Moments, Studying God

Which is better?

Julie / October 4, 2012

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
(Hebrews 11:32-38 ESV)

I had a great conversation with Ellie this week.  We were talking about sin and the blood of Jesus, and she went on this little tangent about the men who put the screws in Jesus’s hands.  And she wanted to know if they were still out there, and going to come after her, too.

Nope, those men are dead.  But, um, yes, Christians in some places are still persecuted for their faith.  Like in the story of Daniel, except sometimes God doesn’t shut the lions’ mouths.

Well then, I’m not gonna tell the bad men that I love Jesus.  I just won’t tell them.

The conversation had a little poignancy, a little urgency to it.  I’ve never experienced “persecution” in any real sense of the word, and I’ve never expected to.  But—doesn’t it seem like the world is changing?  Maybe I just wasn’t aware of all the persecution of Christians in other countries, especially predominantly Muslim countries.  Regardless, I don’t know what the world is going to be like by the time she grows up.  I’m beginning to see that all things can change very fast.  And maybe she’ll end up a missionary in a closed country.  The conversation seemed relevant.  Children are not immune from martyrdom, as plenty of historical and modern examples attest.  If we didn’t live in a free country, she could be called on—even at four—to answer for her faith.

And so I tried to explain.  We talked about heaven.  We talked about great-great-grandparents, unborn babies, and old friends.  We talked about that one day, if not all at once, we would be there—Mommy, Daddy.  And we talked about what is better than staying alive.  Heaven is better.  Serving Jesus is better.  Praising Jesus is better.  Talking about Jesus is better.  It is what we were made to do, what fulfills us and makes us happy.

Because the alternative to martyrdom could be Hell.  If we grasp more firmly to life and to comfort in the now, then eternity would lack both.

The awesome thing was watching her face and hearing her responses.  Real fear, even though she has no idea what are the worst things (or even the bad things) that humans can do to each other, just the graphic detail of nails in hands is enough for trembling.  And yet she also had a very real quiet resignation: heaven is better, Mommy?  Heaven is worth it?  Jesus is worth it?  I watched her face as she worked her way through the dilemma, and finally settled: “Well, okay, then, Mommy. Although I am scared.–

It wasn’t a watershed moment.  How much does a four year old understand?  How much conviction can she retain?  It just is what it is.  Nevertheless, watching a four year old decide that it was better to have nails put in her hands, and, specifically, “make Mammaw sad when you have to tell her that I died,” than to deny Christ—that was a pretty challenging thing to witness.

And I would be sad, too, a fact which seemed lost on Ellie!  Still—it is better.  And I’d be grateful, and eager to meet up with my little chica again.



Taking things literally…

Julie / February 3, 2011

Our car shop is in walking distance, so S left after he got home, on foot, to pick up our car. This conversation promptly ensued:

E: Where did Daddy go?
Me: He went to get the car.
E: Oh, it’s fixed already!?
Me: Mmm-hmm.
E: Where did Daddy go?
Me: He went to pick up the car.
E: He can’t lift up the car, it’s too heavy!
Me: (laugh) that’s true… I mean… he went to get the car, to bring the car.
E: Oh. (long pause) Did the neighbors fix our car?


Just pretend this is a baby book.

Julie / December 9, 2010

I am a poor record-keeper.  Which is a bit odd, since I enjoy writing, but somehow these things–the days of first steps, first words, trials and triumphs–they escape my notice.  This attitude was quite solidified the first time E got into some “precious” item of my own past and did it some damage, and I realized that the here-and-now reality of my little daughter was more important to me than the memory of times and people past.  Things burn and turn to dust.  And I struggle, likewise, with finding events particularly important in the context of eternity: far too much, I think; there is surely some value in baby books and memorials, and it is my own fault for having trouble finding it.

At any rate, E’s life has been more chronicled than R’s, in no small part because people bugged me about it more.  Did you write it down?  Did you get her footprints stamped?  Did you send off for her birth certificate? (Yes, we do have R’s birth certificate, but it was literally months later in arriving than E’s was!)  But there is one thing that has really struck me lately about R, and so I thought it was perhaps worth a post: I do believe the child talks more now, at 14 months, than E did even on her second birthday.  It’s probably E’s “fault,” because she talks to R from sunup to sundown and R’s vocabulary is clearly reflective of her elder sister’s more than my own.  And I’m not implying a difference in intelligence, either: I frankly don’t really follow milestones at all anymore, but I’m pretty sure there’s a wide range of “normal” in speech development and the girls’ personalities could easily put them at opposite ends of the spectrum even without their own interactions.  That said; R’s words, as nearly as I can recall them all; words she says spontaneously/unprompted, consistently, and clearly:

  • names: Ellie, Mommy, Daddy, Mammaw, Grandad
  • bye, hi, night night, mmm-wee, up, me, I (love you), awwww, whee, please, no, baby, milk, eat, boo, uh-oh, ice, eyes
  • she sings, semi-recognizably (you can tell which one she’s trying for): ring around the rosie, the alphabet song, twinkle twinkle, itsy bitsy spider, and old macdonald

I also want to remember something that is incredibly special to me to watch: while the girls have long played with each other–and nicely–lately they’ve actually been moving into a stage of being actively affectionate with each other.  It astounds me to see how patient E is with R’s physically clumsy attempts to hug, tickle, tackle, and give her kisses, and it’s also unfathomably neat to see R initiating said hugs and playfulness instead of just being on the receiving end all the time.  There are few moments in my entire life that have made me as happy and almost giddy as walking into a room and finding them sitting next to each other playing, “reading” a book together, or just plain hanging out.  They have their small moments of disgruntledness, but they’re much less than I’d expect given that they’re both still pretty clumsy (prone to flatly knocking each other down by accident!) and that the lines of communication are distinctly limited.


Sisters & Socialization

Julie / August 15, 2010

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I really love watching our girls together.  Today they fell asleep at naptime with their arms literally wrapped around each other, and I just kept thinking about how if anyone else was “in” their personal space that way, they’d never be able to go to sleep.  And how amazing it is that a ten-month-old can cuddle with a two-year-old and actually find it calming rather than distracting (E is apparently even more calming than Mommy), and that a two-year-old can contain herself to gentle pats and head rubs and no sudden movements that jolt her sister back awake.  Sometimes they end up such a tangle of limbs (and so similarly-sized, at that!) that you can hardly tell where one begins and the other one ends.

We were at the mall yesterday, and E was getting tired, so I helped her into the umbrella stroller behind R.  They’re getting a little bit too big to ride side-by-side anymore, but with the back tilted, I think they’ll fit this way until they’re really both too big for a stroller anyway.  I wasn’t sure how it would work, but they both thought it was just the neatest thing ever, and cooed and talked and giggled at each other until we were back at the car.  R kept leaning back and turning half-around against E in very cuddly fashion, which E of course thought was very sweet.

Yesterday morning, they were both walking around the house with toy phones, chattering away.

It is so incredibly neat to me that even though they’re seventeen months apart, they still manage to really connect and actually play together.  They have quite a few “games”–maybe five–that they like to play, but they also play with toys together and E really tries to teach R how to do things, and R clearly tries to imitate her.  E will put a baby down in a cradle; R will come along behind her and dump more babies in.  They’re definitely on different levels, but they find so many common points to share.

I really didn’t expect this to happen until they were at least two and three, maybe even older.


The Adventures of R and E


Today was one of the (many) days when the awesomeness of being a mommy to two little girls is nothing short of overwhelming.  The girls played so very, very many games today that I lost count. 

There was “boo,” which they played over and over again, switching the instigator; then they had a couple games that involved screaming similar sounds back and forth at each other (“aaaaaaaaah!!!!”  “eehhhhh!”  “bababababa!!!”); they rode the rocking giraffe together; they played with Matchboxes and made vrooom-vrooom noises together; and at one amazingly precious moment this morning, E was laying on the kitchen floor and R came over and climbed on top of her (like she would to S or me) and laid her head down on E’s chest and sucked her thumb contentedly while E patted her gently on the back.  When R was getting sleepy and going down for a nap, E rubbed her leg and sang “La Lechuza” and R fell asleep.  E made R pretend “tea,” and R brought E some sunglasses and tried to put them on E’s face for her.

It’s astounding how different a child can be at ten months just because she has an older sister.  I don’t remember E playing games this way–I mean, I know she did, I remember her playing “boo” and the like–but sometimes R seems like a miniature, much less coordinated version of E.  Well, except completely different, personality-wise, but I mean as far as what she does and tries to do.  Already, if E does something, R will probably try to do it.  She tries to brush her own hair, and put barrettes in; she tries to sweep the floor and wipe down random surfaces she even “helped” me unload the dishwasher very much like E does.

I’m also really surprised by how many games a two-year-old and a ten-month-old can invent to play together.  I thought they’d be playing “beside” each other (instead of “with” each other) for a couple of years yet, but they really interact quite a bit.  E definitely pushes it; she’ll get a toy and sit down right in front of R, or grab R by the hand and lead her around the house or in a rendition of “Ring Around the Rosie.”  But R is totally along for the ride, and sometimes she’ll eagerly grab for E’s hand to get her to play again.  (And sometimes she screams her head off because she doesn’t want to play right now, thank you very much.  And the two of them wanting the same toy is not a pretty sight, either, because neither of them quite grasps the idea that the other is going to be very upset if you just grab a toy out of their hand.  They both seem quite willing to share once the idea enters their heads, but sometimes they just blaze on with whatever they want without even considering the other.)

Having two girls has definitely opened up a whole new level of wonder–watching them together is so many times sweeter than just watching one of them!


the weaning of R

I am one of those mothers who “plans” to breastfeed to age two–as per the World Health Organization’s recommendation (amongst many others)–and is pretty militant about going to at least a year.  E lasted until seventeen months, and I thought that was a little short.

R was weaned, completely, by nine months.

I have very, very mixed thoughts about this.  I certainly didn’t plan it, and I don’t feel like we had much choice.  She’d fallen off the chart (as in, below the 0-3% tier of averages) and was starting to look a little peaky to me–not to mention that the child was clearly hungry all the time–so it was an easy decision to introduce formula.  Since she was never a comfort nurser, and didn’t nurse to sleep, either… she pretty much quit.  And I realized I was prolonging it for no reason, since she wouldn’t nurse long enough to get any nutritional benefit (we’re talking seconds to a minute before she decided her thumb was preferable), and so I decided to see if anything happened if I stopped forcing it.  Nothing happened.  Life went on.  And R gained 15% extra body weight in less than a month (putting her back in that 0-3% tier), which was a confirmation if nothing else was.

I’m a little abashed, sometimes.  I have an opinion about formula brands.  I never had experience to have an opinion before.  I look for coupons.  I used to give away the free samples.  This whole thing, this bottle-feeding, this isn’t me.  This isn’t what I know is “best,” and I’d totally agree with anyone who decided to preach at me in the grocery store.  Yet this is what I’m doing, the little facts of our lives.

It’s given me a new level of compassion for formula-feeding mommies.  How must it feel, to bring a newborn baby into the formula aisle, and cringe at every passerby and wonder what they must be thinking, judging?  How do you wake yourself up five times in the middle of the night to mix up a new bottle correctly, or ascertain whether or not the old bottle is still good–all that thought, only to try to go back to sleep again afterwards?  How much extra work goes into washing all those bottles?  And the mess!  Bottles, sippy cups… drip, drip, drip.  Splash.  Spit-out.  Spit-up.  Too-vigorous shaking leads to formula exploding out the spouts. Not to mention the expense.  I haven’t figured out how much it’s costing us, but sometimes it seems like formula costs more than diapers–and it doesn’t help that the canisters generally aren’t very clear about how many servings each contains.  And they seem to empty faster than water in a sieve.  Lastly, there’s the psychological aspect: R doesn’t need me anymore.  I can’t imagine not having that bond of needfulness with a newborn–having Daddy be able to fill my role entirely, or even a babysitter.  Now that R knows all about sippy cups, I think she’d even take one from a perfect stranger!  Who needs Mommy anymore?

Of course, all these downsides have an ‘upside,’ too, and presumably they’re what leads moms to not even try breastfeeding.  And I’m still with the pro-breastfeeding advocates one-hundred percent: I think it’s wrong to not do as much as is reasonable and good (which I am leaving deliberately vague ;-)) to make breastfeeding a long-lasting success; certainly it’s morally wrong to tell a new mommy to just give up, that formula is just as good: that’s a definite and vicious lie.

In the meantime, though, I find myself a formula-feeding mommy for these short months until R is completely onto solids and whole milk.  And if I’m honest, I have to be at least a little bit thankful for the technology and science that makes formula possible.

Apparently, it’s not all bad.  🙂


My Little Cubby

We have a tiny little “room” in our house (more of a walk-in closet, really) which is where the washer and dryer live. It’s also my “craft” room–it houses my yarn and fabric collections, my sewing machines, and also my clothes (the closet in the master bedroom is S’s and the linens’ domain). It’s a rather nicely organized little room, with a worktable, cabinets, shelving, drawers, and a multitude of drying racks.

It is also, however, an invisible room: being a dead end, no one besides me ever traffics though, and there’s no reason why any company would ever go in there–even overnight guests. And so, it is a room with all the usual tendencies to disorder, but without any justification to really add it to the cleaning rotation. There’s always somewhere that needs cleaned more; another job that needs done first.  Every other spot in the house is “more” important, from the basement to the coat closet.  Over the years, my little hideaway had consequently gotten to be quite a wreck, a mass of strewn clothes from a particular toddler helping with the laundry, and piles of boxes and containers quickly tossed in there because it is indeed quite a significant amount of storage space for our house.

But while the girls and I were in Tennessee earlier this month, and S was home by himself, he tackled it.  He cleaned it out, sorted through and organized my stuff (without throwing anything away!), prettied it up, and basically made it all perfect again.  This was at first an odd choice of task, to my mind, but in the week since, I’ve really come to appreciate it.  Even though it’s a very dark and kind of dingy room (remember it’s technically a closet), I love going in there and doing laundry or just standing there drinking in the orderliness.  Everything is so organized and patiently waiting for me to find time to sew, or knit, or scrapbook, or… laundry.

I l like my little cubby.  🙂  And the fabulous fellow who put so much time and effort into fixing it for me.