Expanding and Contracting and Expanding Again

How many times have people commented on what they see as the impossibility of our life? Difficult deliveries. Lots of young children, one right after the other. Foster care thrown on top.

How many times have I responded back that God gives grace for what he gives? I didn’t have the grace (or the skills) for three when I only had two – but God gave the grace when he gave the third child. Ditto four. And five. (Even if the skills are still a work in progress, to be honest!)

Nothing makes this more clear than when a foster child moves from our home.

Sweet P lived with us for 20 months and was reunited with her biological family in November of last year. We were so excited (still are!) to be able to participate in a successful reintegration. Of course, it was bittersweet – as happy as we are for her and her family, we are also sad to no longer have the connection we once had (We are so thankful that we have a good relationship with Sweet P’s family and have been able to see her a few times since reintegration, most recently an overnight just last night.)

Five children (including Sweet P!) around the dining room table
The view around my dining room table this noon – five of my precious children together again

Anyway, having a foster child move is bittersweet, but there’s another feeling I wasn’t quite prepared for when we started fostering. It was a feeling of… ease. Like, “wow, it’s a lot easier to parent four than five.”

The strange thing is, it wasn’t that easy to parent four back before four became five. My capacity expanded somewhere along the way. God gave grace for what he gave – grace for five.

But our family size contracted for a bit, and the bit of ease that comes with four instead of five has given me additional wiggle room now that I’m frequently parenting alone while Daniel travels for business. And has given me some additional wiggle room to help me establish good habits in our homeschool.

But it’s time for expansion again.

Four children has become five again.

Not a foster child this time. We’re not sure when Daniel will be done traveling and the logistics of a new placement don’t work very well with our current situation (lots of appointments that need to be done rapidly don’t work very well when you have four other children that you can’t take with you – thanks COVID! – and a husband that may or may not be out-of-state at any time in the near future). So we won’t be taking new foster children until we have a more settled schedule.

Playdough with the figure of a very pregnant woman stamped onto it
The Sumerian cylinder seal I made for myself as part of our history studies (Tirzah Mae thinks I should start looking like this tomorrow, since I’ve been pregnant almost a month :-P)

But four has become five again – it’s time to stop popping bon-bons (ha!) Instead, we are preparing to expand again as God gives grace for a new little one arriving on the outside sometime in September.

Snapshot: Shiloh Vera Leigh

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

Lifecycle of a nightie

Some 20 years ago, my little sister Grace grabbed one of my mom’s nightgowns out of the laundry basket and started carrying it around.

It was a “slicky” nightgown you see, some sort of synthetic with a silky feel, perfect for snuggling against or rubbing between one’s fingers.

As I remember it, Grace carried the nightgown with her whenever she had a chance, slept with it, and generally loved it until Mom made her a “slicky” of her own – something akin to a handkerchief made out of similarly “slicky” fabric.

Years later, mom retired the nightgown and I grabbed it up. I cut off the lower portion, added a casing at top for elastic and wore it as a slip for eight, ten, or more years.

Recently, I pulled the slip from my drawer and added it to a pile of mending sitting atop another dresser in our room. The elastic in the waist is shot. Either I need to replace the elastic or convert the slip to other purposes.

But one day, about a week ago, Tirzah Mae’s lovey (a “slicky” I made for her with ribbon tags) got dirty and was in the wash – and Tirzah Mae was not settling down for a nap without it. I grabbed the old nightie-turned-slip from the dresser and snuggled it against Tirzah Mae’s cheek. Safely nestled in a “slicky”, Tirzah Mae fell asleep.

Tirzah Mae with the old nightie

Today, she wraps her hands in it and waves it around, just as her aunt did some 20 years ago.

Meeting the Greats

This last weekend, Daniel and I and Tirzah Mae took a trip into Missouri to see Daniel’s grandparents – Tirzah Mae’s great-grandparents.

We had a sweet time visiting with Daniel’s grandparents, who were enchanted by our little Tirzah Mae.

While we were there, I took the opportunity to take some photos (of course!)

Tirzah Mae and her great-grandpa Garcia

Jack was delighted to hold his littlest great-granddaughter.

A closer look

Grandpa’s live-in caregiver and Daniel’s cousin really wanted him to shave his beard. Daniel and I thought it was fun (and I think Jack’s inclined to agree with us!).

Tirzah Mae and Great-Grandma Garcia

Tirzah Mae sits with her great-grandma Garcia – who told me again and again how glad she was that I was “nursing.” “They really discouraged it in my day, dear – It just wasn’t done.”

Daniel fruitlessly tries to get Tirzah Mae to look at the camera

Another three generation shot – Irene and Daniel are looking at the camera, but none of us could convince Tirzah Mae to follow suit.

Family is clamoring for more photos, so I’ve jumped out of order (skipping November and December photos) to give them a more recent photo album. If you already have a password, follow the link to the January album and enter the password to see the album. If you don’t already have a password, e-mail me at b3master@.menterz.com to get it.

In which I am thankful for my sister-in-law

Those who know me know that I’m a touch opinionated opinionated to the point of being obnoxious.

I am generally willing to share many of my opinions here at bekahcubed, since readership is voluntary – but I try to be more circumspect about sharing my opinions in more personal (and therefore inescapable) communication.

I especially try to keep my mouth shut when it comes to how my siblings are raising their families. It’s not my business to inject my opinions into their families. It’s my business to love them and support them in any way I can.

Which is why I consider myself so incredibly blessed to have a sister-in-law who invites my opinions – and even tells me she likes that I have an opinion (and some reasoning behind it) on every conceivable issue.

After I started posting my thoughts on Frank Furedi’s Paranoid Parenting, Debbie sent me a message to let me know that she’d been enjoying my comments – and to ask me if I’d be interested in reading and discussing some parenting books together. We’ve been having a great time reading and discussing Grace-Based Parenting – but Debbie hasn’t limited her invitations of input to that book.

She asked me to read Addie Zierman’s When We Were on Fire because she wanted to hear my thoughts on that (and our shared youth group experiences). She asks me for my thoughts on vaccination schedules. And, yes, she tells me that she likes soliciting my opinion on things because she knows I always have an opinion – and some sort of rationale for why I hold the opinion I do.

As someone who frequently feels like she has to be biting her tongue to keep from being annoying, I can tell you that my sister-in-law has blessed me greatly by inviting me to give my opinions.

I try to bless her in response by giving my opinions in a fair and reasonable way – and by respecting when her opinions and mine differ (because they certainly do in some areas – we are very different people and will undoubtedly raise our children in very different ways.)

But mostly, I am thankful for my sister-in-law – and for her willingness to invite me to share my thoughts and opinions with her. It does this opinionated girl’s heart good to have someone who cares who asks.

Freezing your bum off and other weight loss strategies

I’m freezing my bum off.

You’ve heard the phrase, right?

But what exactly does it mean? Is it supposed to be a reference to frostbite, a condition in which one literally freezes off parts of one’s body?

Probably not. My bet is that it has no grounding in thought.

It’s one of those things like “knocked my socks off”, silly and meaningless.

But imagine that you could actually freeze your bum off, like you would freeze off a wart. Imagine a simple outpatient procedure in which a doctor delicately freeze’s ones bum and then shaves it off like one whittles a piece of wood.

I’m sure that would be a popular procedure.

Alternately, imagine you could kiss a belly and make it go away–like you kiss a boo-boo to make it go away.

Now that would be a popular procedure.

Instead, we’re left with a much less glamorous and much more labor-intense process: learning to alter our behavior.

My marriage to Daniel has altered his behavior in a way that has not been friendly to his waistline. I’ve disrupted his schedule such that his once-regular runs have become a thing of the past and his once uber-low-calorie lunches (of lettuce salad) have turned to scrumptious (not-quite-so-low-calorie) leftovers.

So, in an effort to be a good wife this year and to support Daniel’s weight control efforts, I’ve decided to change MY behavior.

Among my Tier 1 objectives? Be a good wife.

Goals to earn points include running with Daniel (more points for longer spurts of running) and preparing more vegetables.

I can’t freeze Daniel’s bum off. Nor can I kiss his belly and make it go away. But I can help to make our home an environment that is more friendly to his goals.

For now, that’s preparing two vegetables instead of one with each meal–which means the overall calories of a plate full of food goes down without depriving him of food (a la Volumetrics and MyPlate.)

It’s dishing up our plates in the kitchen and putting away the next day’s lunches simultaneously–meaning we don’t keep eating just because the food is there on the table.

It’s using those divided tupperware for Daniel’s lunches, so he has a vegetable along with the main dish.

It’s keeping the fruit bowl stocked with fruit that Daniel can take to work for snacks instead of relying on the vending machine for when he can’t concentrate due to low blood sugars.

And it’s getting myself fit so I can run with him. Sigh.

Freezing his bum off would be easier than THAT.

Just to clarify: I have NOT made a goal to change my husband this year. Rather, I value him and his goal of a healthy weight and want to support him in this. These changes are NOT things that I am imposing upon him, but things we have discussed and have determined to be ways that I can help him reach his goals.

Ooey-Gooey, Lovey-Dovey Stuff

As I was reading through my Facebook newsfeed (well, actually, reading notifications from my sisters-in-law), I realized an interesting phenomenon:

My sisters-in-law post ooey-gooey, lovey-dovey stuff about their children ALL the time.

And people LIKE it.

*I* like it.

An adorable picture of Little Sis, accompanied by the text “Nothing is sweeter than ending the day with baby snuggles” gets 5 likes (as of now).

I can imagine the kind of reactions I’d get if I posted a picture of my (adorable) husband, accompanied by the text “Nothing is sweeter than ending the day with hubby snuggles.”

If I got likes, they’d be in the “you’re so silly” category. I’d probably be more likely to get “Eeww” or “Get a room” in response.

Why is it that we can say all sorts of ooey-gooey, lovey-dovey stuff about babies and no one blinks an eye, but if we were to act as obsessed with our husbands as we are with our children we’d be weirdos?

I don’t really have any answer to that question, nor do I really need an answer to that question (although you’re more than welcome to give your own theories)–but it was a thought I had.

What I pray for your children

If you are one of my siblings or one of my bloggy friends, I pray for you and for your children. Approximately once a week, your name pops up on my phone and, generally while I’m cleaning the toys in my office, I pray for you. If you have expressed a particular request or if I’ve deduced one from what you’ve written, I’ll pray for that; but otherwise, I pray a very specific sort of prayer.

I do not pray for your children to be obedient.

Obedient, manageable children are nice to have, easy to care for. But that isn’t what I want for you or for them.

Obedience and manageability can mask inward apathy or rebellion. Obedience and manageability can convince a child that they’re a “good kid”. They can begin to rely upon their “good kid” status. They can begin to work hard to maintain their “good kid” status. Someday, they may rebel against their “good kid” status.

I don’t pray for them to obedient. They need something more.

They need Jesus.

Even so, I do not pray for your children to love Jesus.

Many a child who “loves Jesus”–who delights to sing Bible songs, who loves to go to Sunday School, who tells his friends about Jesus–grows up to be an adult who rejects the faith.

“Loving Jesus” is often a cultural thing, about speaking the lingo of the church, singing the songs of the church, acting the way church people do.

But just like the children of hippies turned yuppie and the children of yuppies turned hipster, the children of Christianity often turn atheist or agnostic or non-practicing nothings.

I don’t pray for the to “love Jesus”. They need something more.

You see, I don’t want your children to just love Jesus, like they love their favorite toy, I want them to know Jesus.

And I don’t want your children to just know Jesus, I want them to know Jesus savingly.

And if they are to know Jesus savingly, they must know that they are depraved.

For that reason, I pray that your children would recognize their sinfulness.

I pray that they would be acutely aware of their inability to live up to God’s standard.

I pray that they would recognize the futility of their works to ever change their status.

I pray that they would fall wholly upon the mercy of God in the person of Christ.

That, my friends, is what I pray for your children.

Snapshot: Mothers

My mother was indispensable in wedding planning. From the reception site to the cake to making salads to altering my dress, her hand was all over our wedding.

Nevertheless, I didn’t even think to have her there to help me dress. (Shame, shame.)

Thankfully, my photographer did think, so I gave my mom a call and she quickly got dressed in her fancies and made her way over to the church (she’d just been picking up the rolls from the bakery, of course.)

My mother helping lace up my dress

I’m glad she was there to celebrate with us that my brother and sister-in-law and niece had arrived. I’m glad she was there to help lace up the back of my dress. I’m glad she was there to show my sister (also my maid of honor) how to bustle up the dress.

But even had she not been there at those exact moment, my mom has faithfully been there whenever I needed her.

Me and my mother

I didn’t see my brother Timothy escort my mother up the aisle, but I have pictures to see my mother make the way up–her first time as mother of the bride.

My mother walking up the aisle

I also didn’t see my mother and my mother-in-law-to-be mount the stage to light their respective candles. But I have pictures of them returning.

My mother and mother in law lighting the unity candle

I do remember greeting my new mother-in-law with a hug in the receiving line. I remember hugging the woman who has welcomed me so well into her family.

My mother

This year, for the first time, I am blessed to have two wonderful women to honor on Mothers’ Day.

Both of these women have blessed me immeasurably–one in raising me in the fear of the Lord and the other in raising my husband in that same fear.

May we ever rise up and call her blessed.

“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
~Proverbs 31:29-31 (ESV)

We are their works, my husband and I. May we ever bring them praise.

Surely, they deserve it.