Monday, October 8, 2007

I say strange things now

Motherhood = odd phrases coming out of my mouth. A couple of today's examples...

"No honey, I can't take my face off. It stays on my head."

"Let's not mix crackers and water together to make paste..."

"We don't ice skate on books."

"Why is the sour cream in the living room?"

Yep, those are some sentences I never thought I'd say!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Have you thanked a cow today?

Driving in the car this morning...

Maya: Look Mama! Cows!
Me: Yeah, I see them!
Maya: Cows drink milk.
Me: Well, cows give milk.
Maya: No, cows drink milk.
Me: Well, baby cows drink milk from their mamas, but big cows give us milk to drink.
Maya: That's very nice of cows!
Me: Ah...yes, it is!
Maya: Thank you, cows!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I should wear a blinking sign...

It's happened more than once in the last couple of days. Maya has hurried towards me, looking to throw herself onto my legs either in protest of an un-granted request or to laughingly escape a Daddy tickle attack...and her little head just completely bounces off of my protruding belly. It stuns her for a moment, but she quickly recovers and adjusts her embrace a bit to the side.

So, the phrase "be careful of Mommy's tummy", once reserved for cautioning my child to please not whack me with toys or limbs in that general vicinity, is now also applicable to her approaching me quickly. *sigh*

Three months to go. I'm not going to get any smaller. Yowza! Perhaps I should invest in a toddler-sized helmet?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Rebel Mama

I'm a rebel. Well, sometimes I think I am. There are certain circles in which I feel totally integrated, very encouraged by the like-mindedness and support as to the parenting style we've chosen. And in others...well, I just feel...different. Somewhat painfully so. So I'm choosing to label those times my "rebel mom" times, because it gives me a bit more confidence than using a term like, say, "freako mom".

Here are some reasons why I am a rebel:

- We do not use physical punishments with our children. We most definitely believe in discipline, but choose to use other methods to guide our children's behavior.

- I do not believe in sleep-training infants.

- I don't believe that responding to a baby's cries will cause them to become needy, manipulative, or over-dependant.

- I do not believe that infants can be spoiled by nursing them on demand, whether for hunger or comfort.

- I practice extended breastfeeding/child-led weaning.

- I do not believe that babies/children must be kept out of the "marriage bed".

- I deeply believe that my Christian faith supports each and every one of these conclusions, and that there is no Biblical basis I have found which contradicts them.

There are many people in my life who would disagree with some, or even all, of these things. I respect that, and I would never for a second allege, or even imply, that any of my mama friends are doing the "wrong" thing because they choose to parent differently. Everyone needs to choose the parenting style and techniques that work best for them.

But why did I have to end up in the road-less-traveled group? Here's the thing about can be a lonely place. And it's particularly frustrating to find that I most often feel alone in Christian circles. It shouldn't be surprising, since the prominent Christian parenting literature, resources, and gurus out there right now mostly seem to line up on the side of a different approach. And again, it's not that I think those things, in and of themselves, are "wrong"...but the ideas and methods suggested often just don't make sense to my heart personally.

Before I had Maya, I pored over parenting books, so desparately wanting to do the "right" thing. But when she was born and I was actually in the thick of parenthood, my heart led me in other directions. This, understandably, caused me some massive feelings of guilt in the begining, as I worried that I was failing as a mother, particularly as a Christian mother. And yet, somehow, I felt that it was God himself who was leading my heart. It wasn't until I found myself in an online community with a group of women from different backgrounds, areas of the country, and experiences, that I learned there was actually a method to my madness. Not only were there other people out there who were parenting the way we were, but there were resources, books, doctors, etc. that whole-heartedly endorsed and supported this approach, and from a Christian perspective! What a blessing! What confirmation!

Two-and-a-half years later, I am so certain that the decisions we've made have been the right ones for us, in spite of the many mistakes we've no doubt made so far. Our daughter is bright, well-adjusted, empathetic, cooperative, loving, and independant, even though I nursed her for two years, fed her on demand, never let her cry herself to sleep, and have never used physical correction. Our marriage is stronger, in every sense, than ever before, even though Maya spent many a night for quite some time sharing our bed. And I'm approaching our second round of the newborn stage with a confidence I didn't have the first time, knowing that the choices we will make are ones that feel right to us and line up with the example that we believe God sets for us as our Heavenly Father.

And yet, why do I sometimes still struggle with feeling like a rebel? Why does it only take one pointed comment or a discussion in which I feel like an outsider to suddenly make me feel so...lonely?

I'm a rebel. With a cause. And it's one I'm intensely passionate about. But sometimes, I have to admit, it sucks.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Smart Alec

Last night, as Mark and I enjoyed big bowls of freshly cut seedless watermelon, I looked over to see him meticulously picking the tiny white seeds out of the melon pieces with the tongs of his fork.

"It's ok, honey," I teased. "If you eat the seeds, it won't make a watermelon grow in your tummy."

Without missing a beat, he very seriously replied, "I don't know...", with a pointed look at my pregnant belly, which is admittedly looking more melon-like every day.

Very funny, dear. Although I gotta say, that's not at all how I remember it happening...

Edited to add: Is it an indication of just how obsessively I've been poring over baby name books these days that I looked back at the title of this post and went, "Hmmm...'Alec'..." ?

Nah, the Baldwin association isn't great for me these days with that one.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What does it say about me...

...that a nonfat decaf iced peppermint mocha from Starbucks can get me totally in the Christmas July? And that it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to the point of almost mistiness?

I mean, of course, what does it say besides the fact that I'm super hormonal? Oh, and freakishly sentimental. And addicted to Starbucks.

Ok wait, I think I just answered my own question...

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's a Boy!

For you created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
Your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of the came to be.

~Psalm 139: 13-16

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Faith like my daughter's.

I've often heard, and taken part in, conversations extolling the importance of "spiritual maturity". That place of stronger connection to God and a deeper understanding of his Word, his nature, and his plans. I've been profoundly blessed by my own meager steps in this process over the years, and I have great respect for those whose incredible faith and wisdom stands as an example for me. Sometimes, however, I think I make it all just a little too hard. I lament my lack of focus, my inferior Biblical knowledge, my infrequent prayers. I find myself succumbing to fearful thoughts and wonder what I must do in order to build up my seemingly "immature" faith. And then, I notice my daughter...

I watch her bow her head in prayer at the dinner table, while her father and I are still filling our plates in the kitchen, and I know that had we not heard her sweet voice thanking Jesus for her food, we would have likely forgotten to thank him ourselves.

I hear the confidence in her voice as she inspects a troublesome new "owie" on her knee, and then assures herself that "God will help" it to heal.

I listen as she struggles through a tearful disappointment and stops mid-wail to implore me, "Let's pray, Mama", only to assure me a few minutes later as the tears dry, "I feeling better now. God helped Maya."

She's two. Two. Hardly enough time to have developed a spiritual maturity. I'd like to say that my husband and I could take the credit for the sweet expressions of faith that come out of this child, I simply can't. Our conversations with her and examples for her fall far short of explaining the connection she has with her Creator. We've certainly never modeled the cheer that she often gives after a declaration that God has helped her..."Yay God!" isn't how I'd ever think to offer praise. It's far too immature, right? Lacks substance?

There's something inherent, something so amazingly simple about her faith that serves as a stunning example to me. That is what I want! I want to turn to my God in every circumstance, with total confidence that my owies will be healed. I want to reach out to him in my dark times of despair, when it's so much easier to wallow in self-pity. I want to turn to those around me during those moments and say, "Let's pray", without my pride or shame holding me back. I want to remember when I emerge from those valleys and realize that "I feel better now" that HE deserves the glory, and not be afraid to make it known that "God helped me". And I want to give my praise, however simple and inarticulate it may be. Because I know that my God rejoices with every "Yay God!" I offer him.

I want to grow daily in my walk with God. I desire spiritual maturity. But what I really long for, what I really need, is faith like my daughter's. I pray she never loses it in pursuit of what a mature spiritual life "should" look like. And I thank the Author of life that he's teaching me more about him each day of Maya's life even as I attempt to teach her the same.

Yay God!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Berenstain Bears and Banana Bread

Mommy guilt is a ridiculously strong force. It's not that I don't think I'm a good mother. I know I am. But I get down on myself pretty easily, for one reason or another.

I love spending time with my little girl. But (and here's where some guilt comes in) I'm not a big fan of getting down on the floor and playing. Of course, if she pulls out her blocks or Mr. Potato Heads and asks me to play, I'll oblige. It's just not my favorite thing to do. I don't love that about myself, but it's true. On the other hand, I'll sit and talk with her endlessly; answer a thousand questions about the cars around us on the road without losing a bit of patience. And then there's our mutual favorite activity to do together...READ! We'll sit and read, literally, for hours each day. I love that time, snuggled together under a blanket on the couch, going through stack after stack of books.

Maya's favorites right now are the Berenstain Bears. Mark and I both loved the series when we were growing up, so we pounced on a great eBay auction shortly after Maya was born and we now own at least forty of them. I pictured the Bears being more a staple of her preschool/early elementary years, but after pulling a few books out one day, the girl is hooked on Mama, Papa, Sister and Brother. She loves experiencing all of their adventures, and I love the gentle lessons and sweet homeyness of Bear Country. I've chosen to roll my eyes at the criticism of some who shun the books based on Papa Bear's doofy ways. Maya has enough books featuring terrific fathers, and has an amazingly involved, intelligent and decidedly un-doofy father herself, that I have no fears that one character is going to warp her view of the entire male gender. The Bears have a way of mixing life lessons and new experiences with a focus on love and helping others, and I love sharing those things with my daughter.

Another activity that I never tire of is spending time with her in the kitchen, baking cookies and cakes and other things that strike our fancy. And for my pregnant self - quite a bit is striking my fancy these days! Maya has developed a particular affinity for banana bread. A few months ago I had baked a couple of batches that we'd enjoy together in the morning, during our cuddle time on the couch after waking up. Last week, out of the blue, she asked me again, "Mama, you make banana bread for me please?" Well, who's gonna say 'no' to that? Not me! I promised her that there would be some waiting for her in the morning, and sure enough - the first sleepy words out of her mouth the next day were, "You make banana bread, Mama?" And had you seen the joyous smile on her face when I told her that yes, there was indeed a fresh loaf waiting for us in the kitchen...well, you would have understood why we went through that batch, as well as another one that I mixed up just a few days ago! To see Maya's happy munching and hear her exclaim with wonder, "Mama made banana bread...for ME!", well it just makes my heart sing!

I think when I really examine my feelings of guilt over what I don't do "enough" of as a Mama, it comes down to my fears that Maya will grow up lacking sweet experiences of toddlerhood and fond memories of this mother/daughter time that is bound to pass way too quickly. I don't do very well with the run-around-the-table game these days, and I can't maneuver around the park as easily right now without needing someone else along to help with the climbing and sliding. But those worries ease when I look at the beautiful things I look forward to doing every day with my girl. We have snuggling, we have our long talks, we have our beloved shopping trips and neighborhood walks. We have the Berenstain Bears and banana bread. And I hope, and trust, that those are all things that will fill her memory bank with sweetness and joy for as long as these two-year-old memories can last.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


That's really the only way to describe a morning spent deep-cleaning the refrigerator. I'm not talking just a search-and-toss mission. I mean a serious, remove everything, take out the shelves, scrub and scrape, take-no-prisoners deal. You know that lovely substance that lettuce becomes after a long period of neglect? Yeah. Ew.

It sure feels good to have it done. But there's something about taking on a task like that while 20 weeks pregnant with a head cold that makes you feel like you've just participated in some sort of triathlon. After my fifth head rush of increasing magnitude, I took it as a sign that my body was screaming at me to sit the heck down and leave the freezer for another day. Point taken!

I can now rest my gag reflux until Thursday...bathroom cleaning day.

Who said the life of a stay-at-home-mom wasn't glamorous?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Aspiring to pouch-dom!

A couple of weeks ago, I had this conversation with Maya, who has been quite interested in kangaroos lately...

Maya: "Where's your pouch, Mama?"
Me: "My what? My pouch?"
Maya: "Let's see it."
Me: "Um, I don't have a pouch, honey."
Maya: "Mama has a baby in her tummy."
Me: "Right...Oh! You mean like a kangaroo carries her baby in a pouch?"
Maya: "Yeah."
Me: "Oh, well people don't have pouches. Kangaroo mamas carry their babies in pouches, but people mamas have their babies grow in their tummies. So I don't have a pouch."
*long pause*
Maya (patting my arm reassuringly) : "Maybe when Mama gets older."

So, lest I fear that I will always go through life pouch-less, my 2-year-old has now reassured me that there's hope for the future!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

When giving in becomes a golden moment.

I subscribe to a "gentle parenting" style when it comes to child-rearing. It took a journey to come to that that I'll have to go further into in future posts. But for now I'll just say that I've found a parenting philosophy that speaks strongly to my heart and makes sense to my spirit, as a mother and as a follower of Christ. I respectfully, yet wholeheartedly, disagree with the more mainstream Christian parenting resources that encourage strict schedules for infants, physical punishments for toddlers, and the need to keep a child in it's "place", so to speak. It's not to say that those who advocate and/or follow those methods are "wrong". It just didn't feel right to me, particularly not when looking at the Father heart of God as an example of how a parent might relate to their children.

But that's not to say that my husband and I don't set boundaries for our daughter. It's a common misconception - go "soft" on the discipline and your children will run amok. It's important to us that our kids grow up learning to be respectful to others, that they know how to deal with disappointment, and that they listen and obey. Our main focus is consistency. If we say we're going to do something, we're determined to do it. Whether it be remembering to read that book that we promised we'd read in "just a minute", or following through on a consequence for an inappropriate action. Of course, we've failed countless times. That comes with the territory. But our intentions are to maintain consistency in an appropriate way. This value is tested every day. And with every such instance I learn something, if I open my eyes and my heart to what the lesson is.

Last night at bedtime, major toddler meltdown ensued. We had arrived home later than usual, so the routine had been delayed a bit - not a good situation for my little creature of habit. We got her teeth brushed, stories read, and prayers said, all the while listening to that droning, sleepy whine. By the time she and I headed back for some pre-bed cuddle time in her room, we had reached the unreasonable stage. I sang her a song, which she wanted to hear again...and again. Recognizing the attempts at stalling, I told her I would sing that song once more before it was time to go in her crib. When she was all snuggled down in the crib with her blanket, she asked again. I reminded her that the "once more" was all done, but offered to sing her usual lullaby, prefacing it with a reminder that I would be singing it one time, and then it was time to sleep. As I expected, when the lullaby was done she asked me to repeat it. I told her it was time to sleep, tucked her in, gave her a kiss and told her "night night". She was crying as I walked out the door. I wouldn't have left her crying while she was a baby, but as a sleepy toddler on a manipulation mission, I feel ok about letting her fuss a bit.

Within two minutes, the cries turned to tired, half-hearted protests, and then she sighed and was quiet. My heart ached a bit, knowing that I had done the right thing by staying consistent, but also fighting the twinges of sadness that I always feel when I have to be tough.

About five minutes passed, and then through the quiet monitor sitting beside the couch, I heard a little voice, whiny tone completely gone, clear-as-a-bell...

"I not sad anymore. I no cry. I happy now. Ok. Mama? I see you?"

Contemporary wisdom would recommend that I stay put. I had done the "right" thing. She would be asleep within minutes anyway. I knew this. But you know what? At that moment, a flock of child psychologists followed by a herd of wildebeests couldn't have kept me from going back into that room. I slipped through the door, adjusted her blanket, and rubbed her back. And then I started to sing her favorite lullaby. As I did, she joined me, in a voice half-asleep, fully satisfied. When I was done, she didn't ask again. Somehow, I knew she wouldn't. This was something different. There was a different tone between us now. I was no longer fighting to keep the upper hand, and she was no longer fighting to try and take it. There was just peace. As I walked back towards the door, she whispered, "Thank you, Mama. Night-night."

Goodness knows I've been swayed by that little girl's manipulation techniques many times, with frustrating outcomes. There will be many such times to come, I'm sure. But last night, my decision to "give in" was one that I wouldn't have traded for anything. I broke the rules, sure. But I had a priceless moment with my daughter. And I learned a little lesson about pride, and about grace.

Monday, June 18, 2007

An arachnophopic preoccupation!

I hate spiders with a passion that rivals my hatred of camping and the feeling of fingernails scratching denim. Also, tapered-leg pants. So we're talking intense aversion here. Seriously, if I've seen a spider in a particular spot in my house, it will take me months before I don't do a quick, heart-pounding scan of that area each and every time I enter the room after said sighting.

When I was growing up, I was terrified that there might be a spider in my bed, and that I would slip innocently under the covers someday, only to feel eight disgusting legs scampering up my arm. My dad always assured me that it was impossible for a spider to end up in my bed, and explained the physics of how it would have to scale a bed post, push it's way under the heavy blankets, etc. I had a different notion, of course - I figured it could drop from the ceiling. Sort of a Mission Impossible-type insect maneuver. Dad laughed it off, insisting that spiders have no interest in dropping. But I always suspected that there must exist some sort of spider conspiracy against me.

Fast forward several years to one of the first summers after my wedding. I happened to have the lights on one evening as I was pulling the sheets back on the bed. As I pushed the switch to turn on my alarm clock, I spotted a small but furious movement out of the corner of my eye. Horrified, I hooked one finger under the corner of the sheet, held my breath, and lifted the edge. Yes. That's right. One of those uninterested-in-dropping spiders had suddenly developed an interest in validating my fears and invading the bed. MY side of the bed, I might add.

That little incident was years ago, and I still have to check the bed every night to be certain that a new terrorist spider cell group hasn't set their next plan in motion.

Why am I thinking about this today? Because there is a large, hairy arachnid in my minivan at this very moment, and I can't stop thinking about it. My dear husband insisted on borrowing some sort of sprinkler attachment from his parents last night, and then insisted on leaving it in the back of the van for me to happen across as I searched in vain for a spot to load my grocery bags this afternoon. Not to worry, dear. I'll just lift the filthy, cumbersome, inexplicably 50-pound-ish contraption and move it to a different locale in the vehicle. Oh, and I'll be careful not to let the long metal prongs that stick out from the top (and, by the way, spin at random) scratch the interior of the van as I do so. Yeah, that was the plan until mid-move, a huge beast of a spider dropped down by my hand (yes, he was interested in dropping as well - uh huh, who's crazy now?). Before I could find a suitable smashing instrument in my bagfuls of produce, the crafty monster scuttled under the folded-down rear seat, out of reach but not out of mind. I think I actually heard a tiny chuckle as he fled.

After I reassured Maya that all was well, and dodged the "What's 'Oh SHOOT', Mama?" question, I drove home, white-knuckled, just praying that he would stay put until I could rescue me and my child from the vehicle after our safe arrival at home. We made it.

I need to leave again, in this very vehicle, in about an hour. I may need a sedative. What my sweet husband doesn't know yet is that when he get home this evening, he will not only be unloading the death-trap sprinkler thingy from the van, but he will also be spider-hunting. And I won't be satisfied until that thing is found, dead or alive. (If alive, he must be rendered dead.) After all, I sure as heck am NOT going to have Spider Spiderson dropping his clever self down on my shoulder as I'm driving along someday. Because YES DAD, it freaking happens!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Who knew the big questions started this early?

Up until very recently, I've been able to field Maya's questions pretty easily. I mean, she's two, right? I'm not expecting to get the "where do babies come from" - type inquiries for at least a little while.

Well whaddya know, she pulled one of the Big Ones out of her hat the other day at breakfast. Completely out of the blue. No warning whatsoever...

"Where's God, Mama?"

My spoon froze on it's way to my mouth. I glanced at Mark and our eyes met with the same "Oh CRAP!" expression. I was really hoping to have the perfect answer to this question when it came know, later.

She asked again. This time...

"Where'd God go?"

A million thoughts were racing through my mind. Ok, if I tell her that God is in Heaven, does that create the misconception in her impressionable mind that God is distant...elsewhere...removed? That's no good. But wait, if I tell her that He's "everywhere", is that too abstract for a toddler to comprehend? Does she need a more concrete visual to make her feel secure? Oh my gosh, I'm going to screw her up spiritually for life, all because I gave the wrong answer to this question...CRAP!

We ended up doing ok, I think. Mark started with the answer that God lives in Heaven, and I followed up with the explanation that God is always watching over us, and that He always hears us and is with us. She seemed satisfied, and moved on to more important matters. Like a rousing chorus of the "ABC" song.

Sometimes I think I get stressed way too easily about these things. I know that as parents, our roles as spiritual guides are extremely important. But my long-suspected belief that children have a closer connection to God than we think they do has been confirmed many times over as I've watched Maya grow. This girl remembers to pray for her meals when we don't. And she thanks God every day for healing an owie on her knee that's been long gone. How many times do I thank God when I receive an answer to prayer or an unexpected blessing? Yeah, probably once. Before I slip back into the vicious cycle of complaining about the next thing I wish would change.

I know full well that as much as I'd like my kids to grow up adhering to my exact belief systems and spiritual leanings (because they're the right ones, darn it! :)), it's not likely to happen. As Maya grows into adulthood, she'll form her own views, see God in a different way, develop her own personal faith that may look different, in some ways, than mine. Just as her father and I have done. And I want that for her, I really do. I just need to remember that. And I also want to remember that as much as we will teach our kids about God, they can teach us even more.

So I'll give Maya the best answers I can to these Big questions. All the while trying my best to keep my eyes and ears open for the answers God wants to give me through her.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Maybe Sometime."

My two-year-old is very into the art of sneaky manipulation these days. Cute and disturbing at the very same time. One of her favorite methods right now is to circumvent a "no" response from me by slipping a comment in that she hopes will leave the door open for the future.

An example:

(Sitting at the dinner table, Maya starts scraping the tongs of her fork on the table, all the while looking intently at me to catch my response.)

Me: No, Maya. We don't scrape forks on the table.
Maya: No, yes!
Me: No. The fork can scratch the table and damage it. Do not scrape your fork on the table, or we'll have to take it away. Do you understand? No scraping.
Maya: Maybe sometime.
Me: Um, no. We don't ever scrape forks on the table.
Maya: Maybe sometime.

"Maybe sometime". A crafty phrase. Not at all posed as a question, either! It's a very confident statement. A way of saying, "Ok, you win for now, but soon...very soon...I shall scrape away to my heart's content! Sometime..."

As always in the parenting game, there are situations where I choose simply not to fight the battle. If danger or damage are concerns, I'll finish the exhausting conversation. But often, it just doesn't seem necessary. For example, at the grocery store yesterday when she wanted to ride a lobster. "Honey, you're too big to ride a lobster," I said. "Besides, they're all wet and they might pinch you." After considering this reasoning briefly, she declared, "Maybe sometime." Or today when driving through the country, she pointed out towards a cornfield, framed by fences, a little creek and a small hill in the background, and instructed me to "Drive that way, Mama." I responded,"Well sweetie, we have to stay on the road, and the van can't drive through all of those fences and fields." *brief pause* "Maybe sometime." she said sweetly.

In both of these circumstances, I could have argued the point. Crushed her dreams by insisting that human beings aren't made to saddle up crustaceans, and that our mini-van isn't built for off-roading through the countryside. But instead, both times, I simply smiled and said, "Ok." I may regret it in the future, if these particular requests start coming fast and furious. But for now, she's satisfied. And she's happily holding onto the glimmer of hope that one day, Mama will open up the top of that lobster tank at Meijer and let her have a ride. Or that I'll veer off a rural road someday and we'll be lurching through the corn in our Toyota Sienna, laughing and cheering with every jolt. She'll have long enough to live with the realization that things like that can't happen. Sometimes I regret that I know better myself. For now, I'll let her dream. Unless, of course, that dream involves utensils and furniture...