What Are You Known For?

A few nights ago, as I tucked my almost 7 year old daughter into bed, she engaged her usual stall tactic as I headed to her bedroom door.  She has a knack for asking deep questions at bedtime, although come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s as much a stall tactic as just her natural inclination.  Anyway, she stops me in my tracks with the question “Mom, what are you known for?”

Now, my sweet girl did not know that this is just the question I’ve been struggling with again lately.  You see, I really hate to admit it because I KNOW, comparisons are bad and unnecessary and a sucking black vortex into discontent, but I do fall into the comparison trap much more than I would like.  I find that social media can be a snare for me when I find myself in that place, especially Ye Olde Facebook.  I love to read blogs, and typically the ones I read are by women that encourage me in my faith in Christ and inspire me to step out on faith and change my perspective in a variety of ways. Yet those same women that encourage me on one blog earlier in the week can often be the same women I compare myself to later in the week.  A series of photos or status updates by people on Facebook that I am friends/acquaintances with can send me into a vulnerable flurry of doubts if I’m already feeling down, discouraged, frustrated, or just having an “off” day.

So this leads back to the question “What are you known for?”  I had been struggling because I was buying the lie our culture tells, both purposefully and accidentally at times, that being a mom isn’t enough.  That I need to be a mom AND have a career, that I need to be a mom AND an athlete, that I need to be a mom AND be recognized for whatever else pops into my head at the moment.  And ironically, when I’m not stressed or discouraged (and even sometimes when I am), I’m one of the first people to remind other women that being a mom is a calling.  For real- A CALLING.  I think we as moms often find ourselves downplaying the importance of what we do because we share the motherhood status with so many other women.  At least, I’ve found myself in that place.  There is truth that it is hard to feel something is special when it is common. But you know?  While motherhood may be a common, everyday role, it is also exciting, extraordinary, and yes, special.  Because not one of us, not one, parents exactly the same way, with exactly the same kids, in exactly the same circumstances.  God absolutely positively chose me to be the mother to my children, fitting us together to complete part of His puzzle.  Another mom would not fit in the exact way needed.  And if you are a mom reading this, He chose you in the same way.  Ironically, I feel entirely fulfilled in being a stay-at-home-mom who happens to also homeschool my children.  At least, I feel fulfilled until I let myself buy into that terrible lie that I shouldn’t be, that I should want more.

When my daughter asked the question, the first thing that popped into my head and out of my mouth was “I suppose I’m known for being your mom.”  She asked “What else?”, so I added that I enjoy writing and since I had something I had written published, that that could qualify (not that many beyond those close to me know that, but anyway).  But as I turned to head out of her room, I realized I was answering the question wrong.  I’m not going to lie and say I don’t want to be known for something sometimes.  Yet ultimately, I want to be known as a follower of Jesus.  I want HIM to be known.  And I want whatever gifts He has given me to glorify Him, not just serve as a well-liked status update or a chance to bask in a brief moment of glory.  And I took a minute more to tell her that.  Because if she can get that idea down now, on the cusp of turning 7, then her focus will be less on herself and more on Him- something her mama is working on.

Starting Fresh

After sporadic blogging over the past couple of years, I found myself avoiding my blog altogether.  Often out of being tired enough that I wasn’t sure I could string coherent sentences together, but more so because I’ve just let life crowd out my enjoyment of writing.

So I’m starting over, kind of.  I want to breathe fresh life into this blog.  Really, it needs to be resuscitated– quite possibly with an AED as well as CPR.  So after choosing a new name and a new look, I’m ready to give writing some time again.

I hesitated in picking the word “mundane” to use as in my new title.  While my life is often somewhat repetitive and by most definitions, not super exciting, I don’t exactly consider it dull or lacking interest.  But it does fit in the sense that my life is often that of the everyday, the ordinary.   And then there is the fact that the word “mundane” is becoming more commonly used in many circles, especially it seems, in mommy/women bloggers.  So there’s that.

Oh, and the dancing.  Yeah, that’s not really my gift.  I have decent musicality, I love music and I love to move, but I do not qualify as a “dancer”.  So given all of this, titling this blog “Dancing in the Mundane” may seem a little off.  But to me, it’s perfect. Life isn’t clearly defined by set terms, at least, mine certainly isn’t.  And when this blog title popped into my head, it felt right because it wasn’t a 100% perfect description.   It traces the lines of my life without filling them in, and I find comfort in that.  My ordinary, everyday life is sometimes tedious, often repetitive, and with three children 6 and under, frequently tiresome!  I stay home with my children, which I sincerely love, and on top of that I homeschool, which I also love.  Most days.  And of course, being home with young children does allow for some mundane to creep in.  But I want to dance through it.  Crazy, goofy, sometimes graceful, aspiringly joyful dancing right through the routine diaper changes, the stereotypical-for-a-reason never-ending laundry, the shouts of both frustration and joy when learning something new, and the little arms thrown around me for a hug that can make all the hard stuff worth it.

That is the life I want.  A life that offers praise to God through every bit of it- whether dancing with arms open wide or teeth clenched tight.  And ironically, as I did look up the word mundane with the help of ever-present Google, I learned something else about it.  A secondary definition of mundane is “of or relating to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven”.  One of the first things I hope anyone will realize about me is that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, so the idea of this world here being mundane speaks to me in a deeper way.  It’s not our ideal, it’s not our final home.  I want to dance through it in anticipation of what is to come, making the most of what CS Lewis called “the Shadowlands” and knowing there is ever more color ahead. I want to redefine a life mundane into a life extraordinary.  Not due to a change in circumstances but due to a change in perspective, in vision, in attitude.  Because, really, life is extraordinary, and those mundane moments are what define it.

Even when I have a toddler that likes to wipe his nose on my shirt.  A lot.

What, am I your servant or something?

Last Sunday I followed my almost 18-month-old around with a plastic bright blue colored bowl of fruit, hoping to get in a few more bites of food since he was too busy to sit still.  As I shadowed him around my parents kitchen this evening while we were there for dinner, feeding him small bites of pear by the forkful, I jokingly said aloud to him (and my sister-in-law in the kitchen with me), “it’s like I’m a servant or something”.  

And you know, last night I jumped out of bed at 12:45am as I heard his cry through our cracked bedroom door, responding to his whim to be held and fed.  Earlier I changed his diaper, wiping his bottom and disposing of that which was less than pleasant smelling.  I carry him, I wipe his runny nose, I bathe him.  Here, let me feed you more grapes as you recline on your floor pillow, son.  

A servant is defined as “a person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant.”  Thank you Google.  So despite my flippant comment, I clearly qualify.  And I’m okay with that.  Why?  Not just because I’m a mom- in reading the above definition, all moms qualify for the title “servant” (yes, others do too, of course, but I’m speaking about what I know here).  But isn’t servant a derogatory term?  Yes, throughout history it has often been equated with someone of a lower station.  And you know?  That doesn’t really bother me either.

Because it occurred to me in a brief flash of awareness (that I attribute to getting more than just a couple of hours of sleep last night), that I am blessed to be called a servant.  I’m blessed to even be considered of lower station.  Because Jesus was.  And I want to be like him.  

In Matthew 25, Jesus is describing the final judgment- what it will be like when He returns.  He states in verses 24-40, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

So Jesus is describing service to others.  He goes on to state that in caring for others- the least of these- we are caring for HIm.  

Then in Luke 9 the disciples are arguing amongst themselves about who is the greatest.  Bless those imperfect men- they are such an encouragement in their imperfection (and I love how all their sin and mistakes makes Christ shine that much brighter- reminds me that He uses mine for His glory too!).  Anyway…as they are arguing, it says in verses 47-48 that “…Jesus took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”  So again Jesus reiterates serving “the least of these”, and in this example the least of these is exemplified by a child.  

I write this to remind myself, and encourage other mothers especially, to look upon the seemingly mundane tasks of wiping noses, changing of diapers, and the spoon-feeding of our babies as, yes, SERVING.  We are servants.  But we aren’t only serving our children.  We are serving the Lord.  Our kids are “the least of these”.  And aside from getting to be their mommies, they allow us to serve The Greatest of All.  


The Struggle

My cursor keeps blinking as I sit here staring at the screen.  When it’s been awhile since I’ve written, I find it hard to organize all my thoughts and ideas that I’ve had over the past few months; all those moments where I’ve filed something away thinking “I’d like to write about that…”.

This past year has been a struggle.  It’s been a year full of lots of laughter and wonderful moments, but a struggle in many, many aspects.  There is, of course, the struggle of adjusting to having three children- I’m sorry, but for those of you that told me that going from one to two was hard but two to three was a breeze…you lie.  Or perhaps it was a breeze for you and truth be told, at first I thought it was for me,  but once my littlest started moving, it was all over.    We have a climber.  An adventurer.  A daredevil.  A child who at the age of 15 months has already fallen in love with the word “no” (and even though it sounds cute now I’m wary).  He also happens to have a great sense of humor, a terrific laugh, and a very sweet spirit most of the time.  So that helps when I feel my sanity fading.

The real struggle, though, has been in an area that was new to us- the world of food allergies. Food allergies were foreign to us and we were shocked when we discovered that they were the culprits of a horrible diaper rash that lasted from a week old to a couple of months old, congestion and slightly difficulty breathing, and major spit-up issues that required more clothing and clean-up than I ever imagined.

Because I was (and am) breastfeeding our littlest guy, those food allergies required a change in diet.  When the pediatrician told me at his two month well-child visit that I was going to have to cut out dairy (one of the most common allergens in babies), I literally cried on the way home.  What about pizza?!?  Milk chocolate?!? What on earth am I going to eat?  I’m one of those girls who loves dairy.  I’m the granddaughter of a former dairy farmer!  I began the journey of educating myself on what had casein in it, as simply cutting out milk isn’t sufficient.  Of course yogurt, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese and milk had to go.  But the myriad of foods that have some form of milk in them is remarkable.  And as I also cut out soy (due to that being a common allergen along with the dairy), I was quite overwhelmed at the number of foods now off limits (soy lecithin is in just about EVERYTHING).

After eight weeks or so of cutting out those two things, the rash finally went away, his congestion began to clear up, and the spitting up did get somewhat better.  But Mr. J did not end up fully symptom free.  This tormented me.  As a nursing mom, I was responsible for everything he ingested, and knowing that something I was consuming was causing him to be in pain or uncomfortable was very difficult emotionally.  At one point I was dairy, soy, egg, peanut, chocolate, and tomato free (only for a week or so with all of them but that week was a loooonnnnngggg one) in an attempt to narrow down possible causes.  Other times I took out gluten for a month, or avoided certain other foods for specific periods of time.

Thankfully, the older he got, the easier it became (unless out to dinner, at a potluck, or at a party) and the more his symptoms cleared.  Around six months, eczema became the most concerning symptom as it was more severe than I had ever seen from my kids or myself (we all have had quite minor eczema issues here and there).  I read everything I could find on food allergies and eczema, and I became pretty efficient at recipe substitutions.  I developed a decent taste for regular almond milk or coconut milk (still doesn’t beat dairy in my book) and rejoiced at discovering chocolate almond milk- which is pretty great and helps my need for a chocolate fix.  I found alternatives for yogurt and began making even more things from scratch, like cream of chicken soup.  Let me just say though, that I gave up on finding a cheese substitute that is worthwhile.  I miss cheese. Anyway, as J began eating solids, I was able to pinpoint a bit better what he seemed to react to, because we had really been shooting in the dark in many ways.  (We had not opted for allergy testing as one, it is SUPER expensive and we self-pay; two, the unreliability of it for a child at such a young age did not make the cost worth it; and three, his allergies didn’t appear severe enough to warrant a visit to the allergist, praise God.)

The eczema continued to be our biggest problem and was the source of many tears and much prayer.  I rejoice in being able to type “was” as a few weeks ago, it just started to clear up.  We hadn’t done anything different regarding food or lotions or such; I believe it was an answer to the many prayers that had been offered up.  I never understood how eczema could really cause so much difficulty but I have definite empathy for those that struggle with it as well as with food allergies.  Eczema can seriously interrupt a life, and serious food allergies, of course, can take a life.  And many people, myself included before J was born, just don’t understand.

All that to say, it’s been a journey.  A hard one honestly.  I don’t need to list every difficulty it has brought as this post is quite long enough already and this is a condensed version of our story, but I did want to share in case anyone comes across this that is facing something similar.  I’m hopeful that he will outgrow his allergies (dairy and peanut are definitely culprits).  And on the positive side, my formerly food-picky self is now eating things I never would have thought I would consume before, so that’s been a great part of this adventure.  But… when J has weaned, I am going to inhale a large pizza all by myself with a cheesecake for dessert to celebrate.


On Growing Up

Almost all of us have some specific remnant(s) of our childhood we carry with us, a symbol of our earliest years.  Things we can look at or sounds we hear that fill us with memories.  Pictures that take us back to sitting on logs near the woodpile in the backyard eating Sweet Sixteen powdered donuts with your grandpa; songs that take us back to that roller-skating birthday party where your biggest focus was not falling in front of the boy you liked.  Or a teddy bear that you named after Big Bird’s teddy bear when you were a preschooler that adored Sesame Street.  We are blessed (or sometimes feel cursed) by a beautiful flood of memories that can come rushing back by association in a matter of moments.

Sometimes those moments come with the realization that life is speeding by faster than you had truly realized.  Once you become a parent, the thing you may often hear the most is “before you know it, they’ll be grown.” And it’s true.  It really is.  As cliche as it sounds, you can just about “blink and those early days are gone.”  We may feel it strongly when our kids take their first steps, say their first words, start picking out their own clothes, or begin their first year of school.  Life is often measured in the “firsts”.  Tonight I was hit by a mack truck of realization that involved a first I hadn’t really thought about and in many ways, am not quite ready for.  It involves one of my daughter’s firsts- her first love really.

It can be argued that it was her father and I that occupy that “first love” place in her heart, and I suppose that is certainly true in many ways.  But Lulu… Lulu has always held a special place in her heart, and it’s Lulu that has consistently been the symbol of my little girl’s childhood.

Lulu is a lamb.  A lovely, lavender lamb that was given to us as a baby shower gift before my sweet girl was even born.  She was the top of the diaper cake made by my friend Melissa in response to the knowledge that the theme for Eila’s nursery was The Lion and the Lamb.  Because of this, we were blessed with many lambs.  It took a few months of course, but Lulu soon became Eila’s favorite.  From about six months onward, they were inseparable.

Like many beloved stuffed animals, blankies, and so forth, Lulu has gone everywhere with Eila- out of state to visit family, around town running errands, to offer comfort when Eila is scared or sad- Lulu is well-loved and well-traveled.  Therefore, in almost every single picture of Eila from babyhood on, Lulu is there, peeking out from Eila’s elbow.  She is like a member of the family- to the point that if I saw Lulu lying somewhere and I needed to move her, I felt almost guilty if I kicked her with my foot instead of gently picking her up and placing her down in a better location.  Sometimes Lulu can almost make you believe, like Sara Crewe did about her doll Emily in A Little Princess, that she is really alive and would move if you left the room.

Due to Lulu’s loved status, she has become quite worn over the years.  As threadbare as The Velveteen Rabbit and cuddled just as much if not more so, her stuffing began to poke through and she was on the verge of unraveling in many areas.  A kind friend at church offered to crochet lovely pastel colored patches to strengthen Lulu’s worn parts and those have so far held true.

Earlier, as Eila was downstairs playing and I was in her room putting some of her things away, I caught sight of Lulu lying there in the middle of the bed and my heart caught in my throat.  I realized that this was becoming the new normal.  Once always cuddled in Eila’s arms, Lulu is left behind on a more frequent basis.  Eila often says now she leaves her to keep her safe and preserve her from getting torn up and I know this is true.  But… I also know that her leaving Lulu behind is inevitable much like how she is slowly easing out of her childhood.  And Lulu is a tangible reminder of that.

I believe she will always have Lulu, whether she be in a box or on a shelf.  I think that Lulu will continue on with her through adolescence, into adulthood, and may make it to be played with by Eila’s children someday.  Even if she doesn’t, the thought of Lulu will, and is likely to spark many, many wonderful memories for my little girl.   As I looked at Lulu laying there, I was acutely aware that in a day or two, Eila will be starting first grade and that my sweet firstborn girl is a going to be a grown woman much sooner than I can imagine.  It was one of those cliche “blink-and-you-miss-it-moments” and it made me hug my daughter a little bit tighter that night as she clutched Lulu in their familiar embrace.



My guest post on Organizing A Homeschool Space

I’ve decided it’s time to start blogging again.  I am nowhere near having this mother of three thing down yet, but I think I can safely squeeze some writing time in more frequently than once every five months or so.  I actually started back a couple of weeks ago when a friend of mine (who is also a professional organizer) asked me to do a guest post on her blog about organizing a homeschool space.  If you are interested in checking out her site and want to find out why I laughed when she first asked, here’s the link! http://getsimplespaces.com/guest-blogger-homeschool-organizing/


Jude’s Birth Story: A Testimony of Praise. Part 2.

For the first part of Jude’s story, click here.

I left off in Part 1 with how my discouragement was starting to grow.  I mentioned that I had to fight the thoughts that were making their way into my mind, thoughts like “I can’t do this”, “This is never going to end”, and “If I transferred to the hospital now, I could have a c-section and just be done.”  I knew that I was just weary and that I needed to take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), but I was honestly struggling.  I am guessing it was around 9:15am or so at this point.  I was praying off and on and knew that others were praying for me.  It was at this point that Will posted on Facebook that I was getting tired and needed prayer. My mom had also sent out a request for prayer via email and the staff of the Yahweh Center had stopped during praise and worship at the weekly staff meeting to pray for us.  Prayer was going to be critical in the next hour or so.

God knew I needed encouragement, and He used my midwife at that moment to give it to me.  She looked at me and quoted the first half of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things…”  and I finished it with …through Him who strengthens me.”  This was significant as it was the verse my mother had quoted to me ever since I was a little girl- my midwife didn’t know that.  I know this was one of the ways God let me know more directly that He was there with me.

My midwife asked me if there was anything going on mentally that I needed to discuss- I didn’t mention my thoughts of c-section at that point because I knew I didn’t really, truly want that, but I did share that I was just tired.  And afraid I wasn’t going to have the energy to do what I needed to do if (when) we were finally ready to push.I remember getting super antsy as I fought my own thoughts there in that pool.  I decided then that I could no longer try to rest.  I needed to DO something and I had the feeling that it was time to get out and have my baby.  I got out, started walking around, and felt a renewed sense of purpose.

Up until this point, my water hadn’t broken.  Like with my first two, we ended up breaking it to move things along (apparently my bag of waters is always super strong).  After my midwife broke my water, as with Asher’s birth although not quite as immediate and obvious, Jude was well on his way in descent and I was ready to push not too long afterward.  With Will behind me on the bed to help be my strength, we began to push.

My midwife worked with me to help me avoid tearing, and I could feel Jude trying to help by turning a bit as he began to crown.  But something wasn’t quite right.  He tried again to help as I pushed but still wasn’t fully coming out, even though they could see his head.  They continued to track his heartbeat with the doppler as they had throughout the entire labor, and at this last check, the results weren’t good.

It is here that things began to happen super quickly.  My midwife had me turn over onto my hands and knees and I could hear the urgency in her voice as she told me to PUSH.  Then, he was out.

I felt that familiar feeling of relief as he emerged and turned, ready to hold him.  But he wasn’t breathing.  He was grayish and floppy.

At this point, I’m not sure of anything other than seeing my midwife calmly and determinedly start applying oxygen while instructing me to pray and asking Will to call 911 in case they were needed.  I rubbed Jude’s chest as I prayed, asking the Lord to get my baby breathing.  I looked at Will’s face and could see the utter look of fear as he called 911 and looked at his baby.  I almost felt like I went on autopilot- it was scary, but somehow I felt that Jude was going to be fine.

Two minutes later, a very long two minutes in many ways while fast in others, Jude turned pink, started breathing on his own, and let out a beautiful, piercing cry that lasted awhile as he made up for lost time.  The EMTs arrived and I was thankful beyond words that they were not needed other than having me sign a form that we didn’t need transport to the hospital.  His first apgar at 1 minute after birth came in at a 3.  His second, five minutes after his birth, was a 9.

Still attached to me because we had not clamped and cut the cord yet, I delivered the placenta while helping Jude to begin nursing.  Will then cut the cord once it had stopped pulsing and all we could do was praise God that He had been the one to truly deliver our praise baby.  Jude means praise.  Our prayer all through the pregnancy had been that his birth would be a praise and a testimony to all those involved.  In talking (processing) with our midwife immediately afterward and on follow-up visits in the next couple of weeks, it was evident that God honored that prayer.  Jude is certainly our praise, and I am incredibly thankful that he is here with us.

After the birth, we learned that there had been a combination of factors going on.  Shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder is not able to pass below the pubic bone, was a major factor that caused his distress and the drop in heart tones, also affecting his breathing once out.  His cord was also caught by the shoulder.  It appeared in examining the placenta that it had started to separate from the uterus, and the umbilical cord, instead of developing from the center of the placenta, had developed from the side.  Praise again that given all those factors, Jude is here lying in my lap making that sweet little sound with his lips that he is making.

We’ve been asked since his birth if we wish we had been in a hospital given the circumstances of his birth.  Our answer is a resounding “NO!”  If we had been in a hospital, the following scenarios would have been likely:  1) when my cervical lip came back, it is possible I would have been dubbed with the infamous failure to progress label and a c-section would have been pushed/recommended.  2) When Jude was born and not breathing, the cord would have been clamped and cut immediately and he would have been whisked away to the NICU, or at least, away from me and his father.

I am thankful for my midwife’s wisdom (and it is part of her usual practice anyway) of waiting until the cord stops pulsing before it is cut.  This allowed Jude to continue to receive the life-giving blood he was receiving as she applied oxygen.  He was able to hear my voice and feel my touch as he lay there.  She had what she needed to get him breathing- we didn’t need a hospital room for that.  The Lord used her mightily in that moment, and He heard our prayers.

We said from the beginning that doing a homebirth was a huge faith walk for us.  Little did we know how much of one it would be.  Of course, birth is always a faith walk really, wherever you choose to have your baby and however he or she arrives in your arms.

Jude Christian Adair was born at 10:37am, 8 lbs and 3.5 ounces.  21 inches long.  God is so very faithful- we have our praise baby to attest to that.  And we give Him all the glory.