Thursday, December 10, 2009

Miss Morgan

This past Monday I lost a wonderful young friend. Her name is Morgan. Morgan was the president of the the Lambuth University chapter of AOII where I serve as the Chapter Advisor. That means that Morgan and I talked a lot. And because college students can apparently only meet at ungodly hours of the night, it means that I spent a lot of late nights hanging out with her and the rest of the women. Usually by the time the meeting was over I was too tired to actually get up and walk to my car, so I'd sit on the big red couch and listen to the girls talk and laugh. Morgan was always there.

Morgan was born with a broken heart. I don't know the details, but it wasn't in good shape, and required surgery through the years to rebuild as she grew. Last Monday she had another open-heart surgery to replace the aorta. But when the surgery was over and she was back in her room, they realized that the aorta had burst and she was losing blood. There was a second surgery to stop the bleeding, but it was too late.

I was telling the story of Morgan the other day and someone asked what her life expectancy was, and I realized that I had never thought about it. And I never thought about it because I would have never known she was sick if she hadn't told me. She was bright and shiny and passionate and funny--immortal, really. Just like the other girls in the sorority who are just exploding with potential. I never considered her life expectancy because she was just so full of, well, life. How could someone with that much life ever be defined by "life expectancy"? She couldn't. Life expectancy was irrelevant when it came to Morgan.

So you know how you say really nice things about people when they die? Well, they're all true. She was wet-your-pants funny and generous, and smart and beautiful. She loved people and she embraced her life with every ounce of energy she could muster. And she was so unassuming. I imagine she has no idea just how amazing she is...how beautiful, how good, how she exemplified everything that every young woman wants to be.

Her mother came over to the house last night to hang out with the girls--we initiated her mother last semester--and I was watching her. She's been crying for three days and she's obviously exhausted, but I watched her alternate between laughing and crying with those girls and she looked so young and so fresh....despite what she's gone through. And I think about how proud Morgan would be of her for just putting one foot in front of the other, for being willing to spend an evening with the women who shared Morgan's life even though it must feel so raw and painful. Morgan's mother says that Morgan was her strength. If that's the case, I have no doubt where Morgan got that strength in the first place.

There's no visitation because Morgan wouldn't want a somber procession of sad people around, so there'll be a memorial service tomorrow at Lambuth and a funeral service at Morgan's church on Saturday. It will be hard but healing.

I miss her so much.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It is Finished!

Before I forget, I must post my final post for NaBloPoMo! Maybe I'll get a prize! You'll be the first to know!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One Day More

Hooray for the next to the last day of NaBloPoMo! What have I learned from this? Mainly that I don't have enough interesting things to say to last a whole month. There were some things that I definitely wanted to share, and there were some things that I shared simply because I needed to check off the "I posted today" box. I'm really glad that I finally got to write about my early church experiences, and I'm grateful for the alliteration in "Friday Flashback," because the jazzy alliteration itself seems to justify a whole post dedicated to photos. But really, this hasn't been a life-changing discipline for me. Not that I thought it would be, but mostly I just like discipline for the sake of discipline. Maybe that's why I'm such a good Methodist.

So, yeah, I've learned that blogging is a good way to talk about things that I really need to get out of my system, and a really good way to remember the cute/funny/interesting things my kids say and do, but as a daily discipline it's really not my cup of tea.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My First Advent

Since I was on maternity leave during Advent 2005, this is actually my first time to journey through Advent as a pastor. That's not exactly earth-shattering, I realize, but I feel like I'm finally getting to catch up on something I missed out on before. I did have to preach one week of Advent while on leave as it was required for my ordination process, but it still didn't feel very Advent-y to me. So I'm looking forward to it. That, and an early bedtime tonight.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback Friday

Two years ago at this time my dad was retiring from his lifelong job at the US Army Corps of Engineers and had a great bash.

We had an almost new baby in our house.

And because that wasn't challenging enough, we also brought home 18 more babies, too.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Girl Child

Whoever said that girls are easier than boys either never had girls or never had Clare. We've reached a new peak of independence. Tonight when I asked her to go get the green comb from my bathroom so that I could comb her hair, her brother got to it before she did and brought it to me. She squealed, whined, took it from him and RAN BACK TO MY BATHROOM WITH IT so that she could bring it from the bathroom. Later, when I picked out some socks from the pile of clean laundry in the middle of the hall, she squealed, "I DO IT!", took them from me, put them back in the pile, and retrieved them again on her own.

And to think that we're actually trying to potty train this child. There's a way to use this to our advantage, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Am I Thankful For?

Well, in no particular order, there's him:
And him:
And definitely her:
And him:
And them (and their families...turn around, Gina). That's my momma on the far left.
And her and all of her people:
And them:
And this:
And them:
And lots and lots of that:
And so, so, so much more. Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Love's Liver

Jay had his every-six-months appointment at Vanderbilt today. The good news is that he hasn't gotten worse. The bad--or maybe expected--news is that he hasn't miraculously recovered. He and his doctor talked about statistics and waiting times and survival rates--what fun! But other than that nothing was new. He's supposed to go back in another six months unless his lab results show something unexpected.

I don't know that either of us would have expected this Thanksgiving to be so normal. Last Thanksgiving we had a houseful of family and friends who came to celebrate with us because, as far as we knew, that Thanksgiving might have been his last. We were still waiting to get an appointment at Vanderbilt, and none of Jay's other doctors were willing to hazard a guess as to how long Jay would make it before needing a liver. So we all crammed in our little house and ate and played and stayed up too late and made the best of everything.

This year our crowd will not be so crowded, and that's OK. It means that, as of right now, we aren't preparing for the worst. And for that I am thankful.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Little Man

Joshua, Clare, and I went to the doctor today for Joshua's four-year-old checkup. He weighs 38 pounds and is over three feet tall (I don't remember exactly). And while height and weight and head circumference used to be the focal point of these checkups, today I was taken by Joshua's interactions with doctors and nurses. He was cooperative and helpful, and he the tear that was forming in the corner of his eye when the nurse took a little blood from his thumb never made it past his eyelid.

He answered most of the questions this time. I just watched him interact. I know I'm his mom, but I was pretty impressed. I guess this is what it's like when your little boy grows up!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

300!

Because I have nothing else interesting to say, and because it is almost midnight, I will simply celebrate that this is my 300th post!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Flashback Friday...on Saturday

Three years ago we were just getting settled into our new house. We planted a garden and, soon after, found out that I was pregnant with Clare.
These are our greens.
Joshua hanging out while I picked greens for supper.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving

Jay and I are working on the old Thanksgiving menu. We feel like we've covered just about every option in the book and are going back to good old turkey, dressing, gravy, rolls, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (because what good is an eat-everything holiday if you can't somehow incorporate processed junk from a can?), and sweet potatoes. Oh, and pumpkin pie and apple cobbler, of course

So what are the Thanksgiving staples you can't live without?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Three Reasons Why My Son Lived to See Another Day

Joshua has been, shall we say, nap resistant for the past little while. I put him down for a nap and, regardless of how exhausted he obviously is, he gets back up and visits me in my office while I'm working. I discovered today that he actually enjoys the part where I chase him back to his room, even though I'm usually yelling at him all the way. This time I toned down the yelling--like I didn't at all--but I took my anger out on his door when I slammed it shut. But, of course, back he came. It's a wonder he lived, but he did. Here's why:
  1. I put myself in time out. Oh yes I did. I locked the door to my room and decided I didn't care what he did. Turns out he played with Legos. And I calmed down.
  2. When I finally opened the door, he came in my room, folded his clean underwear, and put it in his drawer. All without being asked to do so. And I smiled a little bit.
  3. He came back, stood in front of me, and indicated that he needed to use the potty. I said, "Do you need to use the potty?" And he said, "Nope. I'm just touchin' my penis." Except that he said with drawl, so it sounded like, "Nope. I'm just touchin' mah pay-nis." And I laughed.
And he lived.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Church-Related Injury

Without sounding too much like Pollyanna, there is part of me that is grateful for my experience in this particular church, even the bad stuff. I imagine that there are plenty of Christians who have wonderful, formative, and transformative church experiences without ever feeling rejected or unwelcome, and that is, of course, wonderful.

But part of me is grateful that I know what it feels like to be rejected by the church. I think that it can enhance my own ministry and make me better able to sit with people who have been shown the door like I was. And it also helps me remember that people can do the most damaging things with the best of intentions.

Are there any other church-related injury stories out there that anyone wants to share?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Then the Bitter

I didn't go to church much while I was away at college, but I always went back to my this church when I was home during breaks. One of the very last times I went was the Sunday after I graduated from college. I had decided to go to seminary to get an MDiv with a specialization in Pastoral Counseling, and I was so excited to tell my church family my plans. Jay was with me. It was one of the first times--if not THE first time--that he had ever been to my church. He didn't grow up going to church and might have been a little leery of the whole thing, but he went with me because he's a good sport.

All was well until the service was over. I had told a couple of people about my plans before the service had started, and apparently word had spread. Jay and I were standing up, getting ready to leave our pew, and I was sharing my news with a few other people. As we headed toward the door, a group of four or five church elders came toward me. They literally back me up against a pew and formed an arc around me. I don't remember their exact words, but it was clear that not only were they not pleased about my decision to go to seminary, but they were also very concerned that I was a) going to a Methodist seminary, and b) going north of the Mason-Dixon line to do so. In fact, I've never been clear about their primary concern because I've only ever been able to hear the sound bytes in my head:

"They'll just tear your faith down and leave you with nothing."
"How can you think this is a good idea?"

Mostly I just remember the panic. And, of course, the fabulous impression this was making on my soon-to-be-fiance whom I wanted so badly to love these people as much as I did.

I laughed it off and went home. That afternoon I got a phone call from one of the women in the church telling me that there was going to be reception after church that night for high school and college graduates. Since I was, in fact, a graduate, she invited me to come. Big mistake.

Jay and I went back to church that night. We were eating some cake, visiting with some folks, not worried about much, when the pastor came over to "talk." He asked me by what authority I had made the decision to go to seminary (I'm still not sure what that means), if I was familiar with the seminary's statement of faith, and if I had done enough research about the school to make a good decision. This line of questioning was not pastoral; it was accusatory and humiliating and demeaning. And it still makes me question whether he took issue with my choice of school or my choice to go to seminary as a woman. I'll never know.

I cried. I sat in my chair and bawled. Jay sat in his chair and boiled. There were plenty of people who tried to be comforting, but the best offer anybody made was that maybe I should go to a more evangelical school in Boston, as though the draw of the school was its location and nothing else. Unable to stand anymore, we left. For the last time.

I went to a few Bible studies that summer, but I never again stepped foot in that church. The last Bible study I went to had the leader asking the rest of the group for suggestions of steps I could take if asked to, say, give answers on a Theology test, should the "correct" answers be at odds with "what I really believed." Yeah, I was done after that.

It has taken a long time for me to realize that those men who approached me were really doing so out of concern. Maybe not for me, but they were nonetheless concerned. Maybe they were concerned that my decision to stray from what they believed was right was somehow a reflection on the church, somehow an indication that they had failed to teach me the right thing. As a parent now, I get that. That doesn't make it right, but I get it.

And the twist of the knife came when Jay and I were living in California. I received a package in the mail from someone from that church, I don't even remember who anymore. It announced a retirement party for the pastor, and requested that everyone create a scrapbook page of sorts for him and his wife. It took every ounce of my being not to take that scrapbook page and pour all of my hatred and anger and hurt all over it in pictures and in words. It's hard to believe that someone there knew how to find me all the way in California, but never tried to make any other connection.

So it hurts to look at those pictures I mentioned a few days ago. It hurts because it's like looking at a family that stopped loving me, that made it clear that I wasn't welcome to come back until I decided to play by their rules. And yet, even that experience has clarified my call to pastoral ministry: My church had it right, to a point. Where they stopped loving, I want to continue. Where they were humiliating and demeaning, I want to be gracious.

That church showed me the very best of what a church should be, and the very worst of what a church can be.

Monday, November 16, 2009

First, the Sweet

When I was in 5th grade or so, my parents decided that we should start going to a new church. The church that we had been attending had no kids my age and it was about a 30 minute drive from our house. I was already attending AWANA at the church were we ended up, and it was only 5 minutes from home, so it seemed a logical choice.

I loved that place. I was there every time the doors opened, and if I wasn't there, I wanted to be. As I was looking at the pictures that I mentioned yesterday, I saw the faces of so many people who loved me and nurtured me and helped me become the person I am now (although I imagine some of them would be mighty concerned about the person I am now). They were funny and generous and kind and giving and warm, and most of them realized that they needed to be the village for the young people in the church. The adults in that church were our prayer support when we went on mission trips, many of them were our mentors, and they all sincerely cared about who we were and what we were up to. They wanted us to be the best people we could be, and they wanted us to live our faith. But they weren't single-minded about church. Many were just as interested in what we were learning in Algebra as whether we could recite Psalm 23. I felt at home there, and I knew that I could trust any one of those adults with anything I was feeling or thinking. If every kid could have a village like that, the world would be a much better place.

Our youth pastor was amazing. He was a single guy, but not in an immature, "I've got too much to do before I settle down"kind of way. He believed that he was called to singleness so that he could focus on serving others through the church. And he did. We went on amazing mission trips and we had great outreach activities. He didn't give us a pass because we were young. We were expected to serve the church and serve others and to be serious about it. He expected us to study the Bible and be able to articulate what it meant for our lives. And he loved us. It was clear that his whole heart was dedicated to making us disciples.

So I wanted to be at church when I was growing up. The people there were the very best of what we hope others think of when they think "Christian." In my ordination papers I talked a lot about my love of this church and their love for me, and how much that love influenced my decision to go into pastoral ministry. I wish that every person who ever darkened the door of a church could have (most of) the kind of experience I had there. And my hope as a pastor is both that I can be part of creating that kind of church, and that I can help churches learn how to be that kind of church.

But there is bitter with the sweet.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Memories

I just happened upon a collection of 150+ pictures from the 50th anniversary celebration of the church where I did a good bit of my growing up. So many of the faces are the same, albeit with a little more gray hair and a lot more kids. And I'm amazed that a place that caused so much pain for me can also hold so many sweet memories. I can't process much more today due to sheer exhaustion, but I imagine I'll have more to say soon.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Birthday Party


Today was Joshua's fourth birthday party, and boy were we ever lucky. Joshua had invited four friends whose families would also be coming, of course, and the weather was unbelievable. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining...it was great. That was a good thing since 24 people would have never fit into my house.
So we played outside, went on a scavenger hunt, ate good food, exchanged books, opened a few presents for Joshua, and had some cake. The best part was being surrounded by my village. The friends that Joshua chose were his friends whose parents are also good friends of Jay's and mine. They are the people whose children are precious to us and with whom we were trust our own children in a heartbeat. And of course my parents and Jay's parents were here too, which made everything as perfect as it could possibly be.
It was one of those days when I look around and wonder how I lucked out like this. How I got friends as good as these who love my children and whose children are precious to me. I trust them and love them, and their company is always good for whatever state my soul is in. I had a minute here and there to take it all in and it was good. And Joshua might've had some fun too.
This is the tree cake that Joshua requested, by the way. Why? We don't know. When asked what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday he said, "A tree cake." And there you have it.
The birthday boy's most treasured present.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flashback Friday

Joshua Christian Bernheisel, born November 13, 2005 at 10:18 a.m. 9 pounds, 5 ounces, 21.5 inches long. To read his birth story, go here.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Four Years Ago

My due date was November 8th, so I made my last Sunday of work November 6th. I made sure that the service would be covered by laypeople should I not be there on the 6th, but not to worry, Joshua had no intention of leaving. As the week wore on I stopped answering phone calls. I left the house only to eat spicy food and go on long walks. As far as I was concerned, Joshua was happy where he was and I was going to be pregnant forever, and I didn't really want to talk about it.

But there was that Tuesday, his due date. I was in desperate need of something to take my mind off the fact that I was going to be pregnant forever, so I got a haircut. When the girl who was cutting my hair asked me when the baby was due and I said, "Today," I thought she was going to drop a kidney right there on the floor. "Don't worry," I said. "He's not coming anytime soon."

Four years ago right now we were on our way to the hospital. I had been having contractions since about noon and they were getting worse, or so I thought. There would be another trip to the hospital this night, and I had no idea just how much my life was about to change.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

So I took this interim position with the understanding that it would last until January 1, and I certainly trusted that the DS would do whatever she could do make a permanent appointment by that time. The contingency plan was that if she couldn't make a permanent appointment, the church would continue with an interim until July, and I would get right of first refusal if the church still wanted me around.

Rock. Meet hard place. I was distraught, realizing how much I love this church and how hard this has been on my family. I mean, we're not suffering, but Jay and I are two ships passing in the night and my house looks like a tornado has come through--even more than usual. But what would I say if they asked me to stay. This kept me up many a night.

But an appointment has been made. There is a new pastor ready to start in January and as far as I know everyone is thrilled with the arrangement. My heart broke just a tiny bit knowing that our pastor/parish relationship would definitely be ending at the beginning of the year, but it also meant that I didn't have to make any difficult decisions. Let's hear it for no difficult decisions.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Job and a Calling (Part II)

So there I was, excited and not sure how it happened. Wondering how I could focus enough in the snippets of time I have here and there to write a sermon. Wondering how I, who hates to drive with a passion, was going to make the one-hour-each-way commute three times a week. But I was excited.

Our conversation took place on a Wednesday, and on that same day I also had a great conversation with the Chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. Between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. the deal had been done and I was thrilled. Not lazy. Not lethargic. Not dread-filled. Thrilled. I decided not to start that Sunday but instead went the next Wednesday. I spent the afternoon with the PPR chair and enjoyed dinner with the congregation, who turned out en force for potluck dinner and Bible Study. By the time I got home I was worn out. And happy. What made me even happier was that Joshua and Clare couldn't have cared less that I wasn't around. Phew.

And as I maintained my energy and enthusiasm I realized the difference between a job and a calling. Everything else I've done--or considered doing--since we moved to Jackson (other than taking care of my children, of course) has been a job. This is a calling. This gives me energy. It inspires me like nothing else has. It allows me to use some gifts that I haven't visited in awhile.

I still don't know what this means for my future, when I'll go back, whether I'll go back full-time or part-time, what kind of appointment I'd like to have. I do know this: No other experience in my life has cemented for my understanding of "call" more than this has. It is part of my soul now. I will not forget.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Job and a Calling (Part I)

It only took several months after we moved here to realize just how much the change from two incomes to one would affect our monthly budget, so I decided to pursue some freelance editing work. I would never dare call myself an Editor because there are people out there who really are Editors and I am just a poser. But I found out soon enough that there was pocket change to be made from my self-honed skills. So I have been doing freelance editing--and some writing--since January 2007. Some of it is really fun and some is tedious, but the spare cash has always been enough of a motivator to stick with it. For example, right now I am working for an HR firm and have been editing research reports. And most recently I edited the script for an eLearning course that they're getting ready to release. Like I said, some of it is really interesting.

And as my Family Leave is drawing to a close (I have 1.5 years left) and I'm thinking about what my children's educational future will look like (home school? private school? public school?), my thoughts obviously turn to my future employment. Return to the local church part time? Full time? Find another job altogether where I can have summers off like Jay does? Stick with the freelance work and hope I can get enough business to make a significant impact on our household income? I've also thought about things like teaching Kindermusik or private piano lessons. Really, there's not much I haven't considered.

The thought of doing freelance editing forever makes me feel wilty and uninspired. Most other options remind me of how lazy I am and how willing I am to sit and do nothing as an alternative to doing something that would require lots of effort but that doesn't really interest me.

And then my District Superintendent left a voicemail message. When I first heard her I thought she might just be asking me to fill in for a pastor for one Sunday, but then she said she had an interim opportunity until January.

That's when I surprised even myself.

I considered it.

As I look back on it now, I realize how odd it was for me to want to know more. Even now I wonder why I didn't dismiss it outright, thinking that it wasn't the right time. That I was even interested in hearing more is still dumbfounding. And yet I didn't dismiss it. I even got a little flutter in my stomach. I wanted to call her back right then, but it was late, and I thought maybe I could wait until morning.

I planned to wait until early afternoon the next day, but when I got up I realized I couldn't wait. So I begged Joshua and Clare to play quietly together while I called her back. They did. I did. I got the details from my DS and got more and more excited. So what that it was a two-point charge? So what that it was an hour away? So what that it was in a town I couldn't even find on a map?

I called Jay and asked him to meet me while Joshua was at Kindermusik. In my mind it was a done deal. The only issue I needed to resolve for myself was whether it would require outside childcare. Outside childcare would be a deal-breaker, but if Jay and I could arrange our schedules so that it wasn't necessary, then I was ready to go.

I'm still amazed by the fact that I was so energized by the prospect when every other job prospect, real or potential, made me feel tired and lazy. I'm still surprised that I didn't immediately think, "No way." It still doesn't make sense.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Preaching

My first semester of my first year of seminary I took Introduction to Homiletics, just like every other first-year student. I assumed that the professor would provide the class with marvelous insights into preaching, a dazzling array of resources, and at least one formula for crafting the perfect sermon. What we really got was a semester of stories about preaching, but no clear guidelines on how one might go about doing it well. Each week we turned in a sermon outline, and each week we turned in a critique of the week's chapel service, but feedback was minimal.

In fact, it was only about a week into the semester that the professor, may he rest in peace, called upon the first victim, er, preacher. And I made the mistake of being the first person to offer feedback-positive feedback, I might add--on the victim's sermon. "OK, Red, let's hear you next week. Psalm 51." I almost threw up. I went home and called my aunt, also a Methodist pastor, and asked her what she did the first time she had to preach in class.

"I dropped the class," she said.

Great.

I decided not to react so hastily, wrote what I thought was a passable sermon, and tried not to puke in my shoes as the day grew closer. My dorm-mates dutifully gathered in my room the night before to listen and provide feedback, and I was on my way.

As I delivered my sermon in class, my legs nearly buckled under me and my hands were drenched with sweat. I'd always had nearly paralyzing performance anxiety, and such symptoms were detrimental to a piano performance. But the beauty of that day was that I realized I could be literally shaking all over with fear and it would have little to no effect on my sermon delivery. It was horrifying, but survivable.

Despite the fact that we had very little professorial guidance in the class, I heard some of the best sermons I've ever heard during that semester: Yahweh's defeat of Baal, Jacob wrestling with an angel, mothers who incorporated their children's wisdom into their sermons, people whom I never considered particularly wise at all sharing insights that made my jaw drop. Good sermons that to this day inspire me to draw everything I can from the text. My peers were my teachers, a gift for which I am always thankful.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Shouldn't Be Like This

I woke up today with a pounding head, a sore throat, watery eyes, and runny nose. It wasn't until early afternoon that I remembered that we had missed some of the fun Homecoming activities at Jay's school. I looked forward to a nap, but Joshua decided that he didn't need one, and that what he really needed to do what interrupt me every five minutes to tell me that he didn't want to sleep. When I finally gave up on the nap to do some yardwork, I hedge-trimmed a hole right into my favorite pair of jeans. The universe seems to have assigned a rule to me that I can only have one pair of fabulous, well-fitting pair of jeans at a time, so this was only a matter of time since I just got a second great pair of jeans a few weeks ago.

Not to mention that I'm simultaneously living through the Terrible Twos and the Firing-Squad Fours and realizing that Terrible really means Walk in the Park, at least compared to the Firing-Squad Fours, which are about to make me lose my religion.

Tomorrow may be better. We'll see.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Flashback Friday

Yes, a picture post. It's a cop-out, I know, but I'm worn out.

I tried to find a picture from this time ten years ago, but I didn't have a digital camera then and I don't have a scanner now, so we'll have to settle for five years ago.

*gasp* No pictures of the children? Yeah, well, sometimes it's fun to remember our life before children.
In October 2004 Jay ran the Chicago marathon.
And in November 2004 we went to Knoxville with my dad to see UT play Notre Dame. So young, so thin, so not jaundiced, so rested.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

An Unintended Sabbath

Everything was going quite swimmingly this morning until I began--or tried to begin--my return trip home from the Y. I turned the key in my car and heard...nothing. Not even a click. I assumed that I had left a light on and run the battery down, but the solution was not to be so simple--or cheap. I called Jay, who had to take a break from making breakfast, put shoes on pajama-clad children, and drive over to the Y. He tried to jumpstart the car, but the battery wasn't dead. We headed home.

We survived the day with very little trouble, actually. Jay took Joshua to playschool and got the car towed to the dealer while Clare and I had a relaxing morning at home--definitely not our usual Thursday morning routine. Then Jay picked up Joshua from school and brought him home. Then we waited. I don't drive a standard, so I couldn't swap cars with Jay for work. And so we waited.

Fortunately, I didn't have any big plans for church. I was really just going to work in the office, so I didn't miss too much. But it took me half the day to finally be OK with not going. I'm a little A/R when it comes to my schedule, so not going to work didn't feel very good. And, honestly, my little commute has turned into a happy Sabbath itself. I've discovered that it's quite easy to carry the carafe of my new coffee maker in the car with me, so lately I've been sipping my joe while listening to the audio version of Harry Potter. It was recommended by a friend and it's quite delightful.

So I stayed home and worked on other things and hung out with Clare and, amazingly enough, didn't keel over and die because my schedule was off-kilter today. Don't tell, but I might have actually enjoyed it. Just a little. Imagine that.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

More of the Sexy

Since yesterday's post on So Sexy So Soon generated some interest (at least on FB), I thought I'd follow up with some interesting quotes and ideas from the book.

One of the things that the authors stressed is that parents are most certainly responsible for the children's behavior, but that the media isn't exactly helpful. Regarding children who parents KNOW that they're dressing inappropriately:
"...the CCFC (Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood) presented the 'Have You Lost Your Marbles Awards' to companies that employed marketing practices deemed most harmful to children. The Most Harm to Families Award was given to the advertising agency that did research on how to encourage children to nag parents to buy the products advertised. The headline on the ad company's press release proclaimed, 'The Fine Art of Whining: Why Nagging is a Kid's Best Friend.' The copy below said, 'The Newest Nag Factor Study Reveals 21 to 40 Percent of Sales of Jeans, Burgers and Other Products Occur Because a Child Asked for It.' The complete report gave marketers the information they needed to take full advantage of the Nag Factor in their marketing campaigns--all at the expense of the adults who care for the children." (74)
Like I said, parents are responsible, but advertisers sure aren't helping any.

My friend Brooke mentioned over at FB about walking around the other day and seeing tweens in short shorts with attention-seeking text on the back. The authors mention in the book a story about tweens at a sleepover talking about ways to get their parents to buy them the inappropriate clothes that they wanted. I remember having at least one friend in high school who left the house wearing one outfit and changed as soon as she got to school, so this phenomenon doesn't seem limited to tweens today.

And here's an interesting fact about why play has changed since many of us were kids:

"But the floodgates truly opened with the FCC's deregulation of children's television during the Reagan administration in the mid-1980's, when pressure mounted to get government to deregulate all aspects of industry. Deregulation made it possible for marketers to develop products for children directly linked to children's television programs. And the program-length commercial, a program made for the sole purpose of selling products, was born. More specifically, programs were now used to market toys to children that replicated everything they saw on the program." Think He-Man (36).
And moms of boys? You're not immune. All that garbage advertising to girls to convince them that they need to wear certain clothes and be obsessed with shopping and generally woo males with their appearance just serves to make boys value those things in women as well.

Yikes.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

So Sexy, So Soon by Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne

This one just sort of jumped off the shelf at me when I passed it in the library. I thought my reading it was a little premature considering the fact that my children aren't even in school yet, but it turns out that it was perfect timing.

There was nothing particularly surprising in it--advertisers know exactly how to make your children want their products; television ruins kids for open-ended, imaginative play; advertisers rely on gender stereotypes to market their stuff; you know, the usual--although I was taken aback by some of the anecdotes shared by the authors. They mostly reflected a frightening amount of knowledge by very, very young children regarding sex.

The thing that I found most helpful was the authors' insistence that there is a big difference between sexuality and sexualization, which is something I knew but needed to be reminded of. Young children are always exploring what it means to be boys and girls, and thus what it means to be men and women, and that's developmentally appropriate (except when media encourage kids to explore those things in ways that aren't age appropriate, which seems to be rampant).

It was good that I had been reminded of that today as I listened to Joshua and Olivia's snacktime conversation. Olivia asked Josh if they would get married when they grew up. He seemed to thing that was a pretty good idea. She told him that she loved him. He told her that he loved her too. Then she declared that they would be getting married because they're friends and they like each other.

Had I overheard that conversation a few weeks ago I might have been a little unnerved, wondering what had prompted such a conversation, but today I laughed (and recorded it in real time on Facebook). They're noticing what's going on around them and trying to make it make sense in their own lives. Good life skills for them; good chuckle for me.

So the book wasn't really earth-shattering, but it offered some good reminders.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Two Princesses

Jay and I decided from the beginning not to introduce the idea of Halloween until one of the kids brought it up first, and it finally happened last year. There was lots of talk about Halloween at playschool, so Joshua came home one day asking what kind of costume he might have. He decided that he wanted to be a pumpkin. Easy enough. He wasn't exactly enamored of being dressed up, and trick-or-treating wore him out pretty quickly, so I wasn't prepared for the enthusiasm with which he approached the holiday this year.
Joshua and Clare and I were in Walgreens for some reason or another this past August when we happened upon a Halloween costume display. I asked Joshua what he thought he might want to be and, without skipping a beat, he said, "A princess." Great.

Jay and I brought it up a few times, asking whether he might rather be a prince or a knight or a pirate, or something else that might afford the opportunity to wear something flowy and, dare I say, pretty. But there was no changing his mind. So there we sat in front of the McCalls patterns. It didn't take but a second for him to choose the one he wanted. And that was the end of that.

Let it be known that I have no issue with Joshua dressing up as a princess. My concern was that someone might say something ugly to him and hurt his feelings. Call me overprotective. I dare you. So we had a semantics lesson: "When you add 'ess' to the end of a word, it automatically means it's a girl, so if you dress as a princess then you're dressing up as a girl." That didn't phase him a bit, of course. He loves girls. His best friends are girls. Who wouldn't want to be a girl?

"Joshua," I said, "some people think boys shouldn't dress like girls. Someone might say something to you that isn't very nice"

"Why?"

Why, indeed.

My mother made Clare's dress first since she would be a princess too. Heaven forbid Joshua do something that she doesn't do too. When Clare's came in the mail, Joshua was nearly giddy. He loved it. In fact, he tried it on before she did. When his arrived in gold--not pink--and with fewer bows, well, something had to be done. He insisted on adding more bows, which we did, and he did many a dance around the house in his new getup.
And of course everything turned out swimmingly. He claims that some people at school told him that boys don't wear dresses, and he answered by saying that he really wanted to be a princess. On Friday at library storytime, one of the little boys tried to trade his train engineer cap for Joshua's crown, and by the time we went trick-or-treating on Saturday night I was tired of worrying and just had fun.

And so did he.

Will he hate me in a few years because I let him do it? Maybe. But it was better than watching a heartbroken little boy whose mom wouldn't let him be a princess even though that was what he really wanted to be.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaBloPoMo

I decided to participate in NaBloPoMo this month in an effort to get back into the blogging habit. It's harder than ever to motivate myself to blog now that I also write a sermon every week. And now November 1st is almost over and I just remembered that I need to post that I might not fall off the wagon on the first day. Tomorrow I'll share the story of how I ended up with two princesses for Halloween, but for now, here they are:



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Writing it Down to Remember for Later

We were at Jereme's house this weekend for the 50th anniversary celebration of the church I served in Joliet. I was a bundle of nerves and excitement on Sunday morning as I got myself and the kids ready to go. We were running late, of course, and I was doing my best to put Joshua together while he was playing one of Jereme's pinball games.

"Here, let me roll up your pants. Hold still, let me roll up your sleeves. One more thing..."

"No, one last thing," he interrupts.

"What's the difference between one last thing and one more thing" I ask.

"One means that you have to stop now and the other one means you don't."

"Where did you learn that?"

"I didn't. I just know it."

Alrighty then!


Monday, August 24, 2009

So Long, Summer!

I went to a meeting this afternoon, realizing that this was the last time--at least for a little while--that I'll be able to casually mention to Jay that I have somewhere to go and that I need him to be with the kids while I'm gone.

Tomorrow is the first day of school, and this is one of the best summers I can remember.

This is the first summer that we've felt comfortable taking the kids on trips more than a few hours away. Their nap schedules are less rigid, they're easier to entertain in the car, and they're able to appreciate the chance to go someplace new and fun.

Sure, Jay and I traveled a lot before kids, but some aspects of traveling are actually more fun with the kids in tow. Of course we don't get to have fancy dinners out, and we don't get to stay in romantic B&Bs, but we get to see the world through their eyes, and that's pretty great.

We started the summer with a mini vacay in Memphis--two, actually--and then headed to Germany for 10 days. After a few weeks of recovery we went to Wisconsin, and over Labor Day weekend we're going to Louisville to see my family and hopefully some of Jay's family whom I've not yet met.

I've loved the freedom to come and go as we pleased, to make last-minute plans without having to answer to work or school, and to think about where we might want to go next. In fact, I'm even thinking about what winter break might have in store for us.

So farewell to one of my favorite summers so far. We should do this again sometime!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Damage I'll Never Undo

The small people and I were wandering around Walgreens today waiting for Jay's prescription to be filled. We passed the Halloween costumes, which motivated me to ask Joshua what he might like to be for Halloween.

"A princess," he replied.

"What about a prince? Then Clare could be a princess."

Let me disclaim here. I have absolutely no issue with Joshua dressing up as a princess. None at all. But as my friend so articulately said when I asked what she would do if her son wanted to dress up as a princess, "I would have no problem if we were going to a party with people I knew. But if we were going out, I would be worried because, around here, there's no telling what sort of things people might say, even adults."

Joshua was sitting on Vati's lap this afternoon eating vegetable crackers while I was looking at Halloween costumes at the McCalls website. I offered multiple options: knight, prince, wizard...

"No, I want to be a princess."

"We can make Clare a princess and you can be a prince!"

Finally, an exasperated growl, "I give up! I'll be a prince!"

I almost wet my pants laughing so hard.

Now I feel bad. If a brother wants to be a princess then he should be a princess. I don't like walkin this line between letting him be who he wants to be and trying to protect him from ignoramuses who can't leave well enough alone.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Dear Clare

You almost didn't make it to your second birthday. I, in all my wisdom, decided that it would be a good idea for us to stop in Chicago on the way home from Oshkosh so that we could show you our favorite city instead of making you sit in the car for 8 hours on your birthday. And I decided that we should try staying in one hotel room for the first time--all four of us. You flopped around on your bed until 9:00 p.m. (waaaaaay past your bedtime), asking for water and moaning, "What shall I do?" because, of course, going to sleep wasn't high on your list of priorities.

But now you are sleeping and I am about to join you so that you don't fall out of bed and bust your noggin like you did the other night because I am, of course, Mother of the Year.

As much as you drive me absolutely bonkers sometimes (because we could not be more alike, except for the fact that you tan, a little detail I discovered this week), I spend most of your waking hours marveling over how absolutely charming and funny you are. Except, of course, when you're screeching with displeasure.

A few months ago I started to worry that you might not reach the "two by two" milestone, meaning that you should be able to put two words together by the time you are two. But now that you carry on conversations with your brother and frequently say things like, "Can you help me Mama?" and, "Happy Birthday to you, ceiling! Happy Birthday to you, curtains!" (which was cute for the first five minutes, but not so much after that), I guess I'll have to find something else to worry about.

Maybe it'll be your hair, which mostly looks like a little red Q-tip that's been sitting in the bottom of the bathroom drawer for two years. You don't particularly care for bows, so you spend most of your time running through the house with a mass of red curls flopping around. We can actually determine relative humidity fairly accurately based on the condition of your little Clare-fro.

Thank you for finally going to the church nursery without throwing a major tantrum, by the way, even though you still start every Sunday morning with the words, "church nursery. Mad!" We know it's just for show now, so you can stop the theatrics. Never mind. You specialize in theatics. Carry on. And keep using the word "mad" as a gerund, too, because that's really cute. Especially when, in the middle of a fit, you stop sniffling long enough to tell us that you'll "stop madding now." Thanks, kid. We also haven't had the heart to suggest that you start calling it your "bottom" instead of your "bommin," or "muffin" instead of "muffum." And don't let anyone ever suggest to you that your big brother is anything but the most fabulous little boy in the whole world. Even though you're the only person in the world from whom he'll grab things, never stop thinking that he is the one you should emulate.

Speaking of him, forgive us if we don't pick up on your gifts as quickly as we did his. He's a quick study. Give him a puzzle and a block and he's happy. We're still trying to figure you out, probably because Vati and I learn the way he learns. You still confound us. But don't think for a second that you're any less bright than he is. You've got everything in the world going for you. Most of all, you've got moxie. You'll never be a wallflower, and you'll never take crap from anyone--I still worry about Joshua getting his feelings hurt. You? Not so much. You'll be able to take care of yourself...

Q-tip head.

Happy second birthday, baby girl. You are the sunshine of my life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Little Liberating

Back in October, when Jay got really sick, we started making a mental list (followed by an actual written list, thanks to Jay) of all the things we wanted to do--our bucket list of sorts. At the top of the list was a trip to Germany. Jay spent time in Germany in both high school and college, and he has been intentional about speaking German to both Joshua and Clare in our home. So it wasn't a surprise when he said that taking the kids to Germany was really important to him. Of course the kids are too little to remember it, we reasoned, but that wasn't really the point. The point is that we will share the experience.

There's something really liberating about pushing the bucket list up a few years. We are trying to prioritize the things we want to do instead of trying to convince ourselves that we'll do things when we have enough money/when we have enough time/when the kids are older/when we'll enjoy it more. Yes, there are tons of reasons not to do it, but none of them cancels out the thought of sitting in a hospital room with Jay, thinking, "Boy, I wish we'd gone to Germany when we had the chance."

So while I am terrified by the thought of two children under the age of four suffering from jet lag, I am also somehow grateful that we don't have the luxury of waiting until X, Y, or Z happens. It's helped us to live in the present and realize the importance of having a good time together. We've always been delayed gratification kind of people, so this is a real discipline for us. One that I hope we won't ever take for granted.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Harder Than I Thought

Three years ago I was commissioned by the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church and became a probationary Elder in the conference. Six weeks later I went on Family Leave. Today marked the ordination of the group of men and women with whom I was commissioned three years ago. They have survived and thrived throughout three years of probationary membership, met together regularly to support each other, endured another round of interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry, and undoubtedly done some wonderful things in their churches. Had I not decided to stay home with my children I might have been with them today.

So I've been a little teary today as I've read their status updates and caught little glimpses of how this next step is affecting them. Had I thought about it I might have made the effort to go to St. Charles and cheer them on. They are an amazing group of men and women with incredible gifts for ministry, and their ordination today makes me hopeful about the future of the United Methodist Church--maybe we can be a church that lives up to its promise of open minds, open hearts, and open doors. Maybe we can be a church that gives hope to the cynics and that lives out the unconditional love of Christ in all we say and do.

And while I celebrate with them, I can't help but think what my life might look like if I had chosen their path. What would my life be like if I had chosen to remain in the local church for the last three years? I willingly admit that part of me feels like I'm missing out on something huge, and today more than ever I am painfully aware that my choice to stay home with my children means that I have missed out on a different opportunity. To say that I don't have regrets would be a lie. No matter how confident I am that I made the right choice, my heart still hurts a little bit today because I realize the magnitude of the sacrifice I've made.

It would be so humbling and amazing to stand with my friends today and feel the hands of the bishop on my shoulders. Some days the feeling of my children's hands in mine make up for that feeling, but for today I will sit with the sorrow that comes with choosing one path over another. And I will rejoice with my friends who will have hands laid on them and stoles placed over their shoulders, and I will thank God for the call to ministry given to men and women who want to love the world as Jesus did.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ten Years, Part II

Ten years ago, ten years seemed like a long time. Now it doesn't seem like any time at all.  Oh, we joke about how we no longer remember anything about our life in California, and it does seem like we were little kids playing house when we lived there, but it doesn't feel like we've trudged down ten years of marital journey.

I remember how hard it was at the beginning.  Jay had lived by himself for three years.  I had lived in community, but always found my own space if I needed to run and hide from the rest of the world.  Jay even bought a house bigger than we needed, simply because he knew we'd both need lots of space.  The funny thing was that we inevitably ended up squashed together in our upstairs loft space, reading the computer monitor over each other's shoulders or one of us sitting on the little futon we put up there so we could still be near each other if the one of us was working on the computer.  We had two, but Jay's was newer and far superior to mine.  And we didn't have television, so books and the internet (dialup, of course) were our only escapes.

But it was still hard to live in the same house with someone.  It was hard to coordinate schedules, to give each other space, to figure out how to communicate.  I remember getting so angry with Jay one day that I kicked an empty box on the floor and stomped out of the house to go on a long walk.  I think that was the first day I realized that I really did have the stereotypical redhead's temper.  Of course I don't even remember what we argued about now.

I look back now and I wonder what the heck we thought we were doing.  Why we ever thought it would be a good idea for a couple of 24-year-olds to get married and go get jobs and try to figure out what to do with our lives.  Looking back on it now we seemed ridiculously young for all of that.  But somehow we have survived, and thrived.  We have had our share of adventures and have tried our very best to be good to each other and to anyone who needs the shelter of love that we can provide.  We've managed to avoid a routine.  We just keep finding new things to do and new places to go.  We've never set some sort of ultimate goal for our collective life (other than raising happy and healthy children), instead blooming where we've been planted until we feel a call on our lives to go somewhere else.  The next few years will not disappoint in the adventure arena.  We will wait and see how Jay's health progresses, and I will have to make a decision about my future as a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  But we have ten years behind us that have made us stronger and closer.  They have shown us that we can survive just about anything, and that we are ready for whatever life tosses our way.

I often poo-poo the idea that there is only one perfect person for everyone, but after ten years it seems that Jay and I actually are the perfect people for each other.  We sometimes stress over everyday decisions, but the big ones almost never require discussion. Somehow our values and priorities are so perfectly lined up that the huge decisions are a given for us.  Were we that perfectly matched before we even met, or did we grow that way over the last ten years?  I'm not sure, but I know that there is no one else with whom I'd rather share my life.  And I'm pretty sure there's no one else with whom I could share my life. Despite the difficulties, or maybe because we always seem to survive them, it's a sweet life.  God give us ten more.

Monday, May 25, 2009

You Are What You Eat

We spend a lot of money on food.  I won't say how much because it's embarrassing. 

In the spring and summer we get all of our meat and almost all of our produce from our CSA, which is more expensive than getting it at the grocery store.  But it's worth it to us to know that the majority of what we eat comes from less than 2 hours away and that we can actually go see where our food is grown anytime we like.  I never worry about foodborne illness, chemicals, additives, freshness, and I just can't put a price on that.

We also get all of our dairy products from the Farmer's Market--cheese, ice cream, and milk--plus eggs and preserves.  It adds up.

Of course we still go to the grocery store.  My list for this week includes soy sauce, applesauce, olive oil, and garlic.  And whenever possible I buy local or organic at the store.  

I've felt guilty about the amount of money I spend on food for awhile.  I've tried to get excited about clipping coupons, but I rarely see coupons for the things I buy. (Except that just this week I got an envelope from Kroger with targeted coupons that I'll actually use.  Hooray!)  And I've checked out websites that promise to help you cut down your food budget by providing meal plans, but our participation in the CSA guarantees that our meals for the week will consist of whatever shows up in two big boxes on Sunday afternoon.

Oh, the guilt.

Until the other day.  Jay and I were shopping with the kids together and I was cringing over the grocery bill.  And the light went on.  "Jay," I said, "I'm done feeling guilty about the amount of money I spend on food."  (Let me be clear here that Jay has never once criticized my food spending.)  

As I thought about it I realized that we don't waste food.  We don't throw anything away.  We hardly buy any processed food at all.  If we are what we eat, then I would much rather my kids be wholesome and fresh and natural  and vitaminy than processed and preserved and junky and sugary.  And if I have to spend a truckload of money making sure that my family gets the highest-quality food I can find then so be it.  In fact, I realized that if feeding my kids the freshest, most nutritious, most ecologically friendly food available means that I have to forgo a vacation or clothes or home improvements or whatever else, then I'm willing to make those sacrifices.  And I have.  There's a lot I'm willing to compromise on in our budget. What my kids put into thier bodies isn't one of them.

Two things come to mind as I write this.  The first is that I realize that not everyone is in a position to spend whatever it takes to feed their families this way.  And the second is that it shouldn't be that way.  When you can get three boxes of macaroni and cheese for the same price as one head of organic broccoli, and when you don't have too much to spend and a family to feed, that macaroni and cheese is going to go a heckuva lot farther than the broccoli.  

So at this point I'm stuck.  Grateful to be able to feed my family whole foods that are local and good for them...not sure what I can do within a system that leaves people less fortunate than me deciding between virtually nutrient-free food and this month's rent. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I've Been Gone Too Long--Here's Some Filler Until the Next Post

Joshua had a tummyache of unknown origin all day long yesterday.  Close to bedtime last night he complained again that his tummy hurt.  

Mama:  "Well, would you like some Mylanta?"

Joshua:  "Um, OK, I'll take some of your lanta."

Bonus:

Clare:  "Lanta!  Lanta!  Lanta!"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bittersweet

Today was Joshua's last official day of Playschool before summer break. When I walked in this morning I saw two Ziploc bags containing his emergency change of clothes sitting over his coathook in the hallway. That's when I realized how sad I was. Of course I'm looking forward to getting to be with him all day every day this summer, but as this school year draws to a close I remember how much we've all changed over the course of the year.

I questioned my decision to send him to playschool up until the night before, and even then I was a nervous wreck. I packed his Ziploc bag of 2T clothes and some permission slips in his backpack and sent him off with Jay, nearly sick to my stomach with worry that the whole thing would be a disaster. And he was fine. And he loved it. And he was so, so small.
(Clare wears these shoes now, and those shorts are so short as to be mildly obscene on him)

I remember that about six weeks into school one of his teachers mentioned that she wished he would participate more instead of hanging around on the periphery and watching everything. "That's just his MO," I said. "He'll get the hang of it eventually. He did the same thing in Kindermusik." And then his trip to Chicago in November changed everything. Somehow, some way, that trip turned him into a different person. My theory is that going off to a big city alone with Vati and hanging out with Vati's friends gave him an extra-large dose of self-confidence that has yet to subside. His next day at school, after returning from his trip, his teacher said, "We don't know what happened on his trip, but Joshua is a different person." I noticed it too. The transformation was remarkable. Same Joshua, just...more of him.

Jay had been in charge of dropping him off in the Fall, but when January rolled around it was my job to take him. I was surprised by his confidence. After using the potty and washing his hands he ran to the door of his room without so much as a backward glance. If I wanted a kiss, I had to ask for it before he disappeared into his world of little friends, paint, and dressup. When the weather warmed up enough for them to go outside, he began telling me that he played with the "three-year-olds," and it wasn't long before he started asking me if he could go to the three-year-old class. I told him he could ask his teacher, but to my knowledge he never did.

Now he knows the names of almost all 40-something kids that go to school with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays. His teachers love him and are incredulous when I mention that his behavior at home might sometimes be less-than-stellar. Of course they are responsible for much of his transformation. Oh that we all could spend three hours every day in an environment where such unconditional love and concern come spilling out the doors.

On Thursday we will attend his end-of-the-year program where we will hear all of the songs that Joshua's been singing for the past several weeks. Then he'll have two weeks of day-camp-ish activities at school.

But this is it. This is the end of his first year of school. There's no way to quantify the ways we've all changed since September, but today I am reminded of how quickly time passes and how precious each moment is. Part of me wants to freeze everything just like it is. But that wouldn't be fair to him, and it wouldn't be fair to us, so I'll just allow myself to get a little weepy as I remember that I swore I would never be "that kind of mom."

But how could I not be?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Playtime!

When we moved into our house almost three years ago we puzzled over what to do with one particular room. The previous owners used it as an office, although it appeared as though it had once been an outdoor porch that they then covered. That wasn't so bad in itself, but somewhere along the way they decided it would be a good idea to put down this hideous aqua indoor/outdoor carpeting. By the time we moved in the carpet was torn in places, probably due to the dogs who seemed to frequently use the doggie door, and the whole place just looked grubby. It served several purposes for us over the course of our time here. For awhile I used it as my office. It's been an all-purpose junk room, too, where we've just thrown all things chicken related. And come to think of it, it's also been a chicken incubation room.

But last winter we decided it was time to do something about it. We got a futon two Christmases ago with the intention of making the sunroom into a guest room, and this winter we decided to kill two birds with one stone. So Jay started putting down laminate flooring, and this weekend the project almost came to a close. We just need to touch up the paint around the door.

The total project involved tearing up the old carpet, replacing the backdoor since it had a doggie door in it, replacing the trim around the door, putting down vapor barrier, putting down the floor itself, and then installing quarter-round. It was all Jay, all the time, and tonight the kids finally got to move in!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

21 Months

Clare is 21 months old today.  In two weeks she will be the same age that Joshua was when she was born.  In the past month or so she has turned into a complete joy to be around.  Not that I haven't always cherished being with her, but her personality is just turned on full blast these days.  And I was reminded the other day that Jay and I sort of missed out on this age with Joshua because we were so preoccupied with her first few weeks of life.  That just makes watching her at this stage so much sweeter.  

She's had a lot of words for awhile, but it feels like she's become fully conversational just in the last few weeks.  "What do you want to read before bed tonight?"  "Gruffalo!"  "How are you?" "Good!"  And Joshua's favorite question: "What's the matter with you?" To which she answers, "Happy!"

She's a charmer who's never met a stranger. While Joshua has always been an observer who wants to sit back and take everything in before participating, she's the first one to try something new.  Wherever we go--storytime, playtime at the gym, mom's group--she has a hug for each of the adults she sees.  When we take Joshua to school she asks for her friends whom she knows she'll see there.  She's even started picking up on adult's names and knows that her friend Emma rides in a Jeep.  She takes her brother to the floor in wrestling matches and they seem to enjoy each other now more than ever.  Joshua, who loves church, even asked to stay in the church nursery today so that he could watch after her.  While we realize that may have been a ploy to score an extra hour of playtime, we were also glad to know that he was able to at least feign empathy for her.

She is so different from her brother, and yet I see that she has so many of the gifts that he had at her age.  She's no puzzler or Lego-er or letter recognizer--yet--but she has managed to learn to be gentle and kind to other people, quite a feat having grown up around her brother who is nice to everyone but her.  She doesn't have his attention span, but she has an unbridled joy that allows her to enjoy everything she does--except when she doesn't.  She's a little stinker--always looking to see if I'm watching her get ready to do the very thing I just told her not to do, but mostly all in fun.  

I can't believe she's almost two.  And I'm enjoying every second of it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not Worth Consuming

For the last three years I've been using All Consuming to keep track of the books I've read and the books I want to read.   So every time I hear about a book I'd like to read I just enter it under "Books I Intend to Consume." And every time I finish a book it goes under "I Have Consumed This."  It's pretty handy.  

When I log my consumption, I have the option of rating the book.  The three ratings are Worth Consuming, Wishy-Washy, and Not Worth Consuming.  Of the 58 books I've consumed in the last three years, I've only rated one as Not Worth Consuming.  A few were Wishy-Washy, but nearly all were Worth Consuming.  Sure, there were some I didn't enjoy as much as others, and some were downright painful.  But it takes a pretty bad book to get a Not Worth Consuming rating from me.  I'd like to think that most, if not all, books have something worthwhile to offer a reader.  It could be mindless entertainment or an earthshattering new perspective, but my consistent Worth Consuming ratings tell me that I've found some nugget in almost every book I've read that makes the time spent consuming it worthwhile.

So, have you read anything you deem not worth consuming, anything insanely idiotic that rendered you dumber for having read it?  (Incidentally, I think Billy Madison is totally worth consuming).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Jay and I never really talked about how many kids we wanted to have. We decided that it was time to have the first one, and then we decided that it was time to have the second one, and then Jay started getting sicker--and that was that. After we had Joshua I decided that three would be a good number. After all, I'm an only, Jay's one of two, and neither of us has experienced a family with three kids, so why not?

But I'm bumping up against "advanced maternal age," and Jay's not exactly in stellar health himself, so it just seems foolish to have another. Should things go poorly for Jay, I have no desire to raise two kids alone, much less three. And I'm feeling a little too tired to go through the newborn phase again. So although we've never had an official "We're done here" conversation, it appears that we are finished having babies. And that makes me sad. I love being pregnant, I love laboring and delivering, and I love getting to know the new little person that has come to stay. Granted, there are many things that I don't love. I don't love first trimester sickness, I don't love dealing with fussiness, I don't love the exhaustion that comes with staying up all night, and I don't like being cranky with everyone around me because I'm so tired.

But there's something terribly heartbreaking about knowing that I won't have any more, knowing that the opportunity presents itself to me every 28 days and that I am not taking advantage of it, knowing how very little it would take to make it happen again. I feel like I am squandering this gift of being able to create and sustain a life, and I am afraid that one day, when that gift is no longer available to me, I will regret not having given it another shot.

I love my children desperately. And part of me has always been afraid of what would happen if we added a third to the mix. It's been hard enough to divide my time and attention between two, and I don't like the idea of making Clare "the middle child," but the fact that the door is essentially closed feels worthy of my grief.

Joshua's Quote of the Month

This morning I took Joshua and Clare to the Farmer's Market for our weekly dairy/bread run. Standing in front of us was a man who had both a dog and some very impressive dreadlocks. Joshua and Clare were fixated on the dog--Clare was pointing and screeching, Joshua was trying to hide. The man and dog soon left, and we carried on with our normal routine.

When we got back into the car, Joshua said, "Mama, what kind of hair did that man have?"

I was surprised that he even noticed the guy's hair, as fixated as he was on the dog.

"Those are called dreadlocks. Did you like them?"

"Yes, I did!"

"Do you have dreadlocks?"

"No," he said, "but I'm curious what I would look like if I had them."

I immediately called my home phone to record the quote, lest I forget it and become very sad.

Friday, February 27, 2009

An Answer to Prayer

As part of my Lenten discipline, I have been setting aside some time every afternoon when the kids go to bed to do a centering prayer and then write some in a prayer journal. Yesterday I wrote in my journal that I needed to forgive myself for putting my desire to clean my house before my need to spend good, quality, on-the-floor-and-having-fun-time with my children. And while I recognized that I needed to forgive myself, I also prayed that I might do better.

This morning, Clare projectile vomited--twice--all over me. I spent all morning sitting in a kitchen chair, holding a bleary-eyed Clare in my lap, watching Joshua disassemble and reassemble the smoothie maker. There are three gigantic mountains of clothes that need to be put away, and I only loaded the dishwasher because Clare eventually wanted to sit in front of the open front door and enjoy the breeze for a few minutes.

Be careful what you ask for...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

I'm shamelessly stealing this from my friends at Cambridge Welcoming Ministries. It was definitely the word that God had for me today and I wanted to share it as I look forward to a long Lenten season, wondering how I am going to keep my own vows and live out my own repentance.

Come, Come Whoever You Are by Mevlana Jelaluddin Runi

Come, come, whoever you are,
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow

a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Valentine's Day

I've never really gotten into all the hype surrounding Valentine's Day. I mean, it was cute and all, and much more fun when I actually had a Valentine than when I didn't, but it was never high on my list of favorite holidays. Before kids, Jay and I usually celebrated Valentine's Day like we celebrated our birthdays: a really nice dinner out that may have also included a room at a Pricelined hotel (when we lived in Chicago). After kids, we were lucky to get each other a card.

But this year was different. I appreciated Valentine's Day so much more this year because it was a Hallmark holiday. After surviving Christmas and anticipating Easter, both of which are significant religious holidays loaded up with all kinds of other marketing garbage, it was so nice not to have to try to separate the sacred from the profane. What a relief.

I celebrated by buying as much junk from Hobby Lobby as I could find and making Valentine's Day cards with Joshua and Clare. We fingerprinted, fingerpainted, stickered, and colored our way into a whole raft of homemade Valentine's Day cards that we gave to grandparents, Vati, and Joshua's playschool class. We talked about how we like to do nice things for people we love to show them that we care about them, without any of the "Yes, but" conversations that were so much a part of Christmas.

And Jay and I even took the opportunity to spend some much needed time together. On and around Valentine's Day I heard and read a lot of people who went on about how people shouldn't have to have a special day to acknowledge their love and blah, blah, blah. But to tell you the truth, I do need that. And I think Jay does, too. We're constantly running around in such a frenzy that we need to be reminded of how important it is to take a break and just be together. So what if it's a Hallmark holiday. It was the excuse we needed to hang out together and have fun. And hopefully we'll remember how important that was and won't neglect to do it again.

If it gives me an excuse to have fun with my kids without having to spend all my time trying to help them untangle religious understandings from marketing ploys, and if it reminds me of how important it is to spend time with the guy I love for 364 other days, then I say bring it on.