Monday, June 25, 2018

The "Seven-Year Itch"

At 19, I met Stuart, and became a couple. We started dating during our sophomore year, and graduated at twenty-two. We were whisked into life. I went to Washington DC for graduate school, and then worked in Minnesota while Stu worked his way up with teaching. I graduated from Gallaudet University with Master's at twenty-four. Life sped up. We decided to tie the knot at twenty-six. A year later, we had Forrest. Stuart decided to go back to school to get his Master's. We made a lot of sacrifices to make that happen, because education was so important for us, and for Stuart. I got pregnant with Franklin, and Stu got offered a job as an associate principal. We made a big move when I was nearly 6 months pregnant. We finally felt settled in, and comfortable with living in a new town. We began house hunting as we rented from a wonderful couple, and I discovered I was pregnant for the third time! We found a wonderful starter home, fixed it up, and moved in. Unfortunately, right before we moved into our new home, we learned that our pregnancy was not meant to be. With heavy hearts, we let go of that baby, and healed from the loss. As we were healing, we discovered we were expecting once again, and Fox joined us. We were blessed with our three boys, and we couldn't be any happier. Our family continued to grow as our brothers and sisters had children of their own. Stu was offered a job as a head principal at our local middle school, and he decided to take it. 

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Looking at our life together, have we got the Seven Year Itch now? We are officially married for seven years. Imagine that! To be truthful, we have been together for thirteen years and half as we celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. The itch is a pop culture reference explained by psychologists as a phenomenon when a couple starts to feel dissatisfied, and bored with their relationship, and all the problems start to crop up in a marriage. It's when someone says, oh you have got that itch, don't you? 

I am happy to report that we are pretty content with our marriage, and that there are not any pressing problems to worry about. In other words, no itching for us. I am always thanking our lucky stars to have such an amazing husband who absolutely loves his children, and is always doting on me. He still tells me how beautiful I am even despite experiencing four pregnancies, and with how much motherhood has changed me. Sure, I won't delude any of you into thinking that we have a perfect storybook marriage.

Before you exclaim how perfect we appear to be, I assure you that we have had our moments, and our struggles. We just happen to not air our "dirty laundry", or complain about each other in such way that poses one of us in a negative light. We don't go around obsessing about how wronged we are, or that we must avenge ourselves. We know, and understand that bad stuff will pass. We know we fail sometimes. We choose to forgive each other, and move on. We pick our battles, and let go of minor ones. We are not willing to give up on each other, and we know that even with every storm, it will always pass. As John Kern once said, "Storms make trees take deeper roots", and how true it is. Storms are not necessarily an evil, or a bad thing (even though its adversity can be overwhelming). The storms only goes to prove what our strengths consists of. 

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, wedding, suit and outdoorLet me preface by bringing up an experience we had as a young couple many years ago, and that was our "seven year itch", even though we were not together for 7 years at that point. Nonetheless, what I meant by our 7-year itch in that experience was that there was a difficult discussion to be made in our relationship that could have made, or broke our relationship.

There had been a point in our relationship where we had a very raw, and honest discussion about the paths we were taking in our lives. I still remember that day as if it had happened yesterday. We were sitting on a bench in the middle of a busy outdoor food court in Washington D.C. Stu had flew out to visit me during his school spring break. I was twenty-two, and he was twenty-three. What sparked that conversation, or the turn it took  to what we had discussed was something I did not remember. 

However, I remember the feeling that hung over our heads, and shoulders as we spoke about what we wanted from our lives; children, marriage, me moving back to Wisconsin after I graduated with Master's, and Stu exploring the coaching angle. It was a pinnacle of our relationship. Right there on the bench in a busy food court among the pink blooming cheery trees, several miles down away from White House, among the tourists snapping pictures, commotion floating all around us, and it was such a contradiction to how we felt. Did we have what it takes to have a successful relationship? Did we have what it takes to weather every storm on the horizon? Did we have an ability to overcome an obstacle that may come our way? Were we together, because we grew comfortable with each other, and afraid of unfamiliarity? We started dating when we were quite young. Were we missing out on potentials by being together? Did we stop each other from achieving our dreams? Our lives were literally at our feet. What felt like hours--in reality, it was probably a half hour conversation--we concluded that we were prepared to weather every storm, overcome every obstacle that came our way, and uplift each other to our successes. 

We walked away with relief riddled with some reservations. The reservations we had was geared towards the unknown. As scary as it was, we were determined to face the unknown together. 

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And the unknown we did face. And continued to.

I could have not asked for someone else to be my life partner, my husband, and my best friend to navigate together through the deep waters. When I look back on to our entire relationship, I am amazed by how many obstacles we have overcome, how the path we are on has taken us to where we are today, and it is quite amazing. I think of all the moments, and can't help but to feel a bit emotional, especially with the birth of our third baby. We are so blessed to have three beautiful boys, a solid marriage, a home with a roof over our heads, and to be finally in a financially sound place. It is just a huge weight off our shoulders to achieve this sense of security that we have craved for so long.

Stu and I were talking the other day, I made a confession that sometimes I don't feel quite like an adult, because we are still so new at this parenthood gig, establishing career, and settling down in a place that we hopefully can call our home for a long while. It doesn't feel like we have been married for 7 years! It still feels so new to us; this marriage thing, raising our kids, finally getting around to sprucing our home with interior decorating and making this home OURS, and developing friendships through our kids. I wonder if others look at us, and think that we are still so young, that we have our "shit together" (we do, I assure you), and we are just gaining our confidence as adults. Stu smiled, and said, you know we should feel like it is still new to us, because we still have about sixty years or hopefully more ahead of us yet!

It is amazing how it is a blink of time from a certain experience to the next. In one moment, I am just starting out life on my own, then the next blink, I am a mom of three boys and married to a fantastic man.  When I look at our relationship in its entirety, I am truly amazed by how much we have gone through as a couple, and as individuals, and we are still together. It is not that I had my doubts that we would have lasted. It is just that there is a sense of amazement from those series of moments that have essentially created life for us. I don't doubt that we will continue to experience more things that will shape us, our marriage, and ourselves. I hope that there will be a lot more positive than not. I am not naive to think that we will never again be riddled with difficulties, or that nothing bad will happen to us. Our miscarriage has taught us that very brutal lesson, but at least I know that we have strength to overcome painful moments.

As our cousin Sara has written in the 7th letter to us, with all of her joking aside, there will always be good and bad days. There will be times when we will be so angry with each other, and question in that moment why we are together. Fortunately, when that question does come up, we do have an answer in despite of our anger, pain, and sadness. And that answer is love. We love each other. It's not like oh, yeah yeah I love him. Sure thing.

Our love at its most base is unconditional. After all, Stu did learn my language. He learned how to communicate with me. He embraced my culture. I am constantly reminded by that when I go out there to hang out with my Deaf friends; I look at their relationships, specifically hearing-Deaf couples, they don't know how to communicate with each other, and they don't sign fluently to each other. Their children don't know sign language. It blows my mind. How can you be with someone, who is Deaf, and can't sign to him/her? I promise you that it is not coming from a place of judgment. It's coming from a place of bewilderment, because I don't have that experience, and I have a hard time understanding how that is possible. How can you do that if you really love someone?

I know Stu loves me beyond what can be measured. I am incredibly blessed, and lucky to have him. He has seen me at my darkest, and he still loves me. He will tell you the same about me. He will tell you that I lift him up when he's down, cheer him on when he thinks that going is getting to be difficult, and forgive him when he does wrong.

No matter what happens, we will always love each other. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fox is TWELVE Months Old

Dear Mr. Fantastic Fox,

You are TWELVE months old. It is hard to believe that a year has gone by so quickly, because it does feel like it is just yesterday when we brought you home from the hospital. Just like your older brothers, you are an incredible gift, and the one that we are extremely thankful for. You are our anchor of hope, and you've shown to us on a daily basis that hope after pain is possible. There has not been a day that has gone by that you are being kissed, hugged, held, and told how special you are. We are so, so blessed to have you.

A week before you were born, Mama spoke with her doctor, and jokingly whispered to her belly that you had to stay put in until after the 17th, because there was a family event, and a wedding that she wanted to attend. On the night before you were born, Mama gently caressed her belly as you rolled around inside, and she told you that you could come anytime now. On the morning of the day you were born, Daddy was sure that you would come that day (he had an uncanny knack of knowing when you boys will come), and Mama was not so sure, because nothing was happening. Four hours before you were born, Mama and Daddy were on way to the hospital, and Mama was feeling pretty good! Matter of fact, she was not even sure if it was even time to go in! Twenty minutes before you were born, Mama's water broke, and it was happening! You made a dramatic entrance into the world, not wanting to wait for anybody, and ended up being delivered by yourself! Two minutes after you were born, you were placed into Mama's arms, everything was all right once again in her world, and you were a blissfully perfect bundle of 6 pounds and 13 oz. 

You entered the world with your eyes wide open. You were the most alert baby out of you three kids. It was as if you found everything to be so miraculous, and you could not bear the thought of missing out on the beauty of life. Soon, this became very clear that you HAD to be involved with everything. You were not one of those babies that contently sat back, and allowed the world to go by. You needed to be in it, to be a part of it, and to keep up. You did not like being left behind. As result of this, your older brothers often brought you along with them as they embarked on their imaginative journey of playing pirates (you were often the Kraken, or a shark), or shooting through the dark space (you were the royal imperial trooper on a hunt for Han Solo and Chewbecca), or exploring a dense jungle filled with Velociraptors poised to attack (you were the stolen raptor baby). 

You do not like not being able to see anything around you. More often than not, when Mama is hiking, you often ride on her back with you looking over her shoulders. If Mama attempts to put you face in to her chest, then there's hell to pay. You scream, kick, and wail as you try to twist around, and climb out to escape from the formidable position that you are placed in. Lesson learned. Never babywear you facing in! So off you go to ride on her back instead. If you are on the floor, then you're zooming everywhere to keep up with your brothers, or Beatrice as she sniffs for food. You're determined, assertive, bold, driven, alert, demanding, boisterous, and ferocious. It is already evident since day one!  You are the one to watch out for! 

You have already taken a few steps with a help from a walker just like Mama had predicted (she had predicted you'd start walking before you turn one)! Soon you will blow everybody away, and start running, because walking is way too mundane for you. You're too wildly unconstrained to be patient enough to wait life out. You're going to go after life running, because you just don't want to miss out on anything!

You're a trouble maker, yes you are. You find ways to escape from your high chair, and more often than not, you're standing up, and about to take a plunge out of the chair. Mama has discovered more than several white hair strands, and you know it is because of you, and your brothers! You're always getting yourself into the situations that you must be rescued from. You're a little explorer already! Between Forrest and Franklin, you're set for a lifetime of adventures, and craziness. You scowl, wrinkle your nose, blow raspberries in fury at anybody who dares to defy you, when you are not being catered quickly enough, and when you are tired. 

You're a champ at sleeping. You're FINALLY sleeping through the night. The days of you barely sleeping is behind us, and Mama is oh, so relieved. You take two naps a day, and usually sleep for about 2 hours. Sleep training is one of the best things she could have done, because now you're settled in a routine, and comfortable with going to sleep on your own. HOWEVER, Mama must make a confession, one that many parents may relate and nod in agreement: when you cry and fuss, she goes in to pick you up, and hold you against her chest until your little body goes slack, and your breathing becomes slower, and she puts you back to bed. Those moments are so momentary. She has realized from raising your brothers that time waits for no one, and to truly cherish babyhood while it lasts. So when you cry to be picked up, even for a minute or two, Mama is willing to do just that, because before we all know it, you will be a young child, and no longer want to be held like that anymore.

You're nursing less, and less. You've successfully dropped all feeds except the last two that usually happens when you wake up for the day, and when you go to bed for the night. Soon, you will be all done, and it will be that for our nursing journey. It makes Mama sad, because it marks an end of your infancy. Your babyhood is very much like sand falling through Mama's fingers. It is going by so quickly, and is so fleeting. It is why Mama is cherishing everything with you, because before she knows it, it will be the last time, and she wouldn't know it until it has already passed. 

You are signing MORE! You understand signs, but aren't quite willing to sign them yourself just yet. You reach out either to say hello, or I love you. That one Mama and Daddy are still figuring out what it quite means for you yet! You say Mama, oh oh oh, ah ah, and babble! Of course, you scream, and blow raspberries when you are upset. You love digging through your cupboard to take out the Tupperware containers, stack them up, and create a mess! You laugh, coo, and babble loudly as you cause a wreck! You love blinking, whirling, and beeping toys.

A tooth is still not on the horizon. You drool like crazy though. It does not surprise Mama that you are still toothless. Just like Forrest and Franklin, you are late at teething, and they will come when they come. 

While Mama is definitely more sentimental about you growing out of your infancy, Daddy is quite excited for you to reach the age of being able to play with your brothers, and him. He eagerly looks forward to the day when you are able to participate in wrestling with them, to cheer for Packers, go fishing, boating, and camping. He talks endlessly about you playing, and doing activities with him. Daddy loves to pick you up, lift you high above him in the air (much to Mama's dismay), and twirl you around like an airplane. Mama tries to caution him, which leads to him laughing, and saying, oh he's just going to be fine! Daddy loves to put you on his shoulders, and run after your brothers. You grasp your tiny fingers in his hair, and laugh wildly. Daddy loves to be able to grab you, toss you gently, and get you laughing. While Daddy has a tendency to roughhouse with you, there has been tender moments between you and him, and it is absolutely precious. Mama often finds Daddy dozing on the sofa with your head against his chest, thumb in your mouth, and it was so sweet seeing you snuggling together.

The whole family is blessed to have you in their lives. It has been a joy to watch you grow in the past twelve months.

Happy birthday, love.


Mama, Daddy, Forrest, & Franklin