When Nothing Seems To Fit

I am 39 week pregnant, due in under a week.  I should be burrowing down, anchoring down, building something around me to settle in with the baby, to nuzzle and raise him in a cozy den.

But every page of the calendar, every conversation somehow reminds me of the other voices that are saying order, purge, pack, prepare, pull up stakes.

I feel pulled in two such opposite directions.  Moving countries and having babies generally don’t go together for a reason.

IMG_7626

What nesting looks like in my world–squeezing baby clothes into ziplock bags.

I sit in front of two Rubbermaid containers and sort my clothing into piles.  Maternity clothes that don’t cover my belly anymore, transition clothes for those lovely not pregnant but still chubby days months and finally, clothes for the heat that I hope will fit when we move 6 weeks after the baby.

Shells, yes.  But how do I know if I can fit.  How will I stretch still?  How will I adjust?  They are just shells, yes, but I feel the swelling of emotion, this buldge in my throat, the constriction of my heart like a waist-band too tight that leaves stitching and hem marks branded deep pink in the soft places like a wound.

It isn’t that I don’t want to go.  I know we are going where we should be for this season.  Back.  I know it will fit again, the language on my tongue, the laundry on the rooftop line, the scrub of soil from vegetables, the dirt from the track packed into the grip of my runners.  It will fit again. 

And this wee one, he will fit too.  I will wrap him tightly, carry him on my chest out of the hospital, past boxes, through customs, to teach him the word hogar, home.  The word will still roll round and full.

We’ll unpack sandals one day and the next we’ll shake cockroaches out of the Christmas tree wrapped black like a mummy.  We’ll catch up, with the local family we live with, as one can, in fragments, circling forward and backwards.

Ya me dijiste.

Oh, I already told you that.

Thoughts of what we’ll miss and are missing will circle like whirlpools of snow outside the lit windows.  Less places set at the table this year.

The stretch and the adjustment—I want to separate these—baby and moving.  I want some space between.  But maybe they fit afterall.

My citizenship isn’t here.  It isn’t as though Canada is really my home.  I can still burrow deep, deep into hugs while I have them, deep into the smell of freshly washed baby skin, soft.  I can burrow into the covers with my boys to tell stories as if the bed weren’t the only thing left in the room, to peer out the window of the plane as if it were the first time.  I can burrow deep into the rich comfort of Christ—the one, who by his birth, left his home, the one who understands.  And he offers me an invitation to take two disparate pieces and stitch them together.  In them I can find new understanding and a new way of being understood.

What are the pieces in your world that don’t seem to fit together?  How do you hold them in tension? 

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Planes, Trains and Bicycles

It is 4:05 am on a Saturday morning and I have no little person to blame this wakefulness on.  It is all me.   I found myself very reasonably packing suitcases in my head…5 ½ months early.  Now I like to be organized and all, but this is just plain silly.

I didn’t do it intentionally.  My subconscious started it.

I started in the toy room, thinking of these beautiful gifts the kids received for Christmas. I don’t want to sell them or give them away yet but I know my husband won’t let me just put them all in storage.  We already have to figure out how to get a whole house down to one room.  So I debate shrink-wrapping plastic and think about the Alphabet Train and the Rescue Helicopter and wonder how much does a Lego plane weigh anyways?

And then I remember.  Lucas begged me to bring his bicycle back with us when we go.  The one he got in summer as an early birthday present from my parents.  The one that makes him light up like this.

IMG_3438The snow made me forget.

Ah yes, the bicycle.

And I said to him, “We’ll see what we can do.”  I said that to a 5 year old who still believes his Mommy is half-superhero.  It is practically a yes.

He made a list in his first week here of the things he wanted to bring to back with us and stuck it on the fridge.  It consisted of his bicycle, helmet (safety first!) fire truck, Lego and was modified thereafter to include every prized new possession.

A bicycle.

We did it before with a tricycle.  Let me tell you, handlebars were not meant to be packed in suitcases.  Maybe you already knew that.  You did, didn’t you?

I have about three suitcases mentally packed when I remember the bike.  It is enough to make me get out of bed.

At 4:00 am on Saturday morning, you don’t mince words with yourself.  You don’t try to pull the wool over your own bleary eyes.

I realize precisely why I am doing this.  I am trying to pack up this and bring in there and sneak it past customs.  In six suitcases.  And make it look like we’re not greedy or materialistic to the local family we live with.

They notice everything, you know.  New socks.  New shampoo.  New toys and protein powder and bicycles.

There is no hiding what we bring in.

But it isn’t about them.

I’m trying to bring here there.

I’m trying to make that this.

The toy room, the pantry, my wardrobe, the bicycle.
Cottage cheese, strawberries, whole wheat toast.
Apple sauce, cheddar cheese, mashed potatoes.
The Food Network, FaceBook.  Unlimited texting.
School for my kids. Plush carpet for working out.
Tap water you can drink.
Kleenex.
Grandparents.
Church.
It doesn’t fit.
My kids’ favourite foods.  My family.  Everything that is normal about life.

It just doesn’t fit.

I have to let go.

I just got here and already I’m thinking of letting go.

God grant me grace.

Can you take the heat?

It is hot here.  Really hot.

I’m a Canadian.  I’m used to cold.  Really cold.  And kind-of-hot in the summer time.  I am not used to the intense kind of heat that teams up with humidity.  This dynamic duo does strange things to me and to my house.

Did you know Kraft Dinner can mold?  Yes.  My mother in law brought a few boxes in for Lucas when she came to visit.  Three weeks later I went to open the box and it was a big, green, hard lump.  Nice.

Clothespins melt.  Rubber gloves melt.  The roof top tanks are like giant crock pots.  Last week, I got sun burnt hanging up the laundry.  That is either too much laundry or too much sun.  Or both.

Maybe I’m a little extra sensitive right now about my appearance with a 2 month old baby but I’m pretty sure the heat makes me ugly.   I am forever washing my hair and pulling it back into a knot of frizz and curls at the back of my sweaty head.  I’ve stopped trying with makeup since it slides right off.  Wardrobe choices waffle between a “less is best” sports shorts and tank tops philosophy and the “out of sight, out of mind” maxi dress approach.  The common denominator between both is that my usual capris don’t fit.  Still.

That said, I’m trying to get back into an exercise routine.  In the heat.  Good luck.

Another thing I’ve discovered about all this heat and humidity is that I tend to get a little cranky.  By the middle of the afternoon, I’m toast.  Let’s just say that it’s been good that both boys nap, since Mommy’s patience turns to steam at about 40 degrees.

I hear myself apologizing, saying, “Maybe it is just the heat getting to me.”  But what excuse is that?  Lucas doesn’t get a carte blanch to disobey or throw fits because it is hot.  He’s only 4.  I’m the adult here.

Yet, I like to look for excuses to reason away irritability or impatience, my disobedience or laziness or any other score of things that I am not proud of.

Recently I was discussing a work situation with a colleague.  A couple we are working with, having just come out of a rough patch in their marriage, are frustrated that God would allow a family problem on the heels of such a big challenge.  It doesn’t seem fair to them.  They were doing great and are now at each other’s throats again, questioning each other’s loyalty and commitment.  I found myself thinking, “Maybe this is what they need to reveal the truth of their hearts to each other.  If they only live on the surface with easy situations, they never have to deal with the real issues.”

Instead of shrugging things off and making excuses, I want to push in and ask what is being revealed to me about my character?   What needs to change?  Then, heat or no heat, I want to start to change it.

So, what about you?  Does turning up the heat make you ugly?

On the road again

I should be good at this by now.  I’ve done it enough times.

We are moving.   Again.

We’ve been house-sitting for the past 2 ½ months in Canada.  This time we don’t have the furniture, dishes, filing cabinets fiasco.  We do, however, have the tiny diapers, rubber boots, Sunday suits, piles-of-paper-because-we-don’t-have-filing-cabinets fiasco.  No matter how you slice it, moving is work.  Moving internationally is no joke either.

And then there is the new baby.  But babies are small.  They don’t need a lot.  I mean, how much can one little person use in a year?

Ah, the first-time parent myth.  I’ve fallen for it again after an almost 4 year span between our children.

I decided to keep my packing list to the basics:

  • Cloth diapers.
  • Disposable diapers for overnight
  • Wipes
  • Zinc cream
  • Baby powder
  • Shampoo
  • Face cloths
  • Collapsible baby chair to double as a high chair
  • Miniature squirting rubber ducky (this is more for my older son so he won’t get into mischief when Mommy is irrevocably up to her elbows in bath water.)  Mmm, that reminds me…
  • Bath tub  (We buy purple since the ultrasound said we’d have a girl.  Turns out it was a boy.)
  • Clothing.  Hats.  Shoes.
  • Receiving blankets
  • Sunscreen
  • Bedding
  • Mobile
  • Vitamin D drops (if I can just remember to give them!)
  • Soft structured carrier (I love the Beco Butterfly II)
  • Jogging stroller with infant adapter (the BOB SUS is my running partner!)

On and on the list goes.

The trouble with baby basics is that they aren’t so basic.  That is still a lot of stuff.   I don’t like having a lot of stuff.

Ethical dilemma aside, I have another problem.  Where I live, it is next to impossible to buy good baby things or any baby things for that matter.  You are guaranteed to sacrifice quality or price, most likely both.  And that is if you can find what you need.  That if is very big indeed.  Here I am trying to simplify, partly by choice and partly by force, but I have no idea what it is like to really do without like so many of my neighbours have to.

What does one do if you can’t find diapers or can’t afford them at $1 a piece?  Well, you can do what the locals do.  Use a disposable diaper once.  And I mean really use it, until it is bulging.  Cut a slit in it and scoop out all that pee-logged gelatin, wash the diaper, hang it to dry.  Now you are ready to grab a wad of gauze and put the diaper back on and watch the baby leak all over your lap.  Then you have to wash it again along with your pants.  I kid you not.

You see my dilemma.  Hence, I need to import everything for the first YEAR of baby’s life in suitcases and get it past customs, as if I were a normal tourist.  And for those of you keeping track, yes, that includes the purple bathtub.  Our goal this trip is six suitcases of 50 lbs or less.  Too bad the rest of us need clothing.  And peanut butter.  And toothpaste.

So here I am, putting my extra post-baby weight to good use, sitting on the duffle bags and zipping them up one-handed while holding the feeding baby with the other.   I’m really glad I bought that luggage scale on one of the many post-baby trips to the pharmacy.  My husband lifts up the suitcase and I scrutinize the wobbly black needle.  “48.5?” I say.

“Let’s try again,” he suggests and hefts the bag again.

“Yep,” I say.  Room for that last ziplock bag of protein powder.

My son runs over with a big orange bulldozer.  “Mommy, can my digger come?  Please?”

He and Daddy weigh it and then we tuck it into the digger-size space in his suitcase beside his pared down tool kit and brand new vehicle stamping set (Melissa and Doug).

“Going on vacation?” the agent at the AirCanada desk asks.

“Not exactly,” we reply.  “More like moving.  We just came back for the baby to be born.”  We briefly explained what we do.

The total weight of our suitcases was 298.4 lbs.  I’ll save you the effort: that’s under the maximum weight by 1.6 lbs total or an average of .27 lbs per bag.  “That’s cutting it pretty close,” I think as the agent proceeds to label all of our bags with bright orange tags saying HEAVY 50lbs.  On the plane, we realize they didn’t even charge us for the extra 2 bags.  Altruism or just pity?

We clear immigration and customs without incident and manage to cram our bags into our teammates’ two small cars.  We arrive back at our rental house with our local “family” jumping up and down and pointing to the hand written sign taped on the living room wall: “Bienvenidos a Casa”.  Welcome Home.

Now that we are finally unpacked and settling in, I start to re-evaluate what I packed.  I wonder why in the world did I pack my carry-on full of 0-3 month clothing?  In the sweltering heat, the poor guy hasn’t worn a darn thing.  Also, it doesn’t look like he will need many more size one diapers at the rate he is chubbing up.  I guess I won’t have to look far for people who will, ahem, get good use out of them.

But, just for the record, both boys have sure enjoyed cooling off in that purple bath tub.

The view from my lap on the plane


The shuttle from the plane to the airport (just a little packed)

Packed into the shuttle with the 2 boys on my lap