Of Cuddles and Babies and Leaving the Dishes.

After the initial shock has worn off, I find that I am anticipating a brief return to the life of floppy newborn snuggles and baby delights. While knowing that I will have a teenager and a threenager at the same time is daunting, I also know how very, very quickly those intense, tiny years fly by. Soon I will blink and this bonus doodle will also be potty trained and beginning to read and able to buckle his/her own car seat. I know how quickly the years pass because I have already flown through them once. As a seasoned traveler, I am less anxious this time around (please remind me of this when I re-enter the potty training years.)

There is a temptation, I think, for those of us through those years, especially those who look on those years through the tinted lenses of nostalgia or regret, to try to encourage new mothers by reminding them of how short the years are. Sometimes those encouragements come in the form of “reminders,” in many and varied poetic form, that babies won’t stay babies, along with an admonition that everything else will still be there when the baby grows up. The result, unfortunately, is that when you’re washing dishes, so the rest of your family doesn’t get food poisoning and die, you hear this poem in your head and feel guilty for not rocking that baby who will be grown so quickly, but when you’re rocking and feeding and walking and bouncing that baby so many times you’re feeling guilty for not cherishing it all in your heart. Not so encouraging in those fragile months of limited sleep and hormonal unrest.

Here is what I know going into the baby years again, that I wish I had known the first time around. Maybe this will help someone walking those sleepless floors, wearing exhaustion and spit up.

The baby years are short, but these aren’t the only snuggles you will have. This completely dependent little one will grow up so quickly you will wonder where it went, but my nine year old mackerdoodle still holds my hand crossing the grocery store parking lot. The cheesedoodle will turn eight in two weeks, and he still wants to start his morning with a mama snuggle before breakfast. I haven’t walked a floor to calm a child in years, but every time I sit down at least one child wants to sit beside me, and rest a head on my shoulder, or a hand on my arm. Yes, the baby years have a sweetness to them unlike any other, but so do all the other stages. This is not the only shot at sweetness.

Yes these years pass quickly, but the beauty of parenting doesn’t pass with them. They won’t always need your hand, but they may still choose to hold it. Soon you won’t be able to carry them to bed at night, or sling them up on your shoulders, but you will continue to carry them in ways too numerous to count. They won’t always call out for you in the middle of the night, but they will still want to tell you about their dreams (real and imagined) in the morning. They won’t always need food at inconvenient times and places, but that bonding over a meal isn’t going away soon. It’s true that “babies don’t keep,” but the love and the beauty and uniqueness of motherhood grows with them. Even those tasks you may feel are sucking away precious memory time will become side by side moments of learning, and chatting, and “soul snuggling.”

Hold the baby, rock the baby, and wash a dish or some clothes, or wipe some dust along the way. This adventure is a marathon, not a sprint.


Ill Equipped for the Task at Hand

On Thursday I took the children to our weekly public swim. Jonathan was out of town at the ARP Synod meetings, so I was flying solo, meaning I was required to field all of the questions coming from the three motor mouthed fruit of my womb without the option to call in a pinch hitter. In the midst of this, the Mackerdoodle asked me what a Black Hole was. I answered that it was a very, very, very heavy place in space that sucked everything near it toward itself. She then said to me:

“So it sucks everything into itself? So there could be a whole universe inside a black hole?” I was startled and answered, “Um. Yes sweetie. Actually scientists who study space are wondering exactly that.

She didn’t stop there, though. She followed it up with, “But all of that stuff that gets squished down into the black hole. I mean it can’t just disappear into nothing. It has to go somewhere. Could a black hole suck stuff in and send it somewhere else?” My brain was beginning to be distracted by the implications of this conversation, but I continued to affirm her. “Well, some scientists wonder exactly that. No one has been able to study it closely enough.”

“What if there used to be a huge black hole and  then it exploded, and everything in our universe came out of it!” She asked, excited at the possibility.

“Well, what do we know about how the universe was formed?” I asked. Praying for the right answer, and in answer to that prayer, her answer came quickly.

“Oh Right. God spoke and it was made. No black holes in Genesis.”

She was appeased, but I was terrified. My six year old had, from a very elementary explanation of black holes managed to hypothesize the same types of cosmological scenarios that doctoral candidates are considering for dissertation work.

I am clearly ill equipped to be her primary educator.

Peace and Settling In.

113“Are you settling in?” I don’t know how to answer that. I understand it is the conversational equivalent of “How are ya’?” when one has just moved to town, and people know you well enough to speak, but not well enough to know what say, exactly. I generally answer in a generally positive way, because the person asking doesn’t really want to know the details of my life, and settling, or not.

How does one define settled? In some ways I am feeling decidedly un-settled. Almost everything I own is stacked in a two car garage and will be until May, most likely. Our van has been parked in Maine for a month, because the United States Postal Service seems to have lost the title so we can’t import it.  I went grocery shopping this week and remembered that I can’t buy sherry at the grocery store in Canada. One of the children’s favorite lunches is the Pioneer Woman’s Sherried Tomato Soup, and I had all the ingredients except the sherry, but I couldn’t buy sherry in the grocery store, and the liquor store was closed. I sat in the borrowed Honda Pilot we are driving and said, out loud, to no one in particular, “Why is everything so complicated?”

But those moments, while real, are pretty rare. In the moment to moment I am feeling more settled than I have in years. I haven’t had to rush the children out the door since we got here. I haven’t told anyone to “just hurry up! We are LATE!” Every morning at 8:30 Jonathan sits at the dining room table and begins his day, and the children and I go to the living room and begin school. There is no commute. We can finish up breakfast at 8:15 and have plenty of time to get dressed and make it to our 8:30 start time. I have baked bread, and made petite pain au chocolate for breakfast, and had people in for meals, and been to other peoples’ homes for meals, and I have still been able to keep up with the laundry. We have been to the local public library (twice) and the children go outside to play on most afternoons – weather permitting.

I spent the last year feeling like I was doing everything poorly because I didn’t have the time to do anything well. I felt like I dropped more plates than I kept spinning, and I told the children “No, we don’t have time” more than I was able to make time to say “yes.” Now I feel like I can breathe. In November the mackerdoodle asked me a question and I answered, “Ask me that again when we aren’t in the car, and I can look up the answer for you.” She answered, “We are always in the car.” Today she asked me “What do penguins and polar bears drink, if they live where the water is frozen?” I Googled it. (Penguins drink salt water, and Polar Bears don’t drink at all! Isn’t that interesting?)

So, are we settling in? In all the ways that count. The Lord is teaching me, one minor inconvenience at a time, that settled and unpacked are entirely different things.

Just a Tall Two Year Old

From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, says proverbs, and when each of my children have developed verbal skills I have found it discouraging for their mouths to reveal the sin I have always known to be present in theory, but had often denied in practice.

For about six months, the snickerdoodle has called her sister “Mo-Mo”, because that is what the Cheesdoodle calls her. And the cheesedoodle she calls “guys”, in the plural. Her “g”s come out as “d”s, so for awhile we thought she was calling him “dyes” which had us baffled. The discovery that she was calling him “guys” didn’t really enlighten us that much until this week.

I was walking down the hallway at church, my arms filled with the paraphernalia of Children’s ministry, and the paraphernalia of motherhood and the other random things of life. Behind me came the Cheesedoodle and the Snickerdoodle, dragging their feet like they were on their way to the gallows (instead of home for lunch as was the actual case.). I turned around, and said, as only an impatient mother can, “come on, guys! let’s go!” From her position behind her brother, the snickerdoodle chimed in, as only a self righteous sibling can, “Yah, Dyes. Wet’s doe! Uh’mon Dyes!” In her mind, exhortation and reprimand happen to someone else, and that someone else must be her brother.

There was a lightbulb moment as I looked back on past corrective moments. Hearing a general commotion in the toy room and calling back, “hey, guys. Be kind.” When the overall enjoying each other turns into screams of delight, I will often say, “ok, guys. That’s enough.” I mean “everyone six and under.” The snickerdoodle is apparently thinking, “you go, Mama. Get that brother under control!” Because a general “guys” couldn’t possibly include her!

It’s humbling to realize that I often read scripture the same way my toddler hears me. “That’s right, Moses. You tell those Israelites! Way to go, Jesus! Give it to the Pharisees! I’m with you, Paul. Those Corinthians are out of control! Uh’mon dyes, wet’s doe!” Another great disappointment in parenting is facing head on the reality that in my heart I am often just a tall two year old.

The Lord is at work! and One of the he ways He continues to work in me is to use my children as a mirror, reflecting where I have been, and where I have grown. My role as a parent is to show my children their sin, but encourage them that they don’t always have to stay that way. My hope is the same as the one to which I point all of my Doodles: If we are in Him, and He in us, then He who has begun a work in us will complete it. as I identify and rebuke my children’s sin, I say – not in the impatient tone of a hurrying mother, or in the self righteous tone of a bossy sibling, but in the encouraging tone of a guide who has seen a little further down the path – “Come on, guys. let’s go.”

It’s late, and I’m tired, but I have to share some cute kid moments

The mackerdoodle had an assignment for school. Here is the message from her teacher:

“select a stuffed animal from home and make a tag to tie around the animal’s neck. The tag should include your child’s name, the name of the animal, and a true fact/sentence about the animal. An example of the fact/sentence is “A bear has fur.” or “A rabbit has long ears.”

The mackerdoodle chose a koala, then asked me to look up koalas and read it to her. Her card says:

Koala is not a bear. It is a marsupial. 6

I had to help her spell “marsupial”, of course, but Why the six? “Because the baby stays in the pouch for 6 months, but I don’t have enough room to write that, so I wrote 6 so I would remember how many months.”
In family worship, the children each take turns praying. The snickerdoodle, being only 2, is learning through repetition after us. We are praying for people in our church, and we ask the children to pray that they would (a) love The Lord, (b) love His church and (c) grow in grace. Today the snickerdoodle’s prayer went like this.

Me: Dear God. Snickerdoodle: God
Me: thank you for. Snickerdoodle: tantoo for
Me: [family name]. Snickerdoodle: [family name]
Me: please help them. Snickerdoodle: hep dem
Me: to love you. Snickerdoodle: wuv me
Me: um. Love Jesus. Snickerdoodle: and wuv Jesus. Amen.
A few days ago the cheesedoodle climbed up on my lap for a snuggle, and I held him close and asked him, “will you always give mama snuggles?” He hugged me tight and said, “nope.” “No?” I answered back, not surprised, but hoping for a different answer. He shrugged and said, “you be dead, sometime.” After a moment of startled suppressed giggles, I asked, “well will you give me snuggles for the rest of my life?” “Oh. Yeah.” He answered and gave me another tight hug before running off to play, apparently happier with my redefined parameters.

Some Thoughts at Midnight


The mackerdoodle turned six. That is remarkable to me in so many ways. She was our miracle baby, the balm on our grief, the answer to a decade of prayer and now she is six and she is still all of those things and more.

We celebrated over two days, which meant I didn’t get a lot of work done over those two days, so Wednesday evening I settled in for a long evening of work (and by work, I mean I cut and glued fun foam and felt. I am not a rocket scientist). At midnight, I called it and was just about to head to bed when I heard the sounds of feet coming down the hall. There was the mackerdoodle. She came straight to me, climbed on my lap and said, “Hi!”

“Honey, do you know what time it is?” I asked her.

“Morning?” She said, hopefully.

“It’s midnight. I was just about to go to bed.”

Tears welled up in her eyes – sure sign to a mama that a kid isn’t as awake as she is pretending to be – and I grabbed her before she slipped off my lap and back to bed. I hugged her close and thought that I don’t see her at midnight that much any more, and let’s be honest, I probably won’t for another ten years or so. I had such a clear memory of holding her when she was days old and day and night meant nothing to an exhausted but delighted new mama. I looked into her little newborn face and wondered what it would be like when she could talk to me and tell me that she loved me.

After a moment, we stood up, and she turned out the lights in the kitchen while I turned out the lights in the living room, and then I walked her down the hall, to her top bunk. She climbed it and settled back into her pillow doubtful that she would be able to go back to sleep.

I had no way of knowing, six years ago, that this little one would also have a brother and a sister. I had no way of knowing, six years ago, that six years would go by in a single heartbeat, and an entire lifetime. I could have never guessed that at midnight on her sixth birthday the last thing she would say to me before drifting back to sleep would be, “Mama, why are you still awake at midnight?”

20130808-012420.jpgThe mackerdoodle turned six, and that means that 1/3 of my 18 years with her is over. I pray that in 12 years, when she’s about to embark on that awkward journey into independence, her eyes will still light up when she finds me at a laptop, in a quiet house. I pray she will still have the spunk and the love to ask me why I am still awake at midnight.

The mackerdoodle turned six and I feel like I just said goodbye to my baby, but I’m looking forward to the walk with this little lady that has taken her place.

To the Mother of One Who Wonders if She Can Handle More

Today Jonathan and the Mac and cheese doodles had a chance to go to Six Flags St. Louis courtesy of neighbors with season’s passes. That has left just me and the snickerdoodle to hang out all day. I realized very quickly into the day that I have never had a 2 year old all to myself. By the time the mackerdoodle was 2 we had the cheese doodle and by the time the cheesedoodle was 2 we had the snickerdoodle and their year of two was largely overshadowed by the chaos of another round of newborn/infant stage. A two year old all by herself is hilarious. And exhausting.

As I was typing that last paragraph she was peppering me with “why” questions about everything, interspersed with her newest favorite word, “everybody” (or “ehbody” in snicker speak.). As she did so, she leaned back against the grill of the van, then hopped up, glaring at the offending vehicle. “Ow! Dat hot!” She said, and proceeded to run around the perimeter of the van touching random locations and saying, “Hot” followed by giggles.

We are outside to play, but every time she goes down the slide, or jumps, or picks anything up, or has a random thought about either related or unrelated things, I have to respond. I’m all she’s got. She has only known life with the built in entertainment system “siblings 2.0”. Without it she’s lost. The frequently asked question of the day is : “Why ehbody doe away?”

Until today I had no answer when people would ask me if three was harder than two or one. I really had no frame of reference. Today I would say this:

Of course the chaos multiplies a little with each child, so does the laundry, the noise and to some extent the general chores of the house, but the minute to minute intensity of parenting is divided. Three children collectively demand less of my individual attention than does one.

If you are a mother of one scared of having another because you can barely handle the demands of the one you have, I say only that the joy is multiplied and the intensity divided as a family grows. I thought I would get more done with only one child at home. Instead I am accomplishing less.

Mothers of only children, today you have my admiration. You must be exhausted.