parenthood


A few weeks ago our church moved into a new building and when we picked Asher up the teacher was telling us about the cool new stuff they would start the next week, including a video curriculum for the Bible story. I asked them for the name of the curriculum and if there was a way for me to watch it first. She told us and I was going to leave it at that but Jake then informed her that we don’t let Asher watch videos. I realized that we have become one of “those” parents – the weird ones. As we were talking about it on the way home I pointed out that, as Asher is potty-trained and we don’t leave Caroline in the nursery yet, they aren’t even aware that we cloth diaper. They are going to think we are REALLY weird when they find that out. I told Jake that I don’t feel weird, these things feel normal to me. But taken as a whole we are very weird people and I can see why it is a bit difficult for us to make friends.

  • We don’t own a TV. And I am very vigilant about limiting screen time for my kids when they are around smartphones etc.
  • Cloth diapers (which, for the record, I prefer over disposables – even if the cost was the same. Disposables stink and feel so…papery.)
  • No soda, except root beer or cream soda as a special treat. We pretty much drink only water, sometimes juice.
  • We put our kids to bed super early and make sure they have time to take solid naps.
  • We try to avoid licensed characters. When Asher needs a toothbrush or something I go to great lengths to find one that doesn’t have a “character” on it. Aside: I shouldn’t have to go to great lengths but unfortunately most toddler toothbrushes have Mickey or Thomas or Dora on them.
  • We’re debt free and actually have money in the bank. Even during times of unemployment.
  • I try to cook from scratch and avoid prepackaged things.
  • We buy used. Any time we need something, we check craigslist first. We have a stroller, a couch & loveseat set, a glider, and a sewing machine that were all purchased used. We only buy used cars. Our mattress, washer, and dryer are hand-me-downs, and everything else has been built by Jake from re-purposed wood.
  • We both try to stay physically active.
  • I will keep my kids rear-facing in the car until I can no longer find a carseat they will fit in.
  • Per WHO recommendations I hope/plan to nurse my babies around 2 years each.

So, lady, it’s not just that I expect you to actually teach and interact with my child instead of popping in a DVD (seriously. What is so difficult about teaching 2-year-olds? Tell them a short story, they will love it and it is so much better for them than watching a video!). Altogether these things make me, and us, pretty different from most of the people I know. I’m ok with that and I’m ok with the fact that you probably talk about us after we leave for rocking the boat. Looking over that list I totally sound like a hippie-granola but I like all of these things about me and my family. These things are comfortable and normal for me. And I think you’re the weird one for thinking a video curriculum for Bible stories is a good thing.

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I’m not very girly. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, and you usually can’t tell when I do. I don’t get the point of fingernail polish and I’m not really sure what Pintrest is. Because of this, and a few other reasons, I never expected to have a girl. I mean, if God gave you children based on your personality, I would be that mom with half a soccer team’s worth of sons in the back of a minivan or maybe a suburban (but probably a minivan. I don’t find myself too cool for a minivan.).

But, God does not give us children according to our personality; He gives us children according to our need. I don’t think I mentioned it on here but for a while – 9 months, give or take – I was pregnant. About 2 months ago I gave birth to a little girl and was sort of in shock to find that there would be another female in our little family. Of course the moment you hold your baby for the first time you find that this was the baby you really wanted all along, the baby you needed, and slowly the changes in my future have been sinking in: joy that there will finally be someone to watch Pride & Prejudice with me; horror and dread that I will have to fix someone’s hair. (I don’t even fix my own hair. A ponytail is a legitimate and respectable hairdo as far as I am concerned.)

For some reason, even though I’m not into crafts (what IS the point of scrapbooking, anyway?) it was really important that I make something for my little girl, and I knew exactly what that something would be:

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on this little quilt in whatever spare time I have. Which isn’t much, what with a new baby and a toddler (not to mention a husband) on my hands. I used this tutorial, except instead of a real charm pack I used fairy tale prints.

Sleeping Beauty

Peter Pan. One of my favorites. I cut all the squares of this one wrong but I’m not showing a closeup of that.

Little Red Riding Hood

Snow White. My other favorite. Unfortunately there’s only one square of it because that’s all the fabric I could find.

Cinderella

Frog Prince

Emperor’s New Clothes

Wizard of Oz

Three Little Pigs

And the back:

is

The Princess and the Pea

So, baby girl, may your life be an amazing adventure and unbelievable story. May you do grand things but, more importantly, be a grand person. May your heart be filled with courage, compassion, and generosity; may you experience real friendship, genuine kindness, and true love. May you see the prince within the frog (and pray your parents see him, too!). Fight against wrong, search for truth, set things right, and push back the darkness. On your quest for justice and beauty may you only experience the smallest amount of hardship and sorrow necessary to keep your heart tender. Build your home with wisdom and let your life be marked by extravagant love and childlike wonder. May you never discover any kind of vegetable in your bed, but especially not peas, and may you always know your mama loves you enough to rip out an entire quilt binding and start over just to make it prettier.

And most importantly, may your life be a part of The Great Story.

Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said. – C.S. Lewis

I think I would make a pretty good wife to (one of) a lot of guys. I’m a cheap date, partially because having anyone’s money spent on me makes me feel really anxious and guilty and partially because I really, really love pizza. I enjoy football enough to get up at 3am to watch a game if that’s when it’s on (because you live on the other side of the world). I genuinely enjoy being left alone. I hate talking about feelings. I’m pretty low maintenance, both in the “I hate talking about feelings” kind of way and also the “I’m almost 30 and finally just bought a hair dryer…which I use but rarely” kind of way. I think shopping is one of the most horrible, torturous ways to spend one’s time and cannot fathom why some people have made a hobby of it. The smell of sweat doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s relatively recent sweat and not the stale-sweat smell of a locker room. I have never asked anyone if I look fat because I know I’m not. I like driving with the windows down and couldn’t care less about the effects on my hair. I honestly don’t get how some people have a “thing” for shoes, and to be even more honest I’m not even sure what that means, except that everyone who says “I have a thing for shoes” has an awful lot of shoes.

And I like cooking from scratch. Not in a snobby way, like I think I can do better than Betty Crocker, but more because I think you should probably at least have a vague idea of what you are ingesting, at least most of the time. So, for example, if I decide we are going to have macaroni and cheese for dinner, I buy a few different kinds of cheeses – a really really sharp cheddar, maybe some Havarti, maybe some Jarlsberg, just whatever sounds like an interesting blend – and I make a sauce with them and whole milk and maybe a splash of cream, if I’m feeling luxurious. Sure, it takes longer than the stuff in a box but it tastes much better and I know what I’m feeding my family. I have no earthly idea what that orange powder is that comes in the blue-box mac and cheese. Anyway one day Jake pleaded with me to buy some blue box macaroni, “just for a special treat.” I stared at him, incredulous, before pointing out that MOST PEOPLE would consider the homemade variety a special treat. He scrunched up his face in disbelief and said, “Really?!” before deciding I was joking. When I assured him that this was not, in fact, part of my stand-up routine he declared all the lost souls who prefer macaroni in a sauce made of actual cheese to be “weird.”

See, I’m not married to most guys. I am married to one very specific man. The oft-repeated advice in marriage books may work for women married to 99% of men, but I often find it unhelpful because I am not married to 99% of men. Or rather, one of 99% of men. I am married to this one guy and I have to figure out how to be the wife that he needs. Sure, there is a lot of wisdom to be found in books written by “experts” but at the end of my life I will be the only person on earth capable of being an expert in being married to Jake. I have to write my own book here, make my own way. Apparently this includes occasionally serving flavorless noodles in an unidentified orange paste. I may think it’s pretty cool that I avoid talking about feelings but if that is something he is genuinely interested in doing I should probably learn to emote now and then. It is incumbent upon me to become the wife that he needs, not the wife that sounds awesome to me.

Same thing with my son. A degree in child development doesn’t make me an expert of any kind, let alone an expert in the development of Asher. It wouldn’t matter if I were Piaget Junior, or if T. Berry Brazelton came to me for advice, if I paid no attention to the one child I am raising. I owe it to my son to figure out how to raise him to be the man God created him to be. And that may mean that I read the widely varying views of all the development/parenting “experts” out there, and pore over the works of Michael Gurian and Leonard Sax to figure out how boys work…and maybe I find something useful, but maybe not. Maybe I still come up with nothing that is useful in raising my particular boy. And if that’s the case it is still my responsibility to work through how to best train my son as he grows up.

I am, barring some unforeseen tragedy, the only wife Jake will ever have. I am the only mother my son will have. Which means I am, to each of them, The One. I can just be the kind of wife I think I would want if I were a guy…or I can do the much harder work of becoming the wife my husband needs (and the wife I need to be). I can parent in a “this is the way it’s always been done” way, or an “I wish my parents had been like this” kind of way, but neither will be as beneficial to my child as painstakingly uncovering his needs and discovering what he responds to, what will capture his heart. These are daunting tasks – am I willing to be the one to each of my ones?

Asher: Mama?
me: Yes, Asher?
Asher: Hi!
me: Hi!

(pause)

Asher: Mama?
me: Yes, Asher?
Asher: Mama?
me: Yes, Asher?
Asher: Hi!
me: Hi!

By the time I graduated college, I had been to more funerals for people my age or younger than for old people. Car wrecks. Suicide. Cancer. If I ever had the misconception of invincibility that often accompanies youth, it was very short-lived.

Today I went to the funeral of a 13-year-old girl, a member of my husband’s extended family. Apparently she died in her sleep of the flu. I didn’t even know you could still die from the flu. We got to the church early but not as early as we intended and arrived to find the room already quite full. I managed to locate 2 seats next to each other; they happened to be on the center aisle. My direct line of vision included the girl’s mom, which I thought would be pretty tough to watch. As the service started, I discovered I was wrong. It was heartwrenching. The service began with a song and before we made it to the second verse she was curled up in her seat, heaving with great wracking sobs, and I struggled to maintain my own composure. I don’t know her very well but I am a mom…and I cannot, cannot, cannot imagine what she is feeling. I try to envision a grief that deep and am met with a blank wall. As the family did their best to comfort each other I felt my own child next to me, warm and moving and alive and ohGodnotmybaby. Not ever.

A few minutes later I had to leave to take my wiggly, squawking, alive little boy out. I sat him on my lap and looked at him. Give me more than thirteen years, I whispered. He looked back at me with his wide, alert eyes, a little smile ready. That is not good enough, I decided. Give me lots of years. Give me all the years you can.

I am the sort of person who researches anything and everything before I buy. I have even been known to research shampoo before making the switch (and, of course, using a coupon). So for all the other researchers out there, here are my thoughts on the baby “stuff” we have used. (And, so the FCC doesn’t come arrest me or something, all this stuff is stuff that we bought or were given as gifts, with the exception of the Softbums I won, and I have received none of this in exchange for a review, even a good one, but if someone wants to send me free stuff to try out and review lemmenoe and I’ll probably do it because I’m a sucker for free stuff, but these are really just my honest opinions for all those other obsessive researchers out there.)

diapers: For newborn: BumGenius extra small all-in-ones, Thirsties Pocket All-in-One, and the Softbums I won. We used the Softbums at home and the BumGenius or Thirsties for going out, and the Thirsties for night because you can add extra absorbency in the pocket. For now: we have a few BumGenius all-in-ones in medium for other people to use, like grandmas/babysitters or the church nursery (or for going out, it’s just quicker to change them). For everyday we are still using the Softbums (they are a one size) and we really like them. I will not lie, it took a while to figure out how to get a good fit in the legs but since we got that down we have been good. They are holding up pretty well in the wash, they are cute, and they fit really well despite Asher’s ENORMOUS thighs. And I have to say, cloth diapers have been much easier than I expected. It’s basically an extra load of laundry every other day.

wipes: We normally use cloth ones called Eli’s Wipe-E’s I ordered from a work-at-home-mom that had great reviews on Diaper Swappers. They work, but I have to admit I am less than thrilled with them as six months later they are still leaving colored lint all over my diapers when I wash them. No bueno.

wetbag: I have 2 PlanetWise and I am not that impressed, I don’t know why everyone seems to like them so much. The zipper pull is tiny and on the opposite side of the bag from the handle so you have to use both hands to open it, which is difficult when you are holding a poopy diaper. Also the handle started fraying after about a month of normal usage. I also now have 2 from Monkey Foot Designs and I love them. The zipper pull is big and on the right side of the bag, they will literally hold water if you pour it in without leaking, and the prints are sooo cute.

swaddling blanket: the Miracle Blanket!! We received 2 as gifts and it was awesome to have 2 because…well, babies leak from various places. Asher loved these and we actually just stopped swaddling him (at 7 months). Well, stopped swaddling his arms, it’s been a long time since his feet fit in the pocket.

nursing pillow: At first I had the My Brest Friend but I had to leave it in France. Now I have a Boppy and the winner is (drumroll)….the Boppy! For starters, the name is infinitely better in that you can say it without blushing. The MBF one is supposedly recommended by lactation consultants and better for you but I could never seem to get it right; maybe my torso isn’t the right length or it just wasn’t a good combo with the Ikea chair, I don’t know. The Boppy is just easier to use for us. The only negative is that the fluffy stuff gets smooshed down but hopefully a quick trip through the dryer will fluff it back up.

carrier: We used a Baby K’tan for the first few months. It is GREAT. There are many different ways to carry your baby with it and it is super easy to use. Asher would just snuggle up and go to sleep. By 5 months he was too heavy for me in it so we got the Performance Ergo which is also GREAT. We will definitely use the K’tan the next time around (and I think Jake will keep using it with Asher).

car seat: We have the Combi Coccoro – it was designed for little cars and we drive a Yaris, so it’s a match made in heaven. There is a padded insert for little babies so even if we size up in vehicle or just carseat for Asher, we can use it as an infant seat for the next addition. It is super easy to install and use.

That’s all the big stuff I can think of. Jogging stroller review to come!

Last week my baby boy turned 6 months old. I know everyone says this about their kids but…I can’t believe how fast he is growing. He doesn’t really care for solid foods (yet) except the ones that you’re eating, he is a sweet snuggler, incredibly observant, and has the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. And while half a year out of my whole life isn’t really all that much, I can’t imagine the rest of my life without him, this sweet baby boy who smiles in his sleep and wakes up laughing, this child I love with my whole heart.

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