Foot in mouth

Sometimes blogging can be embarrassing. I write stuff, I put it up there, and then I move on and forget about it. A year passes, maybe 2, and someone is reading through my archives and there it is.

Like this post here. A Tale of Two Childless People

You see, after I wrote that post we became friends with these people. We really like them. We had them over for dinner. They are expecting their first child now and she found this post, which was really unflattering to her, and apologized for being such a horrible neighbor, which was really gracious, because she wasn't that bad.

After I went and read it again I apologized for the way I portrayed her in it before I got to know her.

So y'all. I just want you to know that the people in that post are actually very lovely people and I think they will make wonderful parents. I couldn't be more excited for them.

Mmm these toes are tasty.

In Search of Strength

Sometimes it sinks me, how I miss it when it's right in front of my face. I trade task for person again and again and service goes unseen because it misses the person where they need most.

I am 16 again at my grandparents table. Seeing, for the first time, the love that misses behind the veil that is their daily exchange.

"We need some butter here," my grandfather says.

Grandma rises half out of her seat to fill the need but he yells at her, as he always does, "Sit down Netty, let someone else get it for a change. You sit down and enjoy your dinner. You worked hard making it, you shouldn't be on your feet all day..."

I love you. I want you near me. I'm trying to show my care for you, how thankful I am for the work you do, by demanding that you relax.

He never moves to get it.  Not once, in all my life, have I seen that man rise from the table to get what he wants after saying that.

"I'll get it mom." An aunt hastily rises, rushing to smooth things over between them.

Lips tightening grandma sits again in her chair, face set, silent in spite of all the things she could say.

I love you, you silly man. That's why I do things for you. When you reject my service you reject me. Now I feel rejected and frustrated that you are yelling at me for loving you. 

They are driving past a farm on the way into town. "Oh look, he's put in some more trees near the road. I wonder if we could use some."

When you do things for me I feel loved.

"You want to work me to my grave don't you?" Grandpa explodes. "I've worked hard all my life. I've given you way more than your sisters ever got, taken you more places. I deserve to rest now. I've earned the right."

I'm afraid I'm not enough for you, still. I just want to be loved for who I am, not what I do.

I am my grandmother.

"Mama, will you read to me?"

I want YOU mama.

"Not now sweetie, I'm paying the bills."

I love you. I'm taking care of your needs.

"Mama, will you read to me now?"

I want YOU mama.

"In a little while honey. I have to make your lunch right now."

I love you. I'm taking care of your needs.

"Mama, can we read?"

I want YOU mama.

"After quiet time sweetheart. You need to rest and mommy needs to work."

I love you. I'm taking care of your needs.

At close of day, as I brush a stray hair back from her sleeping face, I see that book, tucked hopefully beside her pillow, still unread, and then I sink. I feel bent over with the weight of loss, so weary with serving and yet so far still from where I'm trying to go. I'm so busy attending to needs I have missed a yet greater one, crowded it out with what is more urgent.

My focus narrows and I lose sight of the ones I love I'm so intent on the tasks themselves, the ones I do to care for the ones I love.

Love falls short, and misses where I most want it to be felt.

I wonder if grandma ever sank into a chair at the end of the day and tried to press tears from eyes that would leak, whether she would or no, undone by her own weariness, and the apparent futility of her efforts, the invisibility of her sacrifice.

Did she ever review, yet again, her daily routine to try and figure out how to squeeze yet another second out of it to find that most precious of commodities, time?

Did she juggle so many balls that it always seemed as though at least a few were on the ground?

Did she ever cry herself to sleep so full of failure and so tired of the fight?

What I wonder most was how did she, how does she, find the strength to rise again the next day and try all over again?

If I am like her, and I am, I most want to be like her in that, and rise tomorrow to try again.


7 quick takes

I'm loving quick takes this week as a place to wrap up all those odds and ends that I keep meaning to follow through on and haven't yet.

1. My friend Megan made us a birth announcement for jellybean.

Then, 'cause she knows me well, she made another that I could post here.

I'm in love with this boy I tell you. In love.

Megan is the whiz friend who helped get me packed and ready to move at lightening speed. Her husband just deployed to Afghanistan a few weeks ago. He'll be gone 13 months. It keeps me from whining about Aaron's short trips to Thailand.

Check out her website here.

2. Did I ever show you a photo of the truck you all helped us fund raise for, for the Charis Home?

Thanks to the awesomeness of the internets we were able to raise enough to buy a truck for the orphanage we support through the charis project. (That website is so old. So many volunteers have started to upgrade it for us, and never finish. Sigh. I would do it if I knew anything about coding...) Now they have a ride to school and aren't walking on dangerous highways to get there.

More pictures here.

3. Some of you may remember the discussion we had here a few months ago about China's possible girl shortage in the coming decade due to the one child policy and selective abortion, and how that may affect Chinese culture. I was wondering if this might not change the culture for the better by giving girls, and the parents of girls more of a say and more of a choice. I recently ran across this article that turns the story in a different direction.

Apparently, there are a lot more girls than anyone thought, a whole lot more, thanks to brave parents who refused to abort girls, but didn't declare them. In other words, there may not be a crisis in the making at all because the Chinese people seem to be wiser than their government. In case you haven't seen it yet, here is the article. Chinese Hiding 3 Million Babies a Year

4. If you homeschool or are thinking about homeschooling or you just want to help your kids to be grow up to be thoughtful adults who have character I highly recommend checking out amblesideonline.org. It's a free site based on Charlotte Mason principles. You can download all her books there too.

They have compiled reading lists and study plans for each year. It takes all the work out of curriculum and lesson planning. Just print the reading list, enter it in the course of study you have to file and your done. Oh, and print the 36 week study plan to go with it.

I didn't really know about Charlotte Mason until this past year. It's been fun to read her books and find that we already do much of what she did, and we've gone through much of her reading list for several years just reading together. (I can't take much credit for this. My husband had a Charlotte Mason education, though he didn't realize it, thanks to my homeschooling MIL. Not to wonder then that we had access to most of the books already, visiting her house each weekend.)

If you've never heard of here I will give you a quick preview of the 3 main points, I think.
  1. Help children form good habits so they don't have to struggle against themselves to do things but that it's second nature.
  2. Don't give children "twaddle" to read, but living books, real literature, history, etc.
  3. Don't tell a child what to think or remember about what they've read. Let them respond to it in their own way, and they will remember it for life.
5.  I have had a tab open for 3 months now as I read through the archives of Pleasant View Schoolhouse. I love this blog so much. It's the photos, the lovely sewing and cooking she shows, the way she conveys so much with so few words and an image or two. (I can't do that, as you well know.)

Maybe it's the sense of order and peace about her home. That she has TIME to do these things. Whatever it is, if YOU have time to read you may enjoy it too.

6. Some words I wrote are in a book. A real live book made out of paper. Other people words are in it too because it's an anthology. There will be a launch event at the San Diego City College Int'l Book Fair on Oct. 2. I'm going to try to be there, 4 small children notwithstanding.

If you are interested in getting a copy go here. I'm told an Amazon page will be up soon as well.

7. The family we rent our house from just had a baby boy this Saturday. When he was 3 days old he was airlifted to the NICU at the children's hospital here.  His heart doesn't work properly. Lack of blood has affected his other organs, kidney, liver, brain, etc. They can't operate on the heart until he's strong enough and the other organ damage has been fixed. I don't understand it all, I just know he's a little baby and his body is really not working. His parents are asking everyone to please pray for him. He's 6 days old today, and his name is Caleb.

More Quick Takes are here.


This time I will give thanks

holy experience

The baby socks given to me the day of Jellybean's ultrasound.
 It's amazing how quickly I forget.

Less than 9 months ago I wept in the shower, so no one could hear me, and I told the baby in my belly that I loved him, even though I was sure he wouldn't be there much longer, could already be gone.

I said my goodbyes, because I didn't think I would get a chance to say any hellos. I'm "always" horribly ill for the first three months of a pregnancy. The only time I hadn't been was with Shiloh, and I miscarried at 12 weeks.

This time I was barely nauseous, threw up only once or twice, and then it started to subside. Long before the 3 month mark the illness went away and I felt good, normal, not pregnant at all, and so I cried and braced myself for the worst.

Christmas came and family full of well wishes and I smiled wanly and answered politely the congratulatory comments. I kept my fear a secret from everyone but Aaron, but I could not rejoice and could not hope. I avoided making any plans for my birthday for fear that I would miscarry that week, the fateful 12th week.

Finally I made an appointment for an ultrasound. I had to know.

The instant the image appeared on the screen he somersaulted and it was like someone punched me in the heart and started it beating for the first time in weeks. Tears poured down my face as I stared at the baby on that screen, very much alive and well. Grief was swept aside by joy.

I forgot until I opened this last week and found these tiny yellow socks from that day, so hopeful, so expectant.

This box was a Christmas gift to hold blessings for our family, and the baby on the way.

That image there is how he got the name Jellybean.

It is good to remember that grief though. It makes the present joy all the sweeter, reminds me to give thanks for what is now.

It's not an accident that his name means give thanks. It comes from the story of Leah, whose husband was tricked into marrying her but loved another. She's the third wheel in her own marriage. But God remembers her and gives her sons. A woman with sons in her day was rich.

When first son is born she says, "Because the Lord has seen my affliction, surely now my husband will love me."
The second son she says, "Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved. He has therefore given me this son also."
She bears a third son and hopes, "Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons."

Perhaps these outpourings of God's love can be used to purchase the love I want but can't have? She receives them as a means to something else, not the blessing that they are. In a way they fuel her discontent. I've been there. I've failed to see the blessings of God for the gifts of love they really are because they aren't the gift I really want, and think I need.

But then something changes in Leah, as it has changed in me.

"This time I will give thanks to the Lord." When her 4th son is given she receives the blessing, she experiences God's love, and she is content.

I'm learning to do the same.

We weren't trying to get pregnant. We wanted to, but I couldn't afford to be down for so long at such a crucial time for The Charis Project. We were in the middle of applying for non-profit status with the IRS, and I do all of the administrative work and promotional. Aaron has to work to put food on the table and a roof over our head. He doesn't have the time to do what is needed if I can't. We couldn't afford the cost of another baby, we didn't think. I cried when I found out I was pregnant, afraid to tell Aaron because of all the difficulties a baby on the way would present, and it was so recently that we had the last talk about it and agreed it was bad timing. We were probably already pregnant when we made that decision.

God gave us a baby, in spite of our attempts "to be wise".

He gave me an illness free pregnancy.

I was not depressed.

I was not mentally unbalanced due to hormones.

I was able to keep working right up until the end.

I am able to keep working now with 4 kids, one of whom is a newborn, and the sweetest, most content little boy I've ever encountered.

We ended up having more money in the bank early this year than we have ever before had at one time.

We were able to pay cash for a van big enough to cart around our growing family.

We got our prenatal care for free.

We had enough for the deposit on the house we now live in, that is at least twice the size of our previous home, and only a very little bit more expensive in rent.

Aaron and I didn't have one single stupid fight this entire pregnancy. (Though we did have one just after, my bad.)

I have had more help from family and friends in the past 2 months than I can ever remember having in my life up until now. I cry happy tears just thinking about it.

We celebrated our 10th anniversary.

The IRS approved our non-profit status in record time.

We had our most successful fundraiser.

But mostly, this time I remembered to give thanks. This time I remembered to cherish the gifts, and I think that made the biggest difference of all.


Not what I started out to write

I don't miss him during the days, he's rarely ever here during the day anyway. But I do miss him at night. That's when the kids start whining, "I really wish daddy was home."

Evenings are when the house seems so empty and lonely.

He called yesterday. I didn't even know his Thai cellphone could bridge the distance and reach me here. It was morning there, as I figured out what to make for dinner.

There's a big group of people with him from some local churches in San Diego. They are spending 3 days at the Charis Home with the children. They brought gifts and supplies and are spending time loving and taking care of our kids there.

He cried on the phone as he said, "I wish you could be here to see this, all these people loving on our kids. It's amazing to watch, and it's because of your faithfulness over the past few years with all of the administrative work that this is happening right now, that any of this has been possible. We haven't failed them."

Then I cried too.

I get so weary sometimes. Faces blur and turn into columns of numbers and presentation booklets and the minutes of board meetings.  I don't see the children everyday. But I do see the work it takes to secure their future, and their immediate survival. Sometimes the work is all I see and I wish I could hand it to someone else to do.

It's not unlike motherhood that way. Sometimes all I see is the work. Yet, I do for them for free what I would not do for a lot of money under different circumstances.

I can't find anyone who will volunteer to do this job, to take care of those kids, but I will do it for free, because, in a way they too are mine. In a way they are all of ours.

I almost said no to the Girl today and took away the scissors and tape, because all I could see was the mess to clean up later, the aftermath. But then I would have missed this moment, these paper diapers she made for her baby doll, six in total, painstakingly cut and taped, inspired by her baby brother of course.

I've wanted to say no to the Charis kids too, to the work involved in being responsible for them.

But then a moment happens, and faces come into focus again, and I remember why I do it, why it's worth it, and my heart catches up again and is ready to work once more.


We could use some help. We need people to write letters to the kids, to be their friends and let them know they are loved. Many don't have sponsors yet. Many who have sponsors don't get letters. If you want to sponsor a child that's great, we need it!  But even if you can't give financially, if you have a little bit of time to write to one of our kids and befriend them it would mean so much to them. You have no idea how much it would mean to them.

You don't even have to get out pen and paper if you don't want to. You can email them to us and we'll see that the child gets a printed copy sent to them with a translation.

If you are interested in being a friend to a Charis kid please email
info at thecharisproject dot org
Put penpal in the subject line. We will email you a photo and brief bio of a child.


I am an object lesson

While I was at a friend's house a few weeks ago Jellybean woke and needed to nurse. So I started moving things around to accommodate him while her 2 year old, already enamored with the tiny baby in her home, watched eagerly to see what I was doing. Looking at her wide little eyes I explained that he was hungry and that I needed to give him some milk and that my breasts made milk for him to drink. That was when her mom, who breastfed also, looked up and realized, "You've never seen another baby nurse before!"

She came over to the couch and held her on her lap while she watch Jellybean latch on and nurse. We explained that she used to get milk the same way when she was little. The rest of the afternoon she followed me around and asked repeatedly, "Milk? Baby milk?"

It was obvious that the moment made a lasting impression on her.

It reminded me of something that I once consciously chose to do but is now second nature. I chose never to hide breastfeeding from a child.

I grew up around breastfeeding women. My mother nursed me and my younger siblings. I had many, many, aunties nursing many, many cousins. Sometimes in our home while visiting, sometimes in theirs, in a quiet room at my grandparents house during a huge gathering. I loved the babies and so I gravitated toward their nursing sessions also. Nursing babies were there in the cry room at church, in the background at every get together in my home, and to my little mind, all around. I rarely ever saw a breast. There were the women who nursed under a blanket, there were those who just pulled up a shirt, and there were those, my aunt who had twins for example, who would just open a shirt and let it all hang out as she got both of them to latch on at once.

I always knew I would breastfeed my own children. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would be able to, and there was nothing more natural to me.

I'm constantly aware that not every child will get that. I may be the only woman they ever see breastfeeding a baby. The little girl who looks at me wide eyed today as I explain that once the baby is born my body is designed to make milk to feed it may be a mother someday. I don't know what kind of impact our conversation will have on her choices, and her confidence in her body's ability to nourish her child. I hope that her experience with me will give her the courage to do it, even if she faces obstacles or feels embarrassed. So I never hide it, and I always speak of it in the most positive terms when they ask. And little kids will ask, they always do.

The see me adjusting my clothes and the baby. The hear the snuffle gurgle sounds as they drink. They rarely see a whole breast, or nipple, I'm discreet, unless I know it's ok with their parents that they see. But they're observant little things. They know something different is going on.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm feeding the baby."


"I have milk in my breasts. My body makes it to feed the baby after it's born."

"Oh, weird."

"Is it? How else do you think babies should get milk?"

"From a bottle?"

"What do you think people did before they made bottles then?"

The conversation goes in several directions, longer or shorter depending on interest, but I never shut it down, and I work hard to not shove them away, even the ones who are peering and twisting their neck trying to get a better look at things, even on the rare occasion when I do actually feel uncomfortable.

I think it's important that boys and girls alike see what breasts are really for long before they have ever begun to associate them with sex, and that they experience it as a very normal and natural part of life.

What do you think?


Where's the love?

Flowers on my windowsill.
 So I hear there's this big kerfuffle going on that's marring the 9/11 memorials this year. Something about a mosque in New York, and a pastor in Florida and the planned desecration of someone's holy book?

Have we all gone crazy?

Remember 10 years ago? First there was shock, then horror, and then people came together in the face of it, selflessly giving to those who had need by those who could . Remember that?

Now it seems we're all afraid of Muslims. I wonder how many people going crazy actually know any Muslims personally. I would guess that very few do. Because if they did, they would see that they are just people, just like me, or you.

My little sister is married to a Muslim. I don't know him as well as I would like, them living in Canada and all, but I can tell you this. He's a good husband, a devoted father. He's thoughtful and intellectual and funny. He is a unique individual. He isn't a Sunni or a Shiite. In fact his sect of Islam isn't commonly recognized by either of those sects. He, and the other Muslims I know as well, would no more wish to be associated with and evaluated by the actions of the 9/11 terrorists than I want to be lumped in with that church in Florida who thinks that burning a Quran is any sort of good idea.

I'd really rather that people don't judge me by the actions of the medieval church during the crusades or the pogroms, or by pedophile priests in Belgium or Boston either. I hope that people will be able to tell that even though I revere the same scriptures those people claim to, perhaps believe in the same deity, I am not like them. I am myself. I also hope that they won't judge all Christians based on the actions of a few.

So I'd like to just add one more thing, for the benefit of those who claim to be followers of Jesus and yet think that attacking followers of Islam is in some way acceptable.

Jesus said, and I quote,

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward do you get? Are not even the tax collectors (read despised people) doing that? If you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48

Just to be clear, Muslims are not the enemy. But even if they were, doing anything other than loving them and praying for them seems to me a terrible misstep on our part, one directed by fear rather than love. Especially by those claiming to follow Jesus.

Don't you think?


If you give a child a cash register...

They will spend hours making paper money...

They will make a store in your living room...

and they will have fun for a very, very long time.

Thanks Barb for the cash register.

Baby Shower

It's been hard to find time to write lately. I'm trying to organize our new school schedule, Aaron leaves again for Thailand tomorrow, we finally finished all the unpacking, we had a baby shower, oh yeah, and I have a newborn. Though, truthfully, he is the most chill baby ever. I just put him down on the bed a while ago, because I needed to go to the bathroom, and then I wandered off and got busy and literally forgot about him lying there in the bedroom. He didn't make a sound. When I remembered he was in there I thought he must have surely fallen asleep, but no, he was just looking around at stuff, wide awake. So I left him there a while longer and got stuff done.

Anyway, my fabulous friend Shannon organized other fabulous friends and family to help out and throw a baby shower last weekend. Here are some photos. And you sort of get  to see our new house in it as well. (There dad, yah happy? I tell you, once your parents find out about your blog they get so demanding, especially if they live in another country and don't see the grandkids very often. I keep telling him about facebook, pretty much everyone else is better at posting current pictures of my kids than I am there too.)

But I digress. Here are photos.

The lovely Shannon
my mil's floral arrangement ideas.

Some of the fab food.
Milly also thought up using the potty as a place for the diaper fund.
I had lots of help opening presents.
lots and lots of help.

The piano became a temporary art station for writing favorite songs to sing to kids to add to the song book as a surprise for me.

more fun decorations

Post party-the guys hang out
gratuitous sweetness
Did I mention that 2 days prior my Milly and a team of people showed up to help with the last of the unpacking and get my house in order? I feel so loved.
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