Thursday, December 22, 2011

Angelic Interpretations

Noah: Look Mommy, an angel!

Me: Oh, wow! Beautiful! Does the angel have a message for me?

Noah: Yes.

Me: What does the angel want to tell me?

Noah: Um...Jesus was born. Sometime. I think.

Me: Oh, ok! Where was Jesus born?

Noah: I don't know. That's all.

It's a good thing the real angel of the Lord was a little more specific. Luke 2 would read quite differently if the angel had appeared to the shepherds and said "I think Jesus was born sometime. Not sure where. See ya."

And on that note, this is my six-year-old Angel of the Lord in the children's play at church last Sunday.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A festive laugh at my expense.

I could never be accused of being a Scrooge. The month of December is without a doubt my favorite time of year. I annoyed my husband with multiple repetitions of the "PLEEEEEEASE can we put up our Christmas tree now?" question until he finally relented the weekend before Thanksgiving. The Advent season touches my spirit deeply, gift-giving completely delights me, and I could happily watch Elf on repeat from now until the 25th. I hum carols and wear out holiday playlists and get all misty at every rendition of "Greensleeves" ever recorded. Christmas music thrills me.

With one exception.

(Brace yourself.)

I cannot stand "The Christmas Song".

You know the one. It's practically impossible to duck into Starbucks or get through a grocery shopping trip without hearing about those roasting chestnuts and that nose-nipping Jack Frost. And yes, I know, I know. It's charming and quintessential and conjures up all kinds of old-timey warmth and coziness. But there is one line that ruins the whole song for me completely:

(Brace yourself again, as you enter my particular realm of crazy.)

"Tiny Tots with their eyes all aglow..."

All of you normal people are scratching your heads in confusion, as you try to discern just what it is about the picture of sweet, excited children basking in Yuletide revelry that I find so objectionable. Well, see, my mind does not play that lovely scene when I hear that line. No. What do I see?

Creepy, alien children with red glowing eyes. A whole posse of them. Staring at me. This image does not enhance the turkey and mistletoe and Eskimo-dressed folks that comprise the rest of the tale. (And the fact that they're going to "find it hard to sleep tonight" frankly makes me think, UM...ME TOO.) It's like sticking the freaky kid from any given horror movie next to Bing Crosby at the piano; Bing crooning "White Christmas" in his beautiful baritone, while the child just stares. And stares.

You're welcome.

Anyway, a few years back, a discussion was taking place on our online Mama board (the one where Megan and I met and became friends) about our favorite Christmas songs of all time. I decided to bare my soul in the safety of this circle of friends and reveal my freako issues with a beloved classic song for the first time (other than to my husband, who frankly finds the whole thing quite amusing and loves nothing more than to CRANK up that particular portion of the song if he can find it on the radio while we're in the car.) Needless to say, my lovely friends were very tickled by the admission, and took much amusement from my attempts to persuade them of the creepiness of the song lyric. It was all fun and merriment and Fa la la la la.


She struck. You know, our dear friend Megan? Sweet-as-can-be, more loving and kind-hearted than seems humanly possible but just really IS possible with her...the one I'm writing a book with and call my mind twin and count among my very favorite people ever...THAT Megan?

Well. I innocently opened a thread on the board that she had posted with my name as the title, calling me to come and see. And I found that she had taken a photo of my little very own tiny tot, if you will...and created this:

Aaaaaaand cue therapy. Or at least shrieking, which I did as soon as I saw this, and the shuddering which commences every year as my precious Common Ground ladies have made it an annual tradition as soon as we've all had our fill of Thanksgiving turkey, to dust off this picture and post it anew in order to kick off the Christmas season with uproarious laughter. They mean it with love - as did Megan.

But I ask I the only one that has ever interpreted "The Christmas Song" to be more frightening than festive? If so, you can tell me. Or lie to me. I'm good with that too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Is it ever okay to cry-it-out?

Happy Monday, everyone! Megan was gracious enough to take this week's post again, as our household was busy preparing a Buzz Lightyear birthday party for a sweet, hilarious four-year-old.

This is a subject that can heat up message boards and comment sections in both constructive and destructive ways. We hope that you truly hear our hearts today, and we look forward to an honest discussion!

We're continuing our series on infant sleep today, and I think you knew this was coming: the sleep training question. We aren't strangers to this conversation, difficult though it may be. Back when we were doing the As He Leads Us series, we shared our concerns on sleep training, and I've spoken more of my own opinions on it in my series on Babywise. This is a conversation we've been engaged with for several years, and we know that after the book's release next spring, the conversation will continue. One question that pops up again and again is whether or not we believe it is ever okay to use cry-it-out sleep training.

We are hoping to reshape the conversation a little bit with our response.

1) We want to encourage more realistic expectations for both baby and parents:

As you may have noted from our first two posts about sleep, we really want to emphasize a developmentally appropriate view on infant sleep. In doing research for our book, I came across a book devoted to getting baby to sleep solidly through the night in the first twelve weeks. The author implied, as so many baby care books do, that if baby is not sleeping through the night by twelve weeks, it's because of something the parent is doing wrong. She even made the puzzling statement that most babies would be sleeping through the night by twelve weeks on their own if it weren't for the interference of parents. I'm still trying to figure out her logic on that remark.

I feel so frustrated when I come across material like this because the first three months of baby's life are a critical time for both meeting physiological needs as well as building trust. As we talked about last week, there are legitimate reasons that babies wake up so often at night. If we can let go of this inappropriate fixation on twelve weeks as the standard for ten to twelve hours of sleep at night and embrace the idea of parenting our new babies through this critical season of their life, I think there would be so much less mental stress on parents in this stage.

And on that note, maybe we could start treating those first three months as a sacred time for the entire family. Our culture is not geared toward a slowed-down pace for an extended period of time, but most every new mama can testify to the fact that the first three months of caring for a new baby are a very fuzzy, survival mode period of time. What if we created some meaningful space in our lives that acknowledged that sleep would be sketchy during that time and focused primarily on caring for ourselves and our families? I wonder if that would take some of the pressure off of everyone when it comes to baby's nighttime sleep.

Ideally, I would love to see our culture honor that entire first year as a sacred time when families are given a little more grace in general before returning to the full swing of life, but I suppose that may be a bit too much to hope for. But even if our culture doesn't honor that first year, it doesn't mean that you as a family can't agree that you'll cut yourselves a lot of slack as you nurture your little one through those all-too-fleeting months of infancy!

2) We want to emphasize that one solution won't work for every family.

It's so difficult to have a general discussion on CIO sleep training. Some of the most popular baby care books make zero distinction between CIO for a two week old, for a two month old, and for a ten month old. As baby grows out of those critical first months of life, parents may feel that a different direction is needed. This is where we want to emphasize again that seeking God's direction on how to respond to sleep issues is going to result in different solutions for each family. God views the unique blend of circumstances, personalities, and other factors and offers wisdom for the moment for your family.

I can say that for our family, I have never felt the freedom in my spirit to do any kind of cry-it-out. I mean, I tried with Dacey, and it was obviously traumatic for both of us. Once I learned about the nighttime parenting approach, I had so much more peace about the sleep question. But my children don't have temperaments that would have responded well to CIO. Also, I have not worked outside of the home when our girls were babies. I have a husband who encouraged me to rest above having a spotless house, and when Aliza Joy was a newborn, Dacey had been sleeping through the night for almost two years. My circumstances are not the same as yours, and so the direction given to me by the Holy Spirit may very well look different from the path He shows you.

3) We encourage you to pursue the most gentle response first.

One of the reasons we advocate nighttime parenting so strongly is because it speaks to us so mightily of how we feel God parents us. In meeting the needs of our babies no matter the time of day or night, we feel we are reflecting the ever-present love, attention, and care of our Heavenly Father.


We do realize that there may come a time when it's just not working for anyone in the family - including baby. Again, our approach is not about laying down new rules to follow. On the contrary, we want every parent to have the freedom to seek the solution about which you have the most peace. In considering approaches to nighttime sleep, our heart for your family would be to start with the most gentle solution and go from there.

Some resources to consider:

The No-Cry Sleep Solution. Elizabeth Pantley has gentle sleep ideas for both babies and toddlers. Laura has used her approach in the older-baby months (with some modifications) and found good results.
The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight: Though we haven't read this one, it looks like from the reviews that she helps parents find non-CIO solutions.
Co-Sleep and Nighttime Parenting Forum at Gentle Christian Mothers: This is an open-to-the-public forum for reading. (Only GCM members can post.) You can read threads from other parents working through nighttime issues and you may find the advice given to another parent works wonderfully for your family, too!

So, I suppose that's the long answer to the question of whether or not to cry-it-out. The conversation that follows is always interesting and we look forward to your feedback today!

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photo source: skycaptaintwo