Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Catherine Begat Charlotte :)

Welcome to the world, Princess Charlotte.
You came in much the usual way, I think - no virgin birth, no spaceship, no pitch-soaked ark - and yet the world exploded in a flurry of joy:
She's here! She's here! She's here!

We grow rather too accustomed to babies
And prefer them neither seen nor heard
Unless, perhaps, filtered through Instagram.

Even I, with my three treasures
Clouded with the bleariness of caring
Forget the glorious weight of legacy -

But you remind me.

You carry in your small person the blood of a hundred stories.

As do I - and my own children - and every living soul on this impossible planet -


Mary begat Kathleen.
Kathleen begat Janelle.
Janelle begat -

Jewels strung on a line.

Your story is history
And something in your very existence
Reminds us that we, too,
Receive the past and pass it,
Blood and bone,
Into the future.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Grace and my Parenting Report Card

I know it's silly, once I sit down and put it into words.  But my actions and feelings betray the truth: I feel as if I ought to be perfect, and that it's wrong if I falter.  (So I end up feeling like junk almost all the time - each time I lose my temper, I see a big fat F on my parenting report card, every unwashed pile of laundry is an accusation, every crumb on the floor an affirmation that I am subpar.)

I was watching Sam play outside today, all by himself while Vava napped and Kachi played with his squeaky toys.  He was painstakingly crafting mounds of dirt on top of the composter, handful by handful, arranging them just so.  Volcanoes, he told me.

He is so good at playing all by himself.

A long time ago I read an article about boredom - how it's good for kids to have time to be alone by themselves without any organized activities: it makes gives them the chance to be alone in their thoughts, to try things they think of, to fail without an audience, to explore in a space that isn't filled with expectations - just to be.

I think if I hadn't read that, I'd be busy feeling guilty every moment I wasn't playing with him, or carting him to activities. (Not that they're bad - but they're not as vital as the soul space.)

And that got me thinking, until I realized what you all probably have known all along ...

The less-than-perfect parts of my parenting, of me, bring blessings too.  Every time I lose my temper and apologize and ask forgiveness, I give my kids the chance to practice extending grace.  Every time my hair is a horrifying mess and we still leave the house, I teach them that how you look is not the most important part of you.  Every time I fall somewhere in the gap between what I think I should achieve and what I actually do achieve, I teach them that there is space to fail and the world still turns.

We're not perfect - we need grace, and we need to know how to extend grace.

It's the nicest, loveliest part of raising kids ... that they learn this beautiful lesson through my imperfections.

Those mythical perfect mamas don't have room for the current of grace that necessarily flows through my flaw-ful house.  It only gets in through the cracks.

Dear Sam, Vava, and Kachi: I make lots of mistakes.  You're welcome.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Gift from My Daughter, Age 2

You burst into our world like a butterfly
Stretching from your chrysalis of infancy 
Into this beauty you wear
Beautifully unaware

I promised myself I wouldn't contribute
To the inevitable smudging of your clear sight
And so when I see your precious face
I stand before the mirror and rejoice

I stand on the scale and celebrate
I pick out clothes with joy
Choosing to be glad in this body before you
Before you learn anything else

And your little presence
Has showered on me this huge gift:
I look in the mirror and rejoice
Because I see you

This - the nose that will be yours someday
The freckles (yours, so far just two delicious drops),
The hair, the chin, the smile-lines
All mine, but also, inevitably yours.

And you

You are unbelievably beautiful.
And so I
Must be beautiful too.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Resurrection Sunday

We didn't get to attend a single service this Easter weekend.  My favourite weekend, Resurrection Sunday, the day that reverberates with freedom and gladness and life - it's the kind of weekend best spent in a crowd, singing Hallelujah.

But the kids got sick and we got sick and none of our plans turned out like they were supposed to, so we spent fourteen pointless hours on the road and finally crawled into our own beds late Saturday night.

So this Easter Sunday finds us at home, alone, cuddling in our pyjamas.  I read about this recent massacre in Kenya at Garissa University, and my heart breaks for the mamas who are spending their Easter weekend looking at dead bodies, hoping against hope not to see their own darlings lying there.

I close my computer and hug my kids close.

Suddenly Sam yells, "I'm bigger 'n you!" and starts chasing Vava, monster claws extended.  She shrieks and runs to us for safety.

Patrick wraps his arms around Sam and reminds him that when you're big, you get to use your bigness to take care of people around you, and if you use it to hurt them, you're not really big at all; you're weak and not brave.

And that is Easter, right there.

Jesus taking His big goodness and using it to take care of us, taking our place, setting us free.  Thorns and nails and furrowed back, spit and scorn and fists.  He took it all, from us, and then He took the wrath from God.  He died.

That's the kind of God I love.  The perfect one who took the punishment in order to extend mercy.  Mercy!  Grace!  Pardon!  Welcome!

And His followers - we're safe in Him, so we get to be His kind of big.  The kind of big that protects and loves and risks our skin to show kindness to those who need it.  The deep down immeasurable fullness that is the opposite of meanness in every way.

Some of those students at Garissa helped each other escape.  Put others before themselves, even when their lives were at stake. That kind of selflessness bows my heart.  Bravery, love, mercy - echoes of Easter, even in the carnage.

Survivors tell of hearing victims being asked if they were Christians - and they said yes, even in the middle of that madness, with guns to their heads.

And they went right on into those stretched-out arms, straight into Easter-promised heaven, brave.

I hope those sad mamas who face the wrenching truth that yes, their children are gone, will forever clutch this truth to their broken hearts:

Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.  -John 11:25
Thank God for Easter, friends.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Letter to Grown-up Sam on his Fourth Birthday

Dear Sam,

This week, you will turn four.  Four! I wish I could save you up, your four-year-old self, to show your grown-up self all the treasures you embody just now.  You stretch my heart hard, you pummel every boundary, and I love you for it.

If I were a painter, I would want to paint you at your softest, sweetest - maybe leaning over a delighted baby Kachi, showing him your new robot figurine. I would paint the sun washing over you both so bright and totally lost in the moment.  I would catch the details of your hastily-cut nails, the unevenness of your haircut, the way your pants never seem to sit straight on your body - because who has time to stand still while mama fusses? Not you, my darling whirlwind.
I would include the socks which are evidently too small, because you are growing faster than I can remember to replace them.
I would try to show that moment when Kachi reaches out with everything he's got - both hands stretched toward you, fingers clumsily half-extended - smiling so big it bursts into a squeal.  The way you look into his eyes with tenderness and wonder.  You are so sure he understands every word you say.  (He does - at least, he gets the heartbeat of it, and that's the kind of listening that really matters anyway.)

But that kind of picture wouldn't show all of you, because you've got a big dose of feisty too.  You've got a strong aversion to sharing and you've started saying NO with your new big-kid stubborn jaw and you don't see anything wrong with using the hands God gave you to get what you want.  You adore Vava and want to spend time with her but you like best when she is at the scary end of your pretend dinosaur claws.  Sometimes I feel like all I do, all day long, is say no to you.  And that's hard on both of us - I know.

But you remind me in the heart-stealingest ways that even in the maelstrom of defiance and timeouts you have this wild soft heart that just aches for love.

I tried it once, giving in to God's pressure on my own angry heart to speak peace instead of anger when I just wanted to yell you to your room.  I cleared my angry eyebrows and swallowed the volume and looked up the stairs and said gently I'm sorry for yelling and I want you to know I love you even when I'm angry.  
And your beautiful brown eyes welled up and that chin stopped jutting and started trembling and you replied I love you too and I forgive you.
And now it's part of our everyday, like oatmeal, like kissing, like brushing our teeth.  I love you even when you don't let me push buttons on the computer.  I love you even when I'm angry with you. I love you even when you put me in timeout. I forgive you. I love you.

It's not easy being four.  I know I expect a lot.  Share and take turns. No, don't share your boogers.  Use your words.  Not those ones!  Play with your toys.  Clean them up.  Don't throw toys. Throw the ball!  Help Vava get out of her crib.  Never lift Kachi out of his crib.
But even though it's hard and confusing, you have some really amazing victories.  You (almost always) say excuse me instead of interrupting.  You are really great at using your words to tell me how you feel, and you are increasing in understanding how other people are feeling too.  You have a tender heart and always ask if I'm okay when I hurt myself.  You build really great things with Duplo ... dinosaurs and robots and towers with identifiable features.  You sing to yourself when you get lost in your play, and you love a good story.

YOU HAVE MEMORIZED TWO BOOKS!  (And a whole whack of songs.)  Vava and Kachi both love when you read to them.  You can pour your own drink, open yogurt cups, and crack a pretty mean egg. You even drew a picture of me (it was two giant legs, a giant bum, and an unbelievably tiny head.  It was a good reminder that I need to spend more time at your eye-level ;) ).

I'm sorry for the times I ignore you or miss the everyday wonder of you.

I'm grateful to be your mama, and glad like a blue sky full of sunshine that you are my boy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dear Sarah

Dear Sarah;
I have so many fun memories of you.  Me, eating half the beach because you generously believed I could do a handstand.  Meeting up for bagels and cream cheese at all hours. Your twinkly eyes.  Both of us homesick - you, missing especially your beloved grandparents, your Emily.  Watching so many movies.  Getting groceries together.  Riding the train to NS for spring break.  Driving the Mustang my sister rented.  "CC" at Toronto Conference!
The first thought that comes to mind when I think of you, though, is the night we went to see A Walk to Remember.  (You introduced me to Switchfoot - thank you!)  Whenever I come across that movie, I always think of you and Glenda and chocolate covered caramels.  (That's the best way to watch a weeper - surrounded by good friends, sharing sweet comfort food.)
And it's a great title to come to mind because you, Sarah, were so careful and sincere in your walk.  You were kind, and considered your actions and words.  And you lived out your beliefs - even when you might have felt like doing otherwise.  I'm thinking of the time God used you to teach me a lesson, and your gentleness stands out so vividly. 
We were hanging out in your room, and you went downstairs to make hot drinks.  Your diary was open on your bed and I idly read your open page.  I wasn't trying to find out anything in particular, I was just being a careless and thoughtless bad friend.  I reached out to turn the page when I realized I wouldn't want anyone doing the same to me, so I stopped ... and squirmed as the guilt flooded in.  When you came back, I awkwardly confessed - and you graciously forgave me and completely moved on.  The relief!  I didn't expect such grace.  But you walked in light of your Bible, friend, and Jesus tells us who have been forgiven to forgive - so you did, without even taking the time to enjoy a little righteous indignation ;).  I love you for that.
I've been overflowing with tears all day, thinking that I'll never see you here again - and thinking how utterly satisfied your heart must be to be in the presence of the One you lived for so quietly and truly.  
I'm so glad to have walked a year with you, friend.  Thank you for making my life richer and gentler.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

For Patrick, on Valentine's Day

I love you
And your eternal patience
With my backseat driving.

I love you
And how you come home everyday
Ready to play.

I love you
And the way you wave to us
Before you get in the car.

I love you
And your midnight laughter
Over cake.

I love you
And your silly dancy songs
With the babies.

I love you
And your clever coffee alarm
At 5am.

I love you
And your willing endurance
Of my favourite songs on repeat.

I love you
And the way you eat soup with me
All winter long.

I love you
And the way you run upstairs
To check on the kids at night.

I love you
And geeking out on history and dialogue together
After we leave the movies.

I love you
And I love you
And I love you.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

3621 to 3630

3621. Cozy morning cuddles with Kachi.
3622. Sunshine.
3623. Hot water.
3624. Coffee.
3625. Aunt D driving Patrick to work.
3626. The excitement of company coming!
3627. A gift in the mail.
3628. Vava wanting a cuddle.
3629. Sam helping me with garbage.
3630. . Mini chocolate granola bars.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

God Sees ... and God Knows

Came across this little gem today:

God saw the people of Israel - and God knew.
Exodus 2:25

Whatever you're up to, whatever you're struggling with, whatever your heart holds trembling in fear, rest in this: God sees, and God knows.

Settle your heart in peace, friends.
God sees.  God knows.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Basic Economics II: PCOS, Target, and the Spanish Civil War

Alright, long post.  Beware.

I learn best through allegory, metaphor, so I won't apologize for the weird mental stretch in this post.  It's not really for anyone else, just me working out my own thoughts for myself about the economy. :) I hope I've scared everyone but the die-hards away.

Just us then?  Let's go.

Before I start with the parallels, I need to explain PCOS - my own lovely little syndrome (that was sarcastic).  When you hear Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, you're like ooh cysts on ovaries.  I get it.  But it's so much more than cysts on ovaries - and doesn't even necessarily even include them.  (They're just the symptom that usually triggers a diagnosis, because the other symptoms are often overlooked.)

PCOS is a collection of symptoms that occur together frequently enough for them to be identified as one disorder - disease - condition - but nobody is sure of their cause or why they often occur together.  (Some of the links within the syndrome are causal, but not all.)  I'm not a doctor, so I'll likely muddle this up, but I'm going to explain it the way I understand it.

The PCOS body doesn't know what to do with carbs.  A carbohydrate comes in, my body sets off an alert, and traps them in a fat cell, along with hormones and nutrients, and puts a high security warning on the door.  Nothing is getting out.  Carbs that come with a lot of fibre - like fresh fruit and veggies - get swept away fairly quickly.  But carbs that don't - like bread and sugar - are instead locked inside fat cells along with hormones and vitamin D and all sorts of other helpful (but now inaccessible) elements that my body needs in order to function properly.  All the potential is there - but it's in lockdown.  My fat cells are hyper amazing jailers ... they're just really sucky police officers, and they think everyone is a threat.  As a result, the PCOS body is often tired, malnourished (my doctor was scared of rickets, my D count was so low), chubby, pimply, balding, and infertile. Not really working the way it was designed - not beautiful, healthy, strong, productive. And it craves carbs - the carbs it's actually stuffed with, but needy cells can't access it.

It's an Alanis Morrisette song waiting to be written.

But when I found out all the details of PCOS, I was so furious.  Mad, that I actually had all the resources I need, but due to my hoarding fat cells, was unable to access.  I was particularly mad about fertility, but pretty ticked about weight gain, zits, mood swings, and potential rickets too.  Everything was there! But nothing was going where it needed to go. I can feel my temper kindling as I think about it.

Last week, when the news came out about Target closing and the CEO's severance package being equivalent to the severance of all the other 17000 employees combined, I saw that same kind of temper kindling.  We know that CEOs earn more than shop-floor employees, but that he was getting THAT much more? A collective "Not fair!" echoed around the internet.

And because I learn by analogy, I started thinking about the ways that hoarding resources is bad for the whole of society and I began to think that our economy is a lot like a PCOS body.

Fat cells are good.  They insulate the body and we need them.  But when they start hoarding resources, the rest of the body suffers.

Same with the wealthy.  We need wealthy people in our economy - they can efficiently use their wealth to create jobs, provide a storehouse of financial nutrition that borrowers can draw from to meet new demands or to survive lean times.  But when the wealthy hoard resources simply to lock them away -

people suffer.  People die.

In Spain, after WWI, the small upper class was excessively rich.  So rich that they didn't need to spend their resources to become wealthier.  They had more than more-than-enough.  So instead of employing the peasants to work their land (who might, after all, earn or steal a little more than subsistence demands), they let the land lie idle.  The prices of food increased but the wealthy didn't mind.  The peasants starved.  Land lay empty all around them, they begged for work, begged for land in which to plant some food - but their begging fell on deaf ears.  The rich were like my stupid fat cells, hoarding all the goodness inside while my body breaks down around it.  It wasn't necessarily malice, but apathy - they couldn't be bothered to go to the trouble.

And what the fat cells don't realize is that they support - or ruin - the body in which they dwell.  Personal hoarding makes a cell fatter but does not make the body better.  A well-stocked fat cell is a blessing and a joy, when the fat is able to be burned for energy, when it cushions bone, when it does its job.  (Anyone medical is probably dying with laughter, but you know what I mean!)

One of my favourite stories of fat-cell success starts in a small town in Zimbabwe.  There was a woman whose husband died, and she had four children.  She had always worked the family garden while her husband earned money to buy the things she couldn't grow - school fees, meat, bus fare, that sort of thing.  But with him gone, what was she to do?

She asked a visiting doctor for a loan.

After two years, she paid back half of the loan.  After four years, she repaid the remaining balance, with interest.  In those four years, she had used the loan to keep her children in school, food on the table, and eventually opened a store.  The loan met her need, and enabled her to establish the means to keep her needs being met into the future.

That is the fat cell, working well.

The super-wealthy can be resource banks, or they can be resource vaults - and society suffers when they are resource vaults.

You want to know the amount of the loan that made such a difference in the widow's life?

Forty dollars.

I think of that Target CEO and his former employees and I get so mad - he failed, and he gets THAT kind of money?  The system that funnels the resources his way is broken, the same way that my PCOS body sends all my carbs straight to lockdown.

Until I realize that I can compare myself in the other direction too.  I'm also a fat cell.  Compared to a lot of the world, a hoardy one.

We've all got resources - we can use them, we can hoard them, we can cultivate them, we can let them rot -

But no matter who we are, I think Haley's lesson from Economics 11 stands.

Those who can, should.


PS - They haven't found a cure for PCOS yet - but there are ways of working around it and managing the symptoms.  It's a lot of work - but the effects are beautiful (some of them are sleeping upstairs as I write).

PS2 - That doctor was so inspired, he turned around and inspired a lot of people.  Microloans are a thing - Google it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Basic Economics I: Haley's Lesson

I took Econ 11 in grade ten, the same year I learned that my body wasn't one of the ones that worked entirely properly.  I wasn't diagnosed with PCOS then, but I could have been.  Should have been?  But maybe I wasn't ready to hear.  Either way.
The thing I remember most about Economics wasn't in the textbook, wasn't in a lecture, wasn't my teacher - whom I loved; she was comfortable, kind, and had understanding eyes - it was in a quiet and beautiful moment with one of the Barbiest girls in school.
The class dynamic was unique for me - there were only four girls - and there were students from every grade.  I was used to girl-heavy classes like French Immersion and Advanced English, classes where I knew most of the kids.  I didn't know anyone at all when I walked into that room.  It was fun to be in a room where no one knew me - where I got to decide what side of me to be for fifty minutes a day.
Haley was perfectly gorgeous - slim and graceful and shiny - and likeable, though really really bad at Econ.  She picked me as a partner for every project, and all the boys tried to sit next to us and steal our ideas.  It was far from my normal - and it was awesome.
One day - probably a Friday afternoon, that chafing time of week - we were supposed to be doing groupwork, and became too rowdy to bear.  The teacher slammed her textbook down on her desk and shouted. She gave us to the count of ten to put our desks back in rows and sit still and quietly or else we'd have to stay after class.  There was a huge scraping and clanking as we whipped our desks back into place and dashed to sit down.
Just when she reached ten, the room fell silent.  Every desk was in place, and every body was still.  In front of me, J didn't notice that his stack of books was teetering on the edge of his desk - hipchecked by a lanky grade twelve on his way down the aisle.
The teacher turned to the board and began to write our homework down, when the books came crashing to the floor.  She turned, dagger eyes at the ready.
Nobody dared move.
If we stirred, we risked the wrath of the entire class - nobody wanted to be the one to make everyone stay late.
But the awful thing was, J was in a wheelchair, and couldn't pick up his own books.  It had to be one of us.  The books just lay there, weighted with meaning, a challenge, a metaphor.
It felt like forever until someone was brave enough to stand up and pick up the books.  Haley stood up and walked across the room.  She picked up each book and dusted it off and made a neat pile on J's desk.
You know that ache in the back of your throat that you get when you see something that's just about perfect?  Haley might've been bad at Econ 11, but she understood the driving imperative of a good economy - that those who can, should.
I've got too much to say about this topic for one post.  More later.
Haley, wherever you are - God bless you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Crazy, Good Night

Kachi turned three months old last week. 

He's the dearest thing.  

He's bright and chatty, a good sleeper, a cranky teether, and sweetheartedly content.  (Teether - crazy, I know! He already has one tooth, and another is just about to break through the gums.)

I totally thought life with three kids would be insane.  I pictured harried evenings with Patrick and I stressed as we took turns juggling screamers, pukers, and poopers.  I thought their neediness would increase as they needed to compete for attention and time.  I thought it would be a lot harder right now.

It was a little tough at the beginning, when Kachi was still getting up in the night.  But we have wonderful little sleep-lovers, and all three of our kids slept through the night early.  I think that might be the life-saver ;).  

We have our busy moments, where I'm rushing from one need to meet another need and yet another is calling out for me - but overall, the kids are learning to be independent and patient, and I'm learning to prioritize ;).

Most evenings find us kissing Sam and Vava goodnight quite early, feeding Kachi his last bottle, then enjoying a few hours of solitude and rest.  It's awesome, and I'm so grateful for every moment.  

Tonight though - tonight was one of the nights I'd worried about.

Kachi woke up five minutes after I put him in bed for the night, jamming his little fists against his gums and squirming.  Patrick left for a meeting, so I turned on a show and just cuddled and paced with Kachi (his favourite soothing technique).  After a few angry screams, I realized he wasn't settling as he usually does, and it finally dawned on me that he was hungry - half an hour in his jolly jumper had really worked up an appetite.  So I mixed up a bottle for my squirmy, out-of-sorts boy and we wrestled our way through a bonus feeding.  Finally, he let out an enormous grunt and I realized he needed a fresh diaper.  Just then, I heard a huge wail from upstairs.

Sam occasionally has nightmares.  He has a recurring one where Spiderman takes him away and I don't come for him.  So I left stinky Kachi in the livingroom and ran as fast as I could up the stairs, hoping to interrupt the nightmare before it got worse and woke up Vava as well as Sam.
I dashed across the room and leaped onto the bed, wrapping Sam in my arms ... only to realize I wasn't leaping, I was skidding, and slipping, and sliding - in an enormous puddle of vomit.

I squawked, and woke Vava, who somehow had managed to sleep through the puking and wailing in her room ... 

And so I found myself running a bath, changing my clothes, stripping a bed, spraying a mattress, washing two toddlers (Vava couldn't sleep anyway) all at the same time - and then finally changing that longsuffering bottom and popping the baby in the tub too, because why not? 

After a few stories, cuddles, and kisses, all three of them fell back asleep.  

It's the silliest thing - and I wouldn't want my nights to usually be like this, because I'd be an exhausted wreck - but I loved feeling so needed and capable.  Taking care of them makes me feel so much more family-y.  I love that Sam was sobbing for Mama, that Kachi lit up with delight to join Sam and Vava in the tub, that Vava didn't want to sleep without "my boy, my Sam."  I loved seeing her hug him gently and kiss him goodnight.  I loved Kachi smiling at me as his eyes grew heavier and heavier, and he cuddled closer in my arms.  I love that there were fresh sheets and blankets folded in the cupboard, diapers stacked in Kachi's room, cozy clean pyjamas to dress them in, and stories to send them contentedly off to sleep.  I love that they're all sleeping soundly, the washing machine is humming, and the scent of Burt's Bees Baby wash still hovers in the air.

I know that they will grow and their hearts will break and their lives will grow complicated and there won't be anything I can do to make it all go away.  It will take a lot more than fresh bedding and a hot bath to make everything all better.  But right now, I get to be the one who comforts them, cleans them, makes them cozy, and sends them into peaceful sleep.

For this messy, brief moment, I'm enough.

And oh - 
it feels good.