Friday, July 30, 2010


Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
  to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
  mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
  in allegiance with gravity
     while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bond will
   never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
  scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
  who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
  "Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
 and bow their heads.

-Mary Oliver,  from Evidence: Poems by Mary Oliver

Like the Hebrew alphabet, the alphabet of grace has no vowels, and in that sense his words to us are always veiled, subtle, cryptic, so that it is left to us to delve their meaning, to fill in the vowels, for ourselves by means of all the faith and imagination we can muster. God speaks to us in such a way… Out of the shadowy street comes a cry for help.  We must learn to listen to the cock-crows and hammering and tick-tock of our lives for the holy and elusive word that is spoken to us out of their depths."

~Frederick Beuchner, Alphabet of Grace  from How to Hear from God at A Holy Experience 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Parenting Take Three

Apparently I am not the only one still nursing a grudge against Gary Ezzo .  In fact, there's a whole week dedicated to it which I missed, but I've been wanting to post about this anyway.

I have probably done enough Ezzo-ranting on this blog, and the fact is that I have friends who I respect very much who do Babywise, and I know that it fits some personalities and some babies, and it can be done gently and wisely . . . so rather than offend anyone or get myself all stressed-out just thinking about my experience with "the Book", I'll just describe a bit about my three different girls and my three different approaches, and the conclusion I have finally come to.

I feel bad for firstborns.  Seriously.  My parenting style keeps changing and it's the firstborn who must endure all of my mistakes.  If Sami grows up to hate me and chooses to rebel by being really prissy and buying a lot of expensive purses, Sam, I will not blame you.

Sam was a difficult baby.  And when I say difficult I mean that she didn't sleep for the first three months years of her life, was colicky and wanted to nurse so much that I believed she was sucking the marrow from my bones.  I think I thought this was pretty normal until we had Annie who actually slept for more than ten minutes at a time, and I couldn't believe how easy life was.  I was a first-time mom who loved this baby so much I couldn't see straight, I hated not being in the same room with her, couldn't run to the grocery store without calling twice and rushing home to be with her.  But I was battling this intense guilt that said I wasn't doing this right, she should be sleeping by now, I need to let her cry.  And so we'd read "the Book" and tell ourselves okay, this is the night, tonight she cries . . . and I could just cry now even thinking about those times we let her cry it out, and the way that she cried and cried and cried and cried and did not go to sleep . . . and I won't even tell you how long she cried but it was TOO LONG and my mothering instincts were going nuts, I would just weep until I couldn't take it any more and would rush to pick her up . . . I thank God that we weren't so foolish to keep doing that to our poor daughter, but even one night of that much crying was too much.

And yes, there are babies who respond much differently to this approach, just slip right into a schedule, like our second born Annie did, but Sam was a completely different baby.  The only thing that could comfort her was to be held, to sleep between us, and her need to be close to her mother was NOT a SIN, not something that needed punished or disciplined . . . rather we were being trained to be good parents and all of the sacrifice that requires.

(Also I understand now that a first-time mother often doesn't have as much milk, and the only way to stimulate more milk production is with frequent nursing.  I am certain that had I stuck to the schedule I would not have been able to nurse her for the full first year).

After the first two sleepless and guilt-ridden months I went to the library where I found Dr. Sears and his book on high-need babies .  His parenting methods resonated with what my maternal instincts were already telling me: to co-sleep, demand feed, and hold my baby as much as possible.  He describes a "fourth trimester" that some babies (I now believe all babies) need to be close to their mother, and this made perfect sense to me.

(The thing that I really don't get with the Cry It Out method is why Christians- Christians! are so drawn to it, even adamant about it . . . because if parents are a picture of God to their children, this is nothing like the God I know . . . I do not serve a God who only responds to me at certain times, under certain conditions . .. I do not serve a God who refuses to listen when I cry . . . rather the God I know invites me to cry to him, over and over He says this, to pour my heart out to Him . . . and that He is a waiting Father, a Father lavish with affection and understanding, one who is ever-present, ever holding His children).  

Annie was different.  I brought her home from the hospital and laid her on the bed and I couldn't believe it- she stayed asleep!  She loved to sleep!  She didn't need me at all, she could sleep in her bed and when she was still waking up several times during the night by about six months I decided to see what would happen if I let her cry, and it took less than five minutes- probably two minutes for her to put herself back to sleep.

My regret with Annie is that I didn't hold her enough.  I didn't feel as quickly connected with Annie as I did Sam, and I noticed that though she was a far easier baby, I would become irritated much more quickly when she would wake up at inconvenient times.  One of the benefits of "wearing" or holding your baby a lot is for the mother and baby to attach, and it can even help with a mother's post-partum emotions.  Now as a two-year old, I welcome any affection I can get from her . . . she is a very loving, sweet kid but I will always worry that she is so independent and maybe that is my fault.

I am so glad to have a third child to finally be confidant in my approach to parenting!  This time, I held Josie as much as possible as a newborn, I nursed whenever she wanted, and we slept together the first few months (now she falls asleep in her own bed, and when she wakes up to nurse I bring her into bed with us- if her sisters haven't taken her place).  I have a couple of slings that I use sometimes, but mostly I just hold her.  She is my calmest, happiest baby, and we have a really natural rhythm that flows with the rhythm of the rest of the home.

I have read a lot of Dr. Sears and have found that the Attachment Parenting approach fits my personality, but as with anything I take what works for us and try not to be legalistic about it.  When I began to feel stressed about whether I was holding Josie enough, whether I had the correct slings or should buy more, whether she was "attached" enough . . . and when I began to realize that my older girls were becoming resentful of my constantly carrying Josie, I stepped back and gave myself permission to parent according to what works for us, and not another kind of formula.

Hopefully all of our children will be loved and understood enough to make-up for our many flaws and mistakes, and more than anything we are so aware of our dependance on God's grace to cover our children, but maybe this is also a good reason to have many children, because you just keep getting better at it. . . right Babe?  Right??

Thursday, July 22, 2010

not worth comparing

I am sitting here in the early morning quiet listening to the baby coo.  She loves to talk!  She will coo and squeal and absolutely crack herself up with these wonderful sounds she can make, and the whole family stops to listen and we throw our heads back and say oh my! tell us more! and she squeals louder and there is too much delight for one home to hold.  And I smile and wonder what kind of gift God will give her to speak and pray that her words will be rich and wise and life-giving.

And I am remembering this very time last year . . . last year when I noticed my body changing and thought, No it can't be  . . . but yes my body knew very well what my mind was slow in believing, and there was one positive test and another and another and still I said it can't be.  And I am so ashamed to write this but there was one dark night when I did not sleep, and one early morning when I woke my mom up to cry and say what am I going to do . . . ?

(and I could write here about our place in life, the season we had just gone through, the precarious equilibrium we were just managing to obtain, .. . my full and happy schedule that I felt would have to die and I just wasn't ready, wasn't emotionally physically financially anyway ready to die for the next months and months and for that one dark night all I could see was the brief dying and not- I am so ashamed to say- the glorious growing Living).

And God gives us mothers for moments like these because she said it's wonderful! you'll be okay, you'll make it, we'll make it . .. and her courage gave me courage so that somehow I could brace myself, and even though I could hear that train coming, I knew it was coming, and yes I was scared more scared than ever it was a crazy-happy to be alive scared, and I knew deep down that I wasn't really tied to the tracks but rather about to get onto some kind of terrifying long and wild ride to someplace absolutely wonderful.

And so I bought heaps of Vitamin B Unisom Protein powder Sea Bands Lemonade Celery Potato Chips Raspberry leaf tea anything I could think of . . . but that train took me to some dark places anyway , and I can't really explain what being so sick does to your brain, how there were weeks so many weeks of feeling not only my own suffering but suffering- the weight of it, the heavy, dark oozing awful suffering in the world and I could do nothing but lie in bed and why God? . . . Even worse than the physical sick, the nausea, the all-consuming sick was the way the sick attacked my spirit . . . and I would drag myself out of bed to watch the evening news and crawl back asking All of this hurting everywhere and why God where are you?And lie awake weeping for Jacie Dugard, for her mother, for hurting, weeping, unanswered prayers everywhere.

. . . and I could go on but look, now we made it!  And to be honest I hardly remember the sick, haven't even thought of it until this morning, and now I sit here holding this gorgeous little person, and she is all delight!, and I think how my life was given back times a hundred!  A hundred hundred!  How worth it it was, so incredibly unspeakably worth it, how slight was that sick compared to this little amazing life in my arms.

And this morning I read:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:18


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Crazies Continue (and why it's oh, so crazy-good)

. . . the growth spurts, the growing-up
. . . the molars, the fevers, the itching, the falling
. . . the nightmares, the old-familiar no sleeping
. . . the what-in-the-world-kind-of-phase-is-THIS?
. . . the emotions.  Oh! the Emotions!

And sometimes I handle it brilliantly . . . whatever "it" is . . . and I am composed and calm and efficient and I correct and hug and I tell them Good for you! and I tell myself, Good for you!

And sometimes,
at three in the morning
after many. . . many nights of three in the morning . . . sometimes I do not handle things so brilliantly . . . and after they finally fall back to sleep (at five!) I am awake and guilty and hubs and I are talking what-to-do . . . and I am reading websites and every other mother is more peaceful more in-control knows better than me and I am feeling bad and telling God what a terrible mother I am . . .

and He calls me forgiven, and when they wake up I say forgive me, and they don't blink they have already forgotten, and God sends a friend to say Me Too Me Too Us Too . . . and I sigh and Thank-You and today, ToDay! they are crazy-good and life is crazy-wonderful and we go to bed Early!  Early I tell you!  and they wake up again but Oh well, I bring them into bed and hug them tighter; the crazy won't last forever but while it's here we may as well have fun . . .

A few of my favorite crazies lately. . .

An reading a book to Josie . . . you really must hear her crazy version of the story!

Even after four months these two crazy sisters simply will not leave baby Josie alone!  She is patted, played with, and drug around all day long . . . and she seems to like it.

The crazy-awesome swingset Daddy, P.E. built!  There are piles of formulas and calculations all over our garage . . . the entire cast of Biggest Loser could safely swing on this swingset!

Oh how I CRAZY-LOVE when she just goes limp and sleeps on me like this!

There is nothing better than a little girl with a jar of markers!
. . . except maybe a man who can color while drinking the Champagne of Beers :)

Crazy little purple carrots from our garden

a crazy game of hide-n-seek
"gettin' found"

Maybe we could comb this girl's crazy hair if only her sisters wouldn't keep losing her comb!

Life is crazy-girly, crazy-bright, crazy-fun right now, 
and I am tired and I love it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Just Thinking

(these two wear me out, but they are so. much. fun.)

The past two weeks have been slightly insane.  (I keep thinking of Salinger who wrote that "every mother is slightly insane" and that sums up every parenting tidbit or piece of mothering advice I can think of at the moment).

So hardly anything has been accomplished around here lately, but these are some random things I've been thinking:

1.  Wow, my kids are strong-willed!  Along with not sleeping, both Sam and Annie, in completely different ways are revealing their "personalities" ahem and I am about beside myself to know what to do about it!  The hard part is being really confidant about what is the right way to handle things, and no matter what I feel like I didn't do it right . . . ugh, the guilt that comes with being a parent!

This is one thought from the book, Kids Are Worth It , that I love:
Strong-willed children are never easily led by anybody- not by you, but also not by their peers.  So celebrate your child's strength of will throughout the early years, and when the going gets tough for both of you, give that strong-willed child a hug and know that the independent thinking you are fostering will serve him well in the teen years.
Oh I hope so!

2.  The best friends are they who will see your child at her worst, and still love your child.
I am very aware lately of how much my friendships enrich my life, of my need for community, and especially of my need for "safe" friends, friends who I am confidant aren't judging me, who I can be honest with my failures and imperfections and who will be honest with me.  And as a mom, I need friends who love my kids and aren't judging them, either.

This week a friend was here with her children when one of mine displayed the full spectrum of her will in all it's glory.  It was one terrific fit, let me tell you, and as always I questioned after if I handled it correctly.  Thankfully, this is the kind of friend who I didn't have to be embarrassed with or feel judged by, one who I can talk openly with about all kinds of things, and who was still loving on my kids the rest of the day.

I think that in the midst of these messes my kids and I are both learning about repentance and forgiveness, what it is to feel sorry for your behavior and then to know you are forgiven, and how that plays out in our family or community.  I was so thankful for this friend who was able to demonstrate that kind of love to my child that day.

3.  I have linked to this blog before, but lately I have been going back through and reading the past years of Katie's journey . Oh for faith like this!
4. If the house is ever quiet, as I'm folding laundry or making supper I have been listening to this series of messages, What the Gospel Demands . So so challenging and good.
It must be God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever. "In all the world there is none but thee, my God, there is none but thee." Keep paying the price. Let God see that you are willing to live up to the vision. -Oswald Chambers

6. I love Luke 6 as it is written in The Message.   Along with everything else, I haven't gotten much quality quiet time the past two weeks, but this passage has been on my mind . . . (here it is in part)

You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.  Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.  Joy comes with the morning.
Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens . . . and all heaven applauds.  
But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.  What you have is all you’ll ever get.
And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.  Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.  There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.  
To you who are ready for the truth, I say this:  Love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.  . . .. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.  No more tat-for-tat stuff.  Live generously.
Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!  If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back?  Run-of-the-mill sinners do that.  If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal?  Garden-variety sinners do that.  If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity?  The stingiest pawnbrokers does that.
I tell you, love your enemies.  Help and give without expecting a return.  You’ll never- I promise- regret it.  Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst.  Our Father is kind; you be kind.  
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults- unless, of course, you want the same treatment.  Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang.  Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier.  Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back- given back with bonus and blessing.  Giving, not getting, is the way.  Generosity begets generosity.
It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.  Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt?  It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part.  Wipe that ugly sneer off your face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
Why are you so polite with me, always saying Yes sir, and That’s right sir, but never doing a thing I tell you?  These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.  They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book 17: Little Bee

I just finished this book last night, one of those breathtaking, heart-pounding books that leaves you unable to sleep after.  Stunning.  Heartbreaking.  Hopeful.  Brilliant.  

I devoured this book in two nights, couldn't put it down.  I love the way the writing feels- musical.  And I love a book that sweeps me away with a story but also shows me a world that I need to know.  The reality of life for refugees is beyond horrible.  Beyond terror.  Unimaginable.  This book left me broken for displaced people and their untold stories, and shaken again with the reality of evil and suffering in the world.  But the book is a fascinating, surprising read and leaves a taste of hope.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Book 16: the last time i saw you

My reading is really tapering off unfortunately.  It has a lot to do with summer and just being so busy, and kids who don't go to bed until their mother is about to pass out.  But this is the other problem:  I am part-way through a couple of those books that I keep meaning to read: a parenting book, and one with a fascinating title that has sat on my shelf for too long because I just can't get into it . . . and so reading becomes somewhat of an effort and I just don't immerse myself like I do with a really great book.

the last time i saw you by Elizabeth Berg is a book you can jump into and not set down until it's finished, and this was the perfect weekend to indulge myself.  I had read Berg before, but the subject was a little depressing and this book was just so much fun.  She is a master at developing a character with just a stroke of detail, and each person in the story was so layered with both foolishness and virtue, making them very believable and even the most idiotic somehow endearing.

The story is about a 40 year High School class reunion, and each of the characters preparing for this big event, the last reunion their class would have.  Every high school stereotype was represented: the jock, the cheerleader, the nerds, the cliques . . . and the common theme was that nobody's life had turned out the way they'd hoped.  Every character was either divorced or in a terrible marriage, with the exception of a widower who'd never remarried and a nerdy "old maid" type who end up together (of course), and they're all hoping to find something or rekindle an old flame at the reunion . .. it all sounds rather cliche, and I suppose it is but it is true, too, and Berg is a master at telling these stories we are all so familiar with.

The really interesting thing to me is why something like a class reunion can stir so many common emotions: regret, hope, longing . . . and how after so many years, people really don't change!  I wonder what it is about a class reunion that can cause this- really, it's only four years spent with people you really never got to know, at a time when you didn't even know yourself . . . maybe it's the peak of possibility, the time before people begin to make their mistakes and misfortunes, back when life still seemed so conquerable, and you yourself seemed immortal . . . and so looking back, the people you once knew seem larger than life, and a chance to reconnect with them seems so magical . . . though the reader can see how flawed and steeped in their own mistakes and failures every person is.

It was a really fun book, and I could relate to it in many ways but I can't wait to let my mom read it, because I think it will be especially enjoyable for people around that age.

My own fifteen year class reunion is this year, and will I go?  No I don't think so.  Maybe I'll go to the 40.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A post-postmodern watermelon (post)

Today I carried a watermelon and I remembered he said, You were made to carry a watermelon.

I remember that it felt like a compliment: we both laughed.
(If it was indeed a compliment, it was the only one).

But let's deconstruct the statement, shall we?

He was clearly saying that I was made to carry a watermelon, the watermelon being something good and my carrying it being a good thing.

He was clearly saying that I, being female, was made by my sexist traditional upbringing, to carry a watermelon.

He was clearly saying that I, being female, was made by my sexist traditional upbringing, to carry as in to bear a heavy load, the watermelon.

He was clearly saying that I, being female, was made by my sexist traditional upbringing, to carry as in to bear, something watermelon-like: babies.

He was clearly saying that I, being female, was made by my sexist traditional upbringing, to carry  watermelon, meaning to bear children.

He was clearly saying that I, being female, was made by my sexist traditional upbringing, to bear children and watermelons, a symbol of my undereducated small-town farming culture.

He was clearly saying that I, being female, was made by my sexist traditional upbringing, to bear children and produce such as watermelons, symbolizing my undereducated small town, and that I was in character both water-like, a reference to baptism and fundamentalism, and melon-like, soft and mushy, a reference to my simple and naive understanding of the world.

He was clearly saying that I, being female, was made by my sexist traditional upbringing, to bear children and produce such as watermelons, symbolizing my undereducated small town, and that I was in character both a fundamentalist and simple and naive . . .

Looking back what is clear to me is that the only time I have been made to feel oppressed was by someone with heady ideas and long-winded postmodernist theoretical rhetoric who, after all should have carried his own watermelon.

(This post can mean anything you want it to mean).