Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Mornings at Prairie Elms

April 20th, 2018

There’s a baby giraffe and a baby hippo on the side patio, which makes today the perfect day for Louis to finally be strong enough to open the patio door. I shut it tight and hold it while trying to decide whether I should call the zoo or animal control. Who does one call when exotic animals are loose?

Tirzah Mae flicks on the overhead light, awakening me from my dilemma. I fear she’s also awakened Beth-Ellen – but Beth-Ellen’s belly is still full from her dawn feeding a half-hour prior, so she settles back down in her bassinet after a few kicks to make sure mama’s fully awake.

I get out of bed to turn off the light – and lead the naked Tirzah Mae to the laundry room for some clean panties. “There aren’t any panties in my drawer,” she gave as an explanation for turning on my light. “And the music is off.” Technically, the “music off” rule is for rest time – she’s supposed to stay in bed in the morning until the sun comes up. But morning comes earlier to her east-facing bedroom than to my north-facing one, and I see that she hasn’t broken the “sun-comes-up” rule.

Louis lets out a single pitiful “help” and I get him out of his crib. He and I head back to my bed, where Tirzah Mae joins us as soon as she is dressed. Why do I persist in getting back to bed once they’re up, I wonder. It’s not like I’m going to get any more sleep.

While I’m fumbling with the key to get out my medicine, they’re arguing over who gets to be next to mama.

By the time I’m done taking my medicine, Louis has moved on to repairing the headboard with his “impact driver” (a small water gun). Unfortunately, the repairs that need to be done are directly over Tirzah Mae’s head, which is currently nestled in my right armpit – and under Louis’s foot.

I start to intervene with the usual “don’t step on your sister” rule when the impact driver drops below the bed.

“Saved!” I think, as Louis moves to the side to find something else to do with his relentless energy. But then Tirzah Mae begins to cry. She really wanted the impact driver herself and now it’s gone.

Five minutes later, I’m putting a mallet in time out because it was being naughty and hitting someone’s head.

I give up on trying to take my blood pressure and get out of bed instead.

Louis had not yet started trying to open the little plastic packages mama keeps in her bedside table. We were ahead for the morning – best to get out of bed and keep it that way.

A tale of two batteries

April 12th, 2018

I clicked on the mouse.

Click. Click.

Nothing.

I turned the mouse over to see if it was turned on.

Rattle. Rattle.

That’s not normal.

I opened the battery slot to discover…

that Louis had taken out the mouse’s AA battery and replaced it with the baby monitor’s AAA battery.

He’s been using the baby monitor as a clothes iron.

Heart outside my body

February 5th, 2018

Elizabeth Stone (whoever she is) once said that “making the decision to have a child… is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

Most of the time, when I read this quote on a pretty background while scrolling through Pinterest, I roll my eyes. That is everything that is wrong with parenting these days, I think. Parents are just too absorbed in their children.

And then my baby gets her first cold.

All my children

I remember it with Tirzah Mae, a few weeks after she came home from the hospital. She was snuffling and gasping and we’d been trained into terror of RSV by the NICU staff.

We took her to our doctor, who smiled indulgently at these first time parents freaking out about a simple cold. He described the warning signs of something worse than just a cold and sent us home (thankfully, he didn’t /doesn’t subscribe to the “give a baby antibiotics just to ease troubled parents’ minds” line of thought.)

Even knowing that Tirzah Mae’s cold was just a cold, I still felt with every labored breath that my heart was rattling outside my chest – and that said heart was just about to break.

Somehow, it doesn’t get easier. Beth-Ellen was a term baby. Her objective risk of serious complications of a cold is lower than the other children’s risk was. I’m a more experienced mom and have weathered dozens of colds.

But when Beth-Ellen got a cold this weekend, at just shy of six weeks old, my heart was out there coughing. And when she lost her voice and could only squeak instead of screaming? My heart, oh my heart, squeezed until it’s crushed. And when she started wheezing with every breath in and out? I was sure she was dying – and that I was dying with her.

And just as I’m about to wake my husband and tell him we need to head to the ER (but am worried because, for some reason, it seems like every time we go to the ER, the problem resolves while we’re there and I look like a fool) – anyway, just as I’m about to wake Daniel and head off to the ER, I remember where my heart actually belongs.

My heart doesn’t belong in my children’s chests. It doesn’t even belong in mine. My heart belongs to God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV)

Sure, I’d prayed for Beth-Ellen at our evening devotions, and earlier when she’d come up in my prayer app. But during all this worrying? I hadn’t been entrusting her to the Lord.

I stopped. I confessed my lack of trust. I prayed for healing and for wisdom to know when to have Beth-Ellen seen. I entrusted my daughter to God’s care, entrusted my heart to him.

And the labored wheezing settled, the noisy breathing calmed, the restless sleep eased. My daughter slept in peace.

And I did too, my heart still walking outside my body, but this time walking with the one who holds it – and my daughter – so tenderly.

My heart and my daughter can find rest in God alone.

To paraphrase the Psalmist: Why so troubled, O my heart? Put your trust in God!

Family worship (or, quit complicating things so much)

November 9th, 2017

We knew even before we had children that we wanted family worship to be a thing in our household.

We also knew that the thought of family worship was overwhelming and intimidating. We knew how hard it could be to be consistent in personal devotions – and how many times we’d stopped and started at attempts to spend devotional time together as a couple. How on earth could we do family worship?

It just so happened that we have children who don’t do a great job at sleeping – and I started reading Tirzah Mae a Bible story from The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor (which my mom gives a story a baby shower gift) every night before putting her to bed.

Then, last Advent, I got out the Advent wreath and we made a point to light the appropriate candles and sing a Christmas hymn after supper each evening.

As we got ready to put away our Christmas decorations, it struck us that we’d been complicating the idea of family worship overmuch – and that we were missing out on a great opportunity to train our children as a result.

We combined the Bible story I’d been reading with the hymn we’d made a habit of singing, added a time of family prayer at the end – and now we have family worship almost every evening.

It turned out to be that simple. We get the kids in their jammies after supper and then choose a hymn to sing. We read from a story Bible (we’re actually reading through The Ology by Marty Machowski right now, having gone through the Old and New Testaments in story form twice now – we plan to alternate going through the storyline of Scripture and doing something more theological/doctrinal like this.) Finally, we pray together – Tirzah Mae and then mama and then papa (Louis isn’t quite talking yet.) Then it’s kisses and toothbrushing and off to bed.

Simple and totally doable, now that we quit complicating things so much.

Priceless

June 12th, 2017

Tirzah Mae peeled the barcode off her new water bottle and affixed it to her shirt.

I noticed it on our way out of the grocery store and began to tease her.

“We need to find a scanner so we can see how much you cost.”

“Are you a bargain or are you pricey?”

I contemplated adding the numbers I knew, the ones I’ve quoted to others.

Half a million dollars.

That was the sticker price for her first twenty-nine days outside the womb. (Neither we nor our insurance company paid the sticker price.)

I thought back to my question: “Are you a bargain or are you pricey?” Yes.

I didn’t quote that number to my daughter, couldn’t quote that number.

Instead my daughter listened and watched, a bit baffled as her mother choked out the words: “You’re neither. You’re priceless. Because you’re made in the image of God.”

So she is. And so are you.

Am overwhelming truth.

You have a choice

March 6th, 2017

When I read Foster Cline and Jim Fay’s Parenting with Love and Logic with my sister-in-law a couple years ago, I wasn’t too impressed. I felt like many of Cline and Fay’s examples were manipulative – and they gave an initial description of parenting styles that put me off.

But one thing in particular about their approach stuck with me (in a positive way). They encouraged parents to offer children choices – both of which choices are acceptable to the parent. So “eat all that food or I’ll leave you at the restaurant” doesn’t fit the bill, since the parents really aren’t okay with leaving their child at the restaurant. “Either you can eat that food in the next 15 minutes or we’ll leave THE FOOD at the restaurant” is another matter entirely.

Now that Tirzah Mae is two and is asserting her independence on a regular basis, I’m finding this particular tip to be a life-saver.

In the parking lot: “You have a choice. Either you can hold mama’s hand the whole time we’re walking through the parking lot, or mama will pick you up and carry you into the store.”

Tirzah Mae on a Curb
Tirzah Mae chose to sit on the curb while mama was putting Louis in his car seat

At the library: “You have a choice. You can look at the books without pulling any new books off the shelf or you can sit in the stroller.”

At home: “You have a choice. You can take your clothes to the hamper or you can go sit in your room for a minute.”

I don’t always use the words “You have a choice”. But I use them often enough that when I reminded Tirzah Mae to clear her bowl from the table after breakfast one morning, I heard her repeat to herself “You have a choice.” And then, a few seconds later, I heard the bowl slide off the table and heard her mutter “Good decision.”

And that is indeed what happens when she selects the option I prefer. “Good choice!” I’ll tell her. Or the aforementioned “Good decision!”

It doesn’t eliminate parenting challenges, doesn’t mean she always obeys. But giving her a choice certainly makes things easier.

Parenting: Providing Anticipatory Guidance

January 24th, 2017

It didn’t matter how many times I told her not to. She bit the fluoride dropper every time I put it into her mouth.

I’d draw up some fluoride, squeeze the excess out until I had the prescribed 0.5 mL, and insert the dropper into her mouth. She’d clamp the dropper between her teeth and grin at me as I tried to extricate the dropper. “This is not funny, Tirzah Mae,” I’d say, “this is disobedient. You should not bite the dropper.” My frustration level to rose higher and higher as the days went on – and so did Tirzah Mae’s sense that this was a marvelous game.

And then, one day, I suddenly knew exactly what I needed to do.

I needed to give some anticipatory guidance.

Holding hands with Mama

What is anticipatory guidance?

According to yourpediatrician.com:

“‘Anticipatory Guidance’ is a common term in the field of general pediatrics. It refers to providing education to parents about what to expect, or anticipate, over the next few months or years with your child. Recommendations are specific to a child’s age at the time of a visit.”

Our family doctor’s anticipatory guidance involves reminding me to childproof the house at the 6 month visit, since my little one is likely to soon become mobile. Our doctor is letting us know what to expect and what to do.

In the same way, my anticipatory guidance for Tirzah Mae meant telling her what was coming and what I expected of her.

In the above scenario, that meant I’d tell her something like this: “Okay, Tirzah Mae. Mama’s going to give you some fluoride. Now, I don’t want you to bite the dropper.” In this way, she knew exactly how I expected her to behave (or to not behave). If she followed my instructions, I’d praise her: “Thank you for being obedient, Tirzah Mae.” If she disobeyed my instructions, I’d put on my sad face and say “Oh, Tirzah Mae, you’ve been disobedient. Now mama will have to punish you.” And I’d administer whichever punishment was currently the order of the day.

And, as time went by, she learned what I expected and I no longer needed to give anticipatory guidance for the fluoride drops.

Holding her own hands

Now, it’s other things. As I see the pastor or elder making his way to the pulpit for the call to worship on Sunday morning, I explain to Tirzah Mae: “See how Mr. Dave is coming to the pulpit? He’s going to read to us from the Bible and then pray. I want you to be quiet and stand next to mama while he does that.” Or as I get ready to take Tirzah Mae out of her car seat, I’ll explain: “We’re going to go into ALDI, but I want you to hold mama’s hand the whole time we’re in the parking lot, until I put you in the cart.”

It doesn’t mean Tirzah Mae obeys every time, or that we never have struggles, but because I’ve articulated my expectations in advance, I’m able to respond to her actions more calmly rather than reacting in frustration. Because I know that she knows what I expect of her, I need not waffle about punishing her when she disobeys for fear that she’d forgotten my instructions. And the disobedience occurs less and less. In fact, she even begins to anticipate my guidance and say so herself.

She reaches out her hand to grab something from the shelf in the gas station but stops herself just in time. “Fold your hands,” she instructs herself, repeating my guidance. “We’re going to go into the gas station, but I want you to keep your hands folded and not touch anything.”

Anticipatory guidance. It works for us.

Snapshot: Tirzah Mae’s Makeup

January 15th, 2017

Tirzah Mae generally does an excellent job of only writing with her markers on paper.

With one exception.

She loves to draw on herself.

Like a week ago, when she put on some eye “makeup”.

Tirzah Mae's "Makeup"

Must Christians Homeschool?

January 9th, 2017

After listening to R.C. Sproul, Jr’s audio series Training Up Children”, I am quite sure of what Dr. Sproul Jr’s answer to that question is. I am also quite certain that I disagree.

First, Dr. Sproul’s position.

Dr. Sproul began in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (an excellent place to start when discussing a parent’s responsibility toward their children, by the way.)

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your hearts. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

~Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV – Emphasis mine)

Dr. Sproul (quite rightly) extrapolates from verse 7 (bold above) that parents should speak of God to their children throughout the course of their lives, not just during a time of formal devotions or family worship. From here, he takes a giant leap to say that parents must homeschool their children in order to be with them at all times.

This, I believe, is an inappropriate conclusion to draw from this passage.

This passage clearly speaks to the important role God intends His word to play in the lives of his people. God expects that His word be not merely external to His people but internal (“shall be on your hearts”.) God expects that parents will diligently teach His word to their children, not merely as formal instruction but as part of the everyday-ness of life. God expects that His word be always before His people (bind on hands, between eyes, on doorposts and gates.)

What this passage does not speak to is whether parents and children should always be together.

As a thought experiment, let’s explore whether one can be obedient to Deuteronomy 6:7 while sending their children to a “state school” (Sproul’s term). We’ll start with the various contexts in which parents ought to talk to their children about God’s word.

“When you sit in your house.” Do parents of children in a state school sit with their children? It depends. Do they eat meals with their children? Do they sit in the living room together after supper? Do they sit together in a car? They may or may not, but there is nothing inherent in sending your children to school that precludes parents sitting with their children.

“When you walk by the way.” Do parents of children in school drive their children about? Do they walk or ride bicycles about? They may or may not, but there is nothing inherent in sending your children to school that precludes parents from traveling with their children.

“When you lie down and when you rise up.” Do parents of children in school put their children to bed (or send them to bed, depending on their age)? Do they wake their children up or see them when they wake up? They may or may not, but there is nothing inherent in sending your children to school that precludes parents from being with their children during bedtime or wakening.

Interestingly, although a majority of Israelites of the day would have engaged in some sort of agricultural activity, God does not say that parents ought to talk to their children about God’s law while milking the cows or tending the sheep or collecting manna. Nor does he say that craftspeople ought to talk to their children while sewing, weaving, or throwing pots, despite the reality that many crafts were done as a family. Instead, this passage refers to everyday activities that parents and children are likely to share regardless of profession or position or socioeconomic class. And even if parents and children don’t do them together, every person on the face of the planet sits down, moves around, goes to sleep, and wakes up. And every person on the face of the earth does these things regularly.

What this passage has to say about parents’ obligation to train their children in God’s word is simply this: Parents ought to diligently and regularly speak to their children about God’s word in the course of everyday life.

Dr. Sproul thinks that Deuteronomy 6 insists that parents be with their children all day every day homeschooling them. He allows that there will be some delegation – for example, his son was going on a trip to the zoo with Dr. Sproul Jr’s mother and sister while Dr. Sproul was giving one presentation – but he denies that sending one’s children to school is an acceptable form of delegation. I have two problems with this. First, as I argued above, I believe that Dr. Sproul twists this passage to imply a necessity of parents and children being together at all times. Second, if Dr. Sproul’s interpretation of this passage’s implications is indeed true and parents must be with their children at all times speaking to them about the word of God, then I see no reason why “delegating” to the children’s grandmother and aunt is an acceptable exception.

This is not to say that there are not significant advantages to homeschooling. This is not to say that some parents may discover that homeschooling is the best way for them to diligently teach their children the word of God. But homeschooling is not necessary.

Let us not put burdens on the believer that God does not.

Must Christians homeschool their children?

No, they need not.

Baby Hacks: Tummy Time and Cloth Diapering

August 8th, 2016

We all know by now that the only thing better than sustained tummy time is frequent tummy time. But who has time and energy for that?

It’s enough work to feed (breastfeeding and pumping and bottle warming, oh my!) and diaper (change, rinse, wash, no-time-to-fold, and repeat) and clothe (spit-up, blow-outs, and big-sister-drool) your baby without having to remember to put baby on the floor on his tummy multiple times a day (supervised – don’t forget that tummy time should ALWAYS be supervised [Sarcasm alert].)

But you can’t do tummy time when baby is hungry (read: half of the day) because then by the time you get around to feeding he’ll be too frustrated to latch well. And you can’t do tummy time right after feeding (read: the other half of the day) because then he’ll spit up everything you just fed him (anyone else need to keep their babies upright practically until the next feeding to avoid the dreaded mouth-nose-gasping-for-air-and-crying-like-he’s-dying-whenever-he-does-get-a-breath-spit-up?)

Getting frequent tummy time in is almost impossible.

Or is it?

Our solution is to turn unavoidable “can’t be on mama” time into tummy time.

Louis "enjoying" tummy time

I use a washable throw rug in our bathroom (actually, it’s two vintage bath towels sewn together to double thickness). After diapering, when I’m rinsing those cloth diapers, I lay Louis on the rug with a clean burp rag under his head.

Voila.

At least 4 or 5 (if not 8 or 9) little tummy times every day.

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