Friday, October 28, 2011

Mommy time: the queue

I am developing a strategy for mommy-time.

I have had to set a few ground rules, mostly for myself.

Mommy time rule #1- Keep it simple.

First of all, I need to be able to remember whose turn it is.  There are a million ways to do this, but for me, it has to be simple.  

Here is our simple queue:

Now, when I have 15 minutes to spare, I can invest it in mommy time with the child next in line.

These sweet children are waiting in line on the wall in our dining room.  Now, every time we eat a meal, they have the joy of reminding us whose turn is next for mommy/daddy time.

I might regret providing this opportunity for nagging.  Yet, I think I need to be pestered about this.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

raising awareness: PTSSD

Post Traumatic Sock Sorting Disorder (PTSSD) is an under-diagnosed condition that affects millions of women every year.  

Causes:  Exposure to an excessive quantity of mismatched socks.  Studies show a direct relation between the frequency of exposure, the number of single socks, and the occurrence of PTSSD.
Early studies show a greater incidence of PTSSD in homemaking women with large families.  Generous grandparents may also contribute to this risk, though studies in this area are preliminary.

Affected persons may become confused, angry, despondent, and/or haunted by a pervasive feeling of restlessness.  

Some people exhibit sensitivity to other forms of disorder including but not limited to: tangled hair, sticky floors, non-food items in the fridge, food in the bathroom, frayed rugs, open cupboard doors, fingerprinted windows, crumbs not-swept, books not-shelved, trash not-taken-out, papers not-filed, jackets not-hung, toenails not-clipped, teeth not-brushed, shoes not-in-a-row, and so forth.

Asymmetrical, crooked, or mismatched objects may also elicit feelings of rage or horror.

CALL YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY if feelings of rage erupt into violent action.  
Notify your doctor as soon as possible if you or a loved one who has been exposed to excessive mismatched socks exhibits any of the following behaviors: refusal to speak unless using a sock-puppet, stomping through the house throwing all feet-related items into a garbage bag, attempting to convinced children that mismatched socks are cool, or compulsive lining-up of all things in pairs of two.

Talk-therapy and medication are minimally effective.  
Early studies indicate that a cathartic, sock-related experience may restore the brain to its normal state.  Professionals recommend destroying the sock-box via bonfire or other dramatic destructive ritual.

Bag of socks Pictures, Images and PhotosDoctors recommend that individuals who have experienced a sock-related anger incident or have suffered from PTSSD in the past make every effort to avoid sock-related stress.  Socks should never be purchased for reasons of individual expression or outfit coordination, but judged solely on the warmth provided to the feet.  Any form of sock that disrupts the overall simplicity of the laundry routine should be banned from the home.

PTSSD sufferers are encouraged to avoid the fancy-sock section of the store completely, and buy exclusively those socks which come in a bag.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

standing on my head

 My vocation---motherhood---is before me once again today.  I have a Job, rather, innumerable jobs.  Home-making is one of them, hence the list.

And yet, what if the priorities that drive the list are backwards?

Maybe it is the constant interruptions that are my Job.  Maybe the list is secondary to the real Job, or worse!  Maybe it is just filler, just busy-work, just something to keep my hands busy during the lull in the demands of the Real Job!

As a compulsive checker-offer, this is something that is hard to accept.  But, if children are indeed more important than floors and laundry, then it must be so.

So this morning, I am standing on my head, and trying to force my brain to see things from this backwards perspective.

Give me sight, wisdom, and strength for my job today.  Help me to love these children as you do.  Teach me to delight in those duties that I cannot quantify, those important things that cannot be checked off a list.
In Jesus' name, Amen

Monday, October 24, 2011

A completed task

 1. Do whatever will snowball if not done immediately.
Get interrupted. Do something else instead, then go back to the first thing.

2.  Do whatever is annoying me the most.
Get interrupted. Do something else first, then go back to number 2, not immediately, but when the thing annoys you again.

3. Do something ahead of time for dinner because I won’t have the energy this afternoon.
Get interrupted.  Go back to this one in the afternoon when you remember you did not eat lunch.

4.  Get out the thing that will keep them busy for a few minutes while I do another thing.
Get interrupted.  The thing needs fixin'.

5.  Do something on the list in the room where the children are playing because they are starting to act acting like they need me.
Get that almost done before another interruption.  This one is contains bodily fluids, and so goes immediately to the top of the list.

6. Do the thing the loudest child has been loudly pestering me to do all morning.
Get interrupted- by the baby this time.

7.  While they eat lunch, do the thing that I have to do if we are gonna make it.
Food-throwing, fighting, or spills might try to interrupt, but I REFUSE to be sidetracked at this point. I must get ONE thing done from start to finish or I will go CRAZY!

Later in the evening, as I am microwaving something for dinner, I discover my cold coffee there. When the children are in bed, I walk across my half-clean floors, and the crunching noise annoys me.  I rebel, and I keep my eyes fixed on the goal.  I sit in front of the computer, and I write a sentence.  

There it is in its glory---Subject, verb, punctuation mark--- a thought, with a beginning, middle, and end.  It is beautiful.  It is complete.  It turns into a paragraph, or a blogpost.  

Then, I click "publish."

And the children, they sleep.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Godly interruptions

It is funny how quickly comments like this: “Just go play for a second while I finish this one email sweetie,” turn into this: “I SAID GO PLAY!!!” Sometimes I have such patience for kids being kids, and other times I seem to have none at all. What makes the difference?

I think it has something to do with how I look at my time. As C.S. Lewis said:
Men are not angered by misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied…Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him.

Being a highly task-oriented person, I start most days with a mental list of things to do with “my time.” I seem to remember days with one or two kids that I could still “get things done” even with the babies around. I am a multi-tasker: I can praise the toddler artwork, respond to emails, talk on the phone, help someone with a puzzle, and make lunch all at the same time. As long as everyone cooperates and lets me do what I need to do, things go smoothly. But when “my time” is interrupted, especially by toddler fights, whines, or other inconveniences, things start to fall apart. I get angry and frustrated; annoyed to be distracted once again from my never-ending list of things I need to do.

In the book Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis writes imaginary letters between demons who are working to mislead and corrupt a Christian. After making the above insight on anger, Screwtape gleefully describes how easy it is to frustrate human beings by simply encouraging the notion “my time is my own.”

He comments:
The assumption which you want him to go on making is so absurd that, if once it is questioned, even we cannot find a shred of argument in its defense. The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and the moon as his chattels. He is also, in theory, committed to a total service of the Enemy; and if the Enemy appeared to him in bodily form and demanded that total service for even one day, he would not refuse. He would be greatly relieved if that one day involved nothing harder than listening to the conversation of a foolish woman; and he would be relieved almost to the pitch of disappointment if for one half hour in that day, the Enemy said, “Now you may go and amuse yourself.” Now, if he thinks about this assumption for a moment, even he is bound to realize that he is actually in this situation every day.

Our time is not our own, not really, and we have little say in how we spend it most days. Although I planned to catch up on bills and emails today, apparently God wants me to care for a sick child instead.  I can call this an interruption of "my" time, or I can try to see this as a clear direction from God as to what I am to do with myself today.  "Do what is in front of you, daughter." 

Somtimes what I thought was going to be "in front of me" changes at the last minute.  This unpredictability that is necessarily part of motherhood is something I find terribly frustrating.  It's enough to make me impatient, or angry, and it is enough to move me to prayer.

Father, open my eyes to the gift of each moment. Help me to make shorter lists, to remember that Your plans for my day may not be what I expect. When “interruptions” come in to my day, help me to look to you for patience, and equip me to meet those needs that you place in front of me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

labor pains

So here I am again, in my third trimester. 
I am pregnant not with child, but with book. 

The joys of conception are past.  The wonderful first movements of the storyline grew into chapters.  Chapters grew into a completed draft.  The editorial ultrasound revealed health and promise, and now I sit, heavy, with a completed manuscript.

Now I am uncomfortable.  I am being stretched in odd places.  I know nothing about pursuing publishers or designing book covers or marketing or self publishing.  I'd like to just find a shortcut, really, and get the delivery over with as quickly and painlessly as possible.  And I'd like it all done before Christmas.

Oh how I hate third trimester.

I have named my baby though, and I am ready to share that with you.  Are you ready?

Weak and Loved: A mother-daugther love story

It is the story of God's care for Aggie and me during our year of epilepsy and trial.

I'd love it if you would pray for my "baby" until she is born.  Also, if you are someone with advice on this kind of "child"birth, I would recieve it with the gratitude and humility of a first time mother.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Last night, I slept in the bedroom of my childhood.  I closed my eyes to the familiar sounds of late-night TV.

I opened the familiar window next to the bed that was once a bunk bed.  The rain sounds, smells, just the same.

This morning, I woke to the familiar cry of the baby.
While I was still stretching, grandma scooped him up.  I stretched in unfamiliar freedom and quiet.  I slept again. 

Later, an event even more abnormal.  In peace, I took a shower.  I was alone, all alone, from start to finish; I got dressed, even brushed my hair and my teeth- all without a single interruption.

It is so nice to be a mother mothered by a mother.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another lesson from little boys

After I got what I needed from the bathroom cupboard, my gleeful little helper toddled to the door to close it for me.  The latch is broken, but it stays shut on its own, when it is closed in a normal, calm fashion.  The child gave the door a happy slam.   

It bounced back open.

Another slam. Another bounce.

He tried the yell-and-slam.  The door bounced open again, condescendingly.

He screamed, affronted, but undeterred.  The door refused to submit, and it opened again in violent defiance of the two-year-old.

As rage boiled in his blood and cries of unintelligible fury came from his mouth, I scooped him in my arms and dragged him out of the room.  I was, of course, concerned for his victim.  The cupboard door may not withstand another attack.

He arched his back, defying me and railing against all that is evil in the world. 
I set him on the couch.  He jumped down and ran as fast as his legs would take him, back to the cupboard, back to the challenge.

He grabbed the door with both hands.  Forces unspeakable boiled in him and poured out in one last loud, raging effort.  SLAM!

Silence.  Behold, the boy was satisfied.

The door sat, open and silent, but its refusal to close was a feeble attack on his happiness.
The whole-hearted, whole-bodied door slam was cathartic.  The inner evil had been released.  Now, he could move on with his day.

Lesson learned:
Sometimes, it just feels good to slam stuff.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Expectant child-rearing

"I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;

            In pain shall you bring forth children."
Genesis 3:16

            The curse of labor is only the beginning of the curse, I fear.  Not just labor, but the whole of motherhood surely would have been much more joyful had there been no fall and no sin.
            Imagine the joy of raising children in a truly safe world; never having to worry about car seats or riding bikes in the road or wearing helmets.  Imagine not having to carry around bandages and emergency phone numbers; not having to learn CPR; not needing health insurance.
            Imagine the joy of raising children without selfish hearts!  Imagine raising a young man whose desire to serve others grew right along with his muscles.  Imagine seeing the beauty of an innocent daughter, as she changed from a sweet little girl to a pretty young lady, and being able to simply delight in her as she blooms; free of the shadow of worry, not wondering whether she will misuse her beauty, or whether some boy would trample it underfoot and break her heart.
            Imagine really, fully loving a child, with a love that never got confused with a selfish desire to possess.  Imagine a delight in every achievement, a joy in the work of God displayed in the uniqueness of your own dear child--- and imagine your heart so large as to feel that mix of joy and praise in the accomplishments of all children.
            Imagine a willing and joyful letting-go at the proper time, and a perfect harmony between the good of the child and the happiness of the mother.  Imagine simply enjoying each grace-filled moment as it came, and then cheerfully releasing it only to accept the blessing of the next season of life. 
            Imagine all of this done without fear.  Imagine not dreading the change of seasons, not fearing the chill of death itself.
            Of course, this is not real life.  The cold shadow of sin us threatens us inside and out.
            In pain do we bring forth children, and in pain do we bring them up. 
            Epidurals do not help with the rest.

            Yet, God did not leave us to this.  He came forth into our pain, He grew up in pain, and He suffered and died in pain. 
            His resurrection announced the coming end of our pain.
            So like a woman in labor, the entire creation groans.  We cry out, the earth cries out, and we wonder together if we have been forsaken.  Yet, soon we will find ourselves relieved.  We will experience for ourselves that which we cannot now imagine.

            Praise God, fellow mothers in pain: The promise is for us and our children.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

keeping score

For evils have encompassed me
   beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
   and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
   my heart fails me.

(Psalm 40:12)

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
   O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

(Psalm 130:3-4)

Friday, October 7, 2011

mommy time

It is not reasonable, nor is it healthy, for one child to have all of mom's undivided attention, ALL of the time.

But it is reasonable, and healthy, to make sure each child gets mom's undivided attention, some of the time.

Don't get me wrong, I love my large family.  I see every day how the brothers and sisters are good for each other.  They give each other thousands of opportunities for social interaction, teach each other life lessons early and often, and in many ways, help round out some of the rough edges of each personality.  (Sometimes a gentle rounding-off, sometimes more of a chopping-off, but you get the general idea.)

We all are good for each other.  I love when we are all together, and our love and energy naturally pours out into chaotic talking, teasing, laughing, and playing.

But listening?
Around here, it is not so natural.

It is hard for me, not only for the children.
It is hard for me to patiently hear a child recount the story read at school, reenact the fall off the monkey bars, or give me an update on everybody's runny noses...especially when all of these stories are entering my ears at once.

I want to be a mother who listens. I want my children, each child, to have some time they can count on when I am really "all ears."  After all, if they can barely manage to get my attention with a big loud story about dodge ball, how will they ever get me to hear the more quiet struggles in their little hearts?

There are logistical hurdles to work out, but I am going to try to come up with some ideas.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Father, I am so used to using my hands to serve these children.  
Teach me make them stop moving sometime, that I may also love them with my ears.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

power struggle

I hit the ground running, and kept running all day.  This is not unusual by any means.  Some days it doesn't bother me at all.  On this day it did.

All day, that list guided my next move-- the never ending list of urgent things.  There is a written list, and a constantly regenerating list made by the children roaming about my home.  Pick up this, clean that, discipline him, answer that, cook this, fold that, bandage this, read that, wipe this, snuggle that, and on and on and on and on!

It's enough to make a person start talking to herself!

"When is there going to be MORE time?  Or a shorter list?"

"NEVER.   Never EVER."

"ARG! So how in the world am I going to make it?"

(clueless pause)

"Well, self, what would you do with more time?"

"That's easy!  I'd have some ME time!  I'd read more!  I'd spend some time just soaking up my kids!  I would sit down and catch my breath for five lousy minutes!"

"Are you really going to wait until your list is completely cleared to do those things?  Give me a reason why you can't just do one of those things today."

Well..... (silence.)

"See what happens, self.  Take five minutes, and walk away from the list.  Breathe.  Pray.  Remind yourself that YOU are the boss of the list.  The list is not the boss of you."

(Breathing, relaxing, smiling. )  "Hey! This relaxing stuff really works!"

"See! I told you the world wouldn't fall apart if you walked away from the list!"

Wrong.  I just put "breathe" on my list.  See?

"Self, you're impossible."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why bother.

To the untrained eye, it seemed he was sleeping.  He sat sideways on my lap, and his head seemed to rest innocently on me.  His legs dangled down, his shoulders were completely relaxed, and his arms sat limply on each side of him.  His mouth hung open slightly, and his eyes were nearly closed. 

I am amazed at the information this child can gather with nearly-closed eyes. 

The sweet looking blob of child on me was a puddle of trouble-making rebellion.   A tiny twitch of a finger knocked a brother's book the floor.  A innocent repositioning of a small leg removed a shoe.  A scratching of the forehead allowed for a repositioning of the finger of the child just an inch closer to the brother.  A silent fight between brothers over the fingers on one coveted square-inch of the pew.  A lazy stretch of the arm allowed fingers to discover the ribbons of the hymnal and begin stealth tangling.  A slow slouch, slouch, slouch of the child, until I reposition the uncooperative dead weight uncomfortably once more.  Another slouch, slouch, slouch, and I rebel.  The blob makes a thunderous fall off my lap on to the floor.

Will I ever be able to sit in church and give God's Word my full attention?  How can I be expected to do my job if I don't get even this ONE  moment's peace to be fed and encouraged myself?

His floppy troublemaking continued throughout the service.  I tried to listen and pray and manage him all at once.  Each quiet, strategic wiggle amplified my inner grumbling and frustration.  He was so seemingly quiet and passive in body, but in spirit, he dug in heels of loud defiance.

Listening was impossible.  It took all my energy to contain his sin, and stifle my own.  I attempted to pray for him, too.  I did not receive super-strong patience.  He did not submit.

The Divine Service flowed along, with mother and son moving heedlessly along its current.  Soon we were swept with the others to the front, still wrestling, resenting, rebelling.

Body and blood, given for you, mother. 
In the waters of your Baptism, son, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always.

Again, He invaded.  We did not come to Him.  He poured Himself out, allowed His very self to flow down into our messy lives.  On my failings as a mother, on his struggles as a son, Jesus poured out forgiveness, life, healing.  The balm was placed right on the wound.

For you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

No more mindless ironing!

Chores that bore me are suddenly finished, and I hardly notice that the effort was mine!  No more must my mind starve while my hands work!  Never again will I put off the ironing because it bores me TO TEARS!  I no longer have to look wistfully at the pile of books I will never find time to read! I can listen to them! (at least, some of them!)

Introducing, my newest delight:

- books! Tons of classics!
(I am listening to a novel by George MacDonald right now!  How did I miss this guy in college? )

Great is His faithfulness!
Behold, His marvelous deeds!
He has poured out knowledge and technology on an undeserving people!

My eyes behold the IPOD,
my ears hear the blessed music,
my brain feasts on the glorious podcasts!

What are mothers, that you are mindful of them?
Daughters of mothers, that you care for them?
For you have filled our homes with children,
our bellies with food,
and our ears with the fruits of new technology!

Great, great is the Lord!
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