Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day

"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
-Abraham Lincoln

I've loved Lincoln's words about his mother from the first time I heard them--they rang so true to my own experience--and over the past few weeks I have thought of it more often and felt its message more deeply than usual. Maybe because it's Mother's Day season with cards and promotions everywhere, or because this is my first Mother's Day as a mom myself, or because this is the first time in seven months I'm not living under the same roof as my mom. I actually think all those things add into it, but the biggest reason is probably that my Mom has managed over the past twelve months to serve me and my family in even more invaluable and selfless ways than usual. If you know my mom at all, you know what an amazing feat that actually is. 

My mom is one of those people who has managed to transcend the selfish tendencies of human nature to feel just a little twinge of "I'd rather be..." when serving others. For a lot of people, it's subtle, almost inaudible. Most people choose to ignore it. But for my mom, she genuinely doesn't have it. There is no "I'd rather be..." when she's helping or serving someone, because that is what she'd rather be doing: serving. 

A while back, Fabio and I were trying to think of what to get her for her birthday. Fabio said, "What does she really really love?" I thought for a moment, listed a few things she likes, and Fabio stopped me. "No. Those are things she likes. What does she love?" We both sat silently for a few minutes, thinking. Finally, Fabio said quietly, "She loves to serve, doesn't she? That's what she loves." I nodded. It didn't particularly help us think of a gift for her, but it did leave us both with new love and respect (and aspirations to be more like her).

In the past twelve months, my Mom has (1) flown to Tucson to watch Fabio graduate, then almost single-handedly pack our things into boxes to move because I was pregnant and Fabio had surgery; (2) Drove with me to Utah while Fabio drove the Uhaul; (3) shopped with me and helped me make sure I had everything I needed for a new baby; (4) flown to Singapore to help me unpack and set up my house since then I was even more pregnant and Fabio was busy with a new job; (5) navigated Singapore with me, learned all the expat lessons the hard way with me, saw all the tourist spots with me, and went with me to every doctor's appointment; (6) waited all seventeen hours in the labor and delivery waiting room while I was in labor with Jonathan (they only let husbands in the delivery room); (7) helped care for Jonathan while I recovered from delivery and tried to cope with horrific mastitis; (8) took care of my home while I recovered from delivery and tried to cope with horrific mastitis (including washing Fabio's underwear); (9) canceled her flight back to Utah when I was admitted into the hospital; (10) completely took over care for Jonathan and the house while I was hospitalized, except for when she sat by my bedside in the ICU, stroking my hair and reading General Conference talks to me; (11) packed and cleaned my giant, gross surgery wound every day for almost three months; (12) flew with me to Utah to visit friends and family and again shopped, played and explored with me, and again took Jonathan most nights so I could get my rest and recover. I could go on, but those are the big ones. Not to mention the fact that she served in our church congregation here in Singapore and even helped clean the church on Saturday!

A friend of mine here in Singapore said to me, "I really think your mom is the most Christ-like person I have ever met." Well put. I feel the same way.

The most wonderful thing is, she has also managed to be the most humble and sweet person. There are no pretenses about her. She serves because she really loves people, not because she thinks it will make her look good or because she hopes people notice and thank her. She's funny, too. So funny. I can't count the number of times Fabio and I laughed so hard we didn't make sound while she stayed with us. She is a great travel companion because she's up for anything, and amazingly easy-going. I genuinely believe I had the best and happiest childhood possible, thanks in large part to her creativity, good-nature, thoughtfulness, and spontaneity.

Fabio has come to learn that no compliment he pays me means more to me than, "You're just like Renee in this way..." My mom is so much more than the woman who raised me. She is my role-model, my confidant, my hero, my sounding-board, my honest shopping pal, my walking-stick, at times my oh-so-reliable "personal assistant," my biggest fan, my most loyal friend. She's a fantastic Grandma, and Jonathan adores her. She taught me what it means to forgive, the value of goal-seeking, about what is important and what is simply not, about recognizing and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the value of religion, the value of people and ideas, the importance of service, and most important to me right now: how to be a mother.

I love my mom. Today more than most days, I miss my mom (Fabio can tell you that's really saying something).  I want to be just the kind of mom she was and is. After all, "all that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Six Months

Dear Jonathan,

Last week, on May 3, you turned six months old in the sky somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Narita, Japan. Everyone warned me that the time would pass by all-too-quickly, and I believed them and have done my best to savor every minute. Even so, they were more right than I could have imagined.

You are the sweetest little boy, and as you learn to communicate more and more effectively, we grow to appreciate and understand just how sweet you really are. You have the most contagious laugh and charming smile, although you like to make people earn both. You are calm and easy-going, with the happiest disposition (except when you're hungry, more on that later). You fall asleep anywhere as long as you are in my arms and you never complain as I take you in tow all around the world. You try to be happy when someone talks to you no matter how sad you really are. You worry about other babies when you hear them cry, even if you can't see them. You sleep well at night, play well during the day, and it seems that no crisis or problem is bad enough that a long hug with Mommy can't fix it.

You love food. You watch carefully as Grandpa eats his steak or Daddy eats his hamburger. You take glasses or water bottles out of my hands while I'm drinking them and put them to your own mouth to take a drink. You actually drink from a water bottle or cup really well, and you think you are way too grown up for sippy cups. The saddest I ever see you is when you watch me make you a bottle and then think I'm not going to give it to you because I put it down to wash a dish first... total heartbreak, more sad than when you got your immunizations. When you started eating solids a couple months ago, it was a spectacular revelation to you and now you want to try everything. You love carrots, mangos, cereal, and applesauce. You want to eat my salads, sandwiches, tortilla chips, and stir-frys so desperately. As soon as you can eat them, I will be happy to share!

Your favorite toys right now are: a little plastic yellow car with buttons that make car sounds; bright-colored plastic chain links that you chew on, pull off of things, drop into things, and throw around; a plastic shark baby toothbrush/teether named Sharkie; and most of all, your Curious George book. You love books and being read to in general, but you smile from ear to ear and gasp with delight when we get Curious George out to read with you. That being said, your absolute favorite toy is your thumb. You love to suck your thumb. Your favorite shows to watch on YouTube are Sesame Street's Will I Am "What I Am," "Elmo's Song," and "1234" by Feist. You think anytime Grandma gets out her IPad she will play your shows for you, and you're usually right. You love music of any kind, especially classical music. You're content to "play" our piano for a very long time, and you love to look at sheet music or books of music.

You love to be outside, especially swimming or looking at trees. You can play in the swimming pool for hours, literally. You love your bath time too, and always have. You love for me to sing to you, and for us to play on the floor together. You sit up by yourself really well, and you can stand with some help for a long time. You've had no use for tummy time until last week when you saw your friend, Sage, crawling and now you are on a mission to do it yourself. We can already tell that you are very tenacious.

Most of all, you love your family. You get a giant smile on your face when Daddy comes home from work, and you seem to never tire of cuddling and playing with me all day. It's a good thing, too, because I never get tired of it either!

You are amazingly brave when you receive your shots, even the Doctor was surprised by how hard you tried to not cry and how quickly you got over it. You got that from your Grandma. You're very tall and you love being around people, just like your dad, but your facial expressions (especially your smile) are from Grandpa and me and no one else.

I love you so much, Baby Bear. You have brought me more joy than I could ever put into words, and I'm so grateful Heavenly Father sent you to me.

Best Friends Forever,