Top 10 Posts of 2014

Thank you, readers, for making this the best year that the BlondeRJ blog has seen yet!

Here are the most popular blog posts of 2014!  These posts received the most views.  Click on any title to read the post.  Please let me know what type of blog posts you want to see from me this coming year!  More art?  More current events?  Brainy?  Myers-Briggs fun?  Book reviews?  Or Christian topical discussions?  Let me know!

Keep reading and commenting!  Thank you all!

 

1. How Each Myers-Briggs Type Reacts to a Dead Body

This one was just stereotyping Myers-Briggs types in a meant-for-laughs way.  However, this was a huge hit on Reddit, staying on the front page for almost a week.  I still get hits all over the world coming from Reddit wanting a laugh.  No one commented on my actual blog, but there’s quite a discussion going on over on Reddit about this post.  🙂  I’m thinking it’s time for another Myers-Briggs humor post…

 

2. Should Married Women Vote Against Their Spouse?

My controversial voting post was my first to go viral, but it only has half the views of the Myers-Briggs one above, believe it or not!  This post created waves by being something that made a lot of people mad.  I got hate responses from a few people, which greatly amused me.  You don’t have to agree with it, but go ahead and give it a read.  Interestingly enough, I still get views on this post from the Middle East.  I don’t know if that’s bad or good…

 

3. Too Attached to Your Kidshands

It’s funny how the posts that make people unhappy receive more views than anything else.  I’m not sure everyone agreed with this article as well, but the response was very favorable.  I made new, dear friends on Facebook just because they read this article.  Jessica F., you know who you are!  Love you!  Again, feel free to disagree with me – and let me know that you do – when you peruse this one.  ❤

 

4. An Open Letter to My Pregnant Sister

I’ve always wondered if people think they’re getting something juicy when they click on this link!  Hbeautiful-wedding-tiaraowever, my happily married, godly sister, had a baby shower for her first baby, and my mom wanted someone to do the devotional for it.  Because I love my little sister, and live so far away from her, I was sad that I couldn’t make it.  Instead, I wrote the devotional and recorded it, keeping it a secret from her.  When it came time to do the devotional, my mom surprised my sister by crowning her with a tiara I had provided, and playing my voice over the speakers.  That’s what this post is.  🙂

 

5. We Are Losing Our Men

This was a very personal article to me that was born from a week of realizing I had misjudged my own husband for far too long.  Our culture is such a promoter of macho, emotionless, physically-driven men.  The actual hearts that live in our husbands are often thought to not exist.  I pray this article helps many of us wives.  ❤

 

6. The HONEST Student Contract – Funny!piano_teacher_funny_pizza_t_shirt_tshirt-r3d5eca8b2d3b4d53ab0f7b10e7d48e40_804gs_512

Again, the only reason for this post’s success is Reddit.  (Great place to advertise, all!)  For some reason, this hit a funny bone among Reddit readers.  It was something stupid I wrote as a teenager, and new piano teacher, that I felt like throwing up on my blog to see if it hit a cord.  Sure did!  Hopefully you teachers get a laugh!

 

7. Coming out of the (Medicine) Closet

Unfortunately, I feel like many of my dearest friends and I don’t see eye to eye medically.  This doesn’t mean we can’t be best friends though!  Instead of answering the same questions about immunizations, allergies, c-sections, and such, I just decided, with the help of my husband, to write a list of where I stand.  I’ve received a lot less criticisms, and for that, I’m glad.  It’s not in the interest of any of us to fight or argue over these things.  I’m glad that this post made it around.

 

8. The Shocking Truth About Lady Gaga That She Doesn’t Want You to Know

I’m so glad that this one is on the list.  I cried my eyes out the entire day I wrote this.  I still contemplating mailing that last paragraph to Lady Gaga herself.  Even if it’s only read by a secretary, I feel like I should try.  Our celebrities are suffering in their sin, guilt, and choice of lifestyles.  May you be motivated to pray for them after reading this pot.  BE WARNING: This is a mature post, with graphic pictures and topics.

 

9. The Story of My Friend Problems

I apologize!  I apologize!  This one is total clickbait, and I know it.  I’m amused that everyone wanted the scoop on RJ’s past problems.  This one is a quick read with a total surprise ending.  Go read it and be mad at me.  Or laugh.  😉

 

10. An Open Letter to a Teenager

Here is the REAL scoop on RJ’s past problems.  Get your gossip here!  😉

 

 

 

Thank you for reading!  Please subscribe by clicking the “follow this blog by email” button on the top right of the page.  Subscribe to never miss a post, and also to be entered into a drawing!

 

 

An Open Letter to My Pregnant Sister

I am the person least qualified to write a devotional for my sister, and she knows it because she heard me sound pretty exasperated with my girls the other day on the phone. However, because I love her the most, and am in these same trenches, I’ll just share what is valuable to me in this challenge and struggle called parenting.

There are people who say, “I was crazy to have children!” or “What was I thinking?” or “How did I get into this?” But, the truth is, you didn’t. You were led. Even the most diligent family planner was also chosen. God got you into this, and HE decided that you and your husband would now glorify Him best as parents, here at your current age. There was no, “how did I get into this?” about it. This was predestined from the beginning of time. You are going to be pregnant with your specific child through the hot summer months of the year 2014.

So before we go any further, this isn’t a congratulatory devotional on “Good job, sis,” it’s an “awed and on my knees” type of letter to you. God decided that YOU would best glorify Him as a parent and that it would be in your best interest too. This is humbling. This is grand. This is greater than us.

It’s important to mention this because quickly I forget. It’s back to “Good job, RJ” and “What did you plan for this child, RJ?” and “What are your thoughts for this child, RJ?” and RJ, RJ, RJ!

And really, parenting isn’t about me. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about our methods or styles or how soon they were potty-trained or what curriculum we use or how they behave in public. Even their sin isn’t about us. They’re responsible for it. It’s easy to look at that brand new baby and think their life revolves around you. We so often accuse babies of thinking everyone’s life revolves around them, but we mothers are guilty of the same thing with that child. In reality, they’re in your home for a short period of time, and then they’re off doing what God has planned for them. God has designed YOUR child specifically for this world, for the future years following 2014, for the life that they’ll live then and the relationship He’ll have with them.

And I get so caught up in the relationship they have with ME. I get so caught up in how they’re going to fulfill my life and satisfy me and bring me joy. And when they don’t do it – and oh! They don’t do it often! Then I’m bitter and upset and unsatisfied and angry.

Because it IS a battle. Parenting might just end up being the hardest thing you ever do. It will definitely be your hardest job. Do you know why? Because, unlike your husband, you didn’t pick a child ahead of time with a personality you enjoy and a maturity you can count on. Unlike your best friends, you didn’t choose a child that makes you laugh, loves to talk deeply about spiritual things with you, and is fun to be with. You may end up with someone you don’t understand whatsoever and is nothing like you. For sure, you will end up with a depraved sinner who, at first – and for who knows how long – wants nothing to do with your God. And that’s HARD. It’s hard to be around immature unbelievers 24/7. It’s not something I had ever done before or was ever truly prepared to do.

But that human being who you love so much but who can be so hard to live with and understand… Their life isn’t about you or your home – not really. God decided that THIS baby needed to be born because they were going to glorify Him. With their sins, with their successes, with their relationship with Him or without – although we sincerely pray that they are a powerful lover of God! Sure, you brought them into the world, but even the science of that would not have succeeded without God deciding, in His sovereign pleasure, that your baby, your specifically unique baby, was going to bring Him glory. Was going to bring good to you and your husband. Your hardships with this child, as well as your joy with this child, God decided is GOOD.

So yes, you have a responsibility. But even your responsibility is not really to this child in the end. It’s still about your relationship with God. And that frees you from the burden of failure or comparing yourself to others or worry, fear, and doubt. Even your parenting, breastfeeding schedules, homeschooling, and diaper changing are to further your relationship with God. When changing the 7th poopy diaper in a day becomes about you and your rights and the burden it is on you, it is instantly not about God any more. So no, it’s not “How dare you, my child, go against me and my plans for you” as I so often think and even say. Instead, it’s “Do you understand that you’ve hurt God who loves you and died for you? Do you understand the plan He has for you? Do you understand how to surrender your life to Him and turn away from sin? Can I tell you about how your repeated disobedience today has taught me more about my own inadequacy with God and how forgiven I am?”

I think a child brings you more joy than you thought possible, but also more hard work. Yet we hold the promise of knowing that we were specifically chosen for this task, as if God placed a sparkling crown that says “Mother” right on your head. So whyImage do we get bogged down with the results? Why do we fear what other mothers say? Why do we take personally how these little personalities that God created – we sure didn’t choose anything! – respond? I don’t know. If you figure it out, let me know. All I can tell is, it comes about when my own idols come to the surface – and you will discover you’re much more of a sinner than you thought! But how gracious of God to purify you even more – to make the ruby red of your heart shine with pure intensity and have no specks or planks in it! When I take my eyes off of that sparkly crown, off of God’s face above it that is reflected in its shiny surface: the crown that is my relationship with Him and the tasks He has given me, not the plans and ideas I have for myself and my kids, all mayhem in my soul begins.

I will never stop loving you, and I’ll never stop loving this child. Even before the baby has been born, I chose to love them wholeheartedly, because they is of my blood! And because this child is yours.

It’s the same with our Lord. Whether you feel like you’re a bad mother or a good one, the fact is, you’re a sinful one. And He will never stop loving you. Before you were born, He chose to love you and die for you because you have been washed in His blood. And because you are His.

I know, someday, you will finally, physically receive an imperishable crown and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Because that’s what you are: a servant. And you will understand how much of a servant you can be made to be in the next coming years! Fight the GOOD fight that glorifies God. We’re all here for you. We can’t wait to have you running alongside of us! I love you, sister.

Tel-A-Story!

Friends and family, I’m SO excited to share with you the new ministry I’m going to be involved in!
My friend H, from my new church, writes all of these stories and has someone come record them. Child Evangelism Fellowship plays these stories, when you dial the number, for kids all over the US (and into Canada?) After being background checked and hearing my testimony, I was actually accepted to be an evangelist with this program!
If a child likes what they hear in the gospel story, and wants to accept Christ, they can be transferred to a Good News Guide who will be waiting on-call for that hour they signed up for. We have a script with the gospel, but, practically, we get to simply share the good news with them! It’s all done anonymously to protect the children and Good News Guides. I’m SO excited to get this opportunity to possibly lead children to Christ and talk to them about the Lord!!
Will you pray with me that children will come to know the Lord? That I won’t have any malfunctions with my phone or anything and that I’ll share just what the Lord wants me to share about Jesus?

Here’s more information: http://www.cefking.org/ministries/tas

Feel free to have your children call and listen to the story any day that they want! The number is 1-888-878-8660. The story changes every day!

I Love You So Much, I’ll Kill Whomever Gets In My Way, Even If It Destroys You Yourself!

The Yandere

 

The Japanese language has a few words to describe some personality types that don’t translate concisely into English.  A slew of them end with the suffix “-dere,” meaning “lovestruck” (deep love).

There are tusnderes (mean on the outside, sweet on the inside), kuuderes (cold on the outside, sweet on the inside)…

and even the yandere.

Coupling “yanderu,” which means “sick,” with “dere” for lovestruck, gives us “yandere,” which literally means, “to be sick in the head over love.”

Anime loves to portray this kind of person as a stark-raving mad human being, usually a girl, who is obsessed with violence.  She kills anyone who looks tempting to her mate, and she can even kill her love interest himself if she thinks he has been unfaithful.

But that’s the extreme case.  Yandere also comes out whenever anyone becomes obsessively dangerous over someone that they love.  It could be a best friend.  It could be a parent.  It could be a child.

It may not take the form of pickaxe violence and bloody school uniforms (This is not the type of stuff I prefer to watch!)

Image

It could be a subtle poisoning of the mind, brainwashing of the soul, and depression of the spirit.  A yandere appears to worship the one she loves, but, in reality, she worships herself.  She is utterly selfish toward the object of her passion.  She wants them all for herself.  Her desires and “needs” are really what is worshiped.

Image

I was the victim of a yandere once many years ago.  I was found to be starving myself for this friend because they were doing it too.  They were thrilled that I got thinner and thinner, hurting my body because it meant I was tortured along with them.  As they suffered other tragic grief, some of their own making, I couldn’t sleep or eat either, and this made them rejoice.  The more pain I felt, the more satisfied they became.  I had to forsake all other friends, or this person became sick with grief, predicting how I would hurt them.  I lived in the yandere’s fantasy world for a few months before someone rescued me.  It was a mind-stealing place.

Looking back on it now, years removed from its grip, the yandere type seems so hard for me to understand.  I am an affectionate, nurturing person.  I want to simply hug my daughters, pat my husband on the back, and be balanced and unemotional when it comes to what’s best for them.  The thought of rising up with a kitchen knife just boggles my mind, yet intrigues me.  How does someone go so wrong?  Where does deep love turn into obsession?

And then the shootings happened.  We have a young man pull a gun on an elementary school, and another on college-aged young people.  Or how about these sexual abuse scandals with children and church leaders?

Image

And all I can think of is, “What if that were my child?  Would I want to just defend?  Or would I, in rage and panic, fight back?”  It makes me see red.

We live in a scary world, but we always have.  It’s really not scarier than it’s ever been.  There’s always been something lurking around the corner.  If you want to say that 1910 was much less scary than it is now, that there weren’t school shootings every year, I’ll shrug and agree with you.  However, if you lived in 1910, you wouldn’t be fearing for your child’s life every time you sent them to school, you’d be clutching them at night as they burned with diphtheria and tuberculosis, hoping they did not die without medical aid.  You’d be burying a newborn every couple of births.  And, in a few years, you’d be in a world war.

I think the mothers of one hundred years ago clutched their children to their bosoms just as closely.

Fear.  It’s vital that the emotion of fear was created by our all-knowing God.  It keeps us from running across a road while a car speedily approaches.  It keeps us from thrusting a hand into a burning flame.  It keeps us returning to our homes at night and locking our doors.  It keeps us alive.

However, like anything God created, if it rises up and usurps all other emotions, if it pushes God out of the picture and ignores His promises, if it throws Trust off a cliff and boils Peace for dinner, the thing that we fear becomes god in His place.  We worship what we fear.  If our all-consuming fear is about a loved one, we have begun to worship that human being, and, ultimately, ourselves.

“If you are afraid of people, it will trap you.  But if you trust in the Lord, He will keep you safe.”  Proverbs 29:25

In the troubled times we live in, that are a different trouble from our ancestors, yet real all the same, do we live life with the open hand Job had to learn about the hard way?  “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”  Job 1:21

Do we fear everything and everyone around us when it comes to our child?  Medical personnel, germs, food, media, the opposite sex, the very air they breathe?  Are we ready to claw the eyes out of the mother nearest us who doesn’t believe the same?  Are you ready to disown your own child if they get the courage to “go against you” and vaccinate, or spank, or send your grandchildren to public school, or own a gun?  Are we trusting mother’s intuition more than God’s Word and really just living a fearful life with a very finite, small, human-sized brain?  Do we truly believe that we can do everything “Right” and God can still take our child away?  That His purpose, good pleasure, and glory also means it will be good for us to experience that loss?  That He is glorified most by removing that child from this earth?  Or, even yet, spiritually, from His church?  That it’s really not about what we do or not do, but His Holy Spirit at work in that child.  That it will be for our best no matter if that child’s future takes an unexpected turn we could not foresee or change afterward?  Is that shockingly impossible for us to think about?  Does that make you want to lash out at God Himself?

Are we really Yanderes in “mama bear” clothing?

In these troubled times, where the world is accosting our children left and right physically, mentally, emotionally, and where it’s easy to live a life of fear, let’s remember Who holds our hearts.  Who holds the hearts of our children.  Let’s be loving, but not sick.  Let’s love the children we have, for the time we have them, and strive to be the most righteous parent we can be.  And then let’s be happy when God has His pleasure – He’s really not asking your permission – because it will be far greater than we could ever imagine.  He is the same God who promised this to the Israelites:

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

 

Do you feel like a yandere at times?  Does your imagination run wild with all of your fears, keeping you up at night?  Can you picture yourself running at the “bad guys” who threaten your children, tearing them to pieces?  How do you keep fear out of your parenting?

 

Image

The Second Birth of My 3-Year-Old Daughter

On this particular Saturday, my daughter woke up from nap in a grumpy mood.  Instantly crying, meaning she had not had enough sleep, we knew we were in for it, as her attitude continued to plummet south.  She refused to do what we said, she rebelled quite a bit, and spent a good while in time out or apologizing to various family members she had sinned against.

 

I was angry with her, not always responding in patience, and finally I explained to her, very sternly, for the umpteenth time in her life, that she had a rebellious heart that was dark with sin.  This talk came after she outright rebelled against me and took something of her sister’s that both my youngest daughter and I had, over and over again, politely asked her not to take.

 

After getting out of the bathtub, and being dressed for bed, this particular daughter asked if she could cuddle with me on the bed, knowing that it had been a hard evening, and she had not frequently been in my favor.  I readily agreed, of course, and climbed with both girls onto my bed.  Feeling lazy and not wanting to go down to the playroom to get any books, I pulled out my booklet of punch-out gospel tracts for children.  I had been going through them with the girls, and then punching out the tract and handing it to them to play with and look at.  All of them had little pictures and clear, concise gospel messages.  I also told the girls about salvation and the Lord Jesus Christ every single time they were punished for disobedience.  I tell the girls the gospel about Jesus’ death and resurrection at least twice a day.  Over and over and over again.  Never getting tired of it.  Praying one day the Holy Spirit would open up their heart and make them receptive to Him.

 

She thinks about Jesus a lot, especially when told to be obedient, but it’s been a bit of a “works” thing up to this point.  She assumed Jesus was there to tell her to be obedient and to help her obey, nothing more.  There was no relationship with Him.  She also had, 99% of the time, refused to pray for the last six months or so, which was different than when she was a baby and prayed all the time.  However, I was not discouraged by this, knowing she was not a believer and had no desire to pray because the Lord did not live inside of her.  I thought I would simply offer it to her and then choose to lead by example if she declined.

 

She talked about Jesus, but her understanding of God and the gospel always got to a certain point and would then veer off.  I’d get to Jesus rising from the dead, she would have been following me up to that point, and then she’d suddenly say, “I get up from sleeping too!  I rose!” etc.

 

Today, however, she was in a very sober but thoughtful frame of mind as she listened to me.  I read one tract, which had a large heart with the word Jesus on it as an illustration, and then punched it out and handed it to her.  She frequently asked questions, like, “My heart is black inside from doing so many bad things.  I need to try to be good?”

“No.”  I explained, “There’s no way you can be good.  None whatsoever.  You’re a sinner bent on doing evil.  Instead of trying to do good, tell God you’re so sorry for what you’ve done and ask for His forgiveness.  Then He can live in your heart.  And only He can change your heart and help you be obedient.  You need Him.”

 

After reading the second tract, at around 9:30 PM, and punching the sheet out for my baby daughter, who was quietly sucking on her pacifier this whole time, I finished with how we need to cry out to God and pray and ask Him for His forgiveness.  My older daughter said softly, “Mama, can you pray for me?”

Of course, I normally would have prayed.  But tonight I said, “This is between you and God.  If you have something to say to Him, you need to pray yourself.”

Normally, she would have refused, as she had for the last great while.  But, tonight, she bowed her head instantly.  “God,” she murmured, “Please make my heart white as snow.  And make Baby’s heart white as snow, and Daddy’s heart, and Mama’s heart.”

 

I sat in silence for a while after she prayed.  What did this mean?

She looked at me.

“That’s a good start,” I told her.  “But what are you trying to say?  You understand full well that you’re a sinner.”  She had for a long time.  She frequently talked about how “black” her heart was, how dark it was with sin.  She readily apologized and admitted she was wrong whenever she was disciplined.  She came to us on her own to confess frequently.  She says, “I’m not good.  I can’t be good without Jesus.”  But she had never turned to Him and asked Him to forgive her and make her His own.  She had never really acknowledged that she believed in His death and resurrection for her.

 

But, after asking her what she was trying to say, she instantly bowed her head back to prayer.  “Please, Jesus!” she implored, sincerely and with her voice almost breaking a little.  “Please forgive me!  Please forgive my black heart!  Please make me white as snow!”  I did not lead her to pray this, nor had she ever heard anyone pray a “salvation prayer.”  This was entirely from her own heart, with words all her own.

 

I was trying to hold it together at this point.  I sat up and looked her straight in the eyes.  “That’s it!” I cried.  “What are you saying?  Are you saying you know you need Jesus to save you from your sins?”

“Yes,” she replied readily.

“Do you believe He died for your sins?”

“Yes!”

“Are you asking Him into your heart?”

Her little hands clasped again.  “Please come into my heart, Jesus!” she asked.  “Please forgive me!  I love you, Jesus!”

 

I was crying.  She wanted to know what was wrong, but I was so happy.  I tried to tell her how happy I was, but I think she was terribly confused.  Her mom never cries when she’s happy.  But my greatest, deepest wish on this earth had come true, as far as I could tell.  I prayed right then and there and begged God to hear her prayer and save her soul, to seal her to Himself, and to begin a lifelong relationship with her that would continue on into heaven.

 

She was ecstatic and full of joy.  She hugged me and kissed me over and over, saying, “I love you, Mama!”  She wanted to know if she had made me happy, and that gave me some a moment’s pause.

“It’s not about making me happy, it’s about making Jesus happy!  It’s about loving Him and being thankful He has saved you from your sins!”  I then explained that He was now inside of her and with her and she could talk to Him at all times.

She just held me and smiled.

 

After a few minutes, I sighed and explained that it was time for bed.  She was still hungry, and being sent to bed hungry usually would have caused a great bit of weeping and gnashing of teeth from her.  She would have thrown a real fit.  However, tonight she said, sweetly and calmly, “Mama, if it’s all right, can I have a little bit more to eat first?”

I was shocked.  “Thank you for talking so kindly and not whining!”  It was unheard of for her to do so.

She looked at me with a big smile on her face.  “It’s because I love Jesus!”  Of course, Mama! her expression seemed to add.

 

It was such an amazing change of attitude, that I just sat stunned.  Praising God in my heart.

 

It remains to be seen whether this was a real conversion or not, but I’m a firm believer that the Holy Spirit does the work, and it is not of man.  That God’s timing is His own, and He can lead the youngest, in the simplest of ways, to Himself if He so chooses.  I, myself, was saved at the age of 2 1/2.  And it was a true conversion where my mom saw my life completely change.  I have never had a doubt that I was saved back on that day.

 

Please pray for my daughter!  Pray that this, indeed, was God’s change in her heart.  Pray that her life is a testimony to Him, and that she is an example for her little sister.  Pray that my second daughter comes to know Him as well.

 

My heart is so full tonight.  When my husband walked in the door a few minutes later with dinner, I held onto him and sobbed.  Wish he had been there to hear her little prayers himself.  God is SO good, and I am thankful He answered this tremendous prayer of mine.  I feel like I should never complain again.  If only my baby and all of my future children can come to know Him, then my husband and I can spend eternity with our children, and what on this earth matters more than that?!

 

www.kathleenelizabethphotography.com

<3

I went to a party today

The best one I’ve ever seen

An event beyond all other

Decorated in red, blue, white, and green

 

Colors of the rainbow

The party hats were crowns of gold

We sipped fresh river water from

Crystal glasses that glow

 

The hosts wore beautiful wings

And sang shiny shimmery songs

In harmony and clarity

Like silk each one sings

 

A King opened His sparkly palace doors

He had gems on every plate

Where I ate cake of honey

And walked on transparent glass floors.

 

No bells ever tinkled like crystal

Like the ones in this castle of gold

No desserts tasted as much like clouds

To my friends and me who are so little.

 

We guests numbered twenty-seven

We came from a scary place

But now we laugh and hurt no more

In this Welcome Home party in heaven

In memory of the students and teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Love Instantly and Forever

I’ve only been at this mom business twenty months. 

Well, twenty plus nine months because I was the pregnant woman who already felt like a parent.  I got a gender and a name to the pounding feet inside of me as soon as the technology would permit it.  I planned for and prepared for that precious first girl and felt motherly from the moment the maroon line appeared on the test saying I had a new life within me.

And then little girl number two came along seventeen months later.  Within three months of baby Rosalie’s birth, we moved. 

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind and I’d love to blame my moods, irritation, and lack of an imagination on the 5:45 AM wake up calls from a hungry hippo-of-a-baby who has more rolls than Pillsbury and really shouldn’t need to get up that early to add to them, should she?  I want to say I’ve been a tiresome, boring, and frustrated mother because I have to clear a path through boxes and have piles with mementos dating back to the 1980s that needed to be sorted – and… Did you put that in the hall closet, honey?  I have to get at that every day!  Why on earth are we saving the Mountain Dew bottles from your college days again?

Regardless of what I blame it on, this really isn’t the mother I wanted to be.  The mother who stands in the toy area of Ikea while her toddler plays, staring vacantly at her and leaning tiredly and heavily on the shopping cart trying to avoid looking at the baby’s face in the carrier – knowing she’s going to campaign for a diaper change if eye contact is made.
I haven’t been at this mother business for long, but I’ve already forgotten some of the things I planned on doing. 

The person I planned on being.

The memories I wanted to make.

Wishing the moving to be done, wishing the Terrible… One-and-a-Halfs? to be over, wishing any of this time away is something I never do.  Ever. 

And yet, I sure live like it some times.

I’m not finding a lot of things funny these days.  I’m picking too many battles and not being forgiving for the ones I do duke out, even if I win.  I’ve almost forgotten how to crack a joke or play like a kid.  And believe me – playing is something I’ve always done well, and promised myself I would continue to do!

Because I woke up one morning, the sound of children in the daycare next to my apartment crying their heads off reminding me that I chose to keep my adorable and impressionable girls with me all day for a reason, I realized I’d simply been forgetting all of the things I wanted to be, do, and never do.

So I wrote this list.  It’s on the back of my bedroom door so I have to see it every morning before I leave my room.  It’s called “Things to Never Forget”:

♥   Spend time with the Lord every day

♥   Read the Bible to them – practice verses

♥   Sing at least one hymn a day

♥   Pray with them all throughout the day

♥   Laugh, and don’t sweat the small stuff

♥   Never get angry

♥   Play pretend – be the mom that gets into the McDonald’s playground

♥   Write in each of their journals

♥   Everyone needs some fresh air and exercise

♥   Greet Brad at the door with a smile, hug, and a kiss

♥   Be goofy and get a little crazy with all of them!

♥   Love and forgive instantly and forever

And, with the jolt like a shock collar that I gave that sleepy memory of mine, in an act of Instant Love, I decided we were going to put the wings on to unpack today.

The Birth of Rosalie Joyce Conte

The Birth of Rosalie Joyce Conte

July 16, 2012  12:36 PM  8 pounds, 7 ounces   20.5 inches

I went twelve days late with Rachael and then had to have an emergency c-section because the cord was wrapped twice tightly around her neck and her heart rate was plummeting and almost stopped.  Because of the circumstances, I was told I was a perfect candidate for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).  This I started praying about since week one of Rosalie’s pregnancy!  It was something I strongly wanted – having hated the surgery aspect of Rachael’s birth, hated the recovery, hated being drowsy and sick to my stomach day-of, hated forgetting all that happened that first day and a half in the hospital, and hated the thought of being stuck having surgeries instead of normal births.  I wanted no part of a c-section again.

Therefore, when signs and symptoms of approaching labor happened way earlier the second time around, I became convinced I was going to give birth early.  I got very excited and seemed confident I’d have the VBAC of my dreams – a relief and consolation to what had transpired the first time – a comfort to me that my body could do things right and that I could deliver safely.  My midwife wanted me to set an “end date” – a date we wouldn’t go past before having a c-section.  They preferred I make it my due date, feeling nervous about a VBAC’er going late, but I did hours of research and found no greater risk in setting the date as late as we could manage.  Knowing that even Rachael didn’t come fourteen days late, I set my “end c-section date” at July 23rd – exactly 42 weeks.  If Rosalie didn’t come on her own before then (They will not induce a previous c-section’er.  It ups the risk of rupture to 25%!)  I was sure we’d never even get there and it wouldn’t matter.  I wondered if I’d even make it to July, or if I’d deliver in June.

And yet, the weeks dragged on.

Because our daughter was due on Brad’s birthday, July 9th, she had a good shot of fitting into The Conte Pattern.  Brad’s mom was born on July 3rd, his sister Hope on July 5th, and Brad was on the 9th.  When I met Brad and they found out my birthday was July 7th, we deemed it a sign from God that I was meant to be a part of this family, the missing puzzle piece to a perfect string of birthdays.  🙂

Therefore, I put a ton of pressure on myself that my daughter had to be born on July 1st or 11th in order to be a true Conte and stick with the esteemed Pattern.  It didn’t help that Brad prayed for Rosalie to be born on one of those dates as well!  Although, he just thought it would be fun.  *I* made it a big deal.

On June 30th, I had a list about 20 lines long of all of the old wives’ tales about naturally inducing labor.  Since I wanted to go into labor *that* night, I was going to try absolutely everything on the list, ending with acupressure points on my ankles.

Brad and I walked for an hour, ate a disgusting eggplant dish, I bounced on a big ball, danced, did squats, ate pineapple, drank *nine* bags of raspberry tea, and much, much more.

Finally, by midnight, I sat in my recliner chair and Brad took one ankle and I took the other.  I had heard that there’s a tender point two fingers above the inner ankle where, if you rub in a circular motion, you can start contractions.

Yes, that theory *is* true, but, let me tell you, ladies, once and for all: you can NOT start labor if your body and the baby are not ready!!!!

*None* of these methods worked.  All anecdotal evidence is coincidental.  When I went into my midwife’s office later that week and told her what I had tried and how it doesn’t work, she said, “Thank you!  Can I video you and show all of my patients?”

Seriously, ladies.  You can’t start labor.  Maybe pumping and producing oxytocin would’ve done it, but I decided against that.  Considered dangerous for a VBAC patient due to the extremely aggressive contractions it creates.  Therefore, none of the other old wives’ tales work.

That night Brad and I got my contractions to an average of seven minutes apart for 45 minutes by rubbing the inside of my ankles.  However, by that point, it was super late, we were exhausted, and our thumbs were about to fall off.  When we stopped, so did the contractions.  Yet I kept at it, long after Brad fell asleep, tears in my eyes, determined that I, in my humanly wisdom HAD to have the baby July 1st.  I kept dozing in my chair, I started to lose track of contractions, and I couldn’t remember what time it was.  Finally I feel asleep.

The next day was Sunday and I woke up disappointed, angry, and discouraged.  I hardly talked on the way to church, mad at the whole world.  People at church didn’t make me feel any better, exclaiming about how low, large, or ready I looked, saying, “Tell that baby to come!”  I knew they were just being kind, but I felt like not going back to church until after I delivered.  My attitude was SOUR for sure.  It stunk!  I also had big humongous bruises and chafing in the inside of the ankle I had personally rubbed.  My ankles were swollen knots and, to this day, the mark on the ankle I rubbed has not gone away.  I think of it as a reminder of me trying to play God and feel that, if it turns into a scar, I will have aptly deserved it.

God convicted me that Sunday, it being the first of the month and Communion Sunday.  I felt like I really couldn’t participate in Communion until I had confessed every aspect of that stinky attitude.  And so I did.  Going home later that day, I was convinced I had given it all to the Lord and would have a good attitude from there on out.

But it was a constant battle.  When July 11th (the other end of The Conte Pattern) came and went, I had to spend some time in prayer.  Now that I was overdue, I had to come in for BPP and NSTs (sonograms and non-stress tests) like I had with Rachael.  I was huge, hot, and uncomfortable.  People started asking me if I was having twins.  My stomach measured 47 ½ inches around!  I knew I had another 8 pound baby in there.  I had hit every labor sign without labor.  I had painful, sometimes two-minute long contractions every day that went nowhere.  I was STRESSED.  OUT.  Constantly in prayer, constantly fighting anxiety, constantly trying not to question God, that end c-section date crept closer and closer.  Some days I would spend the evening in tears when I would be contraction-less (I always had them in the evenings, so, if I didn’t, I knew I wasn’t going into labor that night.)  The next day I would be joyful and think I had a handle on it.  Intellectually, I trust God completely and had given it up to Him, but emotionally I had no peace and was constantly on edge and the verge of crying.  To me, the worst ending to this I could think of was another c-section.  I couldn’t understand why God would allow one.  It made no sense to my tiny human brain.  I couldn’t think of being obedient in my attitude if it meant another c-section.

I asked everyone for prayer, but I struggled.  A lot.  My blood pressure had also gone up.  It was still in normal range, but a high normal.  That didn’t help my peaceless days, especially when people started tossing around preeclampsia stories.  But it never got too bad.

Then I read my friend, Bethany J.’s writeup of her eldest’s birth and got excited thinking about my daughter.  In the comments section after reading her note, she posted a link to a blog article: http://www.feminagirls.com/2012/07/06/natural-and-cursed/   As I read the article, I realized I was SO focused on the MEANS of Rosalie’s birth that I had forgotten that THE worst outcome was not a c-section, but a dead baby!  Or a dead me!  That I should be grateful for modern medicine and the fact that I don’t sit around worrying if Rosalie was even going to survive.

Also, I realized that I hated the thought of having an “end c-section date” at all, feeling like it was a fearful thing to do for no good medical reason.  “Could we evaluate going in and doing a c-section just because I hit an arbitrary number of weeks?” I asked Brad.  He agreed that we could pray about that more.  That was an immediate relief!

Sunday of the 15th of July dawned and I headed to church.  I had not been since the gloomy 1st of July because all of the Joni and Friends missionaries had come back with stomach bugs and Brad had not wanted me to catch it.  I had not missed being there that week after all of the comments and had been battling my attitude toward friendly questions as to being overdue.  But *this* Sunday, the 15th, I woke up eager to go to church, hear God’s Word, and see the loving people who had given our family so much, were praying so hard, and cared a lot.  Finally I felt like my attitude was in check.

After church, later that evening, we had another BPP and NST scheduled, this time at the hospital.  When you’re overdue, they want you to go in for the sonogram and non-stress test every three days on the dot to make sure nothing goes amiss, since every day counts.  If that third day falls on a weekend, you go into the hospital to have it done.  In the non-stress test, they count movements and listen to the heart rate.  In the BPP sonogram, they look for four things: fluid level, heart rate, as well as breathing practice and movement from the baby.  Rosalie had always gotten a perfect score in everything up to this point, including the very last time I had been in, only three days prior.

Brad, Squeaker, and I entered the hospital at 7:30 PM that Sunday evening, they hooked me up to the monitor, and we could hear Rosalie’s little heart beating away happily.  All good there.  I had a painful contraction while we watched – all the way up to the 80 line!  (0-100 scale)  But nothing after that.  Like usual.

Then the sonographer came in.  The first troubling comment was, “Your cervix is still long.”

“Do you mean effacement?” I asked.  I did not like internal exams at the end of pregnancy, so I had refused them up to this point – also feeling like I didn’t need the added stress of knowing if I was dilated or not.

“Yes,” she replied.

I was not effaced.  At all.  Unless some miracle happened, I just wasn’t going into labor soon.  Even with all of those contractions.  Why?  I have no idea.

But it got worse.

The sonographer told us, at the end, that she found debris in my fluid.  “It could be meconium,” she said.  “I have to get this to the radiologist.”

I remember staring Brad in the eyes, both of us reading each other’s confused and concerned thoughts instantly.  I pulled out my phone and started looking up how bad it could be if the baby had indeed had her first poop (meconium) in the fluid.  She was already breathing it in and out but was in no distress.  Could that be possible?  Yes, it could, if it were a certain kind of meconium.  There were different danger levels, supposedly.

We waited.

I couldn’t get a hold of my mom, who I just badly wanted to talk to.  I guess it didn’t really matter anyway because I had nothing really concrete to tell her yet.

It seemed like everyone was taking forever.  We waited and waited.  Oddly enough, though, I wasn’t feeling super fearful.  I wasn’t stressing out.  I just sat there, watching “Squeaker” (Rachael’s nickname) squeal as she ran around the room throwing a toy and watching it roll.  I wondered if I would even be allowed to go home that night.

Finally a nurse came in and said the midwife on call, Liz M. from the office, was going to be talking to me over the phone.  When it finally rang, I picked up, wondering if what I heard was going to change my life that evening.

“Hi, RJ,” she began.  “Well, they saw something that could be meconium, but we don’t know that for sure.  It could also be vernix, which is just the coating on the skin.  However, we usually only see vernix on early babies.  Meconium usually shows up when they’re late.  Yet her heart rate is still fine and she’s in no distress.  So we wouldn’t make you do anything because of that.  But, the really troubling part is your fluid.  Your fluid level is down to 8.2.  When it gets to an 8, it’s considered dangerous level.  You had gone from being at a 22, to dropping to a 17 at your next appointment – both numbers are okay.  But, in the last three days, you dropped from a 17 to an 8.2.”

Numbers and “levels” were spinning in my head.  I felt like she was still using medical lingo.  “What options do we have?  So tell me straight – what are the risks here?  What are we talking about?”

Then Liz cut the polite lingo.  “For your fluid levels to have dropped almost in half in three days means your body is shutting down.  The placenta is dying.  You no longer can provide for the baby in there.  At an 8, we consider it emergency c-section level.   Yet, she’s still looking okay tonight, so I talked to Jeanean.” (my personal midwife)  “She knows how much you want to do a VBAC, so she said you can go home tonight and we can schedule a c-section for tomorrow.  That gives you one last night to go into labor on your own.”  (Good ol’ Jeanean!  Even if my water broke and I had a fluid level of 0, they’d still give me 24 hours to deliver, so that made sense.)  “If you refuse to do the c-section, we’d have you sign papers saying that the death of your child is not on our hands.  It would be extremely foolish not to go ahead and get this baby out of there, especially before she goes into distress.  With no fluid, the cord will constrict, choking her to death.  And, even if the cord doesn’t do that, without fluid, she can’t survive for long.  Looks like we can schedule the c-section for noon.  There are too many being done that morning, so 12:00 PM is the first time slot available.”

I hung up the phone.  Turned to Brad.  Told him the news.  Waited to hear how upset he’d be.

“You sure we should go home?  The c-section would be in fifteen hours!  Will the baby be okay?” he asked.

I felt a rush of love for him.  With the impending second c-section, our previous “Worst Case Scenario,” he immediately forgave that and worried about our child’s safety.

I also felt no fear, no utter devastation, and no anger.  I felt what I had been praying to feel for months.

PEACE.

When a c-section was unlikely, labor could happen any day, and everything about my fluid and the baby was fine, I had to struggle not to be worried, moody, and anxious.  And yet, now in the face of a certain second c-section, I finally felt true peace.  I identified why at once.  I could never come to terms with the idea of having a c-section at 42 weeks just because.  I think I would’ve never been able to sleep at night, wondering if we had just waited ONE more day or two more days or week.  But now, we had a reason!  Now we were saving my baby again!  An unhappy medical procedure was the best option yet again.  It was there for a purpose.  Whether I liked it or not, it was going to save my child’s life.  For some reason, my body just didn’t work right.  In the middle of the c-section, Jeanean herself affirmed, when I was cut open, that I would not have gone into labor on my own any time soon – I was not dilated or effaced!!!  For some reason my body was as clingy as I was – grow, nurture, and raise a healthy baby – it does that well – but then keepthemcloseneverletgo!!!!  I don’t know why.  I don’t know if that will be a problem again in the future.  I don’t even have to worry about that now.  I can pray and trust God for that later.

Scheduling a c-section (even if it’s for the next day) is so totally different than having an emergency one in the span of ten minutes.  It was almost ten thirty by the time we got out of the hospital.  We had been there for almost three hours doing the test, waiting for results, and making big decisions.

As we walked out to the parking lot I started calling the family and giving them the news.  Brad decided to take me to IHOP for one last fantastic dairy meal of pancakes.  Squeaker started to fade at the end, but had done so well all evening.  They told me I couldn’t eat or drink anything, even water, after midnight.  That was hard because I had done so well keeping up my water intake.  To not drink a big glass before bed was torture!

We came home close to midnight and tidied up the apartment as quickly as we could.  Brad did all of the dishes while I cuddled my daughter for the very last time that she would be my one and only.  I prayed with her about the next day, prayed for her time at my parents’ house, and prayed about the surgery.  I sang to her and rocked her to sleep.  It was bittersweet.

We got to bed by one am, which was still late, but everything was sitting out and ready for our three-day stay in the hospital.  Obviously, I was sent home to have one last night to go into labor on my own, but Brad and I knew that wasn’t happening – and it didn’t.  I was also supposed to get one last good night of sleep, but, of course, it didn’t work that way either.  Being told I was going to have my baby in my arms the very next day, as well as being told I’d be cut open… I was wide awake, my mind racing.  I tried every technique I could think of to join Brad in slumberland, but it all failed.  I ended up out on the couch, trying a change of scenery.  By 4:30 am, I finally conked out – probably due to sheer exhaustion at that point!  I had meant to get more sleep, I promise!

My parents met us at our apartment in the morning.  Dad picked up Squeaker and all of the stuff she’d need.  Mom was going with us to be there with me.  We all prayed in a circle, holding hands, one of Squeaker’s little ones clasped in mine.  I still felt peace.  I was determined to be a testimony to the Lord through this.  I trusted Him.  I didn’t cry or moan or complain once.  Not then, and not after the surgery.  I attribute that entirely to the Lord.

We had to get there at ten am for pre-op preparations.  Lyndon and Tammy S., my pastor and his wife (and my sister’s in-laws!) met me there at the hospital.  They came to see me beforehand, to encourage me, and to wait with Mom during the surgery.  It was so thoughtful of them!

When Jeanean walked in the room, the first thing she said was, “Hello, friend!  Did you sleep?  I couldn’t!  I was up all night worried about you!”

She was probably praying too.  Oddly enough, the fact that she cared that much made my whole morning.  I was thankful she let me go home.  I had been told by the nurse that if Liz M. (the midwife on call) had her way, I would never have been allowed home the night before!  (It turned out to indeed be vernix in the fluid, so Jeanean was right to give me another night to go into labor.)

I introduced Lyndon and Tammy to Jeanean and, after prepping me and answering any questions, she turned to them and said, “Can you pray for us before surgery?”  What a neat thing for your doctor to ask!  All of us in the room bowed our heads while Lyndon prayed.  It completed the peace in my heart.  I went into surgery with a smile.

The anesthesiologist was a crack-up and kept joking with the doctors and nurses.  As he put in my spinal block, Jeanean held me against her very chest and told me how wonderful Lyndon and Tammy seemed in that brief meeting.

“Oh yes!  And so is their son!  My sister has just loved being married.  When I called them last night, they were out to dinner for their year and a half.  I hoped I hadn’t interrupted them…” I started rambling, hoping to reassure Jeanean I didn’t mind the needle at all.  Truth was, being held just then, I felt very loved and grateful to everyone who was praying and helping and making Rosalie’s entrance into this world a success.  God truly was good.

I got the shakes during surgery and after, which is a natural hormonal thing that happened to me last time too, and even to mothers in natural births, but it’s annoying.  It makes you look like you’re scared – when I wasn’t!  I even joked back with everyone attending to me.  This time I even talked to Brad, coaching him on what I wanted to have videoed.  Although, there was some miscommunication and got one of the baby exiting the incision!  Gory!!  And didn’t make for easy watching later!  Ewwww!  He’s nuts.  😛

I had discussed pain med options with the nurses beforehand and had the best balance this time – I wasn’t in too much pain but I wasn’t nauseated and out of it either.  I had prayed that I would be alert so I wouldn’t miss any of Rosalie’s first day and could be all there for it.  Sure enough, all of my family was astounded at how happy, alert, and vibrant I seemed after surgery.  And I remember every precious detail.

The actual c-section took longer than the first because they were carefully going through an old scar, repairing it, and making it better.  But the same two ladies who did Rachael’s birth: my midwife Jeanean and Dr. Lori H., were there to do Rosalie’s!  This time they talked about Dr. H.’s dog who got heat stroke and how the vet bill was enough that they couldn’t go on vacation this year!  Haha!

Finally a cry went up from the ladies gathered around in that blue-sheeted operating room.  “Hooray!”  “Welcome baby!”  “It’s a girl!” went up around the room.

Brad stood up.  And then there she was.  Jeanean brought her screaming eight pound seven ounce self around and held her right in front of me.

I looked at her and knew her in an instance.  There was the baby who looked like me.  There was my second daughter.  My Rosalie Joyce.

“She’s blonde!” I cried.