here, I've resorted to other projects, especially ones that I can do from start to finish. A good friend who was chronically behind on most things would amaze me by dropping everything and making huge quantities of Christmas gifts or something of the sort. I marveled that she could leave so many other things un-done, to which she wisely said (more or less) - "well, if I waited until everything that had to get done got done, I'd never do anything interesting/fun/generous!" Maybe I'm just beginning to get that idea.

So, in the last few weeks, I've sewed three skirts for Abby, just about completely planted our home garden and this massive park district plot that we rented (yikes!), and I'm almost done caning my first dining room chair. Feels good actually. As for the Hamburger Helper dinners, crumbs on the floor and delays on clean clothes, let's just say that I have a patient family!

An interesting quote came my way yesterday - “Some minds remain open long enough for the truth not only to enter but to pass on through by way of a ready exit without pausing anywhere along the route.”—Sister Elizabeth Kenny, Australian nurse

Last but not least, as we've battled various blah sick days around here lately, I've been struck by the great things that feeling rotten can drive you too. Just having one person sick kind of puts everyone on hold around here - which is a nuisance, yet at the same time a blessing, because you sort of have a free pass from usual responsibilities except for keeping everyone - especially the sick one - happy. Around here that means all sitting and watching TV together, easy meals, pajamas all day. All together. Not too horrible.

For me in particular, at my best sick moments, I feel much more desperate than usual, and act accordingly. Curled on the couch, I gather my little girls to my arms to hug me and pray with me for better health and a better attitude. It seems to me that those are some of our most intimate and real moments of talking to God together.