Posted in family life

silly kisses

We moved about two weeks ago (hence the silence on the blog – packing, unpacking, and dealing with leaks at the new house has kept me pretty busy!), and while the kids have settled in fairly well, bedtime is – as always – the time of day when their feelings of anxiety and discomfort seem to rise to the surface.

So we have the music and night light just like we did at the old house, but I’ve started lying in the room with the boys until they fall asleep, either with Aubade on the floor or with Limerick in his bed, which he much prefers. Limerick saw part of Monsters, Inc and, while he plays silly games about monsters with Rondel all day long and has a great time doing so, is now concerned that monsters will come out of his closet in the night. I’ve been shutting his closet doors and stacking toy boxes in front of them and that seems to help.

Another thing I added to the bedtime routine, to try to lighten everyone’s mood and end the day with laughter and snuggles, was “silly kisses” – essentially, the goodnight routine from Sandra Boynton’s book Night-Night, Little Pookie.

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I use her words almost verbatim, but I replace the little pig’s name, Pookie, with whichever child’s name I’m tucking in at the moment.

“Good night, Rondel ears,” I say, for instance, as I kiss his ears.

“Good night, Rondel nose,” I say, as I kiss his nose.

“Good night, Rondel eyes that are ready to close,” I say, as I (attempt to) kiss his eyes. At this point there is inevitably much giggling.

“There are gentle winds blowing, and stars all above you. Night-night, little Rondel, I love you and love you, and love you and love you, and love you and love you,” I say, as I give him final hugs and snuggles.

Tonight, after I tucked them both in, Rondel said he wanted to give me silly kisses good night also, so I stood up and leaned in next to his bunk bed as he went through the whole ritual:

“Good night, Mommy ears. Good night, Mommy eyes that are ready to close. Good night, Mommy nose.” He kissed my glasses instead of my eyes since they were in the way, but made sure that he got both ears.

“There’s a gentle wind blowing and stars all above you – night-night, little Mommy, I love you and love you.”

I tucked him back in under his blankets and whispered in his ear how much I loved him, and as he snuggled down in his pillows he murmured, “I love you, Mommy.” And he was asleep in fifteen minutes, tired, cozy, and secure in his mommy’s presence and love.

The house may be different, but the family that surrounds him is the same, and that constancy gives him peace in the midst of transition. What a privilege it is to be able to provide that foundation and assurance to people who are still so small and vulnerable! I really don’t mind sleeping on the floor at all, if it is a tangible gift of my love to my children that meets them where they need me to be.

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Posted in family life

my aubade (a belated six month post)

Aubade is not quite seven months old, and already I find it hard to imagine what our lives would be like without her.

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She is bold, tenacious, and adventurous; she pursues what she wants with determination and persistence. She constantly pushes herself to do more, to learn more, to find out more, and to be more. When she falls, as all of us fall in the process of growth, she gets back up again to keep trying – but what I find more remarkable still is that she takes the time to appreciate the world from her new perspective before going back to her original course of action, and is not so bent on one path that she is blinded to alternate opportunities around her.

(She can fall straight backwards from a standing position, gaze curiously around her while lying on her back for several minutes, than roll over and continue playing and exploring as though nothing had happened. I am amazed every time it happens.)

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She finds happiness and excitement in just about everything she encounters: the feel of grass on her feet, water to splash, a smile to return, a familiar voice, a snuggle and a kiss, a toss in the air, the wind on her face, or the laugh of a friend.

And her closest friends of all are her two big brothers. Rondel seeks her out for hugs when he’s feeling hurt or sad, brings her toys to play with, and makes silly sounds or plays peek-a-boo with her when she is tired or upset. He almost never fails to make her smile when he tries to cheer her up, and takes pride in every laugh that she directs at him. Limerick has had a more difficult time adjusting to her addition to the family (Rondel’s already been through this once before, after all), but he also loves to see her smile and laugh, and is becoming more enamored of her as she becomes more able to play along with his games and participate in the things he enjoys doing. Her presence brings out in both of them a social maturity – a desire to share their happiness and involve others in their activities – that is beautiful to see.

I am so thankful for this curious, strong, independent girl. She encourages me in my own femininity and as a mother, just by being herself, and I am so excited to watch her grow and mature over the years to come.

 

Posted in family life

working mom of three kids thinks maybe it might be a good time to start using a planner

I have decided that my busy life is not abnormally busy but that this is just the new normal with three kids! I have been working on a project/sample/task tracking app for our team at work (with no experience, no funds, and no oversight – it’s a personal project because we are outgrowing our current solution), and I’m starting to think that I should make one for my personal life as well…

I have tried, at several different points throughout my life, to maintain some type of schedule or planner, and I’ve honestly never been able to keep at it for more than a week. Currently, I don’t even put all of my doctor appointments on a calendar. I just remember the date and time – and if I forget the time, I rely on the reminder call from the doctor’s office the day before. Needless to say, with three doctors of my own and three kids needing regular well visits, this isn’t the best long-term solution. So a calendar app would be a good start, but because appointments only show up on rare occasions, my calendar is typically empty and I get out of the habit of using it! If a calendar were built in to another app, and stayed out of the way unless something was scheduled, that would be much more useful for me.

It would also be nice to have lists – like to-do lists and grocery lists and wish lists – accessible in my planner app. Then when I have spare moments of time I won’t be stuck trying to remember all the things I want to do, because they’ll all be there in a list to pick from! And when I’m at the grocery store, I won’t forget what I need because I’ll have it on a list (this is particularly nice for when we run out of pantry staples or random things like bubble bath and toothbrushes… I can usually remember things like produce and milk).

Maybe I could even automate the to-do list so that if I checked off “Cleaned the Bathroom” it could be added back on to the list with a due date a week later!

I know there are paper-based planners that people swear by. Some of them look incredibly well thought out, with beauty and inspiring quotes to round out the planner’s layout and function. I just don’t think I would use one. I am incredibly prone to misplacing things, and at least a phone can be located when lost using the cloud… and it is already part of my routine, so it wouldn’t require me to remember one more thing every time I went out.

So hey, maybe it’s worth a shot! Near-impossible projects well out of the realm of my knowledge and expertise are what make life exciting (and since the stakes are relatively low, the excitement is mostly stress-free!).

What do you all use for managing your life/family/home/etc.?

Posted in family life, musings

a tale of two mothers

She walks briskly down the path, then stops and waits, impatiently beckoning to her young son to hurry up. Her words are sharp and her tone irritated, as though his slowness is an almost unbearable weight for her. Oblivious to the beauties around them, the pair slowly make their way down the trail in fits and starts, both of them belligerent, frustrated, and stressed.


A boy and his mother walk down a trail through woods near a creek, the water making a background song to their hike. They walk slowly, noticing the diversity of plant life surrounding them, examining the different shapes and textures of the leaves. The mother isn’t trying to make her son walk faster, but to engage him more deeply in the moment and place.


What differentiates these two mothers? What leads one to put the immediate task (reaching a destination) at a higher priority, despite the frustration of trying to control another person and ending up at cross purposes? What makes the other choose connection and relationship over speed and accomplishment? Is it personality, or character, or circumstance?

It is purely and simply choice.

I was both of these mothers, in instances just five minutes (and a major apology to Rondel) distant from each other. All that changed was that I remembered who I want to be, and chose to change my course. I was still just as frustrated at his slowness, but realized that I didn’t have to let those things (his slowness, my irritation) hurt our relationship or prevent us from savoring the beauty around us. 

We will never be perfect parents, but we always have the option to choose a better way.

Posted in family life

on the occasion of Rondel’s fourth birthday

Four years ago today you were born, little boy, a big baby forced from your comfortable residence within me over your loud protestations. From the beginning you were loud, demanding, and sensitive – and I loved you from the first choked, gut-wrenching sob you let out as they carried you away to suction the mucous and meconium from your nose and lungs. With that cry you sealed your place within my heart: my first born, my love, my delight. For you, I thought, I will sacrifice my sleep, my personal space, my quiet and uninterrupted thoughts.

And now, now that you are four years old, how you have grown and matured from that squalling newborn boy you once were!

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You have an imagination like no other, as if a spring of stories and fantasies lies bubbling up deep within your heart. Every day there are new monsters, fighters, savers, babies, mommies, and daddies peopling the house and going on wild adventures together; you make “movies” (you have no camera to record them) about the things that interest you, anthropomorphizing the sun, moon, and stars to perform for you; you create crazy games with Limerick that seem perfectly designed to draw out the core of joy from every moment and experience.

You are filled with a sweet and precious love and care for the small and vulnerable, which most typically displays itself in a flood of hugs and kisses for every baby in your vicinity. At a friend’s house a few days ago, there were three babies crawling around the room and you blissfully rotated from one to another, round and round, giving them all your affection in turn. And when your sister cries, you run to her with toys and games and laughter to bring back a smile to her face.

You are still sensitive to loud sounds, bright lights, and large groups of people – you probably always will be. But you are learning to cope, to regulate your own environment and your reaction to the uncontrollable aspects of it, and I am proud of you for the efforts you make to fit in and be with people (as your social self craves) when the sensory input of it all can be overwhelming.

Yours is an age of big feelings and intense fears; a broken toy or the thought of a favorite food going bad can bring you close to tears, and the prospect of being alone in your bedroom at night terrifies you. In those moments I am reminded of how young you still are, despite your height, your intelligence, and your maturity – you are just barely four years old, and it is your undeniable right to be scared by the world whose vastness and hiddenness you are just beginning to understand, and to express the emotions that flood your mind without years of experience to help filter and process them. It is also the age at which I am beginning to notice in you a desire to make others happy and proud by your actions, along with the first flickers of conscious guilt or shame. And I hope, my son, that you never become ashamed of what you feel and who you are, because even in your lowest moments (and we all have them, and they do not define us) I see you in all your beauty, just the way you are, and I love you with all of my heart.

Posted in family life, musings, quotes

different (a full review)

Sally and Nathan Clarkson’s book Different didn’t exactly live up to my hopes and dreams for it – that is, I suppose, it didn’t give me a checklist to follow or an instruction manual to read or even a set of principles to live by which would ensure success in the endeavor of parenting a unique and uniquely challenged child.

But that really wasn’t the point of the book. As Sally writes, “…don’t try to use our family’s experience as an exact template for your family. Every child is unique and requires a unique approach.”

And the story they told together, of struggles, pain, faith, and triumphs, was just as beautiful as I thought it would be. While they shared specific aspects of their personal lives, they made those intimate and individual stories relevant to a whole range of readers, drawing out empathy for both the challenging child and the challenged parent (or in other words, for both the different child and the parent who longed for normalcy). As there are in my close family many people on both sides of this dynamic, it spoke to me on a number of layers, and both encouraged and convicted me about several of my relationships.

(For example, it is easiest for me to apply the need for patience, acceptance, and understanding to my children, while failing to give that same grace to my husband, parents, siblings, or in-laws. Different, while primarily about that parent-child relationship, continually challenged me to scrutinize my motivations and intentions in my other relationships as well, and to try to bring them also into a more open, gracious, and loving posture.)

My primary take-away from the book in this season of my life is the value of making a home in which everyone in the family can feel at ease and accepted for who they are: a place where each one of us can truly feel that we belong. When my children are losing their tempers over trivial affronts, or melting down for inexplicable reasons, or refusing to answer a simple question when everyone else is waiting for their response, or taking out their frustrations on each other; when my husband is tired, preoccupied, or worried and speaks more sharply than typical; when I am moody and irritable and impatient – in those times, it is very hard to accept each other, to love each other, to give grace to each other. It is tempting to construct a narrative of the people in our family using only those negative moments, to focus on their immaturity or sinfulness, to attempt to fix and correct them with annoyance and frustration for their present state. But Sally addresses that temptation directly (emphases mine):

“…creating a welcoming home also includes the choice to accept the unique design of our families and the limitations of each family member. We have to learn to lean into life as something beautiful even if it is not exactly what we expected. Trusting that God works all things together for the good despite the challenges we face is a gift of worship we give to God. Acceptance with humility must eventually come to each of us if we are to please God and not always fight against the limitations of our own family pattern.

If Nathan had grown up in a home where he was constantly put down and corrected, I think the oxygen of God’s love would have been strangled from his heart, which needed a wide berth of unconditional acceptance. Love is the food our hearts need to grow, and so I had to figure out a way to give it in a way he could feel.”

I can choose to be impatient, irritated, frustrated with the imperfections I see in myself and my husband and the immaturity inherent in my young children – or I can choose to see the beauty and value of who we are and what we are building as a family. Only one of those choices will fill our home with the love our hearts need to grow, and the welcome we need to feel that here, at last, is a place where we – no matter how different – can truly belong.

Posted in musings

a moment of play

There were eight of them, boys and girls, from five to twelve years old. I watched them on the beach, as they scrambled up and down the sandy slope and splashed into the shallow water, as they dug and molded the sand and filled buckets of water, as they strategically laid down sticks and removed stones. Without a blueprint or a guide, without a leader giving directions, the structure they were building took on form and function. They shared ideas, gave each other space to innovate, collaborated without quarrels or criticisms, helped each other test their creations for soundness, and negotiated the course and scope of the project to come to a mutually acceptable solution. Occasionally they took a break to swim or start an independent project, but came back to help with the community endeavor.

When we impose our adult ideas of fun, we shut down this natural cooperative and creative play – along with all the learning and joy that accompanies it. Fortunately, all we have to do to encourage it is to give our children the freedom and opportunity to simply be.