Archive for the ‘SAHM-hood’ Category

Conflicted

September 23, 2011

After we left our church, we decided to visit another nearby church. Our attention had been caught by banners proclaiming that the church was in the middle of a series on poverty, so we took our social-justice selves and bruised egos on in through the door.

The service was…eh. The music was painful, and the well-meaning sermon was somewhat lacking in a call to thought or action. But the people were friendly. Even if there was a dearth of young families, no one seemed to mind my daughter’s wiggles.

A few days later, we received a letter in the mail. The new church was hosting something of a prospective member brunch, and we were invited by name.

At this point, I must admit, I was struggling. And grieving. Despite the fact that we had spent more than two years at our old church, despite the fact that I had been in the choir, despite the fact that one of my business partners was a member, despite the fact that it had felt like home…not one single person had called to talk to us. Not my business partner. Not a fellow choir member. Not the head of the children’s ministry.

It was as if we had never been there. As if no one even noticed that we were gone.

I was crushed.

But part of me still wanted to go back.

Why? Michael asked. Why do you want to go back, after how they treated us? When here we have a letter inviting us BY NAME to return to a new church? Why?

The answer, of course, is complicated.

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Getting over it

November 19, 2010

I have been attending the same church for, oh, about three years. It’s a biggish church, but not huge. It’s close to our home. I know people there. The theology espoused aligns fairly well with my own, which is to say that the preaching tends to encourage me in the acts I already feel I should do (and challenges me in ways I need to be challenged).

Sometime last year, when we had a generous and loving interim pastor, it started to feel like home. The feeling sort of snuck up on me, as I have spent a great deal of my life seeking a church home, without a lot of success. Plus, the idea of a church “home” is still somewhat alien to my sweetheart, although he understands how important it is to me.

Anyway, I decided it was time to stop standing on the sidelines of the church. I have gifts, and I knew God wanted me to use them. So, as an initial step, I joined the choir. The Bean started to go to children’s church (which unfortunately happens during the worship service). As part of a larger group, M, Bean and I visited home-bound church members. We didn’t exactly throw ourselves into every activity the church has to offer, but it was a start.

As time passed, I made friends in the choir. At the end of each rehearsal, we shared our joys and sorrows, and we prayed for each other. We supported one another, bolstered one another, hugged one another. It was a strong group before I joined, but I felt very welcome.

In the summer, however, the choir takes a break. Last summer, my family traveled a lot, so we weren’t around every Sunday. In the meantime, my little Pumpkin grew bigger, more vociferous and more active. Those Sundays when we were at church, I held her in my lap when she started to get wiggly.

Then came the fall. Choir started up again. The first Sunday we sang in church, Pumpkin did not behave like an angel. She behaved like a tired, cranky one-year-old who did not want to sit still and be quiet and who did not understand why her momma wasn’t there to cuddle her. In short, she cried. M took her out of the sanctuary several times–one occasion lasting nearly the entire sermon.

I was mortified, but more than that, I felt sorry for my little girl. When the choir walked back down the aisle, Pumpkin nearly launched herself onto the floor in an effort to get to me. I left the group to hold her and comfort her.

A few moments later, when the service had completely ended, I became aware of some angry words coming from a few pews ahead of me. A furious older man was addressing my husband. I did not hear the entire tirade, but the gist of it was that my daughter did not belong in the sanctuary during worship.

My daughter was not welcome in the church.

My baby was not welcome.

I sat in my choir robe and rocked Pumpkin, but inside I felt as if I were falling. Alternating waves of anger and sadness washed over me. I wanted to hand the baby off to my husband and confront the man. I wanted to remind him that Jesus asked for the little children to come to him. I wanted to ask him why he chose to sit next to a small child if he could not deal with some restlessness. I wanted to hand him the laminated note that resides in each pew to remind people of WHY kids need to be in church. I wondered how many other people felt the way he did. I wanted to cry.

Instead, I rocked my baby and held everything in. Two well-meaning women came over to comfort us and remind me that the church does have a nursery.

Yes, the church has a nursery. But call me crazy; I think kids belong in church. I could list off a dozen reasons, but that isn’t the point. The point is, it’s my choice. Mine and my husband’s. And we have chosen to keep her in the service.

We sit near the back for an easy escape, should one be necessary. We bring toys and snacks and pacifiers. We do what we can to make our kids’ presence tolerable for other churchgoers.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough. When we left church, I exploded. I spent the next three days trying to deal with my anger. M was furious, too, and not inclined to forgive. We debated the merits of leaving the church, but I wasn’t comfortable with that. Perhaps the man been in a bad mood for some unrelated reason. Perhaps he regretted what he had said. I had to find out.

Wednesday was choir rehearsal, and the man whose words had begun this upheaval would be there. I was nervous, but I went. Afterward, I headed outside to confront him, but he ducked out in a hurry.

The following Sunday, we were running late. M and the girls dropped me off so I could get into my robe. While I was hurrying through the vestibule, a woman said to me, “Got your kids in the nursery this morning?”

Not hello. Not good morning. Not nice to see you. Because obviously all of those sentiments were secondary to keeping my girls out of the sanctuary.

I was livid, and I could think of nothing else as I donned my robe, as I walked to the front of the church, as I sat and tried to turn my thoughts to God.

The service began. M and the girls were in the usual pew in the  back. Five minutes later, as usual, Bean and the other school-age kids left for children’s church. A man stood to read scripture, and with a jolt, I realized it was the man who had been so mean to us. Not only was he in the choir, he was a church leader!

I had hardly had a chance to deal with that surprise when Pumpkin began to wail. M picked her up and walked out of the sanctuary and straight on out of the church. I began to cry.

The sermon began. It was Christian Education Sunday. Our new pastor preached about how important it was to teach kids about God. He extolled the efforts of the children’s ministry. I looked around and began to count. How many kids were in the sanctuary, anyway? Exactly one, and he is thirteen years old.

I cried some more. I prayed. I hoped that M and Pumpkin would come back. They didn’t.

The choir stood and sang an anthem. I don’t even remember its name; I sang with tears running down my face. The service ended. I walked to the back of the church with the rest of the choir. A church meeting was beginning, but I gathered the bags and jackets M had left behind. I walked to the choir room and put away my robe. Still crying, I set out to find the Bean.

I found her in a basement classroom, still finishing up children’s church. I took her outside to look for M and Pumpkin, but they were not in sight. We went back inside and made our way to the fellowship hall. They were not there, but I did find three teenagers who had opted to nap rather than attend worship. Obviously the Christian education was working like a charm.

Finally someone stepped in from the patio door and asked if I was Holly. Someone had told her my husband and daughter were sleeping under a tree beside the parking lot. With tears still on my face, I walked past the choir director and his family and headed out to find my own.

We found them. We left. And we decided to start looking for a new church.

New momma advice

January 8, 2010

The wife of a college friend is expecting, and she asked for advice. She actually ASKED! Of course, when I tried to post my two cents on her blog, it kept reloading and freaking out. (Hm…maybe she doesn’t want advice after all.) But having written my thoughts out, I couldn’t just scrap them. So they are, for anyone to read.

My two biggest pieces of new momma advice:

  1. Keep in shape while you are pregnant.
  2. ASK FOR HELP!

Exercising and eating right are hugely important. They will keep you and the baby healthy. They will give you energy to prepare for the baby’s arrival (and to stay awake!). They will give you the stamina to endure labor, give birth and be a momma 24 hours a day. I cannot stress this enough: stay in shape!

As far as asking for help…I always have a hard time admitting to my friends that I don’t have it all together (as if they don’t know). I have a hard enough time getting things done without a baby to care for; trying to do so with a little one is almost impossible. There are days when getting dressed is a huge accomplishment!

The greatest new mom gifts I received were gifts of time–when my mom took the baby for a walk around town so I could nap, when my sister came with me to the first baby check-up, and when my in-laws kept big sister overnight so Michael and I could bond with the new baby.

(And the diaper service. I love the diaper service.)

Often people–even the ones who love you dearly–are clueless about what you really need. And before the baby arrives, it’s easy to pretend that it won’t really be that hard.

It will be. At least in the beginning.

Ask for help. Ask your neighbor to cook you dinner. Ask your best friend to do your laundry. Ask someone else to pick up groceries…and let go enough that it doesn’t matter if it isn’t the brand you usually buy, or if she used an odd-smelling detergent. These are small things in the aftermath of a new arrival.

I promise your friends will help. You just have to show them how.

Hopey news

January 4, 2010

It has been two weeks since Hope’s surgery, and I still haven’t posted about it. Sorry. In my defense, it is Christmastime, plus we’ve just endured a massive snowstorm.

Anyway. Hope’s surgery went relatively well. The two little bumps are history, as is the cartilage root that was hidden beneath one of them. Her stitches are already out, and her skin is healing wonderfully. She barely even needed the painkillers the surgeon prescribed. So, yay, God!

On the less great front, prior to the surgery, she developed a serious ear infection in her “good” ear, so they couldn’t do the hearing test. So we still don’t know if she has hearing in her right ear. Which was the whole reason for having the general anesthesia in the first place.

Grf.

She just finished up a course of antibiotics, and on Monday we’ll see if the infection has cleared up. If it has, we’ll reschedule the hearing test, which will mean another half-day at the hospital, more (but milder) general anesthesia, and more medical bills.

And so the carousel flies.

But life is not all hospitals and medical bills (thank God), and neither is my Hopey news. Yesterday Little Miss Bliss sprouted her first tooth! She hasn’t bitten me yet, and my breasts and I are aiming to keep it that way.

The two faces of Hope

December 11, 2009

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25

In eleven days, my daughter is supposed to have surgery to remove two small branchial cleft remnants on her face. Immediately afterward, before she wakes, she have a bone conduction hearing test to determine whether and to what extent her right ear works.

I am consumed with worry.

I am not, however, worried about her hearing. At least, not today. Today I am more-or-less at peace with her ear. Whatever will be, will be. And I have known many people who thrive with partial or total deafness, so even if her ear is completely nonfunctional, I know she will be fine.

I am worried about the general anesthesia she will undergo as part of the procedure. I am worried that she won’t wake up from the anesthesia–1 in 250,000 people don’t, and the risk is higher in infants. I am worried that we’re taking an enormous risk for a mostly cosmetic procedure, since the hearing test can be done with a much milder (but still general) sedation.

The doctors tell me that this isn’t just cosmetic, that there is a chance of infection or other problems with the remnants. And we should do it now, while she’s young, to minimize scarring. But I still can’t shake the feeling that the doctors are influenced by traditional ideas of beauty. Or, failing that, just expectations of how people “should” look.

My daughter is adorable. She has two little bumps on her face, but they are just bumps. Who cares if she has bumps on the edge of her face?

Here is where I admit that I am a hypocrite. I don’t want to care about physical beauty, but I do. Because I know that the wider world does, and I don’t want my daughter to feel inferior because she has bumps on her face. After surgery, her face will be different. No bumps.

I want to teach my girls that it is what is on the inside that counts. I want them to know that real beauty cannot be seen with the eyes. If I make a decision to alter Hope’s appearance, will they believe me?

Coming Soon…

November 11, 2009

Though you couldn’t tell from here, I have been silently and sneakily preparing a ton of fun posts. Commencing tomorrow (or later tonight if I can find the photo card reader) will be:

  1. My week in pictures
  2. The scariest coloring book EVAH! (This was supposed to be for Halloween, but time got away from me.)
  3. More hideous cookbooks
  4. Preservation marathon!
  5. Silly parties galore

…as well as the usual ramblings of a madwoman. Hopefully a good time will be had by all. See you soon.

Proud Momma moment #2

September 30, 2009

My in-laws bought the Bean a book called Little Mommy by Sharon Kane.  It is about a little girl mothering her babydolls. It’s sweet, but it’s also a “classic”…meaning it was originally published some time ago. And the gender roles show it.

For that reason, I don’t like to read it to her. I don’t want her growing up to believe that all women (all mommies) stay at home while their husbands work. (And, yes, I am aware of the irony that I currently am a stay-at-home mom. )

I consciously work to defray gender role programming in my daughter, because I want HER to decide what she wants out of life and who she wants to be. When “Big Girls Don’t Cry” comes on the radio, I sing “DO cry”. When “I Want to Be Bobby’s Girl” comes on, I just change the channel.

I don’t buy her Barbies, Disney Princesses or Fairies…but I don’t throw them out when others give them to the Bean. Those are just different ideas of female identity, and it’s okay for her to be exposed to them. I just don’t want her to get those ideas from ME.

I give her puzzles and books and toys that could be fun for girls or boys. And, yes, I had to deal with a little sadness when she started REQUESTING Barbies. But I’ve also gotten to see the Barbies play with Buzz and Woody and Sully in the dollhouse.

Back to Little Mommy and the proud moment. What is the one scene I’ve seen the Bean act out? Sweeping? Cooking? Hanging laundry out to dry? No…

There she sits with her toy stethoscope, examining Mary-doll. Mary, Bean proclaims, has the “mumbledy bumps”. Just like page 15 in Little Mommy, in which a little BOY doctor diagnoses the same problem.

My daughter rocks.

Momma faith

September 18, 2009

And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.’

But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, ‘Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.’

But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’

But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’

And He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’

But she said, ‘Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.’

Then Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed at once.”

–Matthew 15:22-28

A few weeks ago, my pastor used this passage as the theme for his weekly sermon. I cried at the end of the service, in part because this is one of my favorite stories, and we arrived so late that I missed nearly all of the sermon. But also because I wish I had faith that strong. Because my daughters deserve a mother with faith strong enough to intercede for them.

I haven’t written about this before, but it’s not a secret. My younger daughter was born without an opening in her right ear. At the moment, we do not know if she even HAS an inner ear, although I’m pretty certain she does. Basically, it could be something as simple as a thick layer of skin cells that didn’t die away in utero when they were supposed to. Or it could be a complete lack of inner ear workings. Or something in between.

Next Friday we will visit Boys Town National Research Hospital for a four-hour evaluation. And, hopefully, we will find out what we don’t know.

I vacillate between utter confidence that her ear is okay except for some excess skin (she hears just fine) and terror that we are in for years of surgery.

So we come back to momma faith. I know that God has the power to make her ear whole and complete, today or yesterday. I believe that He can heal her. I just don’t know if I believe He will.

2009 Summer reading status

July 22, 2009

I had forgotten how quickly I finish books when I have a nursing infant. Unfortunately, I had also forgotten how hard it is to type with only one hand. So reading is ahead of schedule, while posting is sadly behind.

Status?

Completed: 2 1/2 books from the summer ’09 list, one from summer ’08 and one from no list at all. And I read Coming Home again. (The shame!)

  1. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
  2. In Defense of Food
  3. My Secret Diary
  4. The Red and the Black
  5. Dark Lord of Derkholm

In hand: 2 1/2 books from the summer ’09 list and three library books checked out when I discovered The Great Gatsby and From the MixedUp Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler were both unavailable.

  1. My Secret Diary
  2. Cookwise
  3. The Great Gatsby (thank heavens I still have access to my mum’s library)
  4. Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone
  5. The Fruit Hunters
  6. Home Cheese Making

Not currently completed, in hand or available at the public library: three books, two of which are considered classics.

  1. Harriet the Spy
  2. From the MixedUp Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  3. Gulliver’s Travels

My girls

June 28, 2009

Sisters!

Say hello to our new arrival and her very proud big sister!