Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

To the mothers who called me superwoman

July 6th, 2018

You saw me juggling my four little ones at the library and you were in awe. “I could never do it,” you said. “You’re superwoman.” And when I acted embarrassed, you doubled down. “No, really.”

I’m pretty sure that you intended it as encouragement. You see how obviously hard parenting lots of littles is and you’re trying to tell me I’m doing great. (At least, I hope that’s what you’re saying.)

But to call me superwoman implies that somehow I have innate, superhuman powers that enable me to live with the circus that is our little family.

I don’t.

Far from it.

When I had one child, newly home from the NICU who screamed and screamed and screamed, that ear-splitting Nazgul scream many times larger than her body…I could never do it. When she only slept lying on top of me but never relaxed into my arms. When the sleepless nights stretched month after month throughout the whole first year…I could never do it.

Yet somehow I did, by the grace of God.

And then I had two children. Another infant fresh from the NICU, this time with a toddler as well. They tag-teamed sleeping, except when neither would sleep. I learned the definition of touched out…I could never do it. Now that I had a toddler, I couldn’t keep the infant away from colds. So we got one after another after another, stretching my body to what was surely its limit with lack of sleep…I could never do it.

Yet somehow I did, by the grace of God.

And then I had a third child and my pelvic floor collapsed. The prolapse came with unrelenting pain when I sat, stood, or lifted – tasks a mother of three cannot avoid. Therapy was long and hard and took time I didn’t have….I could never do it.

Yet somehow I did, by the grace of God.

And then child number 4 arrived with a schedule to make home-loving me flinch. And my grandpa died so we took an emergency trip to Nebraska. And then the kids got sick. And then… And then… And then… I could never do it.

But somehow I am, by the grace of God.

You see, I don’t have any innate special abilities that enable me to do this task you think you could never do. In reality, I’ve cried out in desperation with every stage. “Lord, I can’t do this.”

But this, at each stage, is the task God set before me. Refusing to do the task is not an option. My only hope is to trust God.

And that, I think is what you miss.

Unbelieving woman, you think I’m superwoman because you recognize this task requires superhuman strength. It definitely does. But that strength could never come from me.

Sister-in-Christ, you may think I’m superwoman because you are terrified that God might call you to such a task – and you want to believe that only the specially gifted or the especially patient (let me tell you what, that’s NOT me) can handle such a task. But God gives grace for the tasks he gives during the task, not before.

Sister, this task of mothering, of fostering, is not for superwomen. It’s for women who could never do it, but somehow do, only by the grace of God.

Snapshot: Little Boy Reading

February 9th, 2018

We only found a few of the “My Little House books” to check out of the library for this year’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge – but Louis is loving this one:

Louis reading "County Fair"

County Fair, adapted from Farmer Boy

Snapshot: Sleeping

August 28th, 2016

I arrived home from some much needed alone time (read: grocery shopping) to find my little ones fast asleep on their papa.

Tirzah Mae and Louis asleep on papa

Snapshot: Spaghetti Face

August 7th, 2016

At what point does spaghetti face stop being cute?

Spaghetti face

Some point after this, that’s for sure.

It’s a Boy!

August 3rd, 2016

Even though I’m not into routine ultrasounds in pregnancy, we’ve ended up with plenty of ultrasounds for both our children (let’s just say that there hasn’t been anything routine about how my pregnancies have progressed!)

With each of the ultrasounds, I’ve been careful to inform the ultrasound tech that we aren’t interested in knowing baby’s sex, so could they please keep it to themselves.

I didn’t think to tell our maternal-fetal specialist when he rolled in the ultrasound to check where baby was lying to determine our course of action the day my condition declined such that delivery was indicated.

Our little boy

Doctor W moved the wand across my belly, confirming that baby was still lying in the transverse position he’d so favored all throughout the pregnancy.

Doctor W explained what I already knew. We couldn’t deliver a transverse baby vaginally. I listened patiently as he explained the different ways a baby might be lying and the relative risks of vaginal delivery with frank breech, footling breech, transverse (the most dangerous is transverse with belly down, since the umbilical cord would almost certainly be delivered first and then be compressed as the rest of baby tried to make his way out.)

And once Doctor W was done explaining, I said my piece. I still wanted that VBAC. I wanted to try everything we could. Yes, I wanted the external version we’d discussed.

Doctor W’s hands moved across my abdomen. He pushed and prodded. He pulled out the wand to see what he’d done. He pushed a little more. He grabbed the wand again.

He’d succeeded at getting baby head down.

He narrated what we were seeing on the ultrasound screen – “There’s the head”. Down in my pelvis.

Just a bit above the head. “And there are his little boy parts. And there are his feet down with his head.”

Such a LONG little boy

I looked at Daniel as we acknowledged what we’d just learned.

“Louis,” I said his name in my head, acknowledging our son.

A while later, my nurse was working on her charting and Daniel was off doing something, collecting Tirzah Mae perhaps.

“Do you have any sense of whether the baby’s a boy or a girl?” the nurse asked.

“Well, it doesn’t really matter whether I had a sense or not – Doctor W told us,” I replied.

“Ah shoot,” she said. “I’d hoped you hadn’t noticed.”

I assured her that it was fine, really

And it was.

But now I know, if I really want to wait until delivery to find out, best to let my doctor know in advance too!

Snapshot: Happy Due Date

July 31st, 2016

If Louis had arrived on his “expected date of delivery”, he’d have arrived today.

As it is, he’s two days shy of six weeks old.

Louis and his elephant

While I was in the hospital, Daniel read an article that suggested that people who are chronically late are optimists. It makes sense. Optimists assume they can make it to their location more quickly than they can. Optimists fail to take into account traffic, children, and losing their keys. And, if they’re optimists in the same sense Daniel and I are, they assume they can get just one more task (and another and another) done before they leave.

Like I said, the article makes sense.

I am an optimist – and I was two weeks late to my own birthday.

But if being late is a sign of optimism, Daniel and I are raising a couple of pessimists.

Either way, we’re glad to have our early birds.

Happy Due Date, dear Louis.

In which we have…

June 29th, 2016

a baby boy.

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I am pleased to introduce Louis Anthony Fyodor, born a little over a week ago on June 21.

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Louis experienced some growth restriction and was just 6 oz bigger than his sister at birth, despite having an additional 2 weeks in the womb. Nevertheless, he has been growing well. He’s already passed his birthweight (3 lbs, 11 oz) and is getting full feedings of his mother’s breastmilk by tube – with a few good breastfeeding sessions sprinkled in.

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We are so glad to have him.

Like Mama, Like Daughter

May 11th, 2016

It was little more than a whim – I was feeling as though Tirzah Mae had been wearing the same dresses to church week after week, so I pulled out the bag of clothes I wore when I was a child…

I was thrilled that I had, since I discovered that this little jobber – what I’ve always referred to as the “Bavarian dress”, brought back by my Grandma from a European tour – was already almost too small for Tirzah Mae.

The "Bavarian" Dress

She wore it that day – and posed in it that afternoon.

Here’s me, wearing the same dress some 30 years before.

Rebekah in the "Bavarian" dress


I also had Tirzah Mae take advantage of some of the last cool days of the spring to wear the little jumpsuit my mother made me.

Jumpsuit should fit in the fall?

As you can see, the jumpsuit is definitely on the long side for Tirzah Mae – and since I wore it sometime right around my 2nd birthday, I’m thinking that bodes well for getting a good deal more use out of it come fall!

Rebekah with her Grandma Menter in the jumpsuit Mama made her

**Side note: See how little hair I had in the Bavarian dress – and how much I had by my second birthday? Perhaps there is hope for Tirzah Mae yet.**

We’re Mediterranean

August 24th, 2015

If Tirzah Mae were forced to claim an ethnic heritage, the most honest answer would have to be “German”. The daughter of two mutts, she ends up 9/16ths German (more than her mother can claim!)

She has the blue eyes and fair complexion that testifies to her northern European heritage.

But three things bear witness to her small but significant Mediterranean heritage.

The most obvious to outsiders is the Garcia last name, passed down from a Spanish great-great grandfather (actually, it was his mother’s name, but immigration recorded it incorrectly so Garcia we are.)

The least obvious to outsiders is Great Grams’ spaghetti sauce. Tirzah Mae’s Italian great-great grandmother taught the recipe to her German daughter-in-law. Tirzah Mae’s German great-grandmother taught it to her own German daughter-in-law. And when Tirzah Mae’s mother (who is mostly a mutt, but 3/8ths German) married her father? He handed her his mother’s recipe for Great Grams’ spaghetti sauce. And at least once a month, we make up a pot, serving it (when the German mutt mother remembers) with Mediterranean green olives.

And right in the middle, there’s the bit of Tirzah Mae’s Mediterranean heritage that infuses our everyday life.

Daniel is papa, as was his father, as was his father. It makes sense. Papa is dad both in Spanish and Italian.

And since Daniel is papa, I am mama. It doesn’t make sense, you see, for Daniel to be papa and me mommy. Papa and mommy don’t go together.

So despite my protestations that Daniel and I, and our Tirzah Mae, are All-American and that, if anything, we are of Northern European stock, I am forced to admit that we are not uninfluenced by Daniel’s Southern heritage.

I am reminded, daily, as I try to decide whether to change the storybook’s words from “Mommy” to “Mama”. I am reminded when I can rule out half of the onesies in the store as being ineligible for purchase, since they declare the wearer “Mommy’s” or “Daddy’s” or “Mom’s” or “Dad’s” little girl.

Tirzah Mae hasn’t a mom or a dad. She has a mama and a papa.

Because.

We’re Mediterranean.

Tirzah Mae is Eight (Six) Months

July 1st, 2015

As of yesterday, Tirzah Mae is eight months old (corrected to six.)

In some ways she’s exactly at her age-by-birthday. In others, she’s maybe a little behind her age-by-due-date. But she’s growing healthily, normally, well.

Gross Motor Skills:
Tirzah Mae is rolling, rolling, rolling – and she can back on her hands and knees as well. Unfortunately, she hasn’t figured out any way to move forward. So, for now, this means she’ll frequently scoot herself underneath one of the couches so that just her head is peeking out – then she’ll cry for help because… forward, mom!

She’s still not sitting by herself – I’m not sure exactly whether it’s lack of muscle control or simply interest in moving around. She’ll sit for about ten seconds before she topples – except that topple isn’t quite the word for it. She’ll sit for about ten seconds until she lunges for some object a couple feet away.

Fine Motor Skills:
Our girlie has just about got the two finger grasp down. When she gets really quiet on the floor while I’m reading a book, I’ll look up – and, more often then not, she’s delicately picking up a piece of lint between two fingers and placing it in her mouth.

Eating:
I started her on solids around 7 months (5 adjusted) since she was grabbing at our plates and wouldn’t give us any peace at mealtimes unless we fed her (and no, breastfeeding would not do.) She generally has some fruit for lunch (or what I’m eating if I have enough leftovers for two), and eats what we eat in the evening.

I haven’t worried about introducing foods slowly (even though I have routinely encouraged moms to do that in the past – mostly because I had just enough moms come to me after the fact worried that their kids had intolerances and ended up doing elimination diets in an unsound manner – far nicer to add slowly while a baby’s getting good nutrition at the breast than to eliminate things when those are providing the bulk of a child’s nutrition). Anyhow – I haven’t worried about introducing things slowly, have just been giving her what we eat.

So she’s eaten enchiladas, curry, turkey and broccoli over biscuits, Great Grams’ spaghetti, Szechuan chicken, you name it. And she likes it all. (I won’t get too triumphant yet and pronounce this to be because of my expert child feeding practices – but I *will* say that if I’d stopped when she made faces on the first few bites, she’d have a much more limited palate.)

Sleeping:
This continues to be a struggle. Tirzah Mae sleeps “through the night” (meaning a five hour stretch) most nights, but she doesn’t often do more than that. She’s mostly in her crib, but still occasionally ends up in bed with us.

I think teething may be the cause of our most recent nighttime woes – she’ll wake up and want to nurse and then eventually fall asleep at the breast. But as soon as I take her off the breast, she’ll wake up and want back on – she’s not swallowing anything so I know it’s just for comfort. If I refuse her the breast or try the pacifier, she’ll be wide awake and screaming. I took her to bed with me a few nights, but she was on the breast absolutely all night long and I didn’t get any sleep. On the other hand, spending an hour and a half up with her trying to get her to sleep and finally resorting to graduated extinction (which means I don’t sleep for another hour after she goes to sleep because I’m still hearing her scream in my head) isn’t exactly ideal either.

This is a stage, I remind myself. I signed up for this, I tell myself. And it’ll only be another twenty years or so :-)

Teeth:

When are those teeth going to finally pop out? This is the question of the month. She chews on everything, rubs her gums with a fervor I’ve never seen, is fussier than she’s ever been, isn’t sleeping very well again. It’s GOT to be teething (right?) But the teeth remain stubbornly hidden and the teething process seems like it’s lasting forever.

This is a stage, I remind myself. I signed up for this, I tell myself. And it’ll only be another twenty years or so :-)

Social Skills:

Just yesterday at the library, one of the librarians came running (as she usually does) when Tirzah Mae and I walked in. Tirzah Mae took a little while to warm up before she smiled at the librarian. But, after a little bit of playing on the floor while her mama looked at books, she was ready to laugh at everyone she met – a girl near the computers, an older gentleman in the stacks, and the same librarian as we checked out.

It’s tremendous fun, being her mama.

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