Fostering Contentment – A Practical Conversation

April 30, 2012


[Gilead with Grammie Swank on Easter. My parents and brother came down just to have Easter dinner with us.]


So, I’ve written a lot lately about general discomfort and searching for answers. I don’t often get a big block of time to write so when I do, I tend to want to get some things off my chest. Henry was kind enough to let me have most of the day to myself on Saturday – it was a much needed break and long in coming. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit couped-up lately. I shopped. By myself. And then I took myself to a movie. And then I got to sit and write a nice long blog entry and do some internet surfing for ideas.

I’ve been looking for comfortable and stylish walking sandals online for awhile, but just in case I popped in to aerosoles and tried some on. I ended up with these:
I’m not quite sure about them yet. I never pictured myself wearing white sandals all summer, but they were so cute and soooo comfy. The really fun part, though, was trying on some Toms for the first time ever and finding out I’m actually a size 8 in Toms and therefore could [and did] order a youth size:
My ruby slippers are on their way to me as we speak.
All of that to say…I believe there are practical solutions to everyday discontentment and that sometimes it’s possible to be quite ecstatic with your lot in life, be you ever so poor. I’m not trying to advocate shopping as a means of making oneself happy, but I’ve done my fair share of retail therapy in the past. This was only retail therapy in that they were purchases I have been planning [and saving] to make and that I got to make them at my leisure without a toddler in tow. What was more important and sanity saving to me was the time to be alone and relatively still.
[Henry’s new desk corner – the moving of which has opened our whole living room and made it possible for us not to be eating and cooking all in one room. We have our dining room table in the living room – it’s cozy- and our kitchen table in the kitchen where I can prep or we can eat a meal if we feel like it.]
I regularly read a blog about family life which has many practical ideas for raising kids and cooking and cleaning without going insane. She talks often about how it’s important to make time for crafting for your own soul. I agree but it is hard to do it all by yourself. Anyone found a way to make this happen in your life? With limited space for a crafting area that can remain messy if need be? And with limited time? I’m all ears. I find that a certain level of mess and dirtiness in our house is directly opposed to my feelings of creativity. But then having a clean house takes time so when do you have time to create? I think one of my main problems right now is that I’ve always worked best with long blocks of time of high concentration and activity, but that’s just not possible when you’re a mother. The other option is to leave your project out but unfinished. I’ve worked this way since having Gilead but only when under a deadline (like having gifts made for baby showers) and only by being able to block out the rest of the mess piling up around me. I couldn’t do it every day, no matter how much I want to make things for our home or kids.
I got my fabrics and craft storage area organized, at least. That’s a start. And I find the more easily accessible everything is in my house, the more easily it’s cleaned and the faster I can move on to something else! It all just takes a lot of discipline. If you’re going to make dinner for your family every night [which I do think is important…having family dinner together] and keep a relatively clean house for your own sanity [which I believe is true for everyone, whether they live this way or not] and nurture your child(ren) and take relatively good care of yourself and maintain relationships with friends and husband and run all the errands AND carve out time to make your surroundings feel beautiful and restful for yourself by making things with love, you have to plan and you have to stick to the plan.
But I welcome any feedback. In fact, I want to know: how do YOU prioritize? How do YOU find time to feed your soul? Any good, practical suggestions?

Fostering Contentment/Enduring Suffering with Courage

April 28, 2012


[My mom came on Thursday to take care of Piggle so I could re-organize my kitchen. It didn’t get cleaned, but it did get some new storage]



I’ve blogged in the past about the idea of fostering contentment in everyday life. This year, I’ve attempted to write regular blog posts on that topic with limited success either because of my own laziness or perhaps something bigger. This issue is probably the single most defining “meta” narrative in my life right now. What is the line between discontentedness and the experience of real suffering?

I don’t want to trivialize great suffering by calling what might be a sin-borne malaise “real” suffering, but the question has arisen in my mind again and again – especially during this past season of Lent – and I have found comfort in the same things which must be the comfort of anyone experiencing great suffering who wishes to become or remain close to our Lord. I will touch on these things.

If you read this, you will know that we’re currently in a season of poverty. Monetary poverty. It has been a long season and it has not abated with the finding of a “better job.” I have long since begun to question the use of that phrase because of the connotations it has which have only brought on heartache when each new “better job” on the horizon has not panned out. As I’ve told of before, this poverty isn’t solely brought on by a lack of income but compounded by my huge student loan debt and the consequent snowball effect of continuing to remain in debt. I could write a whole post about assuming private loans for your education. If you happen to be pre-college I would urge you just to take responsibility into your own hands and at least find out exactly what you will be facing when you graduate.

Anyway, this poverty of pocket has necessitated a poverty of spirit in so many ways – the most recent of which was our need to accept large sums of money from our parents in the form of loans and gifts in order to get us out of our immediate danger. We are so grateful and humbled by this answer to our prayer, but it wasn’t an answer I wanted. You know how hard it is to accept gifts like that because it just makes you realize how little control you really have over your life. Why do we make such a big deal of gifts of money and trivialize the gifts of love and forgiveness we constantly receive and don’t merit?

Add to this the lost, or imagined, job opportunity in Wisconsin and all the imagined losses connected with that, I started to fixate on the idea of living on my grandparents’ property in semi-rural NW Indiana again. I really should dig up the footage I took of that place 6 years ago and show it to you. It’s for sale now and my dad seems pretty wrapped up in getting it sold as quickly as possible. It’s hard to face the the fact that in a day this place that’s been a part of my entire life could belong to someone else and I have no power to stop it. There aren’t any apparent jobs in LaPorte or Valpo or Rolling Prairie for Henry and with almost no savings and a huge debt load, we aren’t in a position to buy it. And even if we were: do I want to live in that house? Do I want to start over in my home town where I haven’t lived in 12 years? I have the dubious luxury of not having to answer those questions.

The day to day grind of my life is where this all comes to a head at least once a week. I have a 15 month old who is the joy of my life but very active and needing of my energy and attention. I am halfway to having two boys [unbelievable!] and therefore more tired and emotional than otherwise. [Have I mentioned him here yet? I don’t think so! Wyatt John Robert is due to come to us on September 11th, 2012]. Cleaning, cooking, taking Piggle to play at the park and trying to get in a little bit of exercise and then collapsing at 8:30 every night is about all I can manage but my soul doesn’t exactly thrive on that. I need creativity! I need to be able to dream – and not {as I constantly fear} fruitlessly! I need times of connection with friends and time to myself to recuperate. [It sometimes feels like an extra burden to be a Introvert momma. It’s easier to fit in time with other moms. It’s not easy to explain sometimes that I just need time to recuperate. Alone. For extraverts – whom I love – time with others IS recuperation time] Is it our poverty which makes my life feel like a drag? Or is it my attitude? A little of both? Is it the nature of parenthood that is a exercise in spiritual discipline and therefore a kind of suffering we bear because we love our children and want to be close to them and because we love God and want to obey Him? I think yes. Or is it the things I choose to listen to and watch and look at which foster a discontentment about my life how it is now? I think, also, yes. Can it be fixed by taking pride in what I have and in making do and in cleaning it and making our dinners with love and to the best of my ability? Sometimes! Is it still super hard? Yes.

I think I am tempted to look at my life and say about it: “this [my lack of a cleaning lady; my poverty; my lack of a career; my lack of money for a babysitter; etc] could have been avoided if…” I can see that from the perspective of the world [which at times I embrace without realizing it] my life looks like what you should avoid if you can. Kitchen drudgery. Barefoot and pregnant and poor. Living off of the leavings of those more fortunate. No money for smart haircut upkeep and therefore frustrating hair [okay, that one is just petty, but it frustrates me]. Kids coming in shorter intervals than is generally culturally acceptable + the intention to allow more children into our family and possibly at whatever timing our bodies choose. I could go on… I have had various reactions to this state of affairs of late. I drank deeply at our Lenten sermon series:

The Spiritual Disciplines You Didn’t Choose

Beginning Reconciliation

Living Reconciliation

More Than Enough: One Boy’s Story

What To Look For In Life

First Emptied, Then Exalted

Most of these sermons were about the cross. About how Christ’s glory was His death – which we tend to skip over as quickly as possible – about how if we don’t get that, we will misunderstand and be disappointed by life. They were about how Christianity is the only religion with a suffering God – a God who chose to come to us and suffer like we suffer and ultimately assume upon Himself ultimate suffering for our sake so that those in need can’t help but find comfort in the image of Christ on the cross – even when they don’t yet believe. I have. I do all the time. But the sermons were about how that’s not where it ends for us as followers of Christ. We are called to follow Him in His glory: His death; to live under His cross and thereby undergo an overhaul of our priorities. I also learned to look at the cross with a new understanding – that Christ’s was an act of great courage. The greatest act of courage. That I can approach my own little sufferings in the same manner.


[Our living room, newly re-situated]


[My newly organized craft-supply hallway]

Where does this all leave me? Well, most days just tired. Some days I am really quite joyful and happy. Some days I have cried a lot and gotten prayer and good advice from friends. I haven’t really drawn a hard line between discontentment and suffering yet. I just know that when I am in the midst of neglecting my duties to re-watch the entire Friday Night Lights series [or something like that…you know…just a random example] I tend to feel a wee bit discontent. Here’s some good input from wise friends:

God’s blessings and answers to prayer don’t always make things “easier.” Life is just hard. It will always be hard in some ways. God’s blessings [children being a prime example] often require a lot of upkeep.

I am grieving right now. I am still grieving the passing of my grandparents. This is particularly true of my Grandma Swank. I am grieving for her in a way I haven’t experienced grief. It is more continual and I haven’t yet learned to accept the reality of her death the way I did more quickly with the passing of my grandfathers. I miss her in a viscerally. It requires tears and verbal remembrance of her life. The loss of her land is all mixed up with the loss of her person, the loss of my childhood, the grief over the fact that there were better decisions I could have made in the past about my college education and “career,” and the continual necessity of having to give my dreams and hopes for the future – including all I daydreamed I might do on that land – to the Lord and cede any power I might try to grab.

Here’s a word to me from God. As an aside I must assert that I have come to know Him as a better and better friend. That I, like the disciples, often find myself saying, “where else do I have to go?” In light of Easter; in light of the Resurrection:

“I want to give you your heart’s desire. You wouldn’t have those desires if I hadn’t put them there. I WILL fulfill my own desires. You can know this because I have given you the greatest gift I had to give already: Jesus. And you are my heir as surely as He is my heir.”


January 26, 2012

This is a picture from the summer of Gilead with his Uncle Josh – my brother. His only real uncle, in fact. But the title of this post is in no way indicative that anything has happened to either Gilead or Josh.

I wanted to find a picture of Gilead with my Grandma Swank from when she came to visit us last January. I absurdly found myself crying in Target yesterday after seeing some “dead sea” beauty products and remembering that she had told me about them when she was ordering some Arbonne products from me – which was so nice of her to do. And then I remembered how her sparingly-used gift set from last Christmas was still on the windowsill of her bathroom when we were there for the funeral. And then I remembered how much I miss her.

This post really isn’t about Grandma, although I should do that soon. She was a great woman.

It’s about the death of dreams and learning how to deal with the grief of that seemingly minor change without yielding to the temptation to doubt God’s goodness. I recently read part of a blog post from a pastor who just lost his adult daughter. In it he wrote that Job’s statement, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away” was bad theology. I’ve never thought about it that way. I guess I always thought it was true. I mean, in one sense it’s true: God has ultimate control over what I receive and have taken away from me. In one sense it’s not at all true and I think God tries to show this to Job when He asks him later in the book if he was there when the earth was created. Job doesn’t know the whole story. And at the outset, I have to say that I don’t have a clue how to process this grief. This isn’t an instructional post. It’s just ruminations.

Henry didn’t lose his job and we haven’t lost anything else. Except the hope of the new job and new place and the getting out of debt and, for me, all of the conveniences of living with my parents and then hopefully having a home of our own and the freedom to pursue some dreams that getting out of debt and having childcare nearby would afford. My dad’s company told him they wouldn’t be hiring Henry. I won’t go into details here – it’s really not important to my point. It wasn’t that they thought he was unqualified or didn’t like him. They just chose a cheaper option for them and had poor communication about it for months. Henry, admirably, isn’t even bitter or angry. He’s just tired – like me.

I’m not bitter or angry either. I feel relieved that we know for sure, even though it’s the opposite of what I thought. And I’m relieved we’re not moving away right now – or maybe not ever. But I did cry a lot the first couple of days as I realized more and more new things that wouldn’t be happening because we’re not to get relief from continual financial crisis any time soon and because some of those dreams are dead. I was saying a lot of things like, “We’re never going to have a house. God doesn’t care if we ever have a house.”

I texted a few friends the night we found out simply because I knew I needed prayer right then. One friend – who has lost some VERY significant things in her life and who recently has been given some of them back, in a sense, wrote back that God has not forgotten about us and that He cares about our hopes and dreams. I haven’t told her yet that it was both exactly what I needed to hear (I’m sure now it was a message to me straight from the mouth of God) and what I didn’t want to hear; preferring rather to wallow in self-pity and tell God I didn’t believe He cared what I wanted. Actually, it’s more nuanced than that: it’s not that I don’t believe He cares or don’t believe He knows. I sometimes wonder – as I told Henry’s mentor before he prayed for us on Sunday – why we’re in this place (Is it that we don’t care about the right things? Is it that we’re just reaping the fruit of our financial mistakes? Is it that God is purposely saying “no” to us in so many ways because we haven’t yet learned something He’s trying to teach us?) and I’m smart enough to know that God may not choose to give us any of the things we pray for so desperately sometimes.

I once sincerely believed that my friend’s 14 year old brother’s death had something to do with my personal, habitual sin. As if God was cruel enough to kill a boy to somehow make me feel guilty enough to stop sinning. I was a teenager and seriously misunderstanding a lot of things about God. It’s kind of comical. You can laugh. But isn’t this a version of how we sometimes view life and the world, albeit slightly less sophisticated? We are, essentially, self-centered. Another phrase I remember from this pastor’s blog is that he refuses to believe that he is more merciful than God. I think that is something worth clinging to.

So, I want to share some early conclusions, but first I need to lay the groundwork for how life as an adult has been for me, or seemed through my eyes. That may be an important distinction because I don’t discount how much I’ve been given. We pray our thankfulness for everything we have over Gilead every night as he’s nursing to sleep. It’s a tradition Henry started that I love.

I always think my first mistake was to go to Wheaton – or at least to take out enormous private loans to finance my last 4 years. Yes, I did 5. That was also a mistake. I wasn’t educated and I had no idea at the time what life would be like after college dragging around this huge weight of debt. If I had, I would’ve done things differently. But this is where I get mired in what-if’s because then I wouldn’t have met my best friends or my husband and I wouldn’t currently be part of this amazing community. I’m sure my life would be fine if I hadn’t gone to Wheaton or hadn’t stayed, but it would’ve been completely different. I wouldn’t have my son. That’s the kicker right there. It starts to feel like the sin that it is when I get to that point in my fantasies about a debt-less life: I’m wishing away the existence of my son.

The next stupid things I did were pretty predictable: I bought a couple of big things with credit cards (because I was going to “start a business”) without having enough to pay down the balance right away. So I held on to that debt. It wasn’t a lot, but it was starting to add up. Then we got married and instead of saving money we were given, we spent it on a bigger wedding than was necessary. And then I didn’t go back to work full-time after we were married because I was again going to “start a business.” There was another time of trying to start a business after that and wasting of money on frivolous things – like going out to eat – rather than cutting back and saving. In the meantime, Henry was also thinking he might start a business of sorts and started in on a two year process that kept him from finding another job or from making any more money and we had car troubles and loan payments and credit card payments and then a baby…

All of this to say: I go over it and over it. I get mad at myself or other people for not saving me from all this trouble. I wonder why God doesn’t help me; with my business, by giving me a job that lasts, by helping Henry find another job (all the while, we always somehow seem to make it. Every time we’re going to come up short we are given money [by our parents, but still] or I get an unexpected part-time job that covers our grocery bill). And we have to cut back. No extras, no vacations, no new clothing. And still we have no savings and we were the victims of a snowball effect from a landlord who doesn’t cash checks promptly and so we’ve now gotten behind on rent and we owe our landlord! Thankfully, he’s sort of absent and apparently is fine with it as long as we’re still paying rent now and as long as we pay him back eventually.

And then…new hope. A job in Wisconsin. Almost twice what Henry is making now. Cheaper housing, babysitting, a dishwasher and washer/dryer in my parents’ house. The promise of an ACTUAL FUTURE. Where we don’t owe everyone; where on any given week we may have $0 to our name (well, it’s always less than $0, but you know what I mean) for a week or more and we just have to pray the gas lasts and we don’t run out of food; where we might own a house in under 10 years because there’s a real chance we’ll pay off our debt and be able to save money. It seems like God is answering our prayers! I’m even feeling really positive about moving even though it’ll be away from the only community I’ve known as an adult. Everything is moving along slowly but steadily. He gets a phone interview, he gets an in-person interview. They like him. They tell him, “we just have to figure out how to incentivize you.” Literally. And then in a moment, it’s all gone. But the realization takes longer to hit. You realize at intervals everything you’re going to miss that you thought you’d be experiencing.

Here’s what I wrote a couple of days later:

“I can’t help thinking about Rez’s (our church) first building plan and how it seemed like God was blessing the project and then the door was  abruptly closed. Two years later, we got an unbelievable deal on a building that fits our needs perfectly and we’ve raised more than enough money to make it our own. It fits with the sense I had of where Rez’s heart actually is; which is taking something old and making it beautiful. I was sad in a big-picture abstract way about leaving just at the moment when new things are happening for Rez. I don’t know if God’s trying to say something to me or if I’m just remembering and trying to console myself. But I do think it’s true that He hasn’t forgotten me and the He cares about my hopes and dreams even if they aren’t all going to come true. And they might not.

It’s hard to imagine something coming along with perks than this plan. It really seemed perfect. Everything seemed to fall into neat little piles. Maybe too neat. Life here feels messy in comparison to how I envisioned our new life in Wisconsin. So, it could be that some of that took on a life of its own and I was idolizing the plan because I thought it could be our savior. I thought we could be our own savior…finally. Funny how I keep waiting – praying even – for God to give us the means of becoming our own savior. ‘God…please give Henry a new job so we can get out of debt so we can have more disposable income so I can have more freedom and be more creative so I can be happy so I can ‘make’ something of myself or accomplish something in my life besides be a mom/get acceptance from others for being really strong and creative and ‘awesome.’ Funny how it sneaks in so subtly: ‘I want You to bless me so that I don’t need You anymore and so that everyone will look up to me.’

No…He won’t answer THAT prayer.

Because He doesn’t know how to.

Because He doesn’t know of any way for me to be happy or free apart from total dependence on Himself.”

Thank God for hard reminders and for inexplicable joy in the midst of grief. And for reminders that it doesn’t mean I can’t pray for really specific and small things I need and see how He answers: like just enough money (not to mention motivation and energy) to buy enough yarn to make all the fruit and vegetable-themed newborn hats I have rattling around up there for a new (and more easily managed) Etsy store.

We’ll see…


January 17, 2012

We might be moving to Wisconsin. In February. And I hate that I am still telling people “might.” I am an INFJ – for anyone familiar with the myers-briggs test – heavy on the J. I like to have things decided and so many things about life just don’t work that way. Especially right now in my life.

I spent some time this morning looking for apartments because, while we’ve been planning to live in my parents’ basement for awhile to save some money, the closer we get to actually committing to that, the more we question how great of an idea it would be for Henry to work with and partially for my dad and also to live with him. Also, we all might go insane.

So…I can search for apartments but there seems to be no end to the places we could live. Henry would work in Sussex, my parents live in Jackson, one of the churches we’d like to try is in Kenosha, one is in Nashotah and there’s a third church plant happening in Milwaukee. Inexpensive and beautiful housing abounds but I truly have no idea where to start when thinking about potentially striking out on our own right away. It’s all so overwhelming.

Plus, we haven’t heard from the company yet. We know the guys in charge met together on Friday, so we HOPE to hear this week but I’m not holding my breath. No…I’m not letting it out yet. I’ve been holding it since October. I can wait a little longer. Meanwhile, we’re transitioning Piggle into his own room since I haven’t had 4 hours of sleep together for a year and it’s time, so Kags is moving out tomorrow. After almost 5 months with us. I can’t imagine it without her. And then packing…oh the heart quails.

I’m inheriting some things from my Grandma Swank – who passed in November, pretty suddenly. The house they lived in since my dad was a little boy is being sold, along with the 16 acre farm, and I’m getting furniture and appliances. I would rather have my Grandma. I miss her almost every day. I really hated that house, with its dark wood paneling that never changed in all its years and the postage-stamp kitchen, but it’s hard to bear the thought of someone else living there. I had always dreamed of us moving there to raise organic wool and chickens and have a big garden and then maybe host weddings (there’s even a chapel on the property) and open a little handmade type shop. But there is next to no employment opportunity in LaPorte and we can’t just move there on a lark with our finances the way they are. So I have to move my dreams elsewhere. To Milwaukee, it seems. Don’t get me wrong, Milwaukee is a great city. It’s just that I never dreamed of hosting all my friends’ kids in that field on the 4th of July for homemade firework displays – like we did for years when I was a kid – in Wisconsin.

It’s weird how God moves things about. When we found out about this job possibility and that it was a non-traveling job (which is our line we won’t cross), I finally started praying that if God meant this as a blessing and it wasn’t just us holding on to anything to get out of debt, He would change my heart about moving. I would never have believed a story someone once told about God changing her heart toward her future husband despite her will if I hadn’t experienced it myself. For so long when we’d talked about moving, I’d responded, inevitably, to Henry with, “but if we don’t have our community, we have almost nothing,” speaking of all the positive changes a move might make. But I started to think how we’d manage if we did move and then God stepped in to that little crack in the door and it was all over. I saw this blog about an AMIA church plant in Riverwest; an artsy community in the city. I started remembering how often I’d said Milwaukee was the only city I’d ever seen myself living in. I started looking at rental properties and homes for sale and what once seemed like a pipe dream in Glen Ellyn looked like a doable thing in a year or under for Milwaukee. Plus Milwaukee is truly great. Wisconsin is great. They recognize CPM’s (certified professional midwives) there, unlike Illinois, who will dispatch a swat team to shoot one down if they know one of them has helped you give birth at home. Milwaukee has a world-class library and 168 (something like that) miles of bike trails through the city. It has a beautiful waterfront and lots of diversity. And beer! And local farms in abundance! Anyway, for us it also has my family, which is a huge thing considering that we have a child and the intention to have more children and the desire to sometimes go out on our own! So it looks very much like – wherever we end up in Wisconsin – so many of our prayers will be answered at once it’s overwhelming: a new job with lots of challenge and upward mobility for Henry, proximity to family (who wants to babysit) will allow me a bit more flexibility to work on a business again, the ability to get out of debt, the eventual ability to buy an actual HOUSE that is actually BEAUTIFUL, and many many auxiliary benefits which I’m sure we have yet to discover.

It’s just that we’re leaving, *probably,* the only place I’ve called home as an adult and the central location for our primary community. All of our best friends. At 30 I’m starting over again…experiencing that “freshman at life” feeling I had as a recent grad. And I’ll missing all of YOU. Well, some of you don’t live here, but you know what I mean. As I’ve been telling everyone: I’ll keep you posted. I really will. This blog will probably become more a lifeline. Get ready for excruciating detail of my parents’ basement! And gardening! 🙂 But really…I’ll keep you posted.

Reflections On A Year of Motherhood

January 5, 2012

A picture of Gilead from this morning with crazy, unwashed hair (I can’t even remember last the last time he took a bath) and one of his 4 “spears” with which he has taken to chasing Griffy from couch to couch. Heaven help that dog when Gilead can climb the couches.

There are some days, like today, when I feel like life couldn’t possibly get much crazier or more full of shit to do. You know, not fun stuff like taking your one-year-old out to lunch at Two Toots, but the random crap that virtually makes up an entire life; that you spend what feels like your whole life just getting done – cleaning the kitchen (that damn thing just has to keep being cleaned) and running laundry up and down three flights of stairs while your toddler is screaming in his pack n’ play. That kind of shit.

I feel like an irreverent tone helps with conveying exactly what it takes to get through being a mom. When I watched “The Help” the other night (amazing movie) I couldn’t help but identify the tiniest bit with some of the maids – obviously sans devastating privations and discrimination. When your whole life goes from being about you, you, you to being about doing everything for someone else all the time, you feel it. You feel the lack of alone time or the freedom to go out with the girls without arranging everything for said little person beforehand or having to still care for him while trying to get in a satisfying conversation.

This is the precise reason I haven’t blogged since September. Well, that and the fact that I’ve just been busy doing other things, which, no, I didn’t take pictures of and which I don’t even care about writing about. I guess I’m just not a blogger at heart. It’s ok.

But I do feel like I’ve gathered a few – we’ll call them reflections. I can’t say any of this will apply to anyone else, but if it does, great.

Gilead crying on his last day of being under 1 because he can’t have the camera and playing with one of his new Christmas toys.


1. The number one thing I’ve noticed is that things WILL change, but it will happen slowly. I mean this about some of the early hard stuff that gets better. There have been several times throughout the year I’ve had occasion to reflect and realize that things are better. It happens almost imperceptibly, but it’s there. One day you’ll realize you have a baby who will play by himself for half an hour and sleep for two predictable times during the day and that you have lost 5 lbs. and can actually fit back into your pre-baby jeans. Or that nursing doesn’t hurt anything it used to anymore. It happens. As John Shuffle told me the other day to remember about parenting, “this too shall pass.”

2. Some shit doesn’t change. Like, maybe, you have a one year old who refuses to sleep in his own bed and screams bloody murder when separated from you so that the downstairs neighbor decides to come up at 11 p.m. while your husband is walking him around in his underwear and offer some “help.” And night after night you just give in and nurse him and ask yourself, “how much more of this can I take?”

3. You can take quite a lot, actually.

4. You can be very productive and even happy on surprisingly little sleep.

5. It takes about a month to adjust to your new amount of sleep.

6. Even if everyone is telling you that nursing is only hurting because you have red hair or fair skin, it’s still bad advice. It may make it take a little longer, but it’s not the only reason. And cracking and bleeding nipples are NOT normal.

7. Nursing is worth toughing out the pain at the beginning. I had 10 weeks of it and I hardly even remember it. The bond we have far outweighs the cost.

8. Colic is when the baby can’t be soothed by nursing. It might be because the baby is sensitive to the dairy you’re eating. If you have to give up dairy for a bit, you’ll survive and you’ll be a lot happier. This, too, is worth maintaining the nursing relationship.

9. If you can afford any amount of getting someone else to clean your house; DO IT.

10. Ditto for the occasional take-out meal. It’s not worth ruining the precious time you have with your husband to fight about how you have to cook and clean all the time.

11. Sometimes you need to have fights with the little time you have together. Everything has changed, after all. If it doesn’t cause tension for one or both of you (not all the time, probably, but sometimes), that would be strange.

12. tell him exactly what you need and want. he REALLY can’t read your mind.

13. Let him figure out how to do stuff with the baby on his own. You’ll be delighted by what he does. and sometimes amused.

14. Sex is possible. You’d be amazed how less talk and more, um, action, really is the ticket sometimes. For both of you.

15. get some friends to watch the baby for free for a couple of hours every week and have a date night. even a couple of hours away will make you super glad to see your baby again when you come home.

16. Watching movies together and talking at night is possible too. Almost the same as before you have a baby. It’s going out that takes a lot more coordination.

17. Last but not least. Enjoy the hell out of that baby. Let the dishes stay dirty and the floor un-swept. Like I said, it’s just the shit you’re gonna have to do over again anyway tomorrow. The baby is only going to be this way right now. IT GOES REALLY REALLY FAST.

I have to go rescue said baby from the bedroom. He likes to shut doors now. 🙂



September 8, 2011


A family tree I made for my best friend’s husband’s grandmother’s 90th birthday gift. She’s paying me. I’m not that close to the grandmother. But I do like how it turned out. I’ve done a few in the last few years – first for our wedding – but this is the first where I’ve gotten inspired to use colored pencils. I like how it turned out. I printed the names out on tracing paper and then cut and glued them to the drawing so there wouldn’t be any mistakes.


When there’s nothing else…a blurry photo of Piggle in a big cloth diaper will do. It will do very nicely.


Oh so happy. A bowl of Ndungu, a fresh chapati and cilantro carrots for dinner last night – courtesy of Kags. It was AHHmazing. I’m going to learn.


The aforementioned Kags was kind enough to take care of the buddy while we went to see this film on Labor Day. We have not had a car for about a week now and, while making some things very complicated and stressful, has made a few things better than I ever thought possible. Like walking to church, for instance. We happen to live fairly close to a lot of the most important places: library, church, lake, prairie path, grocery store (it will do in a pinch), and…movie theatre! It’s not just any movie theatre. It plays a lot of great indie movies. We’d been wanting to see this one for a long time – since before it came out, actually. What made it even better was walking to and from down the prairie path in the glorious weather. I couldn’t have asked for a better date.

And the film was…everything I knew it would be. I loved every second. Yes, even the 20 minutes spent depicting the creation of the world. Actually, especially that. I cried through most of it. I can’t really explain why. I had the same reaction to The New World. It wasn’t so much the beauty of the film overwhelming me – although both were very beautiful. It was more that the film overwhelmed me with the beauty of the world. And the longing for heaven. That’s what I call a good film. Go see it if you haven’t.


September 2, 2011

He was in kind of a crabby mood. This was yesterday. He’d been sitting in his high-chair fussing and clapping while I was eating. I guess yesterday was the big rediscovery of clapping…



You can go here and see all the videos I upload. I won’t always post them to the blog.



Daily Piggle

September 1, 2011

I must again apologize for the “daily” part not being strictly true. Sorry, Auntie Jo. We’ll try to do better.


September 1, 2011


I’m doing things out of order today. This was last Thursday when we went to hang out with Whitney and Davey. They are exactly 3 weeks apart and much different sizes, as you can see. Also, I have an intense and strong introvert and Whitney has an intense and strong extrovert – as you can also see.


This pretty much sums up the usual state of our living room. Henry has wanted block for Gilead for months and now that he has them, his favorite thing to do with them is take off the lid and dump them loudly and then forget about them.

But what I REALLY wanted to write about for the {real} post was how I’ve lost more weight and how I feel so great as in, look guys, this is for real! I have struggled to lose the weight I’d been carrying before I got pregnant plus a bit extra. That bit extra was fluctuating between a bit and really more than I’d like for awhile. But things are changing! I like my friend’s status update from the other day: “Real change is possible.” Every time I’ve come against this giving up of certain foods thing I’ve felt it was impossible but that I want and need it to happen. I think maybe the turning point was when I recognized I couldn’t do it and I started to pray about it, even though it seemed like something God doesn’t really care about. You really can’t beat that method for not being able to be cocky about it. Anyway, two things: I have (along with sugar and grains most of the time) given up dairy. I know. It’s for Piggle and it’s working. He’s been screaming at least once or twice a night now for months. I’m telling you, the very night I stopped having dairy during the day, he slept 6 hours straight. I woke up in the wee hours next to a dead-asleep buddy fearing the worst. I had to poke him to make sure everything was ok. He was just finally without pain for the first time in months. It’s changed his naps too. Now, he sleeps for at least an hour at regular times during the day. No more 20 minutes here and there. Why didn’t I do this earlier? So, nursing moms: take this seriously. It might make all the difference in the world. Compared to that, giving up milk and cheese is nothing. The other thing is that I had a very real reaction to sugar this week that made me realize how not worth it it really is. I had a peanut butter and jelly pita for lunch one day and could tell immediately that the sugar in the jelly was going to make me sick. I felt weak and shaky (all symptoms I used to live with constantly as a result of sugar in my diet but which I no longer have at all) and had a headache and mood swings the whole rest of the day. It’s just become very interesting to me that when I’ve slowed down and actually paid attention to what my body is trying to tell me, I’ve realized food actually makes all the difference in the world.


Our bedroom has gone from being the worst place in our apartment and one in which I hated to spend time to the best room ever. I kept putting off fixing it because I thought I needed to have a bunch of money first and so I despaired. I finally took courage from Auntie Leila and just used the white paint I had to cover the puke green on the ceiling (which I put there thinking I’d make a room in many shades of green. Clearly I needed a tutorial first) and the leftover green to cover the bare tree I’d painted in black and which was depressing almost as soon as I finished it. I took down the dark green oppressive drapes, sanded and filled all the nail holes and touched them up too. Then we lowered the bed and put Piggle’s things in the corner and viola! It’s the perfect, calming retreat.

This is how the hallway looks now. I spent the weekend not only fixing our room but reorganizing, purging and rearranging all manner of furniture from the nursery because…


Kags has come to live with us! Hopefully, at least until December, but maybe less time and maybe more. We’re all so excited about it and I can’t even tell you the difference she’s already made in terms of helping me with our house. And next week she’s making Kenyan food for us. Chapatis! Yay!


August 25, 2011


Tonight I am taking my great-grandmother’s potato soup and my wonderful chocolate chip muffins to two families who have newborn baby girls. I have been on a hat-making streak these last few months (and particularly lately) and I am so proud of myself for actually finishing these in time to send them with the soup. Sometimes it helps to have a deadline.


I found this beautifully illustrated Hans Christian Anderson book, these bigger sized zipper pajamas (Gilead almost always puts one or both legs through the gaps in the snap kind at night) and three nice cloth diaper covers (two in his size and one smaller…doesn’t hurt to be prepared for the next one) for $2.15 at the thrift store next to one of the grocery stores where I shop. I went in on a whim.


Piggle’s activity does not wane. We have taken to describing his curiosity as “insatiable” and “unstoppable.” Henry has found that the best way to ensure Piggle’s happiness and safety as well as a quick rest for himself is to lie on the floor while Piggle happily crawls over and around him.


The muffins currently sitting on my table which are tempting me to eat them. I have cleverly planned the exact amount needed for the three families to whom I’m giving them, leaving not one for myself. Why, you ask? Well, because we are giving up sugar and most grains for the time being. Sugar, probably, hopefully, forever. There’s a whole deal about the doctor Henry is now seeing for his chronic fatigue (doctor number 103 or something like that) and his take on diet and healing and then there’s a whole thing about books I’ve read and a suspicion that I’ve got an addiction to sugar and a sensitivity to it that is affecting many areas of my life, but that’s another post I may or may not get to. Suffice it to say that I feel better than I have in a long time and have already lost 5 lbs this week, basically. Honestly, it felt like it happened overnight. But the very real part is that I still have cravings and these stinking muffins aren’t helping! 🙂