Oxygen

If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you know the safety announcements before your flight. If you’ve flown on as many airplanes as I have, you have those announcements memorized. You could actually be the flight attendant.

This weekend, I keep thinking about the part about oxygen masks and children. The instructions tell parents to take care of themselves first, then put the mask on your children. Those instructions are exactly opposite of what maternal instinct tells me to do. Maternal instinct says, “Save your child. Sacrifice yourself for your child.” It puts my needs after my children’s needs/wants. Sometimes it’s silly things like the last cookie. I want it, but they want it, too. So, I break the cookie into two pieces and have them share it. I go without because I love them. Sometimes it’s less simple like when a child is sick and I spend a night and day sleepless, holding a puke bucket, letting them snuggle (only to catch the same bug a week later). Again, I love my kids so I do those things. But…

“Put your mask on first. Then, help your child secure his/her mask.”

It’s been six months since we decided to make this move. Six months of non-stop emotional, physical, mental stress. Six months of getting used to Brian’s travel schedule (if you can actually call it a “schedule” when there’s no consistency to it). Six months of trying to understand and help my kids transition through missing friends and places while they meet new friends and learn new places. Six months. Yesterday, I finally put my oxygen mask on. My kids and Brian have had theirs on the whole time. I just forgot about mine. Actually, “forgot” isn’t the right word. I chose to go without as I cared for my family. But I would be breathing better if I had chosen to my mask on first.

So what did I do? I called a friend, packed a bag, rented a car, and drove away despite tears and “But I want YOU!!!!!” It sounds so dramatic. It wasn’t. Brian knew I needed time just as me. He even had a card and flowers waiting for me at the rental car company. And the weekend has been nothing spectacular, yet it’s been precisely what I needed.

I sat with my 98 year old grandmother and listened to her chat about the difference between her and her husband and how their marriage worked. She talked about how he was such a hard worker. How she would want to chat and he would walk out in the middle of her chat saying, “I need to get such and such done.” Toward the end of his life, as he struggled with ALS, she would just sit with him. He said, “You know, if I was you and you were me, I’d be getting things done right now.” She responded with, “I don’t know how long you’re here and I want to spend as much time as I can with you.” He never brought that up again. She was breathing deeply in those moments. I’m reminded that can find oxygen just in sitting with someone; just being.

I sat with a college friend in a packed cafe, listening to the journey God has and is bringing this friend through. Life is stressful and the required tools are not at all what was expected, nor could be prepared for. But in that, there’s joy and purpose in family and work relationships and sports. In the midst of crazy, my friend is finding space to breathe. I realise I can breathe deeply by seeking out those things that bring joy even in the midst of stress and transition. It doesn’t need to wait until we’re settled.

I sat with a cup of coffee, a Bible, a journal. Knowing that sometimes the words I cannot put together verbally will flow without stop when I take the time to sit and be still with a pen or keyboard in my hand.

I talked over pizza with friends who lived in Asia and understand the process of returning to life here in the USA. They have walked valleys and mountain tops. They have wise words and questions. Their words, their questions were like fresh breezes to my soul; opening up airways that the last 6 months have been congested with “important” things. I breathed deep in the knowledge that others understand.

And I reread the card from Brian and I see “We’ll make sure you get more weekends like this.” I smile because as much as I wonder if he actually understands my weariness, I know he actually does and he loves me deeply. And, yes, I must have more time like this. I must carve out the time to breathe oxygen deeply in the midst of life. Life will not slow down, but I can create space to breathe.

“Breathe” (Johnny Diaz)

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise in my heart I feel you say just

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

Third cup of joe just to get me through the day
Want to make the most of time but I feel it slip away
I wonder if there’s something more to this crazy life
I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear you say just

Breathe, just breathe Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in fill your lungs
The peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
So let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe

Just breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe
Just breathe

 

Always Be Thankful

image“Always, always, always be thankful”

My friend posted this on Facebook and it struck a chord in my heart this morning. I’ve been diligent about posting something I’m thankful for each day in November. I’m sure I’ve missed a day or two, but overall I’ve been consistent. Some thoughts were deeper than others; like thankful for amazing friends versus thankful for clearance racks. Some days an idea came easily; other days it was more of a discipline to find something in my day because we’re living in this limbo land of a trans-pacific move. But even when in limbo-land, it rings true.

Always, always, always be thankful.

Even on a day when I’m incredibly bored of hotel breakfast and I can predict which day we will have turkey sausage, pork sausage, andouille sausage, or bacon. Because…seriously…I have breakfast provided daily by friendly staff.

Even on a day when everything from shoes to hair to the position of a car seat are massive battles of the will that leave me in tears because I’m so weary of holding the line. I’m thankful those days because this fighter-of-mine is God’s amazing creation and I have faith that her strong spirit will mature into something beautiful.

Even on days when I wake up to 36 texts in a WhatsApp group and my heart aches for my loss because lunch at Tolidos or a Christmas brunch sound like soul-food right now. But then I remember that I will share eternity with these ladies and knowing them is still a huge blessing.

Even on days when my I open my son’s school folder and I find his math test with only two questions answered and a neat question mark on everything else. Then, I talk to his teacher and learn she is fighting for him to get all the extra support he needs and she literally tears up because she cares so much. I’m thankful for today’s struggle because the end will be that much more valuable.

Even on days when everything seems to make me miss Singapore…a cinnamon Christmas tree, a cup of hot cocoa, a good jog, a hike along a little used trail. Because I realize how those memories can link me to a real person who I can FaceTime or Whatsapp or email or simply call. Technology is worth being thankful for. And my life is richer because of all the places I’ve lived.

Even on days that I’ve said ridiculous things like, “Stop licking your sister!” or “No, you cannot wear shorts and a t-shirt when there’s frost on the ground…even if you want to!” I can be thankful because I have the awesome privilege of being mom to my two crazy munchkins and they give the best hugs when I’m sad.

Even on days when Brian is suddenly traveling and the plans we made need to adjust because he has a great job and is loving the chance to still travel and be in charge of an aircraft and happy husband equals happy life.

Even on days when I grieve because I see hatred and evil and malice and envy. On days that I wonder if there’s still good buried deep in people’s hearts. On days the news talks about another shooting, another bombing, another hate crime, another missing child. Even on those days I am thankful because I can be kind, I can show compassion, I can give a hug and brighten one person’s world…even when so much of the world is dark.

Always, always, ALWAYS be thankful.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
– Philippians 4:4-8

Of Walls & Windows

img_2866It’s been two and a half weeks since we left Singapore, just shy of two months since Brian started this new job and life took a gigantic turn. In the last two months, we packed up our things, had goodbye after goodbye after goodbye, and wrestled emotions from overtaking us. In the last two and a half weeks, we dealt with jet lag, bought a house, registered the kids and started them in a new school, and sent Brian back to Asia for three weeks.

People have said I’m doing well. I seem relaxed, not stressed. I’m handling everything “brilliantly.” Thanks, but it’s at a cost. I’ve built a wall around my heart. And, to be honest, I’m not ready to open the doors. It’s a very conscious decision. I’ll get there. I’ll take a day and finally open the cards given to me from dear, amazing friends in Singapore. Cards which sit in a neat stack in my hotel room. You see, I can look at them and sense that I am loved and missed without actually walking through the grief of what we left. That day will happen. I’m just not ready for it yet.

There’s been moments where a crack has formed in the walls around my heart.

The first time was as we approached Philadelphia and I looked at the lush green fields, the rolling hills, the space…all of which filled an ache in my heart left after the population density of Singapor. Zach (who couldn’t hold food down most of the 24 hours of travel because his heart hurt so deeply) looked out awed by the beauty, then whispered, “I will miss my friends.” I wept great crocodile tears with him at that moment, but then I parched the wall and looked ahead to what needed to happen to get off the plane.

One morning, as we battled with Emily over what outfit she was going to wear, another chunk fell. I don’t typically make clothes an issue, but this specific morning it had to be fought. I knew school was coming and there are no uniforms which allow me to sidestep the clothing battle. Yet, as 45 minutes went by of her digging in and me refusing to cave, the tears came. Not because of the battle, but because of the reason for the battle. She was trying to control one thing in order to feel control of something in a world that’s been turned upside down for her. And I did it to her…I turned her world upside down.

And then there was tonight when I sat on the kids’ hotel bed with Zach quietly letting tears run down his cheeks because he misses his friends. I told him how I miss mine, too, and how I’m so thankful I have he and Emily and daddy to do this move with. I kissed him goodnight and sent a text to three moms of Zach’s friends. Their instant response to my request for a note to him sent some more rocks crumbling.

Perhaps I won’t have a total collapse in my wall this move. Perhaps it will just be a gradual, stone by stone crumbling; One crack, then a rock, then another  instead of an earthquake-like tumbling to overwhelm me. I can’t really say. I just know this is a process for me. For my family. And it will run its course differently for each of us. But it will run its course. The walls around my heart will crumble whether it happens in bits and pieces or great chunks. That’s the process.

Adulting

I’ve had to do a good bit of “adulting” these last few weeks. You know, those times where you do the wise thing, not the fun thing; not the thing you really want to do, but the thing that you know in the long run will create less stress, less angst, less struggle. dsc_0078 But it’s really frustrating making those “adult” moves when the inner child in me just wants to shun responsibility and create memories because we’re leaving Asia…again.

I left Asia when I was five and moved to the USA, the “foreign country” with all its weird foods like corn, mashed potatoes, and hamburgers. I remember hiding under the hideous wet bar in my parents’ living room crying because I missed my dog and my cat and my old life (I didn’t have the words to know that was cultural adjustment). Happiness was becoming friends with a Filipina girl because she looked right. Although we lived in a  fairly diverse area, it was strange being with so many caucasians. It had taken  me most of my Kindergarten year in the Philippines to realise I was the only fair skinned, blue eyed, blonde haired child in the class. Now, I was in a sea of white faces and Miriam made me feel at home.

In High School, I returned to Asia, Hong Kong specifically…sulking. My parents “made” me go with them. I had it all figured out in the USA – who I could live with for the year, what school I would attend, how it would work and yet they still made me move with them. dsc_0056 And 14 is a horrendous age. You don’t have to transfer continents to experience the awfulness of it; childhood pudginess is at its peak, acne is present, hormones are racing. It stinks and I moved to Asia that year. And it was glorious. Glorious. So. Many. Good. Memories. A year later, I left Hong Kong in tears. Four Chinese friends came to the airport to say goodbye. Two spoke with an American accent, one with a British accent, and one with an Australian accent. We’d all been a part of the international youth group where friendships had run fast and deep. But, again, it was time to leave Asia. It had been fun, growing, memorable, but it was time and I knew it. I was sad, but excited to return.

Then, there was the phone call from Brian, “Want to move to China?” Nope. Don’t want to. Quite content with my suburban, American life. And yet, less than 9 months later, we moved to Macau. dsc_0567 We lived two memory-filled years there. We got pregnant there, had our first child there, made friendships that have proven solid despite distances. The smell of incense sends me right back to the tiny temple down the road. I hear the raucous sound of Cantonese and it sounds familiar and strangely homey. I look at a sea of Chinese faces and find one Caucasian and wonder, “Why is that westerner here?” Completely forgetting that I look the same. But then, kicking and ranting, I left Asia again. This time I was mad. Our time had been cut short. Brian’s job had ended suddenly. This wasn’t our choice. This was UNFAIR. And it took months for the tears to flow and the emotions to work their way out of my soul. Maybe I needed a cupboard big enough for an adult to climb into like when I was five. Leaving Asia ripped me open in a way that I still don’t understand. It left a hole in Brian that had him searching for a job which would take us back to Asia for four years. Four years of job hunting to get back.

And in a few short weeks, I will leave Asia again and I want to cram as many memories into my weeks so I’m dragging my kids to everything possible because we need to build memories, cement relationships, see everything we didn’t see yet…you get it. dsc_0590 And life fell apart this week; three of us crashed hard with our emotions. After some time alone in my room, I “adulted” – I put aside my want for something, something good, something I can only experience once and said, “We’re not doing it. We’re not going. We’re staying home.” I sent an email to a friend I’ve wanted to visit and I was sure I could cram one short trip in, but instead I wrote, “I’m so sorry, but I can’t. I have to be here to end things well. I can’t make the trip.” And after that awful two days and hard decisions, my heart got a little less frantic. A little less frazzled. I little more filled with grace for myself and my kids.

And I wonder, when I leave Singapore will I wish I had lived more vicariously? Or will I rest knowing that I made some healthy decisions that will mean we can end our time here well instead of frazzled? dsc_0610 In the great scheme of things, I think that’s more important. Ending well. Taking the time to say goodbyes, to experience what we can, but not everything we can cram into our schedule. And who knows, we might come back. Maybe not to Singapore, but there’s something in me that loves Asia so deeply it’s like it’s part of my soul. Out of my 40 years, I’ve spent more than 10% in Asia.

I keep leaving. I keep coming back. But this time I’m a parent and I need to adult. Ending well is something worth “adulting” for, even when it’s hard.

Stretching or Stressing?

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I believe stretching is good for a person – stretching beyond our comfort zones, stretching into territory that makes us feel a bit vulnerable. But when stretching turns to stressing, it can be a problem.

Let me illustrate: Providing a meal for a family

I thoroughly enjoyed doing this when I lived in Virginia, USA. It seemed like every month there was a new baby and I’d deliver a meal, sit and talk a bit, bless them and feel like I had really helped. It stretched me to cook for someone, but it didn’t stress me. Packaging comes in large quantities, ovens can fit multiple dishes at once, fridges hold an abundance of food, the extra freezer downstairs is full, pantries store canned goods. Usually, I could create a meal from what I already had at home. Then, I set it in a box or bin that I happened to have lying in a closet, put the meal in the back of my car, drove to the woman’s house, and dropped the food. Often I would stay a little while and chat with the new mom. When we were the recipients of this amazingly helpful service, I had a box in my car with the cleaned dishes people had brought us food in. That way, when I happened to see them again, I could return the dishes.

Now I live in Singapore. Taking a meal to someone stresses me out beyond measure. Why?

First, I don’t have a car. I walk to the store. I carry everything home or wheel it in my “granny cart.”

Second, packaging. At the regular grocery, I am fortunate when I find meat packaged in 500-gram quantities. That’s a little less than a pound. 200 grams is actually more typical. Want salmon? How about one 200-gram fillet? I do have options – the wet market or order from a warehouse – but that requires extra steps. And disposable containers? Must buy them. No “one stop shopping” here.

Third, cooking. Ovens are a luxury here. The majority of cooking is done on the “hob” (think burners). I have an oven. The one in our condo wasn’t working so it was replaced shortly after we moved in. Before the old one was removed, I took the rack from inside. I’m lucky; I have TWO levels in my oven. I can squeeze two 9×13 pans if the contents of both are flat.

Fourth, transport. I don’t have closets where I keep spare things like boxes or gift bags. I could head down to the basement to see if someone else tossed a box or bag. I might find something. Otherwise, my “go to” is plastic shopping bags. I would need to take a taxi because taking food on a bus, train, and walk is just not a good idea. Plus, it’s hot here all the time. Ice cream melts between the grocery store and home.

Do you see my point? Living here – within the choices we have made for ourselves – takes a good stretching thing and makes it a stressful thing. When I am stressed I am a sharp, irritable mom and wife.

So I don’t volunteer for meals for people even though I know it’s a huge blessing; even though I know it is a great way to serve people; even though I like cooking.

But that really isn’t the end of the dilemma.

There are people who do not find gifting meals stressful. Like my friend, Joyce, who just sent me a text saying, “What is the first night in your new place? We want to bring you dinner.” Perhaps it’s because they have a car or a live-in maid. Perhaps they can juggle more things than me. Perhaps they simply do not get stressed about all the steps I mentioned. Perhaps…perhaps…perhaps.

But the dilemma continues…do I feel guilty about my decision? Do I feel jealous of what others have? Am I letting bitterness against other mums of small kids creep into my soul because of all this? Am I getting angry?

Some days all these emotions fly though my being and haunt my thoughts. Some days I choose the high road. Instead of wallowing, I invite people who could use a meal to my home. Or I respond to a neighbor that needs something.

I must learn to live with contentment in the life I have. I must know my boundaries and be open to stretching, and at the same time protect myself from stressing.

Thankfulness

IMG_5057I’m sitting at a coffee shop, surrounded by chatter, “Blue Christmas” is playing, my Facebook feed is filled with Thanksgiving preparations, and I’m slowly eating a delicious Ricotta & Sun Dried Tomato (please say to-mah-toe to get the full effect) Quiche. I’m in Orchard, the prime shopping district here in Singapore. Christmas is looming so shops are especially busy. My kids’ school is just around the corner. I’m early for volunteering because I am in search of a candle that smells like a Christmas tree.

But before I tackle Christmas, I need to pause for today.

Thanksgiving. American Thanksgiving. It’s not a holiday here and because my kids do not attend an American school, it’s just like any other day. Except that this year Barbara stepped in. This is our third Thanksgiving in Singapore. The first two were memorable for all the wrong reasons. This year, Barbara stopped me at church a few weeks back and said, “I wanted to invite you for Thanksgiving. My parents will be here. I’ll invite Erin and family, too.”

It’s hard to put into words just how much that invitation means to me. So I’ll try to flesh it out.

Invited – I usually do the inviting. Hosting and including is in my blood – thanks to the family I was born into. I am the one pulling new people in and making them feel welcome. All this inviting gives people the impression that I am well-connected and have loads of friends when, to be honest, I just want to be invited. I want someone to reach out to me and say, “I want you and your family.”

Parents in town – Brian and I are at that point in our expat lives where we are the “mature” people and not the twenty-something’s out for adventure. Occasionally, I find people 10 years older than me, but not my parents’ age. I love being with multiple generations. Especially for holidays. And I love sharing my parents with other people so when Barbara wants to share her parents, I get it.

Barbara – before she went back to work this year we sat down and I said “tell me your story.” Amazing story. She’s a woman who has been molded and shaped and come through it gorgeous. And she gets my husband, loves my kids, and opens her home.

So this year I am incredibly thankful and humbled. Christmas can come and I can go back to being the inviter, but for today I am so thankful simply for being invited.

The 90-10 Principle

In case you didn’t know, I live in Singapore.

That’s a really long way away from where I lived the bulk of my life. It’s not far from places I’ve lived before – the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau. So, Singapore is a familiar place. It’s also a familiar feeling to not belong and to live in a constant state of not quite understanding the world around me. As I told my brother-in-law when we asked me why I wanted to live overseas, “Because I feel normal when I don’t fit in.”

Singapore is a comfortable place to live. The systems are reliable and logical. In general, the people are polite and accepting. I can find practically anything I want. I have friends here, nice neighbors, a good church. My kids are happy at school. Brian likes his job and the crew of internationals he works with. I go through my days without much thought to where I actually live and how far I am from the people I cherish the most and the culture that I am most familiar with. That’s 90% of life.

Then there’s a day like today when I get a newsy email from my mom about wind howling, temp’s dropping, the college kids they are collecting for Thanksgiving, that dad is playing Santa this year for families, etc. Nothing noteworthy yet the tears fall and suddenly I know I am really, really far away.

And I let the tears fall. I take a moment and sob like a baby because it hurts deep inside. That’s the 10% of life.

Then I get a tissue, blow my nose and wipe tears, and put away the groceries. The moment’s gone. That’s why, to be honest, its really more like 5% because I don’t spend much time dwelling in that space.

But I’ll stick with the 90-10 Principle because it is easier to say than the 95-5 Principle. Plus, 95.5 is a radio station in the Detroit Metro area and I don’t need another reminder of home.

Breathing Room

Today ended up completely free. I didn’t expect it to be. I had cleared my day so that I could look at condos for our move at Christmas. Last night I got a text from the Realtor that there weren’t any viewings today. I messaged my faithful jogging partner about a jog, but her pet-sitting jobs spilled into this week. I tried to set up lunch with several people. Nope. Feeling sorry for me yet? Please don’t.

I’m an introvert way down deep inside. In addition to that very real fact, I’ve filled my life with people who I thoroughly enjoy spending time with. Sometimes, though, I require breathing room. I didn’t even know I required it until today came and I got it unexpectedly. I plugged in my iPod and have played music that speaks deeply to my soul all day. I dug into Scripture in a way I haven’t in years. Pouring over verses of God’s immeasurable love for me and my marriage. And now I opened this blog and realized I haven’t written in almost a year.

Definitely need more days of breathing room.

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Hearts

Dear Emily,

Tomorrow you have a cardiology appointment. We’ll meet a new Paediatric Cardiologist because we’re in Singapore. I miss Dr. Ansong. She walked through a lot with us. I remember the day you were born and she told us what the echo showed – holes. Big holes in the centre wall of your heart. I remember her sounding unconcerned; that these holes sometimes heal themselves. So we started a waiting game of appointments and more appointments. Then I remember the day she said that if you didn’t gain anything that week, you would have to go into the hospital. We fought that week. You gained 2 grams. Yup, 2 GRAMS. But you gained and we got to keep you at home. I also remember the day she said that the medicines weren’t enough. They were keeping you out of congestive heart failure, but the holes weren’t getting smaller and your heart was enlarging. Open heart surgery was the solution. Compared to other heart surgeries, yours would be easy. That news didn’t make the idea any easier to hear. Who wants to put their child through that? We did. You looked at us at pre-dawn the day of surgery and we knew we were choosing to put you through pain in order to give you life.

Life.

You’ve got it in spades, now, my child. You are bundles of energy. You are feisty and full of personality. You have spunk. You have the ability to drive me absolutely batty and then melt my frustrated, angry, had-more-than-enough-and-I-am-about-to-lose-it heart with a sweet hug, a kiss, and a “I yuv you, Mommy.” I watch you dive into the swimming pool and happily porpoise your way back to the surface. I am fascinated by your ability and willingness to try (and master) new things which your big brother is just gaining the confidence to think about trying. I laugh when I see you do somersaults in our tiny living room or twirl like a ballerina as we wait for Zach at OT. I smile when I hear you yell “Group hug!” and you and Zach tackle daddy’s legs. Some days that same vivaciousness comes out in not-so-laughable or loveable behaviour, but even though I prefer to forget those days, I realize that I am immeasurably blessed to have them with you.

Because for a little while there, that 2 gram week, those days seemed a really long way away.

So guard your heart, child. It’s a precious commodity.  

“My child, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart, for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. “ Proverbs 4:20-23

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New Ryhthms

am a creature of habit. I dream of days with nothing to do and no agenda, living life on the fly. My reality, though, is schedule, planning, and lists – structure. I function better that way. As a friend said recently, “Mothering doesn’t come naturally to me.” It doesn’t to me either. It takes me building it. I built a rhythm in Virginia. Mornings had play dates, time at home, excursions, errands, etc. Afternoons were very predictable with two kids going down for long naps during which time I would get my Bible study done, exercise, and shower. On months when Brian worked early he could take the kids outside to play and I would get dinner ready. On months that he worked afternoons, I would take the kids outside and dinner would be as simple as a bowl of cereal. It was a rhythm we all knew and could anticipate. It wasn’t perfect in any way, but it worked for us.

When we moved to Singapore, my structure fell into little tiny pieces. Brian’s schedule changed so I was now managing kids and dinner simultaneously. Zach didn’t need that afternoon nap and, although he did really well with an hour of quiet time in the play room, I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to into one hour. I am an introvert and those two hours I used to have re-energized me to handle the small beings in my life. One hour just didn’t cut it. I felt scattered, rushed, and intruded upon. Gradually, tiny step by tiny step, the kids and I found a new rhythm that worked. I love my kids. I love the time I’m blessed to have with them. I am capable of loving them better when I have some mental space to myself. So I started setting an alarm early in the morning in order to get time to myself before everyone else woke up. That has helped immensely.

Now, Zach is in school. Almost two weeks are done. At 7:15 we walk out of our condo and put him on the bus. At 4:15, Em and I go meet the bus. Now, we have lunches to pack, notes from school to read and respond to, parent meetings, uniforms to make sure get worn on the correct day, labels to put on EVERYTHING. etc.

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Now, I have a little girl who doesn’t have her brother to entertain her. Now, I have quiet afternoons again when Emily is sleeping. But I needed to find a new rhythm. Week 1 felt off. It felt like work. Week 2 has been a little better. I anticipate Week 3 will be even smoother.

Finding a new rhythm is hard. It’s like learning a new dance. You observe, you try, you fall down. You know where you want to be full of grace and in perfect step with the music, but it takes work. Some steps are easy. Zach is absolutely happy with exactly the same lunch and snack every day.Since  I’ve regained my quiet in the afternoon, I’ve used that time in the last two weeks to take a short nap, create charts, set up meal plans, create a grocery list, plan my next day, and drink a cup of tea in silence. Some steps are hard. Every morning I have to choose to get out of bed at 5:00 to exercise and start my day with some solitude. Emily is learning to play on her own and not asking to watch or play on the iPad all day. Brian is getting up a little earlier to help with the morning list of things that need to happen before the school bus arrives.

Everyone is getting used to our new rhythm. We’re not very graceful yet. We’re still refining it. But this is life. It changes, it shapes us. We can choose to change with it or grumble and wish for our old rhythm.

I choose to go with this new rhythm.

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