Category Archives: Life as mom

Great With Child a book review

Resolution is in sight! As I transfer all my files from one computer to another and onto an external hard drive for safekeeping until I get my pc wiped and re programmed (today is my appointment!) I am coming across things I have written in the past and thought this was a fun piece to share. Great With Child is easily my favorite book of all time. And, THIS was actually my first publication, it was for our MOPS newsletter a few years back. I hope you enjoy…

I have a bit of an obsession with books, not that I find much time to read them these days, but even so, I yearn to consume the written word with an insatiable hunger for information and inspiration. Books on parenting, devotionals, a good novel or two, professional resources and plenty of abc’s and 123’s are strewn across my headboard, jammed into shelves in every room, packed into my office and sometimes placed strategically near the toilet (where it seems I get my most consistent reading in these days). Of all these books that serve one purpose or another in my life, there is one I go to like a latte after another night of broken sleep and savor like good chocolate after a season of lent. Great with Child: Reflections on Faith, Fullness and Becoming a Mother is a favorite manuscript in my library. My mind and soul yearn for the words on these pages as a most genuine reflection of the range of emotion I feel at this great juncture.
Debra Rienstra, an English professor from Calvin College, writes with eloquence, humor, candor and faith about all topics feminine. We get to ride the river of life with her from the deep yearning for motherhood, to the grumpy perfectionism that rises in us as we seek to “nest” just-so; laughter over various bodily fluids excreted by mother and child soon after birth, to reverence over our ability to join the Creator in creation, shedding blood to have children as Jesus shed His blood for us. Rienstra shares the story, that feels like pieces of every woman’s story, of her own struggle toward conception, the sacred walk of pregnancy, questions of identity in work and relationships, and the ultimate bliss, chaos and meaning that comes with a child.
Drawing on a myriad of writings both secular and sacred, she is single-handedly the best book-club resource for mothers who would like to stay connected to something intellectual without sacrificing these fleeting days of splashy bath times, wide-eyed-wonder and high pitched “I wove yous.” And the best part is the book can, and should be read a little at a time. One paragraph, one sentence even, begs to be tasted and savored. Akin to a dear friend speaking words of truth so piercing that tears well-up at being thus well known, Great with Child illuminates the sacredness of womanhood mixed with motherhood as a beautiful tapestry, breathtaking overall and precious in detail.
Daunting to find one quote that might exemplify the book, Rienstra’s own response to how she did it sums well. One asks “You wrote this book during your third pregnancy and then during the baby’s first year? Are you crazy? I haven’t been able to write up a decent grocery list since my first baby was born!” Amen sister. Riesntra’s responds “I am not exactly sure…I had to do it…Giving life to a child seemed to irradiate my thoughts about everything else – the body, womanhood, culture, God-everything. I wanted to read something that treated motherhood in the fullness of its dimensions, social, and personal, body, mind, and soul.” And to her newborn son, and thus vicariously to us all “For you is the mystery waiting, for you it was hidden for ages in God who created all things. Be rooted and grounded in love. Comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth. Know those things that surpass all knowledge. Be filled to the measure, my little one, with the fullness of God.” And again, I say, amen.


Choices

There is so much I want to write, so many stories half written, or logged in my brain, that I want to bring life to, that must be told. But alas I have children who wake early and am a mama who needs her sleep to be a good mama, especially when I am flying solo as a mama.

My husband left early for a business trip this morning. He’s a fisherman, so his standards for early are EARLY, because all potential breaks at first light.

I am not someone who particularly likes to get up early, but I can rally when I need to and can appreciate the possibility of a brand new day in a quiet house. This morning though I snuck out of bed as my husband showered to make him breakfast before he left. Not that he needs me to make him breakfast, he is perfectly capable, and in fact, we have things fairly well divided that I take the night shifts and he hits the morning time with the little ones. It was so early, and everyone had gotten to bed so late after an energy packed vacation that I figured I would creep back into bed afterwards and get a few more hours in before the kids would wake up.

You know what happens next.

At 5:15 the shower goes off and in the background I hear my baby squawking, ready for someone to come get her and give her some breakfast too. Plan B, feed her a quick meal, I have already cooked most of it off, and then slide her back into bed while I got my last delectable minutes of rest. We kissed papa goodbye, said our I love you’s and I cooled some of the hot meal for her to eat.

You know what happens next.

Pitter pat, drawers shut, and two puffy eyed, sunkissed faces make their way down the stairs and climb up onto chairs saying “I’m hungry.” With a hearty breakfast warm and waiting I dish everyone up. Then drinks, and lunch preparations, cleaning baby droppings off the floor, then the baby’s face, a hairdo for a big kid and a spelling test, morning prayers and memorizing verses and checking over home work and wiping noses and bottoms and overseeing teeth brushing and squeezing in a moment to make my cup of tea and everything that is so routine and mundane about our everyday lives.

And I am on the brink of tears I am so grateful to be doing it all. As the morning scurry hit full tide, my heart was swelling with gratitude to have these amazing children to love and care for and wake up early for and get up tirelessly for through the nights and not have time to write or create or finish nearly anything personal or professional in any way that I would hope to for this season of time, oh another 20 years or so.

I am so driven and so full of creative energy that it would be all too Pollyanna of me to say I can find all that to be fulfilled in parenting. It absolutely cannot, for me. But, and I’ll add on a great big although

THAT

IS

OKAY!

There were much more profound moments in my day – in my professional life, in some playtime with my son, coaching my daughter’s soccer practice and the conversation about friendship that followed, in the mistakes I made, where weaknesses are and the epiphanies and graces – things that make for a better story than this, but, as is my life, I have run out of time. My eyes are straining to stay open, my head is groggy and I can’t remember if I shut my daughter’s window so I must pull myself out of bed to check, gives me a reason to give one more round of kisses and tuck stray limbs into soft blankets and say soft prayers.

The choice I have here is to work at something creative and life-giving on another level, or go to sleep and be ready to love on and care for my babies all over again with the energy I need. I will choose sleep, praying for late sleepers tomorrow:)


Leaving and Cleaving

As I was sorting the stack of ongoing clutter in the corner of our kitchen counter, I came across a year-in-review letter I’d yet to read from a family I knew and loved when we lived in California.  I can’t stop crying.  The letter was a simple detailing of the ins and outs of bits and pieces of their lives; a few highlights fitted into the standard one page Christmas letter that I know just scratches the surface of all that is really going on for them.  It is a letter I look forward to every year, partly because I love them and partly because the love they share for each other that is evident in the letter is such an encouragement to me. They are a family I look up to and have sought to emulate in the ways they care for each other, their kids, in how they celebrate life, and live out their faith.

Jim and Angela were a couple with young kids when I was a newlywed-grad-student-young-life-staffer in California.  I was too busy, and not quite ready, for my own kids, but hopeful.  Their kids were the ages mine are now and though I have seen them growing up in this yearly letter and our facebook friendship, my mind holds onto them as little boys.  But the thing is, they are not little boys, they tower over me.   And the thing that is cutting me to the core is that their oldest son is in his senior year and will be graduating, and leaving to go to college, and really, I just can’t bear it.

He will be starting out on his own life adventures that I could so easily encourage in the teenagers I worked with when I was a Young Life leader there.  Oh how naive I was that it was all so very wonderful.  I was closer in age to them than their parents and having a wonderful time living out my newly adult adventures.  So yes, go do wonderful things with your life!  Hooray!

But now I am the parent.  And so now, I can’t stop crying, and I know the reason is partly because I know what the future might bring all-to-soon for my little ones, but also because we are in our own season of transition.

I am returning to work after a much extended maternity leave. I have spent months preparing in my heart and mind and in our home and gathering the support people we need and making a good schedule so that I am still with my kids for a majority of their hours.

Change though, as prepared for, prayed over, and good as it might be, brings up feelings of loss and worries of future regret, and I am one to fret and weigh, and consider and reconsider big decisions.  In the end, there are many reasons it makes sense for me to return, but the thought of missing one single moment with my kids, knowing that someday I would give anything to have these moments back is almost unbearable.

The reality for me though, is that I enjoy my work.  I feel called to it, created for it and find immense meaning and purpose in doing it.  The other reality for me is that I get restless in my role as mom and wife and homemaker; roles I also feel very much called to and created for, but my mind takes me other places and I long to do other things too.  As much as I seek to capture the moments of these sweet days and live content, aware of how precious and fleeting they are, I find when I take time for intellectual and creative pursuits I am rejuvenated.  I return to my family energized in a unique way that seems to actually make me more aware and intentional about the sacred time we spend with one another.  Not always, of course, because work can be hard and taxing in it’s own right, but often enough to matter.

And so this morning, with our 4 year old son snuggled between us in bed, our baby girl waking to nurse at an hour I’d rather be sleeping and our first grade girl bounding with excitement for what her school day brings, I am weepy and sentimental about it all.  I can’t seem to capture them enough in my heart to make them stay this way forever.  Because in a moment, my infant will be taking her first steps, my pre-school son will not have leisurely mornings with me building blanket forts, and my oldest will be off to college too.  My heart will be full and broken because I love them so so so very much.

My hope is that we will have created a family so saturated in love that we are free spring forth into the world to be who God has created us to be knowing we are able to return safe to welcoming arms flung wide open, emulating our Savior who delights in relationship with us.

There is a wall in Jim and Angela’s house that is lined with frames, floor to ceiling.  They are the kind of frames with many openings and are full of photos from their family activities and vacations.  When I last visited I pored over those frames, a privileged witness to all that love.  I put it into my mental to-do’s to surround our house with visual memories of our family memories too.  It is New Year’s time two years later, maybe this will be the year.  But is is not because the memories haven’t been created that the pictures have not been hung yet, I just haven’t had or made the time for the visual aids.  I do have to give myself credit for the intentional time that has been spent, both in the everyday moments and in the special experiences.  We don’t live this existence everyday, not at all, we have our very normal, chore-filled, carpool toting, budget conscious, every-day lives, but we are constantly processing and pondering how to be intentional about capturing these days, aware of how quickly they will pass.

Still, I am choosing to work, for a snippet of time. I will leave for my first day, and possibly my 30th day, back to work and I will be excited and I will cry.  But my kids will be in good hands and we will spend special time together when I get home, and when we go to the park or on a vacation or cuddle in bed after stories and talk about who they want to be when they grow up as they try to comprehend what their mama and papa do outside of their most important lives.

There is no perfect formula to all this.  Sometimes I will wonder if I made the right choice, in the right time, and things will go wrong, hopefully little solvable things, because that is just the way life is.  I am thankful to worship a God who has given me the free will to pursue Him in this life with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength.  May I honor you Lord as I walk the path before me and cleave to You above all, Amen


Crumbs

Sometimes, sometimes, it is enough to just do the mundane chores of the day.

I returned to the sink tonight to wash a few more dishes for the umpteenth time this day, the 4th return this evening.  I’m on my own with my husband out of town and I just want to get every last dish washed before falling into bed, to start fresh tomorrow with one area of my life complete.

I am exhausted, falling asleep while I cuddled with my kids.  This long day follows a long night with a coughing boy and a wakeful baby. I hear all the sounds at night.

As I squeeze in every last plate and each small cup to the over-full dishwasher and open the lunch boxes to pull out remaining bits of food from eco-friendly travel containers that must be washed each day to be ready for the next, my thoughts went to the places where my children’s lives are lived; the playground and the lunchroom (did they laugh and eat well?), to our dinner table (did they feel loved and full?), to the days’ stories and smiles, and bits of nourishment we offer one another in everyday moments.

I am overcome with gratitude for these leftover crumbs, these remainders of my children’s day that let me know that their bellies were full, that they took life in and were fed, cared for.  It is one reason I exist.

The sounds of them breathing deeply, peacefully asleep, safe, alive and beautiful, in the background of my running water and quietly placed silverware, their soft skin still warming my cheeks, I breathe deep, knowing, it is all so very good.


Night angst

Here I am staying up way too late once again seeking to carve out some efficient get-it-done time that just doesn’t exist during the day.  I’d like to use this time to reflect, read, write, finish out the days tasks and hopes.  Generally though, I fog out over some non-urgent matter, the time sinks away and I can barely keep my eyes open having yet again accomplished nearly nothing of substance.

I want to archive the events of the day, the feelings and memories that go along with the ever fleeting moments of my 6 year, 4 year and 7 month olds lives.  I so desperately want to hang onto these precious days somehow, slow them down, capture their essence and meaning forever.  Who has the time to scrapbook?!  A good old-fashioned photo album would be a good start, but it seems my pictures have been captured in the black hole vortex of my computer, never to be retrieved again.

I also want to read more and write.

The stack of books next to my bed is now 11 high, including 5 on a variety of parenting topics, one on small groups ministry, a scrap-booky blogging how-to, one spiritual reference book, my bible and 4 personal journals to each of my kids that go written in far less often than I hope.  Twelve more are in a bookshelf just next to my bed longing to be read immediately as well.  They fall into a similar break-down of topics, but 2 novels are there too.   Novels, or maybe it is the characters in them, become like good friends to me; I begin to love and cherish them and so I savor and linger and hang onto them not wanting to be done and have to say goodbye.  I know, it’s weird.

And the writing, that is my latest pull.  Inspiration hits throughout the day and I so long to put pen to paper, but who has time to write anything down or even type mid-day, mid-stream, mid-doing-doing-doing of life with 3 kids?  Again, they are 6, 4 and 7 months.  That inspiration gets stifled, tucked into the recesses of my continually flowing mind full of too many details and not enough outlets starts to become a sinking feeling of “here I go again, I so want to put words to this, but as soon as I have a place to put the baby down from my arms, get a child a drink of water NOW, prep the next meal, get clean dishes out of the dishwasher so that the pile next to the sink that will completely fill the dishwasher all over again can be loaded, catch a ball, put on a band-aid, fix a pigtail, oh, and oops, and well, there goes that thought.

It feels purely delusional to think I will ever have the time to write, so I stuff those feelings down, tuck them away, why think anyway? (I get a little hopeless and sarcastic in my mind, I can be a pretty good conversationalist with myself when I am the only adult around all day).

Then I wonder how I am doing?  What am I passionate about these days outside of mothering?  Are there pieces of me that need to be cultivated, are dying away, would make me feel more complete and vibrant  if I were pursuing them?  Funny thing, I started the day feeling so content.  The normal every-day tasks of the day, (from my ever indulgent cup of perfectly brewed, sweetened and creamed tea, to the meals and the dishes and the diapers and the forts and the games and the wipings and the hugs…) felt so meaningful, so attainable, so good.  Then the cranky hour hit us all in the preparations before bed. I found myself yelling like a strange bird over some minor misdemeanor after 20 minutes of chorale whining while I was trying to complete a phone call (BTW: major pet peeve: background noise during a phone call – I can’t care for multiple voices!!) and then here I am again, ending my day with regret about getting inpatient and that circulates back to the “who am I and what am I doing with my life?” questions that don’t speak of the contentment, joy, small annoyances to-be-sure, but most generous amounts of love and happiness of the prior 11 hours.

Oh there is so much more I want to write about and do!  I want to write about how we celebrated Barley’s half birthday today and all the tender and fun things that emerged as we spoke affirmation into his life and started the tradition of “gifting others” on our half birthdays.  I want to look into a writing class that might get me closer to writing about my loss and grief after unexpectedly losing my full-term son.  I want to research home school some more and figure out if it is not as crazy and anti-social as I have always thought and might in fact give us a more intact family and meaningful education before my daughter heads off to 1st grade in a month.

Oh and organize all areas of my life, to simplify, of course.  But, alas, it is approaching midnight (early for me actually, I get my second wind at night and I have come to accept that it might not be my best hours but they are MY hours and maybe someday i will get something done with them), I will have no back-up parent support from my 18 hour working husband tomorrow (more cups of tea!).

The iphoto thingamabob at the bottom of my computer is bouncing up and down demanding my attention (so much like my daytime hours) because I just figured out how to transfer 3,777 archived family photos to my computer – see above about desires for organizing and printing – anyone have any good ideas for that goal??

Oh and the catch 22 of all this late night trying to capture some “me” time is I get migraines, for a variety of reasons (probably some obvious ones revealed here), but mainly if I don’t get enough sleep or if it is broken for a few nights in a row.  Last night it was the 8 lb miniature dachsund of the house waking me.  She was doing the restless house tour and continually shaking her flappy ears, jingling her collar, arf!!!.  I’m praying for a solid 6 hours tonight, which would get me by. Well heck – since I am praying, how about 9 solid hours?  That would be SO nice!

Reality is my fisherman husband is up and gone at 3:30 a.m., and the kids routinely wake up a few short hours after.  Six hours would be great.  Quiet dog!

Goodnight.