Category Archives: Mama Musings

So, What Did You Do Today?

Even in sophisticated circles where people ought to know better, those who have made staying home and raising children a priority are often made to feel that their lives are being wasted and that they could be doing “more significant things.” When I was a member of the sociology faculty at an Ivy League university, my wife and I were expected to attend get-togethers with my colleagues and their spouses. On more than one occasion someone would ask my wife in what appeared to me to be a condescending manner, “And what is it you do, my dear?”

My wife, who is one of the most articulate persons I know, found a perfect response for such occasions. In machine gun fashion, she would reply, “I am socializing two homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition so they might be transformers of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia God willed for us from before the foundation of the earth.

Then she would smile and ask, “And what is it you do?”

And to those who don’t think mastering the art of sticking stickers all over one’s face is a dominant value of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we say:

Thank you, Peggy Campolo.

From Carpe Diem.

The Power of a Praying Gran (and other folks in my extended village)

My son isn’t sleeping through the night.

Apparently he feels it is his toddler right, seeing as how he officially entered toddlerhood in September and no longer needs to flash the “early admit” card, to keep us on our toes.¬† One way of doing that is to wake up randomly in the middle of the night:¬† sometimes crying in his sleep, sometimes yelling as he’s awake, many times attempting to launch over me into the middle of his parents’ bed:¬† let me tell you, it’s not the most fun way to wake in the middle of the night having a toddler straddling you staring in your face saying,¬† “Dah!”

Ever since Judah was 6 months, he’s slept through the night almost every night.¬† Which has been delightful!¬† Except I didn’t take it as a delight, but rather a given:¬† he has a lot of daytime energy, and so I believe he should NOT have a lot of nighttime energy – it’s the tradeoff.¬† But he didn’t sign on to that agreement.¬† And now that he’s not sleeping, now that I’m trying to reason with him in my nighttime deliriousness and my daytime sleep-deprived lucidity (that’s how tired I get – I’m trying to reason with a toddler, and I think it should work – HA!), now I realize that it’s somewhat of a gift to have a sleeping child, I’d like it back.

So I try everything I can think of.

Making sure he gets people interaction during the day

Playing with him hard a couple hours before bed

Not feeding him sugar

Feeding him protein before bed

Having a wind-down time

Having Jason read him sleepytime stories

Letting him sleep with his books and alarm clock (he likes to hold things – lots of things)

Plumping up his mattress and putting heavier blankets on him

Making sure the fan is on but not blowing on him

Giving him a drink of water before bed (last night was the first time Рtotally backfired Рhe wanted to sleep with the cup and threw his very first, very serious two-year-old tantrum -  not so condusive towards calm, sleepytime thoughts)

I used to be able to pull this off in college.¬† I used to sleep minimal hours and go to class and function as a semi-normal human being – granted, I drank lots of caffeine, ate lots of sugar, and slept 12 hours a night on the weekends.¬† But I can’t do this anymore:¬† one day last week I left my carlights on . . . twice.¬† I have don’t that in years!

My mama called me to see how I was doing, and I told her about the carlights.¬† “I just can’t do this!”¬† “And you shouldn’t have to, honey” was her kind response, reminding me that this too shall pass at some point.¬† It’s a phase – a process, not a destination.¬† And my father kindly reminds me that I woke him and Mom up every night for three years.¬† Oh, yeah.

The morning after I talked to Mom, something seemed wrong.¬† What was it?¬† I had slept through the night!!¬† My first thought:¬† “Never doubt the power of a praying Gran!”¬† It turns out that she and a group of folks up at her church prayed for Judah and Jason and me that night.¬† The next couple of nights he woke up repeatedly.¬† But last night, he only woke up once and went right back to bed.

It floors me when prayer affects me in a practical/tangible way.¬† Which sounds silly to say:¬† I’m sure praying for character and attitude changes is practical and tangible, but just not as real to me in this phase of my life.¬† And how wonderful to know that strangers are interceding on my family’s behalf to God!¬† I feel so much stronger, supported – part of the Body.¬† I want to do the same for others in return, whether or not I let them know.

It really takes a village to raise a kid; and while my immediate family doesn’t live in our town, they and their village are such a support to us.¬† I shared this story with my Bible study, noting, “Never doubt the power of a praying Grandmother!”, and they all nodded their heads vigorously as though letting me in on a secret I didn’t know until then.¬† Oh, those Grandmothers – a sneaky, amazing bunch they are.¬† 🙂

Do You Love Yourself?

Yesterday, after having sat in the dentist’s chair for 2.5 hours in a procedure that has required multiple visits and an endodontist and STILL isn’t done, I was kinda done with my day.¬† Yes, many hours remained, but the desire to be productive was drilled away with my temporary filling.

When a day like this occurs, the hardest hour is from 4-5, the hour before my husband comes home.¬† For some reason having another individual around gives me a second wind, or at least gives me assurance that I have some back-up in the parenting department.¬† I think many mothers feel this way, hence the Oprah Show being on at that dreaded hour – aimed at women, sometimes a little stimulating, but at least it’s distracting.¬† I only turn to Oprah in true hours of desperation – yesterday was one of those days.

Except it was not a fun show – nobody won any cars, Rachael Ray didn’t make a guest appearance to engage in lushyness with Oprah, no celebrities broke down talking about “how hard their lives are.”¬† No, this was one of her “true life” episodes focusing on “real people,” and those real people happened to be women (specifically moms) who hated themselves.¬† One was anorexic, one was an overeater, and though they looked different at night and day, Oprah’s doctor/specialist of the season said their problem stemmed from the same element:¬† self-hatred.¬† Apparently when asked what is missing from their lives, the number one things said by Americans is “love of self.”¬† Oprah spouted off a number of ways self-hatred manifests:¬† anorexia, over-drinking, over-eating, over-spending, gambling, gossiping.¬† I couldn’t help but thinking, “Where have I heard a list of these compiled before?¬† Oh yeah, Scriptures.”¬† Hmmm.

What Oprah really whanged on these women was regarding the effects on their children, how their attitudes and actions dramatically affect and shape their children’s future.¬† Wow:¬† throw on the guilt – very helpful.¬† I suppose for some it could be, but for myself, knowing those nasty little things I can’t or don’t know how to change, it pushes me further towards self-hatred, and the spiral deepens.

It’s hard for folks to get help.¬† “Life gets in the way.”¬† “I’m so busy.”¬† “I can’t afford counseling.”¬† “It didn’t work last time; why would it work now?”¬† But for one group, this is very true – for moms, particularly of young tots.¬† I wonder how I’m called to get help as well as make resources available to folks – for support, for prayer, for healing, for wholeness.

As Mother’s Day comes upon us, would you take a look around with me?¬† To talk with God about your love or hatred of yourself?¬† To ask the Spirit who you might be able to walk with towards the love of Christ?¬† It seems like such a small thing, but lately that’s where I see God moving:¬† the little details, the casual conversations, the small gifts – I just have to keep my eyes and ears open.

Celebrate Good Time, C’mon

Sometimes I need some encouragement to celebrate. My mother-addlepated mind is already full, and the idea of adding *one* *more* *thing* makes me understand why many folks drink through the holiday season. But in bible study we spent the teaching time sharing with each other about what we do to make the season meaningful. Everything from eating the same food every Christmas Eve (hey Mom: Heidiís family does fondue then, too!) to attending certain music programs to hiding nativity set pieces and moving them closer to the barn daily representing the migratory element of the Christmas story (how fun!). Sometimes it seems like a bit much: many moms admitted to being Advent Junkies. But one woman spoke up, saying itís important to have enough traditions to make it special – to makes folks *want* to come celebrate as a family – to celebrate in such a way that kids would feel like they were missing out on something if they were there.

I never thought I was very sentimental about stuff like that. But then as I was unwrapping ornaments last night that were wrapped in paper towels from around 1985, I realized I have my own quirks (see, I wouldnít let my folks throw those paper towels away: theyís *so* soft, and they are what my ornaments *must* be wrapped in. I always leave a piece of candy in my stocking to remind me what I got during thet previous year (apparently last year was sugar-free Brach peppermints). And every Christmas Eve we attend the candlelight service at NFC which to me is a true celebration: *everyone* is there – friends back in the area to visit their parents, neighbors who donít frequent the church during the year, all the folks who play music stuff. And then we fondue and open presents.

Itís a bit tricky now that Iím married: my ìmust doísî have to mesh with my husbandís ìmust-doísî. And, most importantly, we need to make ìmust doísî of our own as a family.

How do you celebrate the holiday season? What do you find meaningful?

Fear or Love?

My friend Steve-O and I were having a conversation the other day: actually, I was pouring out my conundrum-filled heart and seeking counsel. See, next Sunday thereís two good things going on – a couple hundred miles apart. And I want to be at both because Iím asserting my right as an American to Want It All. But No One has granted my deepest desire as a mother to be able to split into two. And that same slacker No One hasnít figured out affordable teleportation yet. So: state of conundrum.

My wise friend asked a question (heís good about asking questions rather than pronouncing judgments): was I making a choice out of fear or out of love? Many times choices in ministry are made out of fear rather than a God-placed compassion:

  • What if all the young adults leave?!! Letís make a program to lure them back in!
  • What if people stop tithing?!! Letís do a guilt-laden sermon on how to spend money!
  • What if another church offers a program or ministry we donít have, and then folks attend there instead of here? Weíd better offer it, too, even though we have no resources and are totally strapped as it is!
  • What if people question if weíre Quaker-enough or Emerging-enough or Evangelical-enough or Post-modern-enough or Conservative-enough or Community-oriented-enough or Socially-active-enough or . . . ? Weíd better throw something together right quick!

I find myself doing that with parenting as well. I wonder if Judah should be watching more PBS kids so that he can absorb the bi-lingual programs, or maybe he shouldnít watch tv at all because tv is bad. Did he nurse long enough? What if I cut him off too soon and he grows up with a detachment disorder? Am I giving him enough protein? What if he doesnít like to eat veggies? Will he eat bagels and string cheese for the rest of his life? What if I donít have Baby Einstein playing in the background while weíre going over shapes and doing baby yoga? Oh, it can be so overwhelming.

But what if I make parenting decisions moving out of a place of love? I love Judah, and I love seeing his excitement when he learns new things: letís play with shapes together. I love seeing how much Judah is enamored when a good song comes on the radio: letís have some music playing for him to enjoy. I love seeing him feeling and acting well: Iíll feed him what keeps him on an even-keel and keeps our relationship healthy (which doesnít happen when I try to shovel food down his throat that he doesnít like – yes, he protests a bit).

And what would that look like if I was part of the Church thatís grounded in Godís love and moved from there, from what His call rather than my panic that I might miss out on something? Just because itís a good thing doesnít mean that Iím called to do it: sometimes I have to say ìnoî (see the above ìwishes not grantedî for reasons why). Do I want to move out of the panic of fear, or the peace of love?

So Iíve come to peace with my options for next Sunday thanks to wise words from my friend Steve-O (although itís rather interesting that Iím going to the thing that *heíll* be at and that he wanted me to come to . . . hmmmm . . . . ). 🙂

Women Bloggers: Spiritual Musings in the Daily Life

This week Iím helping out with VBS at church, and man: am I out of shape – not physically, but coming-up-with-kid-activities shape. Who forgets how to play Headís Up, 7-Up? Iím trying to be intentional about keeping an eye on pulse of our youth – but apparently Iíve gotta keep digging deeper. 😉

In my bloglines account through the Dtour aggregator the title of this post caught my eye – partially because Iíd love to know some cool emerging/missional blogging chicks, and partially because selfishly I want to be one (ah, Paul, this dying to Self thing is not an easy matter). Much to my shock, folks had actually mentioned my blog! And, folks commented that it wasnít overly obvious that I was a female blogger (the initials thing is rather ambiguous) – I hadnít ever thought about that: seems like it could put a different slant reading a blog and not knowing the authorís gender.

I posted a comment on his site (itís lengthy – sorry: my verbal interaction today with folks has mostly been ìget in line and march quietly!î and ìwho knows the ëpeanut, peanut butter . . . and jellyí song?î). Iíve never really thought about the lack of female ìtheologian-typeî bloggers. Most female author blogs that I read revolve around motherhood, knitting, cooking, and some really great female marketing blogs – they’re not necessarily of the hip/tech/pointedly spiritual nature.

I started wondering if men have more compartmentalized lives than women. When I was younger, I could always pester my mom at work – folks knew she was first and foremost a mom. But I didnít always have that freedom with my dad: folks expected him to act a certain way, to do business at work and home-stuff at home.

I also wondered if women are blogging ec-style: they just donít directly mention it: they do rather than speak. Iíve been intentional about using this blog as a forum to discuss things of a more spiritual nature; I have another blog that talks about the ins and outs of life as a new Mom. Itís more tapping into viewership: if youíre looking for thoughts on why young adults donít attend church, you probably donít want to wade through a story of an eleven-month oldís irregular bowel movements.

But thatís the thing about womensí lives: they donít compartmentalize – it all relates.

  • When I go out to coffee with my pastor to talk about new ways our church body could engage our community, I take my son and chase after him, making sure he doesnít eat all the coffee shopís sugar packets.
  • When I explore ways to have a more intergenerational worship gatherings, itís because I want to worship with my son – not have him segregated in his own classroom all the time.
  • When I converse with others at the grocery store as they stop to talk to Judah, itís because I believe God has given me an opportunity to engage folks through this experience of motherhood.

Itís all connected: itís not necessarily black and white or laid out in nice bullets like Iíve just done. But looking closely at the telling of the daily details paints a (w)holistic picture of living an integrated life of seaching/questions/engaging/converting/becoming.

I think cool ec chick bloggers are out there: what are we doing to seek them out?

The Parent They Need

Being a new mom and a research junkie, Iíve found the internet to be a blessing and a curse in its abundance of parenting articles and advice – a blessing in being able to diagnose how high my sonís temperature should go before needing to take him into the doctor, but a curse in its multitude of advice about parenting styles . . . and of course, every article thinks that itís the highest authority in advice to be given.

Breast feed for one year? Two years? Till they crawl up your shirt and ask for lunch? Or formula-feed all the way?

Have a schedule for the day? A schedule created by the parents forcing the child to conform? Or a schedule created by the child forcing the parents to try to interpret each little whimper and moan?

Cloth diaper? Disposable diaper? No diaper? (I just read a story about non-diapering parents: they believed it was cruel to let their child ìmarinateî in their own excrement – tasty).

My father would say ìseparate the wheat from the chaff – take what works for you, and disregard the rest,î but my poor little brain feels like itís harvest season, and not all of the threshers are working quite right (theyíre a little sleep deprived). Every once in a while I come across an article that makes me stop and think, usually because it relates to the parenting world, but also the world beyond.

If you let them, your children will show you the parent they need.

Ah, those preconceived notions ñ theyíll take you down the Wrong Road every time. When your eyes are clouded with all you wish, want and will something to be, you are bound to end up missing all the great information and truths offered to you along the way. – Rosemary Danielis

By interacting with my son, I begin to know him more fully and respond to his needs a little bit better; if I force him to accept my ideals and expectations, we both become rather crabby. When I was a toddler, I remembered having quiet mornings around my house – time to wake up, eat in my pajamas, watch the morning edition of Sesame Street: time to prepare adequately to engage the world. I didnít always leave the house – some days were spent wandering around in our pasture and playing hide & seek with my brother.

So when I first had my son, I tried to honor ìhisî needs by having quiet mornings. Except they werenít quiet: he was fussy – *really* fussy. Feeding, diapering, playing – nothing seemed to subside this constant whine. . . . until Iíd go to the store. As an infant, heíd finally be quiet [enter me singing the ìHallelujah Chorusî], taking in all of the scenery. Now, he flashes giant grins at all the people passing by, as well as flirting something awful with checkers. See, Iíve given birth to an extrovert, so my well-meaning intentions of slowly easing into the day mean nothing to him: he wants to go out and party! Once I started listening to his needs rather that projecting my own desires, our household was a much happier place.

I began to wonder if the church ever does this. Is the church being the church *it* desires to be, or the church that the broken and weary need? Does the church look for cues and spend time intentionally listening/studying/engaging, or does it keep focusing on its own needs?

I could spout off some broad general statements like ìpeople in need are those in poverty or homeless or in gangs or are addicts, so we should help them . . . somehow.î But I donít live in generalities: my community is full of specifics, individuals, people.

  • What cues is my church perhaps missing in our community?
  • Where are there people crying for help, guidance, support in my locality?
  • In what ways am I trying to minister that are simply a projection of my desires and ìpreconceived notionsî?
  • Have any of you had experiences of responding to the needs of specific individuals in your community?

I would answer, but thereís a Little Extrovert pulling on my jeans, probably as a means of requesting a trip to the library. So Iíll ponder for a while, asking the Lord to open my ears and eyes: what am I missing? What am I not hearing? Where should I be looking? And how can I bear your Light to those who ache for your wholeness?