Posted in family life

drawing and drawing and drawing

Right now, at 19 months old, Limerick loves to draw and write. He’ll head downstairs by himself, run to the office, pull out his box of crayons and some paper, and start drawing! (Well, usually he’ll find some paper or a coloring book – other times he just starts coloring the doors, walls, and floors! I’ve hid everything except the washable crayons, which are my new favorite thing…) Lately he’s been drawing and stamping on a magnetic drawing board as well, to the exclusion of most other toys and activities. He doesn’t need the added attraction of anyone else’s presence to find it interesting; he’ll even abandon Rondel or a game they’re playing together to draw.

The other day, at my mom’s house, while Rondel set up the race track and played with cars to his heart’s content, Limerick got to draw with colored pencils. He was enraptured.

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(He was drawing with a yellow pencil in this last shot so it doesn’t show up on the paper very well!)

One of the great benefits of reading aloud for this little boy especially will be the exposure to so many different styles of beautiful illustrations, to give him a myriad of inspirations for his own art as he masters the basic elements of control and direction 🙂 Seeing beauty in so many different books, he’ll begin to notice the details that take a picture from mundane to exceptional, from mediocre to great; he’ll (hopefully) begin to see how pictures can enhance or belie the story that the words are telling, and catch the hidden humor or depth in them; and he’ll be able to create more beauty and tell more stories in his own way.

Of course, he could lose interest in drawing by the time he’s in kindergarten 🙂 He’s rather young for me to be picturing his life path already! But his interest is so much greater than Rondel’s ever was that I can’t help but think there is some deeper natural inclination there. Who knows – but he certainly loves it now!

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Posted in musings

overwhelmed

My coworker’s son is going to need a liver transplant. How does an 11 year-old deal with something that life-changing, or a parent cope with something that threatens their child’s life in such a serious and ongoing way?

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord.

 My own worry for them is bleeding out into the everyday stresses of life: my margin is slimmer, my patience worn down, my emotional capacity almost brimful. I completely melted down in front of Rondel yesterday – sobbing uncontrollably, unable to pull myself together – and it’s been a constant battle to respond to the boys with compassion instead of anger. 

No tender voice but Thine can peace afford.

I’m going to need extra wisdom and efficiency at work to handle what needs to get done, and extra grace to deal with the anxiety of training on a new robot this week without my supervisor there to buffer the social aspect. I’m going to need extra patience and love at home to continue deepening my relationship with my children instead of focusing on correcting their behavior and allowing my anger to escalate. And every night I’m exhausted to my bones and to my soul – this pregnancy isn’t helping at all! – which makes it harder to find the time for the solitary creative activities that replenish and nourish me, or for the opportunity to connect and rest with my husband without the boys.

I need Thee, oh I need Thee – every hour I need Thee.

My hope in this time – which is very hard for me although I don’t like to say so because it is obviously so much worse for other people, like my coworker and his family – is that God’s faithfulness never fails and His compassion is renewed every morning. I may fail and fall and hurt the things and people I care most about, but He forgives and gives me another chance to love and be gentle and seek to understand. Weathering this storm can make us all closer and our family stronger, if I seek God through it – and I hold onto that belief when it feels like I’m falling apart with everything around me.

Oh bless me now my Savior, I come to Thee.

Posted in musings

prayers for a sick child and a fearful parent

It seems fitting, as my supervisor’s son has been sent to the best children’s hospital in the area from the (quite good) children’s medical center nearer to them, that today’s morning prayer would focus on the brokenness of this world and our hope of redemption and healing in Christ.

“…my spirit fails; my heart is numb within me… Lord, make haste and answer, for my spirit fails within me… In the morning let me know your love for I put my trust in You.”

“At daybreak, be merciful to me, O Lord.”

“For thus says the Lord: …as a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.”

“He heals the broken-hearted, he binds up all their wounds.”

“The sufferings of the present are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us.”

“You are our life, O Lord.”

And I pray that my supervisor would be able to cry to God with the Psalmist for answers and mercy and love, achingly honest with his emotions and fears; I pray that he would know the tender comfort of God as of a mother to her nursing child; I pray that God would heal his son now but also bring to them eternal hope and life in Jesus. A desperately sick child is a terrifying situation for any parent, and without a stronger hand to lean on and a greater heart to trust, my supervisor is bearing all the weight of that anxiety and fear and helplessness on his own shoulders. Right now, he needs the comfort of the One he does not know, and I pray that he will find it.

Posted in family life

Nighttime stories

Bedtime with the boys has become one of my favorite parts of the day, a routine just as reassuring to me as it is for them, wrapping up our day together. I love the moments snuggled up together reading our bedtime stories, and then getting to tuck them each in bed in their own special way. And then after lights out comes one of my favorite parts, an unexpected perk of moving the boys into the same room: as they babble themselves to sleep, they echo and copy each other, winding themselves down in a duet of sounds and stories. It brings back memories of the countless nights my sister and I would invent stories together in the dark until we fell asleep in the middle of them – and I feel so lucky to get to hear a second generation getting started on the same kind of thing.

Posted in family life, recipes

breakfast for dinner – real life on a regular day

I’ve honestly been too tired to get out my camera and aim for the beautiful or cute shots of the boys for a while now, and it’s been compounded by the fact that our only real outdoor play options (where the lighting is ideal for pictures of toddlers who rarely hold still) involve water, which is decidedly camera-unfriendly!

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Lately, however, I’ve been inspired by Jennie’s Real Life series of black-and-white shots over at Where My Heart Lies, and I thought, you know, black-and-white pictures are much more forgiving in low-light settings, and if the bar is set low enough so that even the mess is considered valid subject matter, then maybe I can still take pictures even in this season of life. The floor may more often than not be a colorful canvas of crayon art, and the sink may typically be full of dishes, but we’re still playing together, reading together, eating together, and surviving each day together, so it’s worth capturing the truly everyday moments no matter how inglorious and small they might be.

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Yesterday, as has been the case for the majority of days in the past few weeks, my queasiness peaked in the afternoon, making dinner prep the absolute last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t have a plan and nothing sounded remotely edible but I knew that if I postponed dinner any longer I would have two ravenous toddlers at their emotional breaking points over a lack of food, so I went to a standby that I actually hadn’t made in a while: whole-grain pancakes!

This recipe is from the book Hearth and Home, which my mom owns; I recall the book as being a collection of recipes, thoughts, and short anecdotes, and I don’t really use anything from it aside from this recipe – but it is definitely a good pancake recipe! The unique element of it is that you start with whole unground grains: wheat berries, rolled oats, cornmeal (I don’t trust my blender with whole popcorn kernels!), or whatever else you have around. My current favorite is 1 1/4 cups of wheat berries and 1/2 cups of rolled oats; different combinations don’t affect the taste so much as the texture of the finished pancake. The blender does the work of grinding up the wheat berries and other grains or flours, so that you are working with and eating the freshest possible whole grains. Despite having no added sugar, some warming spices make the pancakes feel sweet, and they are thick, hearty, and filling. You might have noticed in the picture above that I added some fresh blueberries to one of the pancakes, too!

Blueberry pancakes with butter and a drizzle of maple syrup – mmm 🙂

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the first batch, catching the sunlight through the kitchen window – aren’t they lovely?

And now for the recipe, short and simple. Make sure you have a heavy-duty blender; otherwise, just use 2 cups of the flours of your choosing instead of the whole grains.

Blend 1 1/4 cups whole wheat kernels and 1/2 cup rolled oats with 2 cups milk, for 4 minutes on high, until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat an egg with 1/4 cup of oil (I like coconut best but I used vegetable tonight because I’m all out of coconut oil, sniff). Pour the blended mixture into the bowl and whisk together. The blender just doesn’t seem effective at this when the egg and oil are added on top of the flour mixture, for some reason.

Whisk in 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 heaping teaspoon of some warming spice mix (pumpkin pie spice blend, or just straight cinnamon, or something along those lines. I have a blend called “sweet spice” from a local baking store and I have no clue what is in it in what proportions but it’s good!)

Then just pour onto a griddle to bake! You may need to adjust the thickness of the batter to get it just right for you, but with this specific grain mixture I haven’t needed to.

After you pour a pancake out, before it cooks very much on that first side, you can add customized add-ins like walnuts, bananas, blueberries, or even chocolate chips. I’m a huge fan of these specialty pancakes but everyone else in my family prefers them plain, so I can’t mix the add-ins directly to the batter; this is a good hack to work around it.

So there you have it, breakfast for dinner and I’m completely unashamed 🙂 When you’re pregnant, exhausted, and queasy, just getting relatively healthy food on the table is an unqualified success, I think! Realistic expectations for myself, that’s what I need 🙂

Posted in family life

Limerick’s letters

At 18 months, Rondel had no interest in letters, writing, drawing, or the written word, except for being read to. (He was so obsessed with cars that he could distinguish makes and models more accurately than I could, though!)

Limerick, however, is utterly captivated by everything having to do with writing and words. He can identify all 26 letters in both their uppercase and lowercase forms; he sings the alphabet song all day long; he draws on every surface in the house and cries if you take his crayons or pencils away; and he is starting to realize that the letters can work together to make words.

Last night, my brother was writing names on a paper for Limerick, spelling them out and telling him what they said. Sometimes Limerick would ask for a specific word and my brother would write that one. And every time he picked up the pencil to write, Limerick would crane his head around to get a better view of the writing process, his whole face animated with focus and fascination. It was so neat to watch!

It is always special to see a young child become intellectually excited by something, whether it’s patterns and puzzles, cars and trucks, or colors and art, and Limerick’s interest in letters is especially fun for me because of how well it ties in to our family culture of books and reading. A love of books and a love of language are such good foundations for a love of learning and the ability to think and critically, coherently, and eloquently – and those are things I definitely want for my children. I see how crippled many of my peers are by an inability to assemble words beautifully or even functionally, and I believe that it is at least partly due to a lack of sophisticated and eloquent aural language input during their childhood years. When we read silently, we can skim over the sentence structure to get the content faster, but in the process we lose the repeated exposure to high-level style that helps develop good language skills.

Ok, enough of that soap box 🙂 I am just glad to see Limerick enjoying himself so much with his letters 🙂

Posted in musings

an open letter to my  pregnant friends worried about their birth plans

Dear Mamas-to-be,

You might be coming up with your birth plans now, weighing your options and wondering what’s best. You might hear that birth is dangerous and that you need to be in a hospital just in case something goes wrong (my mother told me that). You might hear that your bodies is wonderful and capable, designed to give birth well if you just give it space and let nature work (my pregnant friend’s  husband told me that last week).

The thing is, they’re both partly right. The human body is an incredible thing, and women of all times and places have given birth without medication or intervention, relying on the support of their fellow women to endure the pain and bring new life into the world. It is a beautiful and a glorious thing, to see the body pushed to its limits and persevere, living out the fullness of its created potential.

But the flip side is that women have been dying in childbirth throughout all times and ages as well. We seem to forget that birth resides under the curse, that the presence of sin in our world and ourselves means that a powerful force has opposed itself to the life-giving work of God, of which childbirth is a huge part. It is not a shame or a failure to rely on the support of modern medicine to endure some of the pain and avoid some of the dangers that sin has brought to childbirth.

I want you to know, mamas, that your bodies are wonderful and beautiful however your birth plays out. If you give birth without medication, with your loved ones standing by to empower and encourage you, that is good. If you give birth with an epidural because your body can’t handle the pain and needs a rest, that is good. If you have a c-section because your baby isn’t coming out any other way, that is good. What matters is that you listen to your body, your baby, and your circumstances, instead of letting an idealized or stereotyped view of childbirth push you one way or the other. Hold the tension of the wonder of your body and the brokenness of the physical world, and proceed with confidence and humility, open to what your body and your baby need.

And if all the birth preparations are leaving you anxious and overwhelmed, remember that the next eighteen years of your relationship with this baby are far more important than the labor and delivery! Leave the unknowns to God, go forward with some common sense, and put it all in perspective 🙂 You will do great, and your babies will be blessed to call you mommy.