Friday, May 30, 2008

Making the Impossible Possible

So, I am going back to work.

Once upon a time, even the thought of having to do that struck terror in my heart. I always said that my child would never go to a daycare and assumed I'd be able to stay home. My vision for family life did not include my working.

The reality of my situation, though--financially, mostly--slowly changed my mind over the course of many months. My Ideal and my Real weren't lining up.

The honest truth? I am torn, but not despondent. I'm at peace. And I am really surprised to feel that way.

Sure, a part of me wants to be with Noah all the time--every minute of the day. I treasure every word he says and every cute smile. A part of me is pained to think that I would miss even one of them.

But another part of me is glad to get some quiet time during the day, to have some time to work out, to be around other adults. Sallie at A Quiet, Simple Life was just mentioning that she is an introvert with an extrovert child (great post). Noah is just the same way! He loves people, loves other children. I think he's going to adapt really well to the daycare I have chosen for him. It's so hard to get my mind out of the "daycare is the devil" mindset, but the truth is that it's just not. (Kind of like Angela's post about public school.) The truth is that I have had sixteen months alone with my boy, and that's so much more than many moms get. I've had many months to heal from crippling PPD. God has been so gracious to me and has given me the time I needed (and that Noah needed). I think we are both going to be okay in this next step.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Maybe some of you more experienced moms can help me here.

Um, how do you deal with a baby pinching you (and others)? Obviously, I firmly say, "no pinching," and "ouch." He'll then look right in my eyes, smiling as though what he did was funny. Sometimes he will do it to himself, lightly, and say "ouch," as if to confirm that is correct.

He's so impish, it's hard not to laugh when he does this, but I am usually successful at hiding my amusement. What's the answer? Do I ignore the behavior? The pinches sometimes hurt, but more often they are...testing pinches. Little ones to see what I'll do.

Help! Where is my instruction manual?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Let's Get Metaphysical...or Not.

The New York Times just dubbed Louise Hay, occult icon and publishing guru, the Queen of the New Age.

The article is worth reading to get a synopsis of the savvy marketing done by occult businesspeople. Occult publishing is definitely a business, and for Hay House publishers, it's to the tune of $100 million last year. I think that sometimes people tend to envision crystal-laden, patchouli-scented hippies when someone mentions "occultists." The truth is that the people who market alternatives to the Bible to the masses have to have their fingers on the pulse of what people want. If you don't want to hear "Thou Shalt Not," then they cater to you.

It's nothing new for occultists like Louise Hay or Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, to tout positive thinking: it's the idea that you can think into existence whatever you desire. Mel Lawrenz, reviewing The Secret in Christianity Today, explained:

The secret is simply "the law of attraction." Think about wealth, and you will become wealthy. Think about that new car, and it will come. Think about getting a good parking spot, and one will open up. Think about your ideal weight (really, dwell on that number, write it on your scale), and you will attract that reality to yourself. Byrne reports that since deciding her "perfect weight" was 116 pounds, she has reached it, and nothing has moved her from it, no matter what she does or eats.

"Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency," the book assures us. "As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the universe and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source. And that source is you."

Now here's the bad news: Whatever happens to you—the good and the bad—was attracted by your thoughts. Appendicitis? Auto accident? Poverty? You brought it on yourself.

It's the nasty underbelly of "positive thinking" that you don't hear about when the occult writer or speaker is telling you what a fabulous life you can dream up. If things don't go as you dreamed, you must not really have done a great job of thinking positively. Louise Hay, a legend in New Age circles and publishing giant, knows it must be your fault.

But while Hay may have hedged about whether positive thinking could cure AIDS, in her writings she was adamant that thoughts — not just sexual behavior — could help cause it. "Venereal dis-ease," Hay writes in "You Can Heal Your Life," using her eccentric spelling, "is almost always sexual guilt. It comes from a feeling, often subconscious, that it is not right to express ourselves sexually. A carrier with a venereal dis-ease can have many partners, but only those whose mental and physical immune systems are weak will be susceptible to it." And that mental weakness can be self-loathing, hating one's looks or just a fear of aging.

In person and in print, Hay mentions these causes only to play them down: "In no way am I trying to create guilt for anyone"; "this is a time for healing, for making whole, not for condemnation." But she cannot escape her own logic: if our thoughts create our circumstances, then we are always, in the end, to blame. When I asked her if, since people's thoughts are responsible for their conditions, victims of genocide might be to blame for their own deaths, she said: "I probably wouldn't say it to them. I don't go around making people feel bad. That's not what I'm after." I pressed harder: Did she believe they are to blame? "Yes, I think there's a lot of karmic stuff that goes on, past lives." So, I asked, with a situation like the Holocaust, the victims might have been an unfortunate group of souls who deserved what they got because of their behavior in past lives? "Yes, it can work that way," Hay said. "But that's just my opinion."


She doesn't want to, you know, make people feel bad or anything, but victims of genocide are to blame for their own deaths?

I find that sentiment nothing short of terrifying. It's illogical, and it's always kind of frightening to be presented with bold, profoundly illogical thinking (where do you go with someone you can't reason with?), but this is in another realm of nonsensical.

Don't be fooled about where Hay and other occult writers get their material.
I was curious what sort of research Hay does before adding new items to her list. “I seem to do my best channeling on the computer,” she told me. “People would write me letters: ‘What about this?’ ‘What about that?’ I’d just type and send it off and people would write me back and say, ‘How did you know?’ ”

That technique — it was once called channeling, although the term fell away as New Age became more mainstream — is still a favorite in the Hay House family. Wayne Dyer has written 33 books by going where his pen is led. “I write them by hand and without an outline,” he says, “and I have written them by just letting it come. I know about automatic writing. I don’t know where it comes from. . . . I am just an instrument, and it keeps flowing."

Yeah...from the demons.

I like what Berit Kjos writes in her expose of The Secret:

It does matter what you think and imagine. When we set our minds on self-empowerment and self-focused idolatry, the consequences can be devastating. Again and again, God's Word shows His concern over the corrupting influence of our rebellious thoughts:

"GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5

Lawrenz ends his CT review by contrasting The Secret's secretly bleak outlook with God's offer of "help and hope":

Contrary to the real gospel, The Secret proclaims: "The universe is supporting me in everything I do. The universe meets all my needs immediately."

Byrne says she is most gratified to hear of children discovering The Secret. But having raised two kids, I've always thought that one of the most important lessons young people must realize is that the universe does not revolve around them, that they are not God. When we believe in a God above us, apart from us, beneath us, and for us—then we find help and hope.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ways My Kid Is Smarter Than I Am, #5672b

Noah says "Amen." Sometimes contextually, sometimes totally randomly. He says it when he sees his little Bible Storybook, and he says it when we're at the table. I think his grandmother had a hand in teaching him that word. He folds his little hands and looks at you right in the eye and says, "Amen."

Sometimes he yells it if you aren't paying enough attention. "AMEN! AMEN!"

Or if he just ate a particularly good Honey Nut Cheerio (which he calls "bee" because there's one on the package--"Bee? Bee?"). "AMEN!"

I don't know how much he knows yet about being thankful, but every time he says the word I realize how often I forget to thank God for everything He's given me. My days are so full and busy--more and different than before Noah--and I just put God on the back burner. Embarrassing, shameful and wrong, but true.

I've got to get my priorities straight, because I want Noah to know that Mommy is thankful to God, not just speeding along in life, taking each day for granted.

I mentioned a long time ago that I went through some post-partum depression. I know first-hand now how crippling it is emotionally. Honestly, I don't think I am completely over it. I don't feel like I used to feel inside. I experience joy with my family and have so much fun with Noah, but it's like there's a gray film over things, or like there's a dead weight inside my chest. I can tell--just because I remember how I used to be--that I am not experiencing good emotions all the way to my bones like I did before. I hope that makes sense.

In the beginning (right after Noah was born, like the day after, and lasting for several weeks) I was a huge wreck. I cried a lot and had terrifying visions of Noah falling or getting hurt--not of my hurting him, but of it happening despite anything I could do. I felt like the whole motherhood thing was too much for me, that it completely overwhelmed me. I remember sitting in the doctor's office right after Noah was born and just holding back tears. The doctor asked how I was doing, and it was everything I could do to hold myself together.

My friend who had a child within days of Noah's birth also had PPD. She says that she felt angry almost all the time, without cause. I can identify with that, too, and I have always been a happy person, not a negative, easily angered one. It's kind of scary not to recognize yourself, and to constantly be asked, "Is something wrong? Are you okay?" when you thought you looked normal or neutral.

I think that getting help is important, but it's also important for me to cry out to God. I know He is there and I know He will help me. There are so many things to be thankful for!

Psalm 69:1-3, 14-18a

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.

I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God....

Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.

Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.

And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.

Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Could Surf Wikipedia for Hours

This was too good not to share. I was doing some research for an article I am editing, and I came across something I'm willing to bet most of you have never seen.

Remember Growing Pains, circa the late 1980s? The Seaver Family, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold?

Apparently, the show was a huge hit internationally as well as in the US.

The show was not, however, called Growing Pains overseas. Below is a chart taken from Wikipedia that lists how other countries referred to the Seavers (my hands-down favorite is Italy):

Country Name Literal translation
Mainland China 成长的烦恼 (Chéngzhǎng de Fánnǎo) Growing Worries
Taiwan 歡樂家庭 (Huānlè Jiātíng) Happy Family
France Quoi de neuf docteur? What is new doctor? or What's up doc?
Germany Unser lautes Heim Our loud home
Italy Genitori in blue jeans Parents in blue jeans
Japan 愉快なシーバー家 (Yukai na Seaver Ke) Happy Seaver's family
Latin America Ay! Cómo duele crecer Ouch! Growing up hurts
Poland Dzieciaki, kłopoty i my Our kids, trouble and us
Spain Los Problemas Crecen Problems grow

Parents in Blue Jeans about sums it up. I also like Our Loud Home. Awesome.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Update on Us, and Some Random Schtuff

I wrote a while ago about our family's struggle with Noah's sleeping habits. I am glad to report to you that things are so much better now. Noah wasn't one of those kids who started falling asleep on his own after one night of just 15 minutes of crying or anything (!), but after a couple of weeks, he's sleeping through the night. We were interrupted by a cold that, naturally, changed the game plan for a time.

I will never take a good night's sleep for granted again.

Naps are a different story. I haven't been successful in getting Noah to sleep in his crib for a nap. Still something to work on.

We also found out yesterday that Noah has a condition that I had called strabismus, in which the eye turns in toward the nose. His is slight. I wore glasses because of this condition from the time I was two until I was 12, when I had surgery to straighten my eye. We have basically the same options for Noah that I had. We have to cover his right eye with a patch for four hours a day (for six weeks, then we'll reevaluate) so that his left eye's cells can develop properly. Anyone want to try to help me keep an eye patch on a 15 month old boy? ...Hello?

In other news, today is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's. Heck YEAH! If you're in the area, I highly recommend the Ben & Jerry's in Santa Barbara. I'll be going to the one here, of course. But that one is purdy.

I also wouldn't want anyone to miss the discussion here at Angela's blog (I've known Angela "in real life" for, gosh, over ten years). I love Angela's honesty and openness about her life and her family's decisionmaking--it seems that most Christian couples are struggling with different decisions (schooling, family culture, time together, etc.) because there are just more choices for us than there have been throughout human history. Period. We just have more to sift through and reconcile with our beliefs than most parents have ever had to even contemplate.

My brain wants to explode just thinking about it. I need ice cream.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

PSA. People, we've got to get together on this.

Please, please, please. For the love of Pete.

To all those sweet folk out there who believe whatever happens to land in their inbox:

  1. If the message is preceded by Fwd: Fwd: Fwd:, it is probably not true. Just believing me on that one will save you countless hours and a lot of dignity.
  2. If the claim sounds totally wild and you haven't heard it from any reputable news source yet, it's probably false. For instance, trying on bras in a store will not make you catch some horrible flesh-eating disease. I kid you not.
  3. If you aren't sure, check There's a search field, and you can enter a couple of terms that will likely turn up your particular urban legend/horror story/political newsflash. You know, like "pigeon," "Coke," and "explode."
I am on this particular soapbox tonight because I received this forwarded message in my inbox tonight, warning me NOT TO ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COIN!

A family member who is not a Christian wrote me soon afterward (having received the same message) and asked what I thought about it. He referred to Jesus driving out the moneychangers in the Temple and wondered how the sentiments expressed in the e-mail compared to Jesus' actions. (Yes, that is a very cool conversation. At least that came out of it. But what if he had just assumed all Christians feel the same way as the sender?)

Here's my reply to him, in part:

For me this falls solidly into the "give me a break" category, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, like 99.98% of forwards, it's not true:

I wish that the Fwd:Fwd:Fwd: LIES!!! CONSPIRACY!!! Brigade would check Snopes. Even once in a while. It would cut down a lot on my spam.

Anyway, even if it were true, I don't see why any uproar is needed or why a Christian would need to refuse the coins. I think people get all torqued up about stuff like this that totally doesn't matter, and they miss the really big stuff. Yes, Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple. Historically, commentators have felt that He was protesting (in an authoritative way) the corruption and abuse that had emerged when people started buying and selling in the Temple court itself the necessary items (as in, required by Biblical law) for sacrifice. The way they were doing it, and where they were doing it, made the holy Temple a "den of thieves."

Your question actually made me think of a time when Jesus was directly asked about money, in the context of paying taxes. In that political climate, religious Jews (here, the Pharisees) generally would have not liked a pro-Roman answer, but to answer against Rome, especially in the presence of government lackeys (Herodians), would be treason, and the people asking Jesus this question knew that. Check out what He says when they try to entrap him verbally:
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
I love how He shuts them up!

What this says to me is that there is, as you say, a division between things monetary and the things of God, so to speak. I'd put it this way: God isn't a part of this world's system. He's not really worried, I think, about whether the USA has "In God We Trust" on its money, because saying it don't make it so. It doesn't make us a "Christian nation" to have that saying on our money. It may at one time have been a statement of collective values--or it may have been a political feel-good bone thrown to the people from its inception. I don't know. And thanks to Snopes, I don't have to care (ha!).
This is the kind of stuff that makes people think Christians are not very smart. That probably doesn't sound nice, but dang, people. We have got to start doing some due diligence on these things.

If I get another Madelyn Murray O'Hair forward, I will pound my desk so loudly that it will affect the San Andreas Fault. Don't test me on that one.

Friday, April 11, 2008

tee vee

Sometime in the first few months after Noah was born, we got cable TV. I mostly blame the fact that as a new parent, you're in a stupor all the time; you can't muster the brain cells for reading much, but you can't stare at a blank wall either. Okay, I read a lot of magazines. But anyway. Being a new (and breastfeeding) mother is kind of like being sick: you are in repose on the couch a lot of the time.

As many of you know, except for a short, maybe two-month stint, my husband and I hadn't had television for six years, so it's been...something that will take a whole post to sum up.

"Let me explain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up."

There are things about having television that I really like, I have to admit. I liked being warned about the huge twisters heading for my county a couple of weeks ago. I liked watching the weatherman show me just how high into the atmosphere the hailstorm extended at that very moment. I wanted to know exactly when to hasten to my basement stairs.

I like many, many reality shows. Not The Bachelor or Rock of Love. I love competition shows like Top Chef; I love watching Mike Rowe slog through rhinoceros poo on Dirty Jobs; I love finding out whether milk is the best way to cure a burning tongue on Mythbusters. I wish Stacy and Clinton were waiting around the corner for me with $5000. (I need it. But that's another post.) Basically, I subsist on a steady diet of TLC, Discovery, Bravo and...yeah, that's it. An occasional foray into Rick Steves' Europe or some such.

I went from "No, I haven't seen that. We don't have TV" to "Can you believe that Michael Johns was kicked off this week? I thought that Kristy Lee Cook would go for sure!" Weird.

It's a conflict, though, in my heart. I am constantly flummoxed by the things that are permitted on TV now. Nothing's really taboo, unless you consider the fact that Cinemax actually waits until fairly late at night to show the "adult" programming to be some kind of major boundary.

I don't want Noah growing up with this stuff as part of his life, which probably speaks volumes about its being in mine. I enjoy a lot of shows, but most of the ones I really like have bleeps throughout the broadcast. Do I really want to be explaining that to Noah anytime soon? Do I want to keep those shows for when he's asleep or something? I don't think that ultimately my enjoyment of the television will win out over my misgivings.

The other side of the coin: what kind of life do we envision? Are we going to be a no-TV family? There's a certain amount of estrangement from others that seems to happen when you can't converse about pop culture from a viewer's standpoint.

I am not trying to condemn any family's decisions. No way--not my place. We watch plenty of things that I just haven't had to decide what to do about yet. Once upon a time, I had all the answers for these things, but now I don't.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It's a process...right?

I've changed so much since Noah was born. Some of it has been wonderful, the natural amendments that come with motherhood--but some of it has been a real surprise.

I guess I thought I had everything figured out. Not in an arrogant way, just in a I've-thought-this-out-and-can-back-it-up way.

Now I realize that I have darn near nothing figured out. There are a few things that are constant, that I know are true (like the resurrection of Jesus, or like my assurance that God is who He says He is). But a LOT of other stuff that I was confident about, I am not now.

It's hard to articulate what made that difference. My life circumstances have changed, for one. I am looking for work--and I never thought I'd work after I had a child. It's an assumption I had for as long as I can remember. My mother stayed home with me, I enjoyed and admired that, and I assumed that I would do the same. My beliefs accompanied that assumption beautifully.

I've come to see, though, that in life there's the Ideal (what you would like if you could dictate all circumstances) and there's the Real (what you've got). I assumed that the Ideal is just naturally what would occur, even though life experience had already given me a heads-up that's not the case. I'm too romantic, generally speaking.

I am wincing, afraid this will sound bitter. I hope it doesn't. It's where I honestly am. I think that I was naive before, and now...I don't know what I am. But if I am going to muck through it here, which I'd like to do, I've got to be honest. I feel so different in some ways from the person who wrote all the old posts that I almost wanted to start a new blog, but that feels like I'd be running away from myself. Running probably isn't the solution.

I am not disavowing all the old posts. But I can't say that all of them reflect who I am now. I've revealed my deepest thoughts and beliefs here before, so if you are still reading, you deserve to know that.

You know one thing I really love about blogging, though? The freedom. You can write about God, or food, or music, or the Presidential race, and it's okay. So that's what I am going to do. I also love that it's okay to change. That's what humans do. And if my blog is personal, which it's always been, then it's going to reflect the changes I go through. (Probably stating the obvious there, but it's helping me.)

All this blather, and I'll probably write a dang post about laundry or sushi next.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Thought I'd Dropped Off the Planet's Face?

Still here. Still breathing.

I really have missed this.

I'm in the middle of one of the toughest parts of parenting yet (and, of course, a controversial part, wouldn't you know it?): sleep training. Are you up for my saga? I promise to give you the Reader's Digest version.

The easiest thing to do with a newborn, in my not-vast experience, is nurse him to sleep. It was a no-brainer. Mom is totally exhausted; nursing lulls baby to sleep like a charm; baby sleeps for infinitesimal amount of time; Mom is thankful for this snippet of slumber. Plus, baby needs to eat and all that, so the waking up and feeding stuff is necessary for a nursing mother who is unable to pump.

Then the baby starts getting older. Like, say, 14 months old.

In short, over the past several months I have found myself with a growing sleep dilemma that matches my burgeoning sleep debt. Noah wakes up in the middle of the night, like a newborn (read: a bunch of times), and I dutifully rush to his side and nurse him back to sleep. At first, and for a long time, I blamed the wakings on teething. Noah got eight teeth before turning 1, and they were hard on him. Some people suggested letting him cry, but I didn't feel like I could handle it emotionally.

Then a couple of things happened.

I read Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child about the same time that I hit an emotional and physical wall. I was completely, utterly exhausted from 14 months of fragmented sleep. Ryan and I had a friend over for lunch, and in the middle of preparing it, I started crying. I could not control myself because I was so dern tired.

It dawned on me that
A) it's not supposed to be like this. How would anyone get anything done, have more kids, or even have a surviving marriage?

B) I am not doing Noah any favors by encouraging and aiding his fragmented sleep. I've helped create a situation where he is unable to fall asleep without my assistance.


I looked at my options (Weissbluth presents several alternatives, and I read about a few others, too) and considered Noah's personality. He's bright, fun, social, playful...and extremely (EXTREMELY) tenacious. The boy knows what he wants and will fight hard for it.

We'll see how he does with the method I chose: hard-core extinction. Extinction means that we let him cry some. Yeah, it stinks. But according to theory and anecdote, it stinks short-term. At this point, I want the most effective and rapid solution, and this is supposed to be it. Noah has to start to understand that Mommy can't come every five seconds overnight. He has to learn to soothe himself back to sleep, just like every human does several times a night.

I realized we'd have to bite a bullet now or leave a much older Noah to address a sleep disorder. No thanks. I kept waiting for the problem to disappear, but instead, it was getting worse. I have to help Noah, and myself, right now.

I can't wait for this short, intense period to be over, though.

But let's look at a positive aspect: I've recovered some time to blog. And do dishes, and laundry, and pay bills, and post trillions of pictures on Snapfish.