Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trial by Solitude Deprivation

I wake up early to spend time in quiet before stumbling boys with tousled heads climb into my lap to be read to. Or ask me for pancakes. Tuesday morning my baby girl was coughing her wake-up cough and stirring as the 5:30 alarm sounded. I went into the kids' bedroom and gave her the pacifier and willed her to go back to sleep so my first moments of the day could be peaceful, refreshing ones. I made my coffee and sat down and opened my book, trying to ignore the coughs that punctuated the stillness and nettled me. Already I felt wound too tight, oversensitive to minor irritations. If there was ever a day I needed some time to fix my mindset, don a cloak of thankfulness and patience... Peanut Butter wailed a sleepy complaint from his bed. I sighed in desperation, went to his room, covered him, whispered calming words, gave Raindrop her pacifier again, went back out to my "quiet" spot. Whispered a plea to the Maker of Days, desperately turned my heart to thankfulness. Thank You for the three living, breathing children in the room down the hall. Thank You for a day that starts wrong, that I have this day to live. Please, help me in my rawness, in my impatient temperament, to still bear the fruit of the Spirit to my husband and little ones today.

He did. He redeemed the day. It wasn't an easy day, not an effortlessly fun and cheerful one. I felt somewhat...tense and frustrated all day, for no cause that I could see. But He redeemed what could have been a rotten day. He opened my eyes to gifts He mischievously hides in random places for me to notice in surprise at odd moments. He helped me find reserves of soft words when the sharp ones tried to leap out first. I failed a lot. But He was there, and kept helping every time I asked, and it was a different day than it would have been.

Wednesday morning, yesterday, my early morning alone time was again interrupted. "Lord, I need this time! I don't wake up early to deal with the kids early. I wake up early to get myself ready for them later. I do it out of obedience to You, because it's wise, because it helps. What am I supposed to do when in spite of my effort and obedience, I don't get to prepare for the day?"

Be thankful. Be broken. Lean into Him and breath deeply.

Last night baby Raindrop woke up often with a stuffy nose that made it difficult to breath. Now, today, it's nap time, and Christopher Robin is talking to himself not quietly enough. Peanut Butter has finally fallen asleep, but last time Christopher Robin took too long falling asleep, he ended up waking Peanut Butter up early, and never did get a nap himself, and was a growling, wailing, whining bear cub by evening. I sit here with thin skin, every noise nettling like a tiny pin pricking, wondering how to live like He calls me to when all my reserves of natural patience and cheer have been depleted. In my weakness, He is strong. Any kindness, patience, love displayed comes from His power, not mine. Any happy moments this afternoon originate from His unending supply of grace, the surprise gifts he leaves among the ordinary every day things. Bending my heart to thankfulness is my stretching out my hand to the lifeline. That is how to survive. To redeem the day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

God, I praise you for...

91. curling, hungry baby girl using outspread fingers to grope my face as I lift her from crib to hold her warm and close

92. the haunting these fleeting moments stir in me of beauty I can't hold on to but that is a mere glimpse of what awaits in perfect eternity

93. sadness of a single pink hair bow lost away from home turned to happy delight as the mischievous, purse-picking little daughter of a friend pulled the missing bow from an unused pocket of our diaper bag

94. applesauce morning, when three bags of apples turned to pink sweet/tart sauce at the hands of my mother and me and my two involved sons

95. my own grandmother next door with outstretched heart to my two little boys, insisting I leave those two bad shoppers with her while I gather groceries

96. the surprise of two bright eyes, baby blue, intent, focused on busy mama when I, brushing hair, look down from the mirror at darling daughter

97. the bright, undeserved baby smile given in innocent gratitude for basic affection

98. red tomatoes diced, soft white cheese cubed, tangy vinegar mixed with oil for the perfect lunch

99. two boxes full of toys for two little boys whose closets, unlike my own sons' closet, do not overflow with playthings...the beginnings of basic thoughtfulness, thinking of others besides ourselves, thinking of Jesus and what would make Him fill with joy

100. soft warm glow of a cozy lamp on a gray wet day

101. boys pressed against me in warm comfort on the couch as I read aloud to them stories that make us laugh as rain wets the dead leaves and dying grass outside

102. playmates who entertain each other as I do mother chores...all the moments two opposite boys build, color, explore, drive, create, ride, work in harmony

Thursday, November 13, 2008


We're using a wood stove for heat this winter. As a supplement to oil. The price, which was almost double last year's price a few months ago, has kept pace with gas prices and fallen back down these days, but it's still one of our largest yearly expenses, and firewood is much cheaper. So we've been splitting and stacking for a couple of months, and now we're almost done. Heating with a wood stove is hard work, and messy, but so far I'm in love with toasty floors and warmth that sometimes rises above 70 degrees without guilt that we're burning too much oil.

We did have an episode. Three days ago our house began to smell smokey. I thought it was from the smoke that escaped every time I opened the door of the stove to add more wood to the fire. But it got worse. When my throat started burning and the smell permeated all the rooms of our house I finally concluded that something was wrong. I went to bed determined to let the fire die out and investigate in the morning. When My Hero came home late that night the fire was still burning strongly, and he (prompted by the haze of smoke that greeted him at the door when he came home, I'm sure) went down to the basement to find the problem. He noticed smoke curling out of the joints in the elbow of our stovepipe. In the morning I called my dad to see what kind of advice he had about fixing leaky stovepipes (which we bought brand new just a few months ago). He had never heard of stovepipes leaking like that and suggested we check our chimney to make sure it wasn't blocked. I couldn't believe creosote could've built up already after only a few weeks of using our chimney, but I found a little mirror and checked. I could see daylight, but there was something like a big black pipe blocking my view.

Our problem: The stovepipe connecting to the chimney was all the way IN the chimney and up against the back wall. When we pulled it out we saw a ring of creosote build-up where the stovepipe met the back wall of the chimney, so it must have sealed itself completely shut and the smoke had nowhere to go.

I had been marveling about how difficult it was to start a fire in a wood stove. I would load it with newspaper and kindling, making sure there was plenty of space for air to travel between them, light the newspaper in 5 or 10 different places, and hold my breath to see if it would catch. Often the newspaper would burn for 2 or 3 minutes and then die out. I would often have to give it three or four tries before the fire would start, and I began ranting to My Hero about how ridiculous it was that houses burned down accidentally so often, when clearly even the best fuel was so difficult to ignite. Heh. With no airflow, I'm surprised it burned at all.

Now when I put in the newspaper and kindling and light the match to it, it roars to life, and I have to be ready to add more wood before it burns itself away.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


(Can you see the tiny change to her earlobe??)

Having a baby girl is a happy adventure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Here's the most helpful post I've read for a long time. It feels like it was written just for me as a mother of three small ones, struggling to find a melody amidst the chaos of life.

Some quotes:
"Parenting is the composing, the performing, of music, song upon song. Musicians play one right note after the next right note after the next right note. It's not an erratic splattering of sound, a fickle, helter-skelter banging of random notes. Music has order. It is composed. Notes are intentional, considered, deliberate.

As music has rhythm, recurring refrains, order, so does peaceful parenting. One action thoughtfully follows the next action that wisely follows the next. Days of habits, fluid and lyrical, create pleasing harmony. Lives with known rhythms, thoughtful arrangements, sing."

"And in reality, living in cacophony is more wearing than the hard work of practicing habits. 'Laziness means more work in the long run,' writes C.S. Lewis. Flubbing away at whatever strikes our fancy leaves us in far worse dire straits than applying ourselves to the work of playing concertos."

Ann Voskamp wrote those words, and they exactly describe what I've been trying to put my finger on lately. Part of the secret to a peaceful home is a fluid rhythm of good habits, routines, learned behavior that begins to come almost effortlessly over time, like washing my face in the shower...I do it so unconsciously that I can't remember doing it minutes later. The slow, deliberate, difficult days of learning new habits pay off in the lovely melody of excellence that begins to come naturally.

That is my vision for this "school year", this winter season of time spent mostly indoors. Establish routines of reading practice with my four year old, alphabet learning with my two year old, counting, Bible stories and Bible memory. These are listed on my new habit calendar along with other personal habits I want to form. To establish a rhythm for our days that will help us accomplish those things that need to get done, learn what should be learned, and live life to the fullest.

Days spent following the whims of the moment leave me humming lazily until the crises start, then chaos results and the day always ends badly. Days planned and lived with intentionality are rarely wasted. I'm more prepared and ready to hear and obey God's promptings when I have been diligently staying on top of daily tasks and parenting with all my heart.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fall Photos

Fall in New England is a good time to take photos of the kids. The foliage is exquisite, and it's sweater season. I LOVE sweater season.

I realize I could pay to have professionals do the job. But my kids are shy. Christopher Robin slinks to the floor when confronted by an outgoing stranger, adult or child, and pretends to examine his fingers or the engrossing carpet piles. Peanut Butter just glares from underneath protective lowered eyebrows and meets all enthusiastic strangers with stony silence. Raindrop has not developed resistance to strangers yet, but I'm still not convinced she'll be the social butterfly of the family. All that to say, I figure I've got about as good a chance as professionals would at getting a good picture. What I lack in professional equipment I make up for in my ability to get them to smile. A good whack to my own head and a feigned "OW!" works every time. I learned that trick from My Hero last time we were taking pictures. I think it works even better when I do it than when my husband does because I never do that sort of thing.

The results:Christopher Robin

Peanut Butter


And the indoor ones (these are the ones for which I hurt myself repeatedly in order to capture these amazing smiles):

And on a final note:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

an analogy

Trying to get things done while mothering small children is like trying to run in water. It's slow and awkward and frustrating...the water sucks at my legs and trips me up no matter with how much energy and passion I throw myself forward. I have great ambitions and start the day full of energy and goals. But I'm still adjusting to the limitations that come with caring for three small ones all day long. I come to the end of days spent working hard and doing my best to accomplish as much as I can, and I'm disappointed with the small progress I've made on projects like painting the deck and getting the wood split and stacked and cleaning the basement (that last one is really just a's been on my to-do list to go through the things in our basement ever since we moved in two years ago and I haven't started.) And I want to move my rhubarb to a different spot in our yard, and put the shelf back on the wall in the kids' room and go through all the digital pictures we've taken since Raindrop was born and order prints, and edit our family videos and burn them to DVDs, and it's time to seriously start Christmas shopping... My good days are the days when I stop trying to run through the water, relax, and learn to swim. Learn to embrace my new surroundings and work with them...enjoy my kids and let them help and learn as we go, making slow and steady progress on projects while focusing on the things that matter more to me, the daily disciplines of keeping the house clean, reading books, learning the alphabet and counting, making meals and yummy treats, spending time outdoors while the weather's still warm enough, memorizing scripture together. It's hard to accept that I can't do more, but I try to remind myself that the projects are not what matter. It's the relationships in my life that are precious and hold their value over time, and someday I'll look back (I already do) to when my kids were small and wish I could hold all three of them in my lap at once and read to them again. I don't think I'll wish I could go back and repaint the deck.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

how to help him be tough...

Peanut Butter's wails drown out all other household noise. He has fallen down...again. "What is it this time?" I ask him. "Me 'eg!" "Your leg? Do you need me to kiss it?" "Nigh! (yes)" I bend near and kiss the leg nearest me. "Mmm-mm!" He shakes his head and points to his other leg. I sigh and kiss that one. A few minutes later there's another tumble, and the deafening wails begin again. I am convinced that it's not reasonable for him to expect me to drop everything and come to his comfort every few minutes. Many times nothing really soothes him except if I were to give him maybe 10 minutes of holding and snuggling. How can I do that time and time again and still get anything done? I shake my head each time there's a new call for my comfort and sympathy. He has to learn to get up and brush himself off, I tell myself. How do I teach him to be tough?

And then I read this and realize that maybe the antidote to all the wailing is to be proactive and meet his need for touch. Peanut Butter, my little boy who spent his first year of life sleeping, being held, and wailing to be held. Maybe his thirst for touch is deeper than most's, and he finds so many reasons to need holding and comforting each day in order to help meet that need. Maybe I need to be more willing to supply it, and more generous in giving it of my own will so he doesn't have to ask for it all the time. Maybe if his heart is full, he can more easily learn to get up and brush himself off.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


My darling girl is awakening. The first weeks of life on the outside she has been almost entirely introspective. Quiet, serious, learning to live and breath, aware only of her own comfort or discomfort. Last night she was crying when I held her, so I laid her on the floor and she quieted, then spent the next forty-five minutes looking around and kicking her legs as though she was suddenly aware there was more to life than just herself. This morning she woke at 6 AM to eat, and after her little tummy was full I laid her on the floor again and sat and talked with her, and as I looked her in the eyes, she looked into mine and smiled. And then did it again. It's like the birth of a relationship, this beginning of interaction between us.

Even while I regret that these days of innocence and dependency are short, I'm impatient for the days ahead, the unveiling of her personality, the knowing of her.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I've begun to listen to myself during the days. I've heard a lot of harshness, impatience, griping. Would I talk to Christopher Robin that way if others were around? Would I let myself be so impatient with Peanut Butter if someone outside my family was watching? Would I show my frustration so nakedly, let it fill my voice with gravel?

This is my life. Am I who I want to be? If I had to watch a video of myself living out my day, could I bear to watch?

I'm a fallen creature, full of sin, and selfishness oozes out of my unguarded moments.

Lord, change me. Help me hear myself, and when I do, may my tone be tempered by love, the love only You can give, so my home will be full of peace and my kids can see You in me.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Moments like these make you realize how great life is...

Is there anything better than sitting on the couch with your baby girl in your arms with your two little boys happily chattering to each other as they spread blankets on the floor and play together while your husband sits nearby organizing the cluttered desk drawer?

I'm just saying.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Link & Logs

Christopher Robin received a set of Lincoln Logs from my parents for his birthday.
Today he asked if the plastic parts, the windows and doors, were the links.
Link & Logs

Friday, September 19, 2008

A small boy's perspective

"Tuttles finds dead mice and leaves them on our deck." Christopher Robin informed my mom.

Yes. Our cat hunts all night long for the dead ones.

Monday, August 25, 2008


74. The big miracles. Like the miracle of a brand new life created, gifted to a family, tiny, fragile, dependent, and so very precious.

75. A little girl nestled in the crook of my leg, sleepy breathing punctuated by little shudders and sighs of lungs newly put to use.

76. Two weeks paid time off for the proud Daddy. Two weeks together as a complete family. Two weeks of strengthened bonds between Daddy and sons, renewed friendship between My Hero and me.

77. "Ksheww! I shot the tiger that was going to eat my little baby sister!" Christopher Robin practicing his new role as protective big brother.

78. The deep, subdued colors of morning before the sunrise.

79. The strength and alertness to get out of bed before the others, after months of not doing so, and begin the day with a heart to heart with the High King.

80. Small moments of quiet and stillness to stop and drink in the beauty of a darling baby girl... my last new baby, unless God changes our minds somehow.

81. Peanut Butter's pathetic "Gammie Gampa" after about the eighth spanking of the day his first full day home with us after spending 3 days at my parents' house while we were in the hospital. Apparently Grammie and Grampa didn't treat him to many spankings. And he prefers life with them.

82. Peanut Butter pronouncing his little baby sister's name in a high pitched squeal with a sugar-sweet smile. And the kisses he showers her with.

83. That he has a form of touching her, those kisses, that isn't too rough for comfort.

84. My dad's recipe for porridge, hot in the bowl each morning.

85. Parents-in-law, flying out to visit in the middle of a busy farm season, to see their new granddaughter.

86. Kids' put away, teeth brushed, poems read, prayers said, then quiet. Well, after an hour and a half of reading books and talking to each other in their room, then, finally...quiet.

87. Christopher Robin, "reading" the story of Jesus' birth, his favorite, pretty much word for word, from memory.

88. Christopher Robin, quoting a poem that we read often at bedtime, spontaneously from memory for the benefit of his little brother. That he's memorizing poetry without even trying.

89. Twins, boy and girl, strong and healthy, born to dear friends in Florida about a month before our little girl...the fun of finally having kids the same age.

90. Now I am free from sin, my old master, and I have become slave to my new master, righteousness. Romans 6:18 Now I must choose to be a slave of righteousness so that I will become holy. 6:19

Thursday, July 24, 2008

a small choice

The morning has been rainy and gloomy, and myself feeling impatient and cranky. The morning was spent doing things, like making loaves of Amish Friendship Bread and dipping frozen bananas in chocolate and reading books to my boys, but not with purpose or intentionality. I'd resigned myself to a day without real direction or purpose, the wet air coming in from the downpours outside keeping my ambition dampened and lifeless. The boys fed and down for naps, I intended to curl up on the couch and take a nap also, after reading a little of Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography as I ate a frozen chocolate banana.

But then the sun came out. Blazing and strong. Shaming my lazy, self-indulgent intentions. I can't do things on rainy days like finish painting the deck or weeding the garden, but when the sun bursts forth and dries up my excuses, I have a choice. What will the rest of my day look like? My inclination is to follow my ready-made plan. Curl up on the couch and snooze in the warm breeze. Let the afternoon's whims dictate the last 6 hours of our day when the boys wake up from napping. Find ways to make myself happy and comfortable, or at least as uninconvenienced by the day's demands as possible.

But what if it matters? What if I choose the better way? What if I spend some time talking with my Father in heaven, submitting my unthankful spirit to Him, and enjoying the privilege of one-on-one time with the High King of All? What if this afternoon turns out to be a day in my life that really matters, not just another ordinary day that will be spent and forgotten. What if something happens today, and my reaction to it is based on the kind of day I've let myself have so far, and it really matters that I'm Spirit-filled, not full of self?

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

It's hard, on the days when I've let my old selfish self have some say in how I spend my morning, to turn and make a better choice for the rest of the day. But every day really does matter, and the bad ones can be redeemed. So now I go to humble myself before the throne, to lay my nasty, griping spirit on the altar, and choose the joy and rightness and truth of God to influence the rest of my day.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Middle of Everywhere

Five years ago this month, My Hero and I moved back to New England from his home state of Illinois. Two years ago this October, we moved into our newly built house on land purchased from my grandfather, about a mile down the road from my parents' house. It took a year or two, after 6 years away (4 for college, then 2 years after we were married) for this area to feel like home again, but since then, I have felt our roots, especially mine, delving deeply into this rocky New England soil, making connections, winding around favorite places, learning to find the best nourishment, what sources of joy New England has to offer. Summertime, especially, from the first days of melted snow and birds telling us that spring is here, offers endless reasons to joy in calling this place home.

Our large yard, surrounded by woods on two sides and a cow pasture on the third, with stone walls centuries old, holds so much freedom and potential. It's quiet here, and most of our time is spent in the back yard, far from the road. My garden patch doubled in size from last year to this, and its uneven edges testify to a work in progress. My goal in the next few years is to determine the right sized garden for our family, and to plant grass in straight lines around its' neat, rectangular edges. I love our yard, but I cringe with embarrassment at the slow progress we're making in getting it finished. Large patches on the sides and in back remain untamed and are now filled with weeds, shrubs, brambles, and growing young trees that will be harder to remove with each passing summer.
My maternal grandparents purchased a plot of land from my paternal grandparents across the road from us, and moved in last fall. Before their house sold and their new one was built, they would come and neaten up their stone wall, and sweep the rock that rises like an island in their front lawn, and trim away any undesired shrubbery. My Hero and I joked that they took better care of their lawn before they lived there than we did of ours after moving in. We joked, but it was absolutely true. This summer they have paved their driveway, replanted grass in bare spots, landscaped, put up window boxes under their windows and filled them with flowers, and they mow their lawn 2-3 times /week. In a week or two they'll have a deck built in back of their house, too. My Hero shakes his head and says, "They're shooting themselves in the foot. What will they have left to do next summer?" We're envious, but realize that they're retired and don't have toddlers to tend...other than all the times they invite our boys to come over and play. So they have more free time than we do.
We couldn't ask for better neighbors. My grandpa brings us their newspaper every morning around 6:30, after they've finished with it, even in the bitterly cold winter. And they bring our kitty the fancy food their spoiled cat turns her nose up to, which is the only time Tuttles gets soft moist food to eat. The best part is how much they delight in our little boys. Grandpa especially loves that Peanut Butter gravitates to him, climbing in his lap, snuggling with him, talking to him first.

This afternoon Great Grammie and Great Grampa came to take the boys and their vehicles across the road to ride around on their paved driveway.

My sister has a lovely habit of sending me something really good to read for my birthday, and this year it was The Middle of Everywhere by Mary Pipher, a book about "helping refugees enter the American community." I never had any idea just how difficult it can be for someone to adjust to our culture. Imagine someone, a middle-aged adult, say, who had never before used a clock or lived by the concept of hours and minutes, learning to keep an appointment or tackling the enormous complication of daylight savings time. The book really opened my eyes to the problems refugees face, and made me want to help somehow. New England isn't exactly a melting pot of nationalities, but actually our nearest city has a large population of refugees from Somalia. Many refugee families just need a friend to help them learn the necessary details of our culture...Pipher listed over three pages of things that she had helped refugees learn, things like:

How to mix juice
How to cross streets with traffic lights
How to use an alarm clock, a watch, a calendar, and an appointment book
How to check oil and put gas in a car
How to drive
How to peel an orange and eat watermelon
What to put in a refrigerator
What are vitamins
How to enroll in school
That cut flowers need to be put in water
What a United States map looks like and where Nebraska is
How to walk on snow and ice
What a birthday is
How to wear socks
That police can be helpful
How to use cleaning products
What germs are
What a tissue is

The list goes on and on... And the stories she tells of refugees she has come to know are almost impossible for me to fathom. Almost all refugees have lost family members--seen them shot in front of them, or seen them starve to death or freeze to death. Refugees have survived terrible situations, yet the United States confronts them with new and different difficulties. Life isn't easy for them just because they arrive here. Most can't speak English well enough to hold higher than minimum wage jobs, and many fall prey to the worst influences of our culture...television, commercials, credit cards, junk food...they have no education or experience to guard them against the lies shown on television every day.

The book opened my eyes to a need I had no awareness of until now. What can I do with this? How will this change me? I want to help, but I'm not sure where to start.

It also opened my eyes to the tremendous blessing of community, of being surrounded by friends and family who know us and care about us, of having roots and knowing the nuances of my particular town and land.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

he's learning to talk

His eyes are bursting with a story locked inside. He looks at me with wide intensity, and his body fights against the barriers of unlearned speech. "Mama! Brrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmm! Bampa!!"
"Grandpa took you for a ride on the tractor??" I ask.
"Dah!!" He nods excitedly, relief and joy that his story is told.

I wonder how much more Peanut Butter wants to say...details he would add if he knew how to articulate them. Maybe, since he's all boy, he wouldn't elaborate if he could; the bare facts are all he cares to discuss. But his enthusiasm and body language are eloquent about the passions that stir him. Tractors. Motorcycles. Horses, cows, pigs, and chickens. And puppies.

He's 22 months, and just these days his vocabulary is exploding. Yesterday he learned "moose" at the wildlife park we visited. "Can you say, 'moose'?" I asked. He shook his head. "Mmm-mm." But a few minutes later he was saying it. "Mooosh. Mooosh." I talk to him like I do to Christopher Robin, and he understands it all. But his mouth doesn't know how to make the sounds. He's frustrated by the barrier to his communication, and he's slowly, painfully learning to scale the wall of vocabulary so he can tell what's on his mind. Just nouns now. Lots and lots of sound effects help him tell his stories. And pointing. But the joy he feels when I understand propels him to keep learning.

Sometimes, unexpectedly, a new word will come out clear and intelligible, unintentionally. Then I won't hear it again. It's like his subconscious knows more about how speech is done than his conscious mind. He doesn't know how to make himself form a word, even though he can.

I'm guessing speech therapy would speed the process a little, but I'm not concerned enough for that. He's learning so quickly now I'm content to battle it out together, him and me, and Daddy and Christopher Robin, too.

For months Christopher Robin has entertained himself by asking, "Can you say, 'vacuum', Peanut Butter?"
"Yes! Good job!! You said, 'vacuum'! Can you say, 'calculator?'"
"Can you say, 'calculator', Peanut Butter?"

He knows his limits.

For a long time I've wondered what he will sound like when he talks to me. I'm starting to know.

Monday, June 23, 2008


My boys have started doing lots of things together.

scraping up hailstones on our deck after a storm

reading books

playing with the dryer knobs

putting toys away

playing with trains

"sleeping" in Mommy and Daddy's bed after getting bathed and dressed for church

riding their tricycle

I've always hoped that my two boys would grow up being friends. I guess that explains the delight I feel when I see them having fun together, or even when one wakes up before the other after nap time and starts acting lonely, then lights up when the other stumbles groggily out a little while later. There's plenty of competition and screams of ill will and looks of satisfaction when the other one is disciplined, but I love that they're growing up together...that their earliest years are full of times spent together. My hope is that they'll always be close friends...that their growing up years will form a bond between them that they value and nourish even if their life paths lead them far away from each other in miles.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

heart's cry

You say if I love You, I will obey You.
You say if I abide in You, I will bear fruit. Lots of it.
You say to love others as You love me.

But, Lord, I can't. I try, and in some of my best moments I succeed, but when the storms overwhelm me, even when my eyes are on you and I cry out for help, I sink beneath the waves. I feel my patience run low, I recognize that I'm at the end of responding with gentleness, and I look to You, implore You to fill me with more of what I don't have, but the next whine, the next sharp wail of protest from an angry boy snaps me. I want to do what's right, but it's not in me. I sink in despair at my own incapacity to obey You.

I long to see fruit. Tangible evidence that I'm Your child, that my life is not being wasted, that You can use me. Teach me what it means to abide in You, to stay connected to the vine.

Show me how to draw on Your strength and power, to respond with Your Spirit, rather than
tripping and falling in my weak, inadequate determination to do right.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Big Boy Beds

"I don't want a new bed," Christopher Robin insisted on our way home from the furniture store a month ago, van loaded with large boxes of new bunk bed pieces.

"Don't worry," I assured him. "It's not time to change beds yet." The unfinished wood would have to be assembled first, and then coated with three coats of polyurethane, and that would take us a little while.

After "helping" us put the beds together, and several mornings spent playing in the basement with Peanut Butter while My Hero and I sanded and wiped and polyed, Christopher Robin found the idea of sleeping in a bed up high, accessed only by ladder, exciting. He impatiently asked when it would be ready.

Still, last night as he and Daddy ceremoniously carried his toddler bed out of the bedroom, after his new bed was carried upstairs and assembled in its place, he again told My Hero, "I don't want a new bed." Even though he did. He wasn't ready to be rid of his old bed. It is a darling little bed, and he probably would have stayed in it at least a few more years if we had the space for two beds and a crib in the kids' room. Or at least would have passed it on to Peanut Butter when he moved to a twin bed, to free up the crib for their little sister. But we decided we weren't ready to move any of the kids to a bedroom in the basement yet, so they'll share a room for a year or two, the three of them, and putting the boys in bunk beds was the only way that could happen in their little room.

Once the old bed was removed and the boys had a few minutes to climb the ladder and play on the bed "up top," it was clear the excitement and novelty would make the transition and relatively painless one.

Relatively painless. The biggest adjustment is actually for Peanut Butter, who has been used rolling around to sleep against any of the four walls of the crib. Suddenly his rolling around tumbles him off the side of the bed. Cushions on the floor don't eliminate the rudeness of awakening to falling on the floor in the middle of a sleepy dream. Twice last night I heard the thump, and twice I tucked him, whimpering, safely into his bed, close to the wall, far from the edge. Our bodies learn, after a while, to stay away from the edge, but until then I expect a few more tumbles.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Just the usual, everyday problems...

During bathtime last night Christopher Robin informed me that he and Peanut Butter were drinking water from the tub faucet to wash the hair out of their mouths. I watched them rinse their tongues in the falling water, and then asked him why there was hair in their mouths.

"Oh, there just is," he said with a shrug. "I licked Tuttles."

Tuttles, our cat.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Every day is fresh, with no mistakes in it.

"Where's the joy?" I asked myself Monday mid-morning as I buttered English muffins for snack time. The day was going well. I'd started right, time spent in prayer and scripture first thing, then time spent planning the day. I was plowing through my list with determination, if not enthusiasm. Wash sheets and towels, clean the bathroom including the bathtub, plan supper, sweep kitchen floor, wash mirrors and dirty windows... I was making good progress, keeping myself going, but still the whole morning felt like drudgery, and the boys felt like anchors around my legs with their whining and complaints and new messes. Why don't I feel satisfied when I'm doing all I set out to do?
Tuesday, yesterday morning, I braced myself. Moms and kids coming for our moms' group at 9:30. Always the pressure is on to get as much accomplished as possible on mornings when guests are coming. Always the extra messes created by the boys are less tolerable on those mornings. Always I misjudge and don't leave myself enough time to get all I want to done before they arrive. Thankfully, my productive day Monday left me with just the basics to do Tuesday morning. Vacuum. Wash the floors. Make a coffee cake and coffee to share at snack time. I relaxed and let the boys be boys while we cleaned and prepared. I smiled at them and helped them and loved them. Christopher Robin emptied the dishwasher for me on his own initiative, chattering cheerfully to me the whole time. Peanut Butter was cooperative and sweet. I did have enough time, and when 9:30 arrived all was ready.
What was the difference between my two mornings? Some days are better than others. Maybe Monday really was just a bad morning for the boys. Maybe it was just a bad morning for me. But I realized that Monday, in all my goal setting and agenda-making, I hadn't left much room for thankfulness. I was so focused I didn't have attention to spare on appreciating the small things. Or giving thanks to my Maker. Abiding in Him and letting Him guide my actions and responses. And I felt no joy or pleasure in the day, no matter how well it set me up for a good morning the next day. I think my priorities were jumbled, and my list of things to do was at the top, instead of honoring Christ with my attitude, treating my little ones with patience and kindness, breathing thanks for all I've been given.
I feel like I KNOW all the right things, but I can't seem to get them right.
I need forgiveness and mercy. Thank you, Lord, for continually washing me clean.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Potty Training

Last night at bedtime I brought up the subject of reverting to diapers with Christopher Robin. He thought I was joking, smiled and laughed, "No, Mommy, I don't wear diapers!" When he realized I was serious he began to protest in earnest.

He has been potty trained for nine months, with occasional bed-wettings sporadically occurring. But every night for at least a week he has soaked his sheets around midnight, waking us up with wailing, forcing us out of our comfortable warmth to change sheets, change undies, change pajamas. The night before last I vowed it was the last time. Pull-ups would surely not be more expensive than all the extra laundry we were doing. A talk with my mom convinced me it might not be a bad idea. Bed-wetting runs in the family, and may last until he's 6 or 7 or older. That's a lot of midnight sheet-changing. And I truly don't think it's a behavioral issue. Christopher Robin sleeps deeply, and doesn't always realize what's happening until it's too late. I've been careful, amidst my midnight grumblings, not to scold or blame him, although I think my frustration has been clear.

But I did wonder if it might be something he could control. The night before last only his pajamas were wet, not his sheets, as if he had stood up out of bed before wetting. He has a fear of fire alarms that keeps him from going down in our basement by himself, and at night sometimes keeps him in bed when he would like to get up and come to us. Was that keeping him from coming out to use the potty at night, too?

I explained to Christopher Robin that the diaper was just for the night, just so he wouldn't have wet sheets or wet pajamas if he peed, but he absolutely hated the idea. I wasn't surprised, but I thought he could adjust. My Hero pulled him into his lap and explained gently again, that we knew he didn't try to wet the bed, but sometimes when he's sleeping it happens, and wearing a diaper was just to give Mommy a break from changing sheets, undies, and pajamas every night. "I won't have wet undies tonight," he kept promising. It broke my heart to see the anguish in his eyes at the idea of wearing a diaper.

"What do you think about giving him another chance?" I asked My Hero. "Maybe he'll want to wear his big boy undies strongly enough to keep himself dry at night." "It's up to you," My Hero said, even though it's both of us who wake up to change sheets and pajamas in the night. We decided to give it a try, and I explained to Christopher Robin that when he woke up at night needing to go potty he should jump out of bed, come get Mommy, and I'd help him go to the bathroom. And that if he wet his bed again, he'd have to wear a diaper the next night.

Ten after midnight last night I heard his door open, jumped out of bed to meet him in the hall, and helped him use the potty. "My undies are dry. I don't need a diaper." He said as he relieved himself.

That's right, little man. Maybe reverting to diapers is even scarier to this boy than fire alarms.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

thank You for...

64. Baby leaves bursting from buds on the fingertips of each branch of our maple.

65. Lilies coming up in the patches of ground where I planted them in full bloom last year. My first taste of the miracle of perennials.

66. Progress...a patch of brambles slowly giving way to cleared ground as I prepare to expand my garden.

67. A fire pit, designed, dug, and built by My Hero on his own initiative. A work of pride and skill. A place to burn the branches we clear from our yard.

68. Snuggling on the couch with a fever-hot forehead pressed against my cheek, reading library books to the three year old who would rather do nothing else.

69. Noticing every day new words forming in toddler boy's mouth, coming out unexpectedly.

70. The two month long face to face sit down lecture from my Heavenly Father as I read His gospels... His chastisement to me for not bearing fruit like a kingdom daughter should. Hope, that since He cares enough to deal with me about this, He plans to change me, teach me, form me.

71. Health, energy, strength to be a mom and wife again, as the little girl inside me assures me of her own health and strength with every kick.

72. Friends. A group of couples to care for and pray for, to help and be helped by, meeting weekly to learn and challenge each other, to honestly lay bare our struggles.

73. Sons who are brothers. Learning give and take. Learning compromise. Learning to outfox the other. Learning that together is more fun than alone.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Christopher Robin's Repertoir

During my months of feeling ill, Christopher Robin acquired several new skills:

1. He learned how to empty the dishwasher. Yes he did. Three years old. He up and decided one morning that he wanted to empty the dishwasher, and since I had no motivation or desire to do it myself, I gave him permission, and watched him a little skeptically from my reclining position on the couch. I expected he'd put some of the easier dishes away and leave the rest for me. But he eagerly dragged a barstool to the counter, loaded our heavy dinner plates onto the counter, climbed up, and put them where they belonged in the high cupboard. He reached down from his perch on the counter to take our glasses, one by one, from the top rack of the dishwasher and put them ("Carefully! carefully, buddy!") in the high cupboard as well. He had to ask me where a few miscillaneous items belonged, but most of the job he did entirely without aid. I was amazed. And thrilled. He emptied the dishwasher for me in that manner many a morning I did not feel inclined to do it myself. The thrill has worn off now, and the chore is mine once again, but since I'm feeling better, I'm okay with that. Still, in a year or two I know I can assign the job to him and know he's fully capable of doing it himself.

2. He learned to help his little brother down from his high chair. Peanut Butter has a dangerous habit of climbing out of his high chair and hanging off the side when he's finished eating. From that position he fusses loudly for me to help him the rest of the way down. It was a habit I tried very hard to break him of, but I was not consistent enough, or firm enough, or something, because he never gave it up, and now it's a regular habit. Soon he'll graduate to a shorter, safer high chair that doesn't pretend to keep him in one spot, but is open for him to climb in and out of on his own. Anyway, a couple of days my nausea, which usually just made me feel lousy and unmotivated, knocked me off my feet so powerfully that I couldn't even drag myself around. One morning we got home from a visit to our library and I collapsed in a chair feeling dizzy and faint and horribly sick. I must've put Peanut Butter in the high chair for a snack before I collapsed, because I remember him deciding he was done, and I lay in the chair unable to move. "Christopher Robin, can you help Peanut Butter down?" I asked him desperately. He thought for a minute, then ran over to one of our kitchen chairs, pushed it under Peanut Butter's dangling feet, and Peanut Butter climbed down on his own. Yes. I have a smart one. Since then he has often helped Peanut Butter down from his high chair in that same way. Also, as an aside to all the concerned adults reading this blog, I did call for help on those occasions. One time My Hero came home from work early to help, and another time my mom came and took the boys to her house for the rest of the day and all the next and let me just sleep, sleep, sleep.

3. He learned how to be sympathetic. My months of nausea kicked off with a family flu season right before Christmas. Christopher Robin hasn't been one to vomit much, but he did several times with this one, and so did Peanut Butter, then My Hero, and finally, early Christmas morning, I woke up with the dreaded virus. So Christopher Robin was familiar with the vomiting over the toilet process when I was dealing with morning sickness all through January, and he would stand beside me as I threw up and pat my back and say, "Oh, sweetheart..." in a dear, sweet voice. It truly was a comfort. And neither boy seemed to mind the grossness or the smell...they'd watch with curiosity whenever I allowed them to.
Can good come from a time of misery and dullness? Yes. Yes, it can.

Friday, March 7, 2008


It has's here! The magical time called "the second trimester." I really wasn't sure this pregnancy would bring a happy second trimester. But I have felt normal for over a week, not counting the second day after I tried not taking my medication... I'm still downing half a vitamin B6 tablet, half a sleeping pill, because that combination mysteriously combats nausea, but I wouldn't be surprised if in a week or two, when I dare try again to do without them, my nausea will be gone. I can't describe the relief, satisfaction, and pleasure that comes with feeling good after months of not. Today I washed the floors, vacuumed, did three loads of laundry, played 3 games of UNO with my three year old Christopher Robin, read two books to him, played hide and seek with both little boys, fed them breakfast, snack, and lunch, was cheerful and involved with them, getting their "help" with all the tasks I was doing, and now they're napping, the house is tidy, and after I put them down for a nap I went outside with our new mailbox and the power drill, took the old mailbox off the post, and screwed the new mailbox on. Then shoveled even WIDER around the mailbox to be as sure as I possibly could that the plowman could see our box clearly and not smash it this time, and since I didn't hear any noise on the monitor to indicate that my dear little ones were waking up, I also shoveled a path through our 6 feet of snow to the utility box for our faithful meter reader and a path to our oil pipe for the next oil tank replenishment (a job we've been woefully neglectful of this winter, much to the chagrin of the good people who have to wade through unshoveled snow just to do their jobs.) And lo, the boys are still sleeping.

All this crowing about such a happy, productive day is probably throwing a jynx on this afternoon, where all will undoubtedly crumble into disorder and chaos. But after months of those things, such a morning is almost beyond belief. I just have to brag a little. (=

And to think, it's not even spring. Though it is quite warm outside. 43 degrees. Not exactly swimsuit weather, but I didn't need a hat and scarf while I was shoveling...I might have even done with a lighter jacket. I'm thinking about taking the little guys outside to enjoy the warmth this afternoon. They have a great time outside in the snow with their shovels when the weather's warm enough. I heard a rumor that six more storms are progressing my way, but I don't care. Spring is coming, no matter how much more snow comes ahead of it. I don't even care that spring this year will consist of flooding and mud. Well, I do a little, but that will pass, too. Good health brings bountiful optimism.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I'm not sure where to pick up after such a long absence. These last few months have been long and hard and discouraging, but I'm beginning to feel stirrings of hope.

Our pastor spoke today about presenting our lives as living sacrifices to God, that being our true act of worship. I was so grateful for those words. They admonished me and gave me direction. I feel as though these past few months have been wasted, just survived. I didn't want it to be that way, but I didn't know how to spend them well, since most of the time I just felt awful, and was waiting for the next normal moment to try to catch up on some of the things I'd let slide for so long. Like dishes, laundry, cleaning. I feel as though I'm learning how to live life well, except for when I'm sick. Then I find it hard to take my eyes off myself and my misery long enough to offer true worship to God, gratitude for all He's given. Partly because I feel like such a failure that I'd rather do a crossword puzzle than think about my life and how I'm living it. Dismally. Just surviving. Dreaming of spring and longing for days of energy and health and joy.

We spent a week in Florida, My Hero, my two boys, and I, and it was a break from the monotony, from the unclean house and the chaos created by two boys whose mama isn't keeping up with them. I felt good most of the time, and the warm breezes and gentle sun were healing, and the relaxed time of living with friends and enjoying their company and being part of their world for a week was refreshing. We came home to a driveway shoveled and plowed by family and friends, and supper on the table from my grandparents. We keep getting snow and more snow, but no matter what, "We're nearer to spring than we were in September."

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

"We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,"
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

Oliver Herford

Eventually the white blanket, no matter how thick, covering our garden beds will have to melt, and after the flooding has eased and the mud has dried, we'll have green grass to walk in and sit in and play in, warm, fresh air drifting through the stale rooms of our house, and the sounds of spring making music in our hearts. Who can feel nauseous when the world is so?

Truthfully, I am feeling better, though not well enough to go off my medication. I tried not taking it the day after I returned home from Florida, but clearly, it makes an enormous difference in how I'm feeling, so I'll keep on it for now. Yesterday I felt nearly normal all day, and made progress catching up on cleaning, and my spirits lifted. My aspirations soar so much higher than I'm capable of really doing, though. I dream of the kind of spring cleaning I'd like to do in every room of the house, but honestly, that would be difficult to accomplish in the best of health with two little boys to care for and life carrying on in its usual way.

I want to think less about me and my troubles, and more about Jesus. What makes Him pleased, what He expects of me, what He's given me to do or be today. That's what it means to be a living sacrifice. That's how I can worship Him. Not by trying to be someone I've made up in my own mind, not even by trying to be perfect and do everything right, but by being His, bending my ear to hear what He's telling me, being ready to follow Him in anything He asks, even if it doesn't match what I think I should be doing.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The magic sandwich

Life has changed for me dramatically since my Christmas flu. The gentle, nagging nausea of the weeks before Christmas changed to a harsh, debilitating bitterness in my stomach that was only relieved by lying down and sleeping. Constant nausea. A third child on the way. And I'm quite decided that this is the last. As far as it is up to me. I used to say four, but I have since come to realize that I'm not the personality that would enjoy the bigger numbers...more chaos, more messes, more responsibility. And My Hero has never wanted lots of kids. He's always said three, at the most. Now we're in agreement. I'm not sure why the nausea has been so much worse this time than the last two pregnancies, but the "morning sickness" has seemed to get progressively worse with each. It feels as though my body is telling me, "Enough, already!" I'm happy about this pregnancy in that we wanted it, it was planned, and I know a third child will bring us untold joy. I know in my mind. My emotions at this point in the pregnancy keep griping to me that this is a ridiculous hardship I could've chosen to avoid. It's hard to imagine a soft, sweet, warm darling child in my arms when I'm doubled over the toilet.

We have found something that brings temporary relief from the nausea, however, in a most unexpected place. I told my grandparents the news a few days ago, and my sweet grammie called me that evening offering to take the two boys while My Hero and I went out to supper. She even offered a McDonald's coupon, buy one sandwich, get one free. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness that I accepted her offer, though I felt terrible and couldn't imagine being able to keep down a MacDonald's burger. My Hero suggested Subway instead, and that sounded more appealing to me, though I wasn't overly hopeful that any food would stay put in my stomach and digest as it should. I ordered my favorite, a six-inch Italian BMT on Parmesan oregano bread with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar. My Hero and I chatted quietly about his job, what had happened in his day, future goals and plans. As we talked I nibbled. It was oh, so tasty. When I had eaten the whole sandwich, my stomach felt warm and satisfied. The nausea was gone. We went home, picked up the kids, put them to bed, and watched a movie together before going to bed fairly early ourselves. The whole evening I felt normal, which, after weeks of misery, is such a delightful way to feel.

I hoped maybe the change would last indefinitely, but the next morning I awoke feeling dreadful again.

So yesterday after church we stopped at Subway on my way home from church. I drilled My Hero several times to make sure he knew exactly what to order. I was feeling sick, and exhausted after a morning getting ready for church, practicing with our worship team before church, then helping lead worship during the service. By the time church was over I felt like I had nothing left for energy to get me through the rest of the day. My Hero came out with my sandwich and the strong, spicy, vinegary smell filled the car, sending me into transports of delight. We put the boys down for their naps, sat down to watch Prisonbreak, Season 2 that a friend from church lent us, and I munched away. The same warm, satisfied feeling replaced the bitterness and nausea of the morning. I don't know what it is about that particular sandwich, but it works magic. All afternoon I felt amazing. By evening it began to wear off, but My Hero and I both decided it was worth shelling out $4 a day for that feeling of health to keep my going for hours at a time. He'll be stopping by a Subway on his way home from work tonight.

As an aside: Prisonbreak? Incredibly good. Addictive. So, so good. I'm on the edge of my seat all the time. I love watching how Michael Scofield works out his plans and finds solutions for the situations he faces. Unexpected twists, and realistic foils to the best laid plans. I can't say enough good things about this series. And I didn't think I'd like it.

The nausea is also why my blogging has ground to a halt. Mornings are no longer my favorite time of day. I tried to keep dragging myself out of bed for that sacred hour, but would end up falling asleep on the floor, without energy or desire to drag myself to the computer and post about my life. I hate regressing back to life before my routine, and hopefully as time goes by the sickness will lessen and I can reform a workable routine for the next nine months of my life. I want to get back to working out as soon as possible, because while you're not advised to begin a new workout routine while you're pregnant, you are encouraged to keep going with your current work-out as long as it's comfortable, which, with Peanut Butter, was up to the last few weeks. Ha ha. I remember how light and free I felt when I resumed the workout a few weeks after delivery. I felt like I was floating through the exercises, light as a balloon.

Most naptimes have been spent napping. Today has been a better day than most, and I'm using the time to blog, but most days by the time the boys go down, I'm collapsing into my soft sheets for an hour of rest.

I've found the severity of the nausea shocking and depressing. How can I drag myself through three months of this? IF it ends in three months like it did with the first two. A friend of mine is 5 or 6 months along and still feeling miserable. I keep picturing the boy in a story I read long ago who was given a ball with a string in it, and every time he wanted to hurry up a part of his life that was slow or boring or unpleasant, he could just pull the string and he'd be on to the next phase of life. At the end of his life he realized he'd skipped a good portion and missed out on over half of his life, making it very very short. I don't want to count these next few months as worthless, just days to be endured, hopeful for better ones ahead. But that's where I'm struggling. I wake up and think about what things I can do to make the day pass more quickly. By afternoon I'm relieved that I have just a few more hours to endure before My Hero is home, and then a few more hours until the little ones are in bed and I can go to bed. How do I learn to value these days? To make them worthwhile? To be grateful for them? True, these days will pass and be a distant memory, but they won't pass quickly, and I'm in them for a purpose. I think I will focus on being thankful. I still have so much to be thankful for, and if I don't feel much gratitude about the new life inside of me yet, I can be grateful for naptime, the peace and quiet and rest, for soft sheets to crawl into, for a fridge and freezer and cupboards full of convenience foods that save me from endless hours cooking supper. For two little boys that fill my days with joy, even when I'm so tired. For a husband that is compassionate and understanding and willing to buy me a magic sandwich on his way home from work. For the magic sandwich.