Tag Archives: Mommy

Full Mind, Full Heart…

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There are a lot of things in my head right now. The song is “I Can Her the Bells” from “Hairspray Jr.” which we saw at the middle school four blocks from our house on Friday. Several alum from our elementary school plays were there and in good form. The steps under my feet and in my head are for “Make ‘em Laugh” which we will choreograph this week.

I’m rereading Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, a fantastic novel that throws together everything that interests me into a lovely disastrous science fiction salad, languages, medicine, with some alien life forms thrown in. I am emotionally tired from our community group’s project on Saturday to feed breakfast to seventy five people through City Hope, our church’s community center in the tenderloin district of San Francisco.

I met a young lady named Ari. When I had talked her inside off the wet street she left moments later with tears in her eyes. She had been looking at my kids. Out of prison for five days, her seven-year-old son is with his father in Alabama, her two-year-old daughter is in Petaluma with friends. We talked about being mothers, she talked about the weight of the family she was raised in, the weight of caring for children on her own, the weight of her addiction that led her straight back here to the streets of San Francisco.

She came in again, she ate, she met my children, I connected her to our pastor there. We found out where she could get clothes. She went to use the bathroom. I sat with her bag.

When she came back she said, “I’m glad you watched my bag. It would’ve been too hard not to — if I had had it with me.”

“You have drugs in there right now?” I asked.

“No,” she said after the slightest pause.

And this is how far I’ve come, I’m still naive enough to be surprised that a drug addict has drugs on their person. But, as it turns out, I’m not naive enough that I didn’t recognize that she was lying to me in the second instance. So, that’s something.

The emotional response in my body brought to mind another instance of similar discordant realization. We were in Manila on a mission trip. We were touring lots of areas and different ministries. One night we went down to the slums to meet some of the thousands of orphans left on their own to form families. We had a group of about twenty boys, six to ten year-olds. We told them Bible stories, learned their names, fed them. We had been there for hours when I began noticing that they were leaving one by one and coming back after a while. They would come back a little happier, red eyes, a little less attentive, distant.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked one.

“He’s high,” the boy answered succinctly.

As it turns out these beautiful brown boys were taking turns leaving to huff glue out of discarded glass jars.

One of our set up guys at church has been clean for two years. He posted on Facebook. “Two years off the needle by the grace of God.”

Another time in college a young man, long blonde hair in a ponytail, a smattering of tattoos, was a friend of a friend of someone in En Christo, our ministry to the poor and homeless in Spokane, Washington. He showed up for a month of Saturdays, handing out bagged lunches to the residents of the hotels we had established relationships with. He gave a powerful testimony of God’s saving grace to release him from his addiction to heroine. He was witness, it could be done. He didn’t show up one Saturday. We heard the next week, through a friend of a friend, he had died of an overdose. I don’t remember his name. I remember thinking he was cool.

I am thinking of the second grader, a little brother, who told me he has begun reading the Bible when he’s bored at home, mostly the story of David and Goliath.

I am thinking of my volunteer who has rekindled her years of ASL and is practicing the story for this next week so she can communicate with two deaf boys who have been coming to our program.

I am thinking of two third grade girls who haven’t had a friend in their all-boy children’s worship class. Two Sundays ago they finally found each other and told their mothers about their new friend.

I am thinking about the two first grade boys who are a little intimidated about transitioning out of their comfortable Kindergarten class where their little brothers are. One is autistic and finally yesterday didn’t look like a caged animal when I gave him another tour of the “big kid” room.

I am thinking about all the slogans I have read off the posters of all my friends who went to many women’s marches all across the country. I didn’t think about going. I served breakfast with my community group to seventy-five inhabitants of the tenderloin and met Ari and was tired and went home and thanked the Lord for whatever combination of grace, provision, chance, will, or wisdom that has allowed me to have a house and the right to mother my children.

I thanked the Lord for a rug to vacuum, dishes to do, so many bananas that they had gotten old, and the baking space, that no SRO hotel room has, to make banana bread. There was so much joy in making banana bread for my people, so much flour, so much sugar. I thanked the Lord for the bathroom I had to clean even though I swore on Tuesday that anybody but me was going to be scouring it this weekend. I was grateful for the fridge full, the laundry basket full, the arms full of my children.

I realized that I was being domestic even while I was admiring signs, even while City Hall was lit up pink. I laughed at myself.

My favorite quote, the last sentences of Middlemarch by George Eliot. The great heroin Dorothea, who is described as having the energy and righteous ambition of another Joan of Arc, spreading out her energies into domesticity like the delta of the river Cyrus. “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I think about how distasteful it is sometimes to my ambition to rest in the small things, how difficult to be satisfied in diffusion.

I think of the one hundred sixty-nine kids in the school play that I get to know and encourage. I think of the eighty-five to one-hundred fifteen kids that we have in children’s worship on Sundays that we get to know and welcome. I think of the three who I kissed awake this morning with many kisses, the little one’s cheek smelling like his sweet mouth from falling asleep sucking his thumb.

This morning I don’t feel so far away from every other woman in the world. This morning I see more parallels than differences between me and Ari who is somewhere just outside this coffee shop window, maybe still trying to find her cell phone so she can see that last picture she took of her little girl. I feel my energies splitting and irrigating many tiny fields, for each of which I am very grateful.

The Multitasking Poop Post (Contains Expletives)…

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I just had the poop sucked back into me. I’ve been having trouble with my bowels and have also been sick for a few days. I was looking forward to a satisfying poop. And I’m sitting there on the potty and my two-and-a-half-year-old is climbing into the tub and my five year old girl is in the room getting naked on top of my feet and my seven year old has a book open in the doorway trying to get me to commit to the type of tree that is growing in his pot (breaking news: it’s a weed, not the peach pit or the plum pit or the apple seed you planted in the backyard. “But MOM, I’m pretty sure it’s a peach tree.” “It’s not a peach tree. I’ve seen lots of peach trees. We used to have four peach trees. They have long thin leaves that can be slightly fuzzy.” “This one HAS fuzzy leaves, Mom!”) And I had to tell my daughter to please go take her collection of clothes off of my feet and into the room where they go and her brother beaned her for fun on her way through the door and she yells at him and the oldest is shoving the book in my face and the water is roaring into the bathtub next to me and my long slow comfortable poop climbed back inside my rectum and said, “Well, then, I think we’ll just stay in here.” Yes. Yes, Poop. I would, too. I would go hide in that quiet dark place, too, if I could.

I’m writing this post about multitasking. I began about two hours ago and have had to stop for innumerable reasons: unloading the dishwasher so I can load the dishwasher, washing the banana off the kid-scissors. finding the banana from this morning in the colored pencils, cleaning poop out of the bathtub, assuring my eldest that I have cleaned the baby’s poop out of the bathtub, singing Aladdin Jr. songs to the baby for twenty minutes in hopes he squeezes the rest of the poop into the potty, wading through two giant north american classification tomes trying to prove this damn weed, picking up all the baby wipes that were thrown at sister, crying for a minute with sister (she had her reasons I had mine). I mean…

I hate the way my brain is on Facebook. I tell my kids that you are good at what you practice and I practice the Facebook bounce, boy, do I. Political essay, kitten video, necessary social justice article, pictures of Kate and William and the babies, the latest Jimmy Fallon video, don’t vote for so-and-so article, photo of a sunset, vaccinate your kids, totally meaningless sentimental meme, blah, blah, blah… an hour later, AN HOUR LATER!?!?

They used to say multitasking was a good thing. Those were supposed to be the capable talented people. But now we’re learning that human beings aren’t supposed to multitask. Human beings are supposed to concentrate on one damn thing at a time, like pooping. We’re supposed to sit on the toilet and poop in one giant unified movement of bowels and brain. I have never been a multitasker, most creative people aren’t. Multitasking is very very bad for creative people. You need to sit with a thought or an idea. You need to let ideas tumble on top of each other organically. It get’s crazy busy up there.

Only now I’m a mom so now when my brain begins a blog post, for example, and I’m thinking about what I want to write I have to stop because some weed grew exactly where my son remembers planting a pit or a seed last fall and it is now in a pot on my kitchen window sill.

Motherhood makes you a multitasker by necessity. And now that I have three and they are each older with unique trains of thought on different rails (and this includes the little guy now, too. He’s verbose dammit.) my train keep jumping tracks a zillion times and, well, my life is a giant Facebook bounce all fucking day long and that’s why a stupid hour can go by without me realizing I’ve only been scrolling Facebook because this is what I practice!

So, I’ve been having trouble with my bowels, like I’ve said. Last week I actually went to the doctor. And then within two minutes of telling her my symptoms she pops out with, “Well, we’ll do the medical tests just to make sure we can rule things out, but did you know they call the intestines the second brain?” No. Who? Who is calling the intestines the second brain? I’ve watched every single season of ER, House, and Grey’s Anatomy and no one has ever referred to the intestines as the second brain. At any rate, she then says, “You’re stressed.”

“I’m stressed?”

“What do you do to relax?”

“Well, I’m a creative type, so it really depends. If I have hours or a day, even, I—“

(I just had to go take a break to change a poopy diaper because I put the baby in a diaper at bedtime. He was so coy.)

As I was saying, “I’m a creative type so if I have hours or days I might try to write or paint but if I have less than that it can actually be more frustrating than ever starting in the first place.”

“So, what do you do if you have less than an hour?”

I kinda laugh, “Uh, well, the same thing as anybody, I guess, have a drink, eat some cookie dough and watch a show.”

That’s when she made me take the depression test. It was this basic ten question test that any mother would fail, I mean, am I tired? Do I overeat or not eat? (YES.) Do I ever feel guilty? (Uh…)

And she brought in a very nice therapist for me to talk to and THEN they heard more about my life and THEN they agreed that it was indeed stress. I felt horrible. How can I claim stress? I’m really happy with my job, my kids’ school. I get to do this awesome school play. My husband is actually very helpful. Everyone’s in good health. I don’t overcommit; I have no problem saying “no”. My kids have zero activities outside of school. What a luxury for this white American mom with a full fridge to have nervous bowels because of stress?!

But maybe, they said, stress doesn’t have to be big or hard or negative things, just lots of things. Well, I have lots of things. Yes, they said, you have lots of things.

And my wise boss lady, when I told her about it later said, “You’re thinking about the stressors you don’t have because you live in this culture, but don’t forget that this culture does come with a lot of stressors of its own. A person in Kenya has a sky full of stars and not a lot of options. You have a few stars and are inundated by a surplus of options every where you go.”

(And now, would you believe that the moment the kids go to bed I need to poop again. It was a nice comfortable poop. I lit a candle, for ambience!, and now I am typing by candlelight.)

A multitude of options has always been stressful to me. (Remind me to tell you the story of how I broke down weeping all over my stoic Japanese advisor during freshman registration. “There’s[heave]too many[heave]classes[heave]that I want[heave]to take.” It’s a good one.)

I love my job. I love my kids. I love a lot of things. I have a lot of interests. And the feeling like I need to be creating goes with me everywhere. I KNOW I am grateful. I guess I am stressed. And according to ten questions I am also “moderately depressed”. I also have a higher blood pressure than I usually have. And I am also the thinnest I’ve ever been which is slightly alarming considering all that cookie dough.

Anyway, reader, here I am, trying to figure it out. Trying to un-Facebook-bounce my very bouncy life. (Which is a little like being the one person of five who stops jumping on a trampoline, don’t you think?)

A Letter to my Mommy on Mother’s Day…

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I dug out one of my favorite pictures of you today.

I keep it right in front of another one, the same size, of your mother. I grabbed both when I was there for her funeral, when we were looking through pictures, before they went back into a box. And I tucked them into her prayer book, which I also took. She is laughing as I never saw her do too much when I knew her. And the picture is slightly blurred, which lends itself to the idea that it was farther back in time, to become more blurry still, perhaps, the farther I continue to move away from her, from her smell of red wine, roses, and cigarettes.

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Your picture, however, is clear. Your shoulder is bare, halter top tied back around your neck, leaning into the sun over your guitar. You are young, only just a little younger than the young-you of my memory when love first burned your image into my brain. And your hair is dark brown as it always is in my mind.

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We share the same memory of this younger version of you. When someone refers to you as “blonde” we look at each other, sure that they were talking about you just a minute ago, but who is this blonde lady?

And I wanted to make sure that you knew today:

Do you know?

Do you know that I am as surprised as you are at your strange soft skin and the laugh lines around your eyes?

The passage of time is not more evident than when looking at my kids and at you, my Mommy. First images of love burn strong and deep. That is why my children are still babies at my breast. That is why I don’t notice my husband’s greying hair. And that is why when I come for a visit I am sometimes surprised to find you different.

And I know that’s how it will be when you are the oldest you will ever be, many many years from now, and I walk into your room, breath taken away by the site of how much you have changed since just a moment ago when you were a young woman with a bare shoulder and dark hair leaning into the sun.

Love seems to make a fool of time, whereas, somehow, time proves the soundness of love.  And that is why you can never look so very old to me. And that is why I will never look so very old to you. And that is why my children will remember this young-me with my dark hair and smooth arms, too.

I love you, my young Mommy.

Always,
Your Little Girl.

Ash Wednesday…

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The older I get the more I love the liturgy of the Christian calendar.

A few years ago I began exploring ways to add significance to Lent for my small children, but I wasn’t sure I really understood it myself, and then we moved, blah blah blah.

Since then I’ve been circling this idea of a tactile box for the Lenten season with accompanying lessons.

Yesterday, I actually wrote it all out! Whoop!

So, today we will begin and I’ll be posting the lessons here for your perusal or use as you so desire. There are twelve lessons. They go from Ash Wednesday, through the six Sundays of Lent and through the last five days of Holy Week.

Tonight, before we go off to Ash Wednesday service I will place a pie plate on the table and fill it with sand. I will have my son place a cross in the sand and have my daughter place a piece of ash. We will then take turns drawing a winding path from the ash to the cross as we talk about Jesus. And we will read about how Jesus knew his life would lead to death on a cross even before he became a little baby.

Here is the lesson if you want to join us! Feel free to share!

2/18 Ash Wednesday: Leaving Heaven

Where to find it:
A Child’s First Bible by Kenneth N. Taylor: p.174
Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones: p.170 “Get Ready”, p.144 “Operation ‘No More Tears’”
Bible: Philippians 2:5-11

Reading:
Today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of a season on the Christian calendar that we call Lent. On Ash Wednesday all around the world adults and children go to church and get an ash cross smudged on their foreheads. When the priest or pastor draws the cross he says, “From ashes you have come and to ashes you will return.” We say this to remember that God created Adam from the dust. It also reminds us that humans die and turn back to dust. During Lent we remember the time when Jesus gave up heaven to come to Earth as a human. Jesus knew that becoming human would mean he would have to die. Even before he became a little baby, from way up in heaven he could see that his life would lead to the cross.

Lent box activity:
Place the container on the table already filled with sand. Tell your family that you are taking a Lenten journey and remembering the time when Jesus was a human man. Have someone place the cross in the sand because at the beginning of the journey Jesus already knew that’s how it would end. Have someone place the piece of ash in the sand. Take turns drawing a path with your finger from the ash to the cross.

Beginning questions:
• Where was Jesus before he was a human baby? (John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”)
• Where is Jesus now? (Hebrews 12:2 “…and is seated on the right hand of the throne of God.”)
• What sort of things in heaven do you think Jesus had to give up to come to Earth as a little baby?

More questions (for older kids!):
• Did Jesus know that if he became human he would have to die?
• Did God know when he sent his son Jesus to be a baby that he would grow and one day die?
• What choices do we have every day to do the will of the Father?

Family Question:
Just as Jesus gave up heaven to obey God and come to Earth so that we could be close to God, what do we give up to be closer to God?

Family Activity:
Think and pray until Sunday about what if any activity or behavior, you could give up or add as a family to be closer to God this Lenten season.

Pray as a family:
“Our Father in heaven, we thank you for loving us so much that you would send your son away from you in order to rescue us. Jesus, we thank you that you would love your Father and us so much that you would become a human man and rescue us. We thank you for your time on Earth and ask that you bring us closer to you during this period of Lent. Amen.”

Things My Daughter Says…

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So, if you haven’t picked this up, then let me tell you that my four-year-old daughter is a force.

She said to me, “Mom, on Valentine’s Day can you say ‘yes’ to everything?”
“Ha, no, sweetie,” I said.
“Why not?”
“I’m not a good Mom if I say yes to everything.”
“Why not?”
“Well, you gotta learn how to handle ‘no’,” I said.
“Why?”
“Because you’re going to hear ‘no’ in life at some point or another.”
“No, I’m not,” she said.

This is very indicative of who she is. And I find myself wondering if it’s indicative of who she will be. She said it so firmly I actually wondered if she were right. I mean, life might say “no”, but if history is any indicator, she won’t hear the word. Ha ha.

For example, two days ago I noticed her standing in the middle of the floor on her favorite princess storybook, the binding of which is dangerously close to giving up the long hard work of keeping the pages together.

So, I said, “Honey, step off the book before you break it.”
“But I want to break it.”
“Oh, you don’t want it anymore?”
“No,” she said.
“Alright, we’ll give it to another little girl who wants it,” I said.
“Okay.”
“Great, put it by the front door on the bench so I can take it out.”
“Okay.”

A moment later, “Mom, I put the book on the bench for you.”

All of this makes her a difficult four-year-old. And, yet, all of this is going to make her an extraordinary adult.

Hear me, Mommas! There is an upside to having a strong-willed child! I’ll let you know what it is when I get there!

So, this evening, I’m clinging to the big picture. There’s an end game out there and, meantime, in my current moment there’s chocolate ice cream and a cocktail. So, we’re good.