Monday, 29 April 2013

All the reason I need

I try to slip into bed quietly, but every night she stirs anyway. She squirms over until her forehead is pressed against mine and I breathe deep, inhaling her perfect baby scent. That moment, every night, is one of the most beautiful moments of my day.

And that right there? Is all the reason I need.

In that moment, nearly overwhelmed by my love for her, it matters not why we chose to welcome her into our bed since the day she was born. I'm not thinking about breastfeeding success or healthy attachment or even just getting some extra sleep; ultimately, she's there simply because I love having her there.

Oh, I appreciate those other reasons during the less magical moments. It gives me peace to know why we decided this was the best choice for our family. I think of those reasons on the nights - because yes, they come - when I don't want to be touched. I remind myself of them when I want to shove my husband off one side of the bed and the child off the other side and do a happy dance right there in the middle of all that the gloriously empty space.

Just keepin' it real, folks.

But those more objective head-level reasons aren't the real ones. The real ones are all heart, baby. I simply love snuggling with her warm and solid little self. I love kissing her soft hair and ample cheeks as she breathes the deep breath of sleep. I love watching her Daddy quietly lean over to kiss her goodnight before turning off the lamp. I love it when she drifts off with her chubby hand resting on my arm or her pointy toes pressed into the soft skin of my thrice-stretched belly. I love hearing her giggle in her sleep and being able to comfort her without a second's delay when she cries out suddenly.

She's delightful during the day, but something about the nighttime adds a special bit of magic to her.

And I wouldn't miss it for all the extra bed space in the world.

Just writing along with The EO...

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Weekend Reading

Lectio divina: paying attention @ Simple Mom
One of my favorite definitions of prayer is that it is the practice of paying attention. Not merely that you must pay attention while you’re praying, but that prayer itself is the act of attending: to God, but also to the beauty – and ugliness – before us.

Paying attention is the precursor to so many critical virtues: how can I be grateful or compassionate or wise or loving if I have not first paid attention?

...I cannot multi-task when I’m practicing lectio divina. It doesn’t miraculously quiet “monkey mind,” but this small act of reverence is also a powerful form of resistance. I will not let technology and bad habits encumber my spirit. I refuse to accept that my attention can only and ever be divided.

If we cultivate our ability to pay attention, I haven’t a single doubt that we will indeed be astonished. We won’t merely tell better stories; we will live better stories.

Opening Up the GD Toolbox: Connection @ Dulce de leche
I described every time I could remember being frustrated with my own little sister when I was his age, and how terribly unfair it seemed to me that she would provoke me until I retaliated and then got in trouble. I gave every detail I could remember of our squabbles. He listened and became more and more engaged. I could see him biting his lips to hold in a chuckle as I recounted my exasperation and some of the vengeance I had taken.

My first inclination was to moralize and say what I should have done. It took every ounce of self control that I have not to turn it into a sermon. And I am so glad that I didn't. He began to thoughtfully offer suggestions to avoid conflict. I countered with things that she might have done to continue annoying me. He dug right into the challenge and brainstormed creative ways to handle it peacefully. Then he hugged me tight and told me he loved me.

I could see the tension leave him as he began to believe that I really, truly understood his side of it.

Faithful Parenting – Jennifer McGrail @ Parenting Wild Things
I have made mistakes as a parent, to be sure. I will continue to make mistakes. But when I’m there in that moment, on my knees, at the end of my proverbial parenting rope, the answer is there: More patience. More compassion. More kindness. More mercy. More Jesus. The Bible is, at its a core, a book about love, redemption, and grace. Love and redemption and grace so deep and so wide that we will likely spend our entire lives trying to understand it. The only way we can even begin to understand it is by living it. And there is no better place to start than with our own families, and with our own children.
[Also meriting particular mention is Faithful Parenting – Luke and Jill Harms, another selection from Parenting Wild Thing's Faithful Parenting series.]

Every Spiritual Home (a Riff) @ Internet Monk
A miraculous thing can happen to grown-ups on a faith journey. We come to appreciate moments from our past faith community, as different as it may be from our current one. We may recall a special Sunday school teacher who taught us the “sacred writings” in our childhood.
That is why when people join our church, we always say, “We give thanks for every community that has ever been your spiritual home.”
[With thanks to our pastor and his family as they move on to a new ministry in a new city this weekend...we will miss you greatly.]

Pick up your baby! Do to them what you would have done to you! @ I Take Joy
All of us, at some time or another, have been taught the golden rule, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets”. Matthew 7:12

And yet, it seems we forget this when we raise our children. Many moms have been told, “You will spoil your baby. You need to establish discipline now. You need to show your baby who is the boss.” And so moms become afraid to do the wrong thing - they do not want to raise a spoiled, selfish child, and so they start out feeling they need to be a policeman figure in their children’s lives instead of a mentor, guide, trainer, lover, encourager.
[Also, Sally's follow-up post Peace, Rest, Grace to all you Sweet Mamas! is beautifully encouraging.]

Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable...and Kind of Makes Me Angry @ Little Drops
Brave, strong, smart? Not enough. You have to be beautiful. And “beautiful” means something very specific, and very physical. Essentially every movie and tv show and commercial shows us that, right? It doesn’t matter what other merits a woman posses, if she is not conventionally attractive, she is essentially worthless (go watch Miss Representation for more thoughts on this). And my primary problem with this Dove ad is that it’s not really challenging the message like it makes us feel like it is. It doesn’t really tell us that the definition of beauty is broader than we have been trained to think it is, and it doesn’t really tell us that fitting inside that definition isn’t the most important thing. It doesn’t really push back against the constant objectification of women. All it’s really saying is that you’re actually not quite as far off from the narrow definition as you might think that you are (if you look like the featured women, I guess).

Beautiful Catastrophe: The Death and Rebirth of Becoming a Mother @ BlogHer Moms
You’re sitting in the house a few weeks after your perfect baby is born...Your belly is still sagging. Your boobs are exploding. You’re bleeding still, maybe, but you’re definitely leaking milk. There are big pools of it on your bed and couch and everywhere. You don’t really sleep, but rather fade in and out of a half-sleep, alongside your baby, checking him every hour, acutely aware of his breath, as if it were a freight train roaring through the room: Do I hear it? Yes, I hear it.

You remember when your body was just your own and you were thinner and felt contained and like the owner of your boobs and vagina and life. You remember having a couple shots of tequila or maybe a cigarette with some friends, and you did it like it was nothing, never knowing it was somebody who was going to stand like an old friend some day, a thousand miles away.

We were free and young and somebody else.

But now, we’re mothers.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Today you are six

You woke up this morning to balloons everywhere, because it's your birthday and birthdays demand balloons. Or, at least, you did, last night when you asked me if there'd be balloons like there were on my last birthday and I just smiled and winked and said you'll see. Balloons on the walls, on the floor, on sticks (which I regretted all the day long, four kids here and all those sticks just searching for someone's eyeball), even stuck in the jar of yellow tulips currently brightening up our kitchen. Yes, my love, balloons just like there were on your last birthday.

Ah, my love. You chided me recently when I called your brother that - you can't call him "my love" because he's a boy, and only girls can be "my love" - but you had no answer when I asked you why. You're deciding that some things are "girl things" and some things are "boy things", and that's okay because it's all part of figuring out who you are and where you fit in in this crazy world. You had a friend inform you not long ago that pink was a "girl's colour" and so you decided that your favourite colour was now red instead. At home, though, where you're safe and free, you still asked for pink icing on your cake as you shared your sparkly strings of beaded necklaces with your little brother. The two of you made fine royalty with your "jewels" around your neck and your wooden swords in hand.

And so a pink cake it was. Chocolate on the inside, because of course, and quinoa too because your mom's a little weird, sorry. The dinosaur sprinkles on top finished it off perfectly. We baked it and decorated it together; you even pointed out where you wanted me to place your candles. You chose spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic bread for dinner, then hummed happy birthday to yourself as I lit the candles on your cake. You blew half of them out as soon as I set it in front of you, the rest of us only just beginning to sing, and you blew out the remainder when the song was over. Your Oma and Opa joined us, making it a real party around the table.

We'll pick up the party again on Saturday, head over to the pool because being six means you can finally, at long last, go on that waterslide you've been eyeing ever since you were three. Yes, half your life you've waited for this day, and I can't wait to watch that first much-anticipated slide. You asked for your dearest friend and her family to join us, and they said yes even though they've moved out of the city; we are truly blessed with the best sort of friends, aren't we?

It struck me today that turning six meant we were already a third of the way to 18. I only get to do this whole raising you thing two more times over and then you're an adult, and I know my role doesn't end at that moment but it will certainly change. These first six years have passed just as quickly as everyone warned me they would, and I have made so very many mistakes. But oh child, you are a delight. Helpful and kind, thoughtful and loving, some days I wonder at the person you are becoming in spite of my failures. I notice the way you let your little brother help open your gifts so he doesn't feel left out, the way your biggest smiles are always saved for your baby sister, the way you write little notes to those you love, so many other things that show you for the caring person you are. You ask hard questions and my answers never quite feel like enough, but you listen so seriously all the same.

Right now you're laying awake in your room, ever my night owl, listening to music while your brother sleeps beside you. Your tastes are eclectic; today it was Great Big Sea and The Beatles, while tomorrow could just as likely be Fred Penner or a Curious George audio book. Your first mixed CD is still your favourite, though, because bagpipes and hymns and Christmas music and 50s rock should definitely be played at every opportunity.

You, this firstborn child of mine, are the most fascinating creature I have yet to meet. Thank you for leading me so gently through all these motherhood firsts. Happy birthday, my darling. I love you so much more than I can say.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Diaper Cover Conversion: Velcro to Snaps

Baby girl has officially outgrown her smaller prefolds and diaper covers, but I've been reluctant to bring out the bigger size. I knew the velcro was nearly non-functional on all of the diaper covers, and I just didn't want to deal with covers that didn't close securely. So I put it off. I've been using disposables in the meantime, but of course that means both more waste and more money.

Also, more blowouts. Gross.

I am not a fan of Velcro or Aplix diaper closures. The Velcro/Aplix gets full of junk, they don't fasten as securely as snaps do, they catch on things, and they just end up being a frustrating mess (and yes, I do use the laundry tabs). I replaced the velcro on half of them when my last baby was in them, but it didn't hold up well and I didn't even bother with the remaining ones. Why replace the velcro only to do it again for the next baby?

I tried to ignore it a bit longer, but then I watched poor girl crawling along the carpet one day. Because the velcro no longer closed all the way, the end of the tabs caught on the carpet each time she moved. She sounded like our old cat as she walks across the room, rip rip rip, nails catching the carpet with each step. The velcro had to go.

I debated for a while. Bummis now sells snap-closure covers (kudos to them!), but I didn't really want to invest in new covers when these ones (Bummis Super Whisper Wraps) were, velco aside, perfectly fine. The elastic is great, they don't leak, and if I could just fix the velcro they'd be perfect.

So if I wasn't going to replace the covers, I needed to figure out the best way to fix them up. Our local fabric store has recently added some cloth diaper making supplies to their stock, but the snap pliers had poor reviews. So even though it meant I couldn't pick them up locally, I went ahead and ordered the KamSnaps pliers and a few (*ahem* hundred) snaps.

While I waited for my snap pliers to arrive, I unpicked the velcro from the diaper covers, including the laundry tab. It all came off quite easily. I snipped off the velcro on each side of the front piece, as it was sewn directly into the diaper seam and I didn't want to mess with that. I just clipped it as close to the seam as I could and called it good.

Once the velcro was removed, I noticed that the diaper tabs were showing quite a bit of wear. There was some stretching, the polyester fabric was rubbing off the laminate in places, and some of the removed stitching had left noticeable holes behind.

I had bought a small amount of plain PUL from the fabric shop, so I used that to reinforce the tabs. I simply cut out the rough shape of the tab and hand-stitched it on.

(Yes, I hand-stitched it. I tried to use my sewing machine, but apparently PUL is finicky to work with and I didn't have the correct needle. Machine-sewing would, of course, have been much faster, but I don't have great swaths of time in which to do this sort of thing and having to set it all aside to make another trip to the store simply wasn't going to happen. For future reference, have a #9 ballpoint needle handy if you want to use your machine to sew with PUL.)

I used a double layer of PUL on the tabs, which made three layers of PUL in which to embed the snap. This served the triple purpose of covering the holes left from the old stitching, strengthening the tabs, and providing greater reinforcement for the snap. Use polyester thread rather than cotton to prevent wicking.

Then came the big day: The snap pliers arrived. Made my day. It's the little things.

I used a strip of a cereal box to make a template. I set 6 holes for the snaps 3 cm apart on the first diaper. I wasn't unhappy with it, but after trying it on the baby, I decided a slight bit more flexibility would have been useful, so I set 8 snaps 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart on the remaining diapers. Then I tried the cover on the baby again, used a pen to mark where the tab snap should go, and set one snap in each tab.

Done! The snap pliers worked amazingly well. Each of the 48 snaps set perfectly the first time. No regrets at all over this purchase. All in all, it was still cheaper than outright replacing the covers, and I have so many other projects that I intend to use the pliers on as well (starting with a few of these adorable dress-to-romper conversions). Oh, the possibilities.

Need more details? Check out these excellent tutorials:
Cloth Diaper Conversion – Velcro to Snaps Tutorial
bumGenius Snap Conversion

Linking up with Your Green Resource...

Friday, 5 April 2013

Weekend Reading

The sacred messiness @ Simple Mom
As you start this new week, may you choose to see that the little interruptions in your life that need nose wipes, diaper changes, homework help, or one-on-one time on the couch are not, in fact, interruptions. They are the sum of your days. These beings called to your care are your current calling, and while they’re not the only part of your calling, they’re enough to not wish away the little inconvenient tasks inherent with parenting.

And So I'll Heal @ Rosmarinus Officinalis
I struggle to find the balance with you that I never had with my own mother. That respect of who you are, that valuing of your voice, that freedom to oppose me without shame. I want to be your safe place. I want you to walk away from our conversations feeling filled and comforted...You have filled me and broken me in so many ways, and I feel God’s hand in the filling and breaking and I pray for the healing to come.

And heal I will. Because you are worth it. He is worth it. I might be able to chin up and stomp forward without truly facing the ghosts, but I’ll be damned if my anger and grief is going to come out sideways onto those I love best. And so I’ll heal for all of us.

10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling At My Kids @ The Orange Rhino
So I share with you the top 10 things that I learned from my Orange Rhino Challenge where I promised to not yell at my 4 boys for 365 days straight...

10. Not yelling feels awesome.
Now that I have stopped yelling, not only do I feel happier and calmer, I also feel lighter. I go to bed guilt-free (except for the extra cookie I ate that day, oops) and wake-up more confident that I can parent with greater understanding of my kids, my needs, and how to be more loving and patient. And I am pretty sure my kids feel happier and calmer too. I know everyone wants to read, “I stopped yelling and not only do I feel great, but also my kids are now calmer AND perfectly behaved.” Well, they aren’t. They are still kids. But, yes tantrums are shorter and some are completely avoided. Now that I am calmer, I can think more rationally to resolve potential problems before meltdown mania. But forget perfectly behaved kids for a second. My kids are most definitely more loving towards me, and now tell me quite often “I love you Orange Rhino mommy!” and that feels more than awesome, it feels phenomenal.

The Absurd Legalism of Gender Roles: Exhibit C – “As long as I can’t see her...” @ Rachel Held Evans
Piper argues that a woman can teach a man so long as her teaching is “impersonal,” “indirect,” and “removed” — essentially, so long as it is easy for him to forget she is a woman.

Regarding a woman who has written a biblical commentary, he explains: “She’s not looking at me, and directing woman. There is this interposition of this phenomenon called ‘book’ that puts her out of my sight and, in a sense, takes away the dimension of her female personhood, whereas if she were standing right in front of me and teaching me as my shepherd...I couldn’t make that separation."

As a woman, I find this profoundly dehumanizing.

No, as a human being, I find this profoundly dehumanizing.

Piper is essentially arguing that so long as he does not have to acknowledge my humanity, so long as I keep a safe distance so he is unaware of the pitch of my voice and the presence of my breasts, he can, perhaps, learn something about the Bible from me. So long as I am not “in-his-face” (his words) with my femaleness, it will be easier for him to treat me as someone worth learning from; it will be easier for him to treat me like a man.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

What I Am Into - March 2013

What I Am Into :: MARCH 2013

On My Nightstand:

I finished Kathleen Norris's The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work", and it was consistently lovely throughout. There were so many beautiful gems of wisdom, and I'm certain I'll be picking it up again and again in hopes of letting a bit more of that wisdom sink in deeper.

I also read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, which has been on my shelf waiting to be picked up for years. I needed something a bit more mindless than the non-fiction books I've been slogging my way through lately, and this was perfect. It was a quick and easy read while still being engaging.

The boys and I are currently reading The Burgess Animal Book for Children as our daytime read-aloud. We finished Holling's Pagoo last month, which follows the life of a hermit crab from birth through adulthood in a fictionalized but highly accurate and detailed manner. The illustrations in Pagoo were incredible, and one chapter was never enough. The Burgess Animal Book, while lacking the beautiful illustrations, is similar in its presentation of scientific facts through storytelling. Quite enjoyable.

On the screen:

Well, I finally sat down and watched the final two Twilight movies. It had to be done. While there was some improvement between the first movie and the last, it wasn't enough to prevent a good deal of cringing and mocking. Sorry, Twihards.

As for TV shows, we're pretty much squealing over the return of weekly Doctor Who episodes. WE LOVE YOU, DOCTOR!!!

Speaking of the Doctor, the darling husband was away recently and returned bearing gifts for each of us.

(Except the baby. He totally skipped over her. He's basically the worst dad ever.)

(Just kidding.)

Anyway. Returned bearing gifts, yadda yadda yadda, and I now drink my far-too-frequently-consumed hot chocolate out of a mug with a heat-sensitive vanishing TARDIS. Which is basically awesome. So there you go.

Oh! One last one, because more happy laughter is always a good thing: Paint. Go watch. Laugh. Watch some more. Laugh some more.

You're welcome.

In My Kitchen:

These coconut oil chocolates had been calling to me from Pinterest for a full eight months, so it was About Time when I finally made them last month. Totally worth it. They were so fast and so delicious. Perfect to keep on hand for guilt-free satisfaction when those chocolate cravings hit!

Also gracing my kitchen right now is a jar of tulips. They make me kinda ridiculously happy every time I walk by them. It's the little things.

You know what's not in my kitchen? The half bag of surplus Mini Eggs left over after we stuffed the Easter eggs yesterday. What can I say? Those things are like beautiful little pieces of Easter crack. No regrets.

In My Ears:

Where to start? I went a little crazy with an iTunes gift card I'd been hanging onto since Christmas, and NoiseTrade had some excellent offerings this month as well.

Let's start locally. Guys, you have to listen to this album, and then buy it, and then listen to it over and over again. Because it's just that good. Or, at least, it's perfect for me right now. I turning into one of those old folks who can't handle all the noise in music these days. Tom Wuest is so beautifully mellow and simple and calm. There's no irritating rattles or overwhelming drums or anything. Just lovely lyrics and simple instrumentation, perfect for quiet devotional time or personal worship. I'll definitely be checking out his other two albums as well.

Josh Garrels and Page CXVI both had albums on Noisetrade in March, which was of interest to me since both have been on my radar lately. While I have some favourites from each of them, I can't say I'm super enthused about any particular album as a whole. Still, Josh Garrels' "Farther Along" is one of my current top ten songs, so that's definitely something.

But back to albums I'm super excited about, I absolutely adore A is for Adoption on NoiseTrade. This incredible album, which I listened to basically all the way to Edmonton, is a compilation to celebrate the life and adoption of Marcus James Norsworthy (which was made official last week, praise God!). All of the artists and bands featured have donated their songs to help to raise money for Marcus's adoption expenses. Download the album, leave a tip to support the Norsworthys, and then head to their adoption blog to find out more about their story.

Okay, I'm almost done, I promise. Just two more.

I won the second volume of Hidden in my Heart: Scripture Lullabies in a giveaway recently, the news of which I received just as I was considering buying it myself! So that was neat. The CD is beautiful. I love having it playing in the background during the day. I always get ridiculously excited over kids' CDs that are actually enjoyable to listen to - as in, I listen to this one even when the kiddos aren't around. That's good music, that is.

Finally, and on a completely different note, there's my guilty pleasure: P!nk. What can I say? I think she's awesome. I went to purchase her most recent album, The Truth About Love, and discovered that I'd missed hearing about her release of Funhouse a few years back. Two new albums to rock out to after the kids are asleep? Yes, please!

(Okay, I'm going to cheat on my "just two more" promise and toss out that I've also been enjoying some Sandra McCracken and Sara Groves lately. Check them out too if you haven't already.)

(Alright, I'm done now. For real.)

What I'm Looking Forward to in April:

This is really the boy's month. He turns six (six!) in just a couple of weeks. He starts soccer this month, which he is so excited about. (I was rooting for circus school, personally, but then his dad mentioned soccer and there was no changing his mind after that. What is it with kids having minds of their own? Sheesh.)

Other than that, it's kinda of a downer of a month, with a couple of farewell parties as our church officially shuts down and our former pastor and his family leave the country. It's a strange and sad feeling, having nowhere to go this Sunday, our first one on our own. Disorienting, I think is the best word to describe it. So we'll be figuring that all out too, which I guess could be something to look forward to (but not likely, if past church hunting experience is any indicator). Still, God is God and He is always faithful, never changing, our rock in this disorienting season.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?

Linking up to What I'm Into with HopefulLeigh...

Monday, 1 April 2013

Where my hope is found

I drove the kids 1145 kilometers to spend a week at West Edmonton Mall with my family. It was worth every "I spilled my water bottle!" and "I dropped my crayons!" and "I'm still hungry!" and "He's touching me again!" along the way. It was worth the long days and late nights. It was worth braving the cold and snow instead of relishing the west coast warmth. The amusement park and the water park, mini golf and bowling, sea lions and penguins, good food and better desserts, and most of all time spent with loved ones, it was all worth it.

But I missed Holy Week.

I really missed it, missed observing it in an intentional and community-filled way. I thought of it, gave a brief nod to it as my eyes closed at the end of each full day, but it was little more than that and I felt its absence.

We returned late Saturday night and all any of us wanted was a quiet day at home. Still, I'd missed enough, so I forced myself out of bed and all of us out the door for a Resurrection Sunday service. It wasn't our church and it wasn't perfect, but it was us there, it was resurrection celebrated, and it was good for that reason alone. Christ is risen!

And then, just as we were settling on sushi for supper because being gone all week hadn't lent itself to being ready for a proper Easter dinner, we received an invitation for supper. Again, the wrestling between no, just some time to ourselves, please on the one hand and yes, Easter with cherished friends and new ones as well on the other, and again the latter won out. And it was Very Good.

Today, though, Easter Monday, we kept all to ourselves. We celebrated the risen Christ in ways both traditional and uniquely ours. Not the Easter bunny, we're stodgy like that, but egg hunts and gifts and games and desserts and Much Ado About This Which Is Everything. Yes, we celebrate it joyfully because it is the greatest hope we have, sin and death defeated! Praise God.

We celebrated with sunshine and Easter dresses and too much candy, and some of us didn't quite make it until bedtime.

It was a good beginning to the joyous season of Eastertide. And now the celebration continues!