Friday, December 31, 2010

The Obligatory 2010-In-Review Post

Yeah, I know. Succumbing to the peer pressure. But at least I don't do New Years Resolutions. ;)

Biggest and best event of 2010: the birth of our sweetums. Here she is now:
She is our peace child, our tranquil night rain. We all love her to pieces and can't imagine not having her in our family. One of the things that I am especially grateful for from her birth story is that confidence and knowledge I have gained about my body and birth. Yay for home births! Heather, again, a million whole-hearted thank yous!

Other important happenings, to us at least:

* Carlos' new job. We are very grateful for that, even though he is working more hours. Even with that, either he or I am almost always able to be with the kidlets. I am also deeply thankful for being able to wear the baby to class.

* Our Puerto Rico trip and Disneyworld trip. We traveled a lot before kids, and are so thankful that we have been able to continue traveling now that we have four little ones. I hope that is always a part of our lives.

* A slow but certain shift towards unschooling. We are not there yet. Traditional academic stuff is so ingrained that it is really difficult to let go. I don't know that we will ever fully unschool, but I am leaning more in that direction.

* My grandma's transition to heaven. I haven't blogged about it, but her life and death have impacted this year in many ways. I am so grateful for the beautiful inheritance I have--nothing material, but spiritual and emotional riches.

* Seeing my children grow. It is amazing the difference that one year makes. I am so happy with the little people that they are now, and excited to see the people that they are becoming. We have made so many happy, delightful memories this year together. I will never regret all our fun times together, even if they mean the house is messy or other things don't get done. Gotta remember that for this next year!

* Blog stuff and the Facebook page. My purpose in blogging has always been primarily self-centered: a way to remind myself of the things I am learning, to put it all into words. My posts are a mix of all my thoughts--spiritual (after all, all of life is spiritual), hippy-parenting-stuff, and whatever else passes through my head. Although I have had it for awhile, the last few months I have been stirred to share more. It sure isn't that I consider myself the perfect parent! It is more about encouragement and establishing my community of friends doing life together. It builds me up more than I can say to hear from all of you who peek into our life and share glimpses of yours. <3

* Trust. Connection. My most important lessons, repeated over and over in a variety of ways this year. Trust God, trust myself, trust my children. Connection, relationship matters more than anything else. Strengthen connections with my husband and my children, and love passionately without reserve.

The truth is, despite some painful times, 2010 has been glorious. I can't wait to see what 2011 has in store, and I am glad that you all are joining me on the ride!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Show Some Respect!

Yesterday I witnessed a couple of brief incidents between a child and an adult. The adult was shaming, scolding and refusing to honor the child's body-boundaries. The chief complaint? That the child had been "disrespectful". The irony was glaring.

No doubt, if questioned, the adult would have claimed that children should respect adults, merely because of their age. It was certainly expressed, although not verbalized, that children do not deserve respect, merely because of their age. I disagree with both of those, especially the latter. All people deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity. All deserve to have their own boundaries honored, especially over their own bodies.

Often what adults perceive as disrespect is simply the accurate imitation of their own attitudes. Punishing them for following our example is a bit hypocritical, no? The best way to teach children to be respectful is to show them how to treat others.

At other times, there is no intent to be disrespectful at all. Children don't always have the social sophistication to phrase things the way we consider acceptable. In this case, offering them a script of a more courteous way to express their ideas might be helpful.

Finally, disagreement is not the same thing as disrespect. If we don't give our children practice in standing up for their own opinions and beliefs in the home, how on earth can we expect them to do so outside of the home? It takes skill and practice to be comfortable going against your peers. If we want our children to think for themselves, we must allow them the opportunity.

“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.” ~ R. W. Emerson

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Hard Some Days

Last night, our youngest woke up every. half. hour. (sometimes even more frequently, never less) between 11PM and 7AM. I don't know if it was gas, teething, a growth spurt or something else, but she has been perfectly happy all morning. I, on the other hand, need a coffee IV.

The house needs to be cleaned, and I have no desire or energy whatsoever to do anything. (But in honesty, that would be true even with a full night's sleep).

Ariana and Joel were playing normally and happily and I snapped at them to be quiet.

Elena has asked to nurse a dozen times this morning already and I've told her no every time.

I want to crawl back in bed, but know it wouldn't work, and the effort and disappointment of trying to manage it is more than I can deal with right now.

I wrote about one of our fairly normal days in this post, and some of the things that I do. My post on riding it out has a few of my coping techniques.

It is hard to be balanced. It is hard to be honest, even with ourselves. It is hard to parent. It is hard to discipline ourselves. And I don't always know where the lines are. What is the line between complaining and honesty? What is the line between healthy boundaries and self-centeredness? What is the line between choosing to practice what I preach and giving myself grace? I am not sure.

Recently a friend said that I make parenting four kidlets sound too easy. That I should have warned her more about difficulties with breastfeeding, lack of sleep, etc. She may have had a point. At the same time, I really, truly believe that the rewards are more than worth it. I experience them most of the time. Most of our days are filled with joy. Most of our nights result in adequate sleep. But not always.

(Now isn't this worth a sleepless night? <3)

I believe that natural birth, even thought it hurts, is better for the baby and the mom.

I believe that babies should nurse whenever they are hungry, even during the night.

I believe that regardless of age, humans should be treated with kindness and respect.

I believe that the choices we are making now actually make life easier, not just in a distant future, but now, too.

I believe, I even know, but some days are just hard.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mary and Martha

Photo by Rob Shenk on Flickr

"Expectations are resentments under construction."
~ Anne Lamott

Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)
At the Home of Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This passage has been on my mind for the last several days. Now, no one could ever accuse me of being a Martha. As I wrote in this post, acts of service are definitely not my native love language. Yet, every time I've heard this passage in a sermon, I feel a bit resentful. It seems to always be a slap in the face to Martha.

You have a spontaneous visit of at least 13 men (possibly more), and anyone who has ever entertained knows that there is a huge amount of work to be done. It seems reasonable that Martha would want a little help.

Yet, most often when I've heard this used, the message is to add another shackle to women. There is usually a pretty little generalization about priorities and how we shouldn't lose sight of time with God. Which is true and nice and all that. The problem is, in real life it translates to one more obligation. On top of all your other responsibilities, make sure you are fulfilling this one, too. And to add insult to injury, it sometimes is taken to mean that all of the things to be done around the house, stereotypical "women's work", really do not have any value. I do not believe that this is what Jesus meant, at all.

I think that God has placed in all of us the desire to makes things beautiful. For many, that comes out in the effort and attention they put into entertaining, preparing meals and hospitality. Rather than shaming Martha for that, I believe God values it.(Hebrews 13:2)

I believe that the real message here is about freedom. I think that Martha was suffocating under expectations for herself and Mary, and perhaps women in general. I think she was frustrated by all the "shoulds" she had acquired, and that Jesus' response was an invitation to freedom. Not "here is one more thing that you haven't managed to do yet", but a release.

"Step out from the constriction of your perceived role. Follow your heart. You don't have to do all that if it isn't bringing you joy. Don't box yourself in according to other people's expectations. Mary was true to the desire of her heart, despite what other people might think. It is OK for you to do that, too. You don't need to control her or others. I didn't come to burden you further. I came so that you could be free."

I don't believe there was any reproach in His voice. Just love and a desire to encourage. It is easy to get trapped into feelings of obligation. What a joy-sucker that is! It transforms even pleasant activities into drudgery. At times, we get so caught up in expectations (our own or others') that we fail to see alternatives. Maybe it doesn't have to be done. Maybe there are other ways to do it. Maybe there are reasons to do it that can make us glad. Maybe it can be set aside while we pursue the dreams inside our hearts. Let go of fear and seek joy!

"Yeah, right," you say. "I have to clean the house and I can't even get the kids to pick up their rooms. I need something that can apply to my daily life!" I get it, really. But believe it or not, I still think that the above words can apply here. Even here.  Nonviolent communication has been very helpful to me to see things from a perspective that can bring acceptance. Blessings, joy and peace to you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Parenting Bookshelf--The Discipline Books

When we first made the decision not to spank, I felt adrift. I didn't have any real example or practical guidelines for discipline other than punishment. I knew of time-outs, of course, and similar things like ignoring "bad" behavior and rewarding behavior I liked. It didn't quite feel right to me, though. Over the years, while remaining consistent with not spanking, our outlook gradually evolved. In particular, Alfie Kohn's book transformed my paradigm. But I will include all the books we own and a little about what we got from them.

The Discipline Book by the Sears. The gateway drug. ;) The Sears' books were my first introduction to parenting the way I wanted. It is good. It has a lot of great information based on attachment parenting. It was also helpful as a transition for us. There are some things that I am not a fan of now, including mild punitive tactics, but at the beginning of our journey into gentle discipline, it gave us a good place to start.

The Power of Positive Parenting by Glenn Latham. We also got his Christlike Parenting book on the recommendation of a friend who was encouraging us into not spanking. Essentially, it is a very strict behaviorist approach that is entirely about positive and negative reinforcement. The negative reinforcement is almost always simply ignoring. It felt really icky to me, though. Affection and attention are not rewards that my children get for behaving in a way that I enjoy.

Adventures in Gentle Discipline by Hilary Flower. This is one I can definitely recommend, especially for parents of younger children. A great approach from the beginning, starting with the basics of what gentle discipline looks like, resources as you continue your journey, and like her book on nursing through pregnancy, contains plenty of real-life stories and examples. It helped us a lot.

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish. Excellent. Definitely worth the read. It really helped me to look at things from my children's perspective.

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. This one blew me away. It challenged all of the things I had heard about discipline, but rang true with my own experiences and beliefs. I still had to re-read it several times to really get it. This, IMO, is a must-read, especially if the whole carrot-and-the-stick doesn't feel right to you. There is a lot of research, which I loved, and it also fit with my heart.

Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon. While UP gave me a new framework, I needed practical ways to implement it. This book helped bridge that gap. One of the coolest things I took away from this book was that we don't have to hold to a false standard of consistency. Sometimes our tolerance level is higher or lower according to circumstances, and that is OK.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline
by Becky Bailey. I first read this just after UP and PET, and coming right after their collaborative approach, it felt too scripted and confining. Also, her little titles for everything bugged me a little bit. However, there is really a lot of great stuff in there. Like all the best parenting books, much of it involves helping the parents to become disciplined people. Going back through it later increased my appreciation of it. I would recommend it.

Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. Easily one of the best. Practical tools and a wonderful understanding. I've read this one many times, and always find more to love.

Connection Parenting by Pam Leo. This may be my very favorite. It distills some of the best material from all the books I've read and makes it easy to apply. If you wondered how to implement all the ideas from UP, this book is for you.

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves
by Naomi Aldort. The first time I read it, I could find some good, but it seemed a little too new-agey or something. I picked it up again right after my daughter turned six, and I was slipping into patterns of shaming. It helped me tremendously! It now ranks as one of my favorites. Funny how different books can catch us at different times.

Also-reads: I've already blogged about the Christian books.

I have read a large number of ones that I don't have right now--either loaned out or from the library, etc. There are also more books that are not specifically about discipline that will be mentioned in upcoming posts. A quick heads up: often discipline "problems" are misunderstandings regarding child development.

Parenting with Love and Logic by Cline and Fay has some good things. I really disliked the advice for younger children, who don't even have the logic skills to make the "choices". I could see some good things for older kids, or for those who need a stepping-stone away from spanking and yelling, but it didn't make my favorites list.

I've heard a lot of great things about Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's books, and found some of them helpful.

I've read or own punitive ones, as well, for those who may have wondered if I really know what those authors are saying, but am not planning to review any right now.

Our bookshelves are constantly growing, and adding to our understanding of ourselves and our children. I find that I need discipline as much as they do, and together we are growing in grace and knowledge.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Authority, Submission, Control and Discipline

Do you ever have ideas tickle at the edges of your mind, just barely out of reach?  I have a lot of those right now, and it is frustrating.  Mamapoekie's recent post on discipline brought some things to the surface, but it is an issue I am still working through, so this post may be "in progress" for quite some time.

Much of my dislike for punitive parenting boils down to its dehumanization of children. Babies and children are assigned a status similar to pets, or even lower. Reading authors like the Pearls, Dobson and Ezzo gives the idea that children are little more than unruly toys for the parent, meant to provide some measure of satisfaction, but who should be ruthlessly quelled if they ever become inconvenient or show signs of thinking for themselves. First time obedience, with a happy heart, (lest the parent feel embarrassment or distress at coercing an obviously unhappy child) becomes the goal. The child's actual feelings are irrelevant as long as the facade is preserved.

Many of the proponents of punitive parenting base it on Scriptural passages. They justify it by claiming a parent's position of authority over the child. It is no surprise that many of those who follow this also believe strongly in wife-only submission. Pretty much the only difference between the status of the child and the status of the wife is that the wife may outrank a pet, at least barely.

In both cases, followers are quick to assert that it doesn't actually play out like that, because the benevolent dictator (the husband/father) is a nice guy who truly cares about his inferior subjects. Therefore, his rulership will always be benign.

I don't believe that the presence or absence of male genitalia automatically confers superiority or better decision-making ability. And although I have heard that acknowledged by Gothard and some other teachers of wifely submission, they generally follow it up with some nonsense about the submissive wife gaining some obscure spiritual reward by following her husband into a wrong decision. Quite frankly, I find that absurd.

Some leave a rather empty caveat that she is not required to sin, but defining sin can be rather difficult. Does mere selfishness and pride on his part constitute sin? Apparently not, according to the teachings. Certainly, there is no recourse if he is not living up to his end of the bargain, just as there is no recourse for children whose parents use "authority" as the basis for justifying their own desire for convenience and ability to control others.

I have actually seen some of these marital relationships that were, in my opinion, healthy. However, in reality, they practiced mutual submission. Regardless of whatever they called it, when walking it out, they made decisions as a team. The wife's opinion, feelings and thoughts were valued, and not just as a mirror of her husband's. Decisions were made by whichever was most informed or best suited (by inclination, experience and talent, not genitalia). The goal was true unity and harmony, not compliance.

I can see many parallels in my relationship with my children. My goal is not obedience. My goal is harmony and helping each of us reach our potential. I see myself as a facilitator for them, equipping them with any tools that they might need as they grow. There are times when I am better informed or equipped to make certain decisions (like whether or not they can play in the street and other safety and boundary issues). There are also times when they teach and lead me. Always, their thoughts and feelings are just as worthy of respect as mine or any other human beings.

I can feel the outrage at this view of discipline by many of my religious brothers and sisters. But I ask you to consider something. What does God's authority look like in your life? Is it about coercion? Or is your obedience something that you freely give? Is it really a choice that you have? Does God allow you to disagree with Him, even going your own way if you prefer? How does He deal with talking back? My own experience is that because of my love and trust, I choose to follow His direction.

I also find that many times He encourages me to discover the giftings and skills I have, and to develop new ones by giving me freedom to pursue my own choices. There are many areas where God does not always (or even usually) give me specific directions, not because He doesn't love me or care, but because it is part of my growth process. He has guidance in place for my protection and for the protection of others. Always, He is more concerned with my heart than with any outward professions of compliance.

The obvious difference is that I am not God. My knowledge and goodness are limited. For me, this is all the more reason that I should guard myself from using "authority" as an excuse to control my children. Sure, there are times when it may be necessary. But far more often, my place is washing their feet, listening and loving and trusting. Jesus had strong words about those who would vie for status over others. Following His example of grace and freedom means encouraging them to exercise their own autonomy as much as possible within boundaries of safety for themselves and others. If I truly believe that being the greater (in authority) means being a servant, then my position looks very different from many models. My authority means that I have the responsibility for giving my children what they need to reach their full potential, and to respect and value where they are right now.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

This list is far from complete, and I'll try to edit some soon, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite verses for anyone who needs a deep breath and a hug right now. Love, peace and fullness of joy to you!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." ~ Matt. 11:28-29

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”  ~ Deut. 33:12

"You hide them in the secret place of Your presence...You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues. ~ Psalm 31:20

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  ~ Numbers 6:24-26

"The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." ~ Psalm 29:11

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." ~ Isaiah 9:6

"Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us." ~ Isaiah 26:12

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ~ John 14:27

"Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance The Lord be with you all!" ~ 2 Thess.3:16

"May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant." ~ Psalm 119:76

"Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones." ~ Isaiah 49:13

 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." ~ Matthew 5:4

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." ~ 2 Cor. 1:3-4

"I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul." ~ Psalm 31:7

"But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!” ~ Psalm 40:16

"So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." ~ John 16:22

"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes...'There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. ” ~ Rev. 7:17, 21:4

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Crossing Cultures

I consider both myself and my husband third culture kids, at least to some extent.  We have enough of a US background to be heavily influenced by that (I would say it is our dominant culture), but we also have enough of a Hispanic background to keep us from fitting in completely.  Everything from greetings, to personal space, to food and social choices, to language, to parenting practices are affected.  I didn't realize how out of mainstream beliefs I was, though, until we became parents.

My Hispanic friends don't ask a lot about whether the baby is sleeping through the night.  Most of them expect her to sleep with us.  Many of them, especially those from rural areas, find nothing unusual about child led weaning.  One even shared that his uncle nursed past ten!  He says that he is grown now, a kind man, and extremely healthy and strong.  He attributed it to the extended nursing.  My father in law breastfed until he was seven, and that was a good thing.  They love the idea of baby wearing, and talk about how their abuelas used to wear their babies.

Also, in a way that is hard to define, they are welcoming of children.  We don't even have an exact word in Spanish for babysitter, although we use niñera.  It is generally expected that the family will go places together, and if parents are welcome, then so are babies.   As in nearly every country other than the US, most boys are left intact.  Non-allopathic health care is respected.  And although corporal punishment is still the norm in much of the Spanish-speaking world, in Spain, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Uruguay, all corporal punishment is illegal.

However, we do not pierce our daughters' ears as babies.  Nor do we shave their heads so that their hair will grow in thicker.  We also have boundaries as to how other adults, even relatives, correct our children.  We don't try to shame them or make up things that other people may be thinking about them to manipulate them.

Obviously, any time you make generalizations about cultures, it is a little tricky.  The accuracy will always be limited.  Among Hispanics, particularly those in urban areas, things are becoming much more like mainstream US views.  Yet it is comforting for me to know that in some places, I am nor weird.  :D

I would love to hear from other moms with a foot in different cultures what things make you feel that you fit in, and which ones don't.  Please share in the comments.  :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Languages of Love and Punishment (Rerun)

My dearly loved sister in law loaned me her copy of the Five Love Languages for Children, and I am really enjoying it. I haven't finished it yet, but a few things have stood out for me. I imagine that most of you are familiar with the basic idea of the book, that there are five primary ways (languages) that we give and receive love: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and gifts While most of us are multilingual, there is usually one or two of those that cause us to feel loved, and we often use that to express our love to others.

So far, there are two points that got me thinking: that it is difficult to pinpoint a child's love language before the age of five and that misuse of the love language, particularly if it is used as a method of punishment, can be devastating. Ironically, the most popular methods of punishment all are correlated to the love languages.

*Physical touch--spanking, popping, hitting, smacking, slapping, whatever you want to call it. For a child who is extremely sensitive to touch and uses it to show love (hugging, kissing, always wanting to touch you) the hurt goes far beyond the physical sting.

*Quality time--time outs, "go to your room", ignoring, banishment/isolation. A child desperate for attention gets the ultimate rejection in a parent who clearly doesn't want to be with him/her.

*Words of affirmation--shaming, scolding, yelling, praise/manipulation. The damage from hurtful words can last far longer than physical blows. Likewise, using praise to manipulate kids' behavior is hollow and deceitful, and they will know it.

*Acts of service--assigning chores as punishments, refusing to help as a "natural/logical consequence" (I don't think that children should be shielded from all the results of their behavior, but I have seen parents call it a "consequence" when it was really their own form of revenge).

*Gifts--taking away the child's belongings. It surprises me how easily parents will steal from their kids or trash their child's things as punishment. I guess to them, the child has no property rights. Another misuse would be manipulating behavior with rewards. If it isn't freely given, it isn't a gift.

To me, the obvious conclusion is that punishments of pretty much any sort can be more hurtful than healing, and some will be more harmful than others by striking a blow at our children's way of giving and receiving love. Since primary love languages change over time and it is difficult to discern the love language of a young child (when most parents rely on punishment), we risk damage to our love relationship with our child when we impose punishments.

So, what is left? Gentle guidance, grace, healthy boundaries. Discipline, in the form of teaching. Modeling the behavior and attitudes we want to see. Working together to find solutions. This is far from permissiveness. It is active work. But love covers a multitude of sins, right? I believe that the fruit from speaking love and choosing not to twist a child's love language into a weapon will bring health to all of us.

Near Mama's Heart - A children's book about breastfeeding

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This hurts me as much as it hurts you...

The rod and correction give wisdom: but a child who is not guided is a cause of shame to his mother. ~ Proverbs 29:15

I believe that in some ways, the most damaging result from punitive parenting methods is the deep and abiding sense of shame that it produces. It is natural to focus on the shame that grows in the children who are parented that way, but they are not the only ones. The feelings of inadequacy and shame are just as damaging and just as deep in many of the parents who employ those methods.

When I was a child, my mom had copies of Dobson's "Dare to Discipline" in both Spanish and English. She read them both faithfully. But, she had difficulty in completely following the advice. It went counter to her own instincts. She is extremely tender-hearted, and while she was capable of punishing in anger if very provoked, calmly and deliberately hitting us when she wasn't upset was much harder.

Then, too, I have always been "strong-willed", and she told me recently that even by the age of four, she recognized that my stubbornness and endurance would outlast her determination to keep spanking. She could also see that instead of producing fruits of righteousness, it increased my anger and "defiance". It simply didn't work like the books said it would.

It wasn't just discipline issues. As I had my own babies and fed them whenever they wanted, held them as much as possible, never let them cry it out, etc., she was torn. She told me over and over of all the times when she had wanted to do that with me and my siblings, but how it went against all the advice from people she respected to feed every three hours (or four), to not hold us too much, to have us cry it out in a crib. She recounted the agony she felt when I would cry two hours after my last feeding and how she would watch the clock in tears herself. Sometimes she would "give in" and nurse me anyway, and then feel horribly guilty for not being "strong enough" and "consistent enough" with the program. I was honestly surprised to see how deep the feelings of inadequacy and shame are in her, decades later, for being caught between two different standards. The message she had absorbed from the punitive teachers was that she was failing by not getting the results promised by the books, and for letting her heart doubt their advice at times.

I've heard so many variations of this, covering many aspects of parenting. We are programed with God-given instincts to respond to our babies, to comfort and cuddle and meet every need that we can. Then "experts" tell us to go against that, and it begins a cycle of shame and guilt. Punitive parenting sets up unrealistic expectations for both parents and children. Then, when the results don't live up to the promises, all blame is placed on the parents for not following the advice consistently enough. Any problem is all their fault, never the fault of the advice they were given.

The shamed parent, perhaps already feeling guilt for being "double-minded" (which they are if they ever harbor any doubts as to the program), vows to try harder, to be firmer and more consistent. Maybe it "works" and the child becomes compliant, at least outwardly. Even then, though, there is still the constant sense of having to live up to others' expectations. Have you ever had your child misbehave in a public place and know that others are watching and judging you? Have you felt a silent pressure to respond more harshly out of your own embarrassment? That can become a familiar feeling if you are trying to balance your own instincts with a punitive paradigm. You might even resent your children for "making you" punish them. The punitive model is always lurking in the background, ready to heap disapproval on you for any deviations.

And if it doesn't "work" and the child remains unbroken and defiant, then what? How far do you go? Letting them cry for an hour or two, perhaps even vomiting from crying so hard? How many swats, how hard and with what implement? Even when you agree with CIO or spanking, you may feel guilty or that you crossed a line. Punitive parenting often encourages parents to act from pride, selfishness and anger. Then the parent is left with guilt for not following their own conscience. Once again, they are caught between different convictions when their ideals don't fit with the prescribed treatment of children.

The message that you are not good enough, that your instincts are all wrong and that you just aren't doing anything right attacks both children and parents. Hurting people don't act right, and hurting parents who are full of doubt and shame can't always see how to break that cycle or how to view their childrens' actions objectively. They buy into the notion that their children are acting from evil motives. Living with the continual, subtle idea that your children are your adversaries, and that you must watch out for any signs of insubordination takes a toll on the entire family. It cripples parents in many ways by eroding connection, and then blames the parent for the rebellion that it creates. Then families who deeply love each other become trapped into viewing each other's actions through a distorting lens of fear and suspicion, and themselves with disgust and disapproval.

The rod of correction doesn't mean a stick to beat our children--it refers to our presence and guidance in their lives. And wisdom grows in the parents as well as the children as we humbly live life together. Please check out Barefoot Betsy's post for a more thorough look at this verse and other rod passages.

One of my favorite messages from grace-based discipline is that grace is for mamas, too. If your instincts are telling you to ignore advice you are given, chances are pretty good that the advice is wrong. If you feel pulled against the punitive advice you have received, don't berate yourself. It isn't that you are inadequate. Trust the love you have for your children.  Listen to the instinct to protect, nurture and cherish them, even if, especially if, it is going against the advice of those around you.  Yes, we all need information and support as we grow into the parents that we want to be, but that should be a source of encouragement, not shame. Perhaps you just need a new perspective, or a cheer-leader to help you follow your heart. Shame off you! Grace on you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shame off you! (rerun)

As I prayed this week about what to share, the one thing that kept coming was, “Tell them I love them”. I am embarrassed to say that my first response was almost to write it off. I mean, we all know that already, right? It is the first thing that we learn as believers—Jesus loves me. But the more I listened, the more I realized how easy it is for us to lose that message. Somehow, it gets watered down in our minds to mean “Jesus tolerates me”. Am I the only one guilty of this?

I look at the deep love I have for my husband and children, and the delight I have in them, yet it is so easy to doubt that God delights in me. I don’t doubt that He has forgiven me, but for some reason, a part of me expects Him to look at me with…I don’t know…disappointment? Resignation? As though loving me is merely an obligation on His part.  The good news is, the Bible paints a very different picture of His love for us. It is passionate, joyful, aching for intimacy with us!

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph. 3:17. Imagine that—the King of the Universe is so delighted with you that He sings about it! One version says that He shouts for joy!

He wants us. He wants to be close to us. And I think that most of us long to be closer to Him. What impedes us? Sin, of course, but I think that often it is not the sin itself, but the shame. We give ourselves to Him and receive freedom and forgiveness, but we don’t always give our shame to Him. We hold onto it, replay things in our minds, and try to “punish” ourselves with reminders of how we have fallen short. And I think that breaks His heart.

He knows everything, right? So, He knew everything about us, all the mistakes we would make, all the faults, and He still decided that WE WERE WORTH LOVING. He isn’t disappointed in us, because to be disappointed, you have to expect something else. 

Obviously, He wants us to be free from sin. Romans 6 makes it clear that we are no longer to be in bondage to sin. But it is interesting to me that after that is dealt with, Romans 8 goes on to remind us that there is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

Ironically, sometimes our very efforts to become closer to God are the source of our shame. Growing up, I would make all these promises to spend x amount of time praying, reading my Bible etc. The days that I didn’t reach my goal I felt so guilty. I still believe that those disciplines are important, but they aren’t my goal—the goal is spending time with Him. I’ve discovered the joy and intimacy of doing nothing with God. Just as some of my favorite moments with Carlos aren’t always about having deep discussions, but just snuggling close on the couch while I read and he watches TV or whatever. There is an underlying awareness of the other’s presence that makes us both smile inside.

God loves us. He really, deeply passionately loves us. He enjoys us. And He longs for us to let go of our shame, and step forward as His bride, radiant and beautiful in His eyes. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jer. 31:3. I hope that this week you will be filled with the sense of His presence throughout your day, that you will let go of any shame, and revel in His song over you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pay attention!

There are days where I feel like every moment is spent in triage. Having four younglings, homeschooling plus teaching adjunct classes, as well as my own needs and those of my dearly Beloved, mean that most of the time I am looking for what comes next before I realize what went last.

Fortunately, the kids seem to cycle well their needy times so that, like a juggler, I can have one or two up in the air while the others are most hands-on. The baby is, of course, a baby. Our two year old has had successive head bumps that required careful monitoring. The four year old has been in a phase of disequilibrium where he is constantly in need of attention and guidance (and his sisters in need of protection). Our six year old has been remarkably drama-free for several days. Responding to the tyranny of the urgent, I've left her to her own devices more because of the needs of all the others.

Last night, she gingerly mentioned how much she missed our little coffee dates. She was careful not to complain or make a big deal out of it. My little girl is growing up. I reflected how just a few months ago, she would have been clingy or cranky and there would have been lots of drama as she worked through all her feelings. She is now becoming much more adept at quietly handling those big emotions.

With finals week, our schedules are a little different, so I grabbed the opportunity to take her to breakfast today. Once there, though, I found it really hard to concentrate. I was so tempted to check my phone, or mentally go over all the things I need to do in the next few days (an incredibly daunting list that I have been avoiding with all my might), or really do anything except pay attention to my daughter.

Why is it so hard for me to focus when I truly want to? It was like a forced quiet time where I really wanted to read my Bible and pray but instead found thoughts continually straggling off onto other topics. Recognizing that my purpose there was to be with her, I resolutely forced myself to look deep into her eyes and pay attention. I listened to her words. I watched her thoughts and feelings flicker across her face. I kept my own mouth closed most of the time.

It was remarkable. After a couple of minutes of chatting, she grew very quiet. Then she set down her donut and walked over to me and wrapped her arms tightly around me. I expected just a hug, but she stayed that way for several minutes. She was nearly shaking with relief. We snuggled close for a long while.

I know that multitasking is just part of being a mom. It is necessary and useful. But I want to make sure that I stop and pay attention with every part of my being to my loved ones, and not just work them in to the fringes of my consciousness. Our attention is a powerful thing, and they know when they are actually getting it. Even more importantly, they desperately need it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Divine Intervention: A Fashion Testimony

In many areas, I am a reasonably capable, accomplished woman. Fashion is not one of them. I've admitted my ineptitude in the past. It is just depressing, you know? For one thing, between four pregnancies in the last seven years, my size is in a constant state of flux. Additionally, every top that I buy has to be breastfeeding compatible or it just isn't worth the few times I might wear it (and obviously, most dresses are out). Finally, with four kidlets needing a new set of clothing about every three or four months due to growth and seasonal changes, my default is to spend our clothes budget on them.

Today, the Lord took mercy on me and guided my steps. I was at the store buying some much needed socks for Ariana. On the way to the kids' section, I passed a display of really cute jeans. I was wearing my only pair, nice, comfy ones that I have had for nearly seven years. Finding good jeans, like bras and swimsuits, requires heavenly help in the first place. At this point, I didn't even know what size I wore (which usually doesn't matter, since that varies among brands, anyway). Yielding to impulse (which in hindsight I believe was an angelic nudge), I grabbed a pair, guessing wildly as to size.

Now, some would say that the Almighty has far more important things to do than to care about my clothes. Why, yes. Yes, he does. On the other hand, Jesus Himself told us not to worry about clothes, because God dressed the flowers in far greater glory than kings, and He cares even more about us. Luke 12:27-28 I tried on the jeans, and they fit perfectly!

Just in case I needed further proof that this was the Lord's leading, as I put my old pair back on, they ripped, exposing a significant portion of my underwear! I was thankful that my top was very long. Walking to the checkout, carefully clutching my top in order to avoid mooning everyone, I saw that the jeans were 50% off. I bought two pair.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Pillow Pile

It has finally gotten really cold here, and that is taking a toll on our park time.  Our kidlets are as rambunctious energetic as always, and their first attempts at getting out all that energy involved chasing each other around and jumping on the couch.  The chasing raised safety concerns, and the couch was creaking ominously with each jump, so that didn't seem to be a good solution (although I loved Greenjem's recent post that mentioned jumping on the couch!).

After a moment of thought, we decided on a pillow pile. We got every cushion, pillow, and comforter, and even an old mattress, and piled it high for them to jump on. The finished product was over 2 feet high and as big as a king-size mattress. They were ecstatic! They jumped and laughed to their heart's content. Several times they bounced and soared and convinced themselves that they could really, truly fly! :)

It required minor maintenance to make sure that it didn't get too spread out or too squooshed in the middle, but they were very cooperative about taking turns and following any safety limits (no flipping).Once they were worn out from all the jumping, it was easily transformed into the ideal snuggle-nest while we watched the Nutcracker.

We all need a soft, safe place to land and to snuggle after stretching our wings, don't we?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Road trip!

We are not crazy.  We are not crazy.  We are not crazy.  We are not crazy.  Are you convinced yet?  I am almost there.  Yes, we are taking a holiday road trip of 2,000+ miles with four children, ages 6, 4, 2 and 5 months.  But no, we are not crazy...   OK, I am still sensing some disbelief here.

In our defense, I will say that we went to Puerto Rico (obviously not a road trip, but still...) when the baby was only ten days old.  It was a delightful trip.  Our kids have been traveling since infancy, and handle it admirably.   And there is no way I would have them go through the sexual molestation by government agents ordeal by going through an airport (which we can't afford, anyway).  However, I know that long days in a van can wear on everyone, so I am preparing a list of travel tips to keep it fun for everyone.  Please, please PLEASE chime in with your own tips--I could really use them!

*Easily accessible changes of clothes for everyone.  Our two year old gets car sick frequently, and we tend to be spontaneous types who are always deciding to do things on the spur of the moment that might require a change in attire, so that is a given.  A couple of extra towels, and a cup will also be on hand.

*Standard supplies: snacks, books, CDs, and Febreeze-substitute (does anyone have a good recommendation for a natural deodorizing spray?  Perhaps lavender or tea tree oil?)

*Slip on shoes.

*Getting the wiggles out every time we stop.

*Inexpensive surprises.  I am thinking of stopping by a place like Dollartree and picking up a few surprises to bring out if boredom settles in.

*Sock ball.  We found that a really fluffy sock makes a good ball for playing catch safely when one of the kids is rear-facing. 

*Pillows and blankies.  Our kids have never had security objects, but having their own pillows is just nicer whenever we travel, and a blankie to snuggle with makes it easier to rest. 

*Games for a 4 and 6 year old?  I can think of several that Ariana would enjoy, but I am not so sure about the younger ones.  Any ideas?

What else?  Am I missing some?

My in-the-moment- steps

For anyone who may have missed it, I did a three part guest post on Gently Disciplining Ourselves over at Authentic Parenting.  Like every other parent I know, despite my convictions regarding gentle discipline, I get mad.  I get overwhelmed.  I get frustrated.  Recognizing this has caused me to work a lot on my own toolbox for handling my big emotions and growing into the parent I want to be.  This is a small excerpt from my third post.

Follow a script.  Create and memorize a short list of steps to handle your triggers that you can follow in the moment.  For me it goes like this: STOP.  DEEP BREATH.  Let go of any unhelpful thoughts. How can I help this situation *right now*? Later on, I can assess what I can do to prevent things in the future, but if I try to focus on what will make it better in this moment, it throws out punitive, angry responses and gets me thinking about positive strategies to solve the problem and maintain/restore connection.  Then practice, practice, practice!  It takes awhile for it to become automatic.  The results are worth it, though.

Check out some of the other tools in the full posts!  And while you are there, read Mamapoekie's posts.  She is a beautiful example of a loving parent and has tons of info on many topics.  You can also follow Authentic Parenting on Facebook.  :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gifts my mother gave me

Photo by susansimon on Flickr
Fear not, gentle readers, after the snarky look through my dark side in the previous post, we are back to happy-flower-kitty-rainbow posts, which I once referred to as sanctimonious syrup.

I have been blessed with a wonderful family, despite our assorted quirks and problems. My mother, in particular, is one of the most loving people I have ever met. Our personalities are quite different in many ways. I am much more selfish than she is, and much quicker to assert myself. But she has passed on a lovely legacy, and the older I get the more I see of her in me.

1. Love of reading and story-telling. Truthfully, I think just about everyone on both side of the family has this, but it was my mom who understood why I always had books with me wherever we went (even my favorite mysteries hidden by the hymnal in church). She shared many of her favorite authors with me, and as I grew older I shared some with her. Like family history, a single reference from Anne of Green Gables can cover an entire conversation's worth of ideas.

My mother has always had a marvelous gift for story-telling, and she would tell us fabulous stories when my sister and I were little. We would all be having so much fun that we often stayed up far later than she intended, caught up in the adventure she was weaving. Once we were older, my sister and I began to make up stories for each other. Now I share stories with my children and listen to the incredible tales they come up with. It carries with it all the snuggly feelings of a warm, fleecy blanket of tradition.

2. She was unembarrassed. Perhaps the single most powerful gift she gave us was not showing embarrassment (although I am sure she must have felt it), whether from our misbehavior at times, my outspokenness, or impulsiveness. She always encouraged me to follow God, and supported me when I believed He was guiding me, even at the cost of her own reputation. Once I told her that I believed God wanted her boss to know something. He was not a believer, but she unhesitatingly shared with him. I don't remember how he responded, but I remember that she took me seriously enough to tell him.

3. An ear for music. My mom can hear a song once, and then sit down and play it at the piano. I am no where near that good, but there have many times when being able to play by ear has enriched my life.

4. A tender heart. My mother has always been able to empathize with anyone who is hurting. She is so loving that people pour out their hearts to her and she is always able to comfort them. She feels what they are going through to such an extent that she doesn't wind up saying the wrong thing and making it worse. I have a long way to go to develop that as much as she has, but she inspires me.

5. She let me try. Whether it was hanging by my knees from the top of the swingset and flipping down or climbing to considerable heights in the old tree that towered over the roof of my grandparents' house, she had enough confidence in me to let me try. (And as I have always been on the clumsy side, that undoubtedly took effort on her part). Now I often catch my breath at stunts and tricks that the kids are eager to show me. I envision all the ways they could break their necks. But I am trying to find the balance that my mom had, between safety and encouraging their confidence. It is much harder than she made it look.

I wish all of you could know the beautiful person that my mom is. I am so grateful to her, and admire her strength and courage more the older I get. If I can pass on even some of the love and gentleness she shows, then I will consider myself a woman of grace.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christian parenting books--how our bookshelf grew

I didn't realize how polarized the views on parenting were among Christians until my daughter was born. Within days of her birth, we were given materials by Ezzo, reminding me that my newborn had a sinful nature and that any crying was just an example of her evil, tiny, selfish heart. Ironically, the way to counter this was apparently to indulge my own self-centeredness at every possible occasion to show that I was hardened to any attempt at manipulation on her part. Not only was it absurd from a developmental standpoint, it didn't seem to fit at all with Jesus' teachings about being a servant or with the way God responds to me when I cry out to Him.

I disregarded the Babywise stuff and nursed my baby whenever she seemed interested, even at night. Our pediatrician had regularly asked questions about this and on her six month check up, the disapproval boiled over. She was "strong-willed" (as if that were a bad thing). As parents we weren't doing our job and "winning every battle". My husband and I had no idea that we were supposed to be at war with her--we had naively assumed that we were on the same team. He gave us a copy of To Train Up a Child.

At that point, I had never met a family that didn't spank, and I fully planned to spank my children. Yet as I read through the horrific descriptions of physical and emotional abuse in that book (and later the counsel to remain a submitted wife when your husband sexually abuses your children :gag:) I felt physically and spiritually nauseated. I could only read a few pages at a time, and the thought of hitting my baby with glue sticks (which break down the underlying tissue and can even cause death) or throwing her into a cold pond and letting her sink (at 7 months!) to teach her to stay away from water hazards was repugnant and ludicrous. I wasn't shocked to learn of deaths related to precisely following the instructions in the book, which insist on not leaving the child with breath to whimper afterward, but I was shocked that we had been given that book by a pediatrician. No wonder our state has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the nation! We never went back to that ped.

The good thing is that caused me to re-examine our views on discipline, punishment and spanking. Our journey is told in this post. As I prayed and studied and sought Godly wisdom on this topic, we were led to some wonderful grace-filled sources.

So, in a sea of punitive parenting books, where are these Christian islands? I wrote about our finds here.

Of course, the best source for Christian parenting is the Bible. We have a really mixed up mindset in the church, where a few verses from Proverbs (completely misinterpreted) are applied to children. Yet clear and consistent passages describing how we are to treat others, how we are to behave as believers, how to follow the example of Jesus, and how we are to instruct others are completely disregarded when it comes to children. Why? I haven't been able to find any answer. I suspect that in the minds of many, children aren't really full-fledged people, much the way that in the past, people of other color or women weren't considered on the same level of personhood as male white landowners.

Anyway, I suggest reading through the Gospels and noting how Jesus treated children and everyone else. How did He disciple the disciples? What character does He want us to demonstrate? Read through I John. How can that be applied to family relationships? Read through the Epistles. How do they relate to our own behavior and how we teach others? The Bible is full of examples of love and grace.

And as always, take comfort and encouragement from Isaiah 40:11, "He shall lead his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs in his arms and carry them close to his heart and shall gently lead the sheep who have nursing lambs."

My Parenting Bookshelf--The Christian Books (just in time for Christmas shopping!)

This turned into a really long post, so I am breaking it up. How we started looking for books and my recommendations for the best Christian parenting book of all are here.

The Complete Book of Christian Parenting and Child Care by the Sears. Not only do they have all the credentials--MDs, IBCLCs, parents of eight children, dedicated Christians--they have the fruit to go with it. Some of their children are now working with their parents as MDs. Contrast that to the Ezzos who are not even on speaking terms with their grown kids!

Biblical Parenting by Crystal Lutton.  This combines the theological background for a deep study of Scripture (including the rod verses and others) with very practical, real life ways to live a life of grace and discipline.  There is nothing permissive here, just loving ways to help you parent as a disciple of Christ.  You can also check out some of Crystal's material at

The Ministry of Motherhood and The Mission of Motherhood, both by Sally Clarkson.  I would love to give these to every Christian mom I know.  They aren't about spanking; there isn't a soapbox to mount.  They are simply full of wisdom and grace.  Every time I read them again, I feel as if I had just had a delicious cup of Earl Grey and fabulous scones with plenty of cream with a close friend who has been there and will encourage me.  Her blog (I Take Joy) is in my favorites list. 

How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell.  Excellent.  I was excited to hear that some pastor friends in Norway were using this with their church.  Beautiful, balanced and helpful.

Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and Max Lucado.  I heard great things about this one, and it was good, but I wasn't a huge fan.  It has really blessed a lot of my friends, though.  YMMV.  *Note: there is one reference to spanking in the book, but the overall book doesn't emphasize spanking.

Families Where Grace is In Place by Jeff Van Vonderen.  Absolutely amazing!  This book beautifully challenges old paradigms on gender roles, marriage issues, parenting and gives practical and powerful portrayals of what a family of grace looks like.  A must read.

The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Smalley.  Another one that I strongly recommend.  Beautiful, real-life ways to help your children experience love.

Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin.  Excellent.  Sam is a scholar whose love and reverence for God's Word clearly shines through.  I have a couple of posts reviewing it here.

Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson. Another examination of discipline, the rod passages and what Christ-like parenting should be.  I honestly prefer Sally's books, but her husband does well, too.

Depending on where you fall on the gentle discipline spectrum, some books may be more helpful than others.  For example, the Sears book and Grace Based Parenting seem mildly punitive to me, and some of the wording in Clay Clarkson's book did, as well.  However, for someone transitioning into GD, particularly with a Babywise background, I think it would be extremely helpful.  I think that Heartfelt Discipline would make a wonderful church library donation, especially for a group that has been influenced by Tripp. 

Even if you strongly disagree with my views on discipline, I would encourage you to check out some of these books. You see, when I read books by Dobson, Tripp, and others, I come away feeling as if my children are my adversaries. Discipline becomes a matter of constant suspicion (was that question actually defiance?) and defense against any possible lack of respect through retaliation.

In contrast, after reading the authors here, I find myself feeling more joyful, more loving, and more confident in my authority. My patience is strengthened and I have practical tools to help discipline in the truest sense of the word. We can all use more of that, can't we?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gifts my father gave me

Photo by stevendepolo on Flickr
I've never been good at looking at babies and pronouncing who they resemble with specific features. "Oh, she's got Grandma's nose and Uncle Herbert's ears!" type of thing. But I can look at all sorts of little things in my daily life and mindset and trace them back to my parents (and occasionally grandparents). I was chatting on the phone with my dad on Sunday and we laughed together over some traits that we have in common. Here are a few specific legacies from my dad:

1. Worship music. Possibly my earliest memory is standing in my crib listening to the old 1970s Maranatha! Praise series in Spanish. The first time I visited my dad after the divorce I noticed that there was beautiful worship music playing softly as we went to sleep. For the first time in quite awhile I feel asleep easily and had no nightmares. He gave me a cassette player and a copy of the tape that I nearly wore out. When they remarried, even in times when we were living off ramen noodles and hotdogs, there was always money available for a new worship tape, and our souls feasted.

2. Praying in the moment. Something dad had learned from his dad and grandpastor (his dad's pastor) was that you never just promise someone you'll pray. You do it right then. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but I've seen special things happen when you pray together right then.

3. An ear for languages. One of my dad's noteworthy abilities (shared with his sister) is quick and thorough linguistic adaptation. He perfectly imitates the accent of the people around him. Not only does his pronunciation change, but also his diction in general, including grammar and vocabulary. He is one of those people who will always sound like the people where he lives. While not as good as he is, I think that part of my ability in languages comes from him.  Also, while I am not nationalistic, believing that my citizenship is in Heaven, he and I share a love for my birth country.  There is a little part in both of us that isn't quite at home unless we are in Mexico.

4. Taking children seriously. One of the greatest things my dad did was take my opinions and input seriously as a child. I can never recall being dismissed because of my age. He listened to whatever I had to say and responded as if I were an adult. That is another trait that I saw in *his* father, too. It is an amazing gift to feel that your thoughts count.

5. Communion and optimistic eschatology. There are some areas where my theological beliefs may have rolled all the way into another orchard, but much of my basic apple remains close to his tree. In particular, I share his views on communion. I feel that something is lacking in any service where it is not a part. I still am a little dismayed by Protestant churches who have it as a rare event.

Regarding eschatology, I remember some churches with the "just a few more weary days and then" mentality. Did you ever see the old Christian horror movies like "A Thief in the Night"? Even as a kid I would have considered them great fodder for MST3K. My dad never viewed the church as a pitiful, defeated "cowering under the covers till we can get Raptured out of here" body. She is the glorious Bride! He imparted the security that we are reigning with Christ and that there is always hope for our future.

There are lots of other things for future posts. These were just a few of the first that came to mind. And don't worry--I wont neglect my mom's contributions :) My parents would be the first to say that none of us are perfect and they would do many things differently. But I am deeply grateful for the heritage they have given me, the confidence I have in their love, and the spiritual treasure they have imparted. If my kids grow up with the riches that my mom and dad have given me, I will consider myself a good parent.

Breastfeeding Baby Jesus

We saw many of these lovely depictions when we were in Europe, and I have photos of Ariana nursing underneath some of these. :)  Many thanks to Peaceful Parenting for putting this beautiful video together.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I'm a Pushover Parent

Image by storem on Flickr
Our precious two year old has fully lived up to the words we were given before her birth that she would be a warrior.  I love her intensity and her way of fully expressing herself.  She launches herself wholeheartedly into every endeavor.  Teaching her appropriate ways to work through really big emotions is something we have been working on.  I was delighted today to see her actually catch herself mid-meltdown and come up with a positive way to express herself.

She was so upset.  Tears were streaming and she was shaking with anger and disappointment.  I gently tried to hug her, letting her know that I was with her and would support her.  She instantly turned and grabbed my hands and said, "Pushing game, Mami!"

I sat facing her and we interlocked hands.  Then she tried with all her might to scoot me backwards by pushing on my hands.  I would remain upright while she pushed as hard as she could against my hands. Eventually, I would fall back with her on top of me and we would both laugh.  She immediately asked me to do it again.  We repeated the game several times. 

I've loved this game for years.  Even when pregnant, it isn't hard on me physically.  It takes little space.  It doesn't take too much energy.  But it is perfect for overwhelmed little ones!  It gives all of the benefits of a full-blown tantrum (working out large muscle groups, releasing emotion, etc) but is done in a way that connected us with loving touch (instead of perhaps hitting a pillow).  Each time she did it she was more relaxed.  By the end she was all smiles.

I see advice so often that tells parents to ignore meltdowns, to shun or isolate a child who is overwhelmed by his own emotions, lest he somehow learn that it will be rewarded.  Is it any wonder that so many adults shut down when they have intense negative feelings?  We've been taught to explode when they are too much and then to stuff everything down and "be sweet" and act as if nothing happened.

I am so excited to see children who are learning healthy ways to express themselves, who know that even in those intense moments they can connect with someone close to them, and that they can fully process their feelings without shame or isolation until they are easily manageable. If you are interested in other tools for tantrums, or in our perspective on them, check out  this post. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

All Play and No Work...

If you see my Facebook updates, you probably think we are *that* homeschooling family. You know, the stereotypical one where the kids do nothing but play all day. Today, we spent over five hours at three different parks! Most days when I am not working involve the park, the zoo, the aquarium, or two out of the three. Backyard picnics are common, and we are familiar with well over a dozen different parks in our area. That is a very deliberate decision on my part.

As we began looking into homeschooling, I was most familiar with the traditional school-at-home model. Lots of seat work, plenty of worksheets, etc. When I first began to hear of unschooling, I was extremely skeptical. Like most of us, I had been inoculated early with the drudgery-is-discipline mindset that we must all get used to doing things we don't enjoy, so let's start young.

My life hasn't really borne that out, though. I like my job. I enjoy what I do at work and at home with my family. OK, I loathe housework, but even then, I can see some satisfaction from the results (or at least I would if things would actually stay clean for more than a split second...alright, so housework is not the best example. Still, it is something that I choose to do--on those rare occasions when I do it.) Anyway, my point is that I don't do tedious things that make me miserable just for the sake of doing them.

Reading some of the Charlotte Mason beliefs regarding the importance of outdoor play for children really resonated with me. My own memories of hour after hour spent exploring, climbing trees (there were many days where I spent as much time up in a tree as I did on the ground), playing with my sister and friends, learning new skills and testing my abilities reinforced the value of this time.

So, the last several months, whenever possible, we have spent as much time out of doors as possible.  What have we gained?  Plenty of exercise and vitamin D and other health benefits.  Lots of new skills, including monkey bar prowess, backwards somersaults, increased balance and agility and a greater understanding of gravity, momentum and other forces.  Stretched and vibrant imaginations.  Increased cooperativeness and improved social and interpersonal skills.  Confidence.  Better sleep at night and greater peace after afternoons spent getting the wiggles out.  Hundreds of joy-filled memories.  And somehow, with all this, academics haven't suffered.  There are many, many reasons why we homeschool.  The freedom to do all of this is a substantial part of it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Parenting Bookshelf--Breastfeeding

As I mentioned in my previous post, my obsession interest in parenting books started with panic over breastfeeding. After my daughter was born, she latched on and nursed well. Ironically, it was the hospital LC who first aroused anxiety by manhandling me and saying that her latch was off. She said I had to have nipple shields because my nipples were too flat, and while she probably meant well, she was pretty discouraging. I ditched the shields the next day, and just followed our instincts, and she nursed like a champ.

At her first check up, she had gained so much weight that the ped and nurses were very impressed. Still, I had plenty of doubts, so I picked up two books on breastfeeding. They were the only ones in stock at the time in the rather meager section on breastfeeding, but they served the purpose. I got The Complete Book of Breastfeeding by Eiger and Olds and The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins. They reassured me that we were doing fine, and that breastfeeding would even get easier. Right about the same time, a friend gave us a copy of an Ezzo book. It was interesting because they contradicted each other so much. I searched the AAP guidelines and other reputable sources and decided that Ezzo was a twisted quack who disliked and distrusted babies and had severe jealousy and maturity issues.

Along with all the books, I read all the magazines, too. Mostly ones like Baby and Parenting. They all suggested breastfeeding for a year, as long as it wasn't too inconvenient. I read one article, though, that blew me away. It was in this weird, hippy magazine called Mothering, and it was about a five year old who loved to hula hoop and was still breastfeeding. It was the most bizarre thing I had ever read. A five year old?! I mean, we all know that once they can ask for it they are too old, right? It stuck with me, though.

The Baby Book and The Breastfeeding Book by Dr. Sears. As I mentioned before, I came across the Sears' book on clearance, and so I got it. As I read it, I was astounded at all of the solid research and information that supported our instincts. Ariana was still exclusively breastfed at that point, and it was going so well. I remembered the article on the five year old, and while that still seemed really strange, as I read the Sears book I began to think that maybe I could keep going beyond a year. By the time she was a year, I had found an online community of breastfeeding moms who had shared plenty of information and encouragement, and I was committed to child-led weaning.

Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner was my next find. Nursing is a relationship, and nursing a toddler is quite different from nursing a newborn. I found information, stats, advice for dealing with others, and ideas of what to expect from different ages and stages. It was wonderful!

Once I became pregnant again, I added Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower. I already spoke about that one in the pregnancy bookshelf post. It has been reread as we have nursed through the last three pregnancies.

My most recent addition is Breastfeeding Older Children by Ann Sinnott. I actually participated in the research that she did on this one, so of course I had to buy it! I was not disappointed. There is little material available for moms of older nurslings, but this would be good even if there were an abundance. It covers many aspects of nursing at different ages, including development (both physical and emotional) of the children.

Wanna-reads: I still want to read Ina May Gaskin's book on breastfeeding. I have read, of course, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League, and particularly enjoyed the latest edition. One that I don't own, but have used in the past as an invaluable reference is Hale's Medications and Mothers Milk. If you are ever concerned about a med and breastfeeding, make sure that your physician is using this resource. It is the definitive work on the subject.

So where are we now? Well, he isn't into hula hoops, but in a month or two I will be nursing a five year old. :) Breastfeeding has truly been an adventure. For nearly five years, I have been breastfeeding two or three, all while eliminating foods they are allergic to. Yet the reality is not nearly as difficult or unpleasant as it might sound. I am happy and feel very blessed with how easy it has been, overall. At least some of that is due to the books I've read. :)

One last thought: it isn't a book, but the site has been one of the best resources ever for all things breastfeeding for me!

Finding a new fold?

I wrote back in my post about seeking a shepherd that welcomed bleating lambs how much difficulty we were having reconciling our need to be part of a church with our convictions regarding our children. We feel very strongly that their church experience is supposed to be full of peace, love and joy. They don't feel comfortable leaving us yet (at least a couple of them don't) and we don't feel comfortable letting them cry. Our church doesn't have a family area so we wound up spending most services hanging out in the back with them where no one would be disturbed, and were we missed the service. It was frustrating and seemed pointless.

We've tried a few things, including some other churches, and nothing seemed to fit right. I've been recording some Spanish services that I really enjoyed, and we have access to our pastor's sermons online. It isn't the same as participating in worship with my brothers and sisters, though. Carlos attends at least a couple of services every week through his job, but I don't get that.

So, this morning, I attended an early service with the baby and Ariana. I saw several old friends, and was able to enter into the worship service without any distractions. It was heavenly (yeah, I know, I am a sucker for puns). I felt so refreshed when it was over. I was also delighted to see that there were all kinds of people represented, including all races and colors, and a variety of physical and mental disabilities. It felt like real life. They also have a family room with a live feed of the service, and there was no pressure at all for the kids to be separate from me.

We'll see. Obviously, I would like for our whole family to be together. But, as I have reminded myself many times, this is only a short season in our lives, and based on today, I think this might work out very well.