Friday, December 14, 2012

Do Not Be Afraid

I've heard it said that the command, "Do not be afraid," is the most repeated one in the Bible.  I can believe it is true.  But it is a hard one to obey, at least for me.  I've had a closer brush with terrorism this week than ever before in my life, and I hope never to be as close again.  On Tuesday at 3:29 PM, a young man armed with assault rifle and wearing a hockey mask barged into the crowded Clackamas Town Center mall near our house and fired off many shots.  I believe there are three deaths, four if you count his.  Allen and the kids were at the Clackamas Town Center that day for several hours and left only about twenty five minutes before the shooting began.  They left so they would be on time to get me; and I'm so thankful that he always leaves plenty of time for coming to get me.  He could have left at about 3:20 and still gotten me on time.
And now there's a new tragedy on an even larger scale: the shooting of teachers, kindergarteners, and other elementary school kids in Connecticut.  As a parent, it's enough to make me want to keep my kids out of school...but I know it is only a matter of time before there's a shooting at a library, a grocery store, a church, a doctor's office, a gas station, an airport (all places we have been or will be this week).  This year already we've heard about shootings in a movie theater, a Sikh temple, and now in the past week we can add mall and school to the list.  You can't just stay cooped up in your home. Where can you turn in times like this?
I know many will turn to the government.  New gun laws! Old gun laws, but better enforced!  Give everyone a gun to defend themselves!  Don't let them take away your guns!  Mental health background check requirements!  Take weapons from veterans so they can't be stolen!  Outlaw violent video games! The talk shows and news pundits will be foaming at the mouth with ideas of how to solve this problem.  Yes, there may be good work to be done by those who create and carry out our laws about this whole issue, but it is not a sure source of protection.
Perhaps we will try to shake it off, ignore it, bury ourselves deeper into our favorite holiday merriment: food, drink, shopping, travelling, etc.  Crank that Xmas Muzak a little louder and sing along, "Fa-la-la-la-la, I can't hear you."  We all know that can't last.
Or maybe we'll try to counteract the evil with good deeds. Stuff a twenty dollar bill in every Salvation Army kettle you see, buy extra food to give to the food bank, give to the Red Cross or whatever charity you see fit.  That produces some fine results, but can we in our own strength outdo the evil?
I think not.  I think all we can do is to sing out, "O come, o come, Emmanuel/and ransom captive Israel/that mourns in lonely exile here/until the Son of God appear." I think the words of the psalmist are still true today, even if the weaponry is different.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Security of the One Who Trusts in the Lord.

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that [a]stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
[b]For you have made the Lordmy refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your [c]tent.
11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the [d]serpent you will trample down.
14 Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he hasknown My name.
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in [e]trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With [f]long life I will satisfy him
And [g]let him see My salvation.”

A final thought: on FB I saw many people decrying the horrible violence that happened today, and rightly so.  I was interested to see that many people who otherwise claim to be agnostic said things like, "There's a special place in hell reserved for people who kill little kids like that" or "Hell isn't hot enough for the likes of the shooter."  Why is it that tragedy brings out the religious in the irreligious? Why is everyone liking and plus one-ing their statuses instead of being appalled at such judgmental statements?  What happened to, "Judge not, lest ye be judged?"  That's everyone's favorite Bible verse until terrorism happens.  Then you can judge away, apparently.  Listen, don't get me wrong: it's a damnable thing to murder.  Jesus also said it's just as bad to secretly hate someone in your heart, and He's the one whose judgment is just.  Vengeance is His, and He will repay...and that should give us all pause.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The kiddos are growing!

Surprise, surprise! They keep growing! Here are some recent pictures...

Okay, these have some backstory to them.  Right now, we're having what I like to call my "Little House on the Prairie" experience...i.e., having both of the kids in our room with us.  Why?  Because our basement is flooding and the landlords won't fix it (which, we've discovered after consulting a lawyer, is illegal).  In the meantime while we figure out what to do, the people living in the basement moved most of their stuff upstairs.  Toby is in Ruby's room, and Andy and Alishia are in the living room.  It's been...interesting.  Definitely not ideal.  Ruby's not happy about having her play area basically vanish overnight.  The living room is essentially off limits, and her room now has Toby's stuff in it.  And although I try to be patient, there is a lot of "No, Ruby, don't touch that" with stuff in our room.  I'm very thankful that we'll be in St. Louis for 10 days this month.  What a relief.  We're looking into what to do next with this situation.  I won't say anything yet because it's all up in the air, but we certainly don't want to keep this arrangement going.
Max enjoys his new roommate

Eating breakfast in our room so as not to disturb A&A sleeping in the living room, which adjoins the kitchen.
 Look at my big boy! 8 months old!  8 months has been quite the milestone month: he got his first teeth (the two bottom front teeth), started crawling, started sitting up by himself this month, and also pulling himself up on things.  It's all happening at once!
This chair was a present from my colleagues at MRA

Sometimes the helmet makes Max's eyebrows do funny things!
 Ruby was doing such a great job coloring with her "do a dot" markers that I thought I could sneak in a quick shower.  I don't think I was out of the room for over 8 minutes, but that's plenty long enough for this budding tattoo artist to decorate herself.

 For a long time, Ruby didn't take much note of Max.  He was furniture as far as she was concerned.  But now, he is fully into the "getting into everything" phase, and he is a force to be reckoned with...and she's not sure she likes it!  She's going through a very possessive phase of both her toys and his.  Max thinks Ruby is the BEST, but I'm not sure the feeling is mutual!  Ruby does love Max, but a lot of the time she is cranky with "Max gwabbin ______" (Max grabbing whatever toy/book/stuffed animal/box/etc.)

 Mom sent us some haircut money and I used some of it today at Sit Still Salon, a fabulous kid-centered salon.  I love the lady who cuts Ruby's hair.  She is so calm and great with squirmy kids.  She also does Ruby's hair in a braid after the trim and sprays it with sparkly hairspray.  Cute!  This is only Ruby's second visit to Sit Still Salon, but when I told her this morning that she was getting her hair cut in the afternoon, her eyes lit up.  "Ruby watch Elmo! Ruby sit in car! Ride horsey! Kine of mazing! (Kind of amazing!)" she said.  Yeah, I guess she likes it there :)

Sitting in the car, watching Elmo
 I also got Max's hair cut for the first time.  Here's a before shot...look at those long forelocks of hair over his ears! That goes to show the head of hair he was born with and how long some of it's gotten.

Halfway through...he held still for the clippers, which the stylist said most babies won't do.  "Wow, I wish all of our first time hair cuts went this well!" she remarked.

Here he is after the cut...looks a lot more grown up. Maybe he won't be mistaken for a girl quite as often now...

Ruby enjoys time with the toys in the waiting area before we go.
Well, I guess that's all for now.  It's turning out to be quite a nutty December, what with the house issues and upcoming travel.  I've started thinking about jobs for next year and threw my hat in the ring for teaching...Middle school LATIN.  Looks like I'm following in my dear father's footsteps (if I get the job, that is).  The school is a private school in Utah, so it somewhat splits the difference between Allen's family (here) and mine (St. Louis).  If I got it, we'd be making the move out of Oregon that we've been thinking about for a while now, and Allen would likely try to get into a full time Masters program somewhere in Salt Lake City or around there.  Is this where God wants us to go?  We'll see...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hello, 29

Technically, I should say, "Hello, 30," because when you turn 29 it means you've completed 29 years, seeing as we don't call a newborn baby 1.  The Chinese, apparently, reckon a baby's gestation into their age, so they are all 9 months older than we are, I guess.  But anyway, I am now 29 years old, embarking on my thirtieth year of life.  WOW! It's hard to believe I've been around that long.
28 was a year of big ups and big downs.  Big up: Max was born while I was 28.  Big down: some of the toughest patches Allen and I have yet gone through where when I was 28.
And this upcoming year promises to be just as full of question marks and surprises.  Allen will be graduating in just a few months, and then what? That's the biggest question: then what?  Will he go on to grad school? If so, for what, and where?  Here in Portland? In Bend?  In another state altogether?
When our lease is up in March, where will we go?  Will we continue to throw in our lot with Andy, Alishia, and Whitney?  Will we try to go it alone for the first time in almost three years?
After this year's job, what next?  Will I continue at MRA?  Will I try to find fulltime work again?  Who knows?
So many questions, so many potential life changes ahead.  But the good news truly is that I know Who holds my future, and I know that He is good.
I did not do much to celebrate my birthday yesterday.  I got an awesome card that I read first thing in the morning.  Allen asked all of the housemates to write a note or letter of affirmation to me and then collected them all.  They were very touching and a great way to start off a birthday.  Allen had work, so  it was just the kids and me.  I also had access to the car for a change, so I decided to bundle them up and we went out into a very blustery and rainy morning to get a "special breakfast" at Great Harvest Bread Co.  I think that I would like to make a tradition in our family of going out for special breakfast somewhere on birthdays.  I think it is even more fun than going out for dinner, because it starts off the day.  Then we drove up to visit Allen at work and bring him a yummy roll.  By the time I got home, I had just enough time to take a shower and then head out to school.  Normally, I don't work on Thursdays, but Thursday and Friday are conference days and I was asked to be on hand from noon to 8 pm in case anyone needed to talk to me.  Sad to say, no parents wanted to talk to me about library or 8th grade projects, so I just had a very quiet and solitary afternoon and evening cataloging books.  I think I entered about 200 books into the system today.  At dinner time, my principal delivered a birthday card signed by everyone and said, "You know, if you want to, you can leave a little early."  So I left at 6:45 instead of 8, which was nice.  I came home in time to read Ruby stories and put Max in bed.  Allen and I played a game of Bananagrams and then went to bed, where Max decided to wake up and scream for a while. It was quite a mundane birthday, but I don't mean that in a bad way. I wasn't thrilled about having to go in to work...yet I remembered that it was a blessing that I even had a paying job to go to.  Kids waking up and fussing isn't fun, but they are undoubtedly some of my greatest treasures and you take the good with the bad.
Today is Whitney's birthday (I think she's turning 22).  She's having a fancy dinner party, cooked and served by us, so I'd better hop to it and start getting ready. I'm excited for her. I think it will be fun!  I'm sure pictures will follow...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Quiet Night In

Fellow parents, how true is this?! SO true.

Tonight--once the children were in bed, of course--Allen and I enjoyed some rounds of Bananagrams, some hot cocoa, and nice, soft music in the background.  We didn't set out to make it a "date night" but I'd say that's how it ended up.  Sunday is the one day of the week where neither Allen nor I are working, but the day usually is busy anyway.  Church, soccer, and sometimes GROW meetings (Germans from Russia of Oregon and Washington) fill the day.  Add to that shopping and other assorted errands that somehow don't make it into the rest of the week, and it can still feel like we're not really spending quality time.  I know that this is a phase of life that requires a lot of "shoulder to shoulder" work rather than the newlywed/empty-nester phase of "face to face" time. There's also plenty of stress from parenting a two year old (and a strong willed one, at that) and a 7 month old who is just on the verge of crawling (and therefore getting into everything).  So I am very appreciative that we just had a quiet night puzzling through words together and enjoying one another's company.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A few more gray hairs

Seriously, they are coming in and I know why...I have children!!!
This afternoon I was switching out my summer clothes for my fall ones. It's raining, gray, dreary, blehhhhhh! Everything that Portland is from October to June.  We've just had an unusual reprieve from the rain for the past few weeks and I didn't realize how much I was loving it until it was gone. I guess it goes to show I'm not a true native Pacific Northwester; if I were, I'd be saying something like, "Finally!"
But I'm getting off track.  I was sorting out clothes.  Max was on our bed right behind me.  I had just looked at him, and he was smack dab in the middle of the bed having some tummy time, looking pretty happy with toys in front of him.  What felt like thirty seconds later (although it could have been a minute), I heard a THUD and Max's cries.  I looked back to an empty bed.  I hollered and ran to pick him up.  I can't even remember if he was on his back or his stomach.  I cuddled him and he stopped crying pretty quickly and started to fall asleep.  That's what gave me the gray hairs.  For the past few days this boy has been FIGHTING sleep with every one of his 272 ounces (that's 17 lbs, by the way).  And now, after falling off the bed, he goes to sleep just like that?! Of course, I did what any modern parent does: call the nurse advice line and while I'm waiting for a return call check out WebMD and other such websites.  I was reassured that he wasn't throwing up or having irregular breathing, but still, I just wasn't 100% comfortable that he had gotten so sleepy so quickly.  The nurse called back and said to bring him in to the pediatrician "just to be sure."  Thankfully, Andy was home and I put Ruby down for a nap (ha, yeah right) and, double thankfully, Whitney's old car was around and Allen had left the car seats on the patio.  These are the moments when it ROCKS to have the houseful of people that we do.  Actually, all day I've been feeling grateful to live in a houseful of (mostly) family members.  Andy and I had good chats this morning, and I learned that he took two years of animation classes! This might be helpful since one of my 8th graders wants to study animation for her senior project.  Alishia is going to mentor another one of the girls who wants to train mustangs.  I have talented in-laws, what can I say?
Hmm, off topic again.  Anyway, we went to the pediatrician (and the roads were not nice!).  We got in to see the doctor right away.  In fact, we got in a lot faster than for Max's scheduled visits, go figure.  By then, of course, Max was doing his best to be my own personal Michigan Frog and acting alert and cheerful and perfectly fine.  The doctor said he looked like he was okay and that we just needed to keep an eye on him for barfing, excessive fussiness, etc.  While I was at the doctor's office, Andy, Toby, and Allen all called to check in on us and how Max was doing.  It was nice to feel well-cared for.
Now Max is sleeping again (safely buckled into his carseat this time!) and I can breathe a sigh of relief. What an afternoon!  Thank God (once again) for Max's health insurance, living with generous family and friends, and no apparent head trauma.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Picture Post!

I should be sleeping, because I have to go in to school tomorrow (making up for missing today) and that means getting up early-ish.  But I just uploaded some pictures and they're so cute, I just had to share them with y'all (as they would say in Missouri/Missourah).

Ruby's Haircut
No, it's not her first haircut.  She got that around age 1, but she hadn't had a cut from August 2011 until September 2012, so that was a year's worth of growing.  I decided not to do anything much, just take her to get it trimmed by a pro, since I discovered that I am terrible at cutting even bangs. I took her to a cute kids' haircut place called Sit Still Salon near our house.  Her haircutter was so awesome; unbelievably patient and skilled.  Ruby enjoyed watching Elmo on tv while she got her hair cut, too.
The "Before" picture: getting shaggy and horribly mangled bangs (yes, all my fault)

At Sit Still Salon

After: look at the pretty glittery princess braid!

Ruby's favorite part, of course

That's my girl!

Max-Pascal Joins the Table
Max turned 6 months on September 25th, so we decided that it was time to introduce him to the wonderful world of baby food.  So far he's had cream of wheat (which he seemed to like), peach (which he did not seem to like), and avocado (a winner).  He's still kind of wobbly so the eating thing is more novelty than actual sustenance at this point, but it's fun to see them sitting up in their respective booster seats at the table at meal time!
Don't eat the bib!

Ruby shows him how it's done!


Max looks a little indignant here...
 In the following series of three pictures, I (unsuccessfully) try to get both kids looking at me at the same time.  

Mommy Gets A (Free) Makeover
In September I went on my church's women's retreat, which was...a mixed bag. But one of the highlights (ha, no pun intended) was that my friend Candace brought all her makeup and gave me a makeover.  I rarely wear makeup anymore, but it was fun to get all prettied up (although I don't have the patience or the budget to do it every day!).  My hair, however, was decidedly NOT given a makeover.  Tragic!

Ruby Makes Mischief
Ruby is your typical two year old, getting into EVERYTHING.  Lately she's been enjoying raiding my dresser drawers for shirts and shorts.  I suppose I should relish this brief window in time wherein my daughter will like my style enough to steal my clothes.  Then again, considering that Ruby's style is to wear as many articles of clothing as possible in any configuration she can manage, I'm not actually that flattered by her clothes thievery.  It is amusing, though.

This evening, I was changing Max's diaper when I heard Ruby run into the bathroom, followed by a splashing sound.  Uh oh. As soon as Max was changed, I took him in to see what had happened, and this was the scene that met my eyes.  
Luckily for me, I had my camera in my pocket.  Not so lucky for Ruby about 16 years from now when these pictures come out to embarrass her in front of future prom dates!

Ruby is holding a balloon, very shrunken because I think it is leftover from her birthday party several months ago.  Oh yes, those are napkins in the bathroom.  They are from a local hot wings establishment (although we got them in bulk from Gleaners). I guess someone didn't know we had more toilet paper in the closet...resourceful.  My money's on Andy.

My Sweeties
They may cry for no reason and cause calamity, but I do love my two children very much.  And though I'm biased, I can't help but think they are pretty cute kiddos!
He's getting close to being a crawler!

Ruby's exotropic amblyopia is getting much better...her eye is not wandering nearly as much, and now she only has to wear the patch for 2 hours a day! Yay!
The Amazing Quilt
Last but hardly least, my grandma made THE MOST amazing quilt for Max.  She made an adorable snuggle bug themed quilt for Ruby, but she really outdid herself on the quilt for Max. It is art, I tell you, not bedding!  Its theme is "Where the Wild Things Are" (since the protagonist of that book is also a Max). Each panel is a scene from the story, remarkably faithful to Maurice Sendak's art, too.  Wow.  It's amazing!  Thanks, "Great Gumpa"! (Ruby doesn't verbally distinguish between grandma and grandpa...they are all "gumpa" in her lexicon!)

Update on the Maxy-Moo

For those who have been following along, we took Max to the craniofacial disorder unit at Doernbecher Children's Hopsital at OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) today to have his head evaluated for plagiocephaly (basically, flat spots on his head).  The nurse-practitioner was very nice and determined that the plagiocephaly was positional in nature, that is, due to him holding his head cocked to the right all the time.  She measured his head and said there is a 10 mm asymmetry, and 10-12 mm is the range at which OHSU recommends a helmet...but that's no guarantee that insurance will pick up the tab.  So, we're going to meet with the orthotist and have him fitted for a helmet.  The orthotist will send all the information and the prescription to insurance, and they'll either say yes or no.  If they say yes, hurray!!!! If they say no, well, Max gets to have an asymmetrical head, because helmets cost between $1900-$2500, and we don't have that!  But the good news the NP shared with us was that in OHSU's studies where they follow up with families who pursued the helmet option and those that didn't, both groups felt equally happy with the decision they made and felt that their child's head looked fine to them.  For Max, it will essentially be a cosmetic thing.  I'm still hoping that insurance will pay for it, but if they don't, it's good to know Max is going to be okay.  His head is growing at a proper rate, and the most important thing is that he continues to get physical therapy and stretching for his torticollis.  If that gets corrected, the NP assured us that his head shape will take care of itself.
I'm so grateful that we live in a city with a Children's hospital and lots of specialists.  I can't imagine living hours away from a hospital.  I'm grateful that Max has excellent insurance and to all my fellow taxpayers in Oregon who are contributing to it.
And I know, I need to get some pictures of the boy up here! It's been a while. But for now, I need to get Ruby up from her "nap" (i.e. quiet time in her sleeping took place during that time!)

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Hmm, you may have noticed my distinct lack of blog posts surrounding the book of Colossians and Good Morning Girls.  I did keep up with it (on Facebook) for the first week, and then went away to our church's women's retreat, and fell off the wagon.
I know what you're thinking: shouldn't a women's church retreat get you back ON the Bible wagon?
You'd think so.  But you'd be wrong.
The retreat was a mixed bag.  The speaker was awesome, but overall it was not a restful and happy time. Partly, it was because she gave excellent advice: think about the people in your life and choose to spend your time around people who are encouraging and uplifting.  Don't choose negative people.
This, of course, has nothing to do with why I haven't been getting up early to do the Bible study.  Perhaps it does in a tangential way: since I came back from the retreat, I feel like life has just been shaken up a little bit.
Today feels like we are inhabitants of a snow globe, and someone just shook the living daylights out of it.  Woah!  Hang on to God, because everything else you thought you knew just went kablooey!
I'm pensive more than upset.  It was a wake up call, a reminder; there's more hope for a fool than for one who is wise in his/her own eyes.
I'll end on this note: I am loving Lecrae's music right now.  Here's a song of his that I'm really into right now.  It is called, aptly enough, "God is Enough."  Even if you're not a fan of hip-hop, you should give it a listen.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Good Morning Girls

5:07 AM is the time right now.  Allen is up getting ready for an early morning work meeting, and Max is stirring in his bed, but not actually awake.  Why am I up, especially on a day I don't have to go in to work?
Because of Good Morning Girls!
I found it by chance while perusing Pinterest a few weeks back.  GMG is an online outfit where women gather into groups, do a Bible study in the morning, and share their insights electronically (via Twitter, Facebook, email, even Skype).  I signed up because I need to be part of a group for the whole Bible study thing to actually happen, and if there weren't 60-something other pairs of eyes waiting to read my post, I'd still be sleeping right now.  Yay accountability! We are using the SOAP method, which stands for

I thought it would be fun to do some or all of my GMG study on the blog as a way for others to link up.  If you want to get in on the action, why not join up here as part of a little mini sub group, since I think registration is closed for the larger groups?  Hey, I might even open it up to boys if there's interest!
Here is today's Scripture:
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.  We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the saints" Colossians 1:1-4, NASB
Paul is beginning his letter, but he's putting more effort into it than just writing "Dear so-and-so," as we would today.  I looked up some information on Colossae to get a sense of the saints and faithful brethren to whom he wrote.  They were living in a city in Asia minor (now Turkey) that was already becoming a shell of its former grandeur, yet was still wealthy and comfortable.  There was a special kind of wool dyed there that made the town noteworthy and well-to-do.  It was on a major trade route and as such was host to many different ideas, religions, and philosophies.  There was a Jewish enclave and the Christian church there was mostly composed of Gentiles.  Angel worship had apparently become a problem for the believers there, and there was a legend going around that the archangel Michael had visited the city and stopped a flood from destroying it.  So, Paul is taking pains to stress the pre-eminence of Christ over angels, perhaps by calling Jesus by his title of Christ (messiah, chosen one).  I notice that in these verses he takes care to connect the relationship between God as Father of Jesus and Jesus as our Lord, in whom we should be putting our faith.
I also notice and that Paul and Timothy are giving thanks to God and praying always for the Colossian church.  That would be an encouraging thing to hear read aloud from this letter.  I imagine that it would be today like a church receiving a letter from Billy Graham or some other pastor well-known to the American church saying that he was specially grateful for them and praying always for them.
I like how Paul says that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God; for anyone who remembers exactly how Paul received his commission--so to speak--it most definitely was God's will turning Paul's plans upside down and making him do a 180 from his former stance of killing and persecuting Christians.
I confess that I don't spend much time in prayer, and that's silly and wrong.  I have so much to pray about, and not just in terms of personal supplication (God, please help me with this and that).  I, like Paul, should be thinking of others I know in the family of faith and praying for them.  I should be giving thanks to God for their faith and their love.  I should also be wishing them grace and peace in God, and should act accordingly to bring grace and peace to them.

And the prayer will be between God and me!
Thanks for reading along!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Battle I'm Not Willing to Fight

So, it seemed like Ruby was ready for potty training.  She had started doing tell-tale things like ducking behind shelves or curtains to do her business, and she would occasionally come up and tell me when she was wet or needed a diaper change.  And she's 27 months old, so all the guidebooks say that it's open season on potty training. 
We were armed with dozens of pairs of cute little underpants, "potty treats" (chocolate covered sunflower seeds, bribes for going in the potty), propaganda (Elmo potty books and DVD), and some excitement at the idea of only changing one child's diapers per day, not both.  We were given expert advice (although some of it conflicted, as all expert advice tends to do) from people who had been there, done that, and those who are in the trenches right now. 
That was a week or so ago.  Now, I am a broken shell of the potty trainer I once was. I am retreating from the battle lines.  I do not think she is ready, or at least she's not ready to do it without a fight, and it is not a fight I have the strength for right now. Battling with wearing the eye patch for 4 hours a day is quite enough, thank you. 
Ruby is just not interested in using the potty.  In the past week, she's had--I think--three times where she peed in the potty, and many more times where she peed on the floor.  The times she went in the potty were happy accidents, I think.  We happened to have her on at the right time, and it was a result of obsessively setting timers and taking her every X minutes.  She was not happy about it.  There was much whining, kicking, fussing, etc., and many, many trips where not a drop was squeezed out.  Tonight the last straw was when, after she had not gone for hours and had been drinking a lot of fluids, I had her on the potty for the umpteenth time and she must have let down her guard enough to let a trickle of pee out.  She immediately started fussing and saying, "All done, pants please.  Ruby done."  I tried cheering her on, offering treats, and thinking, "There must be more in her bladder than that.  Seriously."  But she would not let it go.  So, I let her get up, pull up her underwear, and gave her a treat (since she did technically go in the potty).  And then we went into her room where I kept a close eye on her.  She clearly was holding it, but if I said, "Ruby, let's go to the potty," she would start a fight.  Finally she peed on the floor and looked very relieved and then went off to play, apparently unconcerned that she was wet and leaving urine-y footprints everywhere. 
I felt like crying and exploding. I felt really trapped and hopeless, because a friend of ours--who potty trains kids as part of her job as a teacher of toddlers--had told us not to give up for at least two weeks.  "I've seen kids who just have only accidents for two weeks and then they finally get it," she said. I am sure that's true, and so I felt like I couldn't be a quitter.  What do I know?  I thought.
I sent a rather potty-mouthed text to Allen as I cleaned up the floor and prepared Ruby's bath.  He called back since his class hadn't started yet, and we talked about it, and decided that Ruby just doesn't seem to have the interest required, nor is she yet much bothered by being wet. 
So, we're throwing in the towel on this one for now.  I've heard it said to pick your battles wisely and not to pick them over biological functions.  You can't make a kid go to sleep.  You can technically force food down a child's throat, but it's not going to be a good experience.  You can't make a child pee or poop in the toilet without resorting to some really crazy/brutal tactics (like penetrating your child's anus with your finger until they poop?! Are you kidding me, crazy mother on an internet message board?! Pretty sure that's abuse.) 
I've been really down for the past week.  Down like I just lie in bed crying while the kids are napping (or supposedly napping).  I thought it had to do with going back to school.  But after my first week back going really well, I realized this evening that it has been about potty training.  It has been an exercise in trying to control the uncontrollable and perpetuating a horrible cycle.  Ruby acts up because she's two and she's tired of being made to sit on the potty every five to fifteen minutes.  I get frustrated with her and upset that she's not going.  She pees on the floor moments after she leaves the bathroom without being bothered by it; sometimes she stomps in it like it's a puddle on a rainy day!  All this while I'm trying to also watch Max, do laundry, prepare food, etc.  I get furious with Ruby and then furious with myself for being mad at her.  She's a two year old!! This is what they do! She is not out to get me or even trying to annoy me.  Ruby's quite capable of willful rebellion and I've seen plenty of it from her, but I don't think this is it.  My gut has been telling me for the past few days, This is going nowhere fast and dragging everyone down for no reason.  Let it go and try later when the time is right.  I had ignored it, but now I'm going to listen to it. 
But I'm still afraid. Afraid that someone will read this and think, "She's just caving to her child."  Afraid that they might be right.  That fear is fear of man, not fear of the Lord.  People are too big in my life and God is too small.  I worry far more about pleasing people than I do about pleasing Him.  Living in a house full of people makes it even harder, because I hate conflict and just try to avoid it at all costs; and when you live in this house, conflict happens!  Any house full of people, yes, but this house could probably get a reality TV gig (hmmm, money making opportunity?).  And I'm worried about how I'm supposed to please all the people in my life and get everyone to like me and think I'm good at ________. And what about when those people I'm supposed to make happy have different requests of me?

I need to please my mom by moving to STL next spring.
I need to please my husband's relative by staying here.

I need to please my housemates by ignoring/forgiving/turning a blind eye to whatever they are doing that might annoy me.
I need to please my husband by calling housemates out on things.

I need to please myself and my kids by being with my kids all the time.
I need to make money to support the family.

I need to follow the sage advice of person X about potty training who advocates keeping Ruby on the potty until she produces no matter how long it takes.
I need to follow the sage advice of person Y who says of person X's approach, "That's crazy, do it this other way."
And don't forget persons Z, A, and B who have their own advice (solicited, I must add) to throw in the mix.

No wonder I feel overwhelmed!  Talk about a battle.  I'm trying to go to the mat for everyone without really considering what God's voice is in all of this.  And for what? Yes, some of these people genuinely want me to do things their way, but most probably don't really care because how I plan out my life is not going to affect them in the slightest!  They are not going to be hurt if I don't do what they say, and if they are, that is on them, right?  (My people-pleasing nature hates that phrase, because if anyone's not happy, I obviously need to fix it. Because clearly I can fix everything.  Ha ha.)

My self-care has been nonexistent lately, too.  A future blogpost, no doubt.  But for now, it feels good just to say this as a bottom line:
I give up.  I give up trying to be the best parent, the best teacher, the best housemate, the best wife, the best blogger, the best aspiring writer, the best Creative Memories consultant, the best churchgoer, the best friend, the best __________________.  I can't fight that battle any more than I can force my kid to potty train right now, even if her friend who is her age is already potty trained.  Ruby didn't say her first word until she was almost 15 months old; said friend was already talking in phrases at that point.  Maybe Ruby's a slow talker and a slow potty trainer comparatively.  I just need to remember the little song, "In His time, in His time; He makes all things beautiful in HIS time."  Not my time, not Allen's time, not anyone else's time, but in God's time.  Amen!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rick McKinley Talks Good Sense; In Related News, It Gets Dark When the Sun Goes Down

This is Pastor Rick.  Don't make him mad.

I just finished listening to the second sermon in Pastor (Dr.) Rick McKinley's latest sermon series, "Love. Sex. God"  Predictably, it is awesome.  But it's not awesome because it's predictable. His advie is counter-cultural, especially counter to the culture of Portland, Oregon.  Portland is a very "progressive" city and prides itself on its tolerance, its diversity of ways of living, and being weird.  Truly, there are bumper stickers that say "Keep Portland Weird."  But in Portland, what would REALLY be weird would be to be a person who believes in (and practices!) reserving sex only for the covenantal marriage of one man and one woman.  Such people would likely be seen as quaint (at best) and more likely as regressively puritanical and out of touch with reality. 
And here's his even WEIRDER idea: Christian parents are actually doing their children a disservice when they encourage them to put off early marriages.  To paraphrase Rick, if your nineteen year old son or daughter comes to you and says they've met someone wonderful who loves Jesus and loves them and wants to serve them and grow with them in marriage, and they want to get married in six months, do NOT try to discourage them merely because (A) they are young and (B) six months is not very long.  There is a pervading cultural attitude--alive and well in the church, I might add--that says it is insane to marry at a young age.  Culture would tell you it's insane because you need to play the field, date (and sleep) around so you can know what kind of men or women are out there and what you are looking for, and because you've hardly even begun to figure yourself out, so how can you make a lifetime commitment to someone else?  The church spin on that is that you need to make sure you have all your affairs in order and can support yourself and your spouse before you get married, and make sure you're fully mature and ready to enter into the difficulties that marriage can pose.  Well, I can certainly attest to the fact that marriage can be difficult and I imagine that marrying someone who already owns their own home and has a six figure salary job could be quite nice from a worldly standpoint (although I have no experience with that).  But I agree with Rick that as long as the two people in question are both going into the marriage with eyes wide open to the potential hardships and a solid commitment to Christ and the covenant they are about to make, age and socioeconomic status are of little importance.
I think of Andy and Alishia.  Both were 20 when they met (at church) and started hanging out.  I might have their timeline a bit off, but I think they started hanging out somewhere around the end of 2010.  By May of 2011 (at Ruby's first birthday party), they were a couple, and shortly thereafter they became engaged.  They got married in January of 2012: Andy was a few weeks shy of turning 22 and Alishia was 21.  Their courtship and engagement process was probably under a year total.  When they were telling people that they were engaged, they faced a great deal of skepticism from friends and family about the whole thing, and most of it hinged on their age and not having all their ducks in a row.  Andy didn't own a house; in fact, he lived with his mom.  He was beginning his own tutoring business and it was slow-going.  Alishia had a job as a pool and hot tub technician but quit it shortly before the wedding because it was extremely physically demanding and was bad on her back and joints.  Any "normal" couple would have perhaps moved in together and saved up for a few years before getting married.  Any "normal Christian" couple might not have moved in together, but they would have waited for at least a year or 18 months or two years, which for some reason is thought to be a more "respectable" amount of time to be engaged, but still remained chaste. Sounds torturous. 
Allen and I were sympathetic to and supportive of them in their desire to get married young and quickly because we had been in a similar boat; a faster track, even.  We went from total strangers to man and wife in 8 months, thanks in part to hearing Pastor Rick speak on this same topic while we were attending Imago Dei together early on.  Now, I am not wholesale recommending that approach for everyone.  But I am suggesting that maybe the church should be focusing less on getting 18 year olds to sign abstinence pledges to guilt trip them through college and more on getting them to think about what they are looking for in a spouse and what marriage means, and not scolding them or writing them off when they say, "We are okay with being a broke young couple if it means we're following the Lord and worshipping Him together in marriage." 
I know a lady who has two daughters.  One is 21 and the other is 19; the 21 year old just got married (while she was still 20) and the 19 year old is getting married in the coming spring.  I've also heard all of the shocked gasps from those to whom she reveals this information.  "What's the rush?" "My goodness, they're scarcely more than children themselves!" "That's so young!" "Aren't they worried about finishing school first?"  I don't know the reasons behind why the girls decided to marry early and marry young, but I don't automatically think they are nuts.  Would Allen have made a better husband if I waited until he were done with school (which would have tacked an additional 4 or 5 years onto our engagement)?  He might have made a less busy husband, but not necessarily better.  Would Allen have made a better husband if he had already found a job that paid five figures (forget six, five is good enough for us right now!!!)?  We might be more financially at ease, but I don't think that would have improved our marriage. 
My parents had a shortish dating period but a two year engagement.  My mom spoke highly of long engagements for young people as a way to learn more about each other and figure things out.  She never mentioned whether or not she and my dad (both Christians then as now) remained chaste during those two years, and I never asked because I didn't want to offend her.  Still don't; it's water under their 32-years-of-marriage-bridge, anyway.  I always assumed they did everything perfectly because, well, they were my parents. They didn't make mistakes.  From what I could see, they had a perfect love story, perfect courtship, and perfect marriage.  I never saw them argue and never saw evidence of any strain in the relationship, and still don't.  They are great friends and companions and I fully expect to be cheering for them at their golden anniversary with them in 18 years, Lord willing. And to be fair, when I told my parents that Allen and I were planning to be married, they did not try to stop me.  But I was also 25, almost 26.  I had finished my schooling and had a masters degree.  I had a good job that could easily support myself and my husband.  I owned a car.  Aside from owning a house, I had already checked off all the boxes under the list of "Things To Do Before Getting Married."  If I had been Allen's same age (he was 21, almost 22 when we got married), and still in college, would they have changed their tune?
Okay Mrs. Wise Guy, you say.  It's easy for YOU to talk because you are so far removed from that future possibility with your kids.  But what about if your kids come home at 18 or 19 and say they want to get married? Yes, what about when Ruby or Max gets to be that age? As a teacher, I know what young people are like, and I'm not THAT far removed from being a late teen and early 20 something. O, the DRAMA!! O, the CRUSHES!! O, the feeling that if so-and-so did not return my love I would probably DIE A SAD OLD MAID.  In my case, I was clearly not mature enough to be married at age 21, and God made that clear by preventing any of the men that I was desperately interested in from being interested in me.  Although I was SO not okay with it at the time, I can now clearly see that I would have been a trainwreck of a wife had I married young. It's still not easy to be a wife now that I'm 28, but I think I'm a lot better at it than I would have been younger. 
But even so...God uses trainwrecks, doesn't he?  My friend Katie (who got married last Saturday!) had a cousin who got married when she was 18 or 19, I can't remember which.  About a year into the marriage the cousin was not doing so hot.  Basically, she was acting really selfishly (oh, and Newsflash! Being married will help you uncover all the selfishness you never knew you had. And then you have kids and discover there's even MORE selfishness and that you are basically a wretch.)  But God used women in her life (including Katie) to speak some sense and rebuke to her and it helped her grow into a more mature person and a better wife.  I'm sure that people would be able to find lots of stories of couples who married young and got divorced a few years later, and that happens...but heck, with the divorce rate at nearly 50%, seems like a couple that marries young has the same odds as on that marries later on in life or marries after living together for years. 
And I would rather have Ruby or Max marry young out of Christian conviction and a desire not to sin sexually than to see them be more "conventional" in all of its implications.  If we're Christians, then we are called to live a different story, one that makes people sit up and take notice!  If children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior, those arrows are meant to be shot and sent out into the world to change things.  That's scary for the parents but ultimately their calling.  I would not counsel them to be "safe" in terms of worldly safety. As was said of Aslan, "Safe? Of course he isn't safe! But he's good.  And he's the king."
Well, I have gone on at length about all of this, and for what?  I suppose that I just get a little excited when I hear about something that makes sense and I want to share it.  Seriously, whether you're single, engaged, married, divorced, widowed, whatever, listen to the sermon series.  Even if you're not an "evangelical Christian."  Pastor Rick is an engaging speaker and you won't be bored, and you'll certainly find something that will rile you up and get you thinking.  Thinking: it's what's for dinner.  Okay, I must be tired if I'm starting to come up with sentences like that! Good night, all. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Oh, Wuby...

Why can't this happen at naptime at home?!

This refrain has been issuing forth from Ruby's lips often these days.  Of course she has heard me say it, and now she's saying it herself.  Usually it's when she's pitching a fit or doing something she knows she shouldn't be doing.
For instance:
*Taking off her eye patch.
*Getting out of bed at naptime/bedtime, turning on the light, and playing instead of sleeping.
*Rubbing yogurt all over her arms, face, and hair as if it is some kind of amazing anti-aging cream.
*Throwing herself down on the ground in a doctor's waiting room, store, parking lot, etc.  because she doesn't want to leave.
Just a few examples.  I suppose all this should be making me excited that work starts next week (at least, meetings start on Monday and kids come the following week).  But I'm not.  I know it will be fine when I'm there.  I'll enjoy my colleagues and the kids, as I always do.  But I'm not looking forward to being away from my kids, no matter how much they are driving me crazy.
My patience level has seriously suffered this week.  I've been a lot more snappish with Ruby in particular, and I hate it.  It's so hard to stay calm and reasoned sometimes when she is getting into things  and you don't feel like you can dare to take a minute to yourself or for Max.
Good news: OHSU does accept Max's insurance.  Now we just have to wait for all the appropriate people to call the other appropriate people to make appointments, check what insurance will cover, etc. I'm feeling very impatient about it all, but really, it's amazing just how fast people can communicate now.  You can fax or email documents and have them cross town in a matter of seconds. And yet I still spent a significant amount of emotional energy today fretting about it.  Why?  What good does that do? If God is powerful and detail-oriented enough to keep Max's brain working and heart pumping (along with everyone else on the planet), is He really going to sweat working out insurance stuff and coordinating doctors' phone calls?
I think not.
Good news!! Toby just came up and told me that he got the K/1 aide job at MRA.  It's not full time, but it's something.  And now we can carpool!  Oh goody!  He'll be awesome at it for sure.
Well, gotta finish putting away Gleaner food.  Lots of bananas this week; I'll probably be pureeing it for baby food.  Max turns 5 months tomorrow, and Ruby turned 27 months today.  Wow!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Torticollis, Scoliosis, Plagiocephaly, Oh My!

He's not looking at you askance; he was born that way!
My little Maxy-moo went to the pediatric physical therapist today.  Thank God, they had a location in Oregon City...his pediatrician was prognosticating that the only location that would take Max's insurance would be out in Gresham, and I wasn't looking forward to an hour commute each way.  Also I'm thanking God because they scheduled it on a day when Allen was off of work, so he was able to come with me and hear what the PT had to say.  
Her name was Rachel, and she was very nice.  She did an evaluation of Max and determined right away that he did indeed have torticollis which was causing him to hold his head tilted and rotated.  As a result, he also has plagiocephaly (the fancy term for having flat spots on his head) and she wants him to wear a brace (you know, those funky helmet things that you sometimes see babies wearing) to help with that.  Thank God she's addressing it now, when he still has several months of prime head growing time, and the brace will encourage his skull to get nice and round.  She also noticed (and this we hadn't heard about from his pediatrician) that he has a bit of C-curve scoliosis in his back which is pushing his rib cage out towards his back on one side.  She wasn't sure if it was "functional" or not: that is, a function of his head being all whack from the torticollis rather than something he was born with.  But seeing as this crazy little monkey spent a few weeks squished sideways in my uterus, I think it probably messed up all sorts of things.  Sigh.  
She taught us some stretches to do and gave us advice on ways to help, but she wants to start seeing him once a week at least to do PT with him.  
The part that worries me is that Max's insurance, which is usually amazing, doesn't cover torticollis treatment.  We simply can't afford to take him to see the PT with anything less than full coverage.  PT is pretty spendy, as it turns out, and we're pretty broke.  We explained this to her and she said that she would do what she could in his write up to get insurance approval.  So, now we're just waiting on seeing if the state (through which he has his insurance) will approve.  
It's a horrible feeling to think that you won't be able to afford to give your child everything he needs to succeed.  I'm thankful that we live in a progressive state that believes in providing quality health care for all children.  Yes, we have high income taxes (because of no sales tax here) and it initally stung to be sending off a check to Salem in January, until I thought about how much we have benefitted from the social "safety net" spread wide for us here in Oregon. 
As I write this, he's happily looking at the mobile in his crib and being a happy little guy.  On Friday we take Ruby to the eye doctor to find out what's going on with her after 6 weeks of patching.  Hoping there is good news in that quarter.  
"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.  Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul." (Ps. 143:8)