uminomuko::across an ocean

Quick! while I have three quiet minutes and two tiny sleepers, eyes shut at the same time – here I am. In Japan. I officially live in another country. This doesn’t quite feel real, yet. We are in the bubble of an American base abroad, complete with McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts. After discussing this possibility for almost a year (oh wait, Margaux woke up), living out of suitcases for two months and then a very long day including a ten hour flight with toddlers…we are here. Still living out of suitcases. But back to the normalcy of Ethan going to work in uniform, spending the day park-hopping with the girls and trying to get them to eat something, working back toward healthy eating after weeks and weeks of delicious treats.

I saw Mt. Fuji, from the airplane. A singular white peak, barely visible against the clouds and soft blue sky. I saw a submarine peaking through the ocean’s surface as we pulled into base. I saw stairways leading up vine-covered paths to shrines with large signs posted, saying we are to keep out. I can hear a ship horn blaring, maybe pulling into the harbor. I can see green hills from our hotel window, reminding me that we are not in California anymore, reminding me that there is a mystery of a country out there to explore, if I am brave enough.
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LoveyDovey.

On Sunday I always tell myself I won’t clean, just relax (as much as you can with a toddler and pre-toddler), but, inevitably, by the end of the night I’m scrambling to clean the dishes, pick of the toys on the carpet, and generally create some sort of organization to soften the busyness of Monday usually brings. Anyway. Boring. Here are pictures of the sweet little girls I get to spend my time with. Niahmaya is extra everything lately – frantically running around with extra doses of energy, swiping everything off her plate instead of eating it, but also extra ready to cuddle, taking our faces in her little hands to make sure we kiss her right smack on the lips. Yesterday she was dragging Great-Grandpa around by his pinky, beckoning him to sit with her while she munched on French fries she had cajoled from the neighbor’s lunch and just shared with the doggies, sitting close to Grandpa so he would kiss the top of her head, running full-tilt across the living room in an attempt to fling me backward with a hug. Margaux is busy voicing her approval of all doggies, rambunctious Niahmayas, and random passersby with the cutest high-pitched screech and toothless smile, following me everywhere waiting for me to hold her every second, and crying when I leave her at Sunday School (which I secretly love because it means she is still a little baby with squishy everything, fat crocodile tears waiting on her cheeks for my fingers to wipe away upon my return). The best part of them right now is the way they both get excited and sit in their highchairs, shaking their heads crazily, just out of excitement.
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Our Time at Home.

I don’t know where we will end up in 3 years, when Ethan’s contract with the Navy is up. I don’t know if we will really be done with the military – but for now, I’m thankful we live in the same state as my parents. I love watching Niahmaya experience such a different environment. Margaux is too young now, but Niahmaya loves it – watching the chickens, letting the dog lick her face, chasing the cats.
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California Sunshine

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We skipped church on Sunday. Ethan gave me a gift – gallery-size prints of some pictures a friend took before he left for bootcamp – and we headed to Downtown Ventura to scour the thrift stores for picture frames. Plus, Niahmaya has had some major cabin fever lately (despite 3 trips to the park each day) and we were eager to be out of the house. We drove past a park, then a burger stand, and made the wonderful decision to eat lunch at the park. The girls played, we ate and played with them, the girls kept dropping their grilled cheese on the ground and then eating it anyway, and Ethan taught Niahmaya to throw French fries to the seagulls.

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Old Habits

Do you think God ever gets sick of us messing up in the same way a million times? I know He forgives us endlessly, but I wonder if sometimes He heaves a huge sigh when I start down the same path that I just tried last month, even though nothing worked out last time. Probably not. Because He is perfect. But damn if there are not consequences for our actions, consequences that I constantly write about and then go ahead and prove them. Case in point: calorie restriction. “Love yourself! I love myself! Don’t let food be your ruler!,” I’ve said a bajillion times. But still, for some reason, a few nights ago I thought to myself that it was time to kick this whole weight lose thing into high gear, buckle down and be done with the plan by March. 20 pounds in 5 months. Doesn’t sound too crazy – sounds plausible. So I calculated (well…my phone calculated) how many calories I would need to eat each day to lose 2 pounds a week-ish and lasted one whole day before falling apart. Even though I’ve read this about a thousand times. Even though I know God tells us, time and again, that we should not worry about what we eat or give our vanity room to grow (Matthew 6:25-26). Even though taking care of 2 small children all day and working out for an hour 5 times a week requires about as many calories (maybe).

And yesterday was…embarrassing. I mean, really. I could not keep my eyes open, despite sleeping like a log for 8 hours. I was so grumpy. I was angry. I did not want anyone to touch me, an impossible feat when you have a toddler who thinks of you as a jungle gym and a baby who loves to drool on you. Ethan sat about 2 feet away from me on the couch and gave me sideways glances while I glared at the television. I did not want to visit with my friends, I just wanted to crawl into bed and stare at the ceiling. I hid in the kitchen for ten minutes to avoid the girls. Awful, I know. I just wanted to smash some plates. My workout was just frustrating instead of the normal stress-reliever I count on, and I was crying while I fixed dinner. Why is it so hard to just be healthy without going to extremes? Why do old habits die hard? How can I focus on such stupid little things when there are women enslaved all around the world, who would love anything to eat?

Thank God for forgiveness and new mercy each day.

Toddlers Know Best

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I don’t know if you know this, but toddlers are annoying. Your child goes from adorable, squishy, smiling, just generally happy baby, to opinionated, stubborn, and slightly disobedient. “Come over here,” you say, and the opposite direction they will run. Time outs will be enforced, the occasional spank will be distributed, and parks will be left early. You start to wonder if you are asking too much of your child, maybe they just need more freedom? Perhaps your two-year-old knows best and chocolate chip cookies really do have all the nutrients you thought sweet potatoes possessed.

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One Story From A Scale.

While Ethan was in boot camp, I lost 10 pounds and weighed 155 pounds. The furthest to the left the needle has swung while I stood atop the judgmental face of a bathroom scale. I cannot explain how proud of myself I was – oh man, when I saw Ethan after the graduation ceremony, all I could think about was how impressed he was going to be with my new “super slender” body, however short-lived. The weight (literally) of winter in Illinois with no job and one car between us set in and my runs became shorter and trips to the corner store for candy became more frequent. My weight hopped up to 165, and when the little pink plus sign lit up on a pregnancy test, I relaxed even more, found that vegetables and fruits made me puke before I could finish a salad, and fried chicken with a swig of 7Up became my staple meal. I gained 65 pounds by the time that pink squealing child came into our world. 5 months later I was still trying to lose a final 20 pounds, aiming for 165 and feeling defeated among status updates from other new moms like, “Two weeks later and I fit into my jeans!” or, “Lost all 15 of the pounds I gained!” and we found out we were expecting another sweet bundle of joy. This time I forced myself to limit the sweets, walked every day and generally stayed healthier. So here I am, one winter, too many candies, and two babies later – reminding myself that a healthy weight is not just about vanity, but also about feeling good, being a good example for my daughters, and preventing future health issues. Keeping the only body I’ve got running well. I go around in this circle, wanting to fit into my pre-baby jeans, counting every calorie I eat, feeling guilty for being vain, and then telling myself, “Food doesn’t control me! Watch me eat this candy bar, stupid food!”

It’s great. In reality, I love the way I look. Most days. Everyone has bad hair days, and days that no outfit feels comfortable. Aside from those days, I do love my body, all that I’ve accomplished with what God gave me – carrying and birthing two babies, running a half marathon and completing a 4,000 foot elevation change foot race up Mount Baldy. But my brain is having this duel over whether or not how much I weigh is important, fighting memories telling me those numbers mean the world. I can remember being weighed in the gymnasium to be fit for 8th grade graduation gowns, being laughed at when I confided that number to someone I thought was a friend, wearing the largest sweatshirts I could find to hide what I was sure was an overweight blob of a body, being frustrated when family members continued to buy XL clothing as gifts long after I had stretched out (one inch upward) and leaned out running on the high school cross-country team. Charting my weight on a BMI graph at the doctor’s office, paling at the realization that I was technically in the “Obese” category. Many prayers, journal entries, tearful frustrations poured out to Ethan and a couple close friends have made miles of progress toward healthy body image and reduced self-image obsession. I don’t know where this post turned from light-hearted to brutally honest, but here we are. I know this is something that so many other women struggle with – reconciling how our bodies are with what the world tells us are bodies should be. Putting our image on a pedestal meant only for the King of Kings, who formed us and gave us the gift of our bodies. I keep saying this verse, over and over, trying to burn it into my brain: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer,” from Psalms 19:14. And what better inspiration to create true self-confidence in myself than these cuties, watching my every move – may I show them a healthy role model so they grow up knowing their beauty, eating without worry, and focusing on more important parts of life.
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Typical Monday.

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Every so often, the stars align in the least convenient of ways and both of my children catch a cold at the same time. Snot has been bubbling from their noses and little throats full of mucus are keeping them awake at night. One of them keeps trying to use my hair as a Kleenex. The other one shakes her head from side to side as I try to wipe the boogers away, leaving a trail across her upper lip. Tears are shed at the slightest sign of trouble – peas too mushy? Let’s cry about it. Mommy is taking too long pouring the milk? Let’s cry about it. No one wants to sit in their car seat? Let’s cry about it, arch our backs and have a tiny meltdown in the Commissary parking lot. I cringe when someone at the park asks if they have “the sniffles,” hoping no one will berate me for bringing my sick children out in public to get their children sick. Suddenly, the time limit on our daily PBS disappears and we peacefully watch Curious George dig for dinosaur bones even if Sesame Street finished long ago – and while we are at it, let’s watch Martha Speaks! We, the adults, quickly give in and let Niahmaya have chocolate milk when she sees the coffee milkshake we are making, eager to avoid another meltdown. Two sick parents against two sick kids – not the best odds. Or maybe not. Maybe some parents are out there, sticking to their guns while we acquiesce with embarrassing speed.

Watching Ethan mix chocolate milk for Niahmaya, I thought of a text message from my best friend a few weeks ago, after she had seen a child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. To paraphrase, she said her first thought was, “I will never let my kids do that,” followed by, “I’m probably sticking my foot in my mouth.” I laughed and then told her about the things I had claimed I would never let my children do – watch tv during the week, eat anything aside from whole foods, or my favorite, run around looking like a filthy ragamuffin. Now that I’m almost two years in, my resolve on these fronts has completely washed away. I aim for less than 2 hours of PBS a day during the week (if your eyebrows raised in judgment, let me inform you that two hours or less is the daily recommended amount from the National Pediatric Association), and movies only on the weekends. She regularly eats graham crackers, the kind from the blue box with cinnamon on top, and plays in the dirt every single day (which builds her immune system). I’ve learned to follow up my initial judgment of the mom with barefoot children at the grocery store with a thought like, “Who cares? It’s not like there is glass on the floor, and at least they aren’t crying!” I’ve learned that the times I am most judgmental are the times I am most unsatisfied with myself in that area (“Who is that lady with the six-pack abs? I bet she never plays with her kids!”), or feeling guilty about perusing Pinterest for the tenth time in one afternoon. I’ve learned to pick my battles and take this whole parenting thing a day at a time, carefully stopping to be grateful for a little girl who tries to blow her own nose, cannot wait to see her daddy every morning, and can climb every ladder on the playground, not to mention the adorable 6 month old crawling closely behind her older sister, flashing the biggest, widest-mouth grin you have ever seen.

Boogers or clean nose, good day or stressful day, parenting is a place I am happy to be. Time to go wash the peas and snot from my hair.

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6 Months of Margaux

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What more could you ask for in a baby than one who reminds you of your sister with her brilliant blue eyes, laughs and cries like your nephew, and fills your home with squeals of delight (especially if her sister is crying)? One who quietly lets her sister squish her with full-body hugs, patiently waits for Niahmaya to return whichever toy was just plucked from her hands, and can be satisfied with the opportunity to pull Mommy’s hair. While Margaux’s first three months postpartum were particularly rough with long nights with too little sleep, the new three months have been a delight. Even though I whined to no end about being pregnant for a second time in 5 month, I sure am thanking God now for unexpected blessings.
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