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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"The Church" is such a deeply abstract concept and the more I think about it and hash things out with my husband, the more I realize that our model is so fundamentally flawed. The things that seem to matter to the church in our culture would make zero sense to Christ's original followers and that is so very sad.  We have people whose lives are dedicated to building up this church and it's a box step that repeats itself until circles are spun but very little progress has been made. We can count our steps, add our events, tithes, studies and groups but unless disciples are being multiplied and led toward baptism by the actual hands of the church, this family is little more than a complicated math problem with no objective solution. I went to Bible college so it's extremely safe to say that I am no mathematical prodigy but I am also inclined enough to spot a calculation error.

I love the church and I love each of the congregations I've been a part of.  I've had the pleasure of walking through the doors under a variety of steeples. The one that meets in a school. The one with great worship. The one with soul touching sermons. The one where we all sit on folding chairs on a carpeted basketball court. The one with sermons that I can't understand or follow. The one that only sings hymns. The one where the preacher sits on a stool with carpets on the stage. (Let's get church-funky.) Candles, organs, drums, teams, information booths, communion services, foot washing, potlucks, small groups, VBS, Sunday school, Bible study, seminar, retreat etc.

The focus seems to have somehow shifted from collectively dirty fingernails to a very efficient, streamlined program where numbers somehow trump hearts and no one notices the ripe soil sitting next to them because everyone's too busy craving spiritual water and setting up chairs. Jesus created this church to be a family but it has been painted in hypothetical GMOs and pesticides, robbing the organic chemistry that is foundational.  Christ's bride has a veil so dense that it's created a lens through which she sees everything and spends her time and energy to fix things that aren't even the real problem.  If we could all just pull back the veil, look into Jesus' eyes and allow ourselves to be transfixed, we would not need all the silly things we count as "church."

Let us sincerely grab hold of each other and get real. Let's expose our inch thick dust and have people over for dinner. Let's bust out a bottle of wine for heaven's sake, play games, laugh and have conversation!  Let's be vulnerable to admit when we've screwed up and laugh at ourselves as we brush the dirt off our butts when we fall on them.  Let's be people we can trust to help raise each other's kids and not be afraid of the mistakes we will make along the way.

Our poor kids.  We love them and want the best for them, but they're being presented with a very confusing world that is not going to be gentle on a young, Christian heart. No matter how we may try to protect them, bits of societal ugliness will seep through their precious skin and will influence them in some way.  Social catchphrases will be the norm for them and they won't bat an eye at the concepts of transgender, abortion, divorce, sex, STDs, terrorism, polygamy etc. We can't just drag them along on the same spiritual wave we've been riding because it won't work.  Statistical observation shows that a good majority of them will fall off that wave and come close enough to drowning that returning to church will not even be worth considering. I don't know how to protect my kids on this level but I have to assume that keeping them sheltered and only exposing them to people who think exactly like we do is not going to help them in the long run; it will just delay the exposure to a time when my influence is eclipsed by the world. Meanwhile it is fully my job to teach my kids about Jesus, love, discipline, sacrifice, and what it all means to them.

I don't have all the answers, and I'm certainly not pointing fingers at anyone or any congregation in particular (unless you feel convicted, then roll with it).  I'm just having a hard time connecting the great plan for this family of God when it's so easy to get lost in weird details that we've unnecessarily created and progress seems to go sideways instead of forward much of the time. I want to look at the church and be proud of people banding together, loving people in their community with no expectation of repayment, association, or anything else that would detract from the ultimate goal; one person engaging with another person creating relationships that point to Jesus. It's got to be so much more simple than we've made it. Older people, train younger people do to it right and let's influence a healthy cycle. Elders, that's you! Lead the church and train people up. Let's get some mentorship going on up in here. Everyone, be like Jesus and get to know people, meet them where they are and show some love. Do it outside of the umbrella of "ministry" and let it be your life.  It's a good thing!  If it wasn't, Jesus wouldn't have said to do it.

While this is all coming from my heart, part of it is coming from the small corner of my heart that tends to be task driven rather than the bulk that is relationally driven.  There is a place for tasks, but I'm realizing that it is not my goal to do things for the sake of doing things.  If I can foresee something inflicting stress on me that does not center around relationship building, it is not for me.  There is a time and a place, and surely a person for the job, but it's not me.  Saying no isn't my cup of tea, but with the right parameters set, I might be doing more of that in the near future.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A fierce flourishing

A fierce flourishing... the MOPS theme for the year.  If you don't know, MOPS stands for Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers- A bimonthly meeting where moms come to support one another in our journey of motherhood while our kids are being cared for by someone other than mommy dearest (shout out to all the volunteers out there!). So yes, the theme, "a fierce flourishing" totally didn't resonate with me right away.  It's difficult to say and didn't strike much inside me.  This is my fourth year with our MOPS group and some of the previous themes definitely hit home, particularly "A Beautiful Mess," for obvious reasons.

The promo video had some catchy phrases to explain just what it means to flourish fiercely. Including the statement suggesting that we take "one year choosing to live our one wild and beautiful life with as much celebration as we can muster.  One year embracing healthy rhythms of play and rest, one year of noticing the goodness that is right in front of us..." Perhaps in other words, this year is about taking the time to live the way our kids experience life!  I witness on a daily basis an almost 5 year old playing and pretending with all her might; Fully succumbing to each emotion with exuberance. I see a three year old proudly presenting me with clover flowers as an expression of love, who so desires the affection of others that he alters how he naturally plays to become one of the big kids, yet tucks back into my arms when he is ready to be still and little again. The ebb and flow of the healthy rhythms of adapting. I see a baby who only knows love. Whose face lights up and chubby arms flap at a simple smile, the little flirt. These kids are flourishing. They celebrate each and every little thing and are aware of the good things surrounding them.

I am excited to get to know the ladies at my table this year.  I always love hearing each new story, connecting and letting the relationships be a mutual encouragement. I hope that everyone who came to our MOPS meeting this morning feels good that they did something positive for themselves and took a step forward in connecting. I am grateful for the opportunity to be around other moms as we make the effort to notice and celebrate the small things and find joy in the ordinary!

My sister in law told me in reference to a drawing, "you can't win if you don't play." Apparently that little phrase got people sucked into the Arizona lottery.  Regardless of it's origin, this little token phrase speaks volumes to life in general.  How can you make friends if you don't say yes sometimes? How can you connect with others if you are not really present? How can you grow if you don't open yourself up to learning new things? How can you flourish if you don't expose yourself to life giving elements?  It's all very logical! You really can't win if you don't play, but if you give yourself the chance, it just might happen, and who knows, you just might flourish.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Growing up

The thing about kids is that they grow up.  Each new stage a confusing dichotomy of excitement and grief.  I know all you mommas out there can understand! Every new skill, a wonderful thing that we praise them for, but also a kiss goodbye to the child from yesterday. Each much anticipated birthday an admission of time passing.  We know the time goes fast because that's what every stranger in the grocery store tells us.  But, my goodness, how can it be possible that I have a kindergartner? For that matter, how can I have a three year old and a NINE month old? Nine months is almost a year and that means walking, learning to talk and destroy things.  One year also means baby weight transfers to real weight so I have my work cut out for me. Maybe if I squeeze the baby tighter time will slow down? It hasn't worked yet.

Molli has caught on to my not so subtle vibe that I'm not ready for her to be a big kid.  So much so that she's declared that this will be hear last real birthday.  From now on they will be pretend birthdays. That means, she will turn five and stop changing ages but will still get a party each year.  I approved instantly. Yes, let's do that so you will always fit on my lap and want me to read books to you.  You will stay a gangly wild child who wants to run around in bizarre clothing options make believing and bossing, then make cookies. You will always accept that I know everything, the car has wings that come out when kids sleep and that it is whatever time I say it is.  Stay my little princess monkey butt, baby girl.

Unfortunately, you and I both know how that works.  Kids grow up and with that they do new and exciting things.  Molli's kindergarten teacher came for a home visit before school started and in one of the papers she left for me to look over was this suggestion to prepare Molli for school:

Have frequent open and positive conversations about kindergarten.  Don't show regret to your child about "how old they are getting" and "can't believe" but state it in a positive manner.

My bad... clearly I failed at that part!  That evening I began making an effort to talk about all the positive, exciting and wonderful things coming up for her even though I cried a little inside.  At that point I realized  two things that I can never, ever forget.

1) It's not about me! From the moment her life was even a conversation between Myles and me, my wants and desires became second.  My life stopped being all about me and became something so much more beautiful and satisfying.

2) What a honor it is to age and watch my children do so! This might come across a little bit morbid, but truthfully, if I learned anything this summer, it is that life is so terribly fragile and something to rejoice over. Not everyone is granted full or long lives.  My nephew, Jude, weaves his way into my thoughts anytime I feel sad about my kids to stop growing up.  We are designed for life! We are designed to move forward and progress.  To wish that away is to wish away life and that is incredibly selfish (see #1).

So yes, my little girl started kindergarten and it's emotionally conflicting for a momma's heart.  But on this day, I am soaking up the relationship I have with her, knowing that she will keep growing and everything will continue to change, grow and advance.  I can celebrate in her growing up because despite the things I will miss about her being little, one day I will travel with her, go on roller coasters, teach her to drive and plan her wedding with her. Our relationship will definitely change, but I look forward to all the incredible experiences we will one day have.  I am finding joy in the new experiences she is getting and hope that this will continue to be my mindset as each of my babies grow into older versions of themselves.  What a blessing and honor it is to be a mom and to be trusted with these amazing people.

(The girl who started school)

(The boy who turned three)

(The one who outgrew his carseat) 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Journey into the storm

You had to know it was coming.  A blog post only happens every so often.  They are certainly a rarity, but some things are far too important to not document in some way.  As painful as it is, as horrendous the situation, some things just need to be stated.

The water is calm, everyone is together and all is well.  Looking out over the horizon hope for this new day settles over us as we bask comfortably in the warm morning air, enjoying the salty breeze.  The sunrise painted hues of glory across the canvas sky.  A deep breath, a sense of peace. 

March 2 was a Monday and the kids and I were counting down.  It was a date that came up in conversation between my family and my parents regularly.  That would be the day my sister in law, Tamara, and my nephews would move to Alaska and Nate would come shortly after. We were all so excited that they would be a part of our lives on a daily basis!  This was a tremendous thing for me because I really want my kids to have a real relationship with their cousins.  We are a close family so the thought of living down the street was only met with happiness for the future.

The future, as it turned out, took an unexpected turn.  On Tuesday, May 12, I went with my mom and Tamara to Anchorage.  Tamara had an appointment with a perinatologist.  We pretty much thought we were going there to get confirmation that everything was fine.  Obviously, being at a specialist to begin with meant that there was a possibility that something wasn't perfect, but we had no idea what was about to hit.

There is a cloud making it's appearance known. It started very small and far away but as it rolls in, it's obvious that it is dark and undesirable. The sun isn't as bright as it was in the morning. Small waves splash all around and the wind is picking up. The breeze seems to swirl the darkness. The cold stings the eyes as they start to fill with tears.  A deep breath, a looming dread.

The doctor's gaze stayed fixed on the ultrasound screen. Images foreign to an untrained eye flashed across the screen and numbers were recorded.  A beautiful profile, ten toes, distinct bones and tiny clenched fists.  These are all amazing things to recognize up on the screen! I marveled that this machine can look inside a human to look inside another human, not to mention the impressive skill of the doctor to identify and inspect details of this precious growing baby. While I was transfixed on the beauty before us, the doctor silently identified multiple issues.  When she finished she said "Let me tell you what I'm seeing." She did.  And as she did, I felt the world get a little heavier and the blood drain from my face.  She said the words "Trisomy 18." I knew what that meant already and my heart absolutely sank.  I studied the other faces in the room.  It was clear that my mom and Tamara did not know the gravity of the condition.  Questions were asked and information was shared.  The prognosis was grim.

The storm has hit and it's here to stay. White caps surround us as wind and rain pelt the face. It feels like a bad dream because storms like this don't happen here. This is a safe place and things were beautiful, too beautiful perhaps. A deep breath, a lingering grief.

This was the day the world turned upside down.  We have all been grieving in our own ways and believe me when I say it's HARD.  I wouldn't wish this for my worst enemy, if I had one, much less for people I love dearly. I've spoken words that should never go together far too many times this week. I've had thoughts that shock me and conversations that break my heart.  I've crumbled and cried at unexpected times. (Sorry barista, you asked) I've made lists and taken care of business.

To say that Nate and Tamara have been faced with decisions that are nearly unbearable to make would be an understatement.  One decision though that has brought much joy though is chosing a name for their sweet boy.  Jude Lee.  It is so fitting.  Jude means "praise" and they have been touched by the song "Praise You in the Storm" by Casting Crowns. Lee was chosen as the middle name in honor of Tamara's sister who passed away when she was 17.  Before I knew their reasoning behind the name I looked up the meaning.  In addition to meaning praise, Jude is also the patron saint of lost causes (think St. Jude's children's hospital) and one meaning of Lee is "healed or healer." A friend of mine also pointed out the definition of lee as a noun is "shelter from the wind or weather; the sheltered side, the side away from the wind." Jude Lee, just as a name, has such beautiful, positive associations.

If you don't know the song, this is the one mentioned earlier:

Casting Crowns

I was sure by now
God You would have reached downAnd wiped our tears awayStepped in and saved the dayBut once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining
As the thunder rollsI barely hear Your whisper through the rain"I'm with you"And as Your mercy fallsI raise my hands and praise the God who givesAnd takes away

[Chorus:]And I'll praise You in this stormAnd I will lift my handsFor You are who You areNo matter where I amAnd every tear I've criedYou hold in Your handYou never left my sideAnd though my heart is tornI will praise You in this storm

I remember whenI stumbled in the windYou heard my cry to youAnd you raised me up againMy strength is almost goneHow can I carry onIf I can't find You

But as the thunder rollsI barely hear You whisper through the rain"I'm with you"And as Your mercy fallsI raise my hands and praise the God who givesAnd takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hillsWhere does my help come from?My help comes from the LordThe Maker of Heaven and Earth
[Chorus x2]

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Three Ring Circus

Alright kids, you win.  You outnumber, out-energy, out-chaos me.  Clearly I had no chance tonight.  Daddy is out of town and Mommy’s autopilot function is out of commission until a minimum of 4 hours of consecutive sleep happens.  We cruised through the day with such success!  I was so pleased to accomplish all that I intended!  I brought Molli to school on time and even remembered to pick her up, got the car washed, did some grocery shopping, started thank you notes, cleaned the kitchen, did a few loads of laundry from start to finish, fed everyone at all the appropriate eating times and even remembered to distribute vitamins. A winner of a day!

Then came dinner, which was delicious.  Molli loved each thing included in her dinner but had me pulling out my hair with her refusal to eat it.  All the usual distractions and excuses such as “standing is more fun than sitting,” “I want to touch everything in a 10’ radius,” or, my personal favorite, “the baby is too cute, I need to look.” Plus some meal specific ones; “forks are too hard with bowls,” “it’s getting cold,” “I need help.” I don’t know how many times I had to say something along the lines of “Eat, Molli. Sit down. Put a bite in your mouth. Etc.”  I even pulled out the meanest mommy in the world card and Gavin and I had a delicious piece of chocolate, chocolate chip cake right there at the table with her.  It made her cry, but alas, it did not make her finish eating.  Eventually, an hour and a half later, she decided her arms were too tired for dinner or cake and she declared it bath time.  Fine by me. 

I got everyone all washed up, teeth brushed and jammies on while Baylor napped happily in the bouncer.  Alrighty, off to bed!  Never mind that it’s only 7:15.  I cheated and turned their “OK to wake” clock blue prematurely and they’re none the wiser.  This was when I was still pretty confident that I was winning the day.  It wasn’t long until I was proven wrong. You see, I’m human and make mistakes from time to time.  I had a temporary lapse in judgment and deemed this moment an appropriate one to trim my hair.  It’s growing out and looking a bit like a mullet in the back, so it needed to happen.  Immediately, apparently. 

Rule #1 in parenthood: be leery of impulsivity- it often backfires.

And backfire, it did.  I stripped down to my hair cutting outfit, which isn’t much. Got my hair wet and made the first snip. As if on queue, Baylor started to cry.  Uh-oh… Let’s see if I can get some of the way done before helping him.  Snip, snip, snip.  Each time the scissors closed, the crying got progressively louder and more frantic.  Ok fine, you win, baby.  It wasn’t my finest moment, but I rescued Baylor and nursed him sitting on the closed toilet in all my haircutting outfit glory, covered in pieces of trimmed off hair.  We sat there, he and I, doing our thing when a terrible THUD interrupted the giggles from the big kid’s room and reverberated through the floors. Then the crying came through the monitor and walls.  It was Molli.  Falling off the bed.  Oh, did I mention her bed is the top bunk? Well it is, and she fell off it.  I was unavoidably detained and had to debrief with her through the monitor speaker function.  She was fine but angry with Gavin for “making her fall off the bed.” I didn’t get the full story, but enough to send her back to bed, a little bit in trouble for messing around.

I put a sleepy Baylor back to bed and left to check on the big kids who were not even pretending to be asleep. The little turds were running around, wearing Gavin’s swimming gear over their pajamas with everything strewn about the bedroom.  Laundry basket emptied, a brand new container of wipes also emptied, all the pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and books on the floor.  Just a mess.  

I let them know I meant business, made them both cry and put them back in their beds. (Which is another whole issue as Gavin is barricaded in his bed with a rail and gates. Apparently he can squeeze between the rail and top bunk and plop himself to the floor.) I made threats and left. Not long later I walked back in and about flipped out at them.  I watched Gavin nosedive back into his bed shouting “NOOO MOMMY!” and Molli threw herself backwards onto her bed, pulling the covers over her entire body.  As though that would make me believe she’s sleeping???

I pulled out the big guns because at this point, it’s going on ten and I’m over the shenanigans. I stayed true to my threats and sent Molli to bed in a tent in the play-room and put a gate up in the doorway where Gavin remained.  I’m not interested in him coming in and destroying my precious sleep before “clock is lellow.”

So now, if you’ll excuse me, tonight’s chicken pot pie dinner is cementing itself to the dishes. I may not win the whole day, but at least the dishes don’t talk back. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Welcome to the world Baylor Michael Sansotta!

In just over two weeks I’ve fallen in love and lived an eternity in the blink of an eye.  It’s indescribable what adding to the family does to a mother but, for the third time, I’m here. I’m here staring down at deep blue eyes, tiny fingernails and little tucked up froggy baby legs.  Sometimes all I can do is stare.  This boy is perfect.  This child, so precious, was created and grew inside me into a real life, gorgeous little being.  All his miniature parts are perfect and functioning. I’m just amazed!

Amidst the admiration of my beautiful new baby and routine-lacking life I’m here, ready to share something.  But where on earth does one begin?! How can I capture and express everything I’m feeling in a simple blog? I suppose the answer is that I can’t, and I don’t have to.  But if I’m going to start somewhere, let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start).  

The day a child is born is one that is etched into the memory forever.  There are details that I will surely never forget but many that will fade over time.  The emotions connected to these details however, are etched on a mommy’s heart and although words are insufficient to describe them, every mom knows that breathtaking moment in time where a connection is made.

The baby has hair, dark hair! Just one more push, the baby is almost here! Oh it’s a boy and he’s gorgeous! Did they just say Baylor’s a boy? Yes! And he’s perfect.
The first cry fills the room- a beautiful sound of life.
Laying on my chest, breaths evening out and color fading to a healthy pink.
I melt beneath the weight of this tiny soul in my arms.
He’s absolutely perfect, and he’s mine.

Welcome to the world Baylor Michael Sansotta!

Since that moment my life has changed. As we get to know Baylor, we are adjusting to a new normal. I’m awake more at night and less productive during the day.  The house isn’t as clean and no one notices if I forgo showering, mostly because nobody but my family sees me anyway. My big kids don’t get quite the attention I was previously able to offer, but they are loved and happy.  I’m tired, deeply tired, but I'm even more deeply full.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Baylor's birth story

I went to the doctor on Monday, November 24th in the morning.  I had Dr. Lee check me, hoping that the Braxton hicks contractions I’d been having were helping my body progress, even if it’s not a real indicator of impending labor.  She checked me and said that there wasn’t much membrane to sweep but that I was 2cm, almost 3cm.  Throughout the day I felt contractions but they didn’t disrupt anything for my daily routine. 
            That night we put the kids to bed and were watching House when I realized that the contractions were becoming more and more consistent.  I decided it might be a good idea to start timing them around 9:00pm.  At that point they were 10-15 minutes apart, then closer to 10:00pm-12:00am they got closer to 5-7 minutes apart then stayed that way with a few irregularities.  Around 2am I was sick of laying in bed next to Myles, who was sound asleep, so I decided to relax in the bath tub.  It eased the discomfort substantially, although I was very tired afterward.  From there I went downstairs and laid on the couch, hoping to get some rest, but was too uncomfortable and ended up sitting on the couch with the heating pad on my lower back, which felt amazing.  I did a little bit of laundry and moved to sitting on the yoga ball.  I realized once I was sitting there that I was really looking for pain relief and things were getting more intense.  I decided it was time to make a move toward the hospital.
            I texted Myles, who was sleeping upstairs, but he didn’t respond, waited a couple minutes and called him to say let’s get moving.  Then I called Mom and told her it’s time and she said Dad would be on his way asap.  I went upstairs and woke Myles up for real and told him we need to get going.  He decided to take a shower while we waited for my dad to come.  Dad came, told me to “have fun” and we were on our way with a roughly thrown together hospital bag.
            We got in the car and pretty much immediately the low fuel light came on.  That's one of the last things you ever want to see when you're in labor! Luckily we made it to the hospital around 5am, Myles dropped me off at the ER, where I checked in and then went to Maternity from there. I was initially put in a triage room where I was asked some basic questions and Rhonda checked me.  I was 4cm, almost 5cm and was definitely going to be having a baby.  We got settled into the labor and delivery room shortly after that.  I was already exhausted from having been up laboring all night long so I decided that I would like to have an epidural in hopes of getting some rest.  They started me on a bag of saline right away (with an IV in my wrist, ow!), and monitored me and the baby from a yoga ball.  Baylor was wiggling and low so it was hard to keep track of the heartbeat on the monitors.  Myles pushed hard on my back through the contractions and Rhonda pushed against my knees.  The counter pressure really took the edge off! The contractions were quite intense by the time the anesthesiologist arrived.  She was efficient, which I appreciated. 
(Already exhausted, sitting on the yoga ball. Clearly between contractions)

            At about 7:15 I got an epirudal and was checked immediately after.  At that point I was 8cm, almost 9cm with my water still intact. At 8:45 the doctor came and broke my water because things weren’t really progressing with it intact. We expected things to be very fast at that point but I was losing energy from being up and without food for so long.  They said I needed to eat something to raise my blood sugar, and the baby’s, so I had a popsicle at 9:30.
(Relaxing with a popsicle)

Dr. Lee went back to the office to let my body work a little bit to move the baby into place.  The baby's body was turned slightly and had a little way to descend still since the water was in the way before. 
            Becky, my nurse, checked me and had me do a quick practice push and called the doctor over from the office in a hurry because the head was quite close with a push.  When Dr. Lee arrived she didn’t even want the bed transformed, she just sat on the end and had me push. I pushed through two contractions and had my sweet boy in my arms at 10:42!  He was quite purple but crying beautifully and pinked up quickly.  Myles cut the cord.

(Very first moment!)

(He came out kind of purpleish)

(First big cry! Let it rip!)

            It was a very tiring stay at the hospital but I really cannot speak highly enough of my nurses and doctor.  They were very calming and helpful throughout the whole process.  Baylor is a good nurser and a generally content baby so far!

(Love at first sight!)

(The perfect addition to our family)

(The boy has some lungs!)

We only stayed one night and went home in time for dinner the next day.  Our hospital allows things to be as organic as we desire, which I appreciate. I know some places whisk the baby away immediately, but we were able to have skin to skin time, delayed cord clamping, even no bath at the hospital. We were allowed to leave the same day if we wanted but I thought it would be beneficial to get a night's rest with the help of the nurses.  I think it was, but I don't expect to catch up on my sleep for about a year!