Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What Happened To Motherhood?

Before I had my first baby, I envisioned a picturesque setting of a tiny, cooing baby decked with layers of flannel and eyelet while nestled on a lofty, plush mattress. This baby would be tucked safely in a high wicker bassinet with fluffy, warm blankets and of course, the room would be set in a hazy twilight glow while a warm breeze wafted through the open window and fluttered the sheer curtains.

After I had my first baby, the room the baby was mostly in never seemed to have a hazy twilight glow, I never managed to put sheer curtains up and I made sure to keep all the windows closed, avoiding a cold breeze that could be tinted with RSV. The doctor told me the dangers of large, soft blankets and strictly forbade the use of plush mattresses.

I soon learned that it wasn't the picturesque setting I should strive for as a mother; it was the hope that my baby would burp after his feeding and have a bowel movement 6-8 times a day.

Before I had children, I thought all babies smelled pretty. After I had my first baby, I learned how much work it is to keep a baby smelling pretty.

Before I had children, I kept the little bed in our room decked with neatly folded receiving blankets and matching burp rags laid decoratively with the blankets. I was sure to keep the powder and baby brush in a neat little basket at the end of the little bed along with a neat stack of diapers and a small tub of wipes.

After I had my first baby, I learned that it doesn't matter if the burp rag matches the baby's blanket; when you need a rag, you'll use anything within reach. I also found that I had only seconds to get the old diaper off and the new diaper on before a shower would turn on. Who had time for powder?

Before I had children, I had so many good ideas and so much fun planning. I knew how often my baby would eat, how long he'd be awake before I'd put him back to bed and he'd obediently coo for a few minutes and then go back to sleep. I knew how easy it was going to be to nurse -- I mean, I wasn't going to have to warm the milk or wash bottles so it was really going to be a breeze.

After I had my first baby, all my ideals and plans went out the window within the first 24 hours. My baby would NOT eat until I was home from the hospital. Then once he ate, I had to burp him, change him and then nurse some more. Then we burped again, changed again and surprisingly, he didn't just settle down and coo and go back to sleep in his own little bed. As his tummy got used to real milk, he was a little fussy until it digested and settled down. Nursing was painful and he wanted to nurse all the time.

Before I had children, I thought that once the baby was born, all pain and discomfort would be gone. I thought contractions would be the worst part and everything after them was bliss.

After I had my first baby, I couldn't believe how long it took to heal and regain my energy. I didn't know how painful childbirth would be and how drained I'd feel after he was finally born.

Before I had children, I never pictured myself as a tired mother.

After I had my first baby, my head bobbed through the night as I sat up and tried to stay awake and feed my wide eyed little baby. I would wonder and imagine what it would be like to be sleeping just then. But sleep was still several hours away: this little baby had his days and nights mixed up. And I honestly didn't care if it was day or night; after just having a baby and going through a whirlwind of change and decay, I was afraid I would fall asleep on my feet if I wasn't careful.

When he did finally fall asleep, I'd wake up at the slightest sound just to make sure he was still breathing. And I'm the person who could sleep through a tornado while everyone else ran around and lit candles and made sure the twister wasn't going to take the house away. After I had that first baby, I was forever waking up just to make sure my baby was still alive. I was petrified that he would suddenly succumb to such a deep sleep, he would forget to breath. I wondered what it would be like to sleep and not worry at the same time.

Motherhood is such a complex, complicated yet completely natural process. But, a lot of ideals and prefabricated plans designed by inexperienced people, can make the process a lot harder.

Babies are meant to be loved, held, enjoyed and snuggled. There's more to babies than just feeding, burping, changing and putting to them to sleep. So often, babyhood is turned into a strict curriculum and motherhood is replaced with strong leadership and tight schedules.

As for feeding, nursing isn't just meant for nourishment; it's meant for cuddling, soothing a fussy baby and enjoying a moment alone together as mother and child. Even though nursing isn't just meant for filling a hungry tummy, I'm not abolishing all scheduling standards for feeding. As a matter of fact, both of my babies required a schedule for feeding because of the quantity of milk I had when they were newborns. I could never demand feed on a regular basis. At the rare times I had to nurse closer than 2 hours apart, my babies have both been very fussy and would spit up often.

But, here again is something I learned soon after I had Landon. Sometimes 4 hours apart worked great; other times I was lucky to go 2 hours. Babies are always growing and changing and growth spurts can really effect their eating schedule. As can the quality of the mother's milk.

While seeing many other mothers raise their babies while I was raising mine, there is a camaraderie acquired between mothers that is nonexistent until you both join the ranks of motherhood. In my observations, sadly enough, there seems to be a trend of motherless motherhood among many young moms.

I heard a young mother say to me that she was still trying to be able to tell her 3 wk. old baby's cries apart: whether she was hungry or whether she was angry.

Another mother exasperated that her baby was having a hard time lately because she was weaning the child off of nursing. I wondered why it was important to wean the baby if she wasn't ready yet. The mother excused that since the baby was a year old now, she (the mom) was ready to quit. I looked at the little baby sitting forlornly on it's mother lap and I saw such sadness and confusion in the baby's eyes. Her face was etched with pain and confusion not intended for such a young one.

What has happened to the nurturing and caring that motherhood is supposed to bring to our little ones? Instead of using God-given instincts to care for our own young, we implement tight schedules, follow rules and books written by inexperienced people who have never been mothers and shun cuddle time with our babies in order to avoid spoiling and coddling.

As I observed my own pregnancies and then the resulting baby, I began to think about the fact that a baby in it's mother's womb never experiences a need. He is warm, fed, clean, rocked and his food is fully digested. After birth, suddenly many parents see the child as a potentially rebellious and angry person. He is no longer rocked 24 hours a day like he was before, he is no longer always fed when he is hungry, his digestion problems are sometimes mistaken for an attitude problem because of all the fussy and crying a little gas can cause and his needs of mere comfort are overlooked.

In experiencing babies twice so far, I have come to realize that all babies have a very real need that ties right along with needing to be fed. And that need is comfort. If I had known everything I know now about being a mom and having a baby, I would've enjoyed my first little baby so much more. I would've relaxed, cuddled, and enjoyed MY baby.

The best advice our pediatrician ever gave me was this:

Until your baby is 3 months old, there is no possible way you can spoil him. He can be held, rocked, cuddled and snuggled as much as you want because it is impossible for him to remember things. A lot of times parents want to avoid spoiling their baby so they avoid holding it a lot. When the child cries, they refuse to pick it up, thinking that doing so will "teach" the infant how to get his way. The results are never effective until some time AFTER the child is 3 months old.

I took that advice to heart with both of my babies and I didn't feel guilty or "used" when my babies cried and I held them.

Before I had children, I never imagined the joy of holding a crying baby and seeing his broken heart mend just by nestling him close to me.

After I had my first baby, the greatest thing I ever experienced was watching the way my baby listened immediately to my voice and calmed as my hands lifted his little wriggling body as I picked him up. I never knew how exciting it would be to hold my very own baby in my arms and see him relax just at my touch and voice.

To think of avoiding that bond of nurturing and caring because some idealistic philosophy that holding a crying baby is synonym to spoiling them, is a thought that every mother should take to heart. By relinquishing our responsibility of nurturing and caring for our young, we are giving up our rights as mothers... we are giving up our responsibility to motherhood. We lose motherhood but still keep the baby.

And that's what happened to motherhood.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Boy

"A good boy generally makes a good man," said George Washington's mother.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Good Part

This morning, during the chilly dawn hours, a little two-and-a-half foot dude came sleepily sauntering into my room. I had heard his door open only moments before but I could tell he went out into the living room to see if his daddy was still here.

Toby had left just 4 minutes before.

I could see the disappointment in Landon's face even though he never voiced his disappointment in missing Daddy.

No matter what time of night Landon goes to bed, he wakes up every morning right around the time Toby leaves for work. Sometimes he gets to see his dad; other times he barely misses him.

Toby keeps the house quiet and dark in hopes that Landon will stay asleep for at least a little longer. It never works anymore. Sometimes we'll hear him get up and get dressed even before Toby is up.

And the look on Landon's face when he comes into our room and sees Toby still in bed, is so precious! It's as if seeing his daddy, determines whether he got out of the right side of bed or not just seconds before.

He'll pounce on Toby, tell him to get up and get dressed. Not even I get away with such bossing! Toby just laughs and tells Landon to go wait out in the kitchen for him. Then, the two of them embark on some breakfast adventure and fill the house with all kinds of warm, good smells.

How is it that a daddy can have such impact on a little boy? This morning, I told Landon that he and I could make breakfast together. But, it didn't have the same effect on him as Toby's breakfast companionship does with Landon.

Maybe it was because I don't let Landon break the egg into the hot, sizzling frying pan all by himself.

Maybe it was because I stopped him from digging into the hash browns and made him wash his hands first.

Maybe it was because I didn't give him enough coffee.

Maybe it was because I helped him butter his toast and I didn't let him fill the toaster up with lots of bread.

Maybe it was because I stopped him from splattering his egg yolk all over his jammies as he thoroughly saturated his toast with the yellow, gooey substance.

Maybe it was because I'm not the dad.

Dads seem to have an intuition of what makes their boys become men and poor mothers sadly lack in that department. Even when it comes to cooking (a culturally thought of "woman's" task), men just have a different approach to the whole thing.

I know of many couples who both enjoy cooking. When the mom cooks supper, it's usually casseroles, salads and veggies. When the dad cooks, it's steaks, gourmet sandwiches and rich desserts. When a man is a good cook, he's usually a much more advanced cook than even a good woman cook.

Why is that? Men don't skimp and stretch things like women tend to do.
And when it comes to time spent with their children, a lot of dads have an unending amount of quality time intended only for their offspring. Even if it takes 10 times longer to do a task, if they can teach their child to enjoy and learn the project at hand, the dad seems to enjoy investing countless hours teaching their child.

The mom on the other hand, busies herself with getting supper on the table on time, keeping the children from the hot stove (instead of teaching them how to avoid getting burned) and reminding the "helpers" (that she does allow to help her) to remember to wash their hands all the time.

If it's anything like our house, it's just not quite as fun with Mom as it is with Dad.

How much I want to remember the "good part" like Jesus reminded Martha in the Bible to do, and choose that. For that will not be taken from me.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part,
which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:41-42

Monday, December 11, 2006

On Carpenters, Babysitters and Good Intentions

In more ways than one, our home and household items seem to be falling apart lately. Not sure what is going on. It's like there's some kind of disease going around in our walls, roof and interior.

We have a very able bodied carpenter that resides in our home but his schedule is booked into the next year. So, as his own house falls apart more everyday as he leaves for work, he continues to faithfully repair his well paying customer's homes. Mrs. Carpenter has had to make some rearrangements for the time being considering her better half is not able to occupy his position as chief fixer-upper at home.

Several of the following items in the tips section are already my responsibility but I thought I'd include the whole scope of projects needing to be done around here to give the reader the whole perspective.

First off, I'll start with the most urgent agenda:

Our kitchen table has a perpetual disability. More than once, we've had to interrupt our supper time in order to reposition one of the legs. It may get bumped by a toddler's foot or just decide it's too tired to stand on its own anymore. Once a small infant was placed on top of the table in a small bed and suddenly the table decided to fall. Thankfully, there were no injuries. The baby was miraculously caught in midair by her angel aunt.

Despite good intentions, there have never been permanent repairs on the table since then so you can imagine the continued excitement our table brings us. As it begins it's assent to the floor during a meal, a diner will balance the table until Mr. Carpenter brings his lousy little screw driver and a plastic cup assortment of screws, nails and left over window hardware. The jack-of-all-trades-except-for-table-repair, will empty half of the screws on the floor while Landon and Janae snatch the rest and run off with it for further inspection.

A ping and pop will be heard as the stubborn dry wall screw will refuse to enter the oak wood and would rather continue dropping on the floor. Eventually several folks will be coerced into volunteering their time into table repair so that the whole family can resume their dinner.

One person will hold the leg, another will balance the table top and the two of them will keep the toddlers from running and jumping directly on their dad's stomach as he vulnerably lays under the table in an attempt to get the screw to go through the leg into the table frame. It ends up being quite an endeavor for all those involved.

At last, Mr. Carpenter will deem the table "safe" but not totally fixed. Chairs will pull back up to the table, splashes of water from the recent quake will be wiped up and the toddlers will be fastened back into their chairs. Everyone seems to trust the carpenter's semi-repair by the way they fearlessly sit at the table. The evening's event is soon forgotten as we resume our meal.

A few nights later, the scene is repeated. I finally asked Toby the other evening if he thought we should maybe get a new table. He thought that was probably a good idea. But, since we have two tables and only use one on a daily basis, I think it almost seems foolish to replace a table that we really don't need anymore. Still, we continue to grapple with our toppling table instead of replacing it with another one we have or getting a new one.

Stupid, I know. But when this table is the one Toby bought for us before we were even married, it's hard to throw away something of such sentimental value.

I guess we'll just have to continue screwing screws in it or else send it to it's well worth retirement.

Today I finally decided something needed to be done -- I'm sure we're running out of screws by now. I observed the full layout of our house in the living/dining and kitchen area and decided that we could indeed send the kitchen table to it's eternity and put the dining room table in the kitchenette area. Our dining table is mostly used for storage anyway and I thought that maybe if we eliminated that from the living/dining area, we could have a cleaner looking house.

So, here's tip #1:

  • Eliminate any unnecessary clutter traps: furniture, tables, baskets, chairs and kitchen cupboards if necessary

For tip #2, I found this out today:

  • If you want to make your kitchen feel new, clean out the fridge.

Tip #3 only works if you have an open floor plan:

  • If your living room can only be arranged one way and you're tired of shuffling your furniture around in hopes of finding a new niche for one of the items, retire your kitchen table, move the dining table into the kitchen and spread your living room out into your dining room.

Tip #4 is difficult for me because I know how much this might step on toes for my local carpenter:

  • If your son's sock drawer continually leaves the bottom of the drawer in the dresser every time you pull the drawer out and all the socks fall through the gap onto the floor and the drawer isn't getting repaired by a professional (ie. husband), get a new dresser. I haven't tried this tip yet but I'm sure it would work.

Tip #5:

  • When you leave to run errands, leave specific instructions with your children's babysitter (ie. their dad) that the wallpaper is not allowed to come off the bedroom walls. Suggest checking on the children every 2 minutes in order to eliminate the inconvenient destruction. Remind your babysitter that wallpaper peels fast even if the kids are being checked on every 15 minutes.

For tip #6, I would have to recommend this:

  • If you notice that you're suddenly putting "underwear" and "socks" and "clothes" on your shopping list, do laundry. You may be able to save a little bit of money on your yearly clothing budget.

Unfortunately, I know tip #7 too well:

  • If your children suddenly look like they're coming down with chicken pox, do not be alarmed. Instead, thoroughly wash all their bedding, vacuum their rooms very well and wipe straight tea tree oil all over their bodies. Then, bomb your house for fleas and leave for two hours. In three weeks, repeat the entire process. And the next three weeks, repeat. Repeat that several times for several months. If your fleas disappear, let me know how long it took so that I can have an idea how long we're in for this.

And finally, I wish I would've known tip #8 before it was too late:

  • NEVER ever buy a house that has fleas in it. You can eliminate tip #7 if you follow this tip's advice.

Other than a leaky roof, broken windows and a rotting deck, we should have a pretty good handle on our household upkeep and repairs. By this spring, we are talking of getting another fixer-upper in the form of an old house (not a double wide like we currently have) so are enjoying the minimal repair work we have now.

For now, I need to get back to that kitchen table before somebody crashes it on their toes.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Make It Simple

"Dear Heb-on-lee Vhatter... thank you for Mommy and Janae and for Mommy and Janae and for Daddy and Mommy and Janae and for Brinn-ey and Daddy and Mommy and for me and Janae and Brinn-ey and for me AMEN."

That may seem like a cute prayer Landon prays every night at the supper table. But, the other night while I was reflecting on the day and just the overall goodness of the Lord on my life, I found myself doing the same thing. I kept repeating people's names and finding every little thing about them to thank God for.

And then it struck me that Landon does the same thing. On his part, it could just be the fact that he's trying to cover all his bases and make sure he mentions everyone at the table. But, perhaps he's just overflowing with thankfulness to God for all the people in his life that mean so much to him.

Young children are content with just the simple things in life... an empty card board box, a piece of tape, an animal cracker, a short story read to them, Christmas lights, a smile, a tickle, a hug, a kiss and a moment just to talk to them.

The other day, I noticed Landon intently peering at the nativity scene I had just set up. He had his fist tightly wrapped around a small object and when I noticed baby Jesus was missing, I knew who the kidnapper was.

"Landon, open your hand," I asked.

He opened his hand, looked at the tiny glass object and pointed to it and asked, "What's THAT?"

I told him it was Baby Jesus as I carefully laid him back in the manger.

Landon proceeded to point at several of the figurines with the same question, "What's that? What's that?..."

He was enthralled by the set up and lights and animals and stables. When I told him it was for Christmas he said thoughtfully, "I want to go to that Chrissams."

I looked at the serene set up of the nativity scene, the rugged layout of the stable and the tiny baby in the manger and I could see how a young child would wish for such a place to go to. I felt sad that the particular "Chrissams" Landon asked for, is one I can't "bring" him to. If only!

I began to think about the simplicity of the first Christmas and how to a child, they find that appealing. I had to wonder why parents spend millions on new toys every year when the simple and loving side of Christmas is what every child craves.

Last night, Toby and I were perusing a store flyer. For babies under 2, there were more gadgets, toys, games, noise makers and strange looking objects than would be in a UFO advertisement. What would a baby ever do with all this stuff, I wondered.

Oddly enough, it seems that the more toys all the merchandisers come out with, the harder it is to find good quality and practical toys for children.

I thought I had heard everything until I heard about parents buying TV's for their 2 year old's bedroom. And then they had to get a plush child size recliner with the matching ottoman so their child could lounge in their room and watch TV with their feet up.

How I wish every child could know the joy of the simplicity of life and the joy of being simply loved. Especially at Chrissams time.

Oh Be Careful Little Ears

While listening to a popular children's story on tape playing in my son's room, I felt rather concerned about the words coming over the speaker...

"...the three little pigs set out to make a fortune in the world because their mother couldn't take care of them anymore."

I hope my son doesn't assume all mothers come to such ends.

Of course the reoccurring big bad wolf who eats two of the poor, neglected piglets, doesn't seem to make for such a peaceful bedtime story either.

While singing a lullaby to a restless baby, I find the reason to the poor baby's restlessness...

"Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top.... and down will come baby, cradle and all."

It is excused why the gingerbread man is allowed to be eaten because we all know that he was a cookie and all cookies baked by nice farm women are intended for consumption. Even if you are a sly fox. It took Landon a few Gingerbread Man story times before he didn't feel sad for the poor gingerbread man who just really didn't want to be killed.

Or, what about the old woman who lived in a shoe and had so many children she didn't know what to do so she spanked them all soundly and sent them to bed without any butter or bread? When I was a kid, I just figured I didn't have it as bad as the old woman's children living in a shoe and going to bed hungry and spanked for no reason. I guess there's a good moral to this story.

After listening to one barrage of horror stories after another in Mother Goose books, popular bedtime stories and well meaning lullaby's, many loving parents limit their children's story ears to only the safe realms of Bible stories.

I always thought that was a good, conservative and godly route to follow. Until my friend told me how frightened her 5 year old son became after listening to the Christmas story and Harod's frenzy of killing all children 2 years old and younger. The boy has 3 siblings in that age bracket so I can imagine the reason for his terror.

Landon's popular reading material is Curious George. So far there have been no real frightening stories coming from the attractive, hard back monkey books. Although there have been a few confusing details on Landon's part...

(over heard at the supper table)

Daddy: "Landon, where does God live?"

Landon: "God lives in Aferka."

Oh dear.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Interesting Salad

1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup diced apples
1 cup diced (or slivered) zucchini
1/4 cup cried cranberries
2 TBLS. Miracle whip
2 TBLS. Ranch dressing

Mix veggies in salad bowl. Blend together dressing ingredients. Stir salad and dressing together. Serve.

This is an excellent summer-time recipe for all you odd people out there who think you have to grow zucchini every year and then feel obligated to consume it all. Make this salad and you'll never wonder again if you should plant the whole package of zucchini seeds.

Most zucchini recipes make the over populated vegetable soggy, greasy and unappealing but the key with zucchini is this: you have to make the eater come back and want more. This salad does just the trick. Very fresh, crisp and a nice compromise from traditional salad and slaws.

Definitely a nice way to use young zucchinis.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Update On Toby's Mom

I meant to do this sooner but we never really had any solid information on her health until recently.

I talked to Gail (Toby's mom) on the phone yesterday and she is doing remarkably better. The ending verdict was that she probably had a strain of Dengue Fever. No one else was getting sick with it at the time so that's another answer to prayer.

But, now his dad is starting to weaken in his health. He typically seems to have poor health when they're down there. He has had times of getting really ill for days. Please pray that he would remain in stable and sound health.

Thank you for all your prayers! It is such a joy to know that people our praying for our loved ones and mentioning their names before the throne of God.