22 July 2012

I think this will be my new standard reply

whenever someone watches me wrangling kids and remarks, "I don't know how you do it":

I'd apologize to the purists, but really, when is a girl supposed to find time to mix her own?

20 July 2012

Indelicate but true

Some of the best postpartum advice I've ever gotten was from the nurse who walked in shortly after Baby2 was born and handed me some Colace: "Don't try to be a hero. Just take this for the next few days."

Some of those baby nurses really know what's what. Anyone else want to share any memorable postpartum advice from an experienced baby nurse, midwife, or mentor-mom? (Or from hard-won experience?)

15 July 2012

Hey! I can tie my shoes again!

The strife is o’er, the battle done…

Dear observant Cathy: Yes! I beat the ticker!

Dear praying Anon: Thank you, thank you, and your prayers were answered just about 11 hours after the 13th!

Praising God for another healthy, freakishly adorable, 7 lb 11 oz baby boy.

Random thought: Whenever I contemplate a newbie, I am astonished by his astonishing smallness. Until I recall where he so recently dwelt, and his method of egress. And then I am astonished by his astonishing largeness.

Above all, I am astonished that despite my many, obvious, egregious failures as a mother, God in His grace has bestowed upon me yet another child-gift, and in His mercy will continue to drown my failures in the lavish sufficiency of Christ’s blood.

11 July 2012

It's not OK, but that's OK

I’ve felt very loose-endish lately. Waiting on a baby, especially when your last baby was early and you’re already in that territory, can do that to a body. Anyway. I insomniacally picked up a book from a pile that had recently arrived at our address (you all know about AbeBooks, right?), muttering to my longsuffering husband about the appropriateness of its subtitle: “Weary? Can’t get it right? Struggling to make life work?” Now that I’m all of 30some pages into Larry Crabb’s The Pressure’s Off, I’m not exactly positioned to write a review or a recommendation, but those introductory pages did help with the muttering a bit ;O.

(Aside: Crabb has a penchant for Capitalized Phrases, but I find myself mostly willing to construe it as idiosyncratic rather than annoying.)

Here’s how Crabb defines the main problem he’s addressing in this book:

Most evangelicals properly reject the teachings commonly known as the prosperity gospel or the health-and-wealth gospel….But sometimes we smuggle our own version of that idea into our understanding of the Christian life. Though we deplore the idea that health and wealth are available on demand, we like the idea that legitimate blessings are given to those who meet the requirements. The Bible says so….(Deut. 29:9)…We want the good life. We may define it more spiritually…..But we still maintain that the good life of legitimate blessings is a worthy goal and one that may be reached by living a faithful life of obedience to biblical principles.

Crabb refers to this more subtle sinkhole as the Law of Linearity (if I do A, then B will follow). We find ourselves trying to follow Biblical principles in order to obtain the Better Life of Blessings, when what we really should be pursuing is the New and Living Way, the Better Hope (Hebrews 7:18-19) of intimacy with God no matter our life’s circumstances. (You see what I mean about the Capitalized Phrases.)

This Law of Linearity thing is a potentially ruinous guilt trap for Christian parents, who are well drilled in the Biblical proverbials of parenting (train up a child in the way he should go, and all that). One of the most simultaneously frustrating and freeing realizations about parenting is that beyond a certain point (which varies with each child’s personality and age), we have little to no control over our children’s actions, particularly in public. This becomes exponentially more true with each additional child, and with, shall we say, certain children.

 Because you can only get so far with a whistle.
How quickly I fall into the despairing cycle: It’s not working. Why can’t I get everything, or even anything, going in the right direction? What am I doing wrong? It’s! Not! Working! I have wasted too many moments second-guessing.  But…after all, if I’m doing A like the Christian parenting books say, then shouldn’t B be happening, at least some of the time?

No. B does not necessarily follow even the most diligent A-ing. There is some value in (some) parenting books. Appropriate A-ing should be pursued. But! When B does not follow, the cry of a mother’s heart should not be (or should not primarily be) for the Better Life: “Why, Lord? What am I doing wrong? Show me how to make it work!” Plead rather for the Better Hope: “Please, Lord. With this gift of your very life’s blood, pour into me the strength to continue pouring myself out. Enlarge my heart, that the life-giving transfusion may not be wasted through selfishly narrowed arteries. Teach me to live daily the difference of that cleansing flood, the difference between hard and hopeless, invisible to all but the eyes of faith. God grant me eyes of faith!”
Things might not seem to be working right now. Truly, why would we expect them to? And where better to learn to desire the Giver above the gifts, than in the place where the gifts are stripped away? And in the time when crutches are knocked out, replaced with cross?  

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Old wounds

Remember when it got really obvious that Bob Sagat hated hosting America's Funniest Home Videos? That was so sad.

09 July 2012

This magic moment

One of those threats that gets made about not staying home with kids (for those who have the luxury of making that decision) is about all the magical moments that end up being given over to someone else. The hired hands of the world are getting the first smiles and first steps while the mothers are doing exactly what I do all day except that they do it for strangers.

But the magic argument would not convince me. I'm not a person to get terribly excited about milestones or moments. What I find much more compelling is the grunt work argument. Although I wouldn't be thrilled about the joy of my baby's first smile falling to a hired hand (to whatever extent that might bring joy to a hired hand), I like much less the idea that someone else is doing the filthy work my own choices have generated. I think that the least pleasant tasks which are included in the care of children are most particularly and appropriately mine. It weirds me out to imagine some other person rummaging around in my children's diapers and underwear all day. It's not that I think everyone else in the world is a pervert, it's just that diaper rummaging is really personal and really gross. Is it possible to pay someone enough for changing a dirty diaper? I don't think so. If some fair price could be put on it, I'm sure it wouldn't begin to fit my budget.

Whether it is a good and generous heart or a needy mercenary who is willing to take on these endless, icky, and ungratifying tasks, that willingness does not negate my responsibility. If my kid pukes on someone, I think it should be on me. If my kid's nose is runny, I think I should wipe it. If my kid is spreading a rash, I think I should itch. I'll likely get some magic thrown in too, but that is a gracious benefit. The gross stuff is what I really owe it to the world to do myself, because no one else should have to.

Just give it to anyone! Absolutely anyone!

03 July 2012

Hey, I'm an American

A recurring theme in this blog, or maybe just in my head: the many and various ways that motherhood, particularly the seemingly perpetual motherhood of young children, is so very, wrenchingly, good for the soul. Our American*-steeped psyches, being as they’re also sin-sick, get to thinking that those individual rights we treasure so dearly apply universally and in family life. We do so love our rights.

And I am as slow and as sin-steeped as they come. For me, at least, it took the continual demands of motherhood to understand that looking not only to my own interests, but also to the interestsof others, might mean doing so on a schedule other than my own—not just sometimes, but every day.  Or that counting others as more significant than myself might require actual (gasp!) sacrifice! And that those others might be diaper-clad, with an astonishing amount of tyranny packed into a ridiculous stature, relentless, and thankless.

As Rebekah pointed out awhile back, there’s nothing like motherhood to make a body realize that even introversion, for instance, is a privilege, not a right.

I was just thinking of a few other privileges that I formerly assumed to be in the category of unalienable rights, e.g.:

The right to determine how a day should start. I love a peaceful morning; a new beginning; an orderly commencement of the day’s tasks. Realizing that I had to awaken with, and likely immediately feed, whichever little ‘un(s) woke at whatsoever time, was an adjustment. I got kind of used to that. I harbored no illusions about, for instance, my chances of meditating over a devotional book with an uninterrupted cup of tea to the sweet chorus of morning birds. And yet I used to think that I was at least entitled to some semblance of order in the waking and breakfast process—especially if I worked hard enough to earn a little law and order in the way things went down. As it turns out, I have a kid who wakes up like he’s been shot from a cannon into britches full of fire ants. And his morning just won’t feel complete till he’s dragged his siblings through the anthill too. So. Farewell to my “right” to order the day’s beginning and the breakfast table as I please. (Heck, I can’t even get them all to EAT the same thing for breakfast…) 

 What, your breakfast table doesn't look like this either? (Kids obviously sold separately too...)

Also: the right to three uninterrupted minutes to deal with necessary matters of personal health and hygiene. No need to elaborate here, eh?

Suffice to say that the battle I must wage against my desire to have my rights is a daily one, and the list could go on and on. And on. But I will end it here with a small pang in my heart and a tiny wistful sigh, as I remember the days in which it seemed to me that the opportunity to enjoy a piece of chocolate at whatsoever moment it pleased me was indeed as unalienable a right as if it had been John Hancocked all those 236 years ago.

*America is great. I love this country. Happy Fourth, everyone! I’m just noting that, like any other culture, America’s has its own particularly soul-endangering notions and tendencies.


Explaining to someone, "I don't like your friend because she's so uncharitable." :P

01 July 2012

Peter and Joan

They were the happiest couple in that country, because

they always understood each other, and that was because

they always meant the same thing, and that was because

they always loved what was fair and true and right better,

not than anything else,

but than everything else put together.

George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie