Monday, January 28, 2008

The mind of a parent

On Saturday morning, after R visited the bathroom and I was snuggling with him on the couch, I smelled the distinct smell of maple syrup. I sniffed around and discovered that it was only coming from R's lower half. I was a little freaked out because, from my days as an editor for a parenting magazine focusing on children with disabilities, I know that there is a disease called maple syrup urine disease. And that it can be serious. But I tried not to worry.

When A got up, I mentioned this all to him, and he seemed concerned and recommended that we look up the disease online right then to get more info and figure out whether to call the doctor. Our research wasn't very helpful - the disease almost always shows up in newborns in the first few days of their life, but it can show up later in life, too. It's very serious if it's not diagnosed right away for newborns, but once diagnosed, dietary changes are all that's needed.

We decided to wait and see if the smell showed up again later or the next day, and then if it did, we'd call R's doctor.

On Sunday morning, I smelled it again.

I also remembered that we had had French toast (with syrup) for breakfast earlier in the week and that R was wearing the same pajamas as he had on French toast day. And, knowing R and his inability to keep anything on the table or in his mouth ... well, you can figure it out.

Nothing like being a parent to feel like an idiot on a regular basis and to keep you humble. At least I didn't call the doctor!


Thursday, January 24, 2008


I won't run through my Thursday off today with R because it was far less eventful and exciting than usual. But it was still great. Even when R is cranky and tired and having shouting matches with his best friend Z and not listening to me, I love spending every minute with him. And, the day off in the middle of my work week has been amazing in terms of re-grounding me and making the stress of work more tolerable. Somehow, it's much easier to head back to work for Friday since I just have to get through one day. Plus, it's casual day. So at least I don't have to plan out what to wear. I can just grab my jeans and a sweater and be done with it. That's the way I like it. :-)

Thank you, again, everyone for your amazing and wonderful comments on my heavy post this week. I'm touched beyond words. When I checked email the day after I posted it, I sat at my desk at work with tears streaming down my face at the love you all shared with me. I'm so blessed to have each one of you in my life - whether we've met face to face or not. God certainly does work in strange and wonderful ways.

I had to share something related to that post: This afternoon, R and I were having lunch and listening to one of Phil Wickham's CDs. There's a song called "Grace" and here is the verse that jumped out at me today:

I need eyes to be my guide

I need a voice that’s louder than mine

I need hope, I need You

Cause I can’t do this alone

Can you believe that? I've listened to that CD dozens of times since I bought it back in November and I never heard that line before. I LOVE this kind of stuff - seeing and hearing God's message to me in all these subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways. It seems like every few days, I have one of those moments when my jaw drops open and my eyes bug out from surprise when I find another message from him. And, I imagine him smiling at me, at my surprise.

Have you had any surprises from God lately?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I struggled many times with whether to write and then publish this post (and you'll soon see why). But I really believe that God wants me to.

I am a very quiet person. Shy. Painfully shy. Actually, it's been diagnosed as social anxiety disorder. Besides not being able to hold just regular conversation, I don't say anything in meetings, classes, etc. I think part of it is a defense mechanism because I've definitely been shot down in the past when I have spoken up. But it's been a problem for me for so long that I don't remember when it started.

I've been through therapy, including group therapy where I had to do embarrassing things in front of strangers (like try to weasel my way past the security guards at a local university dorm and give a speech on a topic I knew nothing about in front of people who were extremely rude on purpose). The therapy helped a little, but didn't really fix the problem for me. I don't really think that it can.

For years, I've dealt with my problem in different ways. Most of the time, I just tell myself that I'm a freak and different from most people, but that's okay because it's who I am and how God made me, and I just try to avoid situations that would make my differences obvious. But that only lasts so long. Eventually, I end up really depressed because I'm lonely and because I beat myself up mentally over it. I make very few friends on my own; most of my friends are through A or other existing friends. I never know what to say to anyone, and it hurts me socially and at work. I've had numerous people tell me at work that when I do speak up, I speak very intelligently and provide good insight, but I don't believe them. It's a source of strain at times in my marriage because I have panic attacks over social events that A wants to attend, and I'm terrified that it will affect R in some way. I'm much better with people one-on-one, but most of the time what happens is that I get nervous and monopolize those conversations with crazy stories about myself. I just keep babbling on about my own life instead of letting the other person share.

I work really hard to be better, and it's emotionally exhausting. I prepare lists of questions in my head to ask other people in conversation ahead of time, and when that doesn't work, I find some way to occupy myself (by tending to R and other little kids, helping in the kitchen, etc.) and, of course, make myself feel bad at the same time.

Anyway, suffice it to say that I've struggled for a long time with why God made me this way. What is the point of being like this, especially when Jesus calls us to minister and show love to others? How can I do that when I can't even have a normal conversation with anyone but my family and closest friends? It just made no sense to me. And, I don't think God wants me to be lonely with only him for comfort.

A few months ago, I really asked God for help. Because I've come to believe that he's the only one who can. Every morning, I'd ask for his help and I'd ask that he loosen my tongue and help me get over my fears. And, it was definitely helping. He put tests in front of me (like seeing a co-worker on the subway - I forced myself to initiate the contact and say hi), and sometimes I'd "pass" them and feel great about myself. But then I'd "fail" another time and feel like crap again.

Then I started reading "Captivating" by John & Stasi Eldredge, a book that my mom sent me at Christmas. And, in so many ways, it spoke to me. It's not about shyness, but it does talk a lot about how many women silence themselves after being hurt in the past. It lifts women up as the pinnacle of God's creation (because Eve was created last) and shows how God romances us through his creation and love. And how God sees our beauty. All of that made me feel loved and beautiful and wonderful and started to change how I saw myself. But through the book, and through many other instances and situations that I believe God has placed in my path (including church on Sunday), I keep getting the message, "Speak up - do not be silent!"

Another big part of the book talks about recognizing that the Evil One has a special hatred for women and that we must be vigilant in banishing him from our lives. Blaming things on the devil and binding/casting out spirits has always made me uncomfortable. Mainly because one of the churches we went to when I was growing up focused on that stuff way too much. We spent more time during each service casting out demons and talking about Satan's influence than learning about Jesus and God. So, all the services felt dark and oppressive instead of full of love and light. And, I think that human beings - and our inherently sinful nature - are to blame for most of the evil in the world.

But reading the book made me think about my own life more closely. Maybe this isn't how God made me. Maybe he does want me to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships with other people. And maybe there's some work that God wants me to do, but I'm being prevented. That somehow/something is making me believe that I'm a freak to keep me from doing what I'm supposed to do. So, I told God that I wasn't sure about this, but that I wanted to bind whatever was keeping me in this state because I believe that God has something more in store for me. And, any time I start to beat myself up, I shout in my head, "Get out!!! God loves me!!!"

I can't pinpoint a specific day or time when the difference started to happen. But I definitely feel that a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I've been more at ease recently with some people and I've been happier. A and I have been laughing more. I feel freer to be myself, to be silly and crazy. I mean, I'm not all of a sudden an outgoing person - and I don't expect to be - but I'm definitely feeling more relaxed. (Now, I could still be saying crazy things to people and making them think I'm a weirdo, but at least I *think* I'm doing better...)

But here is the truly powerful thing to me: Right after I started praying this way, and I'd start to take steps forward and feel good about myself, time and time again someone would mention to me how quiet I was when they first met me or they'd point out how I'm not good at social situations. I don't remember people pointing this out to me ever before - at least this bluntly. (They weren't trying to be mean at all - just stating the truth.) And, each time, it really hurt me. I'd clam up, be ashamed, and shut down for a little while. But then I recognized it and realized that something is definitely trying to keep me quiet - and that as I get closer to being who I'm supposed to be, the battle to keep me quiet gets more intense and more painful. So, as weird as it is to me, I really do feel that something/someone is working against me and has been for all these years.

But I know that I've got God on my side and that I can get beyond this with his help. I'm already doing it, and he's got the strength I need. No medication or therapy could do this for me. Only he can.

I think he's been poking at me for awhile to write this post. For me. To help me heal. Believe me - opening my heart this much to the world is terrifying to me, mostly because I've always told myself that no one would really care what I really thought about anything. And, it's even more terrifying for me knowing that people I know outside of blogdom in "real life" will read this. But it's also a relief in some way, too. Hey, world, this is why I'm such a freak! But God is helping me be better. Because he didn't make me a freak. And, I'm probably making him sad by calling myself that.

So, with his help, I'm discovering that I'm worth knowing. And that he can teach me how to get to know his precious other children.

I can't be quiet any longer.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday fun

Today was a great day (despite being sick with a head full of yuck and in spite of the fact that it was REALLY cold outside). I went to church this morning with Lynette, Trish, and my friend A. It was really interesting because the sermon was about dating, but I still got a message from God on something else, reinforcing a lot of what I've been reading and hearing lately. So that was really cool. And, it's really special for me to be at church with friends. I like to tell myself that I prefer to go by myself, but I'm realizing that that just isn't true. It's nice to have people I love beside me and to be able to talk about the service and sermon together afterwards.

After church, the girls dropped me off at my house so I could do some cleaning before A and R got home from hanging out at a local playspace. I feel SO much happier now that I was able to vacuum the entire house. Usually, I clean the house on the day I work from home, but with snow days and holidays and such, I haven't had much time in the house by myself lately. And, I don't like to take time away from R by cleaning while we're home together. I mean, I do some things like laundry and straightening up (he helps me with those), but ever since he was a toddler and terrified of the vacuum, I've avoided using it when he's around for the most part. Anyway, I'm very happy now that my floors are clean.

After my boys got back, we all headed over to our friends' A & A's house for hanging with Lynette and dinner. It was lovely. A made baked ham with a delicious cranberry glaze, mashed then baked potatoes with onions and sour cream and bacon bits, and green beans. For dessert, we had brownies and ice cream. Wonderful comfort food for a freezing cold night!

R had a great time. He loves his Auntie A and Uncle A, and Lynette is just so much fun. She was snuggling and tickling R and playing games with him. R didn't want to go home. Why would he? :-)

I'm feeling achey and yucky again, so I think I need to go to bed ... if I can tear myself away from watching DVD episodes of "The Office." Darn that writers' strike!

And, the Patriots won again!!! It is SO strange that, after many, many years of Boston teams giving us fans nothing but heartache, we are now home to the best football team ever, two-time World Series champs, and now an awesome basketball team as well. I remember when the Celtics were really good when I was in elementary school - but that was eons ago. It's pretty cool to be around for all the victory parades that have been going on for the last few years. It's a nice change.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day tomorrow! This is the first time since I've known A that he has it off, so we're looking forward to having another day off together. I think we're going to meet up with a friend for lunch in our old neighborhood in Boston for Brazilian food. We'll see how that goes over with R. I'll probably pack an emergency PB&J sandwich just in case.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My brain is goo

It's just about 1 a.m. and I can't think of anything much to write about. I've had another doozy of a week at work (which is why I'm up now - just finished working). But I've also been trying hard this week NOT to work at night (except for tonight). I've left my computer at work, had time to read for fun, and gone to bed at reasonable times. It's been very nice.

On Monday, we had a good old-fashioned snow day. My office closed (although everyone was required to work from home) and R's school closed, too. A and R and I had fun running around in the snow, watching a movie, and taking a walk to the corner donut shop for hot chocolate and donuts.

Oh, on Sunday, my best friend came to church with me! It was SO nice! I wasn't even going to go because we were having her and her husband over that morning for breakfast and I needed to get the house ready, but she called me up to see if I wanted to go to my church's early service. My friend really enjoyed the service, and who knows? Maybe she'll come with me again. It was a refreshing change for me to not have to go by myself. And that continues this week: I'm going to church this Sunday with Lynette who's in town for a visit, Trish, and my best friend - woohoo! (We're going to Trish's church, which Lynette and my friend used to attend before Lynette became a Texan.)

I've been reading a book that my mom sent me: Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman's Soul. The title and cover are really hokey, and I'll admit that I was extremely skeptical, but I really enjoyed reading it and am actually re-reading it now. I was reading it the first time and thinking, "Interesting, but none of this applies to me," and then all of a sudden, WHAM. There was a part that really resonated with me (about feeling like an invisible teenager as an adult), and the authors' interpretation of Eve and her importance and what she (and women in general) tell us about God is very interesting. It's already making a positive difference in my life - maybe I'll write more on that later when my brain is functioning properly. But now I should head to bed.

Sweet dreams!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Another great Thursday with my boy

Yesterday was one of my twice-a-month days off with R, and we had SO much fun! I thought I'd share our day in pictures.

We had a lazy morning. We played with Legos for nearly two hours before deciding it was time to eat some breakfast. A's mom had saved all of A's and his brother's Legos from when they were young, and she mailed them to R for Christmas. We will never have to buy another Lego. We have tons of colors, sizes, shapes - even the extra stuff like wheels, signs, people, truck parts, windows, shutters, roof pieces, trees, etc. A's mom even saved the original boxes and instructions! So we have the full instructions and pieces for making a police station and several police vehicles, a hospital and several emergency vehicles, a tipper truck, a crane, airplanes, and more. I wasn't sure if R was old enough yet to handle the tiny pieces, but he's had no problem at all, and the three of us have spent many hours since Christmas building all sorts of things.

This was one of R's creations:

After Legos and breakfast, R watched a wee bit of TV while I did the dishes and got dressed. He watched Caillou (one of the most annoying shows I've ever seen - it's about a four-year-old extremely whiney boy, plus they have these incredibly stupid dance numbers with kids - "The Caillettes" - ugh) and a new show to us on PBS, Word World. That one was pretty cool, and R learned how to spell "tent" and that the letter "v" is in a whole bunch of words like vacation, van, and cave. He also learned the word "migration." As much as I hate him watching any TV at all, at least he learned something.

It was still beautiful here on Thursday - bright and sunny and in the 50s - so next we headed out to a nearby park to do some climbing on a giant rope structure. R climbed for about half an hour before we had to come home to use the bathroom (him, not me).

Before lunch, we tried out a solar car racing set that R had picked out for A for Christmas. I felt bad breaking it out without A there, but he didn't seem to mind later. And, it was a lot of fun. We discovered that the cars don't work very well even in bright sunlight inside, so we took them outside instead. We tried them out in a few places, but then discovered that the top of our patio table was the best. R experimented with positioning the tiny solar panels in different ways.

R then rediscovered his sandbox (it's been covered in snow for weeks now) and took out his excavator and some digging tools and went to town on the remaining ice and snow in the yard.

Finally, we headed inside for lunch. R had peanut butter and jelly, grapes, and some slices of cheese. I had the rest of our leftover beef stew (delicious!), some grape tomatoes, and some slices of cheese.

In the afternoon, we met up with R's friend Z and his mom at an Audubon sanctuary in the next town over. There are lots of hiking trails and a turtle pond. Our friends had brought along another mom and her boy, so the six of us hiked through the snowy woods for about 2.5 hours! We stopped several times for snacks and, at one point, we ended up on the track/field of the neighboring private high school. The boys ran races on the track, found a giant patch of three-inch-deep mud to stomp in, and threw rocks into a drainage pipe. (Aaaah, boys.) We also found a huge old tree that had fallen across part of one of the trails, so R and Z climbed right up.

When it was almost dark, R and I headed home to change our wet socks and pants. Then, we ran back out to pick up A at the subway station. On Thursday nights, we either go out to eat or grab take-out. This time, we decided to go to a local buffet place with cheap, decent food. The restaurant is in a mall that has the best ride-on toys for kids. And, they had just put all new ride-ons in! So R tried out several of them, starting of course with the train.

While he was riding the train, I walked around to the front to take another picture when I looked down and gasped at the face. Now, I'm familiar with pretty much all of the Thomas the Tank Engine characters, some of which have weird faces. But this train has the freakiest face I've ever seen! And the glowing red lights on the front didn't help much.

This one was my favorite. I love the old 50s-style cars!

We ended the night with a ride in the yellow school bus.

I'm so thankful for the changes in my life that enabled me to take these precious few days off with R. Of course I wish I could afford to reduce my work schedule even more, but maybe someday. For now, I'll enjoy every minute I can with R (before he goes off to kindergarten in another year and a half - ACK!)

I hope everyone has a great weekend! My project tonight is to find photos to put in a whole bunch of new frames I bought recently and get them up on our naked living room walls. Of course, it's already after 10 p.m., so I don't know how far I'll get...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


It's January in New England, and it's 66 degrees and sunny (despite what this graphic says)! I am doing the Kristen happy dance.


Monday, January 7, 2008

God and hormones

Today I had my annual appointment at my OB/GYN's office. (I promise that this post will not gross you out. It's safe to continue reading.) The whole thing has been kind of a comedy of errors. My doctor, whom I've seen for years and felt very comfortable with despite the fact that she wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy with the bedside manner, retired recently and moved to CA. Because the office is very convenient for me, I decided to try out the new doctor taking her place. But my first appointment was rescheduled because the doctor ended up having to do surgery that day. She called me HERSELF to reschedule. I was blown away by that and feeling optimistic about her.

Then I went for my appointment. But, that day, there was a water main break on the street outside. I waited for half an hour in the waiting room before they rescheduled me and sent me home because they had no water and could not ensure sterile environments. Fine with me! So I rescheduled for today. Or so I thought.

I showed up today, and the receptionist seemed confused to see me. She said my appointment was for tomorrow (same time). That made no sense to me because I can't do appointments on Tuesdays. But the doctor isn't in on Mondays - just the midwives are. So they arranged for one of the midwives to do my appointment.

I wasn't sure what to do. I've had bad experiences with some of the midwives before and during my pregnancy for various reasons, and the one I was going to see was the one who had upset me most of all. But that was a long time ago, and I didn't want to reschedule my appointment AGAIN. So I waited for close to an hour in a freezing room in one of those stupid "robes." I was nearly in tears because I was really afraid that this woman was going to upset me again, so I prayed a lot and imagined Jesus holding my hand to calm me down. Then, I noticed a photo on the wall - of beautiful lilies. And I remembered that Bible verse about the lilies of the field, and I knew that God would take care of me and that things would be okay.

And they were! The midwife was WONDERFUL. She spent more than an hour with me and talked through a lot of my questions and concerns. She was very caring and kind. And, for one problem I talked to her about related to my hormone levels, she gave me tons of recommendations for supplements and exercise and diet, etc. I felt great and was very happy that she hadn't just written me a prescription for some medication that will address one problem if I'm willing to deal with 100+ side effects (I'm the person who ALWAYS gets those weird side effects they list on all the drug TV ads).

But a few hours later, I started feeling overwhelmed by the list of recommendations. Exercise: I haven't been able to find time to fit that into my post-baby life up to now, so I'm not sure how I will magically be able to now. Supplements: Taking calcium, fish oil, and multivitamins multiple times a day is going to be pretty challenging. I'm lucky if I can manage to floss my teeth once a day! Cutting out salt: This is tough for me because the time when I most crave salty stuff is when I now need to cut it out. Cutting out caffeine and alcohol completely during certain times: Again, those certain times are when I actually need my cup of tea and glass of wine to relax and keep from losing my mind (and temper).

So, wish me luck with my regimen. I'm asking God for his help with all of this. He's definitely guiding me because a few minutes before I left for my appointment, I turned on some Christian TV talk show. And, to get the full impact of this, I NEVER do that. I never watch Christian TV because any time I've happened onto it in the past, there's usually some scary person screaming scary things that turn me off. So, today, I turned it on and could not believe the guest this show had on: an endocrinologist talking about the VERY problem I wanted to talk to my doctor about today! This doctor talked about how all the crappy food we eat and especially the hormones that animals are given (and that we later eat) have impaired the liver's ability to function and have screwed up our hormone levels. So he advocates eating whole and organic foods. That made sense to me. I try to do that, but sort of haphazardly. So, between this doctor's and my midwife's advice, I feel like God was trying to help me. So I have to try! I mean, if God is telling me to shape up and start taking better care of my body, I sure as heck better listen. :-)

Happy Monday, everyone! Wishing you all good health!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I'm in the mood . . .

... to purge! Things, not food. (Ewww.) I have this incredible urge to go through all my belongings and get rid of/recycle/donate a lot of it. Part of it is needing to make room for our Christmas presents. And, I already boxed up R's baby toys and sent those to the basement. I even went through his giant pile of artwork that was about to consume my entire office and recycled anything that wasn't sentimental (like handprints or "firsts") or dated or just really cool. I organized all of R's new toys, and he was very excited to discover where everything was and to see how clean his room was.

But the desire to downsize our stuff is also part of my hope to simplify my life a little. We don't really need most of the things we have, and our house is wee and gets easily cluttered, which drives me bonkers. I'm going for peace and serenity in 2008. (Is that possible with a three-year-old around?)

But we'll see. Because at the same time, I keep looking at new furniture to buy - shelves, consoles, cabinets, etc. to store our stuff in. I think that kind of negates the getting rid of stuff goal.