Posted in family life

a birthday for limerick

Look how big this boy is!

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It’s so hard to believe that he’s already a year old. It shouldn’t be that hard since he’s been walking for over two months already… and can say practically anything he puts his mind to (he has 35 distinct words already, that he knows and we know and he can use consistently)… but it really is. At the risk of sounding old (or like my father!), where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday he was just a sleepy newborn snuggled up against me all the time – and now he’s wriggling to get away and play at all times except when he’s tired and ready for bed.

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We celebrated with my family at my parents’ house with applesauce cake (in honor of Limerick’s first word, “apple”), balloons, and a few presents. Limerick wasn’t sure about the cake, I think mainly because of the frosting, but he was delighted with the balloons, and quite intensely excited about the presents.

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He did have some help opening the presents – I thought it would be both easier and more fun for everyone involved if Rondel was allowed to help, and that was definitely the case. Limerick would rather do everything with Rondel than by himself at this point, and Rondel’s birthday was recent enough that he remembered the excitement of opening presents and was eager to do it again!

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Anyway, happy birthday, Limerick! Getting to know you this year, as you have grown and begun to show us your very own brilliant personality, has been such a privilege. Your intensity, your focus, your persistence at accomplishing a task you have set for yourself, your internal motivation, and your confidence are wondrous to behold. The eagerness and delight with which you approach life (especially when Rondel is around to make you laugh) bring me joy every day – it’s hard to stay depressed or angry about life when you are bursting with happiness near me about a ball or a puppy or a baby or your own toots!

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You remind me to find the happiness in the simple things as well, just by being yourself. And every day I am thankful that God put you in our family, just when we needed you most, and I pray that we can be just as much of a blessing to you as you grow up. I love you, Limerick.

Posted in musings

Advent hope

Is there any better day than the first Sunday of Advent to feel the heartache of longing?

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When my house is a mess, I’m exhausted from the holidays, our family routine is in smithereens, the babies aren’t sleeping, my emotions are riding a roller coaster, and I’ve yelled at or spoken sharply to the boys so many times that I can’t see why they even want to be around me anymore, it is good to know that God is bringing hope and healing even into the middle of these messy, ugly, details.

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He is coming.

Coming to break through our sinfulness, our weaknesses, our hard hearts, our apathetic spirits, and our pride.

In beauty and vulnerability He is coming.

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Let us prepare our hearts for His birth, and make room in our minds and our lives for His coming: let us light the candle of hope today, and remember His promises of redemption. All this, even these endless and mind-numbing failures played out in each hour’s trivial details, can be restored and made beautiful. That is the hope that gives me strength to rise up again in the morning and try, once again, to live in the love He has given me.

(all pictures are from a friend’s wedding, in lieu of actual Advent pictures, since I’m a bit behind on that… they fit my mood though)

Posted in family life

riding the light rail

On Tuesday I took the boys to the big park on the light rail train instead of walking the mile to get there like we have in the past (I have a pass since I take the train to work every day, and the boys are still young enough to ride free). The children’s museum we frequent has had a train exhibit up for a while, and part of it is themed after the local light rail train, so Rondel has been even more fascinated by it than usual. I have to admit, I used riding on the train as a sort of bribe to get Rondel to leave the museum when it closed for the day…

Anyway, Limerick just wanted to run around and explore the inside of the train, and was upset that I wouldn’t let him do that, but Rondel was completely entranced by just being on the light rail train. Every time it would start moving again after a stop his whole face would light up and he’d exclaim, “it’s driving!!!” He loved it so much, in fact, that when we got off the light rail after our return journey, he almost broke down in tears because he wanted to get back on and ride some more “right now.”

I was worried that it would be a hassle taking two babies and a stroller on the train but now I see that my worries were baseless, and I’ll have to find more destinations for us to ride to 🙂 It’s such a simple thing but it brings so much happiness.

 

Posted in family life, musings

my gentle parenting thanksgiving day mission statement

Today, I will love my children for who they are, the way they are, and not act as though I would rather them be someone different.

Today, I will advocate for my children’s wellbeing instead of feeling embarrassed when they are unable to adjust to unreasonable adult expectations.

Today, I will be the safe place my children need when they are overwhelmed, overstimulated, tired, hungry, or uncomfortable, instead of ignoring them to focus on my own conversations or activities.

Today, I will be mentally and emotionally present for my children, so that I can observe the warning signs before a meltdown ensues, and protect their privacy and dignity by giving them the rest or space they need to recalibrate.

Today, I will do the best that I can do to ensure that my children remember Thanksgiving Day with the whole extended family as a day of joy and togetherness, despite the potential for chaos and stress. And I will do this not by emphasizing to them what Thanksgiving ought to be about, but by equipping them to handle the special challenges of the holidays with confidence and grace.

Posted in family life

help! I’m becoming a critical parent!

Not critical of my kids, though – critical of other parenting styles! A couple incidents a few days ago stood out to me particularly.

Limerick and I were playing at a children’s museum by our home and a little girl about his age was there with her parents. She seemed like a sweet little girl but I never really got to see her personality or how she would interact with Limerick because every time they got within two feet of each other her parents would both say, “Share! Share!” in tones reminiscent of the seagulls in Finding Nemo. So she would extend one of her toys to Limerick, and he would typically look at it, take it and set it down next to her, or walk away. She was holding blocks identical to many others on the floor surrounding them, so he wasn’t approaching her out of interest in the toys per se – he was interested in her, who she was, what she was doing, and so on. But her coached response was essentially, “take this toy and leave me alone.” What can you do with that? Limerick eventually gave up and left her alone.

Not twenty minutes later I was playing with trains with Rondel at the same museum and a couple of older boys (maybe 8-10 years old) came up and started touching and trying to move the train he was playing with. When he said “No!” and moved it away from them, one of them looked up at me and commented on how selfish Rondel was. My response probably surprised him: I said, “Not really – he was playing with that toy and you tried to take it from him. You wouldn’t have liked it either if someone did that to you.” The boys then proceeded to play with a different train in a loud, attention-getting way, trying to get Rondel to notice and think the other one was better, and he did start to notice, but since he doesn’t just walk over and take toys from other kids they weren’t achieving their goal of drawing him away from the first train. Finally I stepped in and told Rondel, “Those boys are wondering if you want to play with the steam train so they can play with the electric train – do you want to switch trains?” And as soon as I asked him in a reasonable and respectful way he agreed to switch and the boys were quite happy.

Neither of these scenarios would have bothered me at all a few years ago; I probably wouldn’t even have noticed. But now they both really bother me. In the first, I just wish those parents would shut up and let their daughter make friends with my son without their constant interference! In both, I felt like I really began to understand what “sharing” is for a child that young: giving up the toy you were playing with (or worse, having it taken away from you) so that someone else can play with it instead. Even at Rondel’s age sharing is a difficult concept: taking turns (he can have that when I am done with it; I can have this when he is done with it) or exchanging (he can have this toy if he gives me that toy) are much easier to understand and implement. So please, parents, don’t ask your young toddler to “share” with my sons – I don’t want them to learn that it is ok to go up to someone and take their toys because they should be sharing them! When Rondel and Limerick are the age of those other boys at the museum, I want them to be able to ask another child for a turn with respect, not expect the other child to immediately give them what they want.

Sigh. I don’t think any of the parents or kids that I encountered were bad (they all seemed pretty nice and well-intentioned, actually) – they just didn’t see my toddlers (or their own toddler) as little people capable of understanding and independence and deserving of basic social respect. I never felt so different in my life before I started trying to let my children unfold naturally instead of pushing and prodding and protecting and reminding them all the time…

Posted in family life, musings

facing thanksgiving with a mood disorder

While the general joy of the holiday season begins to creep upon me beginning with Halloween and my birthday, the anxiety of it doesn’t really start for me until now, in the week between Limerick’s birthday and Thanksgiving. I don’t know if everyone has to fight down panic attacks during the holiday season, or intentionally pursue joy while the black tentacles of depression and apathy are pulling them down; I don’t know if everyone feels trapped between the potential of the season and the expectations for the season, faced with a list of people to visit and chores to complete, wondering where the beauty and the significance went. I would imagine there are a lot of us, but I personally only know one other person with any certainty.

With that in mind, what I want to do is to ask the rest of you to be kind and gracious: to realize that we really do love being with family, participating in the festivities, carrying on the fun or meaningful traditions we’ve built with you over the years, but that sometimes the weight of it all is just to great for us to carry. Sometimes the chaos of a joyful family is too overwhelming, the social pressure too intense, the smells and sounds and expectations a perfect storm that threatens all our normal coping mechanisms. When we have to leave early, or take a few moments of solitude to recalibrate, or drop out of the conversation and activity for a while, it’s not because we don’t want to be with you. Will you believe me when I say we’re making a huge effort to be there with you, because we love you and you matter to us?

And for anyone who’s trying to navigate the holidays through anxiety or depression, I feel you. I’ve been there – some years more so than others – and there really isn’t anything positive about it. It’s incredibly hard to stay engaged for hours of small talk, with stress-inducing levels of ambient noise and who knows what other irritants (low light and allergens, anyone?), when your insides feel like a black void or when every defense system in your body is on high alert. It hurts to try so hard to be happy and present only to end up feeling like you’ve failed, and ruined the holidays for someone else.

So please don’t feel guilty about taking the space you need to be you, to be joyful, to remember the big ideals or the little traditions that are meaningful and important to you as an individual. Please don’t feel guilty about advocating for yourself and your own well-being – if it helps, think that there are probably others who will be glad you spoke up because they’re running on fumes as well.

You are loved. You matter. Even if you can only be around for five minutes on Thanksgiving Day because you’re having an episode or an attack, the day will be brighter for everyone else because of those five minutes. When you’re fighting for each moment, sharing it with another person is one of the most precious and valuable gifts imaginable, and anyone who understands will value it accordingly.

Posted in family life

a boy and his monkeys

One day, Rondel realized we had three stuffed monkeys in the house.

Despite never showing any attachment to a stuffed animal previously, he decided that these three monkeys were incredibly cute snuggly companions and that they needed to accompany him to as many places as possible.

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They sleep on his pillow at night and during naps; they ride in the car and the stroller right next to him; they sit with him on the couch while he plays cars. They even managed to teach him the concept of “three” as opposed to “two” or “many.”

He calls them the Daddy monkey, the Rondel monkey, and the little Limerick monkey (which I think is how I named them months before this sudden rediscovery he made).

They make him happy, and that makes me happy.
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