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!