Friday, November 8, 2013

about this time...

baby J, brand new.
Four years ago about this time I was writing this post and putting myself to bed for my first night as a mother.  I can still remember the car ride, the Georgia sunshine, and the sound of my heart rattling around inside my chest in the interminable minute between ringing the doorbell at J's care home and the moment Granny Moon opened the door and ushered us in to the light filled room where Melvin sat holding the baby. Our baby.

I didn't cry that day - it was too bewildering and fast and bizarre and full of feeling for me to even touch my brain to my heart to figure out what was happening.

Tonight, four years later, I sat next to Andrew in the cafeteria of our local elementary school, S on my lap, and watched that same person, the tiny baby we held for the first time in 2009, perform a little play and some songs with the other preschoolers in her class. She stood tall and took it very seriously. She fills up my heart, every day, that magical beautiful life-changing child of mine.
we still got it. photo by JennyJ, more here if you are interested.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Princess Ironman

Princess Tiana and Princess Ironman, ready to Trick or Treat!

We're having a lot of fun with holidays this year, now that we've got two kiddos who get that fun stuff happens on particular fun days - birthdays, Halloween, Christmas, etc.  J has been deliberating over her costume for months now and, in good little sister fashion, S has been as well. Now S, at just over two years old, doesn't always understand what she's talking about as she scrambles to catch up and keep up with her older sibling. "Don't copy me!!" is a frequently heard phrase in our home these days. (often followed by an echoing voice doing just exactly that.)

So when J finally settled on which princess she wanted to be, I sort of expected S to go for something princess related as well. And she did, as you can see - Princess Ironman.

I don't know where my youngest daughter's obsession with Ironman comes from. Well, that's not true. My kids are home with their dad more days then they are home with me and they spend at least some time doing the things that Andrew likes to do - going to comic shops, listening to music, reading books. I have come home more than once to the three of them gathered around his X-men encyclopedia, heads bent over as the girls listen earnestly to their father's explanation of why The Thing looks like a pile of rocks. I think S first encountered Ironman either on one of Andrew's t-shirts or possibly a mug but she decided almost instantly that this was her hero. And she started telling us that she wanted to be Ironman for Halloween almost as soon as she understood what a costume was.

Then one day I was driving somewhere and we were talking about princesses - conversation initiated by J, who was really into both princesses and picking her favorite _______ from a line up. J couldn't decide if Belle or Tiana was her favorite princess. And a little voice piped up from the other side of the backseat "Ironman is the best princess!"

So Princess Ironman was born.

I often feel that one of the best gifts our lifestyle gives to our girls is their dad as primary caregiver 4/7 days a week. He has taught them how to slay monsters, that anyone can end up with superpowers, and that Ironman is a princess too. Thanks to the influence of their dad my girls know that both Mommy and Daddy can fix their owies, and that their male parent figure is just as (sometimes more) capable of patience, nurture, and homemaking as I am.

Sometimes it is a little disorienting for me, because this is different than the parental roles that formed me. I don't do everything for my kids that my mom did for me. I'll catch myself feeling guilty about that sometimes, because my mom was amazing at it. But then I realize that I don't do everything my mom did because I don't have to. There is someone else in our home who also likes to do those things, and is really good at them. My girls have more, not less. They've got superheroes, princesses and everything in between.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Summertime Space

Somehow summer is gone, and for some reason the photo above sort of sums it up for me. That's little S on the edge of Blue Lake in Northern California. It is, I am certain, an amazing spot. But when we visited several weekends ago as part of a wedding celebration for a friend the beauty was both obscured and oddly augmented by smoke from the gigantic Rim Fire threatening Yosemite some 70 miles or more to the south. In a lot of ways that's what summer has felt like to me - beautiful and obscured. There are fires on the horizon.

S's first kayaking experience

None the less I have had some necessary space to breathe, to let my mind roam a bit without the tethers of assigned readings and paper deadlines. My final year of seminary is ahead of me and it will be full of travel and preparation for vocational life beyond ordination. I'm excited, nervous and exhausted looking ahead. At the end of each summer I have a tradition, or perhaps just a habit, of reflecting on what of this season I might remember in years to come. Here's a few memories, bookmark guesses of what I'll keep from this summer to warm me up when the rains come.

  • naked kids running through sprinklers on their grandpa's lawn, with water and mountains in the distance.
  • my mother singing a story to J every night on our visit, and then over the phone once we got home.
  • my step-mother's homemade pepper jelly
  • S eating tomatoes from the garden
  • J and her cousin T chasing an entire flock of geese
  • learning to facepaint
  • sitting with my neighbors on long sunlit evenings, watching kids chase and play
  • getting an old friend as a new neighbor
  • preaching all four services at St. Paul's for the first time
  • the sun setting through the smoke while Kyle and Katty got married in the mountains
  • walking through my neighborhood
  • a California second birthday celebration for my baby S

summer is for backyard blanket forts

Fall is here in a big way and I'm not sorry. I'm ready for long walks in misty weather, scarves and layers, and the sort of bite in the air that justifies cuddling under heavy blankets at night. I'm even ready for homework and church work and the real live start of the hustle and bustle of the last year of school, the last year before (God willing!) my priestly ordination. 

So, hello weather, hello sunrises that come early enough to watch. Bring it on, fall!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So we've had a couple kids for almost a couple years now...

In a little over a month my little S will be the same age as J was when our baby was born. Which is nuts to me. We didn't start saving J's clothes until S arrived, because we have other kids in the building to pass them on to and we didn't know if we'd have another kid, or when that kid would arrive. When the baby arrived, of course we stopped passing things down and started saving them for S. She's wearing those clothes now. Almost every day S is in an outfit that was pioneered by my oldest, especially now that summer is almost upon us and the weather is starting to overlap.

S is more of a climber than J and as a result has been graduated to a big kid bed far sooner than big sis. Keeping a 21 month old in a toddler bed is a bit of a challenge, but it's working. What's harder to wrap my mind around is the lack of a crib in their room. When I'm not being driven insane by bedtime I'm reveling in the sounds of sisterly conversations (they have conversations! with each other!!) that collapse into giggles as soon as a parent sternly opens the door.

So. Almost two years into having two kiddos, what I have learned?  Here's some stuff that so far has been true for us.

The second kid does not get as much attention as the first one did. This was my big fear, one of the top things I fretted about before baby S arrived and in the weeks after we brought her home.  I remembered so clearly the many nights when J was a new baby that Andrew and I stood, stunned by the miraculous beauty of her presence, and watched her sleep. I remember how every time she cried I felt as if my heart was being ripped bodily from me and how I could do nothing except for abandon whatever I was doing and go make it better for her. It wasn't like this with S, in part because I was quicker to remember what different cries were about and how to respond and in part because it is just hard to spend a lot of time staring at one sleeping child when there is a toddler screaming "MOMMY C'MERE!" at you. However, the end result of this was not what I feared. S as a baby was more sociable, independent and content than her bigger sister was - a combination of nature and nurture, but still. Now as a toddler she can easily out-charm big sis to get the attention she wants from anyone, something I try to keep my eye on. Turns out babies don't need all that worship and adoration. (and she still got and gets plenty, just not to the degree only-child baby J did)

The first kid doesn't get as much attention as before either. This is a pretty good thing. The first time J hit her baby sister I was full of conflicting emotions.  J was my baby, and I'd never been as furious with her as I was when she baby. But as she learned appropriate ways to interact with her new sib and I learned appropriate ways to set boundaries I observed some pretty awesome stuff from my toddler that I never would have discovered if she remained an only child. J was actually a great help during the early months of baby S. She was willing to spend time alone looking at books or watching a tv show while I helped baby sleep. Her social skills skyrocketed as she realized that Mommy and Daddy were not the only people who could meet her needs for social interaction - she became adept at commandeering any visitors to our home as her special guests within moments of them stepping inside.  She welcomed her baby sister into her bedroom and learned how to go back to sleep when woken up without any help from us. She's grew up a lot and having a sister has been a big part of the how and why of that.

It's good to have a sister.
Now that S gives as good as she gets J has someone to learn how to fight with who is always around and never gives up. They're learning how to play and conspire together - well enough that I now know to find them immediately if things have been quiet for more than five minutes. It's a sure sign that they're up to something they both know is not Mama-approved. They're a powerful pair when they decide to team up. Yes, sometimes I despair of the squabbles and frequent tears.  My daughters are physical people and we're working on using words not bodies to express ourselves. But if I ever doubt their attachment all it takes is some other kid on a playground or over to visit giving S trouble. J is fiercely protective of her baby sister.

It's also good to get a break from your sister sometimes.
At Seattle's Comic-con this year it just so happened that one day Andrew was there for part of the day with S while I did some things with J and another day he took J without the other two of us. Both days we each had a fantastic time with the kiddo we were one-on-one with. It's a no-brainer probably but that's when I realized that the girls were ALWAYS together - either home with me, Andrew or both of us or at daycare together or off to grandma's house together or being babysat together. They sleep and nap at the same time. With the exception of church where J is in Godly Play and the baby's in the nursery they never get a break.  We've been making a bigger effort since then at giving them breaks from each other and having some quality one-on-one parent time and it pays off with happier kiddos the rest of the time.

We're getting better at this.
We don't waffle around as much. We have clearer ideas about what to do and when to be flexible. We understand that this too, whatever this is, will pass and sometimes that's a relief and sometimes it's sort of sad. Relearning all this with S has reinforced our faith in it being true for J, if that makes sense. Right now, for example, S wakes up every day between 5 and 5:30. No matter what time she goes to bed.  When J was her age and had sleep issues it felt like THIS WILL NEVER END. Now, with S, I'm not happy about the situation but I'm very aware that it will eventually pass. She'll sleep later and better when she's gotten through whatever developmental milestone she's working on. And knowing that about her reminds me that the same is true with J, even though when she hits a rough patch it's likely something we haven't seen yet.

So yeah, I'm stunned to think that in a few weeks J will have had a little sister for as long as she didn't have one. And that from here on out I'll be more experienced parenting two kids than I was with just one. Experience isn't everything but heck, it's not nothing either.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

these are a few of my favorite things

I've been feeling like an extra lucky bug lately, and especially today waking up to a Mother's Day collection of my favorite things - orchids (which I inevitably kill but love nonetheless), coffee, peppermint+chocolate and all the TOS Star Trek movies on Blue Ray.  Spoiled. Rotten.

Mother's Day is complicated for many of us, not that important for some, dreamy for others and just awful for a few. We don't all have our mothers, we didn't all feel loved by our mothers or get to know them, and not everyone who wants to become a mother gets to. And not every mother gets to keep her children close - children are lost to adoption, death, miscarriage, and if we are lucky then someday we lose them to adulthood and all the risks and trials and separations that come along with that.

My brother and I always try to go big on Mother's Day with our moms and grandmother.  Mostly this is because I'm the organizer and I'm crap at remembering birthdays - if only I could arrange for Hallmark to declare my parents' birthdays a holiday and bombard me with emails and billboards reminding me they were coming maybe I'd do better at it. So I want to win at something. But we are overly, richly blessed with motherhood, Ben and I, and I don't want my mother, stepmother, or my Gran to ever think we don't know it.  I lucked out with my Mother-in-law as well.  Not everyone marries into mother-in-law relationship as easy and fun as what I've got. So in the middle of all the complicated stuff I have no problem celebrating all my mamas.

And there is one more mother for whom I am grateful and want to celebrate today, whose motherhood is complicated by a loss I can't imagine, a loss that ultimately made me a mother. The girls and I will sit down every Mother's day and talk about their first mom, make her cards, send her something. And as much as I love my girls with a fierceness and depth that shakes me to my core at times I will continue to pray that someday nobody will have to face the choice, and loss, that Z did.

Wherever you are - mother or not, with your child or without her, with your mother or without her - I hope you find peace, and that you are able to give and receive love today.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


 A couple of weeks ago I got an email from my professor/collaborator/friend Mark, letting me know that a paper we wrote together last year had finally reached publication. It's a rather long piece with lots of things to say about the father of existentialism, Christology, and the experience of children in Godly Play and how the former and latter can converse with each other about the middle thing.

Anyway - it's up at The Journal of Childhood and Religion site here. I certainly don't expect anyone to read the whole thing (unless you have a particular passion for Kierkegaard, Christology, or childhood and kids as theological meaning makers) but I'm a wee bit proud of it and wanted you to know.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Rilke poem for the day after an unspeakable thing (which could be any day, depending on where/who you are in the world)

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
 then walks with us silently out of the night.

 These are words we dimly hear:

 You, sent out beyond your recall,
 go to the limits of your longing.
 Embody me.

 Flare up like flame
 and make big shadows I can move in.

 Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
 Just keep going.  No feeling is final.
 Don't let yourself lose me.

 Nearby is the country they call life.
 You will know it by its seriousness.

 Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke