Tuesday, November 29, 2011

what insomnia feels like

It hit again last week.  The dreaded insomnia.  Ever since August of 2009, when the sleeplessness was at its worst (4 nights without sleep, followed by me giving a sermon at the largest service we had all year), I have had periodic bouts of it.  None of them as bad as that first one, because I am able to take steps to rectify things sooner.  But still very difficult.

This time, it hit on Monday night.  I was innocently making my way down into the kitchen late at night and spied a mouse on the kitchen floor.  When he saw me, he flew into the cupboard.

This was all it took to upset my sleep equilibrium.  I have a real phobia of mice. We've had them before in other houses where we lived and they would eat through packages of food, poop all over everything, and even run up the stairs.  My worst fear is to find one crawling on me in the night. 

I got jittery and felt the creepy crawlies all over me.  I couldn't get to sleep.  Everything in town was closed when we found the mouse and we had no traps.

To a normal person, finding a mouse would bother them, but not set them completely off their game.  To my friends, my hysteria was a bit amusing, until they realized I really was a mess from lack of sleep.  I have real trouble whenever my nighttime routine or sense of security is threatened.  Even sleeping in a hotel room can set me off.  It's pretty frustrating.  My husband was bothered by the mouse, but not enough to have his sleep affected.  I get pretty jealous of that ability.

We tried to make our own sticky glue that night.  Inhumane, yes.  But I was desperate.  However, we only succeeded in burning it to the bottom on the pan and leaving pock marks of porcelain-like glue on our stove. 

So, seeing my distress, Christopher took off for Walmart, a half hour's drive away.  He got a bunch of traps of all kinds and set them.  But the damage was already done for my sleep.  I was so worked up, I could barely get to sleep.  I didn't sleep much that night.  I was so tired the next day, I let Burrito sit in bed with me and watch cartoons much of the day.  The next night, I think I slept even less, so in the morning, it was more of the same. 

When I don't sleep, I don't just feel a bit fatigued.  My whole body hurts.  It aches.  I feel pressure on my heart.  My thought processes move slowly.  I can't keep a thought in my head.  On the plus side, I don't find myself obsessing over anxieties like I often do.  But on the negative side, this is simply because I can't seem to think.

Finally, on the third night, I gave in and took a sleeping pill.  Unfortunately, I was thinking so poorly, I first took my antidepressant at night (too much of it in one day can rev me up).  So, I was pretty screwed up, but did manage to sleep a bit that night. 

On Thanksgiving, I was still feeling like a bit of a zombie, but we did manage to have a nice day with our friends.  I was glad to have at least some sleep under my belt.  Slowly, I have managed to get back to full night sleeps this week and am feeling more normal. 

Insomnia can be a very serious thing.  It puts pressure on your body in ways that really aren't healthy.  It causes physical and emotional pain.  But there is a way back from insomnia.  I know what to do now.  Take a pill (as low a dose as possible) to restore equilibrium (and then get off it relatively quickly).  Establish a routine at night and stick to it as much as possible.  Cover the clock so as to not obsess over the time of the night and how I REALLY REALLY MUST GET TO SLEEP NOW!  And I have found a glass of red wine at night to be helpful, but I realize this may not work for everyone. 

I'm back on the right track again.  But we still haven't caught that mouse. 

I am getting more ok with it though.

Monday, November 28, 2011

multitudes on monday (91-95)

Here's what I'm thankful for today:

91. Potty training success...at long last!  I'm starting to see the light at the end of the potty training tunnel!  And imagining things like easier travel...no having to find a suitable place to change a diaper!  Thank you, God, for helping Burrito through such a big and important transition and please continue to help her to learn.

92. The blessing of so many sales last week that helped us stretch our lowered Christmas budget farther, not to mention that helped provide some things that we needed for the house affordably.

93. The glow on my daughter's face as she watched the Nutcracker this weekend.  She later closed her eyes and said, "I see dancers on my eyes!"

94. Good friends to spend Thanksgiving with.  I think so often how the Bible says, "God sets the lonely in families."  I don't think it just means biological families.

95. The joy of setting up the Christmas tree...and the most anticipation I've felt for the holidays in years.  My weary soul is starting to (slowly) heal.  And sharing joy with my daughter and husband is the greatest gift in my life, other than, of course, the gift of Christmas: Jesus.

What are YOU thankful for today?

Friday, November 25, 2011

dispatches from the potty training edge

This past week, we began attempting potty training again, after a several month break.  I have written before  about the difficulty of potty training.  Despite many assurances from family and friends that Burrito would not be wearing diapers at her high school graduation, I was skeptical.  She seemed to not understand what it was all about.  And if she did understand, she was pretty unwilling to try.  So, I tried pushing it hard.  I tried backing off.  I tried a few days with her mostly in big girl underwear.  To no avail.  Even promises of rewards did nothing.  Some people told me she should be potty trained by now.  Some said, don't even bother to try if she's not ready.  The doctor said it was ok that she wasn't there yet (to my relief!).  Some people said take away the Pull-ups.  Some didn't.  There's a lot of advice out there and it can be confusing and fill you with self-doubt when you try to potty train your child.

But I am here to announce that FOR THE FIRST TIME...Houston, we have MAJOR progress!  I seriously am currently feeling like a rockstar Mommy.

So, about a week ago, I decided it was time to try again.  I gave her some choices: did she want stickers on a chart or on her shirt?  For some reason, she was super interested in a potty chart.  I found one here that she really liked.  I liked how it emphasized both the need to keep diaper dry (and avoid a frown face) and go on the potty (and get a smiley face sticker).  I also added the reward of chocolate chips.  This was the reward that she picked last time we tried.  She almost never got any that time though, because she didn't earn them.  It was so frustrating for her, and her lack of success made her want to try even less.  I felt bad for her.  I knew she really wanted the chocolate chips but simply couldn't seem to pull off pottying.

Well, this time it has been clicking for her.  One thing I didn't emphasize before was the need to keep the diaper dry and I think getting that concept in her head has made a difference.  We started reading It's Potty Time-Girls (Time To...).  I really liked how the book emphasized the need to stay clean and dry.  She really liked how the book had a button that made a flushing sound, followed by a little girl giggling...and giggling.

Another book that was a big hit was How to Potty Train Your Monster.  It is fully of amusing little jokes for both parents and kids.  Burrito's favorites were when the monster likes to eat a book on the potty and when he eats his bedtime story...and, of course, the closing line that says the best part about potty training is "MONSTER UNDERWEAR!"  My favorite was the reassuring joke that although most monsters are ready to be potty trained by age 200 or 300, some particularly stubborn monsters don't learn until 400!  Whew!  She has been loving having this book read to her on the potty and sometimes has had us read several it times a day.  Kind of exhausting for Mom and Dad, but at least it is a silly and fun read, even if we have it almost memorized now.  And honestly, does the line, "MONSTER UNDERWEAR!" ever get old?

So, anyway, she began to do it!  We still have a ways to go with the more difficult of the bodily functions, but it is tremendous how much progress she has made.  She started out going at least once a day.  As she discovered that she kept earning chocolate chips, stickers and lots of praise, she began to start going multiple times a day.  And then 5, 6, or 8 times a day!  And today, for the first time, she kept her diaper dry ALL DAY!  Did I mention I feel like a rock star Mommy?!

I am so proud of her, of her independence, of her learning.  And so glad that on her graduation day I'm not gonna have to worry about a diaper change!  Honestly, I'm gonna be too busy wiping tears...because I'm gonna miss her so much...

Monday, November 21, 2011

multitudes on monday (86-90)

Today I am thankful for:

86. A wonderful weekend with hubby and daughter.  Great family activities at home, a fun Art Walk in Bigfork, and then a great Daddy/daughter date to see the big tree get lit up in town.

87. A cheerful daughter today.  So much singing!

88.  Doing better selling MOPS raffle tickets than I expected, and enjoying good conversation with my friend.

89. A happy week of thankfulness ahead!

90. The excitement of planning for Christmas.

What are YOU thankful for today?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

no "thanksgiving" without someone to thank

You cannot have a secular Thanksgiving holiday.

I repeat, it is impossible to have a secular Thanksgiving holiday.

Now, I know that initially this sounds like nonsense.  Obviously, lots of people who don't believe in God or actively practice any form of faith regularly gather for turkey and the fixings.  They may even take a moment in their meal to hold hands and mention the things they are thankful for this year.

But what I want to argue is that the very act of "giving thanks" or "being thankful" suggests Someone to whom we are grateful.  The very act of thanksgiving is like a prayer.

When we have good things in our lives, something within us wells up with joy and the longing to be grateful to Someone.  This is a longing for God that has been given to us.

Of course, the secular emphasis of many holidays has been pushed lately.  People want to participate in the fun of the holidays without the claim that believing in God would make on them.  If God has been good to me and I am thankful to Him, perhaps I should interact in relationship with Him.  Perhaps I should stop ignoring Him.  Perhaps I should crack open that Bible.  Perhaps I should start living my life in the way that it teaches.

So, we try to have our cake and eat it too.  We try to enjoy the "fun" aspects of holidays without anything in our lives changing.  We want to open presents on Christmas, set up a Christmas tree, and maybe even go to church on Christmas Eve.  But we just want to feel inspirational "warm fuzzies."  We don't want the preacher to challenge us.  We don't want to think about the idea that a baby had to be born to save us from our sins.

This mindset is bleeding into Thanksgiving as well.  For awhile, I have heard Thanksgiving called "Turkey Day."  But this morning I saw a commercial, put out by Party City, that refers to Thanksgiving as "Football Feast."  The idea for this blog post had already been percolating in my brain, and I said to myself, "Really? We're not giving thanks to anyone?  We're just gorging ourselves and watching football!"

I have hope though.  I still thank the vast majority of people feel thankful on Thanksgiving.  I think the vast majority of people stop in the midst of the busyness of life and quietly whisper thanks.  Even if they don't go to church.  Even if faith doesn't play too big of a role in their lives.  There is still that quiet thankful yearning, to tell Someone they appreciate all they have been given.

And that quiet yearning is a God-given opportunity.  Next time a friend says to you, "I just feel so thankful for all my blessings," maybe you could stop and remind them that God is the One who has given all things to them, and that He loves them dearly.

 I’m sharing my awesome with Momma Made It Look Easy and you can too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

multitudes on monday (81-85)

Today I am thankful for:

81.  Big snowflakes fluttering down and catching on the branches of the pine trees...and the first snowman of the season.

82. Morning glory muffins slathered in butter and living in a place where even cafes have good coffee.

83. More copy-editing work.

84. That my sick Burrito slept well last night.

85. For the beautiful cooperation of all of our church members at our annual church dinner. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

where love comes from

This week's episode of House was entitled "The Confession."  In it, a man named Bob Harris is given a community service award but within hours engages in adultery and collapses in medical distress while with his mistress.  His wife and community are unaware of his dalliance, but he becomes guilt-stricken.  As the episode progresses, it appears that Bob needs a liver transplant from a living donor (a risky surgery at best).  Because he is well-loved in the community, scores of people show up to get tested and see if they are a donor match.  But Bob is filled with shame and decides he must confess to them his misdeeds before they donate an organ to him.  He feels it is not fair to ask this sacrifice of them unless they know the true nature of the scoundrel to whom they are donating.

So, he publicly confesses not only his affair, but also other misdeeds.  Cheating people.  Stealing.  Gambling.  All but two people walk away, disgusted.  And the two who remain are not matches. 

There's more to the episode, of course, but this episode called to mind the question that is hidden deep down at the bottom of our psyche: "If someone really knew me, inside and out, including all of my sins and my ugly thoughts and everything about me that I am ashamed of, would they truly love me?"  And beyond that, there is the niggling question, "If they don't know all of these things about me, can their love be genuine?"

In reality, it would be impossible to show someone every ugly thing about us that lies deep within.  Absolute confession and honesty are impossible, because they can also be relationship-destroying and personality-destroying.  Although we try to be as authentic and honest as possible, at the end of the day we cannot fully know another person's soul.  We can get only so close, only so intimate.  There is a part of us always hidden from the world's view and such is the alienation of being a sinful being.

But in answer to that first question, if it is possible to be fully known and still fully loved, the answer is yes.  There is One Being who knows us completely and loves us entirely. 

I remember the first time I realized that I Corinthians 13 is not first and foremost a description of the state of absolute love into which we are to work ourselves as human beings.  No, it is first and foremost that state of being in which God exists.  Have you ever read this chapter and replaced the word "love" with the word "Jesus"?  It's transformative.  You will never look at this chapter the same again.  Rather than being a litany of my failings, I Corinthians 13 becomes a powerful poem of how this Jesus loves me.  "We love because He first loved us."

How quickly I forget this truth.  I search the Scriptures, I search my mind for the answers of how to whip myself up into a state of absolute love.  As a sinful being, I cannot do this.  I fall down in shame, realizing how loveless I am.  I despair.  And then God's love hits me between the eyes.  "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

It hit me between the eyes this morning.  I was despairing over my so often loveless state today.  I wanted to read my Bible to find some answers, some moral motivation.  And as she is wont to do, my daughter called out to me from her bedroom.  I sighed and gathered up my Bible, hoping to read at least a few verses in her room while she lazily prepared to get up for the day. 

Burrito noticed my face, that it was sad.  "Don't be sad," she said.  "I'm sad when I think of all my sin,"I replied.  In a momentary step away from good theology (but give her a pass; she is three, after all), she told me, "Sin is not bad" (this being an attempt to explain away the problem and make me feel better).  I told her, "Sin is bad because it's those bad things in our hearts that turn us away from God, remember?" 

She replied, "Jesus died on the cross and He loves ya!"  

Oh those simple words.  I teared up.  It sounds silly to say, but I felt absolved, forgiven.  I felt God speaking to me through this little child.  I felt changed by this love.  My heart, in the words of Wesley, was strangely warmed.

In the end, all of the theologizing and moral attempts to be better fall flat before this most simple of Gospel preachings: "Jesus died on the cross and He loves ya!"  Jesus knows all of my failings.  He knows me inside and out.  There is no other person who has ever known my every thought, my every feeling, my every sin.  And there is no other person who has loved me enough to die for me.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I still need the Gospel.  I need it every day.  I need the simple Gospel, spoken through a child.

Monday, November 7, 2011

multitudes on monday (76-80)

Here's what I'm thankful for this week:

76. The continued blessing of "computer Sabbath" on Sundays, giving me more time to read and spend time with family.

77. The good attitude of my daughter lately.  I think her current developmental stage is starting to set in for both of us and we are both dealing better with toddler-hood.

78.  The way my family continues to make me feel rich, day by day.  I look at Burrito and cannot believe the joy that God has given her to me.  I look at my husband and give thanks for his faithfulness, kindness and support.

79. That my daughter said John 3:16 all the way through all by herself this week!

80. That I have a public library that constantly enriches my life with lots of free, wonderful books to read!

What are YOU thankful for today?

Friday, November 4, 2011

the best fix i know for tantrums

Burrito has been having more tantrums now that she is getting older.  And initially, I will admit, the sight of my child throwing herself down on the floor in rage intimidated me.  What would I do to tame this tiny hurricane of emotion?  Then I started to learn some things.

(Caveat: If I am tired or not feeling well, I go straight into reactionary mode and sometimes throw all of the suggestions I am going to give you out the window!  I'm human too!) 

First of all, I am learning that her tantrums are just her way to express her emotions.  Feeling angry is not bad; it's just what you do with it.  After all, being a child is difficult.  When I get frustrated with her, I try to empathize with how little control she has over her life.  I try to stoop down and look at the world through her perspective.  She feels frustrated and she doesn't know what to do with that emotion.  She is also self-differentiating from me (as Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend points out).  It's my job to teach her more resources to use to express her emotions (but this is better done when she is not throwing a fit...can YOU really listen to constructive advice when you're really, really upset?). 

The one training technique I DO use when she is throwing a fit is essentially to acknowledge the emotion and stay calm, but let her know that I'll engage with her again when she's done throwing a fit.  The fit is not going to get her anything, including attention.  I empathize with her feelings and I respect her need to express them, but I don't accept that that is a valid way to interact with Mom.  Also, I've found that if I try to reason with her or desperately try to get her to STOP THROWING A FIT, it will only prolong the fit, because she is getting attention and power out of it. 

You will not believe how well this works!  She stamps her feet, screams and throws herself on the floor.  I say to her, "Are you gonna throw a fit now?  Ok, let me know when you're done!"  Then I stay completely calm and ignore her.  Inevitably, the fit is very, very short and she says, "Ok, I'm done.":-)  It amazes me every time!  She doesn't feel controlled. She doesn't get undue control out of the tantrum.  Her emotions are respected but I am expecting respect for myself too.  She calms down!  It's AMAZING!

In calmer moments, I compliment her for positive expressing of emotion.  Like when I tell her "no" she can't have candy and she says a quiet, "Awww!" instead of launching into a fit.  I tell her that I appreciated she didn't throw a fit and she just expressed her emotions.  (I think it's very important for her to know and understand her emotions, by the way.  This will help her a great deal later in life.  She just needs to learn to express them appropriately, in a way that is respectful to other people.)  I also discuss with her what went wrong when she has a really bad response (like pulling hair, hurting Mom or Dad, throwing something, etc.).  I explain why this is hurtful and unkind and remind her that she wouldn't like this done to her. 

I hope these tips are helpful to you.  You may have to try a few times if you've been interacting with your child's tantrums for a while.  But I bet with some practice you can get some great results with your child as well!

Now, if I could just find as good a fix for whining!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

autumn in the flathead valley

This is my first fall in Montana and I am loving it.  The air is beginning to get a bit of bite to it, especially in the early morning and at night, but it is still warm enough to play outside or walk during the day.  And by afternoon, I start taking my sweater off and turning down the heat. 

Here in Montana, we get a full and beautiful fall.  It started in September as the trees turned brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow and brown.  They slowly fell to the ground and on a windy day, it was as if it were raining leaves outside.  The smell of wet leaves, smoke caught in the breeze, and clear blue skies with October sun shining down.  The Tamarack pines carpeting the mountainside turned golden in the autumn cold before their pine needles shed for the winter.  The splendid beauty of autumn is everywhere.

The locals are caught up in hunting fever these days; men and even whole families routinely take off for days to weeks at a time in search of meat to stock their freezers with for winter.  Elk is a big draw and I already have 4 pounds of ground elk in my freezer, due to the generosity of someone at church.  (In fact, elk was my very first meal as a resident of Montana.)  The downside to this hunting frenzy is that grizzly bear attacks are on the rise in remote places.  The bears will soon settle in for winter and when their hungry stomachs meet hunters with fresh carcasses, it can be a bad combination.  Most people do fine, however, and most eat what they kill.  Montanans are self-reliant.

I won't be taking up hunting any time soon, but I will be embracing the beauty of autumn in this most beautiful of places.  It's the time for homemade soup and bread, for apple pie and baked apples.  It's the time for fireplaces and crackling logs and snuggles on the couch.  It's the time for toddler's bright pink cheeks as she jumps into a pile of leaves.  It's the time for going to plays at the local theatre.  It's the time for being quiet and reading a good book.  It's the time for baking pumpkin cream cheese muffins with spiced crumb topping.  It's autumn time in the Flathead Valley and I for one am loving it.
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