When my first daughter was born eleven years ago, she was very slightly jaundiced. The doctors asked us to bring her back in to the hospital just a few days after birth, to do blood tests and make sure all her levels were acceptable.  I still remember laying my little bundle down on the table for the sweet nurse to prick her tiny heel and gather the blood necessary for the lab work.  She held my little one’s struggling foot in her hand…then asked me to help hold the baby….and once she finally managed to get the sample, she looked at me with wide eyes.  “She is strong,” the nurse informed me.

Little did we know….

At four months, I was so exhausted from simply surviving her presence that I chose to take her to the Mom’s Day Out where I was taking my two-year-old son once a week. Looking back, I’m slightly horrified–she was four months old!  But I remember my desperation for any kind of break from the crying.  There was the colic; you could set your watch by her: at 5PM, everything fell apart and it didn’t stop until around 9:30. But there was also, simply, the crying.  The “I’m never happy….what will you do to keep me happy….that worked for ten minutes but now I want something new” crying. Her first day at Mom’s Day Out, she came home with a note from her caregiver:  “She certainly knows her mind!”  That’s an understatement.

The tantrums of her toddlerhood.  The violent frustration that might show up unexpectedly, at any moment.  Scrolling through “Your memories on Facebook” recently, it revealed that at age four we had a conversation:  “Are you going to go upstairs now, get dressed, and get out the door at a reasonable time?  Or are you going to have a screaming fit, spend all your time crying hysterically, and finally give up and get dressed?”  Her response?  “Yeah, let’s do that.”  Sigh.

I don’t need to go on, do I?  Because if you have a strong-willed child, you know.  You have your own stories, probably even bigger and larger-than-life, that you’re dealing with daily.  The draining, depleting kinds of stories.

Can I tell you something?  A strong-willed child looks quite different at eleven.

It looks like a kid who sings in six choir performances during the Christmas season….with undiagnosed bronchitis.

It looks like a kid who is teaching herself to play the piano.  Each time she turns the page to a new song, she struggles a bit, and growls a bit, and each time she sets her jaw and works until she’s got it.

It looks like a kid who plugs along, doing the things that need to be done, until she finally admits that her ear hurts a bit….and is informed by the doctor that she has a double ear-infection and a blister on one eardrum.

It looks like a kid who, in fifth grade, is wrestling with questions I only took on in high school and college.  What do people mean when they say God spoke to them?  What does it mean to follow Jesus with all my heart?  What does “giving all my life to God” look like?  (A small sampling of our conversation over my coffee this morning….)

It looks like a kid who will find a way to make things happen, instead of rolling over and playing dead when she’s told they can’t.

I remember joking, when she was tiny, that someday this stubbornness might be a good thing. I think, maybe, we may have reached that point.

So to all the parents of strong-willed little ones who are pulling their hair out with frustration and exhaustion:  it gets better.

These kids of ours may very well end up doing something magnificent.

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Why I left Facebook

February 19, 2017

Last Thanksgiving I decided I was pulling the plug on Facebook for awhile.  The holidays were underway and I thought, for my own sanity’s sake, that I didn’t really want to see all the picture-perfect photos of everyone’s picture-perfect celebrations when there were still occasional days in our house where my child’s depression won, and everyone would fall apart, like a domino run, one after the other.  Obviously, the election played a part in my decision, too, but at the time my choice was less politically motivated and more out of self-care.  I had enough on my plate without having my nose rubbed in everyone else’s apparent happiness.  Our days were improving, and I wanted to enjoy that to the fullest, instead of getting pulled into the comparison trap.

I still logged in once each morning to clean up notifications and to check the “Your Memories on Facebook” page.  As a homeschooling mama, I belong to a ridiculous number of groups, who are always hosting a ridiculous number of events; I did feel the need to check in occasionally there.  And as someone who tends to use FB to chronicle the fairly mundane day-to-day life taking place under our roof, the memories were wonderful to look through and laugh at and sometimes share with the kids (and to remind myself that happiness wasn’t always this tenuous).

No news feed.  No sorting by most recent.  No so-and-so liked this or so-and-so shared this or random ads for….why would you think I’d want an ad for this?

Can I tell you something?  It’s been really pleasant.

Fast-forward to now, about three months later.  As I’m reading in Psalms, I come across verse 14 in Psalm 34:  “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”  I stopped to really consider those words, and it occurred to me that they summed up what had been happening over this past accumulation of weeks.

Depart from evil.  No, I’m not saying Facebook is evil.  But the feelings that get stirred up in me, from the political posts or the comments or the “shares” that haven’t been fact-checked; or the envy that crops up when I see someone else doing or getting something wonderful…..those feelings can be pretty ugly.  And I’ve been gradually leaving those behind.

Do good.  Guess what?  When you aren’t sitting and scrolling through your news feed constantly, you can get more done.  Add that to how much better I feel since I’ve left, and more of what is “getting done” is full of good.  (Please also note:  “getting done,” with a three-year-old in the house, sometimes looks like “playing kitty dollhouse.” That’s allowed.  I’m not talking about business productivity here.)

Seek peace and pursue it.  That’s exactly why I left in the first place.  Facebook did nothing to help my peace.  All it did, in various ways, was stir up stress and anxiousness in me.  It’s not in the business of creating peace; that’s not its job.  (Now, that’s an interesting question: what exactly is its job?)  Turning away from it has helped increase my peace dramatically, and allowed me to pursue things that contribute to peace even more.

Let’s be honest….now more than ever we are a people in need of peace.

 

 

I love our house.  God blessed us with a home that has met needs we didn’t even know we were going to have when we moved in.  It has been flexible enough to allow my husband to work from home, and still had space enough to welcome our third child.  Somehow its four walls managed to expand and allow two foster children to move in, and now it’s relaxed back down to contain a more comfortable three-kids-and-two-dogs family. But I admit to stalking houses not even a mile south of us.

Mere blocks away there are houses that back up onto a forested creek.  I’ve said, repeatedly, “I love our house….if I could only pick it up and set it down in the middle of the woods!”  (Which is, frankly, ridiculous.  Part of the appeal of this house when we bought it was the yard full of mature trees.)

But if you drive home “the back way” there are rows of homes surrounded by trees, with no real backyard neighbors but the creek.  A range of homes, too:  yes, there are a few cul-de-sacs of high-end pricey ones we could never afford, but there are also some really reasonable ones that we could.  If, by chance, we ever decided to move again.  And yes, I was frequently stalking those houses, thinking about moving.  (Because now that things have settled down, let’s stir things up, right?)

It turned out that our Sunday School class’s annual Super Bowl party was in one of those houses.  This couple was newer to our class, and when the address was sent out I almost burst out laughing:  we’re practically neighbors!  (Truly:  my husband and son walked home that night.)  I was going to get a little taste of what it might be like to live in one of Those Houses.  I wondered if I’d end up envious.  Or maybe if I’d end up with a lead on a potential home for sale?

Instead, I ended up with a near panic-attack.  A truly beautiful home, with a small, scenic backyard…that dropped off sharply into the creek.  My evening was mostly spent keeping tabs on the three-year-old:  Where’s the baby?*  Is she back outside?  I need to go check.  Wait. No.  She’s here.  Where is she now?  I think she’s downstairs.  Maybe I need to check?  There she is. Etc.

For three hours.

I joked with my husband later how glad I was that we had that experience.  I could just see us, led on by my glorious rustic imaginings of barefoot big kids playing in the woods and wading in the creek, moving into one of those homes, and then immediately being hit by the reality of a three-year-old who doesn’t swim.  Oh, my word….what have we done?

I hereby choose to shift my focus onto gratefulness:  for a home that I love, for a (relatively) large yard the kids and dogs enjoy, and for the fact that when my youngest wanders out back unattended I don’t think twice.

 

*Yes, we still refer to her as “the baby.”  I think it has to do with the age difference in the kids:  we have “the bigs” and we have “the baby.”  Please bear with me…surely at some point we’ll decide on a new nickname.

Don’t just stand there….

February 19, 2016

We celebrate three years of homeschooling today.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the chaos, stress, and upset leading to our “we don’t really have any other choice” decision.  It was the hardest choice I ever had to make.  It has also been by far the best.

Originally published March 2013

*****

I wrote this post months ago; it’s been sitting as a draft because really, it didn’t fit with any of my usual topics.  But when it happened I wanted to make sure to write it down; to remember the moment.

Now, months later, it’s hitting me in a completely different way:

Recently I sat at our kitchen table, eating dinner with my family, when a flash of feathers caught my eye.  That in itself isn’t all that strange; I’ve very strategically positioned a bird feeder outside one of our windows so when I sit in “my spot,” I can see the birds.  It was the motion of the wings I found odd:  a frantic flutter, then stillness, to the point where I would think the bird must have flown away.  But then the frantic would begin again.

I continued to sit and eat dinner, but thoughts began to nag at me.  Maybe something’s wrong, they started.  Maybe it’s hurt.  Maybe it’s stuck.  Stuck?  The bird feeder hangs from a “feeder holder” that clips to our deck; an arched piece (that ends in the hook that holds the feeder), is attached to a straight rod, which fastens to the deck rail.  It was possible, I began to think, that maybe the bird got his foot caught between where the two pieces of metal meet and overlap.

That’s ridiculous.

Well, maybe.  But still possible.

The movement would be so still for so long that I would think it was gone, then it would rouse up again; and finally, once I finished my dinner, I joked that “I’m going out to see what on earth is going on out here.”

The bird–it was a nuthatch–was stuck, but it wasn’t his foot.  It was his head.  I wasn’t ready for the panicked feeling that welled up in me when I saw this tiny, tiny creature freeze in fear and stare at me, his neck wedged between the two pieces of metal.  (Never in a million years would I have guessed the gap was big enough to fit a bird’s neck, even one as small as this one.)  My head was spinning as I slowly approached to try to lift the little one.

Nothing prepares you for the sheer nothingness that is the weight of a bird.  I’m amazed each winter as I watch them walk on the snow; I know in my head that they are weightless and fragile, but until you pick one up, you truly can’t imagine.  He was perfectly still as I cupped my hands around his little body and slid him slowly, carefully, up and out from in between the cold of the metal.  The moment he was free, he flew away.

I went back inside ready to cry.  What if I hadn’t gone out?  What if I hadn’t seen him at all?  What if he’d been stuck there….how much longer could he have been stuck there, without permanent damage?  And then….how many times do we not act on a “hunch?”  On a thought, on a feeling, on a suspicion?  How many opportunities have been lost because we failed to do something, however small?  What permanent damage has been done because I’ve chosen to ignore the nagging voice in the back of my mind?

Just some things I’m thinking about today…

 

That last paragraph…acting on a hunch, what permanent damage has been done, failing to act, ignoring the nagging voice in my head…..It occurred to me today that all those things perfectly sum up our decision to start homeschooling.  I’m tired of just standing there.  I’m doing something.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2013

We sing the songs every year. We know them all by heart. But do we ever really think about the words anymore?

God and sinners reconciled.

The glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love.

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Let every heart prepare him room.

I add to that words I discovered today:

…he came from heaven to earth that he might send us from earth to heaven. –W. Dyer, from a selection in The 25 Days of Christmas

May these words be real to you today!

It is Christmas. We have an almost-eight-month-old. It’s a bad combination.20131215-154413.jpg

As we started decorating for Christmas this year, I forced myself to scale back. Partly because of the knowledge that the baby could start crawling at any moment, and how much time do I really want to spend chasing a baby?

Also, though, because of the hassle.

Isn’t that awful? To look at these things as a hassle? But when I pulled out the lights we usually hang with our garland on our porch, and half were burned out, I didn’t even bother. I just piled everything back in the box and thought maybe next year.

The tree is up. The Nativity scene is up. The Advent calendar is up. The wreath on the door is up. I checked in with my oldest as I was reigning it in, and asked if there was anything else he Really Wanted to put up; if there was anything he would Truly Miss if it wasn’t out. Verdict: the light-up houses. So we set up our seven little Dickens’ Village houses on top of the piano and I put them on a timer so I didn’t even have to turn them on in the morning. Then I put my red glass hurricane candleholder on the kitchen island and called it good.

That doesn’t really sound all that simple, I know. It’s scaled down for us.  I’m looking at this year as a test: will I miss it? If I don’t get it out, if I don’t put it up, will I even care that it’s gone? If I don’t miss it, am I prepared to send it out the door before next Christmas rolls around? Will I really miss all the “stuff?”

Well…yes.

I made it a full week before I decided I really wanted the garland hanging on our stair banister. Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten used to it; it’s been with us through the last two houses. That’s almost ten years worth of greenery hung with red tartan plaid ribbons.

Now we’re driving through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights, and I’m feeling like a Scrooge. We usually have candles in all our front windows, and I hang a little greenery with white lights on our small front porch. The practical side of me is screaming, she’s going to start crawling! You don’t want to have to watch all those cords! You don’t want to have to deal with burnt out bulbs! But guess what? I really, really miss our lights. A wreath on the door just doesn’t cut it.

And honestly, if you’re going to have anything on display at Christmas, shouldn’t it be lights?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…–Isaiah 9:2

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:4-5

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… –John 1:9,12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.–John 8:12

I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness –John 12:46

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light… –Ephesians 5:8

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…–I John 1:7

The Lord is my light and salvation–whom shall I fear? –Psalm 27:1

Yes….even if you’re going to have a scaled-down Christmas, you should probably keep the lights.

 

 

Stupid time change….

I’m noticing more people have finally realized that even though “fall back” is supposed to mean an extra hour of sleep, it means just the opposite for those with small children.  While everyone else is looking forward to the shift, those of us with little ones know it means absolutely nothing besides now the kids will be up at five instead of six.

What I failed to consider was how the evenings would look.  We have a baby who goes to bed at six o’clock at night; on a really good night I might be able to keep her up until six-thirty.  Now, with the end of daylight savings, I have a baby that really wants to go to bed at five.

I know it will only take a few days to get her back to where we were (or at least close to where we were), but today I thought we had hope because she’d taken a third nap and slept until four in the afternoon.  Four!!  Making it until six should be easy; it’s only two hours!

I should have known when she woke up screaming that it wasn’t going to work.  We made it through a very high-maintenance evening (please know, she it not a high-maintenance baby!!) and finally, with dinner over, I was facing clean-up.  She was done.  DONE.  Unfortunately, my husband was done, too, as he was working overtime and had to disappear into his “office” in the basement.  I plopped the baby down in the living room with her bucket of toys, handed her a few of them, and kept talking to her as I ran back to the sink to at least get the leftovers put away.  Dirty dishes could wait, but I wasn’t risking losing leftovers to a sneaky (and astoundingly agile) dog.

Ravioli dished out and put away:  check.

Garlic bread stacked up and put away:  check.

Every last pot, pan, and plate piled in the sink away from potential puppy disaster:  check.

I raced back into the living room, where the baby had never really stopped crying.  I took one look at her and every last ounce of irritation melted away from me as I realized she had managed to reach over and around every single toy I’d attempted to appease her with….and grab her blanket.  There she sat, thumb in her mouth, blanket pulled to her cheek, tears still running down her face.  My poor, exhausted baby!

As I rocked her and nursed her that night I thought about how even a six-month-old knew exactly what was most important to her.  How even she, as an infant, was able to cut through all the “stuff” and reach for the one thing she knew would help.  She didn’t want any of that other “stuff;” she wanted That One Thing that was her comfort; that would get her through until her struggle was over.  She wanted her blanket.

What’s your One Thing?

There’s no thirsting for the things
Of the world—they’ve taken wings.
Long ago I gave them up, and instantly
All my night was turned to day,
All my burdens rolled away.
Now the Comforter abides with me.

He abides, He abides.
Hallelujah, He abides with me!
I’m rejoicing night and day
As I walk the narrow way,
For the Comforter abides with me.

–from He  Abides, Herbert Buffum

How did I get here?

October 23, 2013

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
wife
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?

–Once in a Lifetime, The Talking Heads

This is the song that keeps getting stuck in my head lately, all prompted by a moment that hit last week.

It was late morning on a gorgeous fall day, where the weather is unbelievably perfect and the kids had (wisely) elected to do their reading outside. My son came bounding in and excitedly (yes, excitedly!) launched into his description of what was happening in the book he was reading.

And that was when I was struck, almost physically, with a growing awareness of the absurdity of the entire situation.

I am forty years old, standing in my kitchen, in a county I swore I’d never live in, wearing a baby, listening to my son talk about his reading while his sister reads outside, with homeschool work all over my kitchen counters, and my pharmacist husband working from home in the basement (not in any Walter White way, I swear).

Did I mention I was wearing a baby?

How did I get here?

What’s that quote? Man proposes, God disposes? I’m a planner. I had a plan. I had my life all pretty well mapped out: graduate, live on my own awhile, get married, have babies, adopt some kids, send them all to school and then turn into one of those moms who volunteer incessantly. All of this was to be completed by the time I was thirty. (I do realize my numbers don’t quite add up…I was never very good at math.)

What’s funny, though, is that I wouldn’t trade this. I love this. I love the kids home, I LOVE the hubby home, I (obviously) love the baby….so while I’m not really sure how I got here, it’s proof that I can trust the One who brought me.

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Forty years & five months

Over the course of the last year I’ve had the opportunity to peek into at least three different nurseries of three different mothers, whether in real life or through photos on Facebook.  It wasn’t until the third that I really noticed it:  this vaguely familiar feeling; the I think I’ve been here before…but no… moment; the why does this ring a bell?  thoughts.  It all clicked when I complimented one of the moms on a wall hanging and she said, “Thanks!  I found the idea on Pinterest!”

Aha!  That’s it.  Everyone had taken all the same ideas and made them their own:  each room was different; and yet, each room was sort of the same.

Well, I’m not on Pinterest.  I waste enough time online without needing to get sucked in to something that I fully recognize could take over my life.  So the baby’s room fails to meet the “shared on Pinterest” criteria.  But….the baby’s room is done.  It’s actually completed (even though it didn’t get painted until she was three months old).  Back in January I wouldn’t have guaranteed any of that.  And last fall I was a basket case, because, as I kept having to tell people, we have nothing.

“Wow!  Your other two are really old!  Do you even have any baby stuff left?”  That was pretty much the response of pretty much anyone who talked to me about our little surprise blessing.  And my response, to each of them, was always the same:

No, we moved when my daughter was two and didn’t want to move all the baby stuff since were weren’t having any more…..all we have are two umbrella strollers.  We don’t even have a crib–it broke in the move.

Then my response started to change.

It started with a sweet friend from church asking me if I had any maternity clothes.  No, and I was loathe to buy them, knowing I’d never wear them again.  So in came three bins of clothing for me to use, completely free; originally on loan but (after some thoughtful consideration 😉 ) simply given.  My entire maternity purchases were a few pairs of jeans from Goodwill.  (I hadn’t even known there was a maternity section at Goodwill.)

Next up:  dinner with my college roommate and her husband.  She asked about our adoption plans, and when we told her–as we’d told our caseworker–that we had a “situation,” she got it immediately.

“A growing situation?” she asked. Yep.

“Do you even have any baby stuff?”  Nope.

She then offered us all of her baby stuff, left from her now-preschool son; after coming to the conclusion that they wouldn’t be having any more, she was trying to figure out how to get rid of it all.  (I believe her actual words were, “Back up the truck, baby….it’s all yours!”)

So a few weeks later, when another friend asked “Do you even have any baby stuff?”  I got to try out a new response:  Funny story…. By the end, I said something like, …and all we need to buy is a crib!  We have everything else we need!

To which she responded, “Do you want a crib?”

Are you kidding me?

We have acquired, to date, a crib, changing table, two changing pads (with covers), a bassinet, a car seat (plus two bases), a stroller (that works with the car seat), two baby bathtubs, one bouncy seat, one infant “seat,” one floor play mat, one swing, and numerous toys and blankets.  This doesn’t take into account the amazing amount of clothes loaned to me by my sister; from my niece, who is just over a year older than our baby girl.  And it turns out we didn’t actually have “nothing:”  I had my older daughter’s crib bedding, which I’d listed on Craigslist twice and which–somehow–never sold.  (Thank goodness it was a girl!)

I could spin this and talk about how budget-friendly our nursery is.  Or how “green” I am, with all this used stuff.  The reality, though, is that when we had a need, God provided.  When I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of starting over, especially since we weren’t planning on doing the whole baby thing again, God took care of the “stuff” situation, and helped me realize how He was present in the entire “baby” situation.

I am so unbelievably thankful to all the people who made my little one’s room.  Each and every day I see these things, and am reminded of God’s provision and friends’ willingness to help.  I can’t imagine a better way to decorate a nursery.

A quick note…..

May 20, 2013

On April 19th we were blessed with a 9-pound, 10.7-ounce bundle of little-girl joy.  I’ve spent the past month primarily snuggling a baby, homeschooling a son, and just. barely. keeping up with the house.  (I’m incredibly grateful for a Sunday School class–and a husband–that cook.)  No blogging for me, thanks.

I had a friend post something on Facebook, though, that I wanted to share.  It really hit home for me for two reasons:  first, the incredibly obvious idea–how did I miss it?–that “gluttony” doesn’t just apply to food.  (Duh.)  Secondly, the incredibly convicting idea that it’s not just about getting rid of stuff.  It’s about putting Him first, making sure He is our priority, finding out what He wants from us….letting Him fill us, so we don’t feel the need to be filled with all the other “stuff.”

I’m working on it….

The Socially Acceptable Sin, by Jason Todd