Wednesday, November 5, 2014

B


"Even death will die." ~Audrey Assad

heard today of the death of a woman who was one of Zoe's caretakers once a week soon after we moved to Riverside. her excitement over seeing Zoe each week, glowing over her, almost matched my own as a new mom. I loved leaving Zoe in her care. my heart mourns the loss we experience as she is no longer present here with us on earth, but rejoices in the paradox that in death she is also experiencing new, full life at the feet of Jesus, whom she worshiped.




Tuesday, November 4, 2014

dropped

I think it's safe to say this baby has finally "dropped". But, as I learned last time around, this could mean something or it could mean nothing in terms of predicting when labor will start. It's just one more step closer, that's it. It's not a sign that something will happen today, or tomorrow. It's just another signal that "hey, this baby *is* coming...some time. You'll want to get ready while you can."

A serious exercise in patience, open hands, letting go of any pretense of control, trusting the timing that only God knows and has set for my body, focusing on the moment right in front of me right now, not the one that may arrive tomorrow or may arrive two weeks from now. Be as ready as you can be for that moment, but don't get so wrapped up in it that you miss what's happening here. now.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

the village

Ready or not, our second precious baby is due any day now. Due date of November 11th, but I learned after older sister came 8 days past her due date to treat due dates pretty casually. Driving home from a baby shower today, listening to Audrey Assad (that wonderful woman, her words and her voice are pretty muse-like for me...I always find myself thinking deeply), I got a picture in my head of holding Zoe and this new precious babe, but with tears streaming down my face (in the picture). I think the tears were this both/and mixture of overwhelming happiness and overwhelming overwhelm-ed-ness. This time around, I have a much deeper understanding of how utterly, incredibly, helplessly unprepared I feel, and perhaps am. The first time, I had no idea how hard it was going to be, so it was easy to be blissfully unaware of what was coming. It was happy, it was beautiful, and it. was. a. lot. of. work. Nobody can fully prepare you for it.

This time, I come with the knowledge that experience brings. I know the lack of sleep and how that alone invades all other spaces. I am intimately acquainted with how just making it to the end of the day can be something of the miraculous. And I am convinced more now than ever of my need for my God and my village. We left Zoe with friends for a night this weekend, to "get away" for some last-minute rest before this baby arrives. Originally I had hopes of making it to the beach for a sunset while we enjoyed dinner. A long morning and rainy weather threw a wrench in those plans, so instead we rented a hotel room. And we slept. Luxurious is the sleep of those who know they can sleep in the next morning, uninterrupted. Our village let us enjoy luxurious sleep for a day by taking care of Zoe and it was wonderful. 

We needed our village to remember what that kind of sleep was even like. I am learning to depend on my village more in a culture that promotes independence as a top virtue. Independence is good in some contexts - perhaps even most, I would argue - but I have realized even as I teach Zoe how to be independent in learning new skills, I need to be careful that I also teach her that asking for help is equally virtuous, and nothing to disregard. There are lessons and opportunities lost for myself and others when I try to pull myself up by my bootstraps instead of falling back on the steady, waiting arms of those surrounding me in our village. Or the much steadier and ever-waiting arms of my God. I don't want to miss those.

(Who is in your village? For whom are you part of a village? In what ways do you fall back onto your village? In what ways do you refrain from falling back on them? Why?)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

scary

I hear the high chair slide across the tile floor behind me, whipping around just in time to see her hit the floor. Her immediate cries let me know she's probably going to be fine, but will definitely need some comforting.

Scoop up, rub back, allow screams to penetrate eardrums and reach to heart. Not easy watching her endure physical pain, though I am even more fearful of emotional, mental and spiritual pain she will also one day endure. It's can be much more difficult to know exactly how to offer comfort for those situations, and honestly, I know I won't be able to be there for all of them.

I wipe away tears, whispering "you're ok, it's ok...was that a little scary?"

She stops, for a moment. "No, mama, gwig one."

"Gwig one?"

"Yes...gwig one."

"Oh...was it a big scary?"

"Yes, mama, gwig scary."

Moments later, she's back to playing after a discussion about not standing on high chairs, being careful so she doesn't fall. But "big scary" will stick with me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

undeserved love

It bothers me when love is talked about as something that one "deserves" or does not "deserve". When I think about it, love simply is - it depends not on any action of the recipient. This is most obvious to me personally in my relationship with my daughter. Do I love her perfectly? No. But when I really think about it, even when I imagine her potentially doing some of the worst things possible, I can't imagine being able to stop myself from loving her, because my love for her just is. It exists. Would I be crushed? Absolutely. Saddened? Completely. Angry? Yes. But would I stop loving her? I'm only 2 years in to this being a parent thing, but I can't even begin to wrap my mind around how I would begin to stop. There might be a different depth to my love, more of a weight to it perhaps, but it would still be love. In fact, if my love for her could be stopped (and I'm willing to concede that it might be possible, simply because I know I don't love her perfectly), a good portion of the world might say I never really did love her to begin with. We all seem to have this innate knowledge that says that love that can be deserved is no love at all. Already, I love my daughter more and with greater knowledge of the sacrifice of love than I did on the day she was first born.

So when love is talked about as something "deserved" or "undeserved", it makes me feel like love has been cheapened into this thing that can be earned. "Earn" is even a synonym of "deserve" (did I just Google that? Yes, yes I did). One can earn money. One can earn notoriety. One can earn a prison sentence. One can earn points in a game. But one cannot earn love...right?

I guess this bothers me most when applied to God, the one who loves perfectly. I think sometimes when people talk about not deserving God's love, what they really mean is they don't deserve what happened as a result of God's love. There's a song we sing at church that I like, but I can't get past this one part of it that talks about how God "loved a people undeserving". I always get a little stuck there because of these thoughts surrounding love and what it is. The way I see it, it's because of God's love that God took action that we didn't deserve. I certainly don't deserve forgiveness for my sins, but God offers it anyway because of his great love for me - his offer of forgiveness isn't even up to me, it's only within my "control" to accept it. God wants restoration of relationship, and it only happens when forgiveness is offered and taken. But being deserving of God's love is neither here nor there...I'm not sure love is something that can be "deserved".


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

scary

I am in the bathroom when I hear her get up from her nap. I don't open the door right away because, well, 30 more seconds of alone time will be just enough to help me prepare for the rest of the day. I am hiding. but pretty soon she starts to produce whimpering sounds, so I relent, opening the door and calling her name.

"Mommy", she says, pointing toward our room, "I look in der, find mama."
"Oh, were you looking in there for mama?"
"Yeah."
"But you didn't find her?"
"Yeah."
"I'm sorry, babe, I was in here. Did that worry you that you couldn't find me?"
"Is scary, mama."

And you feel that momentary pang of guilt mixed in with reassuring yourself that she was perfectly fine and that 30 second breaks are ok.

joy

being serenaded by "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" sung at the top of her lungs from her perch on the potty as I fold laundry in the bedroom, smiling and thinking about how much I will someday miss how her exuberance fills this space we call our home...reaching to walls, ceilings and spilling over into streets, city, world. It will always have been a privilege for it to have started here, but that kind of joy can't and shouldn't be contained - it must move. Go, little joy! Spill over again and again and again!

Monday, October 13, 2014

home

(photo by Ashley C. Cameron, my cousin)

In the 2+ years that we have now lived in California, I've come to recognize the pattern of missing real fall weather - or fall weather as I grew up knowing it, along with all the fall activities that were a part of my childhood and early adulthood. Crisp fall air, changing leaf colors to brilliant reds, golds, sunny yellows, oranges and every mash-up of those in between, brightening the landscape even as the days slowly darken. Cider aplenty at the grocery store, cider mills running and greasy cinnamon sugar sprinkled donuts to go with, pumpkins ready for the picking. It's possible to not pay too much attention to the changes as they happen, to keep going through daily routines, but even the most focused person would notice if all of these things didn't happen. Just as I notice it every fall when the calendar flips from August to September to October, and still the days are hot, the air is dry, and the only thing that reminds me that fall is technically here is the addition of pumpkin spice flavor to just about any food you can think of.

this is when I most miss home - family and Michigan. I think I always have this steady undercurrent of feeling a bit out of place in California, but fall accentuates this. This past August marked the beginning of our 3rd year living here, and this past week I realized I have been in a kind of bargaining conversation with God during the whole time we have lived here. "Ok, God, I can give you 5-7 years here. I can do that. It's nice - sunny, not terribly difficult to get to for family, good new friends, great food and produce. But 5-7 years, God, do you hear me?" But the question I am afraid to face...what if He wants us here longer? Nope. 5-7 years, right God? 

I have a huge desire to be closer to family. I never really pictured raising my kids 3 time zones away from their grandparents, visiting at Christmas and once in the summer, and maybe even less as traveling becomes more expensive. I never thought, as I navigate the world of being a mom, that my own mom would be more than a car drive away, even if that car drive would take several hours. Our visits will always be planned, never spontaneous, never "hey, I have Friday off, want to get together?" or "hey, we are thinking about a date night this weekend - would you want to take the grandkids for an overnight?" I grow a little jealous of friends here whose families live nearby (which, on my worst days, feels like everyone I know but me), even if relationships with those families seem to be strained sometimes. I am having to learn dependence on friends who started off as strangers. Many of them have been generous. I am not good at being dependent.

That question, though. It is constantly there right now. And I do want to arrive at the place where, if He says He wants us to be here for 15-17 years, or 57 years, that I would not only be ok with it but joyful in it, because we will be right in the center of where He wants us to be, the best place. I'm just not there yet. Not yet home.




Friday, September 5, 2014

fullness

Is it our anniversary? No. A few more months before that. And in between now and then, we have what is shaping up to be a (good) full fall season, including welcoming a new family member into our home. But when you are facing fullness, it can be so, so good to pause and reflect, to stay grounded through that fullness (even if it's a very *good* fullness!). So I love looking back, remembering, refocusing, and repeating the promises we made to each other. Marriage is beautiful and it is hard (my favorite quote about this, from Jamie The Very Worst Missionary goes something like "We've been married for 20 years, but only the first, like, 20 were hard" - ha!). There is much pruning and resulting growth to be done in both of us...and that is good. Love you, Mark Gordon. Looking back at these promises, and looking forward to this full season together.

"...I take you to be my partner in Christ's service.
I will help you develop God's gifts in you,
and work with you for the coming of the kingdom of God.
I will listen with you for God's call on our lives,
that our home may be a place where the good news is proclaimed,
where justice and mercy are lived,
where God's children are welcomed,,
and where God's name is honored..."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

here comes fall

Arriving at the dinner hour tired from lack of sleep, not helped by an anxious attempt at napping this afternoon to try and rally from the previous night's worth of interrupted sleep. But my head is swirling with anxious thoughts, particularly how quickly Zoe is growing up, and how very little I've written in her baby book (plenty on facebook, I know, but I want to be able to hand her a book someday), and how all too quickly I won't be here to witness *all* of her life. Depressing? Yes. Probably because these thoughts are actually connected with depression that comes and goes during different seasons.

I explain it to Mark after picking him up from his first teaching day, which he feels disappointment over. I state how I "made it through" today, and I think in some ways we both feel that. Something in verbalizing how anxious I am about how fast Zoe is growing up brings tears, and as they fall he hugs, and then as is usual, Zoe wants in on the family hug too, all smiles. It helps that she doesn't yet carry many burdens on her shoulders - her smile genuinely bright, without wearied eyes, not trying to gloss over anything hiding behind it. She pushes finger into my face, naming various things - "cheek...eye...wet". Yes, that aptly describes the state of my face right now, sweet pea. Wet with tears from some of the deep, overwhelming thoughts that sometimes invade my mind and that sometimes I am afraid to face. And yet when I see your face, sweet one, smiling brightly without reserve, I can smile genuinely back, through the tears. You bring so much joy to me and your dad, just because you exist.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

so, your toddler refuses to wear Band-Aids

So, your toddler refuses to wear Band-Aids. But she really needs one on her knee for the scab that starts to get busted open every time she climbs up on the stool to see whatever you are up to at the counter. She gets excited about things involving Elmo, even though you've really only let her watch Elmo YouTube clips a handful of times (because you could only hold onto that whole "no screens until 2 years old thing" before you realized that your sanity was also an important part of this mothering equation, and a 15 minute break is not selfish). But you don't have any cool kid Band-Aids with Sesame Street characters on them, and you kinda refuse to spend the money to go get them because you already have the world's largest box of Band-Aids that will take years to get through. So what do you do? Improvise. Get her excited about Elmo being on her Band-Aid by pulling out those colorful Sharpies and drawing something that looks more akin to a creepy red cloud with eyes and an orange nose, but that she readily accepts as Elmo because you keep telling her it is. Then, after you apply the Band-Aid, make as if Elmo-on-her-knee is talking directly to her, and she can say "hi!" back. And then, when she notices that you have an "ouchie" on your leg, be all prepared to apply the same tactics to your own Band-Aid. Stand tall and proud as you sport another poorly-drawn version of something that's supposed to be Elmo, because now you and she have creepy matching "Elmo" Band-Aids at her request, and how many more years will it be before scabs are gone and she doesn't need a stool to get to counter height (if she's even interested in seeing what you're doing) and she wants to do anything but match with you?

Monday, July 14, 2014

parenting fail/success

Parent fail/success: in the busy-ness of Dada getting home, Zoe had gotten hands on a plastic grocery bag. We both are distracted for a moment, then I come around the corner to hear her say "Hiding! Hiding!", plastic bag pulled fully over her head. Immediately I yell "No! No!", Mark echoing as he is right on my heels. We take the bag off, and immediately she is a mess of tears and sobs, scared from our yelling, and not fully understanding what she had done wrong. Poor kiddo probably thought she was being super creative with her hiding "spot", only to have two freaked-out parents yelling at her. It was a good teaching moment ("Plastic bags are dangerous...") but it's hard when you know you scared your kid into crying.

several toddlerhood stages

The various stages of toddlerhood we are at right now:

1. The "I do it!" stage. And whoa, do not try to interfere with this girl - she will snap the top buckle on her own car seat, thank you very much. Especially fun when in a rush.

2. The scream at the top of your lungs for no reason stage.

3. The "oh, you want to put clothes on me so we can go run errands? Let's turn this into a game where I run away in my diaper as soon as I see you getting clothes ready" stage. Nakedness is always preferable.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Target check out lane boy

Standing in the check-out lane tonight, a 7 year old boy with his grandma in front of me. Out of the corner of his eye he sees my (now quite noticeably) pregnant belly, and looks fit to burst with words. I see grandma watch the scene and start to look a little horrified, obviously concerned that her grandson is about to say something that is going to be a touch on the inappropriate side:

Boy: "You're going to have a baby!" he says, pointing straight at my belly.
Me: "Yup, you guessed right!"
[Grandma winces a little behind him].
Boy: "What is it?"
Me: "Well, we don't know if it's a boy or a girl."
Boy: "I think it's a girl."
Me: "Oh yeah? Well, we will have to see!"
Boy: "If it's a girl, you should name her Amy."
Me: "That's a good name - I will have to put it on my list."
Boy: "And if it's a boy, you should name him Jack."
Me: "I like that one too! You're good at thinking of names..."
Boy: "And if it's a girl, her middle name could be Lee. And the last name should be ______________."
Me: "Oh! I hadn't really even thought of middle names yet."

We continue to banter back and forth, as Grandma continues to have a mostly sheepish look on her face, but also one that has a hint of being secretly proud and delighted.

To that Grandma: wear your delight. He was a hilarious chat in the midst of what would have otherwise been a dull and dreary 5 minutes in the checkout lane. And to be honest, if I have a boy (or girl) like him, I'll be pretty delighted myself.

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4th memories

Enjoyed celebrating and watching fireworks with friends tonight (thanks, Smiths! So fun to hang out with you and your gang!) and I remembered the 4th from two summers ago when I was pregnant and I thought for sure the baby would start kicking upon hearing the fireworks, to no avail. Fast forward to tonight, and here's what Zoe has to say about them:

"Yites!" (lights)
"Gwig one! Gwig one!" (Big one! Big one!)
"Wahw!" (Wow!)
"Boom! Boom!"
"Pretty!"
"Yaaaaayyyyy!" (with claps about ten times after they were finished)

There was definitely a little sugar consumption fueling that burst of energy near the end of the day, but it is so fun to think back to two years ago and see and hear how much has changed. She is soaking in everything she can learn!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

the ugly days

And then there are those days when you feel about two inches small as a parent, because you were already in a grumpy mood near the end of the day when your toddler slid the stool over to where you were pitting cherries so she could watch but she ends up slamming it into your bare foot and *damn* that hurt, and you growl "Be careful! Watch where you are going!" with a face that does *not* smile. No, let's be honest...you yell those words. Not in a red-faced way (though you are fully capable of going there), but with an amount of anger that demonstrates a loss of self-control - there's quite a bit more meanness in your tone than you should want. The wave of shame and heartache at not being able to take it back comes fierce and swift, and you start to cry before she even realizes you were mad at her. Scooping her up, you apologize over and over again and say again and again how much you love her, and it's only when she sees your tears that she crumbles and then you both are there in the middle of the kitchen, fingers dripping with cherry juice, eyes dripping with tears, voices wailing. Ok, a little dramatic, but in the moment and with the addition of pregnancy hormones, it sucks. And then, as the parent, your job is also to draw her out of her tears, to distract, but the heartache of the offender stays with you as "nice mommy" comes back and you sing to her and give her bites of juicy cherry. She smiles, laughs, chats on about how the knife you are using to cut the cherries is sharp (I gave birth to the most cautious and observant child ever) and asks for more bits of cherry, and for her the moment is forgotten, forgiven. I wish I could forgive that easily.

And these are the little things you don't post about, because they are wrought with ugly (and I know there are more regrets to come). But these occasionally happen too, alongside the funny days and the dance party days and the cuddly days and all the "please will you stay small?" days. I am so incredibly thankful that we don't live one, long, unending day, but that we get a chance to start another day fresh again: the sun sets, we rest, it rises, we rise again to a new day.




Sunday, June 29, 2014

the restful moments

Only moments before, "Mommy, eyes. Mommy, nose. Mommy, mouf. Mommy, Gamma. Mommy, Jesus. Mommy, hold you. Mommy eyes" as she pokes and prods at my own face, I try by close-eyed example to convince her that a nap would really be a good thing. At the same time, behind my closed eyes, trying to stay awake long enough to retain the motivation I had to get a bunch of things checked off of my to-do list before we tried laying her down for a nap. And then, the moment. She is still, and silent, and the breaths come rhythmically. I know I can safely open my own eyes again because the sandman has stolen her away for what will turn out to be a few brief hours. And yet, I don't want to get up right away - snuggling here in this hard-earned moment is sweet. So, before I get up, there we lay, my arm around her, hers around my neck, sweetly stealing some minutes in today that are restful for both of us.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

world peace

We spent a couple days with Mark's family in Hocking Hills, exploring lots of beautiful rock formations and overhangs, most involving crossing paths with other families of explorers. Zoe has started to point out whenever she sees a "beebee" (baby), and applies the term liberally from newborns to third graders. In order to not incite the wrath of the younger elementary set who I imagine would prefer *not* to be referred to as "beebees", I started to encourage her to refer to kids we see as "friends". On one such hike, she started waving and saying bye bye to just about anyone and everything we crossed paths with on our way back (people, ferns, millipedes), giving a special "bye-bye, fren" to the people we saw. Today, we stopped by a playground where a whole slew of kids on a field trip were enjoying a lunch break recess. We left after only a few minutes on the swing, and on our way back to the car she would turn around about every five steps, wave, and say "bye bye, fren" to the new friends we were leaving behind. Which, you know, means it takes forever to get to the car, but also gives you a little picture of maybe something related to world peace.