Mothering, Studying God, Toddlers

God of Monsters

Our house has recently suffered a monster infestation.  Apparently, there are monsters in the garage, monsters in the bathroom, even monsters in the living room.  Or so our two-year-old tells me.  She is deeply afraid.1007389_monster

Every time she exclaims,”but there’s a monster!” and refuses to go into a room (or refuses to be left alone in one), the nice, pat answer pops into my head: there’s no such thing as monsters, sweetie.

But really, by what definition is that true?  No scary beasts? What are pythons, hippopotamuses, whales, sharks, cobras, or hyenas? No invisible, silent killers? Like viruses?  Nothing supernatural, profoundly evil, and devious? There’s fallen angels and demons.  Rare but human evil? Serial killers, child molesters, genocidal dictators.  Nothing commonplace and evil? We need look no farther than the mirror.  I can’t tell her monsters don’t exist.  It’s not outside of the sovereignty of God that there could indeed be a murderer lurking in the closet, after all.

So what can I say?  I can dutifully go and look, and inform her that there is nothing there.  But lately we’ve been working through our own little monster catechism: Who is bigger than the monsters? God.  Who is in control over the monsters? God.  Who created everything, even the monsters? God.  Who is the only one Who can keep you safe from the monsters? God. Who is always with us, always watching us? God.  So should you be afraid?  No.

I’m struck by the questions that are missing from our little rehearsal. There’s no promise of safety, no promise of a monsterless room, no promise of protection.  This is one of the times when I’m deeply feeling the difference between being a Christian parent and being a lost one.  I’d like to tell her some empty platitudes about how everything is going to be all right, there’s no such thing as monsters, that Mommy’s going to keep her safe.  But that’s not true, and I’d rather teach her that there is One who is completely capable of keeping her safe, One who is perfectly good–and teach her that she can depend on His goodness and mercy whether there’s a monster in the next room or not, whether the monsters are banished or whether they have her for supper.

She’s beginning to grasp some of this.  “I can go upstairs because God will be with me?” Yes. “I don’t have to be afraid?” Yes.  She recites our little litany herself now, and it actually works.  While I can’t persuade her with promises of chocolate (yes, I’ve tried), she apparently can be persuaded by the very idea of an invisible God.  It’s thoroughly cool, and also terrifying, because I want her to have a right vew of God, and it’s so hard to explain Him to a two-year-old.  Has she noticed that I haven’t promised that God would keep her safe, only that He can? Is her idea of God like a cosmic Santa Claus? Am I communicating also the incredible depth of the justice and righteousness of God? His fearsomeness? That He is, in fact, more worthy of fear than any monster that could ever haunt her dreams? It’s complicated to communicate all this to her.

For Mommy, though, this has all been a really good reminder.  I shouldn’t be brave because I’m grown-up enough to think that the monsters don’t really exist.  Whether the monsters are imaginary ones lurking in the garage, or real ones lurking on street corners, I should be brave because God is God over them as surely as He is God over me.

Mothering

Three under three, and HOME ALONE.

If you had told me when E was just born–and I hardly knew how to make it through Seth’s 12-hour shifts alone by myself–that I would one day be watching three children aged two and under all by myself for a week, repeatedly, I would have told you you were crazy.  (Primarily because I was a brand-new mom with no idea of how easy I had it, but that’s another story!)

SONY DSC

[E, 2 years; R, 1 year; L, 2 months]

But as it turns out, Seth’s job has turned into one with a good deal of long business trips, which leaves me home with the munchkins all day and all night for days.  We survive, and honestly I enjoy the change of pace every once in a while.

(more…)

Studying God

Crazy faith.

Daniellion

We tell our children stories–bedtime stories, childhood stories, true stories, moral stories, all kinds of stories.  One of my favorite quotes in the context of parenting is of G.K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”  There’s an important role for fairy tales.

But we tell some other crazy insane unbelievable tales in this house, too.  We talk about fire raining down on a city, dead girls coming back to life, young men being thrown in a furnace, chariots of fire, old ladies having babies, a great King on a horse, streets made of gold, eternity made of fire, a land with no need for a sun, dead people walking around, food falling out of heaven, rivers turned to blood, oil that never runs out, young boys slaying bears and giants, men walking on water, donkeys that talk, and of men thrown to lions.  And every time I tell one of these stories, I’m struck by just exactly how fairy-tale-like they are.  Hansel and Gretel sounds downright factual in comparison.

But they’re true.  Does it hit you, ever, how utterly crazy our faith must seem?  If I heard of some remote tribe that believed all this stuff, I’d think, wow, they’re really superstitious suckers.

I want our children to believe in this world that must seem like make-believe to the outsiders; I want it to be as natural to them as breathing.  I want them to believe in miracles, to trust with all their hearts that God is sovereign over the food they ate for breakfast, the paving-stones their feet fall on as they walk to class; the moment of their awakening and the moment of their slumber.

I want them to know the True Stories, to know them inside and out and know that the craziness isn’t make-believe, that it’s all real, that we’re real children of a real King, with real justice and real mercy and a coming real kingdom.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,      
 
    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
        and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
 
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
(1 Corinthians 1:18-21 ESV)

Studying God

Maranatha

SONY DSCI find myself perplexed as I consider E’s increasing understanding and curiosity about spiritual things.  Like I said in an earlier post, there are tiny little pieces of the Gospel that she grasps.  And like the very title of my blog attests, she’s already a sinner.  She already needs Jesus.  She’s rebellious, and I dare say that her behavior is already worse than I would hope for in a regenerate child.  So, if Jesus came back today, is our wonderful little two-year-old already set for hell?

I honestly don’t spend very much time pondering the subject. I know that God is both gracious and good, and that the ultimate course of her life is already written and wholly unalterable by me. I know that in heaven I won’t struggle to praise Him for sending even those nearest to me into an eternity of judgement and pain.  But I do find my heart sharply pricked by one little phrase in Scripture: come, Lord Jesus! Part of me–still a sinner!–wants to temper that cry with a “not yet.”  Don’t come back until our children are Yours, Jesus.

It doesn’t seem like a terrible error.  I can still scoff at people who say foolishness like “but I want to get married before I go to heaven,” right?  After all, I’m not putting some vain earthly pursuit ahead of my earnestness for Christ, this is my children’s salvation I’m talking about. And it’s not like I’m not still looking forward to Christ coming back, I just want our kids to be out of limbo-land first.

I was really convicted yesterday about this. Eternity is about Christ, not who else He brings there, and nothing must stand between me and my longing for that day, longing to see His face, longing for His glory to be made known from the furthest reaches of space to the depths of the earth.  I should want our children’s salvation so that their voices would add to His praise, not because I want to hold onto them.

I never cease to be amazed by my ability to be distracted from Him.

Recommendations

My favorite bouncer.

SONY DSC

Yes, it’s another product review.  I just honestly have been so impressed by this bouncer that I had to share. Smile  Someday I’m going to write an entry about pacifiers and breastfeeding, too, and then I think I’ll be all product-ed out.

Fisher Price makes “rockers” that convert from a stationary bouncer to a sort of rocking chair for toddlers.  This is what I asked for, and received, at the baby shower for our first child, and I’ve been very happy with it–it has made it through three children (often more than one at once) with aplomb.  It’s still going strong.  I had another bouncer, a much cheaper second-hand item, that I kept on the other floor, though, and it was biting the dust.

I should perhaps add here that I’m not a fan of swings.  A baby that’s happy in a bouncer will be equally happy on a pile of blankets at someone else’s house, or in a carseat; a baby that’s happy in a swing will be happy in a swing. That’s my experience, anyway, and so this time around we aimed our two swings at the dumpster and decided to invest in a second bouncer instead.

This is not my kid.I seriously considered getting a second one exactly like the first, but then I saw this one.  It’s a little more expensive, maybe simply because it’s newer, but I loved the idea that the toy bar swung out of the way, and also that the bouncer itself folds up for easy transport and small storage.  I was a little worried about its plastic construction–the cheaper bouncer-rocker is made out of metal–but it’s still rated for forty pounds, which means it can still easily handle our toddlers if they rebelliously venture into it. It’s also a little more matchy with our living room than the blue one is.

So I ordered it, sight unseen, and very excitedly pulled it out of the box and put it together.  We love it.  Baby and I, I mean.  What you can’t really tell from the picture is that it’s very broad.  It doesn’t seem to take up more floorspace than the other bouncers I’ve used, but it’s a lot more bed-like and supportive.  It has a pretty good range of tilt to the seat, too.  It’s also a lot more sturdy than I expected it to be, and the legs work well.  You can definitely drag it across the floor without the legs folding under, but it also has enough grippiness that it stays still when one of the girls knocks into it.  The toy bar folding away is every bit as convenient as I hoped it would be, and honestly I’m kind of glad that it doesn’t make a lot of noise like most bouncer bars!  (It doesn’t make any noise at all, in fact.)  The toy creatures are a little frightening–child the eldest asked why the bugs had so many eyes–but bright and colorful and positioned at a good height.  The whole thing is a little brighter than it looks in the pictures, honestly, which is one of the few negatives since I was hoping it would blend with our décor.  Also not obvious from the pictures is that the bouncer is quite low to the floor, much more than the other bouncer-rocker.  This too is a good thing with toddlers around the house: it would be really hard for them to purposefully or accidentally knock the bouncer over, but it’s still high enough and sturdy enough that they’re unlikely to fall into the bouncer the way they do with a regular, close-to-the-floor bouncer.  (Our first daughter occasionally flipped over her sister’s bouncer–happily I caught it and no damage was ever done to said sister–it was scary, though!)

In short, this is the perfect bouncer to have around when you have two under two, or three under three.

SONY DSC

Recommendations

On swaddling and swaddlers.

4.16.08eliana 005

(a swaddled, newborn E)

So, I’ve had three little babies so far, and swaddled all of them to varying extents.  I’ve done blanket swaddles, which always make me nervous because it’s a blanket, which everyone knows you’re not supposed to have within 10 feet of a newborn, but I’ve mostly used the different swaddling products.

First up, we have the SwaddleMe, which was all I’d heard of or seen in stores when our first daughter was born.  We thought it worked just fine, but then other swaddlers came out and I began to wonder.  There are three main points I think it’s important to make about the SwaddleMe: 1) it’s a pain with a newborn, because you have to unswaddle to change their diaper.  Not something I want to do in the middle of the night.  2) the different fabrics result in very different swaddles. The bamboo is the stretchiest one I’ve used, and consequently works the least well–although it is very nicely lightweight.  The cotton one seems the stiffest and best overall, but I’m currently using the fleece and that is working okay as well.  Lastly, 3) you have to swaddle tightly to have a tight swaddle. I’m convinced this is where the “but my baby wiggles out of it” negative reviews come from.  I don’t just wrap the baby up like I’m trying to keep it warm, I wrap it up like I’m squeezing all the life out.  (And, obviously, I check to make sure that I’m not really accomplishing that!)  None of my three children has ever, a single time, come out of their SwaddleMe.  Their arms don’t escape, and they certainly don’t end up near their face.

I’m still a fan, in other words.

But what about those newer, better swaddlers?  First up is the infinitely expensive Woombie, but let me conflate it with what I presume is a total imitation product, the Swaddlepod.  They’re more or less identical, except the Swaddlepod has a zipper closure I like much, much better (the top zipper disappears under a tiny flap, with MUCH less bulk than the Woombie’s velcro-over-zipper at the top), and the Woombie definitely has less stretch (which is a good thing).  I find both these swaddlers to be great for newborns, because they make it a breeze to change diapers in the middle of the night.  It’s worth it just for that.  I like the Swaddlepod better, thanks in no small part to its lovely price tag.  They’re also much cooler than even the lightest SwaddleMe, because there are so few layers.  But my son wiggled out of them before he was even two months old. The swaddle is just not tight enough.  It got to where every night his hands were stuck up through the neck hole, and they woke him up. So back to the old SwaddleMe we went, and since he makes it through the night without a diaper change now, Mommy and baby are both sleeping much better.

There’s yet another type of swaddler on the market, made by the same company as the SwaddleMe, which seems to be the best of both worlds: a bottom-opening zipper matched with the custom fit of the SwaddleMe’s arm-like wrapping.  I haven’t tried it yet, and it only comes in larger sizes, unfortunately.  But if they made it for newborns, it’d be just about perfect.  Until then, I’ll keep using a Woombie/Swaddlepod-like wrap while the nighttime changes persist, then switch back to the old standby SwaddleMe (I have a bajillion of them in the baby closet anyway!).