Archive for the ‘Everyday Life’ Category

Snapshot: Family Fun Day

May 24th, 2020

We have been trying to have at least one “family fun day” per month, in which we all do something special together – but since most of our possible out-of-the-house activities are either closed or not particularly suitable for a family with a newborn in the time of COVID, we had to get inventive this month.

Watching a movie from inside the tent

So we set up the tent in the living room and watched The Court Jester. The tent kept the kids mostly contained and mostly not fighting. The knights kept Louis interested. The princess kept Tirzah Mae interested. Shiloh kept me occupied with breastfeeding.

It was a success, I think.

Weeds that bite

May 22nd, 2020

I took the compost out yesterday during the kids’ naps; and, as I returned to the house, I decided to go ahead and pull just a few weeds on the bed at the north of the house.

A half an hour later… I was still at it.

And I discovered a weed I hadn’t yet met.

Meet catchweed bedstraw.

Catchweed bedstraw

See what catchweed bedstraw did to me?

What catchweed bedstraw does to me

It bites.

Snapshot: Shiloh Vera Leigh

May 17th, 2020

Shiloh Vera Leigh arrived on the outside on April 20, 2020.

Meeting Miss Shiloh Vera Leigh

She had a tough go right off and was in the NICU for a week, but we have loved spending the last three weeks with her home getting used to life as a family of SEVEN!

Chillin' with my hand above my head

Shiloh is a delight, whether chillin’ with her hand above her head or making sour-puss faces (or really doing just about anything!)

Sour face

The Way He Should Go

February 27th, 2020

“Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” ~Proverbs 22:6 (maybe in the 1994 NIV?)

We sang the proverb along with Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in your heart” album.

I heard the same proverb referenced by all sorts. The self-confident parent, sure they were doing it right. The despairing parent, wondering where they’d gone wrong. The parenting guru, assuring Christian parents that if they followed his patent-pending discipline program they’d be guaranteed their children wouldn’t stray.

What I didn’t frequent hear was what “the way they should go” consists of.

If I had to hazard a guess, based on the context of the conversations I’d heard, I’d guess “the way they should go” was all about moral behavior.

Today, I don’t hear that proverb so frequently.

I wonder if, in part, the fruit of the last generation’s claim on that promise has soured it.

Far too many parents are reaping tears when they felt they had been promised otherwise. They had raised their children according to a good moral standard. They’d raised them to obey. And now those children are chasing all sorts of things their parents taught them to avoid.

I thought of the proverb after a little exchange I had with Tirzah Mae this morning.

Tirzah Mae: “Did you know that Jesus has a heavenly home?”
Me: “Is that so? Can you tell me about Jesus’ heavenly home?”
Tirzah Mae: “Um, no. I don’t really know anything about it, I just heard about it somewhere.”
Me: “Would you like to learn more about it?”
Tirzah Mae nods in assent.
“Where do you think we could find out more?”

And so we were off to John 14 for a little Bible study that touched on the Trinity, heaven, and the exclusivity of Christ.

And that’s what reminded me of Proverbs 22:6. Thomas asks “How will we know the way?” and Jesus answers “I am the way.”

As parents, we have a high call to train up our children. But what way are we training them in? Am I training my children in instantaneous obedience to me? (I wish I could figure that one out!) Am I training them in Judeo-Christian morality? Maybe I’m training them to be nice?

All of those have a place, I think, but I don’t think any of those are what Proverbs 22 refers to when it says to “train up a child in the way he should go.”

Instead of simply training in instantaneous obedience or good moral values or a nebulous sense of kindness, I am called to train my child in Christ. I am called to point my children again and again and again to Christ. Christ as their only hope of righteousness. Christ as their only means of accessing God. Christ as the one who loved them first and enables them to love others. Christ as the way.

And I can have confidence, not that I have somehow guaranteed that my child will never stray (as if that was in my power), but that I have done what I was called to. I will have trained my children in the way they should go, and when Christ calls them to himself, he will keep them to the end.

Don’t Try to Anticipate

February 19th, 2020

Have you been searching through pregnancy blogs for lists of “lifesaver products”? You’ve been reading up on the “must-haves” for newborns too? And don’t even get started on the lists of things to pack in your hospital bag.

Poll your mom friends on Facebook and they’ll each have a different product they absolutely couldn’t have done pregnancy without.

It’s only if they’re moms of many that you’ll start to be able to understand the truth – there’s no way you’ll be able to anticipate which product is going to be your life saver for this particular pregnancy/delivery/baby.

I couldn’t have done it without my lace-up tennies in my pregnancies with Tirzah Mae and Louis. My feet swelled so terribly and got so painful, I needed the extra support. I only wore tennis shoes while hiking during my pregnancy with Beth-Ellen (and I did a decent amount since we traveled to Yellowstone and to the Rockies with Daniel’s family and mine during our second trimester.) This pregnancy? I don’t think I’ve worn tennis shoes even once.

I developed carpal tunnel during my pregnancy with Louis and needed braces. Wearing them each night (and sometimes during the day) made the days bearable. Almost as soon as the pregnancy test was positive with the baby we lost, I needed braces again – and the pain went away as soon as we miscarried. I had no need for braces with Beth-Ellen, and haven’t needed them in this pregnancy either.

I got a ginormous pillow in my third trimester with Beth-Ellen, when my belly made sleep difficult. This time around, I pulled it out in the first trimester, because my hips were doing something weird and I just couldn’t get comfortable. I slept fine all the way through with both Tirzah Mae and Louis.

Support hose were lifesavers for pregnancies 1 through 3. This time around, despite a bit of swelling in my legs, the support hose don’t seem super necessary – but I’ve taken to wearing compression shorts religiously, even to bed.

My hymnal was a sanity-saver for hospitalization #1. I sang it through cover to cover during my eight days of bedrest and the subsequent 26 days with Tirzah Mae in the NICU. Remembering, I brought it along when I was hospitalized with Louis – and barely opened it. On bedrest with Louis and as I prepped for my second unplanned c-section, it was the robes I’d brought from home that kept me grounded. I’m not sure I used anything I’d packed in my hospital bag for Beth-Ellen – not the clothing or the essential oils or the tennis ball thingamajigger or the popsicles.

Newborn Tirzah Mae lived in mama’s Moby wrap. Newborn Louis actually (sometimes) slept in the bassinet insert for our Pack’n’Play. Newborn Beth-Ellen used a swaddle. The elastic binder they gave me after Louis made such a difference in my ability to walk post c-section. It didn’t help the terrible abdominal pain I had after Beth-Ellen. I could not for the life of me understand the mesh panties and peri bottle after the first two – but I totally got it after Beth-Ellen. I spent obscene amounts of time hooked to a hospital grade breast pump with Tirzah Mae and Louis – and never pumped once with Beth-Ellen. It took five years of nearly continuous breastfeeding for me to first need lanolin. I’ve never, despite a super-abundant supply, needed breast pads to deal with leaks. Pantyliners on the other hand? Definitely a sanity saver.

Which is why it’s no good trying to anticipate what you’ll need for your pregnancy, your delivery, or your new baby. You are different with each pregnancy, your delivery is different, your baby is different.

Anticipate that you won’t have everything you want, that you’ll experience surprises, that you’ll have to adapt on the fly. Anticipate that you’ll spend some money figuring out what the fix is for that unexpected problem. Anticipate that you’ll be searching Amazon or sending your husband to the store to find some elusive product you never would have imagined needing.

Most of all, anticipate that God’s grace will meet you when you find yourself back in the hospital after you thought you were all clear – or when your daughter jumps into your lap and now you can’t move without excruciating pain “down there” – or when all your dreams seem dashed – or when you simply don’t know how to soothe that fussy baby. You can’t anticipate what the problem will be or what product will be your “life-saver”, but you can trust that God will be there amidst the unexpected – and that he will carry you through.

Tending my little farm

January 10th, 2020

Five years ago, as a newly minted mother of a 4-month-old baby, I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy and reflected on the chapter “Springtime.”

Laura writes

“There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play. The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. All the wild seeds of weed and thistle, the sprouts of vine and bush and tree are trying to take the fields. Farmers must fight them with harrow and plow and hoe; they must plant the good seeds quickly.

Almanzo was a little soldier in this great battle.”

I wrote:

“This year… this passage reminds me of [the] springtime of our lives and the great trust that parents are given of sowing seed and cultivating little hearts. It’s easy to be complacent, to assume that children will learn what we want them to learn, that they’ll establish good habits, that there’ll be plenty of time to teach them tomorrow. But the best time to plant a seed and kill a weed is springtime. And the best time to communicate the gospel and establish good habits is early in life.

Which is why I am resolving to be a little soldier in this great battle – and to establish my own habits now, while Tirzah Mae is tiny. Now is the perfect time to get into the habit of speaking the gospel to my daughter, the perfect time to steep us both in Scripture songs, the perfect time to live a visibly Christian life around my home.

Because the life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. And I want the life that grows in my daughter to be a good planting.”

Yesterday, I listened to Cherry Jones read this same chapter as we work our way through the audio versions of the classic “Little House” books on our way to and from various activities.

I reflected again on the metaphor of springtime and our young children. Now the mother of four (on the outside – plus one on the inside, one in heaven, and two reintegrated into their biological families), I see even more how tireless the springtime work must be – and how important.

This is springtime. Evil ideologies vie for my children’s minds as we peruse the picture books (in order by author last name) from the library. Corporate interests try to imprint their names and logos into my children’s imaginations, try to get my children to beg for their products, ensuring customers for life. My children’s sin natures spur them to do whatever they want, following the desires of their wicked hearts. Voices from all over encourage my children to follow their hearts.

Weeds, threatening to choke the good seed of the gospel. Weeds, desirous to take over any structure or order I might impose upon my children’s lives.

But this is springtime, and I would rather be fishing, like the naughty boy in Almanzo’s story – I would rather dump my seed in one corner of the field and head off to Facebook or Feedly or whatever my latest amusement might be. Yet I know what happens to that naughty boy’s field. It is overtaken by weeds.

So I must dry the dishwater off my hands and deal with the children who are bickering in the living room. I must drag myself off the couch to deal with the disobedient child (instead of endlessly repeating myself with escalating threats.) I must be a little soldier in this great battle.

God, grant me grace to tend my little farm well.

Cleaning enough to make the next mess

October 17th, 2019

It’s been an age since I got out the paints and let the kids play.

And the dining room wall, our “art wall” for the time being, still wears spring’s butterflies overlaid by “Happy Birthday” posters from papa’s birthday last month.

The butterfly wall

It’s time for a change.

But first, to clean the dining room floor enough that dropped paintbrushes don’t result in painted toys… or a mixed media of cut-up paper, food debris, and days worth of “dust” that materializes with alarming speed on every surface of our home.

I spent a half hour, maybe an hour cleaning up the dining room, taking off the tablecloth, covering the table with butcher paper so we could paint some fall leaves (I cut some leaf shapes from old cereal boxes using the die-cut machine our church has).

Painted leaves

And now I need to clean the table outside so we can eat there, since the dining room table is otherwise occupied.

Don’t even ask about the living room.

The living room (have mercy!)

On Mental Health

October 10th, 2019

I slept four hours last night. Or maybe less. It’s hard to say.

Louis woke me up at two. He wanted a new pull-up since his was wet.

I changed him and got back in bed. I turned on twenty minutes of “waves”, intending to heed my mental health nurse’s advice to get back up and do something boring if I couldn’t fall asleep after twenty minutes. But then the waves turned off and my bed was warm while the rest of the house was cold. I stayed in bed, awake – for four more hours until my light-on-a-timer turned on to tell me it was time to start the day.

It’s one of the many paradoxes of depresssion. All I want to do is sleep, all the time, everywhere. But I can’t fall asleep when I have the opportunity – or I wake up frequently and can’t fall back asleep.

I want to eat but nothing sounds good. Or I have no appetite but want something in my mouth nonetheless. Another of the paradoxes.

I simultaneously don’t care about anything and care far too much. I play worries over and over in my head but don’t feel like I even have the energy to take the first step toward resolving them.

Depression affects every part of me. Physically, emotionally, mentally. It affects what I eat and how I talk. It affects how I keep my home and how I parent.

But, in spite of all this, I am often able to keep silent, to just “do the things” in public. To respond, “Great! – and how are you?” when I’m asked how I am. To laugh off the work that it takes to just survive.

But this year, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I was truly not functioning and I knew it. I was putting my children to bed a little after noon and heading to my room myself and staying there – until my husband put food on the table for supper and coaxed me out to put the kids back to bed for the night.

I didn’t have the strength to ask for help.

I waited until my scheduled prenatal appointment and mentioned it to my doctor. He started me on some medication and referred me to a mental health practice. The practice he’d referred me to turned out to be not taking new patients. I didn’t have the strength or energy to find a counselor on my own.

But, by God’s grace, my husband’s workplace participates in a wellness program administered by one of our local hospitals/healthcare systems. Their prenatal nurse navigator contacted me to ask if I’d like to participate in their prenatal program. Now, I’d declined to participate with Beth-Ellen, figuring that I’d given birth twice in the previous three years and knew the basics. And I still feel that way – I’m kinda a pro at this whole pregnancy thing. But pregnancy combined with severe depression? I hadn’t really done that before and I thought maybe the program could do what I didn’t have energy to do – make me an appointment to see another mental health professional.

But what they did was even better. Apparently, they have a mental health program too – and the Mental Health nurse navigator called me a couple days later to get me enrolled and to talk through what was going on. She encouraged me and helped me to identify and take small steps to get through. We visit by phone once a week.

And then there are the people who have responded to my “Not good.” The friend who asked what she could do and then brought my family lunch and played with my kids for hours so I could take a nap on several different occasions. The other friend who brought dinner. Another couple of ladies who baked us muffins and banana bread, supplying several days worth of “teatime” snacks. The multitudes of other women who have spoken encouragement and prayed for us and given us hugs.

Despite my failure to ask for help, God has provided it abundantly.

On this “World Mental Health Day”, I am thanking God that although depression touches every part of me – God’s mercy touches far beyond.

I Take Everything You Say with a Grain of Salt

October 1st, 2019

For another month here, I have four children four and under (plus one in the oven).

Two in diapers, one in the middle of potty training, one potty trained with not-infrequent accidents.

I have three children who can turn on the sink faucet, two who can turn it off. All four can climb to get their hands under the faucet and splash water over the entire room (and beyond).

I have four children capable of pulling clothes out of drawers and dragging them through messes. None of them can wash, dry, fold, and put away those clothes.

I have four children who need fed four times a day. None of those children can provide any meaningful help in the kitchen.

This is an exhausting season.

I’m clinging to the idea that it’s just a season.

One day, these children will be able to consistently go potty in the potty chair and be able to wipe properly once they’re done.

One day they’ll all be able to turn off the faucet after washing their hands AND they’ll be able to clean up the water they spilled on the floor.

One day, they’ll be able to do their own laundry – and if they don’t do it I can let them deal with the natural consequences of their inaction.

One day, I’ll be able to send them off to the kitchen to tend the oatmeal in the morning or to reheat the leftovers at noon or to prepare tea in the afternoon. One day I can turn over even some dinners to the children.

These days of doing everything for everyone are numbered.

That’s what I’m telling myself.

But so many of you other mothers say “It only gets harder” and “just wait until they’re teenagers.”

I try to smile politely, but I just can’t believe it’s true. Sure, the rest of parenting isn’t a walk in the park, but it can’t be like this or worse for twenty years.

And then a fellow mother of many, a dozen years beyond me in the parenting journey, asked me how I was doing. I told her a bit about how hard right now is, how I feel like all I can do is put one foot in front of the other, trusting God to carry me through the next hour (sometimes even just the next minute).

She said she remembers that. When she had five under seven, it felt that way. And then, somewhere along the way, the children started to be able to do some things for themselves, started to be able to actually help. And it’s not just making it through the next hour for her anymore.

I could have cried with relief. Someone to confirm that the hope I’ve been holding on to isn’t a vain one.

Now, maybe it’s just confirmation bias. I want to hear what this woman had to say and I don’t want to hear what all those other mothers have to say about it only getting harder.

But the reality is that the mothers who were telling me it only gets harder? They’re mothers of two, three or four years apart. They haven’t experienced the utter exhaustion of having five little humans completely dependent on them for every aspect of their care.

So forgive me that I take what you say with a grain of salt while I cling on to every drop of encouragement that falls from the mouths of the women who’ve done this “many small children at once” thing.

It’s not that I don’t love you and value your input – it’s just that this crazy life my family is living right now is a whole ‘nother ball game.

Why We Waited

September 13th, 2019

I’ve never been one to delay telling the world I’m pregnant.

A baby’s a baby no matter how small – and I’m no good at secrets after all.

But after we miscarried in April, life has been hard. We didn’t get pregnant for several cycles (okay, just three – but we’d always gotten pregnant on first try before). We’ve had uncertainties with our foster daughter. We’ve traveled a lot, which kept me off-kilter. And I’ve been depressed – debilitatingly so.

I spent the summer worried we wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again. Worried that Beth-Ellen would be our last biologically. Worried that we’d also lose our foster daughter and that it would tear me apart.

We found out we were pregnant the day Daniel left town to pick up our beef. I started bleeding the next day.

The bleeding stopped, but my worry didn’t. My basal body temperature has never been consistent (probably because I never sleep for 3-4 hours at a stretch), but it bounced up and down instead of staying high like it should for a pregnant woman. I stopped measuring it after a month. It wasn’t serving me – but the worry remained.

My depression deepened. I was grieving I wasn’t sure what. Grieving the baby, certainly. Grieving the closely-spaced family I’d dreamed of. Grieving the difficulties our foster daughter has faced and still may. Grieving saying goodbye to two foster children already. Grieving the things I used to be able to do but couldn’t now.

How could I share the joy of a new baby in the womb when joy wasn’t even half the emotion I was feeling? When I thought of saying something, I contemplated what I might say: “We’re pregnant again and I’m just hoping the baby’s alive. No, I haven’t had any morning sickness, really, I just can’t function after 11 in the morning because I’m too exhausted and everything is overwhelming and all I want to do is cry and scream and cry some more.”

When they offered me an appointment on Daniel’s birthday, I thought “Great. Daniel can get the news that this baby is dead on his birthday.” But I didn’t ask for a different day. I know that only means waiting longer, and I’d much rather know than keep worrying.

I’ve never had an early ultrasound before. I know exactly when I ovulate – no need for an ultrasound to check dates. But this time, I didn’t have any of my normal questions prepared. I had one main question: is our baby alive?

After I knew that, I had decided, I would tell the world. Then they could rejoice with me or grieve with me with some level of surety as to which I ought to be experiencing.

The baby is alive. Moving around enough my OB couldn’t really show us what was what in real time.

A weight off my heart.

But not the whole weight. No, this weight is much heavier than one baby or even two.

And that is why I, so unused to delay, waited so long (okay, nine weeks gestation) to tell you all that we were pregnant.

It was complicated. It still is.

Please pray.

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