Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Without Santa

We are those parents. The ones whose kids know that Santa is a lie. (and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, you get the picture.)
Okay, I know you are wondering why would parents ruin their kids' childhood by telling them this?? (you are also thinking “I better keep my kids away from their kids!!” aren’t you??)
It might not be what you are thinking and it is not nearly as bad as you are picturing.
They do enjoy being children, they love Christmas just as much as any other kids out there. They made me crazy begging to decorate the tree, Eli bounds down the stairs every morning, excited to open the next window on the advent calendar, and they even talk about the excitement of getting gifts from ‘Santa’.
It was my husband, Jeremy, who decided it should be this way when we first had Hannah eight years ago and when he explained his reasoning to me, it made sense. He just wanted our kids to know to whom they should be grateful for their stockings-full of presents. But out of that one reason have grown a plethora of reasons that I am now thankful that we don’t have to keep up with a lie.
First of all - it is a lie. It is the one thing that almost all parents consistently lie to their kids about. Do you remember how you felt when you found out the truth?? A little disappointed? Or were you the older sibling who spoiled it for a younger one? It was ruined for me when our family was staying in a hotel on Christmas Eve and my sister woke me up and pointed to the end of the bed where our Dad was trying to quietly fill the stockings. Sure, it did not destroy Christmas for me, but there was that lingering feeling of, "gee, what else are they lying about?”
It is just plain creepy. Sorry, I really don’t want to offend anyone who is trying to keep up the Santa thing, but think about it, we tell our little kids to go sit on a stranger’s lap?? I just saw a link to a HuffPost story about Sketchy Santas - Santas who’s laps you would not want your kids to sit on. When we are all worked up about having our kids patted down at the airport for security reasons and yet we have no qualms about telling them that they better be nice and sit on Santa’s lap? My eight year old is the one who told me this year that it is creepy when I asked if she wanted to see the Santa house in town. I feel a little more comfortable knowing that she knows that something like that is creepy. Not to even mention the fact that we act as if it is a wonderful thing that some creepy old man is breaking and entering into every house in the world. I don’t think I’d sleep to well if I had been scared of the Santa at the mall if I was told that he was coming to my house while I was asleep!
Jesus is the reason for the season. No, we aren’t going to go all Evangelical on you. Our kids are not going to be competing in the Bible bee any day soon. We are a good sampling of the ‘frozen chosen’. That said, when our kids talk about Christmas, they talk about baby Jesus. The two year old took baby Jesus out of his manger and made him give me hugs and kisses the other day. She said, "baby Jesus loves you!” And I know that she gets it. We are celebrating Jesus. Not some jolly old man. They enjoy singing in church on Christmas Eve and are not anxious to get out of there so that Santa can come already.
Work. Jeremy overheard a co-worker talking about the great lengths she was going to in order to keep her two middle-school aged sons believing in Santa. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have time to stress out about keeping up the task of establishing proof of a non-existent being.
Gratitude. It was the original reason we had for teaching them that these things are not real. They know that Mommy and Daddy are Santa, the Easter bunny and the Tooth fairy. They know that Mommy and Daddy have a limited budget so they don’t get worked up when they don’t get some really expensive toy in their stocking. And when the tooth fairy forgets, they know who to hit up! They know that listening to us and behaving themselves really does matter because who knows if Santa can see, but Mommy is right here and you better not do that! And when we can pull off that one cool gift, we get little arms wrapped around our necks in gratitude. And it feels so good.
All this said, I do believe that we are all entitled to our own holiday traditions and I have no intention of messing with yours or judging you for yours, this is what works for us and I thought I’d share it in case you are trying to decide for yourself or wondering what it is like when they know.
Christmas is magical because of friends and family and the birth of Christ. We don’t need much more than that.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I woke up in heaven. The clock read 7:21 instead of 6:04 (we are on Thanksgiving break!). No alarm went off. The kids had slept in and the girls had just come to snuggle in my bed. They were whispering “I love you’s” to each other. And to top it off - rain was tapping on my window. Followed by a flash of lightening and a roll of thunder. Happiness, peace, love. Can’t get better than this. (okay, it could have - Jer could have had the day off too.)
I don’t remember the first time I realized that I loved rain storms this much. I think I was scared of them as a small child. Check with my Mom on that one. What I do know is that I became intensely aware of their power when we lived in PNG in the early 90s. I was eleven or twelve and we had come to the realization that the country we had been sent to as missionaries had changed significantly in the past eight years into a country wrought with civil unrest, drunkenness, violence - particularly toward women. I heard stories of it every day at school. Thankfully PNG is a rainforest nation so I could count on the tropical downpours to lull me to sleep. I felt safer, as though God himself was wrapping me in His almighty hands to bring me safe through the night. We had corrugated tin roofs which made the pitter patter of raindrops more like a crashing drumming sound. It was delightful. Knowing that there was something bigger than me, and He was taking care of things so I could sleep.

When it rained during the day, we would hug our books to our chests and run between classroom buildings, exhilarated by the feel of raindrops splashing on our faces and not even thinking of wanting to keep the rain off of us. It was a good 90 degrees every day so the daytime rains were always welcome. Even when it meant soaking wet shoes that squished with each step for the rest of the day. I loved seeing the white spider flowers after the rain, the delicate drip of water on the tips of their petals. Some days we would huddle closer to the center of the common area while we ate lunch because the water was splashing heavily around the sides. (our lunch area was the concrete slab under a raised building, no walls needed)

Later, in high school (a boarding school in Australia) we did not get as much rain, but of all of Australia, Brisbane is one of the rainier places. We again had the metal roofs, so if I had a room on the second floor I could hear the sound I loved at night (that and the occasional possum falling out of the tree and screeching!). When it rained on the weekends it was like God had pressed ‘pause’ and people would stay indoors and just hang out playing games and watching movies and maybe (maybe) doing homework together as the sisters we had become. We would run out the back to the tuck shop in the next dorm to buy a handful of candy to share. Maybe a microwaved pizza for lunch. Or a bowl of ramen noodles, made with hot water from the bathroom. Rainy days were together times. Of course if it rained on a school day, we were in trouble in our white uniform dresses!

In college, at St. Olaf in Northfield MN, I recall a heavy rainfall early in my freshman year. We put on our oldest clothes and ran to the soccer field that had rain gushing down the corners, forming giant waterslides/mudslides which we took to on our backsides. Good thing we were not returning to our mothers’ bathrooms to wash off! People came together in the spirit of fun. Unbounded joy. No holding back, did not matter if you knew anyone or what you looked like, we were just there to have fun. (in the winter we would take cafeteria trays to sled down the same hills)

My favorite places are those that I associate with rain - New Zealand, The Northwestern US, the East Coast to name a few. Some days I’d love nothing more than to be in one of these places with the family, sitting at a coffee shop outside where the rain splashes on a metal roof above us and we can soak up that much needed moisture while sipping our tea or hot chocolate and talking about what to do next.

Now as a grown-up (am I?), I still love storms. I love the light mist that we had yesterday as we walked to the library, gently tickling my face and soothing dry skin. Such a refreshing feeling! I love the heavy rains that keep us inside as a family playing games or snuggling together to watch a movie. Baking. That big pause button gets hit and we can do things we might otherwise have justified not doing because we were too busy. We don’t get enough storms here. Or have not lately at least. Even as I finish writing this, the clouds are clearing and I can see blue sky.

I was not ready for the blue sky yet this morning. We are still in our jammies, needing breakfast and needing to clean. While the rain lasted we could justify just laying here and watching shows together but alas now we must get up and get going.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In Sickness and in Health

I lied. I so totally and utterly lied. I am not a good wife when my husband is sick. I’ll take the health but to be completely honest, I am not good with the sickness part of marriage.

Hubby emailed earlier today to tell me that he thought he was coming down with a cold. Nothing else. No greeting, just that. “I think I am getting a cold.” I should not have been surprised then, when he walked through the door coughing, sputtering, sniffling and doing this little whine/moan thing he does when he wants sympathy and to be let off the hook from all responsibility. I’ll admit it - I was feeling hostile. I had been scouring the house from top to bottom with my sidekick in tow all day. Took her to her tumbling class and then on a quick errand to pick up a few things for my eldest’s birthday party that is five days away. Oh, and getting ready to teach from home tonight, making dinner, taking the kids to the playground and cleaning up after dinner. Now I’m not saying that I don’t think he worked hard all day, of course he did. But his day ends when he walks through the door moaning and I guarantee that before the oldest two are asleep, he will be out. And I will be wrapping up class and cleaning up, getting things squared away for the morning and finishing up a few other household chores that need to be done.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband dearly. He is a wonderful father, amazingly supportive and kind and, well, everything good a husband should be and I know that he puts up with more than his fair share of my own faults (should I be hoping that he never blogs about me?). I am no saint. I’ll give him that. But why is it that men feel they have the right to become an extra child in the house when they are sick and yet if I were to be ill, I would still be doing everything that needed to be done for everyone else in this house. There was the time that I was incredibly sick with strep last year when I did have a few days ‘off’ (I still had to get the kids ready and out the door as I was barely able to stand and was running to the bathroom to hurl and desperately trying to reach him on his cell phone - oh and I was still breastfeeding the youngest). Or maybe I don’t cut myself slack?

It has been interesting to me now that I am aware of this fault of mine, my inability to show true sympathy to my husband when he is sick, to monitor myself and my responses to him. Like when he stood up from the dinner table and asked if I wanted him to help clean up (hey, he asked and I DO give him credit for that!) but knowing full-well that he was only phrasing his statement of “I’m heading up to bed now” into a question to make it sound better. Of course part of me wanted to snap a come-back about feeling over-burdened. But I was good, I said "no, you go upstairs, I’ve got this.” I am aware that my reactions are negative and counter-productive so I am working on being more kind. I am trying.

Still, I hear the gross man-cold sounds coming from upstairs and I shudder. I have to ask myself why is it that someone else being sick is so irksome to me? Maybe because it does not fit my pretty picture of how I want life to be? Is it because I have perfectionist tendencies and anything that falls outside of perfection is just not cool with me.

I do tend to try to deny my kids’ ailments, I like to assume that there really is not anything wrong with them, at least nothing bad. “It’s just nerves, you don’t have a tummy ache” (followed by child puking on me as if to prove their point) “it is just a little baby sniffles” (followed by baby hospitalized with RSV) “oh, you’ll be fine, just shake it off” (okay, this one I have thankfully been right about so far, knock on wood!). I have been really lucky that my kids just do not get sick much at all. Luck, genetics, healthy eating, hand washing, a combination perhaps.

I do believe that to a degree it is a control issue for me. Nerves we can work on with some breathing. Boo boos I can kiss better. Most things that reach beyond this make me feel out of control. If a kid were sick enough to stay home from school, it would throw the whole day into chaos. I don’t dare imagine worse scenarios.

A husband who is always there helping clean up and folding laundry and helping with bedtime and piano practice and who is now coughing and stuffy and moaning in head-cold agony leaves me feeling like the world is up-ended. My helpmate is temporarily out of service and I don’t function as well without him.

I do get the feeling that I am not the only Mom/Wife out there who tend to feel more angst that sympathy for her husband when he is ill. Knowing that I am not alone (I hope?!) in this helps me to a degree but also knowing that I am aware of my not-so-sympathetic tendencies and trying to be intentional about changing this will hopefully make me a better wife. Because he does deserve that. After all, I need to stop making a liar of myself. I promised.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

30 Days of Thankfulness

Those of you who follow my Facebook postings know that I have not jumped on the 30 Days of Thankfulness bandwagon. I am not ungrateful, just busy. So here is what I am thankful for:

1 - My Beautiful, Amazingly brilliant, and wonderfully kind Daughter Hannah
2 - My Handsome, Whiz-kid, and supremely gentle Son Eli
3 - My Sweet, Silly, Gorgeous, Cuddly Baby Girl Evie Jane
4 - My Loving, (Tolerant), Patient, Wickedly Smart, Super-Dad Husband Jeremy
5 - My Strong and amazingly talented sister Kara
6 - My Thoughtful and funny brother Eric
7 - My Big sister Linnea whose presence in my life is missed.
8 - My Mama who gave it her all to make me who I am.
9 - My Daddy who’s tears I saw as the plane took off, bringing me back to boarding school years ago.
10 - All of my Grandparents who must have done something right and who led fascinating lives.
11 - My in-Laws who are generous and always ready to spend time with the kids.
12 - My wonderful Aunt Karen, Godmother supreme, talented, caring and thoughtful.
13 - My Uncle Dan who shares my political views and humor.
14 - My Uncle David and Aunt Shirley who are fun to be around (yes, I remember dancing to Pretty Woman in your car!)
15 - My Uncles Noel, Nathan, Byron, Rocky - all amazing people that I wish I saw more!
16 - My Aunts Sylvelin and Gloria - ditto!
17 - My 19 cousins - all of whom I feel like I just have not had the chance to hang out with enough.
18 - My Paschke family Grandmas, Aunts and Uncle and Cousins, brothers and sisters-in law - all truly wonderful people that I love dearly.
19 - Every teacher I have ever had. Some taught me what to be and others taught me what not to be, all valuable lessons.
20 - My friends, near and far, old and new - you know who you are (yes, Mom, they are all my friends!)!
21 - My home. It is easy to forget what a treasure it is when dealing with cracked doors and bursting pipes, but I am truly fortunate.
22 - My neighborhood - (you guys got counted twice!) some have referred to it as Mayberry. It may just well be.
23 - The GORGEOUS weather we have had this week. LOVE it.
24 - The many strong women who have come to my classes seeking to have a natural birth.
25 - Chai. ‘nough said.
26 - Photographs old ones and new ones
27 - My health.
28 - Having had an adventurous childhood. (okay, sometimes I am not so thankful for this)
29 - Smells - the ocean, cinnamon, frangipanis, ginger, clean babies, pineapple, chai
30 - the forgiveness of anyone who was unintentionally left off of my list. I love you all and am always reminded of how wonderful my life is because of the people in it. Yes, chai is nice, but you are nicer!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Guns Germs and (no Steel)

I apologize for my title. Stolen from a fabulous book which I did not read but heard excerpts from as my much wiser husband read it. The two things weighing on my mind right now are guns and germs. I could not think of anything steel related hat would work, thus not using the full title.

So when someone says 'Boy Scout’, what so you picture? Probably an eagerly helpful young man helping old ladies across streets and listening respectfully to authorities. Okay, maybe my picture is a little too idealistic (I find this gets me into all sorts of trouble). But imagine my shock when we pulled up to the campsite for Eli and Jeremy’s debut as Boy Scout and Leader and a string of about eight seven to nine year olds push past me, running full tilt, voices raised and guns aimed.

I have been fairly adamant that I am not okay with my kids playing with guns. After having lived in a country where it was common to hear of an acquaintance being held up at gun point, having a friend’s boyfriend shot and killed and having had guns aimed at our own car, I vowed to myself that I would never handle a gun. Since then I have heard so many more stories of senseless acts of violence carried out with guns and have NEVER heard of a single story where a gun saved a life. A fellow teacher at Jeremy’s school witnessed her husband being shot and killed in front of her on the south side of Chicago, a parent of one of his best students came home and shot and killed his wife in front of their children.

Guns are a weapon for cowards. You don’t have to think to hurt or kill a person with a gun. Studies have shown that kids who play a lot of video games that use target skills are almost equally skilled at pointing and shooting a gun even if they had never held an actual one before. So why is it that so many people think that guns are an acceptable toy for young boys (or boys of any age)? Why did those parents allow their sons to bring them on a Boy Scout camping trip and then stand by and watch them carry on as they did? Were they not appalled at all? Are they so desensitized to violence that this seemed mild to them?

The stranger thing is that one Dad finally told them to put the guns away and that “Boy Scouts don’t use guns” and then several hours later they were all given awards for BB gun shooting which they had earned by going to summer camp. Are we sending mixed messages? It terrifies me to think that this is what I have signed my son up for.

Aside form the guns, these boys were just plain horrible to each other and not anything of an example that most people expect them to be. Around the morning campfire, a bunch of them ganged up on one other boy and kept calling him gay. After abut fifteen minutes of standing there hoping that someone’s parent would have the sense to stop their child, I cracked and let them have it. Then I talked to the leader and let him know that I did not want my children around these kids. (I think one of them was his own, but he still needed to know since no one else there seemed to care). The fact that all those parents could stand there and listen to their own children talking the way they were is very sad. Jeremy pointed out that using the word ‘gay’ as an insult these days is like using the ’n’ word has been for some time. Is our community SO monogamous that this kind of behavior is still tolerated??

It saddens me deeply to have learned this side of what I thought was a fabulous community we live in. Maybe I had my hopes up too high but my feeling is that if you don’t expect better of your kids, you can’t expect them to turn out to be the wonderful people you want them to be. And I don’t want my son to be a gun-toting foul-mouthed fool who builds himself up by putting others down. I want him to be a humble, respectful and thoughtful person who can have a good time without it costing another person’s dignity.

Funny thing is, the youngest boys there were the best behaved by FAR. Maybe we need to split away from the rest of the pack?

And the germs, you ask? What about the germs? Ah yes. Back to the beginning of the school year and one of my pet peeves has come around again. That being the constant reminders from the school of the three Cs of flu season (Clean your hands, Cover you Cough and Contain your illness). The first of which there is no time for in the tight school day and yet they keep pretending that it happens. It is such hypocrisy to keep posting this all over as if it matters when they know full well that they do not have time to let kids wash their hands before eating. They claim that alcohol based hand sanitizer is just as effective and is available to the kids at school. Baloney. It is not as effective. First of all it does not do much for viruses, mostly only for bacteria and then it weakens their immune systems so that they are less able to fight off illness when it does present itself AND they are less and less responsive to the antibiotics given to treat disease when needed which leads to the development of the so-called super-bugs.

I talked with a friend today who used to work with a firm that designed schools and she said that if it was a plumbing thing that is not required by code, schools will not pay the extra for it. So for example, the private school that one of my professors worked at that had a trough-style sink long enough for ten or more kids at a time to wash their hands in the hallway upon entering from the playground on their way to lunch will never happen in a public school. Too bad since we just got a new school. Apparently hand washing was not enough of a priority then.

Thankfully my daughter has a teacher who realizes this and gives each student a hand wipe before lunch. Love her! And I send my son with a wipe for his hands. We will do our best to work with the system, let’s just not pretend we are doing things we aren’t, okay?

And no steel. (told you)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In a Blink

Teach me to number my days
And count every moment before it slips away
Taking all the colors before they fade to gray
I don't want to miss even just a second more of this

It happens in a blink
It happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there's no stopping time
What is it I've done with my life
It happens in a blink

When it's all said and done
No one remembers how far we have run
The only thing that matters is how we have loved
I don't want to miss even just a second more of this

It happens in a blink
it happens in a flash
it happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight but there's no stopping time
What is it I've done with my life
It happens in a blink

We arrived home from a fun weekend with family to the terrible news of the death of another family member. Jeremy’s Uncle Doug had died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack Monday evening. We are all still in shock and deeply sad for the loss suffered by his wife and son and daughter in law. They are a small, close family. They had been out to dinner, the four of them just the night before. And that evening, he and his wife were picking up Gram to go to dinner at Mom and Dad’s.
In a recent discussion with my mostly-estranged sister, she expressed her anger towards me that I think that the blood of family means that you work harder at those relationships. It has been the source of huge frustration for me that my own family has this deep division. I have tried. Heck, I got a degree in psychology that was mostly based on this frustration. But our most recent discussion was so disappointing to me because I had such hope in the beginning that things might change for the better now. Unfortunately I seem to be infinitely naive.
I know that DNA-based relationships are not the be-all and end-all in life and there are certainly times when they aren’t even possible (adoption) or may be harmful and in those cases people find or get a new family that takes the place. But for the most part, family is something worth fighting for.
Jeremy and I chose to live in the Chicago area in order to be close to family. His family had a greater concentration here and my family is far-flung and tends to move frequently so this made sense to us, to raise our kids with the most family possible. And we see family fairly frequently. Even my family. Especially this month with it being my brother’s wedding! But I do get to feeling that we should be spending more time with family than we do right now. When Hannah was a baby and we had no classes or after-school activities, we went in to visit family or they came out here pretty frequently. But time moves on and people get busy and more children are added to the picture and activities pile up.
With the loss of my Grandma only a few weeks ago so quickly followed by Uncle Doug’s passing, I have become keenly aware of the truth in the lyrics above. That these things happen in a blink. So how can I make the most of every day with my family? I felt pretty guilty when I knelt by my Grandma’s bedside and introduced her to almost two-year-old Evelyn only a day before Grandma passed away. How had we not made it down there in all that time? I want to commit to carving out more time for family. I’ll start right now by looking at the calendar and figuring out when travel is possible and when hosting here is easier and open up communication with all the family involved. I want to establish family times as a number one priority for us.
Because a few weeks ago Uncle Doug was sitting on my back porch goofing around with the kids at Eli and Dad and Gram’s birthday party and I treasure that memory. I want to be sure that the kids grow up with lives filled with memories like Uncle Doug cheering them on when they take bites out of the Gingerbread house on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve will not be the same here this year. We will miss Uncle Doug’s laughter. But we will keep on gathering family and making more memories as we number our days.

Slow down, slow down
Before today becomes our yesterday
Slow down, slow down
Before you turn around and it's too late

It happens in a blink
it happens in a flash
it happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight but there's no stopping time
What is it I've done with my life
It happens in a blink

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Grandma

My Grandma is dying. I sat on her bed yesterday and held her hand, listening to her labored breathing and watching her eyebrows rise in response to our voices. When we arrived, I leaned over her and said, “Grandma, it’s Martha, I am here and this is little Evie.” She opened her eyes, looked right at Evie and said, “Happy Birthday.” It was barely audible. It was special because Grandma is not talking much anymore. But we heard it. Of course it is not Evie’s birthday, but her birthday is only a month and a half away and Grandma had never met her before yesterday.

Poor Hannah understood what was happening to Grandma. My sister found Hannah crying in the living room when we had asked her to come in for a picture with Grandma. She talked with her and Hannah seemed to understand that soon Grandma will be at home in Heaven. We try to make it sound so simple and easy but it never is. It is a goodbye that has no earthly hello; it is beyond our capacity to comprehend. Yet somehow Hannah has found her peace with it. We talked again tonight and she seems to be doing okay with the whole idea. Last year at Aunt Barbara’s funeral I think she was just starting to put it all together. She was only six at the time but when they carried the coffin out of the small church, she had turned to me and asked, “What is in that box, Mommy?” I told her that is was Aunt Barbara’s body, that her spirit was gone to heaven. So confusing. Not just to a six year old, but still to me. I just pretend to understand it. Don’t we all?
Eli just turned six and yesterday he seemed more at ease with being by his Great Grandma. He came into the room a little timidly. But he came up close to Grandma’s bed and held her hand even though she could not really respond to him. I can’t tell how much he understands about death. He uses it as a punch line a lot which is disturbing me lately and I know Jeremy has talked to him about not doing that but it is his age, his stage in development to explore the idea of mortality. Maybe being near and holding Grandma’s hand helped him to see that death is not a great punch line to immature jokes, but something that is hard and sad and complex. Maybe. I don’t really know what he took from the experience. I was Eli’s age when my Grandpa died from a heart attack. I remember feeling quite adrift and confused. Feeling that at one moment I understood everything and the next I hadn’t a clue.
And sweet baby Evie came in and out of Grandma’s room with ease although she would become visibly uncomfortable when she looked at Grandma, I guess she too could tell that something was happening, that Grandma was not feeling well. She heard Grandma coughing and said, “GG need water!” (they call their Great Grandma’s GG for short). She was very insistent that we should get GG some water. She said, “I vuv u GG!” (I love you).
Once I re-introduced myself to Grandma upon entering her room again and she opened her eyes and said, “Hello sweetie.” Reminded me of being a little girl coming into the kitchen at camp and seeing her sitting on the edge of her stool, peeling carrots to make muffins for breakfast.
We had dinner with my Aunt who has dedicated these last years of her life to caring for Grandma around the clock and is already having a hard time adjusting to impending freedoms. I know it will be a difficult journey for her. One for which she is owed all of our support and encouragement after all that she has done for us in caring for Grandma all these years. She put on a fabulous meal and we had a good time talking and telling our favorite stories about Grandma. I wanted to hear her tell about Grandma and her sister starting a fire in their alley as little girls. I told about getting up early at camp when she and Grandpa would take us out for breakfast. I would get dressed quickly so I could go and watch her brush her LONG beautiful hair and then twirl it up into a pretty bun and pin it with all those hairpins that we would find for weeks after she had visited us. I like to think about her being madly in love with Grandpa and going out to San Diego to marry him before he went off to serve in the Marines in WWII. I remember her telling us about smoking with her friends out behind the cabin as a teenager. She sure was a spunky lady! She made me my first tea when I was four and I felt so special. She gave me a beautiful blue velveteen skirt with pink and purple and green ribbons on it for my sixth birthday and it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen.
When I went to tell Grandma good-bye one last time, I struggled to hold back tears as my sister and I sat on either side of Grandma’s bed, holding hands across Grandma and each holding Grandma’s hands. I know Grandma knows she is dying but the reality of it is still something that seems so surreal. Does death ever become something ordinary? It is a necessary part of life and yet we never ever get used to the idea of death. Kids joke about it in the attempt to reconcile themselves to its existence in their lives. I myself knew that Grandma was getting older and was not in the best of health and yet still death is not something that I am prepared to deal with. I wanted to say the 23rd Psalm by her bedside but I could not get past saying it in my head over and over and over. I wanted to sing the benediction for her but could not get it past my lips. I felt weakened by the nearness of an ending that I did not want to recognize. And yet I knew that I had to say good bye. The lump in my throat was too large. Evie came running in, looking for me. I asked her to say good-bye to GG, and she did. She said, “bye bye, bye bye, bye bye GG, I vuv u!” I could not hold back the tears. Death makes no sense. Even to me.
Grandma is still holding on. She has more visitors coming. Her newest Great Grandchild may not get there until Wednesday. Her youngest child, my Uncle, will come on Monday. Her little sister will get there on Wednesday.
Grandma Susan (yes, that is her last name) is my last living grandparent. I love her and I will miss her.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Being a Martha

It happened again - I sat through another sermon on the importance of being less like Martha and more like Mary. I cannot remember how many of them I have heard in my life, but I know my reaction the minute I hear the lesson for the day being read. I brace myself. I glance around to see who is thinking, 'hmm, there she is, that ‘Martha’, I hope SHE is listening’. Okay, most of the time it was my own father, the man who named me (and joked about giving me the middle name Martha as well, to better match the way Jesus addressed the Martha of the Bible).
Now, I know that they are not talking about me specifically, but addressing a general attitude that is prevalent in our society. I get it. But think about this - how many other sermons are there where the pastor is up in the pulpit talking down about a person with a name that could be someone sitting next to you? Herod? Haven’t heard that one in a while. Pontius Pilate, nope. Jezebel? Not lately. Okay, there may be a few, but clearly this one speaks to me.
Martha was Jesus’ friend, right? So why the criticism of her? Was Mary really that much better? I mean, wouldn’t Mary and Jesus have gone hungry had it not been for Martha? And would Jesus have really wanted to visit them again if she did not take such good care of her home? I know a few Mary’s and yes, it is good to be a Mary every once in a while. I think my next chance to be a Mary will come when Evie goes off to college. T minus 16 or 17 years.
Was Mary herself even always a Mary? I wonder if her sister would have been living with her if that was how she was every day?
The problem for me is that I am incapable of saying ‘no’. I’m guessing that was her problem too. “Hey, Martha, go fix some dinner for us, will you? Jesus is coming to visit!” “Sure, no problem Mary!” “Hey, Martha can you help me with this?” “Of course!” Didn’t Jesus himself act like a Martha most of the time? Sure there were times when he said, "okay now we are going to take a break and pray" but most of the time he was walking hither and yon and helping everyone he could.
So let’s hear it for the Marthas out there who get it done and get it done right, the Marthas who work without stopping and never turn down a plea for help.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

25 Things I Know Now as a Parent

1. It is worth every sacrifice to spend as much time as I can with my babies - childhood goes by too fast.

2. Water, bubbles and giggles are three things you can never have too much of.

3. Letting them learn from their own mistakes can be hard and sometimes painful but the empowerment they gain in the end is worth it.

4. TV is not necessary.

5. I will never be done 'cleaning up'.

6. We don’t sleep alone in a bed with no covers, so why should they?

7. If I would not eat it, I will not feed it to my child (think pureed dinners in a jar).

8. No matter what the studies say, sugar makes children become little demons.

9. BUT - sometimes a lollipop IS the best way to buy yourself a little time.

10. Just because it worked for you does not mean it will work for me.

11. Buying shoes on sale and guessing on the size they will need in 6 months or a year will always backfire. If you do, buy big and then at least they will work a year later. Maybe.

12. Take pictures, lots of pictures!

13. It is SO not about you anymore.

14. We all do the best we can with what we have.

15. All those milestones you can’t wait to reach will come - being anxious will only make it seem longer and distract you from the present.

16. You know that toy that they ‘just have to have’? If you wait a week or two they probably won’t want it anymore.

17. It is always worth finding good quality shoes.

18. It is SO hard to hear the worst qualities of yourself come out of your children (picture the eldest exasperatingly shouting at her brother, “not like THAT!”) Oops!

19. Every day is a new day to try again to be that really awesome parent you intended to be yesterday.

20. Eventually you will have a day when you think, “I did good”. And you did.

21. Deep breaths can save a lot of trouble.

22. Take advantage of the “I DO IT MYSELF!” phase and let them learn to do it for themselves, whatever ‘it’ is.

23. There is nothing that will bring tears to your eyes like the gushing compliments from an elderly stranger, telling you how wonderful your children are.

24. Breastmilk really is a miracle cure.

25. When they wrap their little arms around your neck and say “I Wuv Oo, Mommy” you know you would go to the ends of the earth and back for them.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Hot topic, I know.

I recently had a student stop coming to my Bradley Natural Childbirth classes. I was not sure why until she started emailing me with long rants about how she ‘just could not understand how someone would go to the trouble of having a natural birth only to then pump her kids full of unnatural stuff (vaccines)’. REALLY? REALLY? You quit coming to a class that is here to teach you how to conduct yourself in labor to achieve your goal of a natural birth because you disagree with the instructors stance on vaccinations? Wow.

She thinks I am a hypocrite. But aren’t we all at some point? And does this really make me a hypocrite? Am I so upset about this because I do still question whether I did the right thing by my kids?? Possibly.

Vaccines are a very tricky thing because there are those who have been fully vaccinated and are totally fine (two of mine did fine with the regular regimen). Then there are those who have had horrible experiences that I could never deny were not at least contributed to by the vaccines themselves. There is a LOT of science to support both sides. Everyone is passionate about their stance. I’m passionately in the middle and respect those on both sides.

I have lived in a third world country and seen (and had) some pretty nasty diseases. I know a vaccine for malaria would save millions of babies and children every year around the world. I know some wonderful people who work in the medical field and refuse to deem the medical establishment as the devil that those opposed to vaccines view them to be. I owe the medical establishment a huge debt of gratitude for giving me my baby sister who otherwise would not have survived her first year.

But then there is the pharmaceutical industry. Individually I’m sure they are in it to help people but then as a large corporation there seems to be more than a reasonable amount of greed. Could that be driving the push for vaccines? To an extent, sure.

There is the argument that the rate of most diseases we vaccinate for dropped significantly before the vaccines were introduced because of the improvements in sanitation and hygiene. I buy that. Women stopped dying following childbirth when doctors realized they needed to wash their hands in between patients. But cleanliness alone was not enough to eradicate many diseases.

I like Dr. Sears’ take on vaccinations because he does not throw it all out the window as a vast and evil conspiracy. He evaluates each vaccines with it’s pros and cons and gives an alternate schedule for vaccinating children that is easier on their little bodies (after all who has not witnessed a poor little groggy babe following routine vaccinations?). This schedule has worked very well for Evie. My doctor is on board with this schedule 100% and completely agrees that some vaccines seem to be less necessary these days. Which is not to say that I will skip many of them as I do feel a sense of social responsibility as well - I don’t want to be the one whose kid starts a measles outbreak (but don’t get me started on what is behind the drug companies’ discontinuation of the separate MMR).

You can read all you want to support your own beliefs (it’s called confirmation bias) and say that you are more educated on the topic than I am. I did not go to medical school so I won’t pretend to know more than my doctor but I will educate myself in a balanced way so that I can feel empowered in my decisions.

We all do the best we can with what we have. That is the job of parenting.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gym Membership

I have this theory that it is only because Americans are inherently lazy that we need gym memberships.

Seriously, if more people mowed their own lawns (and no, not on riding mowers!!), raked their own leaves, tended their own gardens, cleaned their own gutters, and all the other messy and difficult jobs that go with owning a home, they would not need the membership to a gym to keep them fit!

Admittedly, a lot of people don’t own homes, or they live in a condo with no maintenance. Sure, give them their gyms.

But really, there are people who PAY people to do the hard jobs and then PAY to get a gym membership to work out the very muscles they would have had they done those jobs themselves.

Okay, I am being a bit high on my horse here because I have been working in my yard for a large portion of every day for the last week or so. And I am beat but I feel good!

I may even pull out the old reel lawn mower and give that a go later (because I’m not strong enough to start the gas mower!).

To Anyone Who is About to Have a Baby

I have been meaning for some time to make a list of the things I wish I had not wasted money on and the things I wish I had bought instead (had they been available then!)

So here goes, in no particular order.

Stroller. Had a Maclaren techno for Hannah. Loved that it was small and compact and made for taller people. Hated the tiny wheels that could not make it through grass. Have a Inglesina Zippy for Evie. Love it except that just after I bought it, the research came out the having a stroller that faces the baby toward you is great for bonding and language development. Would have bought the Bumbleride Flyer instead - it looks AWESOME!! It does appear to have slightly smaller wheels than my Zippy but I’d trade that for the turn around function. Eli got to ride in the double stroller since Hannah was still pretty little - we had the Combi side by side twin and loved it although I think there are better doubles out there these days.

Highchair. Wish with all my hear that I had splurged on the Stokke Kinderzeat. Those things are the bomb! they grow with the kid so that their feet are always on the foot rest (stops fidgeting) and they are always at the right height relative to the table. They now come with all sorts of baby attachments too!

Crib. Bought one at a garage sale for $100 and hardly ever used it. Okay I know it is a personal thing, but we let our kids co-sleep. They went to bed in their own bed/crib/pack’n’play and then if they woke up during the night they came into our bed. We sold the crib after Eli and Evie used the pack’n’play. The pack’n’play is big enough for them and the best thing is when you travel, they are not sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Our kids moved to a mattress in the floor at 15 months and did just fine. I would say if you want to save money, buy a nice pack’n’play and save the cash for fixing up a big kid room, which you will be doing before you know what hit you!

Changing table - honestly this is the biggest waste of money. Unless you get one free from someone else who has realized what a waste it was, I would not spend a penny on it. Get a changing pad and a diaper caddy and then you can change wherever which is what happens anyway!

Okay, that is all the time I have for this right now, I’ll add comments as time allows. ;-)

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Over the course of the last year or so I have gradually become more and more inclined toward a vegetarian diet. Aside from a few cravings for steak during my first pregnancy eight years ago (!) I have never been a huge fan of meat. Not to say I have not liked what I’ve had, but I can easily picture living without it.
There is so much evidence in current research that suggests that meat is not at all good for the environment and a fair amount that claims it is not even good for our health. To be fair, the claims do not suggest that one has to be an all-out vegan to be saving the environment or living a healthy lifestyle (I think the two should always go hand in hand), but we should be aware of where the meat we do eat is coming from and how it was processed/treated. Locally raised, free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass fed is the best option to satisfy both environmentalists and health nerds like myself. I know I can find this at my local health foods store or the local green market. But I am too scared to look at the price tag. And yet if I consider how infrequently we do consume meat in our house maybe it would not be so bad to try using those as our source.
I personally have pretty much cut red meat out of my own diet. The kids still have beef hot dogs now and then and there are those infrequent social occasions where I feel that I have to eat the meat or risk offending the cook (thank you, Lutheran church for developing that strong sense of guilt in me). I have to say though, on several of those occasions I have felt pretty icky the next day. Not morally or anything silly like that, just icky in the tummy since I am not used to it anymore. I have not bought any beef other than hot dogs for the kids (nitrate free uncured hot dogs mind you) for over a year I’d say.
If you are tut-tutting about the iron, I can hear you from here. Actually ,my iron has been fine. I have donated blood several times this year. The two times I was turned away for low iron, it was well within the range of normal, just not as high as they want it for donation. There are plenty of sources of iron other than red meat (insert the rolling of the eyes I have to do for my Mom).
We have been eating a fair amount of chicken and fish. I try to find the free-range hormone-free chicken. And I keep forgetting which fish is better to buy (I need to get an ipod with that app - or just print the list to keep in my purse). I think it is the wild fish since they feed farmed fish the same corn feed they feed chickens and cattle. The kids love fish.
So I need to do some research in the different types of vegetarianism, like is there a name for vegetarians who eat mostly birds and fish but will under certain levels of pressure cave and eat the four legged animals? Should I make an announcement to all that I am no longer into eating four legged creatures? It always seems like it is too late when I sit down and the pork is there in front of me. Or do I just stick with not making a commitment just in case I can’t resist the smell of corned beef next year and risk being called a hypocrite?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

That itch

It is not that the winter seems to be in no hurry to move on, I'm actually at peace with our freezing temperatures. But I cannot seem to shake the longing to move. Funny thing is, every time I want to move, Jeremy does not. Maybe it all works out for the best in the end.
From the time I was born until we bought this house, I had lived in sixteen different houses/apartments/college dorms (and that is not counting the four-times-a-year room changes throughout high school). I think I got that number right. I am never sure how to count the moves where I went to one place but my parents went to another where I would go on holidays. I was a girl on the move. So is that why I keep getting an urge to start packing up and searching for houses?
When I was asked to speak at church on behalf of the stewardship committee a few years back I realized that we had been members of FVPC for longer than I had ever belonged to anything in my life! (family aside) So it was no surprise to me today as I drove home from shipping Grandma and Grandpa Felde's Girl Scout Cookies to Indy that I caught sight of one of our dear friends from church. She was headed in to work carrying some flowers for someone, just that kind of sweet person. And my thoughts turned to all the things I love about this place being home. All the wonderful neighbors, the teachers we adore, the park district classes that I'd be adrift without, the parks and bike paths the kids know by heart, Grandma and Grandpa, two Great Grandma's, and a handful of other relatives nearby. I have never felt so connected to a place.
And yet.
And yet there still lingers this need to explore and challenge myself to something new. Oregon has been one place that I keep thinking about. I think the idea of a place similar to this but with more moisture in the air would be like a middle ground of all my worlds. If that is possible! I dream about a place where the kids could have a woods or a creek in our own backyard to play in every day. Somewhere where Jeremy's work would not be so far away as to make our days apart seem endless. Somewhere a little more tranquil, no teenagers dealing drugs in the parking lot next to our house.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Have kids, will travel

I had been on numerous airplanes and helicopters in the first three years of my life. Around the whole world once. Carried up and down aisles by flight attendants. I had my first passport picture taken when I was a few days old. My Dad had to tickle my foot (or slap it?) to get me to open my eyes. So it never occurred to me to leave my own kids behind when traveling.
I remember bouncing on a trampoline in Hong Kong when I was three years old. I love seeing the pictures of myself, only a few months old being carried in a snuggly through Norway. Sure I don't remember that trip but it is nonetheless a part of my life experience and who I am. I can say I have been there.
I understand the need to get away as a couple at times, but for us it is enough to have our time when the kids go to Grandma and Grandpa's for an overnight. If I am going someplace exciting and new, I want my kids by my side (or on my back) to experience it with me.
When Hannah was three and showing signs of being a bright kid, I asked our family doctor what things he recommended. He gave two answers - pick her friends carefully and travel.
So we took the kids to England. Some people thought we were nutty. The kids loved every minute of it and talk about it frequently. Eli was only three then and he recalls his favorite moments from that trip without help. They each made a book about the trip, thanks to Grandma and we keep them on the sofa table so they can look through them.
We just got back from Washington DC. Before going we watched a movie with the kids about the monuments and memorials. Eli had picked the FDR as his favorite to visit and although the weather ended up getting in the way of getting to that one, he knows we can go back someday in the spring or summer to see it. They loved all the museums and got excited every time we took the metro - their favorite part was having their own ticket and putting it into the turnstiles.
Sure it was exhausting touring the city with three kids in tow while Jer was in conferences and lectures, but at the end of the day it was a shared experience that we will talk about for years to come.
I would not trade that for the world!

Birth with a doula

Two weeks ago I attended a birth as a doula for one of my students. It is probably the biggest rush in life to be present at the birth of an amazing and wonderfully created new little person. It is the second birth I have attended and as hard as it is to go through labor with the Mom, seeing the tears in the new Mommy and Daddy's eyes as they gaze at their precious new babe is simply beautiful. Nothing like it in the whole word!
I served as their doula for free as I am still a student in the doula world. I am not sure if I will ever get to the process of becoming fully certified by the leading doula organization (DONA). Perhaps one day down the road. Being trained as a Bradley instructor, the Academy of Husband Coached Childbirth tells us we are qualified to work as doulas so I have offered the free service to my students in order to gain more experience.
Studies have shown that the continual presence of another woman while you are in labor can significantly improve the outcomes for both Mom and baby. After witnessing two births I can honestly say that while some may be skeptical of this claim I believe it is very true. As much as we might try to prepare a father for what his wife will experience in labor, he can not ever be truly ready to see his wife in that state and simultaneously handle his own feeling of helplessness and respond appropriately to her needs. A second-time Dad will be better equipped for this, but then a second-time Mom is also more prepared for the experience. Some women may be so in tune with their bodies that managing labor and birth on their own is quite easy for them, especially if they are already very committed to a natural birth. But my hunch is that the majority of women need the support and guidance of someone who has been there and done that.
Here is the scene - I walk into the room and Mom is sitting in the hospital bed, Dad sits beside her in the armchair trying to catch some Zs after being up all night. Mom is a little discouraged after laboring all night to only reach 3 centimeters dilation. She is already tired and is in need of reassurance that she can do this. I encourage her to get up and move around which almost instantly brings on stronger contractions. As she leans on the back of the chair, she starts to take the shallow chest-breaths of one in a state of panic. I remind her to take deep breaths and make low noises. She calms down and finishes the contraction. Her husband knows how she likes her back rubbed and holds her arm as they walk around the room. A little while later I let Dad lay down in the chair to take a quick nap while I help Mom through a few more contractions. He may have only had five minutes rest before her contractions really picked up and required the two of us helping her through them. At some point Mom looks at me and needs to know if what she is experiencing is normal. I reassure her that it is very normal and she is doing fine.
This experience is very similar to the first birth I witnessed. Both Moms wanted me to tell them at some point that this was normal. In our culture today we do not grow up with any sense of what normal birth is like. All we know is from the movies where women are always screaming and out of control and the baby seems to fly out a few minutes after labor starts. No wonder most women get to the hospital too soon!
Both Moms also needed reminders with each contraction in hard labor to take deep abdominal breaths and make low noises instead of high pitched screams. The low noises move the diaphragm against the uterus creating a soothing sensation against the powerful contractions. It is amazing that that one thing can get a woman through every contraction until the minute the baby is born!
There came a point when the doctor felt Mom was not progressing quickly enough (and to think this Mom did a ton of research and picked this hospital in a rural area because she was under the impression that interventions would be less). They were telling her she needed antibiotics and pitocin and they needed her decision soon. At that point, 18 hours into labor, Mom was not in a frame of mind to make the decision on her own and Dad was feeling helpless. I talked them through the pros and cons and let them come to a decision. The blessing of being in that rural hospital was that they actually did give us time alone to talk it over. As we talked, I also talked with Mom about what might be holding her back. It is very common for Moms to 'bottle up' due to fears about the physical act of giving birth or emotional fears about becoming a Mom. The mind is so connected to the body that this can slow down a birth (or stop it altogether). As I talked her through letting go of whatever fear she may be harboring, something amazing happened and she hit transition.
Transition, as we tell our students, is the hardest part if you are in the one third of women who experience it but it is also the fastest part. So she had contractions that seemed to never end, one on top of another and as they were hooking up the IV for the antibiotics and pitocin, she reached full dilation.
By the time she could push she was so tired that she could not hold her own legs back, so her husband held one and I held the other and we cheered her on.
After about a half hour of pushing, the head was starting to emerge and the doctor said that she could have the baby in just one or two more contractions. On the next one, she gave it her all and the head slowly emerged quickly followed by the body. The doctor lifted baby up to her Mommy's tummy. She opened her mouth and for a split second the whole room was silent, waiting for the first cry. And it came, a tiny little wail of life. Pure and beautiful and simply amazing.
I helped Mom lift baby to her breast and start nuzzling. As I turned, I caught the tear escaping Dad's eye as he rubbed his wife's head in awe.
They thanked me as I left, but for me it was an incredible honor to be invited in to the most intimate event of becoming a family.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Most of you know that we do not have a TV in our house anymore. It just worked out that way. We never had cable and did not watch much so when the digital converter box did not work, we just got rid of the whole thing.
We still watch shows online or on our awesome apple cinema display screen, so we did not move back to the dark ages.
Some of you know that I did my internship in college at the National Institute on Media and the Family. It was definitely the coolest job I have had (other than being a Mom of course!). While there, I learned so much about all the awful video games that are out there as well as the extreme power of advertising. I read and was involved in studies on the effects of media on children. So when I read articles now about how careful we parents need to be about our children's media consumption I am not surprised.
I set out planning on limiting my kids' exposure but I always had a lingering feeling that if it was completely withheld (as in any other circumstance) it would become more desirable. So while we had tv, the only thing the kids were allowed to watch was PBS. It was the advertisements on other channels that really worried me. They were fine with that. They still get super excited when we allow them to watch a movie since it is only allowed on weekends and the rare rainy afternoon when we don't have something else going on. It is not so much that I want to shelter them form a big bad world so much as I do not want them to be the innocent targets of advertising. I see it at work whenever I set foot in a large retail or grocery store with them. We can do a whole shopping trip at Trader Joes with no problem, but we walk into Jewel or Dominicks and the begging and whining begins instantly. They want the fruit snacks with their favorite characters on them or the Doritos. (yes, I avoid big grocery stores unless in complete desperation)
While Eli and Evie and I were waiting for the car to be done at Jiffy Lube, I tried to distract them from the tv by playing rock paper scissors. They were happy to play and only rarely glanced up at the tv. I tried to keep an eye on it to make sure that I dragged them out of there if something inappropriate came on. Then it came on - a brink home security ad. A young woman says goodbye to her date and when she returns to her kitchen you hear a banging and see her terrified face as the camera pans to the intruder who is smashing in her back door. What in the WORLD???!!! I could not believe this and it happened so fast I do not even know if Eli saw it. An R rated ad for sure, that was so scary! And on tv in the middle of the day. how many little kids out there have seen this? And are they so desensitized already that it does not phase them like it did me? What does that say about our culture?
I am so glad that we do not have a tv in our house.

Oh, and yes, I know the Saints won the SuperBowl. I also spent the afternoon and evening planning our trip for next week, making dinner and reading with the kids.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


So last night I ran to the garage and realized I needed to move the van, ran back to the house to get the keys, realized they were in my pocket, ran back to move the van, back to the house to give Jer the keys and then back to the garage to pull open (that's right, pull - no electronic lift in our crooked garage) the garage door and back out in the station wagon to go to class at AU. If I did not hurry, I might not find a parking spot in time. I had to pick up my carpooling friend a few blocks away and as I sat in her driveway looking at her darkened house wondering if she was home (she was and we made it) I felt the anxiety merging with the dinner too-quickly-eaten in my gut. I wondered if maybe this is all too much for my family.
Mondays are the worst. Closely followed by Tuesdays. Every day we watch a friend's kid after school, so all of our afternoon activities are delayed until after 4pm. Honestly, we could not make it anywhere before then anyway! They get home, wash hands and sit down for a snack. Then it is homework time. Hannah has one spelling/writing worksheet to do every day plus a reading assignment or two and then the extra stuff like the poster for the hundredth day of school that she has to cover with 100 cut out words that she can read and the valentine's cards that have to be made. Eli has a spelling/writing assignment every day. I help him and he is usually done pretty fast. Then I help Hannah with hers and by the time we are done, it is time to leave for our afternoon's activities.
On Monday that is swimming. So first the kids have to change into their suits. Then we rush out the door and thankfully they are both in class at the same time, in the fall I was driving there twice a week! Class is from 4:30-5pm. They get out shivering and I toss them their clothes and send them to change in their respective changing rooms. We usually make it home by about 5:40. I have left dinner directions on our chalkboard wall for Jeremy who usually gets home by 5pm and has it on the table for us to eat quickly because Hannah has ballet at 6:15pm. Of course this was the only class at her level that 'worked' with our schedule. So she and I scarf our food and I yank her wet, chlorine-smelling hair into a bun and we charge back out to the car.
While Hannah dances, I read for my class which is on Tuesday night.
Tuesdays are not all that different. Hannah has guitar at 4pm, so we rush a little more to get there and then I entertain Eli and Evie for an hour in the hall of the rec center. We get home at about 5:20 and hopefully Jeremy has started on dinner again because I have to leave by 5:45pm to get to my class at AU.
Wednesday is not as bad, choir is not until 4:30 and in just a few weeks the Lenten dinners will start up, so I will not have to worry about making dinner!
Thursday both Evie and Eli have tumbling class, Evie in the morning and Eli after dinner so that is manageable.
Fridays I teach in the evening so I spend most of the day cleaning the house and preparing for class.
I started out with every intention of not overbooking my kids. I wanted to limit activities and allow for lots of free playing time. This new study just came out saying that American kids are using media for about 8 hours of the day. I do not understand how this is possible. We do not even have a tv in our house and the kids are allowed to watch movies on Friday evenings and maybe on the weekend, but there is no way there is time in their day for any quantifiable time spent with entertaining media. Poor Hannah was crying last week because it was Wednesday and we were running out the door to choir and she pointed out that she had not had time to play with the boys after school all week. It broke my heart to realize that here she is, only 7 and already there is no time in her day for playing.
I do not think they go to bed too early either, it is 7:30 by the time they are out and it is still hard to wake them in the morning at 6:30.
How can I fix this? Or is it even possible, does it just come with the territory of three kids? I want them to try new things in order to find the things they are passionate about so quitting classes altogether is not going to work. I suppose we will take a break from swimming although they are both getting so good at it, it seems a shame. Hannah has said that she does not want to sign up for guitar again so in a few weeks that will be done. But I do not want her to give up on it altogether so there will be something in it's place eventually.
And then what about when Evie wants to be in tumbling and swimming and a music class?
What is a Mom to do???
Oh, and as I am writing this, thinking that I will be in bed soon, the phone rang and it is one of my students who is likely in labor and will probably be calling back shortly to ask me to meet them at the hospital. So much for sleep!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Big Girl Bed

So for the last week or so Evie, our youngest child who is sixteen months old, has been crying at bedtime. We first suspected teething (those eye teeth are a doozie!) but then when she was out of her pack n play which is parked next to her older siblings' bunk bed, she would bee-line for the bottom bunk. She liked to climb in, pull up the covers, reach up to turn on the reading lamp and grab herself a book. It was adorable. It also reminded me that both of the older kids had been transitioned to a big kid bed (in our house this constitutes a mattress on the floor) at about 15 months. Evie is 16 months and I am guessing that she had figured out the discrepancy in sleeping arrangements.
So last night as she bathed with her big sister, I cleared a space and with much effort hauled our old queen mattress out of the playroom and into the kids' shared bedroom. After realising that I was going to have to move more furniture than I intended on moving (Jeremy was with Eli at tumbling class) I got the mattress t lay down. Then discovered that it was longer than a twin, so I had to move more things and turn it around again.
Once it was in place, stinking out enough for a perfect toddler sized sleeping area, I returned to the hallway where I had left the partially collapsed pack n play. Now here is where I started getting choked up. I was puling my baby's blankies and dolls out of the bed that had been her crib since she was born and it hit me that she is growing up. I started asking myself if I did not do this, would I be able to slow down her growing up? Not a rational thought but it crossed my mind. No, of course not I told myself, besides she was so sad about being treated like a baby when her sibs were in their big beds right next to her.
So, we did it. I placed all her lovies on her new bed and went to get her form the bath. She was not sure what to think at first as I tried to get her jammies on while sitting with her on the new bed. It did not take ling though and she climbed right up to Hannah's bed and snuggled down on the pillow. I told her that was Hannah's bed and this was HER bed. She got a proud grin on her face and slowly slid down to her bed and put her head down on her pillow.
After a little bit of exploration in which she discovered she could stand on the edge of Hannah's bed and reach the bottom rung of the top bunk and then arch her head back and say "weeee!!!" just like in tumbling class, we settled in for some stories.
I had to stay with her for a while, rubbing her back, but she drifted off on her own after I left and there were no tears. She is proud of her new bed and her new big girl status.
So while a part of me is still aching at the loss of baby-hood, I feel good about it knowing that she is building her self-esteem and confidence.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Sorry, those of you who know me know that I do not shy away from controversy. I try to be careful but I am passionate about a lot of things.

So I have been following the buzz about the Tebows' Superbowl ad and there are a couple things that bother me about it. First of all it is the first ever advocacy ad permitted to run during the superbowl game. Why did they have to go and pick what is arguably the hottest topic out there to run in during a show that families and friends are watching together. I'm sure there will be more than one household shake-up as a result. Secondly, it is being watched by families which means that there are going to be a lot of parents out there thrust into explaining abortion to their kids. Why do they think this is a good idea??? It is beyond me. Why couldn't they use the gazillion bucks they are going to spend running the ad on something worthwhile like, I don't know, Haiti, orphans, starving people in their own community, homeless, poor, oppressed, AIDS, malaria, ANYTHING????!!!!

Here is the thing. I think that people who are anti-choice are missing something, I think that they assume that if you are pro-choice, you are pro-abortion. NO WAY! I think it is one of the worst, saddest most horrible things. BUT. But I do not think that anyone has the right to make that decision for anyone else unless they have walked a mile in their shoes. I could give all the sad and terrible examples that I'm sure any intelligent person could think of on their own, but one of the most impassioned arguments I have ever heard in favor of choice was a situation that I had never thought of - a woman carrying twins was told that if she did not terminate one twin, they would both die due to a complication known as twin to twin transfusion. Now, she was lucky enough to have been somewhere where that was an option for her. As horrid as that was for her, would the anti-choice folks have told her that she should have let them both die instead?

Yes, a loaded one, I know. But these situations are real and I do not believe that we should be the ones to make the judgement call on anyone when we do not even have a clue what they are facing.

I am not going to watch the superbowl, not out of protest of this ad, I never have watched it anyway. But, I am glad that I won't be the parent who has to explain to my kids what the ad is saying.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Getting rid of junk is so liberating. All junk, junk mail, knick knacky junk, general clutter, the stuff that never gets used, the toys no one plays with, the clothes that don't get worn... All of it!
I signed up for tonic mailstopper (did it change names again? I can't remember). For a few bucks, they get rid of most of your junk mail. Love it! Every day now, I get a small handful of mail, some of it junk, but not nearly the quantity we had two years ago before using mailstopper.
I sell the kids clothes when no one here can wear them anymore. Okay, this is the one that backfired on me. We got rid of the baby clothes before we decided on adding baby number three. Oh well, no biggie! She gets new ones.
Goodwill, veterans, anyone who wants stuff will get it form us at regular intervals. Ther eis not room in this house to keep it!

So I was interested recently when my friend was talking about this new diet book she got. It is written by one of the women on the show 'The Biggest Loser'. She actually recommends an organic diet, but more importantly she recommends cutting the junk. No not just the junk food, but also the fillers that are found in things that are advertised as 'healthy' - the low fat and fat-free versions of our favorites. My Mom told me years ago (yes, they do get wiser as we get older!) that unless your doctor has prescribed a fat-free/low fat diet for you, it is healthier to eat the regular fat foods and just be sure you eat the proper amounts. Makes sense to me, but the part I never understood that this woman points out in her book is that these artificial fillers (the junk) actually mess with our metabolism and slow it down. Wow! Now it all makes so much more sense. I usually do avoid these things, and knew that the fillers were not good, but now why.

So now we keep on getting rid of that junk.

Would life really be boring if it were simple? Someday I'd like to be able to answer that question.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Manger

Okay, this is something that has been on my mind for a long long time and I have not had a proper outlet for sharing my thoughts.
It makes me sad when we sing songs and talk about Mary laying this precious baby in an animal's feeding trough. Very sad. I know that this image is supposed to tell us how humble Christ was at birth, but seriously? Are we supposed to believe that Mary would do something that no one else did at that time? Nobody had cribs! There was no such thing! Co-sleeping was the norm. "In fact, in Luke 11:5-7 tells a story that depicts how families slept in Bible times.

"Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything'." (

The above site goes on to tell of the bed made for the royal family in England that could sleep 102 people in the 1600s! Clearly co-sleeping was not only practiced by poor peasants, but was the norm for everyone!

So I honestly do not believe that with wild animals around and strangers coming to check out her babe, Mary would wrap up her newborn and lay him down to sleep in a manger. Nay (neigh!), I think the mention of the manger was perhaps referring only to the fact that there was not a real bed for any of them in the barn and maybe when visitors came to see the baby, she may have laid him in there rather than on the floor to allow people to see him while she stood close by. Maybe she even just laid him down there while she tried to figure out how to construct a bed for the family? Or to use it as a changing table? Regardless, there is not a chance that Mary would have left the Baby Jesus to sleep in a feeding trough. Sure she wrapped him in swaddling cloths but then she picked him up and held him close and snuggled into bed with him asleep in her arms, safe, warm and loved.

Monday, January 11, 2010

One More Thing

Because there just enough enough for me to do these days, I thought I'd start a blog. Maybe it is because I miss 'grown-up' conversation. I just feel the need to write. So here goes.
If you know me, you know I am opinionated and passionate. Blame it on the Norwegian blood but suffice it to say that I do not intend to offend or criticize anyone, I just need a place to get my thoughts down. If you find any of it amusing or helpful, then I am glad.

So in between prepping for teaching Bradley classes at night, going to class at Aurora University for my Masters, driving the kids to swimming, ballet, guitar, choir, tumbling, tumbling again and pretty soon t-bal too, co-leading a Daisy Girl Scout troop, cooking, cleaning, laundering, diapering, dressing, shoveling (what did I forget?) - somewhere in there I will find the time to write things down. Things that bug me, things that I want to do when I am a teacher, things I want to do for the kids, halloween costume ideas, etc... whatever is on my mind.

Thanks for reading!