When "the talk" drops in unexpectedly.

Lat night as I was tucking her in the Girl suddenly asked, "What parts am I missing to be a lady mom?"

Not sure I was understanding properly I asked, "What do you mean."

"Like in the first Princess Diaries when Mia says she doesn't even have all her, her, her, um lady parts yet. What parts am I missing?"

Swallowing a laugh I knelt next to her bed and said, "You already have all of the parts inside you, and when you get be 12 or older those parts will start changing and growing until they are woman parts."

"Yeah, I know my boobies will get big 'cause right now I have just nipples, and I will get hair down here," she said, gesturing appropriately.

"Yes, and also on your armpits and your leg hair will probably get coarser too."

Since we were already there I figured I would take the plunge and tell her everything. "And your hips will spread and get wider to make room for a baby and you will grow breasts so you can feed babies when you have them, and you will start to have what is called a period."

She wrinkled her forehead, "What's that?"

"When your body starts to get ready to have babies it will send a little egg into your uterus and the uterus will start getting ready to feed a baby if the egg is fertilized by lining itself with blood."

(Yeah, we've already had the egg and sperm talk, ever since I was pregnant with Little.)

"If there is no baby, which there won't be until you have a husband to make a baby with," notice how the work of indoctrination got snuck in there oh so subtly, "the egg and the blood go out of your uterus at the end of the month to get ready to try again the next month and it comes out of your vagina."

"Is it like water?" she asked.

"No, it's blood, it looks and smells like blood, because that's what it is. You will wear a pad inside your panties to catch it and keep it from getting on your clothes, and change it every time you go to the bathroom. It's only for a few days a month."

"That's weird," she laughed.

"Yes, I bet it does sound weird to you, because you are only 6. Once it starts happening you won't think it's so weird anymore. But there are a lot of years before that happens when you will still be a girl."

"Yeah, but then I'll be a teenager!"

Since I could tell the Boy was listening avidly from the top bunk I decided might I might as well go for broke. "You buddy will get taller, your chest will widen, your voice will deepen, you will get hair all over you, including on your face. Your penis will get bigger, your balls will drop, and you will be on your way to being a man."

A huge grin cracked his face. "Then I'll be like a grown-up."

I didn't get into nocturnal emissions. Blood? Sure, I can talk about that. How babies are born and conceived, no problem. Imma gonna let his dad explain to him about wet dreams.

So that was my evening. What did you do?


the Internet is Cool, and so are you

Wow, thanks for the really thoughtful comments on that last post. I honestly expected there to be more discussion/disagreement than there was. This leads me to two possible conclusions. Either you guys are truly my people, those who get me right away and we're all on the same page, which, considering the numbers just seems unlikely, though that is the magic of blogging, finding your tribe in the midst of a huge crowd. Conclusion number 2 is that y'all are just too polite to disagree with me here in my little space on the internet, which is also awesome and rare, and I think you may be the best readers on he planet.

That said, I don't mind you know. I love a healthy debate from time to time. I expect people to disagree with me. One of the most interesting discoveries of my adult life is finally understanding that people really aren't just like me on the inside. They have totally different fundamental assumptions and, wow, that's really interesting.

Twitter is a great way to observe this. On one of my accounts I follow republicans, democrats, pro-Isreal, anti-Isreal, pro-healthcare reform, anti-healthcare reform, etc. They are mostly all there because they are also passionate about justice, human rights, and taking care of people. They differ a lot about how to get that done. Most of them are articulate and intelligent to boot.

Does she have a point? No, not really. I just love you all and am amazed and thankful for the community that is here and the diversity of the people in it. Seriously. It's been 6 days since I left my house to go anywhere, and that was just our regular weekly trip to Aaron's parents for dinner. Without you guys and this outlet for all the stuff in my head I might actually go insane.

Thanks for walking with me through this journey we call life.


Modesty Protects? Since when?

His name was Dennis, he was schizophrenic. He was sleeping in the makeshift room in our basement that my dad set up so he would have a place to bring people who needed somewhere to stay and a helping hand. He stayed with us all that summer. My mom didn't like having him there, though my father overruled her. For some reason, unlike the many other people who came through our house, her gut told her that having him there was a bad idea.

She watched him diligently, especially around us kids. She warned and cautioned and kept guard.

Every night when she sent us to get ready for bed, Dennis went outside for his smoke break.

I was 12, maybe 13 already that summer. I remember that my body was changing, my breasts were forming, my hips were starting to curve. I remember taking a few moments every night as I got ready for bed to look at myself in the mirror, to explore, to run my hands over my changing body, trying to familiarize myself with it.

Every so often in the mirror I would catch a glimpse of a shadow falling across the curtains of my ground level window. At first I thought nothing of it. A few times I checked to see if someone was there, but I never saw anyone. The girlie lacy curtains covered almost the whole window, except a small gap in the center.

One night at the end of summer I saw a shadow again and ran over to investigate. There was Dennis leering down at me, peeping through the crack in my curtains.

Hot shame flooded me as I realized how many times he must have sat there and seen me, naked in front of my mirror over the past several months. I felt violated and exposed, but most of all ashamed. I realize, as an adult, that I had no reason to feel shame, I had done nothing wrong. But my adolescent self internalized and owned that shame and it followed me for years.

(Dennis by the way was gone that night after I told my parents, though he stayed at the church we went to for many years and at some point jumped off of a bridge during a time without his medication. The last I saw him he was an angry paraplegic.)

That moment was the beginning of my quest to be invisible. I tried all sorts of things to avoid being seen; baggy clothes, slouching, gaining weight at some points, sitting at the back, in corners, and avoiding direct gazes wherever possible. I couldn't go to sleep while anyone else in the house was awake. I couldn't sleep with the lights on ever, because someone might see me while I wasn't able to protect myself. It messed me up is what I'm saying. I spent years in hiding.

("Don't cry", I keep telling myself, "don't cry. It's over, it's gone, it's old news." I thought I could write this dispassionately, but the sobs keep welling up and forcing themselves out of my throat tonight. I walk away and sit in a dark bathroom, tissue pressed against my face willing the tears to stop, and failing. "It's not that big a deal, it could have been way worse, imagine how those who endure worse feel." But that just sends me into another fit of sobbing. But I'm still typing because it's important.)

In the days before we were engaged the most difficult thing for me was to not hide or deflect when Aaron looked straight at me. Sitting across from each other at a restaurant was torture because he would not. stop. looking. at me and smiling. I had to resist the urge to crawl under the table to hide from his eyes.

I'm happy to say that thanks to him and knowing that I can trust him I can now sleep with the lights on, in trains, and while he's watching me. Though sometimes those old habits of waiting until the house is silent before going to sleep die hard. It's since I married him that I retired my sport bra and started wearing body conscious clothing that actually flattered instead of hid me. It's since him that I learned to stand up straight and not to fear that people may look at me admiringly, I even shed the insulating pounds I'd been hiding behind. It's because of the healing I have had that I can accept with humor that I may turn a head or two, though I don't go out of my way to do it, and I don't wear what most people would deem inappropriate.

A while ago I came across this post here about modesty. It's the usual "we have to protect our daughters by teaching them to dress modestly, by keeping them from watching shows that encourage them to behave in slutty ways, etc." There are a ton of comments all jumping on the bandwagon and agreeing wholeheartedly. I dunno. I think I understand where they are coming from but frankly, I think a lot of it is a bunch of horseshit.

According to that kind of logic, burqas are the ultimate protection of a woman's virtue and innocence. I mean, if our daughters are never seen, they will never encounter lust, violence, rape, disrespect, or anything of that sort right? So I looked it up. I read here that 1 in 6 women in the US will be sexually assaulted in her life. Let's compare that to... Pakistan where they wear burqas, and 1 in 3 women have been sexually assaulted. But how can we tell for sure since if she speaks up she's likely to be put in jail since she needs the testimony of 4 Muslim men of good standing who saw it happen plus the confession of her attacker to get a conviction. Obviously modesty is doing a good job of protecting the daughters of Pakistan. Then I found a first person account from a woman who lives in Pakistan, wears a Burqa everyday, and has been assaulted many times by the men where she lives. Modesty, definitely the way to protect our daughters from the attacks of men. It's working so well there, don't you think?

Yes, girls and women should use common sense when they dress. Revealing clothes are likely to lead to a reaction that they probably don't want. We want them to dress in such a way that allows the people around them to see who they are; their personality, their intelligence, and not just their cup size. But to equate teaching them how to dress appropriately with protecting them? I don't think so.

I was one of the most modestly dressed kids you can imagine, short of prairie dresses in floral prints. Dressing appropriately didn't protect me from lecherous voyeurs. I didn't watch TV at all, we didn't have one. That didn't save me from years of shame and guilt over something that wasn't my fault.

Do you know what I think? I think making a big deal about modesty and silly, meaningless, things like whether or not the straps are spaghetti or wide teaches our daughters shame. I think that teaching them that they are responsible for whether or not men leer at them is setting them up to feel shame for the rest of their lives.

My daughters are beautiful. I know I'm biased of course, but they are. I've had talent agents slip their business cards into my hands on train platforms. Agents with full portfolios who want to represent them in commercials. I've watched grown men whistle and stare hard and exclaim without malice or even creepiness, "She is going to be hot when she grows up!"

Men will be looking at my daughters their entire lives. You can bet I'll be super vigilant. Aaron and I will protect them in every way we know how to do. We may finally let them date when they're 30. But I can't protect them from eyes. There will always be eyes.

I can tell you one thing, I'm sure as heck not going to cover them in burqas and make them feel as though it's their fault that people are looking at them. I will teach them common sense. I'm going to make sure their skirts aren't too short and their underwear is on, because they could care less right now. But I'm going to treat their beauty as the gift it is, a blessing to enjoy, but not to get wrapped up in. A simple fact about how God made them. A fact that their husbands will no doubt enjoy when the time comes.

I'm going to teach them that the looks, the stares, the comments are simply because people all need to respond to beauty, some are just too broken to know the right response, and it's not their fault, it's not even bad, and it never will be their fault that God gave them beauty that moves people to look, to appreciate and to enjoy. But not to try to own or to claim. It's theirs and they are free to live unashamed in spite of it.


Play contracts would clear up so many things for those lacking common sense.

Dear Neighborhood Parent,

As it has become apparent that your child wishes to play with my child and that my child enjoys the company of yours as well, it seems it would behoove us therefore to formalize the terms of their relationship from this point hence in order to avoid misunderstanding. While it is unusual to take such measures, past experience has taught us that this is the best way to continue amicably as neighbors for as long as we remain so.

We understand it is possible that we will never meet, as you have yet to be present with your child when we encounter him/her, so please review and sign the attached contract and return it with your child at the next occasion of his/her coming over to play.  Failure to do so will result in a canceled play date as we cannot any longer permit play without a contract in place.

We look forward to a long summer of fun for our children. If you do not sign, please do not take it personally if we prevent your children and ours from playing together in the future. It's simply more work than it's worth to allow play without a contract in place.

the Boy's family.

Terms and Conditions for Playing with the Boy.

1. Weapons
The Boy has a vast and constantly changing arsenal of homemade imitation weaponry fashioned out of anything that he, or his uncles, think looks like part of a weapon. They are wood, metal, plastic, and of course, duct tape. I ____________ (your name here) hereby agree to indemnify the Boy's family  for all damages accrued to the person of my child in the course of playing with said weaponry. The Boy's family is not liable for any injuries incurred by my child rapidly swinging a wooden sword above his head, for example, or pretending to fight with it against another child. Neither is  the Boy's family responsible for any injuries my child may sustain from another child while playing with said items. I may instruct my child not to play with such things if I like. The Boy's family will not enforce such preferences as that is my job as my child's parent. I have been informed however the the Boy's family will attempt to facilitate alternative means of play if my child makes my wishes known.

2. Wrestling/Play Fighting
I also agree to indemnify the Boy's family for all injuries, both imagined and real, sustained during the course of wrestling and playing rough. I realize that in the Boy's family if a person chooses to play rough and gets hurt they may not whine about it and I consent to the following guidelines.
  1. An aggressive attack against another person will be interpreted as an invitation to play rough, and the child doing so will be personally responsible for whatever action follows said invitation. The Boy's family allows children the credit of letting them make their own choices and experiencing the consequences of their choices first hand. 
  2. Fingers will get pinched, bruises and holes in pants may ensue, as well as mild scratches, grass stains, and the occasional hurt causing tears and the need for a time out. 
  3. In the Boy's family children are trained to respect another who calls for time out or taps out and stop all wrestling. My child will be expected to do the same. 
  4. Wrestling may not be participated in by angry children. That's called fighting. Hurting people in anger will not be tolerated.

3. Bikes, Scooters, Skateboards, Strollers and all other Toys
The Boy's family will permit my child to use the play equipment they have provided for their child's enjoyment. I agree that my child uses it at his/her own risk. I agree to indemnify the Boy's family for any injuries to my child as a result of his/her use of said equipment. I also agree that if my child fails to return something he/she is playing with when asked and leaves it laying outside at the playground, he/she will forfeit the chance to play with toys on the occasion of the next visit. My child also brings his/her toys over at his/her own risk. The Boy's family is not responsible to keep track of my child's toy and make sure it gets safely home.

4. Supervision
I have the right to choose to allow my children to roam free outside without oversight. I agree that by doing so I forfeit the right to complain about whatever supervision is provided by the Boy's family to my children in the course of their play with the Boy. If my child is seen unscrewing light bulbs and breaking them all over the concrete side walk, for example, while I am completely absent, I agree that the Boy's family may deal with the situation however they see fit. I forfeit the right to yell at the Boy's family about how my boy is a good kid later when they try to politely inform me of my child's actions. Also, allowing my child to play inside the Boy's family house constitutes tacit agreement with the rules of said house and their right to enforce them. If my child fails to comply with the rules explained to them they will forfeit the privilege of entering the Boy's family house.

5. Food
The Boy's family is happy to provide water for my children to drink should they get thirsty. They are also happy to provide snacks on occasion. They have even been known to seat 4 or 5 extra bodies for dinner at one time when they choose to. They will not be serving junk food however and reserve the right to say no to any child who asks, especially if they are rude, for food whenever they come over, for whatever reason. I agree that it is my job to feed my child, not the responsibility of the Boy's family.

6. Abandonment
I agree that I will not ever send my child over to play with the Boy and then disappear, leaving them in the care of the Boy's family for hours on end. I will not abuse their hospitality in such a fashion and will have the courtesy to ask if they are willing to watch my children before abandoning them at their door. I recognize that to do so will give the Boy's family tacit permission to profit from my child by whatever means they deem fit. Actions may include, but are not limited to;
  • selling them to gypsies, 
  • using them to scrub toilets, 
  • leaving them in the supervision of squirrels of questionable character when expedient
  • filing a missing child report on my behalf and collecting the reward for finding the missing child, 
  • or teaching them to knit stockings to sell on etsy.com.

6. Rudeness and Meanness
If my child cannot refrain from speaking rudely to any member of the Boy's family after requests to modify their behavior they will not be permitted to play with the children of the Boy's family. Also if my child indulges in what appears to be deliberate cruelty he/she will not be permitted to play with the children of the Boy's family. The Boy's family reserves the right to terminate at any point my child's contact with theirs if my child refuses to modify his/her behavior in the presence of the Boy's family. Also, any child who is rude to their own parents or disobedient shall be immediately evicted from the home of the Boy's family until reparations in the form of apology or obedience to their own parent have been made.

I _________ (your name here) agree to all the above stipulations and sign to that effect on this date of______.


Deep thoughts from my pregnant brain.

I distinctly remember, a few weeks after discovering that I was pregnant having the thought, almost unbidden, "This is a good opportunity to practice going through suffering in a way that is a participation with Christ in his redemption of the world."

Yeah, loaded phrase. I don't expect it to be clear at first because there is a wealth of thought and reading behind it. Most of it not my own. (Thanks Aaron.)

Suffice it to say, there is this thread through the letters of Paul that seems constantly to indicate that it it possible for one who has the spirit of Jesus in them to endure suffering in a way that is in fact redemptive, can in fact change thing for the better, just as Christ himself did as he endured suffering. Now to be clear, I don't think that suffering is sent to us by God for this purpose. It's a shitty enough world that it will happen to us all if we just live long enough.

(See there, I said shitty and talked about deep theological ideas in the same post. Bye-bye- Christian and non-Christian readers alike.)

Well, bear with me for a second, because I did have a point of sorts.  It's an interesting and exciting enough idea that it begs much further discussion. (But not in this post. There's my email over on the sidebar if you want to email me.)

That being the case I was able to see that this pregnancy, which I expected to be as miserable as all the pregnancies previous, would be a good chance to practice going through things that are hard with grace and love and selflessness, rather than laying on the couch feeling sorry for myself for 9 whole months. I forgot, and then remembered, and then forgot again but remembered more than forgot so far.

But here's the thing. It's been very easy for me this time round. I mean, I still vomited a lot first trimester, my stomach still heaves on it's own when I'm just brushing my teeth. I'm very tired and waiting just a little bit too long to eat causes a battle of epic proportions with the involuntary spasms of my esophagus if I want to keep the contents of my stomach firmly within said stomach. But it's been easy.

My kids have been helpful on occasion and they are older now, but they still neglect their jobs and do their fair share of screaming bloody murder while my head feels like it will explode from the pressure of headache multiplied by sheer volume.

Yet, it feels easier than it ever has to be pregnant.

There is, this time, the sheer logistical nightmare of getting to a daunting number of appointments without a car, a bum ankle which prevents me from using the bus, and the deep need to rely on my in-laws, without which I have no idea how we would get these things done. Seriously they have been such a blessing. Especially the part where it doesn't even occur to them to make me feel stupid for needing to ask. (Yes, I have some messed up childhood stories behind that.)

I still have hormonal moments, like crying on the phone because Aaron called just after I finally lay down with a splitting headache and his words literally sounded like the grown up voice on Charlie Brown was drilling into my head and I didn't understand. But we are better at this than we used to be I suppose. He is patient with me, I know better than to blame him for my own body chemistry. We still really like each other right now, which is unusual for us when I'm pregnant.

I find myself wondering if it really is a much easier pregnancy, as I have been thinking all this time and feeling so grateful for, or is it just that my feeble attempts to remember grace, to cling to Jesus, to go through this without self-pity, have just changed my perception of what is almost the exact same kind of event. Maybe my husband likes me this time around and doesn't silently endure my presence because I'm trying to do this well, to give myself to what needs to be done without complaining, rather than blaming him for everything I feel the minute he walks in the door.

I can't say for certain, but I wonder if it has something to do with it.

Perhaps enduring suffering, such mild suffering as I have experienced anyway, as a redemptive act, as some kind of mystical participation with Christ actually makes the suffering itself easier to endure as well? Perhaps it even changes it into joy?

That would be exciting indeed.

What do you think?


A little rant on lying to children

"It's time to come in," I call, "bring in all the toys and clean up for dinner."

"No, mommy," Little protests, "I am waiting for Carwa. She is coming WIGHT BACK."

"Honey, she hasn't been back in over an hour, I don't think she's coming. Time to come in."


"Come in sweetie. Maybe you'll see her tomorrow."

She comes in with much sobbing and spends the next several minutes fruitlessly trying to convince me to to take her for a walk to find Carla, the young teenage girl she just adores who sometimes likes to carry her around, and often wants to go off and do teenage things so leaves with a promise that she doesn't intend to keep.

On another day I call them in for dinner again. The Girl, suddenly realizing the time yells, "But Mommy, so-and-so was going to come over and play with us and she never did. Her mom said they would come and visit after nap time."

I am well aware of this. My extra tidy living room and the cookies set aside to go with tea once they arrive remind me that I set aside other plans for this visit that never happened.

"Well, maybe they forgot, or the baby had an extra long nap and they couldn't come," I excuse, again. "We'll have tea tomorrow ourselves, or invite someone else."

I listen to her sob for 20 or 30 minutes, peppering me with hopeful questions during her disappointment. "You could call them mommy, maybe they can come now. Why didn't they come. I wanted them to come."

The Boy, on another day, "His mom said he could come out again to play some more. Please let me stay out another 10 minutes, he might still come."

It is pitch black outside and time to eat, but he still holds out hope, they all still hold out hope, because of the well intentioned lies, or carelessness of other people.

I tire of those who think to save a child disappointment, or themselves discomfort, and instead cause far greater disappointment and grief a few hours down the road, where they are not there to see the full brunt of their actions.

If you are not coming back, say so. Sure Little might cry for a second, but then she's free to have fun for the next few hours rather than forgo playing with the friends nearby to sit on the doorstep waiting for your return.

If you can't make it to a planned play date, at least call and say so before hand. They could have done other things and now I have to deal with their disappointment and listen to the crying for an hour as I make dinner.

If you're not certain your kid will be allowed to come outside again to play, employ the use of the word, maybe, might not, etc. It's not hard to qualify your statements.

Children believe what you tell them, whether you mean to do it or not. Children pin their hopes on the most careless of words. Children read promises into vague suggestions even. So please. don't. ever. tell a child that you will do something that you don't in fact intend to do.

And if we are friends, I will forgive you for a lot of things, I will cut you a lot of slack and I will give you many second chances. It's just how I am. But disappoint my kids repeatedly, cancel long standing plans on a whim, and I will likely drop you. We'll still talk, but I won't make plans with you anymore or go out of my way to get together. That's not the kind of disappointment I want my kids to have to learn from again, and again, and again.

Well, at least it's a very good object lesson for them in why they should not lie or break promises. For they see how much it hurts them when people do the same to them. Now if there was only some way to teach all those others the same lesson.


One Thousand Gifts-Week 44

holy experience

I sort through the flotsam of the day, sifting the hours through the light of gratitude, searching for the treasures, the gifts that are always right there, waiting for me to see them. They don't look like much to anyone else I suppose, yet I know their worth. They are gifts, perhaps roughly presented and surrounded by the mundane, yet they shine all the same when I hold them up to the light, and I see again how abundantly I have been blessed.

  • The Boy crept into my room in the early morning and crept out again. When I rolled over to see I found an apple laying next to me, to eat before getting up, to help with morning sickness. Father and son conspired together in the early hours to take care of me once daddy left.
  • One morning Little woke while Aaron was still home and I woke to her shrill voice piping with glee, "Mommy, daddy still home! Daddy is here!"
  • The Girl running to open the door and look out every 5 minutes to see if daddy is home yet.
  • The Boy making me breakfast, and tea, while I cope with nausea.
  • This  pregnancy has actually been shockingly easy compared to the last three. I'm so thankful.
  • Aaron settled an argument over who got to sit next to him at the dinner table, there can only be 2 at a time after all, by offering the Girl a chance to cut his hair after dinner with the clippers instead. She was thrilled, and so proud to get to cut her daddy's hair.
  • Sunday morning I went back into the bedroom to find that Little had crept into bed next to Aaron and they were both snuggled together, sound asleep.
  • The kind of friend that can just visit you and hang out in my kitchen with me while I do life.
  • Watching Aaron work on a project that is really exciting for him and is bringing together all the ideas he has been working on for the past decade we've been together and it's all lining up and making sense at last.
  • Late afternoon rays on ridge after ridge of green hills rolling off into the horizon.
  • Authentic Mexican tacos from a taco stand.
  • Playing Dutch blitz until midnight, Hannah destroying us all every single round. Hearing the game from bed and the laughing as they keep playing for another two hours. No one even comes close to catching up to her.
  • Bruce Cockburn songs.
  • The way the Boy chooses to wear a suit to church, because he likes it.
  • A little boy in Sunday school who has a lot of behavior challenges had a really good day today, in part thanks to another teacher's innovative idea to help him to be ready for transitions. It was great to see him do so well when it's often so hard for him.
  • Nostalgic conversations with Aaron about really great moments in our relationship.
  • The rhythm of our life together in this season.
The gratitude community is here.


I will not fret...

...over school time starting late because the Boy made me tea while I was in the shower and then tea for himself and his sisters and they needed time to sit together and drink it.

...over dinner being so late because I finally read to the Girl instead of starting it, as I had been promising for over an hour.

...over the unfolded laundry because I replied to a friend instead.

...over the coat and clothes strewn across the couch that mean my husband is home for the night.

...over careless words that hurt, but were not aimed at me nor given that intent.

...over the endless and overwhelming list of things to do. I will simply do what's next.

...over the constant barrage of sound that comes from my children when they are having the most fun together, however grating.

...over simple meals to replace those I planned but ran out of time for. Their bellies are full.

...over late lunch and nap because the Boy was actually enjoying multiplication excercises and time got away from us.

...over puzzles and games on the floor that they entertained themselves with while I was busy elsewhere.

...over holes in the same knee of every single pair pants. They means he's playing hard and having fun.

...over makeup applied with a felt marker, one sister to another.

...over how slowly things move when people are doing them for free.

...over things I have not yet learned how to do. I will eventually.

...over anything else that is not worth fretting over, however much my first impulse may be to do just that.

You know you have them. What are you not going to fret over today?


I need some girlfriend advice

So it's been what? 5 days since I posted. Um... I've been shopping. (What? I can only produce so many carefully thought out posts a month. There's sleeping and butt wiping to attend to.)

Well, and there was Sunday. It won't shock you to hear we did not attend any parties.  No, we did what all red blooded Americans do on Super Bowl Sunday, we went to the symphony.

One of the advantages of adding to our family a teenage daughter who happens to be an excellent violist is that we get to go and be all supportive of her while she plays stuff like Dvorak's 9th with an excellent orchestra. Here's a different orchestra playing the 4th movement. But my favorite has always been the 2nd movement.

Anyway, as you can see it's terribly awful but we do our best to bear it. We packed the kids off to Beema's too, so as to bear it better on our own.

Monday was lovely. There was sunshine, and the blessedness that is a visit with someone I like, who happens to have children my kids like, and who like my kids, and they play together all the time without squabbling. There was much tea drinking, and chatting, in between keeping her youngest from slamming himself into the ground  in as many ways as he could imagine and preventing the older children from colliding as they rode everything we have with wheels down the little slope in front of our apartment.

After that I started shopping. For my birthday I was given money to buy maternity clothes. Yay! It's so much fun to be given money and told how to spend it. I barely ever buy stuff for myself. I know I don't really need it. But it's nice to have from time to time. I was also given a little more with the instructions, "Buy something special."

I need a coat. This was made remarkably clear in the photos of my birthday picnic where I am wearing a sort of cropped sweater, that isn't working anymore with my ever thickening waist, and hunched over with cold. (I know, shut up, it's southern California, but it's still cold enough for an actual jacket from time to time.) I had a lovely wool blend coat that my dad bought me in high school and I wore it for years and always got compliments on it. For some reason I got rid of it. It may have been when we were packing to leave Canada, and I figured I wouldn't be needing a winter coat anymore. It was getting a little worn looking also after more than a decade. So I gave it away. Never believe Flylady when she tells you to get rid of it, you'll never miss it. I ALWAYS DO. You would think I would learn by now.

So I haven't had a good coat in 4 years. I am also cold a lot, and don't have anything warm that looks good when I want to. It would be kind of nice to feel like a grown up again when I go out. So I'm after something that will last a long time, look great with everything I wear and costs around $50. Hah! Actually, I seem to be in luck, because there's a lot of stuff like that on clearance right now.

So help me decide. Please?

Just to get you started. I love this from Charlotte Russe. It's an interesting cut and it's only $30 but it's blue and doesn't go with most of my wardrobe. But I love it so I'm going to show it to you anyway.

Walmart has a serviceable looking black trench for $25.

This trench in black at JCPenny is marked down to $50 from $250 and has a removable zippered liner, which makes it work for all seasons. But the contrast color stitching to my mind makes it look more casual and only for day wear. Thoughts?

Overstock has this DKNY Belted Trench for $60. It's water resistant. I'm looking at the black one.

Then I looked at pea coats for a while, even though I know they are too warm for most months here. They are perfect for right now. And it's cute. Only $59.99 at Overstock.

I keep wishing I could get to a thrift store first to see what I can find, but I have no car and I'm running out of  transport favors with stuff that's way more important.

So will you help a girl out? I never spend this much on a single item so it's big decision for me.


The Stories We Tell

If there is anything that blogging has taught me, it’s that we all have a story to tell. Some of us use words, some images, and some video. Some of us make beautiful things, or show the Internet the spaces we’ve carved for ourselves in our own homes, sharing the work we do every day and our thoughts on the subject. Finally we have an audience for what Edith Schaeffer calls “The Hidden Art of Homemaking.” As we write about our lives we often come to see our story in a new way.
One of the most surprising aspects of blogging, for me, is the way my story changed with the telling. All of us live in a story. The scholarly types refer to it as a meta-narrative. A meta-narrative is the over arching plot by which we make sense of the story of our lives. It encompasses everything. That’s how it’s possible for 3 different people, with very similar lives to believe very different things about themselves. Just glance at a random selection of mommy blogs if you don’t believe me. One mother at home with toddlers will write as though she is in a tragedy, mourning the change of life she is faced with. Another believes she is in a comedy and writes accordingly. Still another thinks she is participating in an epic adventure with lofty goals for raising children.

It’s a common joke that blogging is cheaper than therapy because we find that it often can serve that purpose. We find a community, we share our hurts and triumphs, and we feel less alone. But something else is happening too. Something I can only describe as miraculous. As many blog, and read the blogs of others, our meta-narrative begins to change.

For example, when I started blogging at least 50% of my outlook was tragic. I had a lot of company. It was great to find people who understood and I felt less alone. But there were all these people who shared the same kind of life as mine, and their perspective on it was completely different. It fascinated me. I would go to their blogs on hard days and just read through their archives because these were women who seemed to have a secret, to know something I didn’t. Sometimes they would say things that offended me, because I disagreed. But I found their stories compelling, and beautiful, so I kept going back. What I didn’t know was that it was changing me. The act of telling my story, within the context of other similar stories, was causing me to reexamine mine. I finally had the kind of perspective I previously lacked, and that perspective shaped me for the better.
Then I read Anne Voskamp’s post on gratitude. She wrote about how recording a list of things she was thankful for changed her life. But it was this sentence that burned it’s way into my consciousness and worked into me a deep understanding. “My list is different than another's for a reason: God has made me uniquely me. The Gift List is about gratitude... but it is more. It is about what defines me and my own personal identity.”
I started to keep my own list. I began to write my story differently. I thought of the legacy I might leave for my children one day. I began to choose the story I would tell. That’s part of finding a blogging voice; the choices we make about the story we will tell. Choosing my story changed me. Choosing how we tell our stories can change us.

I will be forever grateful to the blogging community for being an instrument by which God showed me the beauty in my own life, and in the lives around me.

Where else can we find such diverse and inspiring stories at the click of a button than through blogs?

Sure, it’s fun, or we wouldn’t do it. And yes, the idea of making money and getting stuff is exciting. So too, for some, the rosy dream of being a published writer. But I am convinced that the heart and soul of blogging is the stories we tell, and the stories we read, that change us and make us more than we knew was possible. That is why I will keep blogging, whether I ever become “successful” or not. For what I have gained, and what I have to give cannot be measured by such terms.


I once was blind...

"You don't deserve anything," he said, and the words stung. "No one does."

"You aren't owed anything. Stop acting as though you are. You're alive. Everything else is is gravy. It's just an accident that you are in North America worried about getting the birth you want and not in Africa somewhere just hoping you live through the birth of your next child and drinking dirty water from a mud hole. You are not entitled to any more than anyone else. You are not more special than anyone else. Everything you have is a gift. Stop acting like the world owes you anything, it doesn't."

It took 7 years of marriage to get to this point, where I could hear, and he could say. Seven years of him enduring my complaining, restless, thankless ways. Seven years of my failing to see the love in action as he rose early and worked daily and stayed when he'd rather go sometimes. I complained that I didn't feel loved anymore. Seven years of me growing up as I had not known I needed to, just to grow the strength to hear what I needed to hear without rejecting it.

It hurt. But it was true. I asked, he answered, and he was right. I behaved like a spoiled child, even while going through the motions of being an adult. I compared my life to the way it was "supposed to be" asking "Why me?", rather than live with the way it actually is, a product of my own choices. Where the idea of what it ought to be came from I don't even know but there was a standard in my head, and I constantly measured my life against it.

I finally understood. He wasn't saying it to be cruel. He was saying it because living like I was owed something, living a thankless life, was making me miserable, and I was destroying the life I did have wallowing in self pity over should-have-beens and what ifs.

Can I even begin to describe the difference it makes to really understand that nothing but circumstance separates me from any one, anywhere? When I put myself in the shoes of a woman raising her children on less than a dollar a day in a house built of cardboard and realize that she and I are the same, I don't deserve my life of luxury and ease with clean tap water and adequate food any more than she deserves her rat and flea ridden existence, always at the edge of hunger, it changes me. The things I take most for granted she would consider miraculous, precious gifts. So why don't I give thanks as she would for what I have?

The world doesn't owe me anything. God doesn't owe me anything... in fact... I am indebted for the goodness I have been given, the abundance that is my life. How can I, who have been given so much act as though I am owed even more? Like a child at the close of a party filled with wonderful gifts weeping into her pillow at the absence of one coveted item, forgetting completely the bounty of the day. Had she no gifts at all she still has the love of her parents, food in her belly, and a pillow to cry in, but she sees none of that for the thing she wants but did not get.

Yet I am loved still, and have known love all my life. Gently the One who loves me takes my hand, speaks through the man He has given me to love, and shows me my sister, that woman living in the cardboard house, no more deserving of her fate than I of mine and asks, "Do you see?"

It's as though I have been blind, and finally my eyes open. I see my life for what it is, a gift; every messy, beautiful, hard, and painful bit of it. I see that even she treasures the gift of the life she is given, the children she bears, the joys and sorrows of being alive. "Just being alive is a gift, anything else is gravy on top."

His words start to sink in as the days go by and I find myself wanting to fall on my face and give thanks for this little life of mine that I have been so bitterly complaining about. I ask forgiveness for being so blind and so idiotic. I want to celebrate each moment, each glorious breath. How could I have not seen it before?

"Why me?" Why not me? I live and breathe and know His love and that is enough.

Photo by Aaron.


It was a hand made quilt by the way.

The story begins yesterday morning when I woke up in a puddle of Little's pee. She spent the night feverish and hacking and it culminated in the first accident she's had in months. She had climbed into my bed of course. It would be the first day of a 4 day laundry room closure due to renovations. Oh there's another room available for use, 2 blocks away. Did I mention I'm still nursing a tendon injury in my ankle and supposed to stay off of it as much as possible?

That wasn't going to happen. So I loaded the laundry basket onto the stroller, and my bedding wasn't all that needed washing because another child is coming down with the same thing and for some reason when they get sick they pee their beds. Fun! We walked to the other laundry room. Then we walked back home to start dinner. Then I walked back to put it in the dryer. Then I walked home to finish making dinner. Then I walked back to pick up the laundry, which was still a bit damp, so I have a bunch of king size blankets hanging over doors to dry.

I threw a sheet over the towel mat covering the still wet spot on my bed and grabbed an old quilt of Aaron's from the blanket cupboard.

Little woke me in the middle of the night yelling something unintelligible. At last I was pretty sure that she wanted a blanket on. She had also wormed her way from her bed to mine again. So I put her blanket back on. "NO. NO. NO. NO!" she yelled, "I want yours blanket."

So I pulled a corner of my quilt over her. "NO," she yelled again, and started to cry loudly.

"Ok what do you want?" I asked. "Are you cold? Thirsty? Do you need to pee?"

More sobbing.

"Ok honey, you have to use words, because mommy doesn't know what you want, you have to tell me."

More sobbing.

"Alright, well I have to go to the bathroom. While I'm gone you try and think of words that tell me what you need ok?"

More crying.

When I returned to bed I asked her, "Do you want mommy to put a blanket on you?"

She picked up her head and nodded, so once again I pulled a corner of the quilt over her. "NO, she yelled, I want yours blanket."

"This is my blanket."

"No, no it not."

"It's my blanket tonight. You peed on my other blanket this morning. Remember?"

"Oh, ok."

Then she fell asleep in a couple of seconds.

This morning she woke up and was kind enough to move over to her bed before sitting up and vomiting. It's the little things like that that make a day better. Her bed has a water proof cover on it.

If this story seems kind of pointless it's because I'm running on 5 or so hours of sleep today. But I laughed about it in the middle of the night. That means it's a little funny right?

Oh yeah, my ankle hurts.


One Thousand Gifts-Week 43

holy experience

Well, yesterday I turned 33. We celebrated at Friday night dinner with a cake that the Boy made for me, mostly, with a bit of my help. ("Sifting is hard mom, can you finish it?") Aaron assembled it and frosted after work. I was able to enjoy it without a whiff of nausea. It was a good night.

Yesterday after church we went for a picnic at a park that overlooks mission bay. It is a pretty lovely place to spend an afternoon. We got my one and only fast food craving for lunch, In'n'Out burger, and just spent the afternoon playing together. Of course, I forgot about my bum ankle that makes walking any distance painful, so I had a good little moment of frustration when everyone else set off on an impromptu mini hike and I was left sitting at a table watching the stuff. I got over it though, they came back and we had fun.

As I sit to write this there is a pile of stinky laundry to deal with. I woke up in a puddle of Little's pee, on my bed of course. The laundry room that I use is closed for the next 4 days, I have a messed up ankle, and I now need to walk on it quite a ways to the laundry facilities that are open while dragging all the kids along with me. I'm tempted to just sit and feel sorry for myself. But as always there is much to give thanks for if I look, even if that isn't my heart's natural inclination.

-A movie date with my husband.

-Aaron and the kids racing to surprise me by cleaning up while I was fetching laundry.

-My kids kept a birthday surprise secret for a whole week.

-A letter that made me cry and smile at the same time.

-Thoughtful and lovely gifts from family.

-My Boy made me breakfast before I got out of bed "So I wouldn't vomit."

-Hot water for showers.

-Lazy, sunny Saturdays.

-This amazing little book inspired me, and was really lovely to read. Mama's Bank Account

-That amazing feeling of waking up and feeling warm and comfortable and well rested. And not sick.

-A patient husband.

-3 children filing in the door, each holding a pot of flowers for me.

-Aaron pressing me for gift ideas and to plan a celebration when I had no idea what to ask for and wasn't sure I wanted one.

-and then doing all the work to make it happen.

-My sil organizing the girls to paint the covers of a package of blank cards because I said I needed new stationary.

-Shopping money for maternity clothes from my MIL. yay! Especially since I only have one pair of pants left that I can button.

It was a good week.

The gratitude community is here.
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