Friday, February 27, 2009

7 Quick Takes

1. I think I may have found a solution to our schooling problem for next year. We'll call it "Auntie M School." My sister-in-law is presenting her Master's Thesis in the summer and will be taking the year off to apply for PhD's and be near us for one more year. The kids love her. I mean L-O-V-E her, and she is a great private tutor. They will be with her one morning a week doing something fun: art projects, poetry, nature walks, museum trips, whatever their little brains are interested in at the time. I still have Calvin on a wait list for a half-day Kindergarten, but I really think this is the best solution. It allows them to stay at their Chinese school two mornings a week, have bonding time with Auntie M, and do some fun activities that I don't always have energy to plan.

2. The most important part of the above solution is that it allows the boys to stay at Chinese school. I just did the math and realized that, if all goes as planned, we will be moving to China in 16 months! I cannot even begin to express the amount of stress that is building up in me as I think about it. I am excited to finally go, but knowing all that it takes to get from here to there is overwhelming.

3. One day at a time and a lot of chocolate, that is my solution. M&M's are my current choice. I don't think the writers of the "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand" line had toddlers in mind when they wrote that. Is Hobbes the only toddler who comes away from eating M&M's with color smeared all over his hands, face, and clothing? Am I doing something wrong (leaving out the fact that I am giving the kids sugar)?

4. Speaking of Hobbes, he is sick, again. So is the baby. You people up North will laugh, but I am so ready for Spring. The daffodils are starting to bloom, so it is on its way.

5. Speaking of chocolate. I obviously did not give that up for Lent. But the fast from Facebook and from excessive internet time has been good. Every time I find myself thinking of updating my Facebook status or checking in with my friends on Facebook or reading blogs, I turn to prayer instead. I may write a whole post on this, so I'll leave it at that for now.

6. All of this free time from the internet (laugh, laugh) is leaving me time to read actual books. I just started "Positive Discipline," which is a parenting classic, apparently. It is really good so far, or at least the writer makes her theory sound really good. I have no idea how it will work out in reality. But I am hoping it will help us to solve some of our discipline issues with Calvin and keep from making the same mistakes with Hobbes. Anyone out there have experience with this book? Tips?

7. I never thought I would be the sort to read lots of parenting books, but then Calvin turned three and life got complicated. Still, he is really amazing, and apparently, he and his brother are superheroes. At least, that is what they have been telling me all day. Their imaginations are really coming to life. They fly around our house or down the road on their bikes. They run really fast and fight the bad guys all day long. Ah, boys!

For more 7 Quick Takes, go to Jen's blog.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Milk Madness

In the part of the country I currently call home, people get a little crazy around the month of March. In fact, some may describe their sickness as a sort of madness, March madness. Fortunately, I am not one of those people. I get crazy about sports alright, but my madness comes in the Fall, when the best sport of all is played. (And before my basketball loving readers can jump in, I do realize that football would be much better with a playoff system. Still, every game counts in football, which makes it much more exciting!)

But this post is not about basketball, or football. No, I am here today to talk about milk. It seems that the babe is not gaining enough weight as of his two month appointment. Our guess is that my milk supply is low. Now, I can't imagine why, unless having feedings constantly interrupted by two older boys fighting over toys has something to do with it. That, along with having a baby with mild reflux and serious colic, has led to some milk-flow issues. Thankfully, he IS still gaining weight, but his curve is dropping.

Isn't this every nursing mother's nightmare? I have had two good nursers who gained weight well, so this is new territory for me. I had cut out dairy in hope that it would help his colic, but that often left me feeling hungry and unable to get enough calories. In trying to help my baby, I may have actually hurt him. I am not sure the dairy thing is even the cause of his colic. I guess that means I am saying "so long" to the dairy fast for Lent.

While I stock up on ice cream and cheese, I am also settling in for what my friend calls "nurse-apalooza." We are going back to the newborn days of nursing every hour or hour and a half. Basically, whenever I can, I am going to have that boy eating in hopes of getting my supply up. I am not looking forward to all I will have to let go (cleaning, laundry, getting anything done, leaving the house), but he's worth it. I am not desperate enough yet to go with formula, and I am going to try my best to avoid it. If he really starts getting fussy or actually losing weight, then I will consider it.

In the meantime, excuse me if I don't write for awhile. I've got a baby to feed. Now if only there were some good sports to watch on TV...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shrove Tuesday: Gooey Pizza

For more specifics on what we are doing with our boys to learn about Lent, read this post.

In case you missed it, Lent starts tomorrow. Last year, I wrote about how we were giving up eating out for Lent. This year, I have been a little foggy-headed and am entering the season feeling unprepared. But we did discuss it last night at dinner, and decided on some things to fast from during the season. It seems that my husband and I (and many of our friends) had the same idea for a fast this year. In a culture that increasingly relies on the internet for communication, relationships, and entertainment, we are breaking free, at least for forty days. Obviously, we can't give up e-mail completely. And my husband is a computer programmer and taking grad classes in computer science.

But we are cutting back, way back. In addition to staying off Facebook for Lent, I am limiting myself to thirty minutes of computer time a day. (The only exception to this will be when I need to do work for church and when I am filing my taxes...Do you think the Federal government would take "I'm fasting from my computer for Lent" as an excuse for late taxes?) I am also putting my computer, which currently floats around the living room, back in our office so that I have to go in there to use it. No more sitting behind a screen and ignoring my kids. Oh yeah, and I won't be on it except when the kids are asleep or having quiet time.

Why am I doing this? Pretty simple. I took a good look at my life and the things that were keeping me from parenting well and deepening my relationships with God and others, and the computer was at the top of that list. Who knows? It may even stick, though I may make an exception for blogging.

After my husband and I had finished discussing our computer fast, we asked Calvin if he remembered Lent last year. Once he understood the basic idea, we asked what he thought he could fast from. His first suggestion was playing with Hobbes' toys. We gently suggested that may be pretty hard, since Hobbes would be playing with them and they often like to share or fight over them. Then he piped up again:

"I know! I know what would be a good thing to give up! World of Goo!"

World of Goo, for those who don't know, is a computer game. My boys both love to play it with their Daddy, and it is a special reward for really good days as well as a fun weekend bonding time. Since we are limiting our computer use for Lent, this seemed like the perfect idea. Hobbes is going along for the ride, mostly because his older brother suggested it, and he still isn't clear on the whole Lent thing.

So, in the true spirit of Shrove Tuesday (or perhaps in the indulgent, non-spiritual spirit of Mardi Gras), we are feasting today. I am writing a blog post, sending all those belated e-mails, cleaning out my inbox, and planning to do some good catch-up on blog reading and writing tonight. And the boys and their daddy have a World of Goo date set up for after dinner.

"Um" are saying to yourself..."Where does the pizza come in? Is this post mistitled?" Nope. Baby Boy, pseudonym coming soon, has reflux, and in a effort to see what is causing it, I have been cutting dairy out of my diet. In a true spirit of solidarity and love for his wife, my husband (who loves all things dairy more than most people outside of Wisconsin) is giving up dairy for Lent. So tonight, instead of the traditional pancake dinner, we are starting a TwoSquare family tradition: homemade pizza, with extra cheese, and brownies and ice cream for dessert...with maybe a milkshake on the side. Laissez les bons temps roulez!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Little Adult

Life with Calvin has been difficult lately, and that is an understatement. Most days are exhausting and leave me feeling like a failure. Then I have days like today, where he is charming and sweet and funny and kind, reminding me of the gem that is hiding under all of that anger and rebellion. On these days, the clever and grown-up things he says leave me laughing instead of angry. Two gems from today, which would be much better if I could record them with all of their adult intonation and seriousness:

Calvin, speaking to his Nana when they passed a restaurant we often eat at after church:
"Oh, Nana! We HAVE to eat there today. They make the BEST grilled cheese sandwich!"

A conversation about a broken bath crayon at bathtime tonight:
Calvin: "I'm sorry I broke that."
Me: "It's okay, honey, it was just a bath crayon."
Calvin: "Oh no! It was SO MUCH more than that!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Morning Light

You crept into our room before daybreak and lay down on the floor by our bed. You know you aren't allowed in the bed with us until it is light outside, so you just stayed there, on the floor, so quiet and good that I didn't even know you were there. Then Daddy noticed you and pulled back the covers for you to climb in. You were so quiet, so gentle, looking at your baby brother asleep on my chest. I knew that you wanted him to wake up and look at you more than anything, but you held back, just smiling and not touching.

When Daddy went into the shower, I asked if you wanted the baby beside you, and your face lit up. You put your face close to his, giving him gentle kisses and soft pats on the head, being so very careful not to wake him up. But when he did open his eyes, you whispered sweet words to him, assuring him of your love and constant presence, as if he had any question.

Then Daddy came back in the room and you cuddled and hugged and begged for rides on his back. You skipped and jumped and smiled your way around the room until your brother started crying, then you ran right back to him. You always do run back to him when he is crying, telling me he needs milk or bringing him a pacifier. Your sweet spirit calms your brother, and your smile charms him and everyone else around you.

You crept into our room before daybreak, Hobbes, waiting for it to be light. What you didn't know was that you brought the light with you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


We are reading again. On our first date, my husband and I sat in the grassy lawn of his campus and read a book aloud to each other. In the two years of dating and early marriage that followed, we read quite a bit together and listened to books on tape. Somewhere along the line, it stopped. I realized we had been watching too much Netflix together and not reading enough. (Though I highly recommend both seasons of Joan of Arcadia, which, like most TV shows I enjoy, I only found after it was taken off the air.) Last week I suggested we start reading again, and he wholeheartedly agreed.

Lest you think the title of this post is about mine and my husband's marriage, it is actually about this book, which I happened upon at my in-laws' the other day and borrowed for us to read. Since my husband had never read any Wendell Berry and was interested in his writing, I thought it was a good place to start. Short stories mean that we can finish one a night and not worry if we get too busy to read together for several nights.

We just read the first story, Pray Without Ceasing, last night, and it was fantastic. I have only read one other piece of Wendell Berry's fiction, and this story sealed his place in my collection. In fact, it might have earned him a place on the shelf next to Flannery O'Connor and Faulkner, and if you know me, that is saying a lot!

Like an O'Connor story, Pray Without Ceasing, has one climatic moment of grace where a character can choose to find redemption or to reject it. Unlike most of O'Connor's characters, this character actually finds that redemption. But this story is so much more. It is layer upon layer of grace and beauty and sadness and the realness of life all blended together. There are so many deeply real characters in it that I came away not knowing who the story was actually about. Really, there are many moments and means of grace in the story. The powers of friendship and kinship and fidelity entwine the characters, pushing them apart and pulling them back together in the most tragic and beautiful movements. It is a story, above all, of faithfulness and forgiveness, and it is profound enough to be a sermon. In fact, more preachers should preach stories and not sermons. As my husband put it, Berry has a way of saying something powerful without ever actually saying it. He just places all of these bits of story in front of you and then slowly brings the puzzle together to show the full picture.

The language is so beautiful and the story so moving that I want to quote some of it here, but for the sake of not giving away the plot, I will refrain. Go and read it and tell me what you think. My husband and I were both near tears at the end. I think we'll keep reading.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

7 Quick Takes on Postpartum Parenting

I'm thankful for Jen's "7 Quick Takes" this week. As you can tell, I haven't had much time to post. My life is just crazy. I 'm coming to terms with that.

1. There's no time like the postpartum, hormonally crazy period to start overanalyzing your parenting. Even though things are getting much better as Calvin and Hobbes re-adjust, we still have plenty of meltdowns and fights these days, for which I blame myself and find multiple ways that I am a failure of a parent. Fun.

2. Sometime around the New Year I had a freak-out moment about Calvin's education for next year. Since he only turns five at the beginning of August and we will probably homeschool overseas, I planned to keep him in the Chinese preschool two days a week and not do kindergarten. Then I decided he needed more structure and opportunities than I was able to give him and started frantically researching school options way too late. Wasn't it much simpler when we could just rely on a good public school system and not have to plan before they were born where they would go? Anyway, I am still looking into the possibility of a four day, half day Pre-K school. Or just sending him to Chinese school more days a week. Or just keeping him home every day and providing a more stable routine for him...any suggestions from those of you who have spirited, emotionally difficult children?

3. Realizing that a week after we add a third child to the house may not be the best time to make decisions, I am also considering what to do with Hobbes and basically freaking out about the entire schooling future of my children before it is even time to worry about it. When did a three-year-old's education become such a serious thing? Should I even be sending him to school?

4. In an effort to pull back and realize that I am my child's first and best teacher, I have been trying to have some fun with my kids this week. I bought them a set of real, kid-sized cooking utensils for Christmas, and Calvin is obsessed with reading the recipe cards and asking to cook things. I let them "cook" dinner tonight (with some help), and it was fantastic! They ate it all since they chose and cooked it, including the asparagus. Moments like that make me think that it would be better to just have them home all the time.

5. Then we have moments where a simple suggestion that Calvin needs to obey turns into an emotional meltdown, screaming, anger, and tears. We had one of those Wednesday morning. He was okay by the time I dropped him off at school, but then Hobbes asked if I had packed something in his bag for show and tell. I hadn't, of course, and I left crying, wondering if I was ever going to get this parenting thing figured out. On these days, I wonder if time away from each other would be the best thing for the two of us and if a loving, engaging school environment on most mornings would help Calvin to learn to manage his emotions more.

6. The baby, who still has no pseudonym for this blog (Come on, readers!), is definitely suffering from reflux. I hate the idea of giving him meds, but I also hate to see him in pain. Anyone dealt with this before? I have cut dairy out of my diet and am giving him the meds until that has time to take effect. I am also giving him probiotics. If you have other suggestions, I am open to them.

7. Despite the emotional upheaval in my life and the fussiness of the baby, I am really enjoying this third boy. He seems to be so sweet and such a good-tempered little guy. Oh, and he sleeps like Calvin and Hobbes never did! He often goes for five of six hour stretches at night. Sweet sleep! He is beautiful...but he often has a serious look on his face, a furrowed brow like Calvin had as a newborn...