Last year on this date, we went to a shower for some friends of ours who were expecting their first baby, then took a long walk through the neighborhood to view the annual firework display put on by the Grosse Pointe Lockmoor Club golf course. I really enjoyed that day quite a bit, I remember.
I remember especially well because that was the day someone asked Ben if I belonged to him and he said, "Not yet. But she will someday." I hadn't heard him say anything like that before.
It was an odd week because it was the span of time between the day Ben told me that he loved me (the 22nd) and the day he asked me to marry him (the 29th). I was surprised at the time that he'd done one and not the other, but I knew once he said, "I love you, Lauren", he was ready to marry me; and I was certainly ready to marry him. What I didn't know during that week was that Ben had made that decision but hadn't found a ring or managed to get time alone to talk to my Dad. In the end, he got tired of waiting and asked me on the spur of the moment without either one of those things.
My blessing book from today's date says:
Ben held my hand pretty much all day today when we went anywhere. On the walk out to the Lochmoor Club I told him about how many times we’d come to that fireworks display and how every year I thought, “Maybe someday I’ll come with someone.”
Ben smiled and said, “You know what Lauren? It’s this year!”
“I know!” I said. “How ‘bout that.”
“How ‘bout that,” he said.
It’s been a joke for a few weeks that I say that all the time because apparently his Grandpa Wilfred used to say it all the time too and every time I say it Ben’s reminded of his Grandpa. I’m not sure, but I think I get that little piece of slang from Grandpa Dueweke. Just one of those funny little things.
“How many years have you been coming?” he asked me.
“Eleven or twelve,” I said.
“Wow!” He looked at me kind of shocked. “Eleven years you’ve been coming by yourself and thinking that?” He held onto my hand a little tighter and said, “Well, it’s my honor and privilege to come with you this year.”
I really, really love this man. I love him because I can tell him those things and it means something to him. I love him because of how he responds. And I love that he loves me.
Many days, either Ben or I say to each other, "You know what? I love you more today than I did yesterday!"
And it's true. One year later, I already love Ben with a much greater depth and strength than I did then. We've already been through some testings that many marriages take years to go through; and Ben has shone like a jewel through all of them. A friend of ours told us recently, "You've only been married six months and you're already playing in the Big Leagues: recognize that and don't start faltering."
Well, it's seven months now; but still, it's good to remember every day how blessed we are, to not overlook what an unusual and wonderful life we have, and how the things we are doing now are shaping our marriage and our children for the generations to come.
Thank you, Ben.
Our Internet has been having trouble all week. We thought at first maybe it had something to do with interference from the air conditioners, since it would immediately quit when the air was on. Then came a day when it was pretty warm, but not warm enough to turn the air on...and it still konked out. Why? We have no idea. Perhaps it's allergic to heat. If this keeps up, though, I'm going to have to write blog posts in Word and post them whenever I have a random few minutes of connectivity.
It's been a very slow week or two. I'm still very low on energy, though I found out over the past few days that I feel drastically better if I drink about twice as much water as I'm used to and eat more fruit. Strange combination, but I'm now having days where I feel nasty at times rather than most of the morning or afternoon. We went to visit the midwife for the first time, which was very interesting - with Joshua, we miscarried before we made it to our initial consultation, though that's partly because I called quite a bit later along than I did this time. We're working on 9 weeks right now and I didn't call to set up an appointment until 11 last time. As Ben says, "This time around, everything is different."
I think that's a very encouraging sign. It's weird to be happy about feeling crummy, but I never felt like this with Joshua and finally just decided that must simply be normal for me. Perhaps not, after all.
Ben has had a slow spell at work, which has been quite a blessing because he's been working from home and only going in for a few hours in the afternoon, taking quite a bit of responsibility off my hands on days when I end up moving pretty slowly for a while. What a life we have!
Ben's sister Kim was in town for a few weeks with our brand-new cute-as-a-button niece Emma - we found out again that it's one thing knowing with our heads that living next door to Mom and Dad is a good thing and quite another experiencing what it's like to just have Kim and Emma drop by every day while Emma was a happy girl so Grandma could see her and hold her. Not something that would've happened if we'd been even five minutes away: planned visits are just so much different than living normal life. Stephen was here for a few days as well and we had everyone over for tacos one Sunday afternoon. By an odd series of events, my siblings were all here as well and we introduced Anna to tacos. From what I hear, it was a case of new-favorite-food-at-first-taste.
And it turns out our house really can hold eighteen people. There was a shortage of chairs, but having the wall gone between the kitchen and living room meant everyone actually could move around and sit together. I'm looking forward to having an additional space in the kitchen and another living room area - this house will be a comfortable place to have family get-togethers when all is said and done.
Speaking of which, we've been asked pretty frequently when we're actually going to build the addition. The simplest answer is "we don't know". The more complicated one is, "Perhaps in September, if we can get everything lined up correctly." The plans are moving forward, albeit quietly for now. Aaron has done a lot of work the past few weeks making sure the addition will fit within various codes and requirements and has been building a cost list so we can effectively budget. Dad has come up with a fairly simple way to modify the roof that does not involve completely tearing off the old one or drastically changing the shape, etc. We have a little better idea who might be doing what in the way of actually building. But we're definitely not ready to start yet.
So that is what's going on with us. I would really like to make some more normal blog posts and add some pictures of our rapidly growing garden (I've never had a garden grow this well...I think it's because Dad and Ben are babying it even more than I normally do!), but for now I think I will just post this quick update and start my plan of writing-offline-and-uploading-when-there's-a-chance tomorrow.
Because to be quite blunt, I'm usually not able to keep my eyes open any later than 10:30 and it's 11. Quite a difference from last summer, when Ben and I routinely stayed up until 1 or 2 AM because we were reluctant to say goodnight. We were just about to get engaged this time last year.
Wow. Things have really changed a lot since then...
Ever hear of sibling rivalry?
Yeah, I've heard about it too. Apparently, it's expected that in any family of more than one child there's always an underlying level of competition where the kids are each vying for attention and putting the others down to manage it. Siblings pick on each other, the common lore goes. The more siblings, the more intense the bullying and the struggle for command. Movies like "Cheaper by the Dozen" (the new version) really promote this concept, and a common breakthrough in a "family" show is when the kids learn their brother/sister is really quite dear to them and not all that annoying after all.
The kids in my family are far from perfect and have definitely been unkind to each other. But this sense of competition with each other has been absent. I suppose I always took this for granted until recently, when someone from a family similar in size to mine told me some stories about her relationship to her family during her growing-up years and shortly into marriage. For her, everything was - and is - a competition to see who's better. Who's smarter, who's more talented, who gets the better boyfriend, who does better in school, who has prettier children, and so on. They love each other; but boy, do they compete against each other.
I listened to these stories and started thinking about my siblings, who would downplay their strengths to keep another sibling from being embarrassed or who would coach a sibling on their schoolwork rather than crow over them about getting better grades. Then I looked at Ben's family and realized one of the things that was always familiar and comfortable to me about them was the relationship of the siblings and the way they take care of each other and don't put each other down. Jenny used to clean Ben's room for him while he was at school just so he could be delighted when he got home, for instance. I recognized that trait and loved it. That's what I want our kids to be like.
The thing is, competitive rivalry - probably better just named "Boastful Pride"! - is actually natural. It's our earliest inclination, the kind of trait that lends credence to the whole idea of "survival of the fittest". The mentality of holding each other up, protecting each other and being selfless is actually the unnatural one, the philosophy that goes against our basic natures.
If loving humility exists among siblings, it means something was deliberately done to cause it to happen.
If something was deliberately done, then that's what we want to do to our children!
I mentioned this to Ben. "At some point, the parents of the other family must've thought the competition was good," he said. "They must've seen it as normal, as making their kids stronger, at just indicating healthy preparation for living out in the world. Otherwise, who would tolerate it?"
Perhaps the first thing - as always - is simply recognizing how ugly this rivalry is. Pride and boastfulness have to be intolerable. Not cute, not normal, not healthy. Intolerable.
Perhaps it's also easy to do our kids an injustice by making them think when they're little that they're the most beautiful, talented, amazing people ever to grace the face of this planet. If they make the mistake of thinking they are, they'll start getting jealous of people not recognizing how great they are. A person's life is about who they are in comparison to what is perfect, not who they are in comparison with anyone else around them. I think it may be when kids start thinking of themselves as pretty wonderful and comparing themselves with their siblings that they start finding out their brothers and sisters can *gasp* outdo them in places and that's where the rivalry comes in. It becomes a fight for each to ensure their status as top-wonderful-person-of-the-family.
So to help our children love each other better and not get blinded by selfish rivalry, I think we're going to be pretty matter-of-fact about their strengths and weaknesses and be on the sharp lookout for the development of "Aren't I pretty great?"-ism. We already love our current little peanut very much, but for his or her sake we're going to have to prevent him/her from getting a big head. Love them truthfully for who they are and point them toward becoming more like God, not toward outdoing anyone around them.
Because it would be so easy to let that pride take hold and the rivalry creep in, and I was deeply saddened by what those things had done in the life of the person I spoke to recently. It has created resentment and jealousy and bitterness and grief through the years and it's bound to create more in the years to come. It's a painful, ugly, cancerous thing - nothing healthy and normal about it at all.
As Ben puts it, "It's a bad weed we have to keep out of our garden."
Life feels in slow motion to me right now.
Part of it is my body not allowing me to do my usual number of things in a day. I'm used to pushing myself, to doing a lot at a time, managing to clean the kitchen, do the laundry, cook three meals, make all the beds, take a walk with Ben, help Grandma with a shower, weed the garden, trim the bushes, and sit down sometime in the evening to enjoy a little time on the computer before bed. I have family members who complain about this, but my philosophy for a long time has been that if something needs to be done and I have time to do it, I should do it: because there's no guarantee there'll be time for it tomorrow.
My mom has told me many times that when she was expecting or nursing a young baby, she had to learn to pick a few things in a day and just do those or she would be worn out. Mom and I have kind of different temperaments, though, and I always wondered if I would really have to cut back that much. Then there was my pregnancy with Joshua and I was still getting a lot done even if I started feeling iffy around 5:00 in the evening. So I figured, "Well, I just have more energy than Mom."
Then along came this baby.
Like a lightswitch, at about five weeks my energy started dropped off. By this week - week six - there were a few days when I got literally nothing done. Every time I tried to get up and get going, I was lightheaded, short of breath, sick to my stomach, and generally feeling like I got run over by a truck.
We're starting week seven now and I've discovered a few things: every day is a smaller window of opportunity than it used to be. Every day requires me to spend a lot more time eating (apparently my blood sugar is crashing and I'm under orders to eat protein every two hours), a lot less time cooking, and a lot more time sitting. Every day is more precious to me than before, and it often seems to drag by as I wait patiently (or not so patiently) for this baby to get bigger and make it through the most uncertain time of his/her young life. I have to be very careful to sort out what's necessary to get done and what I can let go for the time being.
Grandma Lila is a little confused about this - she's used to me getting everything done and I think she forgets why I might be slower to cross days off on her calender or get her bed made in the morning than I was before, and meals are definitely less elaborate. Actually, I'm not sure she always knows it's me who does these things, so she's worried about me doing too much but thinks the staff is not keeping up with things like they used to. I'll have to give that staff a talking-to; but hopefully the next few weeks will go by quickly and I'll be back up to better speed before long.
And then there's Ben, with his new motto of "You're feeling sick - woohoo!"
I have a friend who told me that when she was newly expecting and throwing up every morning, her husband would say, "Isn't this exciting? We're having a new baby! It's kind of cute that you get sick every morning!" She was laughing about it and I knew why, because I can see Ben doing that. It's a good thing, too. Because boy, these slow days are no joke: I'm not used to having to STOP to smell roses - I generally appreciate them as I'm running by with a bucket full of weeds. So when Ben cheers because I feel like I'm about to get sick, I laugh a little and then I feel better.
I've been told most of my life that I don't smile enough and take everything much too seriously. Like all the things that float around in my mind as things that have to be done, but that will be just fine if I don't get to them for a while. Going at half-speed for the past week is reminding me to take things less seriously, smile when I feel sick - no, actually because I feel sick - and be satisfied with getting only a few things done each day.
Like making dinner. Which I should probably go do now. If I can just get out of this chair...
Last Monday - well, two Mondays ago, now - we had a very productive day. Ben and I spent about six hours out in the yard weeding, cleaning, pruning, and planting (3 flats of impatiens, all under the Kanzan cherry in the front yard). We also spent a while working on the big project we've been working on with Dad Turner over the past few weeks. I didn't think much of it - there was a lot to get done and we were just tackling it like usual.
Then Tuesday morning, I began doing the laundry which had been put off by a day because of all our outdoor work. I was carrying laundry baskets downstairs when I felt something I hadn't felt for a while and had sort of forgotten about: a sort of tugging in my stomach muscles that was just on the edge of uncomfortable, like when you've worked the muscles in your legs too much and they keep threatening to cramp. I was standing downstairs sorting clothes and thinking about the feeling and started to do a little simple math.
That's when I got suspicious. I came upstairs and said to Ben, "I think it's time to buy a test now."
"What?" he said.
"Well, we can wait a few weeks like last time," I said. "But I think we're expecting again."
By that evening, I was practically sure of it. We went over to Leah's family's house for dinner and I was helping make hamburgers when the uncomfortable feeling got strong enough that I finally sat down and then put my feet up for good measure. Instant relief. Yep, I thought. Something is definitely going on. I'm not the kind of girl who sits around with her feet up very often, especially when there's a lot going on in the kitchen. Leah's mother-in-law looked at me and said, "How long ago did you miscarry?"
"Late February," I said.
"Hm," she said.
"I know. I'm suspicious too," I said. Last time around we were a lot more secretive for a lot longer. This time I pretty much gave up. Everyone we know already knows that we were expecting a baby before and it was only a matter of time before we were again.
It took us until Thursday to get around buying a test. And I woke Ben out of a sound sleep Friday morning to inform him that it was very definitely positive. At which point, we promptly began spilling the beans to our family just as fast as we possibly could.
If you would've asked me a year ago if I'd be the kind of person who would tell the whole world she was expecting as soon as she knew about it or if I would be the kind of person who would just keep it to herself (well, herself, her husband, and their parents/siblings...) for a few months, I would definitely have picked the latter. The problem is, we did that last time and we found out something: Joshua's life was something to take joy in and most people barely knew of his existence before he was gone. We told everyone and then immediately had to turn around and tell everyone of his death.
This does not mean that I think everyone should know our private business all the time. But life is very precious, even life that's a baby only the size of a sesame seed. It is something to treasure and rejoice in for the miracle and the gift that it is, a gift God gave us just as certainly if we possess it for one day or three million. I treasure every day this baby is continuing to live and grow, every day that brings on a little greater loss of energy and all the other symptoms that are making me lose ambition to get other projects around here done again. I suppose I would be lying if I said I have perfect unshaken confidence this baby will join our family as a newborn at the end of January: it's sometimes a moment-by-moment thing to keep my mind on being at peace and not being afraid. There is just such a long way to go and so many things that could happen. It even makes me feel quite vulnerable to tell everyone about this baby so soon, as if he's a secret I'd like to hold onto for a while just to make sure he's really real. In a way, boldly telling everyone of his existence is a gesture of faith, at least on my part, because it's flat out claiming, "Yes, we are having a new baby!" Not "maybe", not "if everything goes well", not "well, we hope..." Those things are all true, of course, but at the point you announce, "We're expecting again" it's an unqualified statement. It's a statement of hope. As much as my doubts want to take over, as much as I want to hold back and do the pessimistic "wait and see", I am joyfully saying, "We're expecting again!"
We named our last baby Joshua because it was a declaration that this child was ours and had a place and was known to God; we also named him Hope because we wanted to remind ourselves that it was something we still had even if we could not keep the child himself. Joshua's death was not the death of hope. This baby's life is something entirely new and distinct and different, and we are full of hope - also translated "expectation" - that we will hold this child in our arms and raise him (or her!) to Godly adulthood.
And that is our very wonderful news for this week.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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