9.23.2017

Last night I tangled with a bike in the driveway and banged myself up pretty badly. My knee is feeling somewhat better, but my hips, ankles, shoulder, and back all ache from trying to hobble around without putting weight on my knee. When one part suffers, the whole body feels it, and it's not easy on the rest of the family when I'm incapacitated like this. Andrew was going to go study tonight, but since I need to stay off my feet, he set up a cozy nest for me in the garden cart, brewed me some tea, and we're sitting together in the gentle evening breeze. The kids are running around playing some variant of cops and robbers as he studies and I write. The pressing ache in my chest means that it's time for another poem. I don't know where this one's going, but I'm excited. Occasionally the kids pause their game to tell us what they're doing or to ask about our progress. It's the kind of moment that makes all the other moments worthwhile, and all in all, I'm glad.


9.18.2017

Johnny brought me some paper and a broken crayon (Strawberry Red).

"Wrap."

So I wrapped it up (again), hoping that this time he would forget about the tape.

He didn't.

"Tape."

So I taped it up (again), gave it to him, and he danced, beaming like Chesterton's sun.

"Present!"

Then he opened his gift, marveled at the shard of pink-red wax, and asked me to wrap it again.

Because that is what crayons, pens, and paper are for: unwrapping wonder and making it new, again and again and again.

8.21.2017

Motherhood is not a vocation

This has taken me a long time to figure out.

Motherhood is more important than just about anything I do, and it's the driving force and motivation behind most of it.

But it's not a vocation. My kids are not a project.

They're people. Little people with lots of dreams and needs, frustrations and competencies all their own. As they grow, their relationship with me will shape them profoundly--but that relationship only thrives when I accept them for who they are.

Love sees and celebrates the good that is there, and longs for its growth. Love supports that growth in many ways, but simply seeing the nascient goodness is the main way.



It is an idealistic fantasy to think that we can scold, shame, or punish the vices out of our children.

There is a more excellent way, though it, too, is fraught with uncertainty.

Slowly, I am learning to let go of my expectations, and delight in my children regardless. To seek out what is wonderful in them, celebrate and cherish the virtues most natural to them, praying that those virtues will lead them into other virtues, crowding vice out of their souls.

This is my deepest longing... yet motherhood is not my vocation, and my kids are not my project.

Love is my vocation, becoming fully human is my project. Swirling through all our other projects and vocations, that is the main task for all of us.

We're learning it together.



7.26.2017

The mud here is wonderful.

It has been too long since I have spent much time in mud. After years spent in cities, surrounded by the works of men, it is good to come back to the earth.

When I was small, I spent many long summer afternoons next to the creek. I would dip into the clear icy water, then roll in the hot sand until my body was well coated, like breaded fish. When I felt that I had baked enough, it was time to jump back into the water, savoring the flowing coolness until I was chilled to the bone. Then I would hop back out, bread myself in sand again, and the cycle would continue, hot and cold, earth and water.

It is one of my favorite memories, but I would hardly dare mention this to my children; mud brings with it so much chaos. Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for the upholstery and the laundry!) they have discovered the wonders of mud just fine on their own.

They squish and squelch and revel in it, and then when the wonder has worn off, they shape and sculpt it, make it into something new.

And so the cycle goes on.




3.24.2017

The other night we had an impromptu picnic at the other end of the park, where the big oak trees twine together looking over the lake.


Andrew loaded up the green garden cart with grill, charcoal, food, and the two youngest kids. The rest of us rode bikes. The bluebonnets are in bloom, and I stopped to take pictures until my battery died.



The battery died pretty quickly, which is probably just as well. I could have stayed lost among the flowers for hours, and missed out on most of the magic.

By the time I caught up with the rest of the family, Willie had joined his little brothers in the cart, having had a flat tire. He pretended to be a stranger that they had picked up on the side of the road, and he informed me that we were adopting him. I told him I was glad. I'd always wanted a kid just like him. The whole afternoon was everything I ever could have wanted, and then some. I remembered those glorious afternoons through the years, when the light was so beautiful it made me ache. All of those moments felt like little foretastes of this one.




We had burgers slathered with avocados, and when we realized that we'd underestimated everyone's appetites, we sent Nathan back to the RV to get some more. It is such a good thing to watch your son ride off, strong and hearty and free.



The sunset washed over us with liquid light, and I ran down to the lake to get some pictures. I waded through the squelchy mud, sinking down to my ankles with every step. I snapped photo after photo. They were all very pretty, but none of them did justice to the glory. It was entirely worth it.

And then Andrew took the opportunity to wash my feet. He always does, in a hundred different ways. 



Then we rode back. The big kids raced on ahead, while Andrew lugged the cart full of kids and gear. Kiah rode around and around them in epicycles, and I trailed along behind, practicing my balance as I tried to ride slow enough to take it all in.


3.17.2017

Spilling the milk of human kindness



This little cutie just dumped an entire quart of milk all over the (upholstered) dinette. His adorableness is a very great consolation, but he wouldn't even sit still for me to take a picture, and so this selfie was was the best I could get. (The sight of a selfie -taking toddler is a marvelous antidote to toddler-induced stress. Until you attempt to take the cell phone back, of course.)

Aside from their cuteness, another nice thing about toddlers is that most of the time they eventually grow up into helpful and intelligent teenagers who read Harry Potter, discuss epistemology, and help change the waterproof mattress pads on the dinette cushions.

The big kids worked hard and well to restore order, but not without a sigh or two.

"He's the master of disaster. He does all this crazy stuff, and there's no way we can stop him. He just... gets away with it."

That's not entirely true. Most of the time, we can and do stop him. Most of the time, we put the milk immediately away, and if the baby dashes between our knees to try to grab the eggs while we have the refrigerator open, we're usually quick enough to stop him.

But not always. And then... he gets away with it. We clean him (and everything else) up, shower him with kisses, and teach him how to take selfies.

It's messy and utterly unfair.

Grace always is.

Soon, he will develop the sense not to dump out jugs of milk for the fun of it. And then he will be apt to get into other kinds of messes. We'll do our best to protect against those, too, but inevitably we will mess up.

The goal isn't to raise kids who don't make messes, though. It's to raise kids full of mercy and grace, who know that they have been forgiven, and are ready to pitch in and help clean up their little brother.

3.14.2017




This kid.

This stage amazes me, with the constant learning, growing, problem-solving, strategizing. Every day, more words, more empathy, more communication, more ways to circumvent our babyproofing efforts. One time last month he started biting me over and over.

"No, no, sweetheart, that's owie!"

He smiled at me in relief, and nodded vigorously. "Owie!"

He has another tooth coming in, and this time we both know the drill. He bites my thigh, locks eyes with me, and points to my oil stash. I marvel at his determination to communicate, glance ruefully at my growing collection of bruises, and dream of the day when his words will be clear enough for me to understand them before he has to resort to desperate measures. Then I get out the copaiba.

At the beginning of this parenting journey, I was so concerned that my kids ask for things the right way. A good parent never gives in to tantrums... right? Yet the God of David receives our tantrums with arms wide open, lavishing us with frustratingly inscrutable and perfect care. He gives us what we need, and THEN he helps us to understand it.

As I learn the art of parenting from Father God, I am also working on the art of the tantrum. The Psalmist is a good role model in that regard, and so is my sweet toddler. I have much to learn, but nonetheless I'm putting the finishing touches on a bundle tantrums, and preparing to publish them soon. I hope that you find them edifying, or at least entertaining. In any case, God has heard my cry, and that's really all that matters.