Categories
Laughter

Part-Time Referee

I've never been much of an athlete or sports fan, but I'm finding that as a full-time mom to boys, my job description includes "part-time referee." The games are many and varied, ranging from the expected sword fights, splash wars, and wrestling matches to imaginative games of David and Goliath, Lion and Lion Tamer, and Moses in the Basket, to downright bizarre games like Eat Your Brother, Bite the Baby, and Pee on Each Other (the latter in the bathtub, thankfully). As referee, it is my task to define fair play and enforce it. I make it pretty simple. Regardless of the game, there are only two rules: 1) be kind, and 2) don't hurt your brother. I suppose I could add: 3) don't hurl dense objects, 4) don't use the pictures on the wall for target practice, and 5) don't pretend that the bookshelves are Annapurna and you are mountaineers, but that's pretty complicated for a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, don't you think?

I loathe yelling and make it a goal not to shout at my children, but often they make so much noise that they can't hear me unless I raise my voice at least nineteen times above its normal level. To avoid sharing my motherly admonitions with the rest of the apartment block, sometimes I'll wade into the fray to get the boys' attention without shouting. However, this strategy isn't practical when I'm cooking something whose recipe includes the words "stir constantly," or when I'm nursing the baby, or (and this is my favorite) when I'm holding the baby over the toilet because he needs to go poop! So in those instances I have two choices. I can temporarily abandon my referee responsibilities (which usually means abandoning my second child to the mercy of his older brother), or I can yell at the boys until they realize that Mommy is saying something and they'd better stop to listen. **sigh** I feel like I've been doing too much yelling lately.

The other day it occurred to me that a referee's whistle might come in handy.

I think I'll ask for one for Mother's Day.

************

What about you? What are you hoping for (or planning to give) on Mother's Day?


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Categories
Baby Joys Inspiration

The Source of All Nummy

I love nursing babies. (You can take that any way you want: either that I love to nurse infants or that I love infants who are still in the nursing stage. Both statements are true.) There is something indescribably precious about cradling a baby and watching his blissful contentment as he draws both nourishment and comfort from your breast.

I am currently nursing my third baby, and I always enjoy watching the different stages that they go through. First there is the newborn nurser with downy hair, wrinkled face, and scrawny limbs. He needs help to find the breast, but once he does, he nurses with total focus, eyes closed, jaw working methodically, the rest of his body profoundly relaxed.

Next comes the impatient nurser, who can't seem to tolerate the slightest delay in starting his meal. (Honestly, I don't know how moms cope when they have to rely on formula to feed their babies. Nothing is quicker than whipping out a meal for a breastfed baby, and yet they still get so bent out of shape about the 2.7-second delay. If I had to listen to the desperate wails of a baby waiting several minutes for formula to be mixed and heated to just the right temperature, I think I might snap.) The funny thing about babies at this stage is how they will act as if they don't really want the meal. Many times I have watched in amusement as my little nurser shakes his head violently back and forth, mouth wide open, lips repeatedly grazing the target, but refusing to latch on! Eventually, however, he settles down and contentedly sucks away.

The third stage is the distracted nurser, and the baby I'm currently nursing is in this category. Distracted nursers are old enough that they usually have rolls of fat and the most adorable chubby cheeks. They need no help finding the breast, and they usually get right down to business. However, they are so aware of their surroundings that they can have trouble nursing in an environment that isn't perfectly tranquil. Any noise or movement will provoke a sudden break in suction and a wide-eyed, accusatory stare. Should the mother attempt to multitask by eating a meal or reading a book while feeding the baby, the distracted nurser is likely to respond with cries of protest. And even if everything is ideal, there is one more thing that can distract this type of baby: his proximity to Mommy. He may interrupt his meal simply to gaze up into his mother's eyes and make sweet cooing noises, as if to say, "Mommy, you're so wonderful. You're the love of my life." And, if he's anything like my youngest child, after this precious little exchange, he's very likely to forget about the breast altogether and start sucking his thumb! It's a hilarious picture: there he is, contentedly sucking his thumb, even though it will never give him any nourishment, no matter how long or how hard he sucks, and all the while, the source of all nummy is within easy reach, just a fraction of an inch from his cheek!

I used to tease him gently about this habit until the day I realized that sometimes I'm just like him. Sometimes I seek reassurance, strength, or fulfillment from things that will never truly satisfy. And all the while, God is right beside me saying gently, "Here I am, the source of all you need. Turn to Me."


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Categories
Daddy Joys Inspiration

Because I Love You

My husband and I come from very different backgrounds. He was raised on a farm in the middle of nowhere in the American Midwest. I spent my childhood going back and forth between suburban Southern California and the Hawaiian paradise I call home.

He’s a third-generation Christian missionary, while I’m a fourth-generation Japanese American whose maternal grandparents and great-grandparents were Buddhists.

His mother was very involved in his upbringing, since his father had to work several jobs to make ends meet. On the other hand, it was my father who raised me, since my mother died when I was 5.

He has a twin and seven younger siblings, but I just had one sister until my half brother was born when I was 17 years old.

Despite these differences, when we met, we immediately recognized a soul mate in the other. This was because in all the areas that mattered most, we were the same.

We both love Jesus more than anything or anyone. We both are willing to follow the call of God no matter where it takes us. Our highest ambition is that our lives would draw others to Christ. On our wedding day, I had no doubts that I had made the right choice.

However, there was one detail about my husband that remained a secret until after we were married.

He is a football fan.

I could never understand the American male craze for football, or any professional sport, for that matter. Although I’m not athletic, I can understand having a passion for playing a sport, but I always found it absurd that grown men could get excited enough to spill beer on themselves while watching a sporting event. (Okay, I’ve never actually seen that happen, but you get my point.)

My father has never been into sports. I only remember him watching the Super Bowl once, and that was only because at the time we were in the habit of going out for hamburgers each Sunday with a group of other families from church. On Super Bowl Sunday, one of the families hosted the rest of us at their home so that the guys could watch the game. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if my dad actually watched it, because we kids were all running around outside. I do remember him spending some time in the backyard with me after I slipped off the end of the slide and winded myself. If he had been watching the game, he didn’t seem in any hurry to get back to it.

Since I have the deepest respect for my dad, his complete lack of enthusiasm for professional sports became my ideal, and I had little use for any guy who would waste several hours watching a televised ball game. Imagine my dismay when I learned that my husband, whom I respected at least as much as my dad, was an Indianapolis Colts fan! God in His wisdom had not allowed me to discover this trait earlier, because it might have been the end of our romance. But now I was married, for better or for worse, until death do us part, so I knew I had to make the best of it.

Fast forward several football seasons. I now understand the significance of a first down and of sacking the quarterback, and I know when a team might want to do an off-side kick or opt for a 2-point conversion. And though I have always scoffed at celebrity worship, I can recognize the first and last names of the star Colts players, and I even know the name of their former coach. I have to admit it: I’ve become a football fan too.

With the time difference between North America and Eastern Europe, watching the games always involves either staying up really late to see the end or getting up in the middle of the night for the kickoff, but despite the hassles, I still look forward to the start of football season each fall. It’s not so much about the Colts, although if I had to pick a team to support, I don’t think I could find a better one. It’s more about the romance of a shared interest and of doing something slightly crazy with the love of my life. Because I’ll admit it—it’s insane to get up for three hours in the middle of the night when you know that the kids are going to wake you up by 7:30. But I think that a bit of shared insanity helps us remember that we’re best friends and lovers, not just the parents of our (very adorable but sometimes exasperating) children.

….. ….. ….. ….. …..

What about you? What do you do to keep the romance alive with your spouse?


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Categories
Funny Quotes Laughter

Things I Never Anticipated Saying Before I Became a Mother: #1

Since becoming a mother, I have found myself saying things that, taken out of context, sound absurd or even shocking. Sometimes I stop and ask myself, "Did I really just say that??" And then I wonder if anyone overheard me and what they're thinking if they did. So I'm going to give you all a chance to listen in on my sometimes bizarre motherspeak. This is the first installment of Things I Never Anticipated Saying Before I Became a Mother:

"We don't lick the piano."

(I can't decide whether or not to include brief explanations or leave you to imagine the circumstances. What do you think?)


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Other things I never anticipated saying:

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

#7

Categories
Inspiration

Whining

Is it just me, or does anyone else find whining intensely irritating? I mean irritating enough to take a normally calm individual and make her start to hiss through clenched teeth while fighting the urge to slap someone?

Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

My 4-year-old whines. I don't mean that he whines just to get attention or when he doesn't get his way. No. Whining is his default means of communication. I don't know why. Maybe it's a stage. Maybe it's one of his personality quirks. All I know is it's driving me insane, and I've been trying to break him of the habit for about two years, ever since he started to speak.

Maybe it has happened, but I cannot remember a single time when I gave him something because he whined for it. As far as I know, I always point out that he is whining and instruct him to ask nicely. This usually means first rephrasing his request to make it polite ("Can you please give me Curious George?" instead of, "MooOOOooommyyyyyy, eeeuuh, eeeeuuuuh, gimme the mooOOOooonkey book!"). Then he has to repeat it in a pleasant tone of voice. The latter sometimes takes several tries, with me modeling how I want him to sound.

You would think that after two years of this he would begin to get the idea. Whining is useless; I might as well be pleasant and ask politely the first time. But as far as I can tell, this lesson is still lost on him. On second thought, maybe he is starting to get it, because there are rare moments when he will thoroughly bless me with his speech. One day he came into the kitchen while I was cooking dinner and said cheerfully, "Mmmmm! You're good at making food, Mommy! I'm hungry!" I was stunned, and it made me want to clasp him to my chest and give him anything he wanted to eat. But usually he just whines and demands things.

One day in desperation I found myself praying in the middle of dealing with him. My conversation with God went something like this: "Lord, I can't take it any more!! This child is driving me nuts!! Why does he have to be so whiny??" And then it hit me. I was guilty of the same behavior as my 4-year-old. I was whining to God. It was a revelation that caused me to reevaluate my prayers. God is an infinitely better parent than I will ever be, but how often do I approach Him with a whiny attitude as if He does not have my best in mind, does not understand my struggles, and is not going to provide for my needs? He deserves better than that. He deserves the kind of praise and trust of provision implicit in my son's charming comment to me in the kitchen. "Mmmmm! You're good at making food, Mommy! I'm hungry!"


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Categories
Inspiration

I’m Writing Again

All three of my children are currently asleep.

At the same time.

During daylight hours.

Do you have any idea how rare this is?

I don't think it would have happened at all except for the fact that one of them is ill, another seems like he might be catching it, and the third is only 5 months old, so he sleeps most of the time anyway.

Reading the blogs of others has inspired me to start writing again, but that's tough to do these days with three children ages 4 and under. It's possible to read while trying to keep the eldest child from bullying the middle child, while encouraging the middle child to finish his lunch, all while keeping the nursing infant latched on at the breast. It's possible to read like that, but not to write! So now that they're all sleeping, I'm going to start writing a new post.

Well, that was short-lived. The baby just woke up and is having a little snack as I type, which I am able to do while nursing a baby thanks to the amazing wrap-around nursing pillow that my parents sent me for my birthday.

I feel like I've finally got my act together after the birth of our most recent baby. It always seems to take me about a month to get back into a good rhythm with cooking, housework, parenting, personal hygiene, etc. So now that the apartment is not always a complete wreck, and I'm washing my hair twice a week, and I can find time to read to the boys in addition to their nighttime Bible story, I decided to take on a new project. Last week I hung pictures up in our living room. This might not sound like much, but for me it was a huge step. You see, before moving to our current city about three and a half years ago, we lived in Kyiv for four and a half years.

And we lived in seven different apartments during that time.

Seven apartments in four and a half years averages out to fewer than eight months per apartment. That's a lot of moving, and all of that moving was prefaced by the biggest move of all, my move from the U.S. to Ukraine. By the time we moved to our new city and our current apartment, circumstances had trained me to approach home decoration in light of our next move.

Our Ghetto Storage Solution

 

That's why instead of getting cupboards to store our things, we bought plastic bins and stacked them six feet high on shelves in our bedroom.When it's time to move again, I won't even have to pack these things; we'll just load up our storage bins and go. (Several months ago I finally had the brilliant idea of hiding the storage bins behind a fuzzy green blanket that coordinates with our bedroom curtains.)

That's why we don't own a television set; we ditched it before the last move because we found it too big and cumbersome to drag along yet again. (Somehow we felt differently about our hundreds of books, but that's a topic for another post.)

The problem with this approach is that we've been living in the same apartment for three and a half years, and I'm still acting like we're going to move out next month. Over the last two years, I've been given several pieces of original artwork, but since I was always thinking in terms of our next move, I was unwilling to drill holes in our concrete walls to hang them. Instead, they were propped awkwardly on bookshelves and windowsills. The beautiful oil painting that my husband gave me for my birthday was sitting on top of our wardrobe so that the kids couldn't maul it! But last week I finally took the plunge and decorated our living room walls. (Thanks to a care package from a friend in the States, however, I was able to do it with 3M Command picture-hanging strips instead of my husband's heavy-duty drill for concrete.) It looks wonderful–homey and inviting–and the oil painting of the Carpathian Mountains soothes my spirit every time I gaze at it:

Carpathian Mountains, oil on canvas

Why didn't I do this sooner? 

On the other hand, while constantly living in terms of the next move may be an awful way to approach home decorating, I've realized that it's exactly the way I should approach life as a whole. My next move is just around the corner. Am I storing my things in such a way that they will make the move with me? (Matthew 6:19-21) Am I getting rid of everything that is heavy or cumbersome? (Hebrews 12:1-2) Most importantly, am I living with the daily conviction that this life with all its trappings (good and bad) is just a temporary arrangement until Jesus takes me to my true home?


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Categories
Laughter

Terrible Twos

Samuel is teaching me the meaning of the expression "terrible twos." I always thought that referred to a sudden onset of sinful self-will, but that's not true in his case. He's obedient and well-behaved for a child of his age, but because of his age, he is always into something or up to something, and it's often something I wish he weren't into or up to. So the crux of it is that I feel I am constantly after him, "Don't reach onto the counter . . . don't touch the stove . . . don't bite the baby . . . get off the baby . . . don't whine . . . sit at the table to eat . . . don't draw in the book . . . close the refrigerator . . . put your pants back on . . . "
 
By the end of the day I usually feel completely drained and hopelessly frazzled. He is at such a cute age. He is learning so much and able to do so many things, but I find it difficult to enjoy the process because I feel like I am constantly locked in a struggle with him as he tests and retests the boundaries I've set.
 
Eventually something has to give, so he usually ends up running around the apartment without any pants or underwear on. At least that makes it super easy for him to use the potty, which he now does without any help or prompting from me.


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Categories
Inspiration

Good Friday Meditation

Today was one of those days when minor annoyances accumulated until my outlook was as bleak as if there had been a death in the family, rather than what had actually happened—a cranky, feverish baby, a sweet but exasperating toddler, and a special meal that didn't turn out right and took so long to prepare that we were ready to eat it raw by the time it was served. (In fact, we weren't sure it was fully cooked, but we were so hungry that we couldn't think straight, and we ate it anyway. I'm still praying that we don't get food poisoning.)
 
It's Good Friday here in Ukraine, but I've been so preoccupied trying to cope with this day's woes that I have yet to contemplate the suffering of my Savior. That puts my suffering into perspective. It's not that bad, after all.
 
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
 
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

                                   ~Isaac Watts


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Categories
Laughter

The Missing Cookbook

We have long noticed that Samuel is an organization freak. He knows where everything belongs and can get upset when things are not in their proper place.This trait is a blessing when it comes to getting him to clean up his toys. He has been doing this at our prompting–and enjoying it–since he was at least a year and a half old.
 
I remember one evening we were putting his toys away as a prelude to getting ready for bed, and some friends were over at our apartment. I was in Samuel's room telling him to bring me his toys from the living room, and one of our friends decided to help him. He collected a variety of small toys, put them in the bucket portion of Samuel's shape sorter toy, gave it to Samuel, and told him to take it to me. Samuel just stood there looking at him, and it took a bit of coaxing to get him to comply. When Samuel finally handed me the bucket, I understood his reluctance. A few of the items inside did not belong in Samuel's room; they were toys that we kept in a drawer in the living room. Samuel knew this and could not understand why he was being told to take them where they did not belong.
 
Now, at 25 months, when he's finished with a toy, he sometimes puts it away without me saying anything. When he's done with his bath, he usually drains the tub and puts all of his bath toys by himself. He has also become a surprisingly good little helper. One day several months ago I came into the kitchen with a double armload of dirty laundry to put in our front-loading washing machine. Not knowing if he would understand me or not, I said to Samuel, "Can you open the washing machine for Mommy?" He trotted right over and opened it for me! Today when we got home I said, "Oh, Mommy needs to use the potty!" He went straight to the toilet, turned on the light, and opened the door for me!
 
Given that he likes to put things where they belong and he likes to be helpful, his behavior yesterday was bizarre. While cooking lunch, I was referring to my favorite cookbook, which I had sitting open on the kitchen windowsill. When it was time for me to make dinner, I decided to use another recipe from this cookbook. Since I was pressed for time, it was the perfect meal. It was quick to prepare and used ingredients that I had on hand. There was just one problem: I couldn't find the cookbook. I immediately suspected that Samuel had something to do with its disappearance and started to look in all the places where I thought he might have put it. My search included the bookshelf in his bedroom, but my cookbook was nowhere to be found. I finally gave up and made banush, a Ukrainian version of grits and cheese, for dinner.
 
Later that evening, after Samuel was in bed, I carried an armload of dirty laundry into the kitchen. As I squatted down in front of the washer and opened the door, what should I see inside but my missing cookbook!


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Categories
Laughter

2-Year-Oldese

Samuel is a communicator. In the months leading up to his 2nd birthday, he started using sign language extensively to let us know many of his needs and wants. Baby sign language, where parents teach a baby signs so that he can communicate before he is able to talk, is a growing trend right now, but that's not what we were dealing with.
 
When Samuel started to eat at the table with us, I tried to teach him the sign for "more," just to make our mealtimes peaceful, but he didn't seem to catch on, and I gave up. Then one day about a month later, Samuel finished his food and sat quietly signing "more" until George noticed. We were impressed, and we were even more impressed when he began to use the sign for "all done," which we had taught him inadvertently by putting our hands out to the sides when we would ask him if he was "all done." These two signs greatly simplified our lives, letting us know if Samuel was hungry or full, and we were so happy that he was using them.
 
But before long we began to notice other signs. There was "telephone," an open hand held over his ear, "chapstick," signed by tracing his lips with his index finger and thumb held together, and "hairbrush," indicated by stroking the top of his head. Every week or so he would create new signs, using them consistently until we figured out what they meant. We learned that tapping his chest meant "bib," knocking on the table meant "egg," and moving the tip of his tongue back and forth between parted lips meant "toothbrush." There were a few signs that we never did figure out, but I suppose that was due to a lack of imagination on our part, rather than a lapse of intelligence on his.
 
Now, at 25 months of age, he is talking more and more and abandoning the use of signs, but even with speech, he prefers to make up his own language. So bits is pants, and ditz means "music"–and "egg" and "clap" and perhaps "hand," depending on the context. (We think the word ditz originally evolved from the word dance, which is something he loves to do to music. However, he understands the word music when we use it; he simply refuses to use it himself.) Juice means both "juice" (or any liquid, for that matter) and "shoes." I admit that these words sound similar enough that a 2-year-old may be excused for pronouncing them alike. But what about using deedee for "kitty" and "guitar"? In this instance, Samuel's language seems to be tonal, as deedee for "kitty" has a rising then falling intonation, whereas deedee for "guitar" is flat.
 
As with signing, his strategy with speech is to use his chosen word consistently until we learn what it means. His newest one is nerny, which we're still trying to figure out. When pronounced in a whining tone, it seems to mean "an item of food on my plate that I don't want" (as in the sliver of bell pepper on his slice of pizza the other night), but when said with excitement, I think it means "an item of food, not currently in my possession, that I want" (as in the cucumber that I was slicing for a salad the other day).
 
Sometimes we get so absorbed in trying to understand his unique language that we even start to use his vocabulary. I was taken aback one day to hear George say, "Samuel, do you want to go juice on the potty?" How is the child ever going to learn how to communicate if we speak like him? Oh, that's right–he has no trouble communicating, and if English proves to be too much trouble for him, he can always go back to signing. Though he relies mostly on speech now, just last week he added a new sign. Whenever he hears a piano playing, he reaches forward with one hand and wiggles his fingers.


UPDATE, August 18, 2012: Eventually we figured out that nerny meant a fruit or vegetable. And here's another bizarre word from Samuel's 2-Year-Oldese: for many, many months, dub-duh meant "pizza."


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