Thursday, August 27, 2009

To everything there is a season

I was chatting with a friend about the constant rotation of seasons in our lives, especially as mothers of little bitty ones. It is hard to know sometimes how to balance all the needs of our family members and ourselves, and no matter how hard we try, it often winds up being a triage situation where we have to assess who's needs are most urgent in the moment.

Obviously, when our babies are tiny, they get priority. They don't have the developmental capacity for understanding or waiting that more mature members do. We have the example of Jesus, of the greater serving the lesser, as we minister to the needs of our little ones. Even so, it is important to keep in mind that in the most trying moments, when we are exhausted from yet another wakeful night or ear infection, or when our toddler's need to assert independence makes everything take longer than we think it should, that this, too, shall pass.

The last several days, the kidlets and I have been venturing out nearly every day for shopping trips and other explorations. Nearly every afternoon we have been gone for three or four hours. It has been so much fun! They have been cooperative, even when the shopping involved multiple stores and a few hours. They have left the parks and bookstores without complaint or running away. It has been delightful!

The funny thing is, just a few months ago I wouldn't have dared to take all three by myself. Even with Carlos, a trip to Borders or Barnes and Noble was a stressful undertaking of heading off potential meltdowns, trying to contain a runner, and possibly (probably) involved "helping" someone to return to the car. Had you suggested that I take all three to Walmart, I would have laughed hysterically and then shuddered for several minutes as the horror sank in.

I am really enjoying this season, where the maturity and self-control are a bit stronger, where they can think ahead and adjust their attitudes and expectations. They are growing up! (I should probably add that I have had to also work a lot on maturity, self-control, attitude adjustment and expectations!).

Knowing how much growing room I have left, I am sure that there will be new challenges in the seasons to come. I have been told by some pretty reliable people that it continues to get better, and that by the time we enter the season of grandparenting it will be even more fun! Regardless of what the next season holds for us, I want to be thankful for each one as we are in it, and to remember that it will quickly change. Even as I look forward to sleeping through the night, I know that one day I'll miss our midnight snuggles.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I've been sipping iced coffee and listening to Carlos and Elena play their own little version of Marco Polo. He hides and says, "beep" and she immediately responds with "bop" and chases him. She is passionate about this game, and will play it at any time of day or night. Even if we are at an unfamiliar place and she doesn't see him arrive, as soon as she hears the "beep", she breaks into a huge grin and answers back. She takes off as fast as her chubby little legs will go (sadly, she can pretty much outpace me, but my exercise abilities belong to another post). When she catches him, she giggles hysterically and showers him with slobbery kisses and hugs (and occasionally pulls his hair, but we are working on that).

What is interesting about the whole exchange is that, despite the extremely limited vocabulary involved, a lot of communication takes place. She calls out, know that he is calling her and that the ultimate goal is for the two of them to connect. She knows that even when he seems to be hiding from her, he really wants to be found. He is just getting her to look for him, building the anticipation for the gigglefest once she gets close.

I think God plays this game a lot with us. Sometimes when He calls out to us, we expect it to be a complicated or profound, deeply spiritual message. Maybe we are missing the point. What if, sometimes, He just wants us to know He is there? What if He just wants us to chase Him, and then laugh with delight as we are caught by Him and wrapped in His arms? Maybe we need the playfulness of little children to remind us how to enjoy our Daddy in heaven.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Makes me want to go to Mongolia--a blog post on CLW and Crosscultural Perspectives on Breastfeeding

I was fascinated by this post!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bumps and Beasties

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Traditional Scottish Prayer

I have decried the use of cry-it-out sleep training in other posts, for many reasons (yes, sorry, the pun was intentional). I believe that God responds to my cries in the night, regardless of how trivial they may be. From a scientific standpoint, flooding their little systems with cortisol is not a healthy thing. And from a purely selfish point of view, cosleeping is much easier for us than listening to a crying baby. There is another reason. Regardless of what parenting strategies you employ, there are certain things that we simply cannot force in out children. Ultimately, you just can't force a baby to sleep. I'm an adult and I can't even make myself fall asleep when I want!

Last night, after both siblings were sound asleep, our youngest was still wide awake. She wasn't crying. She was just awake. I suspect she may be getting ready for a milestone breakthrough, and I know she has been working on molars. We lay there quietly for awhile, then she kicked her leg against the crib we have sidecarred and said in a very satisfied voice, "bump". There was no doubt she felt things were too quiet and boring, and so she took the initiative to provide us with some entertainment. Every few seconds, she would kick again and repeat, "bump" in a tone of delight.

Sadly, we were too tired to show any enthusiasm for her performance. She was quiet for a few moments, and I began to drift toward sleep. Suddenly, the darkness was rent by a ferocious growl. It nearly made me jump. She continued growling and hissing for several minutes. I discarded any "Exorcist" scenarios, but I was wondering what on Earth had prompted the switch from bumps in the night to what sounded like some rather terrifying beasties. Then Carlos and I saw it and laughed. She had found Joel's plastic dinosaur and was playing with it.

That was even more fun than bumping the bed! She entertained herself for a good two hours after our usual bedtime (yawn). It was pretty cute, but I would have found it much more endearing in the middle of the afternoon. After she finally fell asleep, she woke several times (probably the molars) and several other times said something in her sleep and then giggled (milestones coming up???). I am glad that she was happy through most of it, but I really hope that there are no more beasties or bumps tonight!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to Basics

I haven't really disappeared. I've been busy, but in a good way the last week or two. School is starting this week. We're homeschooling and loving it. Ariana did over 15 pages of math today and kept begging for more. Normally, I'd like to mix it up and not just do worksheets, but how do you tell a child, "No, you have done too many pages of math exercises"? She also loved her reading comprehension book and amazed me at how easily she read the stories aloud and then answered all the questions. I am excited to see how much she loves learning, and really want to keep that alive.

I am finding that, unlike her, I have to keep going over and over and over basic things that I thought I had already learned.

Trust. God has never let me down. I know that He deserves my trust. I could recite all the Christianese platitudes. Yet, I still find myself being anxious. Last night, Ariana started telling us about some fears, and we reminded each other that God is a shield for us. We talked about David and others who had faced fears and how God defended them. Truthfully, I needed the reminder as much as she did.

We don't wrestle against other people, but against spiritual forces. I knew that the situation I alluded to in a previous post wasn't a case of human misunderstandings or even personality clash or anything else. It was simply an attack against us. Even so, I kept wanting to focus on the person who was doing it. I went through numerous arguments in my head where I expressed in precise detail the contempt, fury and intense dislike I had for this person. Not loving or Christlike, and not the right target.

I started doing the same thing with the kids, responding to a few misguided attempts at play and exploration that resulted in messes as if they were malicious, conniving attempts to strain my sanity. (We cleaned up and then refilled love cups with a bookstore-run that included the best frozen mochas we've ever had, some great stories and lots of cuddles).

I apologize that I still can't share details of the sticky situation here, but I will say that I believe God intervened today, and I hope that it has been resolved. Even if it hasn't been completely taken care of, I feel confident that it will be. I am very, very grateful for the prayers of my friends here. Thanks for caring and for your encouragement. I am so glad that God doesn't get disgusted with my need for review. He is always patient.

Sometimes, I think of things that my children or even husband "should" already know. It is easy to get impatient when it is something that we've already been over. I want to show the same generosity and patience that I have been shown. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to review the parable of the unmerciful servant while I'm at it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Misadventures in parking

This wasn't me.  Honest.  Photo credit: fuzzcat on Flickr
I used to be amused when people in church would ask for prayer for an unspoken request. I mean, I get that not everything is appropriate for sharing, but besides piquing people's curiosity, it is a little difficult to pray when you have no idea what you are praying for. One person I know simply offers up a moment of silence for any unspoken requests. :D

Anyway, aggravating as it may be, there is a situation stressing me out that I won't be blogging publicly about. However, if you have the inclination, any prayers for truth, righteousness and justice to triumph (in other words, me--lol) would be appreciated. Of course, it really isn't that simple, but anyway...

While waiting for things to be resolved on that end, it is comforting to me that even little details that have no lasting importance can come together and work out for good.

Yesterday, I took the kidlets to the aquarium and was running late to meet a friend. So I took the first available parking spot. The good news was that it was right in the front row. The bad news is that it was a tight squeeze and I was coming in from a bad angle. I am an excellent driver. Sadly, I am a terrible parker. I don't know if it is a problem with depth perception or what, but I am terrible at gauging the amount of space I have and parking in a beautifully straight line with equal distance between my van and the lines on each side.

I blame part of it on the size of our van, but really, the fault is mine, I know. As soon as I got in, I knew that I was waaaaay too close to the SUV on my right. I also knew that any attempt to back out and correct it would cause paint to scrape. At least we had the exact same color vehicle. As long as the other car just backed straight out, it would be fine. But if I tried, it would be certain doom. In case you think I am overstating the danger, allow me to add that I once ripped up the fender of Carlos' car by scraping it against his boss' house while backing out! I am still mortified, even though it was ten years ago. I acknowledge my limitations openly now.

I was hoping fervently that the owner of the SUV wouldn't happen to come out while I was there and give me an earful on the terrible parking job. Instead of an instant exit, it took a couple of minutes as I got shoes on Joel, ran a brush through Ariana's hair and then got all three kids out. I heard the unbelieving jeers and comments of a few people who passed by, but the owner didn't appear. Whew! I gathered the tattered shreds of my dignity and went inside.

While we were admiring the sharks and jellyfish, a part of me was hoping against hope that the owner of the SUV was finished and ready to leave. I weighed the possibility of getting the license plate number, having the person paged, throwing myself on their mercy and explaining my predicament. Humiliating, yes, but better than scraping paint as a last resort. But what if they left and someone else took their spot?

Eventually, even the sting rays lost the power to fascinate the kidlets and we started to leave. Though the parking lot was several yards from the door, I could see the SUV there, and my heart sank. I sent up a prayer begging for mercy. I also begged my friend to try getting the van out through the needle-eye margin. Being a truthful person, she laughed in my face and refused. Being my friend, she tried to comfort me afterward.

Then, as all hope was gone, to my utter amazement, a little old lady on a walker hobbled up to the door of the SUV, shook her head over my degenerate parking job, climbed in and flawlessly backed out. Perhaps she was thinking profane thoughts, but she looked like the sweet, grandmotherly type to just mutter 'Bless her heart," instead.

Full of relief, I walked the kids to the van and got them buckled in. As I checked the rearview mirror, I saw further evidence of the miraculous--the parking spaces behind me were empty, so I had plenty of room to maneuver. Don't laugh. The parking lot was cramped and narrow, which was part of the reason I wasn't able to straighten out when I parked originally. At this point, I was so grateful to not have to worry about misjudging distance and dinging another car.

Now, I know that many will insist that God has much better things to do than help me out of a literal tight spot. I agree. In the grand scheme of things, why should God answer a prayer for help that was admittedly frivolous when so many more important things are going on? Being infinite, He doesn't have to prioritize time and interest. He can take care of it all. Sure, it could have all been pure coincidence. Even so, I took it as a gentle reminder that nothing is too big or small for Him, that He cares, and that maybe, just maybe, He wants to encourage me to expand the scope of my prayers, for all people and situations.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Real life random bits

I've been neglectful of the blog lately, I know. Real life has been more busy than interesting, but to fill you in on what has been going on:

Allergy news--Elena gets hives if I eat eggs or pork, despite negative RAST and SPT for them. She had an SPT for some fruits that we hadn't previously tested and was positive for raspberries, which didn't surprise me since she has reacted when I've eaten them. I suspect blackberries, too, but we weren't able to test today. Although the reaction to the test was mild, she also broke out on her face, so I have a hunch that she may be more sensitive than the test suggested. At least we know. And, thank heavens, it isn't something like corn that is easily hidden in things that you would never guess. I love berries, but I can avoid them.

School news: I am getting excited about starting kindergarten with Ariana. Her reading skills are continuing to improve, and I want to make the school year fun and challenging for her. I have no doubts that it will be challenging for me! I am slightly overwhelmed with too many choices and not enough time for me to feel comfortable researching everything. Still, I am starting to get a plan in my head (and need to get more of it on the computer).

I am also trying to pep-talk myself into trusting her and me and the natural curiosity and enthusiasm that God has given us. And to remind myself that she is only five. In many countries, she wouldn't be doing formal schooling at all! And those same countries score higher than we do on many tests when the kids are a little older. Whenever I am unsure of myself, I try to compensate by controlling things even more, so I need reminders to take deep breaths and trust more.

Future posts: I really wanted to do several posts for World Breastfeeding Week. In particular, I wanted to talk about the role of fathers. I also wanted to discuss nursing in public. Well, we still have a few days of this week left, right?

I have lots of Disney pics that weren't posted here (if you are my friend on Facebook, you may have already seen them. Gotta upload them soon.

Kid stuff: They are so much fun! We've continued to spend lots of time at the splash pad. I am amazed at how much Elena loves it. Joel is still pretty cautious about getting wet, but she has a blast trying to catch each stream of water. Ariana made a new friend last night. I was excited to see her developing social skills. We spend little time with other kids her age, and while Hold on to Your Kids by Neufeld and Mate' has helped to shift my perspective (and alleviate some guilt!) about that, I want to be more balanced there.

To do list: Besides the boring and ever-present laundry, cleaning, etc., I need to find more info on classes for the kidlets this fall. I'm awaiting a reply on ice-skating lessons for Ariana, and gymnastics for Joel. I think it would be a great physical activity for them (climate controlled, too, which is a plus when our weather goes from unbearably hot to quite cold with only a week or two of autumn temps). It would also be a good way to work on the social balance I was speaking of earlier.

My own classes will start up soon. To be or not to be... Not sure yet what I will ultimately wind up teaching since so much depends on enrollment, but I'm happy with our textbook and looking forward to a new semester.

I haven't been as caught up on all my fellow bloggers as I would like, but I'm looking forward to reading your posts. I enjoy the window into your lives, and hope to share more of ours soon. Hugs to you!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Building permit

Photo by teofilo on Flickr
Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

The day we left Puerto Rico and went to Disneyworld was ghastly. I'll sum up by saying that it involved way too much time in airports, time in planes, vomit, and luggage (to haul along with all three kids). It contained way too little rest, healthy food, patience, and luggage (which disappeared for a day, leaving us with the vomited-on clothing we were wearing).

I was still grouchy the next morning. I was snapping at everyone. When I finally listened to my tone, I was appalled. See, I am pretty careful with the actual words that are used. I won't call my children or husband names or use profanity. I try to avoid shaming or hateful words. The thing was, my tone was conveying every bit of the hatefulness and shaming that my words were glossing over. And my family, like most people, got the message loud and clear.

One reason that I post a lot on grace and freedom is that a part of me takes advantage of legalism. The meanest part of me likes being able to follow the letter of the law, even when I am completely ignoring the spirit, so that I can ignore guilt.

Ariana is always the most outwardly sensitive one, and she let me know that her feelings were deeply hurt. I apologized and was graciously forgiven, but I knew that I had to make a conscious effort to not repeat it. I started thinking of all the verses that talk about letting our speech be used to build others up. I was using my tone of voice to tear them down. What if I made it a point not to say anything unless it was something that would build someone else?

So I started a little experiment. I've messed up a few times, but not nearly as much as I would have if I didn't keep this in mind. Especially when I am irritated, I try to decide if my words and tone of voice merit a building permit. The results are surprising me. Already, I've noticed that the kids are less anxious. I'm getting more eye contact from them and Carlos. The kids are having fewer meltdowns. I've been getting tons of "Mami, I love you. And I like you lots" from the kids and many more "I love yous" from Carlos, too. Which, naturally, is starting to become its own cycle of feeling happier and more loving.

The last couple of days have been really good. I think this needs to go from experiment to permanent practice. :)