“Helping” in the “Kitchen”

June 22nd, 2018

The children always want to help when I’m in the kitchen – and I love that they do.

But I struggle finding things they can do to help.

More often than not, they want to help when I’m standing over a hot stove, when I’m chopping with my chef’s knife, or when I’m trying to get something clean (I cringe when they stick their grubby little hands in my rinse water!)

It just isn’t very easy to work in the kitchen with three preschoolers crowded around.

But I had some inspiration while I was getting ready for dinner tonight. I was serving mashed potatoes, which meant I needed to scrub and cut and boil and mash potatoes.

The kids "scrubbing" potatoes

And I realized that scrubbing potatoes is the PERFECT activity for my little ones to “help” with. I scrub with my Norwex Veggie and Fruit Scrub cloth – and the kids will barely notice the difference between that and a clean dishcloth.

Off to the lawn with a bag of potatoes, a dishpan of water, a pan, my veggie cloth, and three dishcloths. Oh, and three preschoolers (the baby enjoyed watching from a nearby blanket!)

More "scrubbing" potatoes

The kids “scrubbed” the potatoes and then handed them to me to finish. When all the potatoes were done, I dumped the extra water on the tomato plant and brought the potatoes inside.

Then the kids (two relatively dry, one sopping wet) headed to the front porch with papa to hammer nails while I gave the potatoes a quick rinse and got them ready for the stove.

Parenting win!

This is normal

May 11th, 2018

Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Wondering what on earth I’ve gotten myself into.

These are the feelings that have been my regular companions over the past week.

In my lowest times, I’m wishing I could just be done. I want to dissolve onto the floor in tears. I want to shut the door and just be alone.

This wasn’t supposed to be this hard this soon, I think.

And then I remember.

I remember postpartum life, adjusting to a new member of the household.

The tears, the exhaustion, the overwhelmingness of it all. The “what have I done?” The “can’t I just quit?”

It has taken me months to settle in to new routines each time I’ve welcomed another baby into the family.

Why should this be any different?

Yes, I’m not dealing with postpartum hormones (although, seriously folks, breastfeeding can mean some weird and whacked hormones too!) Yes, I’m not dealing with recovering incisions or tears. But I am adjusting to a new child’s routines. A new child’s cries. I’m adjusting my “old” children to the new child. Adjusting the new child to the “old” ones.

And unlike my postpartum experiences, this time I’m doing it without outside help. This time, I’m putting the meals on the table three or four times a day. I’m running to this appointment or that every day of the week. And all that with my husband’s car in the shop.

Calm down, I tell myself. This is normal. Don’t catastrophize. You will settle in. It just takes time.

And meanwhile, when the house is messy and my hair doesn’t get brushed and I’m throwing yet another round of sandwiches on the table, I can remind myself that God’s grace is sufficient for this season.

His power is made perfect in weakness.

When I dissolve on the floor in tears, he lifts my head and gives strength to go on.

And one day, four children will be easier and there will be a new challenge to remind me to lean on his grace.

For now, though, this is normal and this is right.

Desperately dependent on him.

Learning to say “Please”

May 4th, 2018

Tirzah Mae and I just happen to be learning the same lesson these days. Now that she is three, and now that I have three children, we’re learning to say “please”.

Tirzah Mae is learning to say “please” as an alternative to making demands. I’m learning to say “please” as an alternative to “No, I’ve got this.”

For Tirzah Mae, learning to say please is about reorienting her natural ego-centrism that thinks the world should jump at her beck and call. Instead of “give me some water”, she’s learning to say “May I have some water, please?”

For me, learning to say please is about reorienting my natural pride that thinks I should be able to be self-sufficient. Instead of, “No, thanks, I can handle everything myself”, I’m learning to say, “Yes, please, I can’t do it on my own.”

So, when the nurse offers to push the stroller when I’m rounding up the children for our doctor’s appointment?

Yes, please.

When the library assistant offers to continue checking out my books while I take a newly potty-trained little one to the bathroom?

Yes, please.

When a fellow library patron offers to put my books in the bag so I can soothe the baby that’s beginning to fuss in her sling?

Yes, please.

When the lady at the grocery store offers a hand when I’m juggling kids and groceries and a phone call?

Yes, please.

It’s a lesson I think I’m learning just in time – because three is becoming four. We’ll soon have a little guy joining our family, for as long as he needs us.

Which means I need to step up my “please” game and ask for help instead of just accepting it.

Please pray for us as we open our home and our hearts to this precious little one. Please pray that the gospel would grow deep in our hearts and in his as we seek to practically minister the gospel to him.

Hammers and mallets and impact drivers…

May 1st, 2018

I’ve been waiting for pretty much forever to get a good video of Louis in action. He has the uncanny habit of noticing whenever I start videoing and immediately stopping whatever he had been doing.

This time, though, I caught him.

Captured doing what he likes best – playing with hammers and mallets and impact drivers.

Sorting by…what exactly?

April 26th, 2018

An unknowing observer might take a look at these two piles of magnetic letters on our living room floor and assume that the contents of each are random.

How are these magnets special?

The pile of Louis's rejects

That unknowing observer would be absolutely wrong.

Louis carefully selected the letters “I” and “T” and the numerals “1” and “7” from the bucket of magnets.

Can anyone guess why?
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

All of the selected magnets have a long vertical piece with at least one horizontal projection on one end.

Guessed it yet?
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Check out the background behind the selected pieces. Any closer to a guess?
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

How about if I told you he says “boom-boom” when he’s using said magnets?

Surely you can see the link now.

Eating crow PBDP

April 25th, 2018

Peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches.

My husband claims they’re delicious. He eats them because his mother eats them. She eats them (if I remember the story correctly) because her father ate them. [Correction: My mother-in-law, a faithful reader, commented on Facebook to tell me she learned the “recipe” from her sister!]

Daniel, perhaps naturally, wants to pass along this strange eating habit to his children.

His wife grimaces every time he mentions it – but assures him that one of these days she’ll make peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches for the children (we do not, as a rule, eat sandwiches for whole-family meals at home.)

Today, the time was right. We ate most of our leftovers yesterday evening, we had plenty of homemade bread that wasn’t allocated for something else, and I wanted to let the kids help WITHOUT making a horrible sticky mess. PBJ was out, PBDP was in.

Making Peanut Butter and Dill Pickle Sandwiches

I sliced and toasted the bread. I spread peanut butter on the bread. And I dished dill pickle slices onto the little ones’ plates so they could put them on their own sandwiches.

They, and I, ate peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches for lunch.

And you know what?

They were delicious.

Do you have any unusual food traditions in your family?

Cloth Diapering Family’s Washing Machine Breaks

April 22nd, 2018

We are a cloth diapering family. Cloth diapers generate a lot of laundry. I do at least one load of laundry daily.

So when, on a Thursday night, I went to pull the wash out of the washing machine and discovered that it was still sopping wet?

Not good. Not good at all.

A little Googling suggested that it was the motor coupling – and a quick visual inspection under the machine confirmed it.

The old coupling alongside the new

Sears Parts Direct had the part for just under $20, and it happened to be in stock at our local store. We put in an order to pick it up in store in the morning.

So Friday morning, I picked up the part. Then I went to Walmart to get a new pair of jammie pants since both my pairs were dirty in the wash and there was no way I could get the washing machine fixed and the jammie pants washed and dried before my friend was coming to pick me up for my church’s ladies retreat.

Sunday after church, the time was right for me to get the machine fixed (especially since I’d put Louis’s last pair of clean pants on him that morning!)

I started at 2:45, following the instructions in this video:

I was washing the grease from my hands by 3:45.

By 4:00, the first (of many) loads of laundry was in the washing machine.

Louis came to "help" me

Thursday evening, when this all began, I wrote the following on Facebook:

Have you ever tried your hand at a six-word story? Here’s one:

“Cloth diapering family’s washing machine breaks.”

I later commented with the sequel:

“$20 part. In stock. I’ll try!”

And here, at last, it’s time to complete the trilogy:

“Mama fixes the washing machine. Hooray!”

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.

Rupture happens

April 17th, 2018

Select at random from the massive group of women who’ve had c-sections in the past twenty years, and ask them about rupture.

Chances are they’ll tell you that uterine rupture is common and life-threatening for those who choose to VBAC (have a vaginal delivery after a c-section.)

They’ve gotten this impression from doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies who, after a ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) position paper in 1998 decided that VBAC was too risky to support.

On the other hand, talk to a bona fide crunchy-granola homebirth mama and you might get the impression that uterine rupture doesn’t actually happen – at least, not with any frequency.

Neither are quite true.

Rupture happens.

Some degree of separation along a former uterine scar occurs in up to 3% of VBAC attempts. In less than 1% of VBAC attempts, a complete separation of the scar occurs, requiring an emergency c-section to avoid life-threatening complications (in other words, a TRUE emergency c-section, as opposed to the much more common “failure-to-wait” section.) In the remaining 1-2% of VBAC attempts that result in rupture, the separation is small and/or partial and requires no treatment other than monitoring hemoglobin levels. (Data from VBAC.com.)

Generally, these incomplete ruptures are caught by manual examination after a VBAC. The attending physician sticks his hand inside the newly delivered mother’s uterus and palpates the incision scar to see if there are any holes or weak spots. Yes, it really is as awful as it sounds (It was more painful for me than the previous 42 hours of unmedicated childbirth.)

My rupture wasn’t identified in that manual sweep. It was discovered by ultrasound a week later when I went back to the hospital with intense abdominal pain. That we know of, the pain wasn’t caused by the rupture – the pain resolved on its own before I left the ER.

My hemoglobin had dropped, but it had stabilized at the next check, a couple of days later at my doctor’s office.

I never required any treatment for it.

It won’t prevent me from getting pregnant again or having another VBAC, although it does mean that I would be wise to give my uterus plenty of time to heal before I subject it to more contractions (in other words, I should try to avoid labor until Beth-Ellen is at least 18 months old.)

Moral of the story?

Rupture happens. It can be life-threatening, but it isn’t necessarily so. Those considering a VBAC (or who have been talked out of a VBAC) deserve to hear the whole story – instead of only hearing worst-case scenarios or empty reassurances.

What did you do?

April 16th, 2018

If I’ve been asked once, I’ve been asked a dozen times.

“What did you do differently this time around?”

What they’re really asking is, “Why didn’t you get preeclampsia this time?”

The answer to the question as asked is that I didn’t do anything I “should” have. I ate what sounded good (precious little) instead of eating careful balanced meals like I did with the other two. I barely exercised instead of exercising diligently like I did with the other two. I didn’t plan for or expect a normal birth. If preeclampsia were a matter of human control, I would have been more likely to have gotten it with Beth-Ellen than with the other two.

(Incidentally, the one preventative action with any good evidence behind it is taking a baby aspirin during pregnancy – and I did that with both Louis and Beth-Ellen, with vastly different outcomes.)

The answer to the real question is simple.

God willed it.

It was God’s grace that gave me preeclampsia with Tirzah Mae and Louis – and God’s grace that gave me a normal pregnancy with Beth-Ellen.

What did I do?

Nothing.

God did everything, in His inscrutable wisdom.