Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pinterest and a Plea

Looming large! Hurrying to finish school before baby arrives!

Soooooo... Let me tell you about my last couple weeks.  I woke up a week ago last Saturday at 5 a.m. (which is just wrong on so many levels) startled to realize I was 34 weeks pregnant.  And that in three weeks I could go into labor and no one would try to stop it.  And I had a whole lot to do in that amount of time.

On Monday (last week), I had written a really long to-do list, even though I usually have a good idea of what I have to do, but I thought maybe trying to pretend that I'm Type A would help me get things done more efficiently.  Then I woke up having a bad pain in my very low abdomen/ hip which I was almost sure was just ligament pain, but I still called the midwife to check.  She agreed but asked if it was happening rhythmically.  It wasn't, and eventually it went away, but because she asked, I started to notice that I was having really regular contractions -- probably BraxtonHicks, but 3 minutes apart all day.  When I do go into labor, my contractions are usually 2 minutes apart (that's how I know) and more intense and painful, but it still kind of scared me that they were so perfectly spaced.  So that evening I called the midwife back, and she suggested I come in and get hooked up to the monitors for a little while.  "A little while" turned into 3 hours because everyone agreed it was suspicious that they were so regular, but it turned out nothing was coming from them so I was allowed to go home and resume normal activities. 

Anyway, since then, I've been trying to finish school with my kids, including end-of-year testing which is required by the state.  We aren't there yet, but hopefully we will be by the end of next week when I hit the 37-week mark.  Or closer anyway.  

But everyone has been telling me to go easy -- or easier -- and I'm trying to do that... a little.  

I kind of have food on the brain, though.  This past weekend, I watched a very fun French movie called Le Chef.  Another one I liked was The Hundred Foot Journey, but this one is actually all in French.  It was perfect because Jayna has been taking French this year, and since it was about food, there were lots of words she could understand.  And if you have the Netflix membership where you can watch on demand, you can see it for "free." 

And speaking of food (and another Francophile), my friend has started a wonderful food blog called Home 'n' Thyme.  You really need to check it out.  We've been friends since I lived in Spain.  We used to walk together every morning, and she would tell me about the amazing meal she made the night before. She is one of those people you want to invite to a potluck because what she brings will be a-MAAAYYY-zing. So now you have a chance to cook like she does.  

And this brings me to the last point of business for this post.  Pinterest.  Basically, if you haven't seen it yet, let me give you a brief tour.  (You can link to it from the follow button in the right margin.)  There is the board "Good to eat" which is for vegetarian or vegan main course recipes.  Then there is "Mama's Hungry" which is for vegetarian and vegan appetizers or side dishes.  "For my sweet tooth" should be pretty obvious.  But I also recently added two boards.  One is called "Simply Living" and is for my quest towards a simpler, more minimalist and focused life.  And the one I am specifically asking for help with right now is "Mama Needs This."  It is for all things pregnancy and postpartum.  

Since I'm almost done with the pregnancy part, I'm looking at the postpartum side a little more now.  What I need your help with is easy and delicious recipes that can be made ahead and frozen.  I know, that probably sounds simple enough, so let me throw in one big catch.  I need recipes that do not have marinara sauce or other tomato sauce in them.  For some reason, when I'm nursing, if I eat these things, it turns my milk into acid, and my babies get horrible diaper rash.  I don't know if you can even call it a simple diaper rash.  The second they use their diapers, there are patches of raw skin.  It is awful to see, as a mom.  

So what I'm looking for are soups, stews, and pasta dishes -- and other main course meals -- that I can make without any tomato sauce.  If I remember correctly, I can have fresh tomatoes, it's just tomato sauces that cause problems.  And besides that, our family doesn't have any allergies (we just don't eat meat) (though I have been very occasionally having fish, like salmon or tilapia). 

Will you help me?  Please?  Help me find great recipes or other things to know?  If you're not on Pinterest, you can comment below (don't be scared of Disqus -- it's a great way to be in touch with your favorite bloggers or people commenting on them!  I love it!) with the recipe or even put it on my Facebook page.  Thanks so much, friends!  Until next time (which hopefully won't be so long this time)... :-)

Friday, April 10, 2015

To my siblings...

Yep, I'm the cool middle sister with the giant shades
Last night, as usual, I was completely exhausted by the time enough of the younger people I live with were asleep that I felt like I could go to bed too.  I went to kiss my big girls goodnight -- and couldn't find Jayna!  But then I noticed a suspiciously large pile of blankets in Skyler's room (Skywas downstairs finishing things up for the night).  I pulled the blanket back, and sure enough here was Jayna.  She was giggling, "Don't give me away!"  I laughed too and then went in my room where, with the door open, I could listen to what would happen next.

I didn't have to wait long.  There was a gasp... And a whole lot of giggling that followed shortly.  I sat in bed giggling too.  This is one of the things it means to have siblings in our family.  I thanked God that they love each other as much as they do.

I didn't know today was National Sibling Day.  When did this start?  But I think it's kind of cool.  All day I've seen the pictures posted and just felt a whole lot of gratitude.  I think it's funny when people ask if my kids are close with "such a big age gap."  Jayna and Skyler are my "closest" kids -- 3 1/2 years apart.  Having had Jayna before my 21st birthday, I couldn't imagine having another baby sooner.  Then it was almost 5 years before Lilly came along, close to 4 before Wyatt, and now it will be just over 3 1/2 years again between him and Baby 5.  It just felt like the right time for these babies, and I didn't really give a moment's thought to whether or not it was "too far" for them to be close.  
I know it's blurry, but this is too sweet.

With this pregnancy, a few people have pointed out that Jayna will be almost 16 when this baby is born.  When I say something along the lines of, "Yes, true. So?" they inevitably point out that she's almost as old as I was when I had her, that they will probably not be very close as siblings and so on.  Hmmm. 

Okay.  I see the concern.  We don't look like the "average" family.  For one thing, we have twice as many kids.  They're really spread out.  But let me tell you a little about my own family growing up. 

First, there was Jenny.  Two years and eight months later, I joined her.  She was my first best friend, and the person I looked up to more than anybody else.  She could make me do truly insane things because I so wanted to impress her, including but not limited to falling off a roof, falling out of a guava tree into a pineapple patch (oh, how I still remember that pain!), and getting stuck in mud.  I thank her largely for my vegetarianism, because she actually liked watching the chickens get killed in our yard, and for my knowledge of where babies come from (well, the textbook version, not the practical one I learned when married) because she made me ask my mom when she wanted to know.  

For years, I begged God to let me be a big sister too because of how much I loved Jenny.  Finally, when I was 6 1/2, we adopted my 3 year-old little sister, Jackie.  It is hard to describe just how excited the day I was when we got to bring her home.  I finally had someone to boss around (or at least, this is what I thought) and play with.  I loved her shiny black hair and button nose.  It didn't matter that we had different skin colors; she was my hard-fought, long-prayed-for sister, and if you messed with her, you'd better watch out for me.  As she got older, we really enjoyed confusing people.  

"You're sisters?" they'd ask.

"Yup!"  we'd say.

"Same mom?" Nod.  "Same dad?" Nod again.  Then they would act like we must not know some dark family secret.  And we'd just laugh.

Because this whole sibling thing just doesn't look the same across the board.  She was my sister.  There was no "adopted" in that title.

And then... I got married.  Matt has three sisters, and he's right in the middle of them.  We've had lots of crazy, hilarious times together.  We're all very different, but getting together -- it's truly just one big party.  After over 17 years of being family, we have a thousand jokes that no one else would get, and we've had our times of worried prayer or shed tears for each other.  They are my sisters too.

And he's also got step-siblings.  One of the most enjoyable evenings last fall was when my step-sister-in-law (geez, that's a lot of hyphens) and her husband were visiting the island and joined us for dinner.  When they left, I felt such gratitude that we could have a fun evening like that, and I also felt sad that we can't see them more.

So what I guess I'm saying is, the look of family changes a lot over the course of a lifetime.  It's not the same for everyone.  The 16 years between Jayna and Baby 5 -- well, I hope they don't matter.  And I think that they won't.  I hope that Wyatt is okay with being the brother, and I think he will be.  Families -- siblings -- regardless of how they look, take heaps of work and love and grace.  

Last fall, when I was feeling nauseous and lying on the couch wishing I felt better, I texted a friend of mine, "I feel like I'm being a bad mom to my kids because I don't even want to move right now."  And she texted back, "No, you're a good mom.  You're just busy right now growing them another best friend."    

I've broken up 267 fights since my kids got up this morning.  I've begged them to stop yelling.  I've wanted to pull my hair out because of how they argue.  But I've also seen the way they love each other so very hard, and I trust (and pray) that continues for a lifetime.  I'm writing this today because in addition to all that difference, all that work and grace, we should take a day to be thankful for our siblings.

To my siblings -- all of them -- I'm thankful for you! Love you so very much!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Enough, Already

When I was growing up, my dad immensely enjoyed character-building.  Sometimes I remember his attempts to that end and figure you could almost squeeze character juice out of me by now.  

Usually twice a year, we traveled by second class (read: not air-conditioned) train for twenty-two hours across India.  He didn't like spending much on hotels, which meant bathrooms were not usually attached, air conditioning existed only in our dreams (if we got to sleep), and sometimes, we had roommates of the four- and six-legged variety.

The summer I turned thirteen, though, we were moving back to the States for a year, from our home in Thailand.  En route, my dad planned a six-week adventure through Egypt and Jordan, which would be followed by a month of travel all over America, and then the first two months of school in California. I was incredibly excited.  There was just one issue: everything we were taking for those four months had to fit into a carry-on.  

It seemed impossible to prepare adequately.  But part of my dad's "stretching the dollar" policy included traveling over land from Amman, across the Sinai peninsula, to Cairo (where my cousins were living).  We took a ferry from Aqaba, Jordan to Nuweiba, Egypt.  Aqaba is a small town tucked in close to Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.  We had to carry our bags about a mile at noon under the mid-June sun.  Everything I had packed in my carry-on, my one bag, suddenly seemed like far too much. 

Fast forward about twenty years, and I stood in another new-to-us house, surrounded by cardboard boxes filled with all our belongings, wondering where to put it all.  I'd gotten in an argument with my husband about, basically, stuff, and I was feeling disgusted by it, wondering why.  Why did I have all this?  Did we need it?

I spent the next year and a half or so lamenting everything that was wrong with the house -- not enough storage! poor lay-out! etc. But as I began to anticipate yet another move, I suddenly realized that it wasn't just the house. I felt like I was lugging that carry-on under a Jordanian desert's midsummer sun every time I looked around.  I started asking myself a question that was pretty uncomfortable, to tell the truth: What do we actually need?

I grew up saying the Lord's Prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread", but to be honest, it's only been in the past few years that I really started to think about what it meant.  There are multiple references to "daily bread" and God providing what we need (both in spiritually and physically).  For instance, God provided manna -- bread from heaven -- to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert.  It was on the ground every  morning, and He told them to take just what they needed for that day, except the day before the Sabbath so that they could rest.  If they took more, it would spoil.  (Exodus 16) 

And then there's Proverbs 30: 7-9 which I'd read before, but somehow "missed" until recently.
"Two things I ask of you, O LORD... Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?"  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

Wait... What?  Someone who is not asking to supersize or get rich quick?  Who specifically asks that that not happen?  It's the antithesis to the (vastly misunderstood) Prayer of Jabez craze that swept America a decade or so ago, or the Prosperity Gospel. He doesn't want to be poor, either -- and with good reason -- but he asks for "just what I need."  

Enough, no more or less.

I didn't grow up with lots; there was plenty I didn't have.  At the same time, I had so much more than my neighbors.  The first house I remember living in was just across a pothole-riddled road from a Bengali village where the houses were made of mud walls with thatched roofs, and the children ran around without any clothes at all.  

I grew up and justified my belongings and longings for more as being part of the culture I live in now -- while at the same time, there was a constant ache in my heart for those kids I'd grown up with who had so little but smiled so much.  How was it okay for me to have so much and crave more, when I knew the faces and names of so many who have so little?

I started looking around and realizing I didn't love much of what we had. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't doing us any good.  So I got rid of it. 

What I found was, I liked the space we had more than I'd enjoyed the belongings.  I liked feeling lighter.  We didn't know where we would move next, but I wanted to be ready for it.  I kept taking more and more to donate.

When we moved here to Hawaii, we moved into a much smaller house (that was terrible and falling apart), and we felt lucky to have it after two months of very difficult house-hunting.  We downsized more. 

Then last year, when we moved into our current house, which is HUGE, we realized we had experienced a paradigm shift.  Filling space like this didn't feel sustainable to us -- especially knowing we will move again, and it's just a matter of when.  We wanted less. 

I know I would have to get rid of pretty much everything if this was just a matter of fully empathizing with my former neighbors and others who live in poverty.  But that's not the point, or what I think we're supposed to do, either.  

It's about not taking as much as I can just because it's there, and thinking more deliberately about what I actually need for my life.  It's about curbing shopaholic tendencies, carefully selecting according to what we truly love and need and suits our lifestyle, rather than buying something just because it's "cute" or on sale. 

I hesitate to use the word minimalism, because it sounds kind of monastic.  Still, let me tell you about the picture at the top of the post.  I took it while standing in front of my house last evening. When we moved into this house, the view didn't look anything like this.  In fact, we didn't even know that the water was so close.  There was just a crazy, thick jungle of plants and trees.  A few months ago, all that was cleared away.  Suddenly, we had an amazing view.  We saw breathtaking sunsets, almost every night.

In the same vein, I'm trying to figure out what "enough" is, or my "daily bread."  I'm hoping to clear away what I don't need so that I can be a better steward of what I have, and therefore more generous with my time and resources.  I'm hoping to become a mother and wife who isn't pulled into frequent battles over stupid "stuff" but focusing more on what is important.  And I want to be ready for whatever comes next, not weighed down by my belongings and attachments to them.

In other words, I want to clear all the extra and unnecessary to be able to see all the things that truly take your breath away.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Happy Easter Weekend

Whew!  It's been a whirlwind weekend. I almost think the busy week scheduled will be more mellow!

I know Thursday doesn't really as the weekend, but Wyatt got his first real dude hair cut. After a completely disastrous attempt to cut his hair last week (even though I've been doing his haircuts until now), Matt and I agreed it was time for the pros to step in.  I took him to the same woman who does Matt's hair.  He looks great -- but so much older!  Aaahhhh!!

No less adorable though!

Maybe even more so? Oh my heart!

Anyway, once the weekend started, it just seemed to be one thing after another.  We had a neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt and brunch.  I'd heard about the Egg Hunt since before I moved into this house, and it was truly epic.  Eggs everywhere! (so maybe more of a race than a hunt?)

From there we went to Skyler's first volleyball game.  She's been doing dance most of her life, and this was her first time playing a team sport.  (Although, disclaimer, she did do gymnastics/ tumbling, tennis, and sailing as well.). Lately she has felt ready to try something new, so when the opportunity came up to play volleyball, she went for it.  Her team didn't win, but she scored some of the points they did get.  And you know what?  I'm just so proud of her for going for it.  Dance has been one of the few constants in her life, and even though it didn't feel like a great fit any more, it was a safe place that she understood.  Saturday's game was a big step -- for all of us!

That night, Matt and I went out to dinner in Kailua.  (Kailua has most of the best eats on the island, in my opinion.). We went to Uahi Grill, which has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, though I first found out about it just a few weeks ago when I was looking up a good place for Matt's birthday dinner.  I LOVE it.

The first time we went, he got the Big Island Steak (he doesn't often eat steak, but it was his birthday and a milestone birthday at that), while I got the grilled fish with the Mac-Nut Pesto.  This time, I got the Furikake Grilled Tofu with mashed potatoes and he had the Seared Ahi Salad.  We split a guava cheesecake.  It was so wonderful.

What I love about the restaurant is that it's a very relaxed atmosphere, and it wouldn't be uncomfortable to take kids there (though we haven't yet).  The food is fantastic yet unpretentious, and much (maybe most?) of it is local.  It's also one of the few places that seems reasonably priced -- no "special island prices."  I will say though, that it's a small space, and no outside dining.  We got there pretty early (before 6 on a Saturday night), and we were lucky to get a spot.  By the time we left, there was a 15 minute wait for a table.  

After that, it's entirely possible that we went to the newly-opened Target because that's what cool people do on dates... Right?

Anyway, today was Easter, and therefore wonderful.  We had planned to attend the sunrise service on the USS Missouri but Wyatt had a really bad dream or something -- woke up screaming like a crazy person, and it took us forever to calm him down.  So we turned off the alarms, and, well, did not wake up before sunrise.  Sigh.  

But today was marvelous.  After our own Easter Egg Hunt, which was truly a hunt, we took one of our favorite drives up to the North Shore and down through Kaneohe.  I'm bummed because I did not get any real Easter-y family pictures.  This was my only picture

from the day.  It's adorable, but I really like the family Easter pic, you know?   I'm trying to be okay with it, though, because I know that's not what Easter is about.  But still.  Such a gorgeous day (with my favorite, gorgeous people)... it seems a shame.

So that's it.  A really great weekend!  Now to get some rest!

Friday, April 3, 2015

What I Learned in March...

I'm linking up with Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky for today's post.

In many ways, March was a good month.  I can't deny that.  But it wasn't the easiest.  It was a messy month, and in many ways, it was a month where I feel like what I learned best was how much I don't know.  

You could say it was a good month for growing patience.  Yay! My favorite... (Said no one ever, right?)  There was a lot of waiting: waiting in traffic, waiting for news, waiting only to learn that there will be more waiting.  

And all the waiting -- so impatiently because waiting really isn't my thing -- opened my eyes to all my forms of impatience.  I was more aware of the times I snapped at my kids instead of given a thought-through response.  Because of things I've been through, I generally advocate taking a loving approach toward your body through exercise and nutrition, listening to it and not pushing it to pain.  But this month, I heard my inner voice criticizing myself a lot -- even for doing modified push-ups at seven months pregnant.  I know, crazy!  Where did this impatience come from?

And it was a month of realizing how much I don't understand.  For instance, one of my close friends in California texted me early in the month asking me to pray a friend of her teenage daughter (actually, this girl was friends with two of my friends' daughters) who had been involved in a tragic car accident.  She was just a little older than Jayna, and she passed away a couple days later. I read news articles about her, and it was just hard to take.  Why do the sweetest, brightest stars seem to leave too soon?  

In March, time and again, I kept said, "I just don't get it."  Yet in my heart, the words resonated, "God in His infinite wisdom..."  And really, that was it.  I can't explain much.  I don't understand.  I just know that I am small, and He is big.  He knows what I won't, at least for a long while.  He sees the whole masterpiece while I'm focusing on tiny dots or brush strokes.  

But I feel like, these moments of magnified impatience and lack of wisdom opened my eyes a little, too.  I was also working through a Sermon on the Mount devotion from She Reads Truth, and so I read again about removing the speck in someone else's eye, while ignoring the plank in your own.  (Matthew 7:3-5)

I get so impatient with other people, and criticize their lack of patience or wisdom (usually to myself and a select, "lucky" few).  I say, "The should know better by now!"  And what I learned a little better this past month is that we're never "done" learning these character traits.  I will never be able to say, "Patience?  Oh, yeah, I got that one. Wisdom? Sure.  Check."  Instead, I'll be working on them for my whole life, even when I'm a very old woman.  

And so, really, all I can expect from others... is the same.