My plans, Your plans

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

This is my favorite Bible verse, which is interesting because I am a person who loves to plan. I use 2 apps on my smart phone to create multiple task lists. I often stop mid-task to add something to a list, in an effort to not forget anything. I also am known to print and purchase multiple calendars. In addition to the calendar on my phone, I have a calendar on our bedroom wall, a mini one in my purse, and a printed one in my budget binder. Oh that brings me to my budget spreadsheet. I drive myself crazy updating it, trying to track planned and unexpected purchases, bills, and payments. I have always been proud of my organizing skills and ability to come up with a plan and stick to it, and come up with a new plan if necessary.

As you know we moved back to the US 6 months ago. Nothing has gone as planned, and though I realize that I am very blessed, my husband and I find it frustrating that we do not feel settled yet. Silly us, thinking we could make such a huge life decision and have everything flow smoothly in a short frame of time. There are so many things for us to do to establish our little family here. We have had many conversations about what our goals are, in the next month, next 6 months, in the next year.  We check 2 things off the to-do list and add 4 more. Some days, I don’t even want to talk because I think “What is the point?” the plan is just going to change.

I’ve been stuck in the house for a few days, because it’s apparently the coldest it has ever been in Michigan and schools have not resumed since the Christmas break. It has been nice to spend the extra time with family, and as everyone else went back to work today, it was just Izzy and I at home today. I was in a contemplative mood today. I just didn’t feel like doing anything important. So other than paying a bill, I just spent time watching TV, reading, cooking, and playing with Isabelle. As she was playing with a game she got for Christmas, I had a thought: Maybe I plan too much.

My daughter will wake up tomorrow and I can only predict a few of the things she will do (e.g., eat, nap, ask me to chase her). That’s all I know though. She has no plans and as she sleeps peacefully as I type, I know she isn’t even thinking about what activities she will participate in on January 8, 2014. She also won’t think about her plans this weekend or better yet, what she would like to do for her 3rd birthday. She will wake up and just be the happy sweet child I love and adore.

I really do love making plans, but today I’m tired of planning, because in all that planning I become so focused on my plans that even when I recite my favorite verse in a stressful moment, it does little to alleviate my racing mind and heart. I wave my white flag. I have to focus more energy on trusting God and less energy on creating a plan. Life is NOT going to go according to my plan. Am I ok with that? Well, today I will try to be. And I’ll try some more tomorrow and the day after that. Will I still make my lists? Oh definitely, that’s just part of who I am. However, I am hoping to have a different mindset as I make them. That each and every detail on that list is not up to me.  I think I have often used my favorite verse to apply to big situations in my life. Now, I will try to use it daily. I will hear the Lord saying this to me after I wake: Toula, I know the plans I have for you TODAY. That sounds more reassuring than stressing about whether my plan for the day will pan out or not:)

My cousin pointed out I have been a slacker and have not included my Izzy moments, so here they are!

  • Recent highlights:  She is a little person now. It’s the weirdest thing. I find myself just staring at her, in awe of how much she has changed. I would dare to say that “two” must be one of the greatest ages of all.
  • Recent funny moment: She loves to sing, dance, play music (she got quite a few instruments for Christmas). We took her to a party on New Year’s eve. I was worried that she would be overtired and have a meltdown. Instead, she danced from the moment she walked through the door. Her personality amazes me.
  • Recent crazy parent moment: We are trying to encourage her to go on the potty so I purchased her underwear. Well she won’t pee on the potty (that’s another story), but she sure loves wearing her new underwear. Whenever she sees one she proceeds to take off her diaper and ALL her clothes and insists on putting them on immediately.
  • Recent milestones:  She jumps now. On her bed, the dog’s bed, our bed. Why is jumping so fun to children?
  • Bellelesson of the week: God has a daily, weekly, yearly, lifelong plan for you. Spend time asking Him to show you what it is.

Great Expectations

I am a person that expects a lot. I’m learning that about myself. I expect people to treat me fairly. I expect to be spoken to with respect. I expect my mother to help me out of any bind. I expect my husband to tell me he loves me. Though I expect all these things with good intentions, it doesn’t mean that I’m not presented with situations where these expectations aren’t fulfilled. I remember the list of expectations I had when I got married, even some of them being expectations of myself (e.g., do laundry weekly, feed my husband, keep my home clean). At times, my expectations were too high, and frustration, disappointment, and worry would meet me at my front door. My husband would remind me he didn’t create those list of expectations for me and pointed out that I was unnecessarily causing myself a great deal of stress. Well, what is it they say? That old habits die hard?

As I shared in my last post, Isabelle just turned two. As excited as I was about her reaching this important milestone, I also used this as an opportunity to become stressed about her development. It’s so funny, because I usually find myself so impressed with all the new things she does daily, like any parent. However, at times we allow a little seed of doubt to grow into a large, horse sized problem. This is how it all started:

A friend posted a video on the internet of her daughter, who was born just a few days after Izzy, on her 2nd birthday. Now, I don’t believe I have mentioned that I am a speech-language pathologist. So, if there is anything I worry about at all, related to development, it’s her language. As soon as I watched the video this thought entered my head: “I don’t think Isabelle speaks that well” (the seed of doubt). Well, my brain just ran with it. I started checking language development lists, worried that Isabelle had a language delay. (Before I continue, I want to clarify, it would not have mattered if she did have a language delay, she wouldn’t be the only child to have one, or I wouldn’t have a job). Anyway, I started thinking I wasn’t doing enough as a mom to encourage language development with her, and immediately texted my friend who primarily works with pre-schoolers to share my concerns (we are now at the stage of a horse sized problem). I wish at this point someone would have hit me over the head with a sign reading: CALM ALLLLLL THE WAY DOWN CRAZY LADY.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t paying attention to any signs at that time, my brain was solely focused on this delay I diagnosed my child with. So, as I’m listing my concerns to my friend, she asks me questions about Isabelle’s communication skills. In hindsight, I actually think I was answering the questions wanting my child to have a delay, because all the things that I said she didn’t do, she did them this week. I continued to answer her questions and I start to realize I have a long list of expectations of things Isabelle should be doing communication wise, some of them completely unreasonable.  I realized that I ask her questions all the time, as if she is some genius child whose understanding surpasses that of any two year old. For example, after her birthday party I asked her “Izzy, what animals did you see at the petting farm?”, expecting her to rattle off the list of animals I know she knows. Oh, that brings me to my other realization. I have been asking Isabelle questions to make me feel like she’s right on tract. What color is this? What animal is that? How many do you have? What does a cow say? Where is your teddy bear? What shape is that? I am explaining this to my friend and she says “ You’re her mom and her best friend. You’re not her teacher to test her.”

WOW. Not only did I diagnose my child with a language delay, I kind of have been treating her like she has one. I know the first rule of teaching language to a child is to model what you would like them to learn. However, I’ve been questioning her like a mad scientist, secretly evaluating what she knows and doesn’t know. WHO DOES THAT?!!! In my defense, I was trying to create learning experiences by asking all the questions. However, to really enjoy my time with her, I should have been having conversations with Isabelle, knowing that she was benefiting from me just talking to her about what we were doing and spending quality time with her. But my list of expectations, of what she should be doing at her age, prevented me from really relaxing and as usual created unnecessary worry.

Hey, but the point of this blog is for me to change and learn from my experiences in this thing called motherhood. So, this week I talked to Isabelle lots. We took a walk and talked about the things we saw. We talked about what she was doing during bath time. We talked about the pictures in her books during story time. I banned myself from asking too many questions and shifted my focus from judging her actions to enjoying the time we spent together. This happened a few weeks ago, and I can truly say it really has changed my interactions with her. I feel that I am more present and I am worry-free.

To anyone reading this, I encourage you to think about the expectations you have for different areas of your life and evaluate if they are hindering you from truly enjoying your reality and the blessings granted to you. Expectations usually are created in an effort to create peace and avoid conflict. However, could it be possible that our lists of expectations do the opposite?

Aside

Two

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Our little girl turned two on Friday! I could definitely tell the difference from last year, that she understood a bit more that it was a special day. She lit up when her class at daycare sang happy birthday to her, and screamed with glee “Happy Birthday!” when she saw the cupcakes I was trying to hide before dinner.  Things are still very crazy since our move, and I’m beginning to accept that this is actually just how my life will be, busy. Work is  a lot more stressful than expected. Her birthday was no exception. However, in the midst of all the chaos a thought came to me and I shared it with my husband. I believe God gives us children to force us to experience happiness throughout the day.  He says: “Oh no! You will NOT sit there and wallow in your bitterness, stress, confusion, worry….” “Get up! You have a little person that’s waiting on you to be their parent!”

This is so very true. When we come home our routine  COMPLETELY revolves around her. Give her snack, make her dinner so she can eat (and sometimes negotiate with her to eat), spend some quality time with her, get her bath ready, give her a bath, get her in her room before 8, read a book (or 2 or 3 if she gives you the puppy face), say our prayers, and the list goes on.  So even though life was trying to get me to focus on all the things that were going wrong on her birthday, she kept reminding me that there are also a lot of things going well for me.

Here is a list of things that she did just in one day to put a smile on my face:

I leave the house for work before she wakes usually, so I didn’t see her the morning of her birthday. Her dad sent me a video that morning though of her saying happy birthday to herself, and smiling in the opposite directions of the camera *insert smile*

I went to pick her up from daycare a little earlier than usual. She was still sleeping and when she woke up it was snack time. She ordered me to sit down beside her “Sit Mommy!” and was so proud I was in her class. Her class then sang happy birthday to her and all got cupcakes. That part was mostly hilarious because all of the children just stared (including her) during the song and only the teachers were singing. It was the most silent happy birthday rendition I have ever heard.

When we arrived home she had a present waiting for her from my brother and sister in law in Maryland. A Doc McStuffins doctor kit and a tea party set. Bring on the fun. We spent the rest of the evening having tea with her teddy bears and getting check ups by the little doctor.

Her dad bought her a Sesame Street DVD and the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was on there. We watched the video that evening, and as we were getting her ready for bed she says “Don’t worry”. Actually, she was yelling it over and over. I had just received a stressful phone call and couldn’t help but smile that God was speaking through my little angel, reminding me that He has already gotten it all figured out.

To be honest, it’s actually quite impossible for me to stay in a disagreeable mood with her around. If I were single, or it were just Caleb and I, I could sulk, worry, be angry for hours. But that’s a little hard to do when she makes me laugh continuously.

So as my daughter continues her journey here on this earth (I still can’t believe she is two!), I want to take this time to thank God for all the ways she continues to bless my life.  I always worry about how much she is learning, but as you can see I am the one who really has the learning to do:)

To my sweet Isabelle. Mommy loves you with her whole heart, mind and soul. You are perfect and you make me a better person. Thank you.

A habit of weariness

I have a confession to make. I throw adult tantrums. 2 years into being a mom, and I still let the busy-ness get to me. I like things to be calm. I like things to go as expected. I don’t deal very well with chaos.

Last week sometime, I was supposed to wake up early enough so I could get myself ready before waking up my daughter for daycare. Well, I was running late this particular day, and became immediately flustered when I realized things were way off schedule. Izzy and my hubby were still sleeping, I had an appointment in 1 hour (30 minutes away) and I still needed to drop her off at daycare first. To make a long story short, I snapped at my husband and stomped around the house complaining that no one was moving  fast enough for me.

I’ve done this same thing before. Things get really crazy and it is like I’m not sure what to do next. I can’t focus and I don’t communicate. After talking to my hubby, 2 things became very clear to me:

1) When things go wrong it makes no sense at the time to put the blame on someone.

2) It’s much easier to take a deep breath and figure out what I need help with, and then communicate that information to those around me.

The next morning a similar situation came up (of course) and I caught myself! I was just about to become flustered and start complaining.  The words were right on the tip of my tongue. However, the Holy Spirit reminded me that this is something I need to seriously work on and instead I found the words to explain what I needed to be done to help the situation run more smoothly.

Later that day I was reading Hope for the Weary Mom (by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin).  I’ve been reading this book for a while, and hadn’t picked it up in months. I read the words below:

“Weariness is a habit of my heart. I get bogged down by the things of life because-let’s face it-life is hard. I don’t want to be imprisoned by my weariness habit anymore.”

Things rarely run smoothly once you have a child. You constantly deal with running late, easily changed moods, hectic schedules. It just comes with the territory. I need to stop allowing the situations that annoy me, that make me weary, that make me angry, dictate my words and attitude and use this phase of my life as an opportunity to learn to communicate with the ones I love better. I embrace this challenge now, as part of my journey in learning lessons from this thing called motherhood.

  • Recent highlights:  Now that we have moved back to the US, she has had met lots of people that are important to us. It is a great feeling.
  • Recent funny moment: We were going to bed and I say to her “Goodnight baby”. She looks me in my eyes and says “Goodnight baby” :)
  • Recent crazy parent moment:  Tantrums are becoming quite the norm ‘__’ However, I feel like she is beginning to show that she understands that they are completely unacceptable.
  • Recent milestones: She is combining words to make short phrases. I’m a speech-language pathologist, so this excites me to no end!
  • Bellelesson of the week: Accept the challenge to change your bad habits with happiness and grace.

Our testimony

Wow! I haven’t written a post since March. That’s pretty bad. There has been a lot going on with us,so I kind of have an excuse:)

During my last year of university I had the privilege of being part of a bible study group with some other young ladies. We would meet every Sunday evening, and discuss current and past events in our lives, and how they related to God’s will for each of us.  Our group leader and mentor Dilys said something that has stuck with me all these years. I’m not sure I can say it as eloquently as she did, but she said: “All desires come from God”. Now, you can’t use that reason to go ahead and rob a bank, but if you have an honest, deep desire to do something, God placed that desire within you and would allow it to come to pass when the time is ready.

My husband and I are both Canadian citizens, and though we met and got married in Michigan, we moved back to Canada a few weeks after our wedding 4 years ago, leaving many of our families and friends behind. We moved to Edmonton, Alberta which is at least a couple of days driving back to the US where our family resides.  Edmonton was  a really good experience for Caleb and I. We learned to live outside of our comfort zone, making new friends and visiting new places. We grew up together, moving homes a few times, having a baby, and eventually buying a house.  However, we constantly felt that there was something missing. No matter how much we enjoyed our lives in Edmonton, we missed our family like crazy! We would spend thousands of dollars a year (literally) in plane tickets just to be able to be part of the life we left. This became particularly difficult after our daughter arrived, as traveling long hours with a baby is never fun, and it became quite expensive once we started paying for child care. Additionally, we just felt like she was missing out on getting to know her family.

Rewind to the fall of 2012. My husband and I had a conversation with a friend of many years about this very topic. His advice was to do two things. First, we should make a “to do list” containing all the things that would have to happen in order for us to move back to the US. Secondly, we should pray about it continually, asking God to open the doors if our plans were in His will.  At first, we were very hesitant about the entire idea. We thought:

  • It’s too much work (hence the reason we abandoned the idea of moving to Toronto about a year before)
  • Caleb would have to get a work visa and then a green card, since he isn’t a US citizen, again making the process too difficult
  • Where would we live?
  • How would we pay for the move?
  • Are we going to be able to sell our home?
  • Our reason, of wanting to be closer to family, is purely emotional and makes no sense. We are better off financially in Edmonton, it’s easier just to stay.

There were many reasons not to do it. We actually had written out a ‘pros/cons’ list multiple times. We didn’t know what to do. Eventually we took our friend’s advice. We prayed about it daily and started checking off the little boxes on our to do list (that we posted on the wall in our bedroom).

Fast forward to Friday, July 5, 2013 at 8 am. My husband, daughter, and I sat on a plane headed for the US – a one-way ticket. Our belongings? Already in the process of being driven from Alberta to Michigan. Caleb’s work visa? Obtained. Our house? Sold! (with enough equity to help pay for the expensive move)

Edmonton was good to us, but it was time for us to move onto a new adventure. When we shared with our Albertan friends the reason for our move, we confidently explained that we wanted to be closer to our friends and family. No longer feeling that it was an immature decision, as God clearly showed us it was in his will for our family.

Our family has been very excited about our move, my dad especially, who built a swing set for Izzy in the backyard. Seeing her (and him!) with the biggest smiles as she independently navigated her way up and down the slide confirmed our reason. Hanging out with a college friend and his wife for dinner confirmed our reason. Being able to help my sister plan her wedding in person confirmed our reason. Having an evening play date with a friend from high school and meeting her baby boy confirmed our reason. Many other confirmations will come, attending my brother-in-law’s white coat ceremony to signify his entrance into medical school. Meeting my other brother-in-law’s baby girl due to arrive in October.  Visiting my husband’s cousin and his new born baby girl in August. We are family people, my husband and I. It’s who we are….and today I say that proudly:)

Bellelessons:

1) When you have a family, you have to make decisions that work for your family, independent of what other’s opinions may be.

2) God is simply amazing and cares about those things that seem like silly ideas to you. He is so good!

Drama Queen

It is March 17th and my baby girl is 17th months old today! Almost one and a half!

Wow. A lot has happened since December. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t even been updating you guys with milestones. I promise to do so this time!

So the most exciting thing that has happened is that she is WALKING! I told a friend that I felt like I was waiting for that day since she was born. I’m not sure why, I guess that’s when they really feel like tiny human beings. She is also talking so much more, which I’m loving, since I work with kids all day long trying to work on improving their language skills. It’s truly amazing to witness her development first hand. She called my mom Gi Gi yesterday for the first time, which just melted my heart (my mom was adamant about being called Gi Gi and not Grandma). She also is really becoming friends with the dog. She often goes over to her and pets her (very softly) and also thinks it is a lot of fun to share her food with the dog as well :)

So one change that has occurred that I’m just not liking is that she is dramatic. I say I don’t know where she got it from, but I’m sure God is looking down at me right now thinking “Really, you don’t know where?” lol  We are in that toddler stage (I did not know 1 year olds were considered toddlers before I became a mom – someone should have warned me!) where she is already wanting her own way and can throw a serious fit if she feels like it. If she doesn’t throw a tantrum, her other option is to slowly lay on the ground, put her head in her hands, and “cry” with no tears. Like seriously! Where did she learn this from???!!! Somedays we just have to laugh at her and say “Iz you are being SOOOOO dramatic right now”. I should add, to handle the tantrums right now, we are going in a corner and I have her look me in the eyes while I count to 10. It seems to be working for now. The counting distracts her and her breathing slows down, so she actually calms down.

Adults do not like when their children throw tantrums. It’s our worse fear, especially when out in public. However, we throw our own little tantrums too when we don’t get our own way. Life doesn’t go the way WE planned it and we overreact, pout, cry, kick, and scream in frustration.

I’m reading 2 books right now that are helping me with this very topic.

The first is a devotional my dear mother bought for my hubby and I. We absolutely love it. It is called “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young and she reminds me daily that 1)I need to start my day with some guidance from God and 2) if I keep my mind focused on the peace He brings I’ll be more inclined to remember to practice trusting when things don’t go my way.

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Robot Check

Robot Check

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The other book is “Unglued” by Lysa Terkeurst. In this book Lysa discusses how we become emotionally unglued when others mess up our happy and how we can react better to these situations. I like it because she talks about not just the people who yell and scream when they are mad but also talks about those who throw silent tantrums, which she calls stuffing. I SO do this. Something upsets me and I don’t say anything – out loud . Instead I say it all in my head, which isn’t Christian like either and it’s not dealing with the situation correctly. Plus that way I tend to make my own assumptions and get all upset about things that may not even be.

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http://lysaterkeurst.com/unglued/

Temper tantrums are never cool. Actually, they look a lot worse when an adult is having one and I don’t want to look crazy. So, I am working on not having them. If I don’t stop, maybe my daughter will send ME to the corner instead:)

  • Recent highlights:  She says “mama” consistently now!
  • Recent funny moment: Oh there are so many. She makes us laugh all day. We showed her a video of herself singing some song that has actions. When she saw the video she immediately started singing with it and doing the actions which was just hilarious because we still have no idea what song it is. Clearly she does though.
  • Recent crazy parent moment: She had a bowl of yogurt and a spoon. When she was done she let Laila (our dog) lick the spoon and then she licked it again herself. YUCK! ughh kids. She also ate dog food twice.
  • Recent milestones:  She has added the following words to her repertoire: walk, hooray, baby, ball, up, go, down, water, please, and my favourite “Wow!”
  • Bellelesson of the week: How do you react when things don’t go your way? Are you throwing an adult tantrum? How can you change your behaviour?

Miss-dis-organized

December 31st.

That is the last day I wrote a post.

10

That is the number of times (or could be more) that I thought “I should blog” but just didn’t get around to it.

11:27 p.m.

That’s what time it is here (mountain time) and I am feeling inspired to blog. Actually, I am feeling inspired to do a lot. This is what I spent the last 2 hours doing. I looked up things I pinned in Pinterest and haven’t looked at it since I pinned them. I then made a list of the 3 top  DIY/Organizing pins I want to try over the next few weeks. I then attempted to use an ink pad and a large stamp to make a design on a wax candle (which didn’t work at all but at least I tried something I pinned). Afterwards, I found an organization blog which inspired me to work on organizing my house and reminded me that I still love organizing and would ditch my current job any day to be a professional organizer if I could. Then I cleaned off my fridge because it’s way too cluttered and I have friends coming over in the morning for ‘book club’ and I don’t want them to think I’m disorganized. This all occurred after I stated to my husband that I was going to bed, because I was trying to read the book for book club (that I chose and have not finished yet) and fell asleep on the couch.

Does this make any sense to you? Just typing it out makes me feel a bit wacko. Wait! Aha! There is a lesson for myself (maybe not for you but definitely for me) in all of this. When I try to do everything all the time and don’t make small moments for myself regularly I end up being completely useless.  I have not done A THING for the past two hours. But I felt like being productive, and doing something for me, so I didn’t go to sleep. In return I will be very tired tomorrow and will rise with a strong urge to de-clutter my entire house.

This honestly wasn’t even my original post. Nevertheless, I just had to make that observation.  I have always been intrigued at how men don’t do something if they don’t feel like it, while women try to carry the world on their shoulders, make dinner, and throw in a load of laundry while they’re at it.  Every week, on a Wednesday night, my husband has a virtual guys night (playing Call of Duty) with his friends back home. Me? What do I do weekly for myself? Um….I painted my nails this week. Well, I raise my white flag. That’s it. I have to  make a change. So I picked a night (Thursdays for now) and told him that’s my night off (meaning I can’t be bothered when he’s putting Isabelle to bed unless someone is dying or close to it lol) I won’t be cleaning, cooking, folding clothes – no chores after 7pm.

I know it won’t always work out perfectly, but I’m hoping I can really stick to it. Pray for me y’all! I’m off to write the original post I wanted to make, then to bed I go (for real this time).

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