The Whole Wide World

I carried with me a pretty bad case of wanderlust for all of what I remember of my youth. God saw fit to put me together with a husband who would take me all over the world. We were certainly vagabonds, we’ve been to 18 countries together I think. Most of that in a 4 year span. We lived in the Middle East. We’ve done south America and China, and the obligatory Europe 😉
Sometimes motivated by missions,  sometimes motivated by boredom or a sense of adventure, traveling has made a huge impact on my life. Now that we are parents we are deciding how to bring all that into our family.
I’m really thankful I was born an American. It’s given me great opportunity and nowhere impacts us more than the land we grow up in. As I’ve traveled though I’ve definitely become more of a global citizen. I also feel my faith as a Christian really pushes me to see a bigger picture and try and see everyome as a person no matter what they look like or what language they speak I’m called to see them as made in God’s image. Not that I always succeed, like all of us I want to generalize and fit people into categories or ignore the plight of large groups of people because I feel powerless in the face of it. Culture shock can also bring out the worst in my heart I’ve found. In general though,  traveling made it impossible for me to see the world through one lense. When I hear any news story I have to think its so much more complicated than the media suggests and it’s so much easier to empathize with people who are really different from me and have compassion even when I disagree, again I don’t always get it right,  but traveling definitely made me more open minded and hopefully opened my heart. Recently I read Roman Catholic Cardinal Kasper’ s remarks about how the African church “shouldn’t tell them too much what to do” and how priests from outside the West really weren’t being listened to in their recent synod (due to their beliefs on sexual morality). I won’t even go into all that’s wrong with that, but I want to do everything I can to keep my kids away from the mindset that allows such thinking. It has zero place in the Church. You don’t decide who gets a seat at the table based on culture and race. The fact that someone disagrees with you does not mean its acceptable to relegate them to second class status.
So, we have kids we want to raise as citizens of the world. We want to raise thoughtful adults and hopefully Christians who have the faith to see the church as so much bigger and more varied than one local body. I’m less afraid and it strengthens my faith when I think of the believers who worship in so many ways and live their faith in so many varied contexts.  God doesn’t want us to be threatened by variety the way I think a lot of tend to get in our own little camps, he created it!
I want the world to seem accessible to my kids. Its not that big a deal to travel. I mean planes have been around for a while 😉
So we are starting with language Spanish and Chinese right now. Just seeing the world through more than one linguistic lense trains the mind to process more complexity I think.
We definitely have travel plans as they get a bit older, for now we are focusing on language, including an awesome language immersion camp we found which I’ll link to for anyone interested.  Especially for you homeschoolers wondering what you’ll do about those foreign language requirements 😉
We are finding really cool books to share with Leia that highlight other cultures as well. It’s fun. It’s a lot of energy and resources too, so I needed to remind myself a bit why this is such a huge value for our family, why I feel I have to pass this on to my kids as best I can.
Will they be missionaries or diplomats? Hey, I’d be thrilled,  but they may live all their days in the US and that’s cool too. It’s as much about how it forms our character to travel as it is anything else.
Here are links to some of the resources we have found and are enjoying 🙂

Language immersion camp for kids adults and families!
http://www.concordialanguagevillages.org/

A series of books for kids about life in other countries (I’ve seen the cool mail order passport thing too bit haven’t signed up yet)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1480209627?pc_redir=1413687855&robot_redir=1

Leia’s immersion school, most cities should have things like this. Obvious in LA you’ll have more options than Dayton!
http://www.daytonis.org

Visit churches in other languages, like Spanish or Chinese congregations.

Foreign exchange students is something we may do when our kids are older. We are hoping to get a Chinese student from the local university for a language exchange or .babysitting in Chinese 🙂

Stories for Life

When I became a Mom I assumed I would suddenly become really conservative regarding the media my kids took in. I have kind of surprised myself here. On the one hand I’ve just let my daughter watch more TV than I ever wanted just because life happened, and that’s not anything I’m proud of and something I’m always working on.
However,  it has dawned on me that I may end up letting my kids see or read certain intense pieces of art earlier than I may have initially thought I would.
Before I get into this, this is not an opening for jesus jukes or a debate. I feel like, among evangelicals what we decide to watch or read and not watch and read can become a holiness contest, and that’s stupid. Let’s try not to use our decisions regarding Disney movies in some kind of perverse Evangelical mommy war, OK?
I’m really committed to homeschooling my younglings. There are many reasons we have made the decision to home school and I’m not here to convince you to do the same,  but yes I do want to shelter them.  I’m putting that out there, I want to shelter my kids. I think that’s part of my job while they are small. So while I’m very selective about what I expose my kids to, I feel like stories, quality, powerful stories, true or not true are great teachers. They can balance out if you will, my best attempts to provide a nurturing shelter for my growing kids.
I recently let Leia watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it was not very good and I probably won’t be letting her watch it again, but Victor Hugo is a great example of stories that are worth possibly rocking your kids world a bit with. Leia was visibly moved by the awful Disney version of this story. At first I panicked when I saw her little tearful eyes, but then I took a deep breath and tried to use it, this little exposure to suffering and injustice, to talk about what Christ did for us.  It was kind of a scary moment as a parent, but I realized again how powerful stories are and how I’d much rather Victor Hugo give her a glimpse into total depravity than the evening news.
I know all kids are different and some are just more prone to fear and nightmares and these are personal decisions,  but I’ve even heard of people not reading missionary biographies because they were too intense, basically too much suffering. First thought, how blessed are we that we know so little suffering we can make that choice for our kids,  secondly, you never know when real devastating suffering may enter even your life,  perhaps being open and talking about things like death or injustice, even in the most childlike terms may make it easier to come through true catastrophe with faith. The life most of us live in our comfortable American homes is not the life most people live, it may sound preachy or cliche but I want my kids aware of that as soon as possible.  If I could we’d already be traveling to the places very unlike the American suburbs, but for right now if a missionary bio can bring this reality into our home, great.
Parenting kids through movies and TV today is really confusing, at least for me, I know I will always be thinking about it and taking it on a case by case basis, but I also know I want to move away from fear. If something scares my kids I want to point them to the one who can calm those fears. If a story breaks their heart, it may be a heartache worth having. I want to shelter my kids, I want them to think about what they let influence them, but I want them to let life in and I would like them to start coming to terms with the pain in this world while I’m sheltering them if possible. It’s a tricky business, but I know in my life God has used all kinds of stories to teach me. I mean let’s take a look at scripture, it’s story after story meant to teach and change us. While we are at it, the Bible ain’t Sesame Street. Scripture deals with real people in a real and hurting world. It’s just not that clean. The flannel board, cutesy version of Noah for instance,  probably isn’t really serving us well. I’d like to offer my kids more than that.  Exactly when and how that goes is the challenge.

The Big Picture

It’s always been important to me to be a joyful wife and mother. There is just such negativity and such misrepresentation out there about what it means to be a Mother. For all the outpouring of sentiment on Mothers Day, I believe it’s not a role our society as a whole understands.  Without getting into an endlessly complicated topic, I’ll just say I’ve felt passionate about fighting the anti child, anti family vibe around me.
I think I’ve succeeded for much of my time as a mom. I also think for my almost decade long marriage I’ve remained joyful in regards to my marriage and have a marriage I’ve been happy for the world to see.
This past year though, I admit something has crept in, a weariness, a crabbiness, something generally icky descended upon my heart. Suddenly I find myself agreeing with the negative remarks towards raising kids. Where once I thought oh we will have at least 3 kids, now it’s like oh gosh can I make it to 3? Smug thoughts enter my mind when people who live care free child free lives get pregnant,  and I think ha kiss those vacations your always taking goodbye! Or some such thought. Up until a few months ago I swear I didn’t think those things.
It’s scary. It’s sinful and I feel surprised by it. Maybe I shouldn’t be? Our hearts, like a garden, need constant work pulling weeds and looking out for bugs and animals looking for a meal. I wasn’t on guard in this area of my heart, weeds have sprung up. Having a second child, combined with other challenges in my life, have unearthed some things in my heart I don’t like. I’m grateful the Lord made this a quick reveal, I don’t want to waste my days sinking into the selfish lies that seem to rule the day.
So what’s the answer? How to balance the fact that motherhood and marriage isn’t easy, with the fact that it’s also amazing and absolutely a blessing?
In these moments where the rubber meets the road, where you weary of doing good,where it seems hey maybe love just ain’t enough, what can you do?
I feel reminding myself of what I’m actually doing is important.  Instead of the phrase “raising children” I like to think “raising adults” just to remind myself that’s what I’m doing, I’m helping them become adults. And not in a sad “butterfly kisses” way,  I mean my job is to prepare them for being adults, for being men and women God can use for his glory (not that I can save them, I get that!). It’s easy to feel like our kids are for us to just enjoy, because let’s face it there is so much joy in raising them! There is so much magic in the journey. This is a blessing, but not an entitlement, not the reason for having kids.  We have partnered with our creator in bringing life into this world, and our kids aren’t really ours.  They aren’t possessions for our amusement,  fulfillment or vanity,  they are human beings with a story all their own. God gives us the desire to have kids, and it’s a good desire, but I think when we get caught up in the idea that we have kids because we wanted them,  because we always wanted to be a mom or we love kids etc etc and away from the idea that we have kids because God entrusted them to us and has a plan for their life we get to be a part of,  then in the times when it’s not fun or magical we get disappointed and whiny.
Same goes for marriage,  oy perhaps even more so. That happily ever after that’s so embedded in our little girl brains is not what marriage is for. When it’s not easy, well, the divorce rate speaks for itself….
When I remind myself of the wonder and magic of God’s plans for me, his grand design for parenting, the great work he does in marriage,  then I get less grouchy and bitter, and much more grateful.

She can laugh at the days to come…

Proverbs woman. what a strange relationship I’ve had with the ideal woman in proverbs 31. I’ve looked at her with admiration and awe, envy, frustration, anger, possibly some derision and definitely some disbelief.  Who is this chick? Can you imagine what her Pinterest would look like, or wait she wouldn’t have one, she’s probably too busy being awesome for that!
I now realize she probably had help, much more than the strung out American woman who feels she can’t delegate for a variety of reasons.  Proverbs woman was probably surrounded by community and also understood running a household meant delegating.
Anyway, the part I’m thinking on tonight is that great line that says “she can laugh at the days ahead”.
Whoa. Who is this lady?  Most women I know worry and worry a lot if I’m honest. I think it’s evident in a lot if “momversation” perhaps even fueling the so called mommy wars. We couch it in wanting to find out what’s best for our kids, but I think a lot of us are looking for approval about our mothering choices or at worst looking to make ourselves feel better about them by judging someone else’s. To this day I feel self conscious giving my baby a bottle both because fear of judgment and a nagging fear that somehow that bottle means he’ll be fat and divorced when he’s 40! (That’s a whole other post) This is where envy creeps in towards Mrs P31.

She just laughs at the days ahead? What?  But hasn’t she thought of all the horrible things that could happen?
I must confess my heart is grieved at how little I seem to trust God sometimes.  Haven’t I been doing this long enough, shouldn’t I be less afraid by now?  I’m really confronted by the fact that motherhood has stirred up more fear than faith in me. I love those two kids so much, I sometimes think of all the worst case scenarios.  I read a news story or hear a scary prayer request or read a heartfelt blog entry about some tragedy someone went through and I face panic, what if God makes me go though that?!
Maybe the greatest thing about that woman in Proverbs is the fact that she doesn’t seem to think thoughts like that? She trusts God so she can delight in life and not fear the future. Now more than all the other great things about her, I want that! I’m tired of having such a diminished view of God. Like somehow he’s just waiting to torment me. Can tragedy happen? Of course, but I know the fact he is sovereign is not reason for me to distrust or freak out, it’s reason to live,  to laugh even. Like my daughter, she’s a super confident kid. I like to think that’s because she feels pretty safe, safe in our love for her and care for her. She laughs a lot and runs into the world with open arms. I should feel the same way in my heavenly father’s care.
Motherhood I admit has really made that harder.  It’s a whole new challenge in my fight with fear.  I’m fighting though. I want my kids, perhaps especially my daughter, to see that fight, to know it’s not OK to live in fear and worry, to not laugh it off as part of a mom’s job or something. No our job is to trust the Lord, even in the face of that worst case scenario,  or just in the face of a messy house, or too many bodily fluids or temper tantrums,  whatever it is, our job is to trust. I really want to be the laughing Mom, don’t you?

image

Aaah spring. ..

It’s been a long, hard winter round these parts. The weather has been relentless and bitterly cold. A harsh world for a newborn. We’ve hidden away inside.  It’s been hard adjusting to life with a baby and preschooler too. I won’t lie, those first couple months I wondered what had become of my life.  Once active and fun, I felt trapped by just how hard it is getting out the door with 2 kids!!!
Now as spring finally bursts through the last gloomy days of winter, I take a deep breath and feel like I’m shaking the gloom off of me. Yes getting in and out of the car is still the worst part of the day, and it’s really tough going anywhere that will take us out of the house for more than a couple hours because it messes with Lukes schedule, which I usually end up paying for in the middle of the night (so if I don’t come to anything its because my kid and I need sleep!), but things are easier. It’s not quite so overwhelming,  and I’m learning how to just eliminate anything I don’t need in my life right now so I can enjoy this time.
Today we got outside and as we took in the warm sunshine and green grass I thought these days just have to be some of the best of my life. I mean I had great days before kids, and I’m sure there are awesome and sweet days and seasons ahead, but looking at these tiny people right where they are at, as challenging as they are right now,  I can’t imagine it really gets better than this in our earthly life? 
I don’t want to romanticize child rearing, it’s tough stuff, but the hard things are the best things I think.  The more we open our life to sacrifice for others the richer our lives are, and parenthood can be the most vulnerable, sacrificial endeavor there is. (Sadly, not everyone sees parenthood as a calling, so it is a choice how much we let it change and enrich us) Life was so much easier before I had 2 kids. David and I accidentally refer to life before our kids as “when we were single” so sharp is the divide between life then and now. It was easier but it wasn’t sweeter.  It was easier, but it wasn’t half as full, even tho I traveled the world and did pretty much whatever I wanted, it was nothing compared to the crazy mess it is now 🙂

image

Mom Brain – the search for a cure

I spent a lot of time in school. I don’t talk about it much because I really question the wisdom of all the time and money I sunk into it, but I have two masters degrees. (Yeah I feel silly writing that actually, no one needs two of those.)
Anyway, I was a studying machine at one time. I mean I got mad that the library closed early on friday nights when I was in college. A friend asked me to show his freshman brother how to get around the library and do research because I knew it so well. It didn’t matter how nice or not nice a library was I would gather piles of academic books and sit at a desk for hours (I didn’t date much).
Flash forward to me with a newborn and a toddler. Pile of books, ha I’m lucky to get a bible verse in most days. On a good day a chapter of something, which sadly is often a parenting book so I can remember what the heck I’m supposed to be doing with a newborn.
I often feel I can’t focus on anything except maybe an episode of The Big Bang Theory after at least one kid is asleep. You see a bit of a woman’s brain gets taken up by all the people in her life, and an extra big piece gets taken up by each child. Even if I’m not with my kids, a piece of my brain is. I have felt nothing but scattered since Luke came. Holding the most basic conversation feels like a test sometimes. Did someone slip something in my drink? That’s how it feels a lot of the time! I have found having two small children to be approximately a bajillion times harder than having one 🙂
I’m not sure there is a complete cure for this, but something that helps, is help.  Help, sometimes hard to get and for many of us ladies really really hard to ask for or accept! But when I’m around family a lot, for instance, and other people can hold my baby or get my toddler food, the fog gets a little less thick.
Fortunately for me I have a husband who is kind of obsessed with taking care of me and is also resourceful and hard working, he really wants me to have help and a lot of times I really fight it. Sometimes its a matter of figuring out what will really help, but a lot of times I guess it’s pride. Recently I read this excellent blog entry that encouraged me further in receiving help.
http://hiddenwithyou.com/2013/11/14/desperate-housewives-no-laughing-matter-why-young-mothers-dont-need-god-they-need-help-2/
I encourage everyone to read it! Anyway, this year we have hired someone to help with cleaning. This was always totally outside my brain, but finally I weighed the stress and time and emotional energy housework takes and I realized if we can afford it and its on offer its worth it. I know everyone can’t and we can’t afford it in every season of life, but right now its available so I’m taking it unashamedly!  We just started this week,  I may report more later, but so far it has cleared up more of my brain than I’ve had since I got pregnant with Luke. It’s such a shocking relief to feel the entirety of the housework isn’t on me, it actually motivates me to clean too! It gives me breathing room. Thank you husband! Thank you God!
PS in case you are thinking about this, we found a great lady through word of mouth who is half the cost of one of the franchise companies. They were crazy expensive, but if you ask around you may be surprised to find something you can work into your budget through private individuals.

Being Seen

I never thought much about Hagar, the slave girl who had Abraham’s other kid in Genesis 16. I was captivated by the name she gave God, “the God who sees”, and the fact that this random Egyptian is woven into the telling of God’s story in such a way, but its not like we had anything in common. Her story is so removed from mine, I mean slavery, sleeping with a married man so you can give your master a child, its all pretty weird and foreign.
Feeling unseen though, I’m starting to notice that. I’m not one who craves the spotlight by any means, but as a mom to very young children I’ve noticed this feeling of being put off in a desert sometimes 😉 
Moms, you may get this sense, your always off nursing in a corner ( doesn’t exactly make you the life of the party), or you feel you can’t converse even with other moms because you are all looking after your kids all the time, even when you plan those playdates more to be with other moms, you just have to mom so much you can’t talk! It can make you feel a bit lost at times can’t it? I mean hey sometimes it works in your favor,  anytime you dont want to talk or do something I suppose your kids can need your attention, but after months of this you may feel decidedly unseen.
This is not a cry of losing your identity and needing to get a job to find it or anything like that, I don’t feel I don’t know who I am anymore, I don’t need to be on a stage, I don’t need to do a big dance number after David says “no one puts Amanda in a corner”, but I do need to be reminded in the midst of the chaos and hard work, God sees.
God. Sees. Me. He sees the effort, the wins and the losses and he knows, he knows what goes on in my heart and mind. He knows what it means to love sacrificially, he knows it far far better than I ever will. He designed me for this and he sees. It’s just so nice to hear it isn’t it? He sees. So I’m very thankful that a slave girl in the desert,  pretty much a bajillion years ago, was seen and called God the God who sees her. It reminds all of us, we are seen. Moms take heart, he is the one who sees and cares for you.

2 weeks, 2 kids

There is a faint smell of baby spit up, I don’t know where it is coming from exactly, but it has followed me today. I can let it slide, it feels like everything is sliding sometimes. I’m determined to learn from this and practice peace in the Lord during this time. I mean it, peace no matter what! Lol
I can’t believe it’s only been 2 weeks since Luke was born. In many ways it seems weird to think of a time he wasn’t around. Also, these two weeks have felt pretty long. Maybe it’s the 24 hour nature of newborn care, combined with the action packed life of a two year old that is stretching things out. Still, time is moving. A mom always has to remind herself, savor this, even the hard parts, because they grow so fast. Luke has already gone from 7.9 lbs to 8.5, he’s going to be out of those newborn diapers in no time! I know it’s going fast, I know this squishy little baby is in my arms such a short time, but wow it is hard to get anything done around here!
The first week was a blur, the circumstances with the nicu and everything probably didn’t help, plus the lack of sleep and postpartum discomfort combined to make me kind of out of it. This week I feel more like me. Still more postpartum discomfort than I remember from Leia, I feel I bounced back a lot faster with her, but mentally things are becoming a little clearer. Also, I’ll admit, emotionally I was kind of a wreck for a while there, sleep and stress I’m sure were at work, but a lot of it felt like crazy hormones too, being a woman ain’t easy! I feel a return to sanity.
Luke seems to be getting into his schedule and getting night and day sorted out which helps immensely too.
With Leia I was probably more intentional about guiding her into that,  but with Luke it took me a little longer to focus enough to try and get that schedule going.
I know I’m getting somewhere,  I’ll find a groove right? I like order you see. I had a good cleaning schedule going, activities for Leia, regular exercise, etc, etc. Not sure what I expected, but I am always resetting my expectations at the moment! It’s going to take a while to get a routine, longer than I thought.
Feeding, that seems to rule the day right now. Everything revolves around Luke eating. That’s difficult for me I admit. I struggle with that, but how can I thrive living in these 2 or three hour increments? Feeding times are definitely an invitation to slow down, to focus on baby or quiet my thoughts and pray, well depending on what Leia is doing anyway. Leia, my sweet girl, it’s been tough trying to be all there for her, and she has kind of been pushing boundaries and behaving differently. That’s a priority for me, focus on her heart and obedience, but I feel I’m doing everything with both hands tied behind my back right now. It’s tough work right now, but good work. It is good. The things really worth giving yourself to are not easy right? This is the arena God has called me to pour myself into right now. I think these two weeks have actually been one of the best lessons I’ve had on grace.

Luke and the NICU

I think I can write about this now. I feel like it will probably do me good, like writing out a birth story, it just helps to process things.
Luke was born 10:35 AM November 19th. That night he was having lots of tummy troubles,  but also wanting to eat hourly. It was just me and him in the hospital, as David needed to be with Leia. I was actually kind of looking forward to the hospital stay for one on one time with Luke before integrating everything else into the mix.
Though, there is not much less restful than a night in a maternity ward, how many people can come into your room and poke at you for different reasons or ask you questions in a 24 hour period? I know there are reasons for it and after all my blood pressure excitement pre birth I’m thankful for the concern just in case.
Anyway, I was not getting sleep. And didn’t get much during labor as you can imagine, so as luke refused to be laid down I was running on empty. I should have known that. Should have sent him to the nursery for a bit I suppose or had the lights on or something,  I just thought I was doing ok. When nurses would come in I was always coherent and polite. It was easy to wake, but also easy to drift off to sleep. It happened around 2 AM, my hospital bed was tilted up so I was sitting somewhat and just holding him upright against me in the burping position. I know that much, I was holding him like that because otherwise he would cry. The next thing I remember is hearing his cry and seeing him on the floor. Ok still hard to relive this. For days I really couldn’t get that sight from my mind. He was so tiny, not even a day old, a surge of adrenaline of course. I called the nurse in to look at him, hoping it would be nothing, but he had a bump and so she took him to special care and a ct scan. It was the longest night. I couldn’t sleep waiting. I was exhausted and terrified and appalled at what had happened. I was kind of frozen and in shock just waiting for news. I didn’t call David.  I didn’t hsve any answers and really couldn’t bring myself to talk about it at that point.
Finally, they told me he seemed ok but the pediatrician would talk with me in the morning about the results of the scan.
In the meantime they were to keep the baby in the nursery except for feedings. I knew I had to sleep but I felt ashamed and perceived as unfit then. Luke was monitored thru the night.
The next day the dr finally came in. I got the news they needed to transport him to the nicu at the children’s hospital for more scans and tests. That there was no sign yet of anything serious but there was a fracture and it could turn more serious.
I really was losing it.
Finally I talked to David. He kind of went into shock as well , he really didn’t listen to everything I was telling him.
My worst nightmare was to have a baby in the NICU, a new baby I couldn’t cuddle and keep near me. I felt guilty and helpless.  When they came to transport him it was awful he was in the biggest scariest incubator you can imagine, with all kinds of oxygen tanks and things. David called it Luke’s X wing.They took him by ambulance to dayton childrens.
Such a blur, the hospital quickly dismissed me so I could go. Though david made me take a nap at home while he went to be with luke first. Wise to be sure, but I felt horrible doing it.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone. The world just kind of stopped I felt so horrible, and totally in shock.  I mean I had just given birth and then all this, I just couldn’t process it.
Thankfully the fraction looked to be the type that would heal naturally on its own and Luke seemed fine. I cringe everytime I think of the fear and pain I may have caused him that night, but I’m thankful he’s a normal healthy baby and he only had one night in the NICU. I could see God’s hand in all kinds of details when I was going through those couple of days, and even though I was a wreck I know he was with us!
Mom’s rooming in with baby is great, but don’t be afraid to let the babe go to the nursery for a couple hours 🙂