18 February 2013

"God in the grossness"

Intrigued? Then you might want to go here and read more.

(Full disclosure: The founder of this new blog is a friend of mine--which means I know firsthand that she's got a lot of great things to say about stuff and whatnot. Including grossness. I'm lookin' forward to all those Messy Mondays ;) )

17 February 2013

The best construction on everything

Long ago and far away, in a barely-remembered life, my husband and I were dog-shopping in a Humane Society. Amidst the deafening din of frantically hopeful barking that echoed over the concrete floor, we surveyed the hard-luck cases culled from the streets of St. Louis.

All of the dogs had little notes on their kennels, such as I am a gentle older dog and I miss my owner, who had to go to the nursing home and couldn’t take me along. I would love to be your new companion, or I am very affectionate and I love belly rubs!
The notes were all obviously intended to be winsome, but since I’d spent some high school volunteer time at a Humane Society, I knew that some of them required a little creative reading; e.g., I want to be your only pet (read: “I’ll eat your cat”); I would be a wonderful addition to a home without children (read: “I’ll bite your babies”); I would be a wonderful agility dog. I respond well to lots of exercise and attention (read: “If I’m bored, I’ll chew the furniture and herd your dinner guests); or I am loving and loyal but sometimes nervous, and I need someone who will be patient with me (read: “I’ll pee on your floor every time the door bell rings”).         

In short, the good people at the Humane Society recognize the power of words to shape our perception and treatment of our fellow creatures. (And indeed the fellow creatures’ perceptions of themselves, at least when the creatures happen to be human ones.)  

Over the years, I’ve heard people that I don’t even know very well say some startlingly harsh things about their kids, sometimes in said kids’ hearing. Why do parents do this? Well…I know all too well why parents do this. It can be so very hard, especially when one is frustrated with a child, or embarrassed by his behavior, to bite one’s tongue.

As my children grow, I’ve become increasingly convicted about how crucial it is to mind my words about them, especially (but not only) in their hearing. Would I like it if my husband patted me on the head whilst laughing to a buddy about how Wifey just never can seem to time the meatloaf and the potatoes exactly right, etc., etc.? No? Then perhaps I should think twice before telling tales in a condescending tone, even a fond one, as Sonny stands by, all red ears.
Awhile back, I read something to this effect in a veteran homeschooling mom’s reflections: I wish I’d talked less, and to fewer people, about my kids’ failings, even when the kid wasn’t around to hear it. Now, everyone needs someone(s) to talk to about the specific challenges presented at times by certain children, particularly Difficult Children (Heck, some of us could use a regular support group…), but that venue is most properly a)someone who cares for you and your family, preferably someone who also loves your children, b)someone who is walking (or has walked) a similar road and can offer helpful insights or much-needed empathy, and/or sometimes c)a pastor, counselor, or other professional. 

The venting venue—and this one isn’t always easy for me to swallow back down—is not anyone and everyone at church who sees you embarrassed for the umpteenth time by a behavior that you know perfectly well that you have addressed to the best of any parent’s possible ability. Grin (gritting your teeth as amiably as possible counts) and bear it; remove the kid for whatever preplanned words or measures you need to take; save the steam you need to blow off for your support system.   

If the people at the Humane Society can do so well at applying Luther’s catechetical explanation of the eighth commandment to the furry four-footed crowd, then surely I can work a little harder at putting the best possible construction on the dear little eternal neighbors entrusted to my care.

And when I remember to do this, to extend the same grace that I would like to receive, and indeed have received in such abundance, I’m amazed at how thoroughly it lights up the kid’s face and how instantly it puts us both back on the same team (imperfect, sinful beings operating under God’s grace and forgiveness, ever striving to help each other bear more fruit) again.

Try a few?

When the kid who “should be” too old to need you to walk him to his Sunday school room interrupts your conversation because he really does need you to walk him to his Sunday school room: “I’ll be right back. Sometimes we still like to walk to Sunday school together” is just so much better than, “*eyeroll, sigh*, hang on, I guess he can’t handle walking down the hall by himself yet.”  

When the kid who’s been told a thousand times not to interrupt, interrupts for the thousand and oneth time, a whispered reminder followed by a “Sorry, he’s just very excited to share” is much more graceful for all involved than is a snappish, “Can’t you see that we’re talking? What have I told you about interrupting?”

When the live wire who is constitutionally unable to sit politely in a pew for long stretches has an eyebrow-raisingly difficult Sunday (again): “Don’t you wish we still had that kind of energy? This kid does so well when we give him a tough project; you ought to see him sweep the garage.”

When your fumble-fingered, Velcro-shod kid watches a younger friend (and younger friend’s mom) show off his lacing skills: your kid will forever remember that you (whatever your private despair over his motor skill delays) complimented the other kid, then hugged him and turned the conversation briefly to something he did well (and didn’t make him practice knots for half an hour after you got home).

I know this is all terribly obvious but I wasn’t born clever and I have to keep learning and re-learning this stuff as I go along. I still mess this up sometimes, but I’m trying to get better. Fortunately, there are no shortages of opportunities to practice... 

And remember, if you’ve got a kid, like that tragic little Chihuahua mix at the pound, and in fact like most toddlers at least at some point, who really does pee on the floor every time the doorbell rings, just try to remind yourself: She is loving and personable. She just needs someone to be patient with her when she gets a little nervous and forgets herself.  ;P

15 February 2013

The trouble with Lent

Whether fried, pan-seared, boiled, or baked, fish still tastes like fish.

I got your back, little buddy.

09 February 2013

Feeble words

Miscarriage is a killing frost that drives a woman in on herself. It pushes her life into her roots, deep into private soils. It drives her into isolated darkness, wherein she meets and is measured by all that she has ever trusted, all that she has ever loved.

Miscarriage stands each woman apart on her own small patch of earth to grapple the brambles of death. It bids her to bleed alone; there is no other way. It bids her to cry alone, and to mourn alone. It traps her alone in a tomb of confusion and doubt, pain and anger, circumstance and superstition.

Miscarriage rends asunder, but Christ is risen from the dead. He is close to His daughters, much closer than death. He breathes upon them a Spirit of Life which cannot ever die and which cannot be driven down by the cold. He pours healing wine into their wounds and places into their mouths His Flesh, whereby He joins Himself to them in their very bones. And in His Church, He gives His daughters unto each other, that they might carry their burdens together. Alone in space, each is never alone in Him.

Sisters, it is dark where you stand, and so very terribly cold. But you are not alone. The morning comes which brings with it His blessed Eucharist, whereby we, His daughters, stand together and cry in our misery before Him who regards us so tenderly. And in the Morning (the signs abound!) we will each be called forth by name, never again to be alone in the tomb. And our children will be returned to our arms. And these tears, stored by God in His bottle, will be found credited to our accounts, already overfull with the merits of Christ Jesus our savior.

How long, oh, Lord? How long?

06 February 2013

The stickiest PSA

We have a pretty extensive Schleich collection. That's right. I'm one of those cruel, thoughtless mothers who allows her children to play with toys made out of PVC. You can judge me later. Right now, listen up.

In addition to our Schleich collection, we have what we like to call, "The Toddler." This creature has worn many faces over the years, but it is always lurking about like a young lion seeking to destroy. For reasons that remain a mystery, it most dearly loves dismantling the best-liked of the PVC toys.

What a dilemma, right? The Toddler we will always have with us, and PVC doesn't just grow on trees. Neither does it respond well to any attempt to fix it with glue ...


Here's what you do: Find a glue-friendly surface (like a Post-It note!). Dump a bit of baby powder (or some other talcum stuff) on your glue-friendly surface. Mix several drops of super glue (whatever brand you like; we have Gorilla) into your baby powder pile until you have a gloppy paste. Apply gloppy paste to broken PVC toy and hold broken pieces together for something like 30 seconds. Leave to dry completely. 

Voila. That beloved poisonous thing is fixed and you're a big hero for doing the fixing. Booyah, grandma.   

05 February 2013

Book, recommended (particularly for those of us who are currently in a season of “little years” that may leave us short on sleep, reading time, coherent thoughts, temper…)

A dear person gave me this deceptively little book, and I am so glad that she did. Though some of its self-contained chapters don’t quite reach two pages, each one has exponential potential for unpacking through prayer, self-examination, and action (at least for those of us who are in need of a perspective check, which describes me approximately every other minute or so).

I skimmed it once, quickly, and it’s still all whooshing around in the churn. I plan to read it again, slowly now, to work at getting some of the cream to come together, solidify.

I needed to read a book about the “little years” again. I know that I’m still a total amateur in this parenting thing; I don’t even have a kid in the double digits yet. But after having been at it for such a seemingly long time (B.C. is but a lazy, hazy memory), a creeping frustration was beginning to darken my days—the feeling that I should surely have somehow moved beyond the “little years” by now, or at least should have become more breezily adept at coping with the daily fatigues of the preschool-toddler-infant set. I’ve got bigger fish in need of frying now; why am I still wiping bottoms and teaching people the alphabet and pretending to be patient while a two-year-old works to put on her own shoes? True: I don’t feel the weight of every decision anywhere near as heavily as I did when I had only two littles. But neither do I feel like an old pro at things like potty training and toddler discipline and babies who cry in the middle of the night. I just feel...old, and tired, and frankly sometimes just tired of it all. In short, I needed a good kick in the pants, which this book cheerfully provided. Thank you, Rachel Jankovic!

Perhaps I’ll have more to say about the book as I reread, but for the moment, I’ll leave you with an image that instantly and helpfully crystallized some of my recent musings. Jankovic uses it to describe what she calls “growth spurts” (those times when you feel like you’ve just gotten a handle on things, and then, seemingly overnight, the kids all show up with entirely new variations on crazy). The image is also quite apt for household adjustment whenever a new baby arrives:

“You know those pain scales at the hospital, where they rate your pain from one to ten? Well, pretend that you are screaming, “Thirteen, thirteen! Fifteen!” What that should tell you is that it is time to restart the whole thing, stop screaming, and just accept that this is now the new ‘one.’ Start over, and accept the new ‘normal.’ I promise that this little mental change will actually change how you feel, and by extension how your children feel. Growing is, after all, what God wants them [and us!] to do.”

So if you’re screaming “fifteen!”, or tired, or overwhelmed (Jankovic offers a helpfully convicting perspective on the “o-word” too), you just might want to spend a few minutes a day with this book, which helpfully smacked me back toward the Book whose perspective should frame my every moment.

03 February 2013

Martha, Martha, even more than last time.

Hate writing about this; hate saying I can't stop myself.

We had a rotten fall here this past year. We lost two beloved sisters in Christ. Both losses were suffocatingly difficult, although in different ways. Both sisters had cancer.

As the day was surely drawing nigh for each, and with cruel proximity to each other, I found myself begging our Lord with even greater than usual fervor that He would come with clouds descending; that Bonnie and Jen would be raised from their sickbeds and gaze with us on His glorious scars.

Why? Why did I keep praying this? I was embarrassed to admit the answer. I didn't want either of them to die. O death, where is thy sting? And yet, 

at some point it is realized or admitted that a sick person just can't get well outside of extremely miraculous intervention. Anyone who has seen someone travel this awful road knows that although God can certainly bring about any miracle, He has made no such promise. In the absence of the miracle, the main thing we want for the suffering person is peace in Christ, comfort, and freedom from pain. Though we pray for the miracle, we must also pray as those who know that miracle is not promised.

I didn't want my sisters to have to die. I did not want them to pass into that black and stinking maw. I wanted the ultimate Deus ex machina for them and all of us.

"Lord, if you hadst been here, my brother had not died."

"Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. "