Thursday, June 14, 2012

Saying good-bye

Today I find myself saying good-bye.  Grieving the loss of something very good in exchange for something better.  I’m not sad, but I’m aware of the exchange that is about to happen.  Change, even the best changes, require a letting go of something else. 

The change I anticipate is going from a family of four to a family of five.  Five!  I’m so excited to welcome this little girl.  I can’t wait to meet her and for her to meet her daddy.  I get giddy at the thought of introducing her to her brothers.   I’m eager to watch the love and the bonds grow between Daddy and Daughter, between Titus and Sister, between Micah and Baby.  And of course my own falling-in-love-all-over-again experience with her. 

But for today I need to remember and enjoy what it’s like to be a family of four.  To read books with Titus and Micah this evening and realize that the moments of snuggling with one arm for each are numbered.  To load everyone up in the car and realize that one parent for one child is about to end.  To sneak in to kiss sleeping boys and go to my quiet room to sleep all night (sort of maybe) and know that the all night will soon become a series of very broken nights.  To savor the sweetness in my relationship with each of my sons, and to know that it will grow, but change, as a new person joins our family.

I can’t wait to meet her.  But today I’m saying good-bye to our life as it has been.  It has been amazing. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bedtime whisperings

The last of the last of the last of the bedtime routine has morphed into some kind of competition over who says “I love you” last.  This has led to hysterical crying on more than one occasion.  Since I do not understand the rules of the competition and how to help everyone “win” at this, I try to change the game.  We’ve been ending the day differently, and often it leads to some quiet talking with each boy as they settle down for the night.  How I love to hear their thoughts as they begin to unpack all the experiences they’ve had in the day!

Last night Titus was apparently thinking about the up-coming trip to Florida for a friend’s wedding.  He asked me about the airplane: “Will Daddy ride on the airplane?”  “Yes, Daddy will ride on the airplane.”  “Will Mama ride on the airplane?” “Yes, Titus, I’ll be on the airplane.”  “Will Micah be on the airplane?” “Yes, Micah too.”  “Will I be on the airplane?” “Yes, you too, Titus.”  “All of the family?” “Yes, all of the family, Titus.”  I am so proud of my son for seeking answers to questions that are clearly causing him anxiety.  He’s asked me about this several times, and each time seems relieved to know that we will ALL be there.

For Micah, last night’s pondering were less clear to me.  “Mama,” he said, “I’m not going to bring any toys to the meeting.”  “Okay, Micah…”  what meeting?  Early this morning he announced that he needed to go tell Titus that he is not going to bring any toys to the meeting.  I'm wondering if Titus understood that more than I did!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You have your hands full!

“You have your hands full.” 

I’ve heard this often in the last three years.  I’ve even said it to other mothers.  It’s not an untrue statement.  Many days, my hands are literally FULL.  I’ve often joked that at least with twins I have one hand for each.  

But this statement often sounds like this:  “SIGH… You have your hands (too) full.”

Recently someone said this to me at least three times in the course of a Sunday morning.  Then she said, “And you have another one coming! (sigh!)”  (how terrible!)  “I guess you’re done after this!”

OUCH.  This stung. 

As if children are a burden.  A season of life to be endured.  Infancy a series of sleepless nights and diaper changes. The toddler years a blur of time-outs and temper tantrums.  School days a gauntlet of homework and social upheaval.  The teenage years a battle of wills and hormonal terrors.  And every additional child simply a prolonging and repetition of these seasons.

May it not be. 

Yes, there are hard days in our home.  We’ve been tired and we’ve snapped at each other and we’ve cried and we cleaned up poop and we’ve wondered when bedtime would come.  We’ve had long nights and longer days.  We’ve “just wanted a break.” 

And then we’re right back in there.  With joyful spinning around the room (“Daddy, the house is tilting”) and new books from the library to delight over, and recitation of favorite Bible verses, and hugs and I-Love-You’s freely given and received.  With prayers over ouchies and forgiveness for hurt feelings and learning new words ("turnstile," "dromedary").  With sunshine on blond heads and digging in the dirt for bugs and painting pictures of dinosaurs and rocketships.  With uncontrollable laughter and smiles that can change the whole day.  

And I can’t wait to open my full hands to another, who will undoubtedly leave my hands more than full (I don’t have three hands).  And will leave my heart overflowing. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In the still of the night

The middle of the night and early morning have become welcome quiet spaces for me recently.  Somehow I'm learning to relish the 4am wake-up calls from a certain little boy and the pregnancy insomnia that makes me alert at odd hours of the night.  When else do I feel so free from responsibilities and able to read, to pray, to let my mind wander? 

This evening I had some lovely quiet time with my boys, as I helped to ease them into sleep in a place away from home.  They were giddy with the fun of sleeping at Papa and Nana's house and excited about waking up to Daddy coming home tomorrow.  As they went from bouncing to wriggling to fidgeting to stillness, I had a chance to reflect and simply soak up the moment.

It is a good place to be.  Sandwiched on one side by twenty-three days that I faced with anxiety, long days without a parenting partner, broken phone conversations, devotions and verses said without Daddy's help.  Sandwiched on the other side by exhaustion and re-entry to "normal" life, hard conversations about the future, decisions about jobs and budgets and child care. 

But tonight... tonight is good.  I can soak in this moment with my sons and look forward to waking to my husband's return in the morning.   Best of all, I trust in the God who carried us through these twenty-three days, gifted me with this moment of peace and joy, and will walk with us through whatever the coming days hold. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The only thing that counts

I like to DO something.  I want to be active, engaged, fixing rather than fretting, using my hands, using my words.  So when I read Galatians 5:6b, I focus on the "doing" part.  Here's what it says:

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

I immediately zoom in on the "expressing" part... that's the part that calls for action.  That's what counts, where it's at... the active expression of love. 

However, a closer look reveals that the phrase "expressing itself through love" is a description linked to the main object of the sentence: faith.  The only thing that counts is faith.

My faith is in God and in His son Jesus.  This faith means that I accept every aspect of His character.  Such as:

God is love. 1 Jn 4:16 
God is truth.  Jn 14:6 
God is holy.  Lev 11:44

I cannot have faith in a God who loves me and live as if my life is insignificant.  This denies the God who calls me His beloved. 

I cannot have faith in a God of truth and think that His promises do not apply to me.  This denies the God who has given me "these very great and precious promises." 2 Pet 1:4

I cannot have faith in a God of holiness and believe that He will "understand" my weakness if I harden my heart to His call.  This denies the need for Jesus' death as a way to bring me back to God.

I could go on.  Faith is not a mental mind-game, a "yes, I believe in God."  It overtakes every aspect of my life, every thought, every decision, every action.  

Everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Rom 14:23b

Whatever thoughts I think, decisions I make, actions I take, if they are not rooted and grounded in true faith in a God of love, truth, and holiness, they are sinful.  They cannot stand.  They will not stand. 
I join the father in Mark 9:24, pleading:
I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday's awards

Sweetest: Titus bringing Micah's new toy truck to him upstairs.  "I found this for you Micah."

Funniest: Titus and Micah playing hockey together, and saying "fight, fight."  Then they wanted to put gloves on "because hockey guys wear gloves" and presumably because they take them off to fight.  (I'm not sure this is actually funny, but I know that Daddy will think it is!)

Most precious: Prayer time, Micah: "and help us to sleep well and help us to not do bad things."  Titus: "and thank you for our lunch and our family..."

Most refreshing: A visit from a friend who I don't get to see often, seeing Micah and Titus laugh and laugh with her.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Three Ways to Change the Day

Some days just need a change in them, you know?  Nothing terrible has happened, but the time is dragging or you feel irritable or children are restless.  Here's three simple things that I find helpful for us.

1. Music!
I enjoy quiet too much to play music all day, so sometimes I forget to turn it on at all.  However, if I am feeling sluggish or I have a cleaning task, there's nothing like some upbeat music to energize me.  If my mind is taking all the wrong turns, I need to turn on some praise or scripture music to get back on track.

For my children, there is something hypnotic about Veggie Tales music... no joke!  They will play more independently and contentedly without me if Veggie Tales are setting the soundtrack.  We also have music that they love to dance to (Sandra Boynton and some of the Slugs and Bugs).  Recently, they have been absolutely captivated by a library CD, Jazz for Babies.  The several times I've played it, they've sat and listened, not doing anything else other than getting out toy instruments to join in and asking "what song comes next?"  Wow. 

2. Friends
Sometimes you just need a fresh face to change the tone of a day.  I can't count how many days have been rescued by a visit from a friend.  Seeing someone else's perspective, hearing their stories, playing games their way... these all help to get us out of our ruts.  This strategy is harder for me to implement spontaneously, but I try to schedule it in often enough that it comes on those days when we really need it. 

3. Prayer
You know those days when everything seems to go wrong?  By 8am, you've already given a succession of time-outs, or the afternoon has been filled with tears instead of smiles?  Those are moments we take to Jesus.  We bring our tear-stained cheeks, our rebellious hearts, our weary bodies and we ask for grace and help, for joy, and for peace in our home.  I LOVE LOVE to be able to talk to my children an hour later or at bedtime and remind them what we prayed for and show them how kindly and clearly God answered our prayer.  This happens all the time!  

What strategies do you use when you need a change in your day?

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I made some choices today that resulted in many tears and great unhappiness. 

As I reflected midday at the causes of the tears, I thought tonight's post was going to be about instincts.  About how I failed to follow my maternal instincts and thus to prevent tears where they could have been avoided.

As I thought more, I decided the post needed to be about insecurities.  About my inclination to compare my sons to the other children at church, to wonder what I am doing wrong that they still suffer such distress when left in the nursery.  To think that I am failing because I am unable to keep them quietly entertained during church.

But I'm coming at this from another angle.  Tonight it's about happiness.

Let me back up a week and remember a conversation I had with a dear family friend.  She brought gifts for the boys, and they both latched onto a certain scooter toy that was given to one of them; it resulted in a great deal of fighting and unhappiness.  She was upset that she had not given them the same items and so prevented this unhappiness.  I stood by my position that it is good for them to learn to share and that they do not need to have two of each toy.  I told her, "My first priority is not their happiness." 

I needed to remind myself of that today.  

Scene one: the church nursery.  Titus is upset that I am leaving.  There are loving and capable care-takers, and one in particular who has connected well with Titus in the past.  He tells me, "Go, we've got this."  I leave Titus crying.  I have a nagging suspicion that this is an unhappiness from which he will not be easily distracted.  However, I choose to place a priority on hearing the word of God applied to my life.  True to my suspicions, I learn later that Titus did cry for a very long time and much worse than I had anticipated.  I feel heartbroken.  He is calm when I pick him up, but looks worn, as we all feel after a long, hard cry.  I worry that my selfishness sacrificed his happiness.

Scene two: the car.  I offer to take a friend home after church, and also offer to make a quick stop she needs before heading home.  I realize that the delay of this stop combined with the length of time it takes to get to her home and back will inevitably result in the boys falling asleep in the car.  This means they won't nap at home later, which will leave them more worn and me without an afternoon respite.  I choose to do it anyway.  They do, in fact, sleep in the car, and are crying and screaming as I attempt to stumble-walk them from the car to the house.  They flop onto the floor but are too hungry to be eased back into napping.  Much crying occurs over the dinner table.  This is unhappiness that I could have prevented. 

Their happiness is important to me.  But it is not the most important goal.  Sometimes their character development takes priority (as in the case of learning to share the toy).  Sometimes my own spiritual needs take priority (as in the case of leaving Titus in the nursery).  Sometimes a valued relationship takes priority (in the case of giving a friend a ride). 

Will there be tears?  Yes. 
Will I wonder if I am making the right choice?  Yes. 
Will my boys learn that their happiness is not the only thing that matters?  Maybe, someday.

I need to remember this for myself, as well: my happiness is not the most important goal either.  

"Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  2 Cor 4:16-18

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lost in the cloud of mother-love?

Maternal instincts always put our children first, right?  Which means moms never struggle with selfishness, right?  Our children always get priority... we never think of our own needs... we never try to get our own way now that we're parents?  Selfishness is lost in the great cloud of mother-love, right? 

Yes, mothering does bring out much grace and love in me.  But is also brings my inherent selfishness into the bright light of minute-by-minute choices that I make in the daily routine of life.  It reveals my narcissism, my attention to my own "needs," wants, and priorities. 

Today I felt bad.  Just tired, sluggish, off.  I felt like my third child had taken up residence in my rib cage, not allowing my lungs to get a breath-full.  Not being able to breathe is somewhat distracting.  Silly, right? 

So I found a peaceful moment as the boys were playing to actually go horizontal on the couch.  And here comes my son: he sees the perfect opportunity for snuggling.  Now snuggling does not mean finding a cozy spot to curl up; it means wiggling and touching and caressing my belly and sitting on top of me and showing me a succession of animals and putting his face next to mine and touching some more and talking to me and bringing me books and ....  This is all unbearably sweet.

And I don't want to be touched. 

Ouch.  My reaction when I don't feel well is to retreat.  Don't touch me, don't talk to me, let me be.  My son's reaction to pain is to comfort.  His response to me lying on the couch is to join me. 

Reading I Spy books at the end of the day always tests my touch limits.  I'm tired and my nerves feel raw.  Something about I Spy books brings out the pointy-ness of elbows as they lean in to look.  It forces me to go at their pace rather than reading through the story and turning the page when I'm ready.   

I find myself with a choice to make.  The mother-love cloud isn't always working for me in these moments.  I need to chose to put them first, to remember how much I love them and how amazing it is to snuggle with them and to press in tight to read the book together and to put my arm around them tighter and hold a hand and tell them "I love you so much."  I need to stop thinking, "I can't breathe" and think "Look at what I get to breathe in... beautiful beloved boys." 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Car Talk

Titus: I saw a clown!!
Micah: Was is a clown house or a real clown?
T: A real clown, I think.
M: Was it on the sign?
T: Yeah.
M: What color was it?  Was it red, or blue, or yellow...?
T: Yellow, I think.
M: Oh, yellow.  Mama, do you like yellow?
Mama: Oh yes, it's one of my favorites.
M: Do you want a banana?  Bananas are yellow.
Mama: Maybe later.  What else is yellow?
(discussion of yellow things follows)


M: It's good to share and I love Daddy.
Mama: Yes, that's wonderful!
T: I love Daddy too!
M: and I love Titus and Mama and Daddy and tiger and kitty...
T: and I love Mama and Micah and Daddy...
Mama: and Mama loves Micah and Titus and Daddy and baby...
Mama: and you know what?  God loves Daddy and Mama and Titus and Micah SOOO much!
M: I love ALLLL of the people!


T: Are we on the ramp?
Mama: No, we're on the highway. 
T: Are we on the ramp now?
Mama: No, we're still on the highway.
T: But it feels like we're going down.
Mama: Yes, the highway goes down.  It's going to go under the underpass.
T: How do we get off the highway?
Mama: We go off on the ramp.
T: Are we on the ramp?
Mama: We're on the highway.
M: Are we going fast? Can we go fast?
Mama: Yes, we're going fast.  We can go fast on the highway if there's not too much traffic.
T: But we have to slow down if there's a red light.
Mama: Yes, that's right.
T: Are we on the ramp?
and repeat...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

All About Books

When I was a girl, one of my aspirations was to be an author of children's books.  I have always been an avid reader, and I remember a period of time in 4th and 5th grades where I would read stacks of age-appropriate books along with stacks of below-my-level children's books.  I was drawn to their simple stories, clever use of language, engaging plot lines.  It was a wonderful way for an aspiring author to study literature.

Recently, I am again surrounded by stacks of children's books.  I find myself in the picture book section of the library, barely able to restrain my grasping hands from choosing "just one more"... oh, Titus would like this one... oh, look at the pictures in this one... oh, the rhymes here are perfect... oh, I remember this one!  We are a book-reading family.  We read many, many different books.  We read the same books many, many times.

Sometimes I read a book and think, "I could write that!" Old aspirations linger, I suppose.  And sometimes I read a book, and I'm blown away by it's cleverness, it's beauty, it's ability to engage us, and I realize, "I would never have thought of that!" 

There are books that I think are marvelous.  There are books that my sons think are marvelous.  These often coincide, but not always.  Some books get put on the "return pile" more quickly than others.

There are books that I loved the first, second, and third time through.  But not so much on the fourth.

Some books I WANT to love... I know in my heart of heart they are good books: sound, educational, worthwhile.

There are books that read so well... the words practically fall off the tongue.  The rhythms are impossible to twist up... they always come smoothly.  They are a pleasure to read.  Dr Seuss, I'm looking at you.

Did you know you could sleep-read?  You know those times you've driven your car home only to wonder how you got there because you have no memory of passing that intersection or making that left turn?  It's possible to do that with a book: to get to the end with no memory of reading the words.  Or to read a book for the umpteenth time and notice a phrase for the first time...  have I been reading that all along?

Some books have some subtle adult humor mixed in.  Currently, we have a library book called "The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)" by Philemon Sturges.  Every time the hen realizes that she is missing an ingredient, she says "Cluck."  Now, don't tell me that isn't intentional. 

It's fun to read in a new place or have books read by another person.  As much as we all love our daily snuggle-on-the-couch-and-read-together time, we also love to mix it up!  Reading at a coffee shop or while waiting at the doctor's office... reading at the park... these are special treats!  Having someone else read a beloved book lets us enjoy it in a new way; Grandma might read it just a little bit differently than mama does.  We love storytime at the library, and when Ms Elizabeth chooses a familiar book, the enjoyment skyrockets! 

Some books are gorgeous and some are icky.  Some are funny and some are serious.  Some are straightforward and some have a subtle agenda.  There are I Spy books and lift-the-flap books and truck books and poem books.  There are singing books and books without words.  There are at least a half dozen books for toddlers about trash trucks (we know them all). 

Books, books, books, we love books.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Decision Time?

To delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful than to make wrong decisions out of faith and love. (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010], 218)

Our family has some decisions facing us: big, small, and in-between ones.  I stumbled on this statement a few days ago, and I've been turning it over in my mind. 

I'm a terrible decision-maker.  When the decision involves someone else, I almost always look for a way to get them to finalize the decision: what movie we should watch, where to eat, whether we should spend money on this item. 

Here are some of my recent thoughts on decision-making:
  1.  Not making a decision is making a decision.  By choosing not to act, I act.
  2. Similarly, if I allow someone else to make the decision, I am just as responsible for the outcome and consequences because I CHOSE to allow the other person to decide.
  3. My plans need to be held loosely, always remembering that they are under God's will and authority (see James 4:13-17).  Even Paul made plans that God prevented Him from acting on.
  4. I need help from others to make wise decisions: "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Prov 15:22 
  5. Thinking about the Bonhoeffer statement, maybe it's time for me to make some decisions that have been made by "default" for awhile. 
What about you?  How do you make decisions?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I want to be like Micah

"When I get bigger, I will... "
... drive an orange truck, eat chocolate, use that big scissors ...
I hear variations of this all day from my darling son Micah.  I don't know how I missed this phrase in my recent post, Overheard.  This boy has big plans and dreams.  

I want to be like Micah. 

See, I had a  birthday today.  I've been thinking about just how broken I am, how much I have to learn, how much I need to grow in faith and understanding.  I want to know that "when I get bigger, I will... "  
... understand the gospel better
... walk more closely with Christ
... pray more
... have more faith and less fear
... display more spirit-fruit in my life.

I want to be like Micah.  This is the boy who you take to the zoo and show him his favorite animal, the hippopotamus, and you think you've handed him the world.  Instead of saying, "Hey, that's neat," he says, "Can I touch it?"  If you took him to the top of a mountain and showed him all the beauty he could take in, he would say, "Can I jump off?"  He always wants to take it to the next level. 

Lord, keep me hungry and thirsty like my son Micah.  Please take me to the next level. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mark it with an X

We're checking off the days, one bedtime at a time.  And suddenly it happened that I lost track.  I thought today was halfway, but here we are with 13 down and only 10 to go!! 

Here's a few things I'm learning:
  • Clear expectations are very helpful to me.  Knowing that I need to do the whole shebang (wake up, breakfast, play time, outings, lunchtime, clean up, dinner, baths, teeth, diapers, bedtime story, stuffed animal rescues, water cup refilling, hugs and snuggles) gives me the knowledge I need to plan a strategy to get through each moment.  
  • When Daddy is away, boys need extra hugs and snuggles from me.  Probably more wrestling and tickling and riding camel too.
  • Getting my heart in the right place is more helpful that getting a "break."  I have found that on days that I got a break to go to the gym or take a walk by myself, I can come back and be even more impatient than I am on days when we are together all day.  The grace I need to parent kindly comes only from Christ, not from "getting a break."
  • Logistics. 
  • Skype and international calling cards ROCK! 
  • Pleasure: I have laughed so much at my sons in the last week-plus.  I watch them and listen and get on the floor during the usual pre-dinner-busy-time and soak it in.  Their ideas, their imagination, their games, their silliness, their conversations.  
  • Pacing.  The day goes better when I save enough strength to get through bedtime as well as we got through breakfast.  I haven't done much cleaning in the basement, but I have found a new show to watch on hulu during "naptime"!
  •  People are praying for us, and those prayers are being answered moment by moment.  All praise and glory to God!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Don't Knock It 'til You've Tried It

Toddlers and food, a love-hate relationship.  At least that's how it goes in our house.  One moment food is an occasion for great rejoicing; the next moment a time for weeping.  And should the color green make an appearance.....  Oh No!!

I remember our second Thanksgiving with the boys, as they were happily joining us at the table and enjoying the best of the best with the rest of the family... potatoes, turkey, rolls, yum, yum.  Until I saw Papa slipping something GREEN onto the oldest boy's plate... "NO!!  Don't do it!!  We're having such a nice dinner!" I intercepted him mid-serving.  My son started his green-food aversion early, a sudden switch from a baby who would slurp down pureed kale without a second thought.  We still haven't moved on from our green-phobia. 

So when I read these suggestions from Katie at Good Life Eats, I thought, "Yeah, OK, most of that makes sense, but I'm not into making food into a game all the time."  Her #3 suggestion for making food more fun is to use fun names.  Here's where my literal streak comes in.  I like to call things what they are.  I don't like to trick my kids into eating things.  Oh, I'm not above sneaking a veggie into a muffin or adding a carrot to the spaghetti sauce, but if you ask me, I'll tell you what's in it.  So, I'll call broccoli "trees" if that's what you think they look like, but I haven't served up any spider brains lately. 

But today, as I was whipping up some spinach-laden smoothies for myself and whoever else cared to join me, it occurred to me that it wouldn't hurt to try.  So, I called Micah and Titus in to witness the creation of "monster drink."  Can I tell you?  They slurped it down... with gusto!

It worked, and I'm  not knockin' it anymore. 

Warning: Be prepared to serve monster smoothies with a side of endless roaring and scary faces. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Here's a partial list of frequently heard phrases in our home:


any sentence starting with "BUT..."

But I'm HUN-GRY.

... and they died on the cross.
Basically every read Bible story ends this way.  
Example: the story of the plagues: "and the frogs were so happy that they died on the cross."

I'm a ghost.  RAWR!

I Love You.

Where is tiger?

I'm Thirs-Ty.

Thank you God for .....  and .... (not sure what these words are) and thank you for Daddy in India and thank you for this blessed day. In Jesus Name, Amen.

We're not going to do bad things.

What we can do?

You have my sword!  You have my bones! (Thank you Veggie Tales Lord of the Beans)

But I'm not SLEEP-EEEY.

We didn't do bad things.

But it's too SCARE-EY!

What I can help you with?

What does ____ mean?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mama's confused

Dear blog readers, feel free to weigh in here, because I am sorely confused.  I am almost ashamed to admit the source of this confusion, but here goes: often I cannot tell the difference between a "temper tantrum" and a passionate display of genuine grief.

Here's what went down in our home this evening:

One little boy, exhausted from waking at 5:30am and not taking his afternoon nap, became very angry at his brother over a spatula that he was not sharing, and screamed and cried himself to sleep on the couch.  This is not the incident I want to highlight....  I started waking him up around 6:30 or so, knowing that if he continued to sleep, he would not only miss his opportunity to eat before bedtime, but also be too wide awake to go to sleep at bedtime.  Waking a tired toddler at 6:30pm is not easy.  So we eased into it; I sat with him for awhile, then let him wallow on the couch while I played memory with his brother, and he eventually came over to watch and even made a few matches of his own.

So I did the unthinkable: I offered him dinner!  Big mistake.  This boy was not ready to talk about dinner.  Until I mentioned that other brother had eaten jelly bread along with the offered ham and sweet potatoes.  Jelly bread sounded good, so I offered him a plate with all of the above.  This is where the train derails.  The boy indicated, to my understanding, that he wanted his bread folded in half.  No problem, I can accommodate that.  The folded bread popped open a bit, causing severe distress, so I refolded a little harder.  Somewhere in here, some unforgivable error was committed, and boy began to scream and cry and push his plate and food away. In a tear-blurred attempt to right the wrong, he ripped the bread, causing greater screaming and crying. 

This is where I am confused.  Is my son genuinely grieved that his bread is not the way he envisioned it; is this grief that must be acknowledged and comforted?  Is my role as his mother to stand by him in his suffering and offer support and consolation?


Is this a big fat ol' tantrum over a piece of jelly bread?

I know what my grandparents' generation would say: It's a tantrum, walk away from it.  Don't feed into it, don't give it attention, etc.  I get this.

I also wonder if some of the more recently popular parenting philosophies might encourage me to stand by him, console where I can, encourage him to express his emotions appropriately, and make sure he knows that I love and care about him.  I kinda get this.

I understand frustration and sadness.  I don't want my son to feel abandoned and alone when he is frustrated and sad.  Whether I think that the source of his sadness is legitimate or not is not the issue; one can be just as sad over a piece of jelly bread as I might be over the scene I found in their bedroom earlier. [That's a story for another day when I can find some humor or truth in it, but I'll admit that I did cry and I don't think it was a tantrum.]  I want my children to know that they can express their emotions to me; I want our home to be a safe place to be happy, sad, confused, and more.  A place where we can show our emotions and support each other through all of it. 

So, help me... a tantrum or genuine grief?  Is it just two ways of naming the same thing?  And how do I respond?

Tonight I chose to "ignore" the "tantrum."  Now, you all know you can't really ignore a tantrum.  The best you can hope for is to pretend to ignore it.  I offered choices:  You can come to the table and eat when you are calmer.  You can come upstairs and get ready for bed with us or you can stay downstairs and cry.  Yes, this lasted for a very long time, off and on until bedtime at 8pm.  At one point, the boy was sobbing on my bed while I got their room fixed up from the earlier not-going-to-talk-about-it incident, and the other brother told me, "I'm going to go to .... (brother)."  He went into the other room and attempted to console his brother.  I was humbled.  Here I am, expecting a toddler to pull out of his grief without any help from me, and his brother is lovingly working at cheering him up and trying to put a smile on his face.

One last thought before you weigh in: tonight I forgot my most effective strategy for situations like this.  One of my favorite ways to handle these moments is prayer.  I pray out loud with or for or over my son.  I name his grief to the God how knows and loves him and ask for comfort and grace.  Very often this calms the torrent of tears and screaming; almost always it helps to calm my own heart. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The new math

Here's the old math:  2x2
Two (boys) x Two (years old), hence the title and inspiration for this blog.

Here's the new math: (2x3) +1
Two (boys) x Three (years old) + One (on the way)
Starting to look a big more complex, isn't it?

Today I had an amazing moment with all of my children.  Titus and Micah caught me mid-change with my big old baby belly showing.  They loved it.  They were especially fascinated by the outtie belly button this new baby has caused.  But after poking at that, they both wrapped their arms around my belly, laid their heads against "baby" and cooed.  They have a sound they make for the baby, a sort of "eeee-eeee" squeal-coo kind of noise, a cutesy kind of baby talk.  They also say: "Ba-beeeeee."  They save it for their little sibling.  I almost melted.

As I saw all three of them together, God showed me how easily love multiplies.  It doesn't divide.  Adding a baby to our family does not mean that my time, energy, and love will now be divided three ways.  It does not mean that Titus and Micah will be missing out.  Rather, the love multiplies as there is a new family member to be loved by and to love.  They have the opportunity to know and love a new sibling.  They will be recipients of more love because of this baby.  That's multiplication! 
Instead of 2x2=4 we have (2x3)+1=7.  And, in case you're rusty on your math, seven is bigger than four.  It's a very good number.  Maybe I should rename my blog seven.

And that's your math lesson for today. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bring on the brokenness

I am learning to walk in brokenness.  To see myself as I really am.  To cut through the illusions and wrestle with the reality of myself as completely broken, hopelessly sinful, with no hope of changing.  I'm learning this after what I mentally label "a year of loss."  Maybe you know some of the events that contributed to this: a miscarriage, loss of vocation and ministry, loss of friends, and some more nebulous losses, like losing the roles that defined us.  I'm not intending this to be a pity-party.  Far from it.  Because this has also been a walk of grace.  

I have lived so long as a believer that I started to think I had something to bring.  Surely I should by now?  Compassion for others, a servant's heart, a gentle spirit.  I played (poorly) the role of pastor's wife: inviting people into my home, listening quietly, supporting my husband and making sure he was well-fed, dressed, and encouraged for his hard work.  I played the role of devoted mother.  The role of Christian friend.  Only to find that those roles can be taken away in a moment, can be brought into the light and revealed for their failures.  Broken.

This stripped away, I eventually concluded that the most I could offer was an eloquent prayer of repentance, a picturesque model of faith and submission, a devoted disciple of Christ.  Instead all I saw was a face blotchy and red from crying and a blank stare when asked how the gospel applied to my situation: "I don't know."  Broken.

I am defining myself in new roles: poor in spirit, a mourner, hungering and thirsting (see the Beatitudes, Matthew 5).  Broken.  But these roles are not something to avoid, to regret.  Rather they are accompanied by promises so full of hope: the Kingdom of Heaven, comfort, filling.  Grace. 

This walk of brokenness is a walk into grace. 

Some days I wonder if I have ever understood the gospel at all.  Twenty plus years of this journey and I never understood?  Some days I wonder if I understand it now.  That this grace asks nothing.  That, in fact, it demands that I hold nothing, that I am broken.

Without brokenness there can be no grace.  
And I finally begin to see how much I need grace.  Bring on the brokenness. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Change: love it or hate it, it will find you.  I tend toward the "hate it" end of the pendulum.  You know, rather deal with the devil I know than the one I haven't yet seen, and all that. 

Being a parent, along with life in general, is slowly teaching me that fighting change is a waste of energy.  For example:
  • Oh, yay, you're pregnant and you're so happy you're past that first trimester, when wham-O, at 19 weeks you get a new onslaught of nausea and must-eat-only-pretzels.
  • Yes, you know a newborn doesn't sleep much, but this crying til 3am will never end, will it?  Wait, is he asleep?
  • Ah, blessed morn, when you first wake after a full night's sleep as your twins boys finally learn to sleep "through the night."  Only to find a week later that they've hit a growth spurt and are starving at 3am again.
  • Oh, you thought buying the house meant you would live there the rest of your life?  Silly girl!
  • You think this "No" phase is here to stay...  he sounds like a teenager, doesn't he?... and your techniques to discipline are completely ineffective.  But suddenly you're husband says, "Hmm, I didn't give any time-outs today," and you realize you didn't either!
  • Deeply entrenched in the stay-at-home-mom, storytime-at-the-library, making your own yogurt from scratch, mommy-blog-reading routine, you find yourself suddenly considering an abrupt shift to "working mom." 
And so on.  Some changes seem bad... okay, let's say it - they stink!  They keep you up all night nursing a suddenly sick kid or leave you wondering how you will pay for your prenatal appointments.  But some, some are good.  Your baby smiles at you: it's amazing!!  A first step, a complete sentence - wow! 

Sometimes change comes in the form of a spiritual shift.  A new way of seeing something.  A light turned on.  Can I call this hope?  Sarah Groves sings "Hope has a way of turning its face to you just when you least expect it."  Yes, I've been surprised by hope in the strangest of places and the most confusing of times.  I didn't even know to look for it; and there God finds me.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ups and Downs

Today was not our best day.  Sorry to say, I failed to mentally record a cute conversation or moment to share with you.  And I just looked at the clock and suddenly remembered my "23 days of posts" challenge to myself.  So here's some ups and downs from our day:

UP: Micah woke up DRY this morning and stayed DRY all day long, even with a long morning outing!
DOWN: I planned too many errands into our morning, and after shopping at Aldi's, browsing/running around at ACMoore, and looking unsuccessfully for a good deal at Old Navy, there was some unwarranted snapping from me at a boy who was just tired and ready to go home.
UP: We tried painting for the first time today, and it was a hit! 
DOWN: Someone cried when I too harshly corrected him for dumping out more paint when I was in the bathroom washing the other boy's hands.
UP: They liked the homemade tomato soup (yay, avoiding all the sugar in that canned stuff).
DOWN: We dropped a full bowl of it on the floor.
UP: Both boys napped and practically put themselves to bed half an hour earlier than usual.
DOWN: Someone has developed a new SCREAM of outrage... it's seriously bloodcurdling.  It is used when he is not happy with how things are going.  This cannot continue.
UP: Looking at pictures from Daddy's trip and the boys asking to see more pictures of him, saying "My Daddy!" at every one.
DOWN: to daddy on the phone: "I think you should come home now."
UP: We checked off another day on our calendar... closer to daddy coming home. And I even completed another day in my challenge.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

More identity conversations

Conversation as we got ready for bedtime:

Me (to Micah who had draped his blanket over his head): are you a ghost... or a shepherd?
Micah: Mary!
Me: Oh, Hi Mary, where's your baby Jesus?
Micah: I don't know.  (looking around) In here. (pointing to my belly)
Micah: Who can be Joseph?  (looking around, indicating me) You're Joseph!
Titus: NO!  You can't be Joseph.  You're a girl.  I'm Joseph.
Micah: I'm Joseph too, I'm a boy.  Joseph is a boy.  A boy is a boy. (to me): You're Mary.
Titus: Mary is a girl; you're a girl.  Joseph is a boy.  Micah and I are boys. 

Looks like we have another identity puzzle piece in place. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Twin Identities Not-in-Crisis

Today at lunchtime, we played a rousing game of "favorites."  My sons are deep in a favorites phase, where they have made strong attachments to particular things, and are learning to identify themselves with these things.  The most obvious one is favorite colors (see this post).  

To keep the fun times rolling, we worked through a few rounds of favorites.
Colors: orange/ red
Food: bread/ apples
Toy: trucks/ ambulance
Song: Jesus Loves Me/ Jesus Loves the Little Children (it has the word "red" in it)
Person to kiss: Mama/ Josh and Pete (haha)
Person to talk to on the phone: Nana and Papa/ Pete
Store: Shoprite/ Target 
Stuffed animal: tiger/ walrus 

They even threw some good ones at me, like what is my favorite room and my favorite fish.

I was amazed at the fact that their answers never overlapped, even when in reality, I'm sure they both love the Lord of the Beans DVD equally.  It's as if, once chosen by a brother, that item is off-limits.  We have a Dr Seuss book that asks "would you rather be a .... or a ..." on each page; they always choose opposing answers.

I take this as a good sign that we are NOT having a twin identity crisis at this phase of life.  They are developing into two distinct people with clear opinions and personalities.  I love this!  

The other week I looked over their Sunday School papers, and found one labeled "Micah" and the other labeled "Titus, definitely not Micah!"  I can only conclude that there was some uncertainty about names which Titus cleared up with some passion.  Good for him.  

Here's some of the things we do with the boys to encourage their individuality:
  • Call them by name (almost never "the twins," though I do slip and say "the boys" often; see this post!).  We've done this since day one.
  • Ask them individually: Do you want milk?  Would you like more broccoli? Which book would you like to read?  even when I know the answer.  Give each a chance to answer for himself.
  • Encourage turn-taking.  "It's Micah's turn.  When he's done, it will be Titus' turn."  Asking them to share or play together is not helpful.
  • Take pictures of them individually.  (This is pretty much unavoidable; good luck getting a picture of them together.) 
  • Wear different clothes;  have different blankets; etc.
  • Follow their developmental cues: I currently have one partly potty-trained and another not even working on it. 
  • Surround them with people who love and value them as individuals (big shout out to Papa and Nana, Yaya and Elliott, Ms Linda, Pete and so many others here).

Friday, February 17, 2012

I see:

 I see:
my son running along the sidewalk.
I think: 
when did he get so tall?

I see:
my son going potty all by himself.
I think: 
how did he learn to do that?

I see:
the furrowed brow of concentration as my son snips paper.
I think: 
when did he become trustworthy with scissors?

I see:
a full-face smile when I greet my son after nap-time.
I think:
how did I get this much joy?

My son is not the first boy to be potty trained.  
They are not the first boys to learn to use scissors or to grow tall or to smile with such abundant joy. 
But it is the first time for me.  Forgive me if I revel in it... if I brag about it... if I bore you with the details... 

I am amazed.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The world is full of...

Finish this sentence: 
The world is full of _________________.

I don't know how you would fill in the blank, but these are some of the first answers that come to my mind.
But I learned something last night:
"The world is full of his (God's) loving-kindness."

That's straight from the Bible, folks (Ps 33:5b), one of the most brutally honest books I've ever read.  It doesn't sugar coat.  This is the book that says things like: "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Is 64:6) and "In this world you will have trouble" (Jn 16:33).

Today, I choose to BELIEVE and to SEE that the world is full of God's loving-kindness.  I choose to look for loving-kindness instead of sorrow and hardship and evil; those things are easy enough for me to spot.  Here's where I saw His loving-kindness to me today:
  • an answered prayer for uninterrupted sleep (no kitty scratching at the bedroom door, no middle-of-the-night cries for water, or tuck-ins, or a lost stuffed animal)
  • an early wake-up from God with time to pray and read (a novel!) and doze all before getting out of bed
  • this sentence from my son (it just kept going and going): "I think I saw an orange banana outside last night when I went for a walk with Daddy.  (pause)  It was squished."
  • a request for peas as the topping on a boy's english muffin pizza... and he ate it!  This made me smile so much!
  • the knowledge that people are praying for us, and a very real experience of God's gracious answers to those prayers: joy, peace, contentment, freedom from fear and loneliness.
This is how the Psalm ends:

May your unfailing love rest upon us, 
O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
Ps 33:22 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

You missed a spot

Mama, are you sad?

Yes, Micah.

Are you crying?

Yes, Micah.

What are you sad about?

Saying good-bye to daddy.

Oh.  wah-wah (fake crying)

 (me fake wiping his tears)

(me actually wiping my tears)

Mama, you missed a spot.  

Oh, sweet boys, I am so glad we're in this together.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Announcement... more posts coming!

Roses are red
Violets are blue
This blog has been dusty
My writing is rusty...
Here comes something new!

Announcing my intention to blog DAILY for 23 days, starting Feb 15th.  
Look for lots of fun twin boy stories.  
See you around!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Happiness Balloon

Scene 1: The service counter at Shoprite, asking for our complimentary balloons.  Micah receives an orange balloon (yay! his favorite!).  Titus receives a green balloon (not his favorite).  He refused to receive it; I tie it next to Micah's orange one.  I leave with one son happy and one son exceedingly disgruntled.  During the lifespan of the green balloon, as it slowing sinks to the floor and gets smaller and smaller, the green balloon is completely ignored and neglected.

Scene 2: One week later, same place.  Micah receives a green balloon.  Titus receives a yellow balloon.  Mama says a prayer for grace. 
Micah: Yay, I call it orange! 
Titus: I call my balloon red!
Smiles and joy all around as we leave the store.

These stories are to introduce you to the philosophy of my new book; look for it in local booksellers near you.  It will be called:
The Happiness Balloon:
Seeing Bliss in Life's Many Disappointments

Chapter One: The Happiness Blanket
Chapter Two: The Happiness Hippopotamus
Chapter Three: The Happiness Truck
Epilogue: Three Steps to Happiness with a Blue Shirt (we're still developing this one)

May all your balloons be orange hippopotami today!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Playgroup is for parents

Today was one of those days.  Do you have them?  One of those If-I-Stay-In-The-House-With-These-Boys-There-Are-Sure-To-Be-Moments-Of-Regret Days.  I woke up feeling worn, failing to get up early enough to either exercise or have a quiet moment before my sons were up and at 'em.  I was distracted by cooking projects in the kitchen... things that could be done during "nap time" but that would be temptingly calling me from the play area back into the kitchen to do "just this little thing."  (If you don't know me, I LOVE to be in my kitchen.)  I felt already impatient with Legos and settling disputes and answering questions and listening to the same CD again. 

Solution?  Playgroup.  

Here's the sad but true fact:
I parent better in public.  

It sounds hypocritical, doesn't it?  Shouldn't I hold myself to the same standard of parenting excellence in the privacy of my home that I can mange others are watching?  Do I not remember that I live under the eye of an all-seeing God, who sees me either at playgroup or at home?  Do I know that He sees my heart? 

Yes. Yes. And yes.

And yet...
There are days when it is better to see and to be seen.  To absorb the energy of "out" and the energy of other young families.  To remove the distractions of my home and kitchen, so that I will sit on the floor for an hour and a half and do whatever my sons want to do.  To be in a place where other mothers are playing with Legos and to follow their models of patience and engagement.

Playgroup is for me.
Not to drink coffee and gossip with the other moms (I'm not that parent), but to force me to be a better parent, if only for the morning. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I heard her say: You are a beloved daughter of God.



Of God

I am not "only" a player in the story of my sons.  
Not best supporting actress to my husband.  
Not an extra on the set of Mountain Street.  
I have a story to live.  God is writing it for me.  I am His beloved.