Tag Archives: parenting

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.

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Just a Small Town Girl . . .

I grew up in a small town which I abandoned at the first opportunity because we all believed that leaving was the only way to make anything of ourselves, and it never occurred to us that we could be built into anything worthwhile within the confines of our pleasant valley. I believed that only in a larger place could I have the opportunity for greatness.

In the intervening 22 years I have lived in cities of millions and in a town of a few thousand and several cities in between. I have seen more of this continent than were dreamed of in my adolescent philosophies and indeed, there has been making in my life, though I was not the one doing it. I have genuinely loved everywhere we have lived, and would not trade a moment of the journey or the destinations on the way, but making a home here, in a small, (less) northern town once more I realize that I am a small town girl and I realize I am okay with that.

I look at my children as we traipse about the snow – Jonathan and I on snowshoes, and the children, elf-like walking on the surface – and I find myself eager for them to experience those things that were so wonderful about my childhood. Those things which at the time I thought we were only doing because we didn’t have anything “good” to do in our town are now fond memories and eager anticipation. In loving where I am I have also embraced the small town of my childhood and the memories of that place have taken on a sweeter aroma in my heart.

Lord willing my children will have a chance to step out beyond the confines of their own valley and breathe different air and eat different food and hear the same language spoken in a different way, as I have done. Lord willing they will each take their turns in some way out on the open oceans of life beyond the shallow streams in which we will raise them. I pray that when that comes, it will not take them 22 years to appreciate the gift of a small town upbringing.


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.”
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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.
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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

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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.


The Easiest Hard I’ll Get

Right now we’re in this awkward phase with the snicker doodle. If she takes a nap, even a small one, she doesn’t fall asleep until 9 and really wants everyone in the house to be aware she’s awake and ready to party. If she doesn’t take a nap, she begins crying uncontrollably at 6 pm and makes our life miserable for an unspecified time until we finally put her in bed and abandon any hope of giving her bath, dessert or of her participation in family worship.

Clearly if given this scenario on a multiple choice quiz, I would choose “none of the above.” In real life, however, I just have to decide at the beginning of the day which option is the best option for that day and hope that we can get past this stage soon.

It is tempting, when trying to brush the teeth of a screaming toddler, or when aforementioned toddler is standing in her bed screaming, “NO THANK YOU MAMA! NO THANK YOU BED MAMA. ALL DONE BED MAMA,” while her siblings are trying desperately to sleep, it is tempting in those moments to believe that being a parent of three children under six is the hardest parenting gig there is. It is tempting to see people at that stage of parenting when they can say, from a chair, “shower, put on fresh pajamas and go to bed,” and believe that they have gotten past the hard part and really I have it so much harder than they do.

However, as exhausting as these intense preschool years can be, it doesn’t get any easier. It gets differently hard, more nebulously hard, less cut and dried and more situational ethics style hard. While I’m still dealing with bed times and potty training (my two least favorite parental tasks thus far) my friends are dealing with puberty and group dates and if their kids should go to college or not. My problems might be messy and uncomfortable in the here and now, but the older kids get, the more permanent that messy and uncomfortable can be, given the wrong set of choices in the right circumstance. Even now with the two older doodles, I am seeing parenting moving away from “You are not obeying!” into the harder zone of “Is she/he obeying?” It is getting harder as it gets easier.

Two year olds and bedtime is a hard deal. It is draining and frankly when she’s screaming that she’s all done with bed I am feeling that I am all done with bedtime motherhood. It is, however, the end of the easiest hard I’ll ever get.


So Much to Process

I have been trying to write this post for two weeks. Jonathan’s classes are over. The mackerdoodle finished school on Friday. Church programs have wrapped up for the summer. The flip flops have replaced the snow boots. So how do I sum up this year?

It has been both, and simultaneously the easiest, most relaxed seminary year, and the craziest, most demanding one. For three years we all ran on Jonathan’s schedule of classes and work and church commitments. This year we had two adults with five jobs and seminary between them, a kid in school, another in speech therapy and the youngest who turned two, which brings a chaos in its own right. I spent Spring semester trying to figure out who was supposed to go where and when I finally got a grasp on it we had Spring break and I never got my rhythm back. I had to face the fact that as a working mother I could neither be the best mother, nor the best employee I wanted to be. It wasn’t that I had to pick one or the other, it’s that I just couldn’t be the best at either.

That being said, I feel like asking “where has this been all my life?” about my job! I have never felt more perfectly suited to a job. I get to write a curriculum for children, plan games and crafts and activities. I get to meet every person with a small child who comes to our church, and build relationships outside of “we’re in seminary.” I am overflowing with ideas and inspiration for communicating the gospel to children and I would have never known I could do that. It has been a beautiful experience.

Next year Jonathan and I are both down one job. I cannot be a teacher’s aide because of Jonathan’s class schedule (in his *last year* of seminary! How did that happen so quickly?”) and the professor for whom he was TAing has left the seminary to return to preaching. On the other hand, my nursery position and Jonathan’s cleaning job are secure and guaranteed to continue. So next school year is a mystery. How will The Lord provide? I am certainly only that he will, because unlike me, He finishes what he starts. Jonathan has the opportunity to do some pulpit supply for June, so my posting will remain sporadic at least until July as we will be living without regular Internet access. It is a wonderful opportunity for Jonathan, and we are so encouraged to be a bit of a respite for this church which has been seeking a pastor for two years.

And after that, we enter the year long countdown of last things before we pack our things and go wherever The Lord has appointed for us to go.

Friday in the van I had a conversation with the mackerdoodle about how God has given us all different types of brains, and he has given her an inquisitive one, of which she should be proud. She responded, “sort of like how God gave Daddy a pastor’s heart and a brain that reads the Bible and turns it into a sermon?”

And that’s really the point of this entire exercise, isn’t it? As much as I am dreading a year of goodbyes, I am praying that it will, in hindsight, be a year of hellos and new opportunities. I pray that it will be a year of people seeing what my mackerdoodle sees and loving both the heart and the brain that The Lord has fashioned as the head of our family. It will be a crazy, and demanding year, because, aren’t they all? But I believe it will also be a year of finishing well, and starting well and being okay with both.