Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

The Awkward Phase

May 17, 2011

We decided to find a new church in the fall. I wanted to let the pastor and congregation know why we had left, but hadn’t yet figured out the best way to do it. The pastor had only been installed a few weeks previously, and I really didn’t know him at all. Besides, I’m not very good at telling uncomfortable personal truths face-to-face.

I thought a letter would be best. Or maybe an article for the semi-monthly church newsletter. Something.

Before I had a chance to decide, the church called me. Rather, the church secretary–who periodically checked in to see if we were ready to officially join the congregation–called. “We’re welcoming new members in a few weeks,” she began. “I know you weren’t interested before, but we would love to have you if you want to join.”

And I was caught. What could I say? The thought of lying crossed my mind, but I didn’t really want to. But neither did I really want to tell her everything that had happened, because–among other reasons–that would mean crying. Again.

The silence lengthened. “Well…” I began, the high pitch of my voice betraying my emotions. “We’re not really going to church there anymore.”

“You aren’t? Why not?”

Slowly the story came out. About my noisy daughter and the reactions of people around us. About the man who said my child did not belong in church. The secretary is a very sympathetic woman and was much disturbed by what I had to say. She asked if I would tell the pastor, and I reluctantly agreed.

“We don’t all feel that way about kids in church,” she said before transferring me.

With the pastor listening, I hashed through it all again, my stomach tight, my face wet with tears. And he couldn’t say that the people who had rejected us were a minority, because he was new and barely knew anyone at the church. But he did say that they were wrong, and that it bothered him, and that he would address it.

He asked if we would be back at church; I said I didn’t know. I asked that they not call us, that he would know our decision by our presence–or lack thereof–at church.

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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.

Nyom, nyom, nyom

November 15, 2010

Note: I’m not sure why I didn’t publish when I wrote it, but here it is: only three months after composition.

I’ve been on a baking streak lately. First it was the Bean’s birthday cake:

Then I made chocolate-peanut butter chip cookies, using–alas–the Doubletree Hotel recipe instead of my old Betty Crocker standby that has all the family-approved adjustments written in. They were good, but not great. Which is why we still have a dozen left after two whole weeks–a situation unheard of in our household.

Next I tried a new Smitten Kitchen recipe: Peach Shortbread. Oh, it looked so beautiful in Deb’s photos. And it was tasty, but not what I think of when I think shortbread. A little too close to pie crust in texture. I’d like to try messing around with this recipe to see if I can come up with something more like shortbread, but embedded with some sweet little peach slices as in this recipe.

Tuesday was a dear friend’s birthday, so I made her a single-layer chocolate cake, cutting down the recipe I used for the Bean’s birthday.

Wednesday was the weekly garden Weed-and-Feed potluck, so I made Plum Kuchen. I had a few pints of wild plums from the farmer’s market and a Deborah Madison recipe accompanied by yet another gorgeous photograph. Mine was delicious, even if it wasn’t as pretty as the inspiring picture. I love to cook for garden night, because I can try new recipes without fearing I’ll have to eat a ton of the result. Aside from the Green Tomato Cake (which was HUGE), I have yet to bring home any leftovers.

Yesterday I received a few gallons of pears and apples from my grandparents’ trees. Today I searched for pear recipes online. I found another Smitten recipe: Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake. So I made it for tonight’s dessert, to share with my parents and in-laws. Ooh, yummy.

Up next? Another Deborah Madison recipe: Cornmeal Crepes with Plum Compote (for breakfast, because I still have at least a pint of plums). Then maybe Emeril’s Blue Cheese-stuffed Figs with Lavendar Honey. Or perhaps Fig and Orange Flower Water Custard Tart, also from Deborah Madison. But then what will I make with all of my remaining apples and pears?

Am I in a rut? Is it irrational that I want to bake at least three desserts between now and our trip to New York (only five more days!)? What does it mean that my baking is suddenly using more fruit than chocolate? Will I ever learn to take gorgeous food pictures for my blog?

insecurity and prayer

August 18, 2010

Lately I have had a hard time praying. It’s weird, because I have always been comfortable talking to God. Maybe because I have always had a good relationship with my parents, and that comfort is easily transferred to the Father.

But lately…lately, no. I still feel great with my parents, but now I feel inferior when it comes to God. Like I don’t think I’m doing a good job, so it’s hard to face the boss. Or like it’s been too long since I’ve called an old friend, and now talking to him is all weird.

Whenever I start to pray, I think, “Is this something I should be praying about? Is it too shallow? Am I offending God with my stupid little request?” Even when I know it isn’t shallow, I think, “What if this is God’s will? What if I’m asking God to do something completely at odds with his greater plan?”

Thus my prayers have been unsatisfactory, awkward and far between.

Am I the only one who struggles with this?

Recently my mom called to tell me that my uncle has cancer and would be in the hospital for surgery. She asked me to pray, and I said I would, even though I was already uncomfortable.

(In my mind, praying is one of those things, like attending weddings and baptisms, that you just DO if someone asks you to. I think Jews call these things mitzvahs, or something along those lines.)

Anyway, I wanted to pray for my uncle. But I couldn’t find the words. I didn’t know what to say, what to ask for. Healing? Comfort? Ease of pain? The cancer to totally and miraculously disappear?

I finally prayed and asked God to be present with my uncle and his family, but I didn’t feel happy about what I had said. Fortunately, at the time, my recently-baptized daughter was riding in the car with me. I glimpsed her in the rearview mirror and thought, “Faith like a child.”

I asked the Bean to pray for her uncle, and I explained why. She said okay, then closed her eyes, folded her hands, and prayed. Simple as that. The prayer was finished in less than a minute. I didn’t hear what she said, but she had talked to God, and she was obviously at peace with the conversation.

That started me thinking. Why is talking to God so hard for me, when talking to other people I love isn’t? So I looked at my attitude toward prayer and compared it with my attitude toward talking to everyone else.

  1. Do I worry about saying the right thing with everyone? Well, yes, to some extent. I more or less speak my mind, but I tend to sprinkle my comments with disclaimers like: “I could be wrong.”
  2. Do I have to be in perfect agreement with everyone I talk to? No. I argue politics with my family all the time. I don’t like disagreements, but they happen. I can accept that.
  3. Does everything I say have to be profound? No. I would hardly talk at all if that were the case. (Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.)

So maybe, maybe I just need to loosen up a little. Stop condemning myself for being imperfect. God is my Father, after all, and he loves me. Maybe prayer needs to be less about saying the right thing and more about just spending time with Dad.

Just a thought.

Good news?

January 20, 2010

Have you ever received good news after a period of stressful waiting and then…not…felt…better?

That was my day.

Hope had her bone conduction hearing test today. We didn’t have to endure the worrisome fasting, the ultra-early morning drive across town, the scary general anesthetic or the endless hours of waiting, all of which colored our previous ABR attempt (thank God).

Instead we drove five minutes to the Research Hospital on our side of town. Hope nursed until an hour before her appointment. Granted, she did have to choke down some vile-tasting chloral hydrate (screaming her head off the whole time), but that was the worst of it. We were in the room with her while she had the ABR, and once it was done, we were pretty much okay to leave. Just had to hang around for a half-hour after she woke up for a little safety monitoring.

(BTW, babies waking up from sedation are hilarious. Hope was full of grins, but totally loopy. Like an incredibly cheerful drunk.)

Anyway. The results were good. Her right ear is functional, pretty much at the exact same level as her left. So, good. Yay.

But the test couldn’t answer my next question: does she hear with that ear? The inner ear can hear (is capable of hearing), but do the sound waves reach her inner ear?

We don’t know. I thought we would. And we don’t.

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?

End of the season

October 13, 2009

The weather predicted for Saturday, October 10: hard freeze in the early morning hours.

The weather received: 3+ inches of snow.

Hello, winter.

Because I hate to see good food go to waste (especially if I’ve grown it), I made a special trip to our garden at sundown Friday night. I picked a plastic grocery bag full of these:

I spent all day polishing these peas...

Can you guess what they are?

I filled a second bag with green and red tomatoes, and a third with various herbs to dry or use. I drove home after dark, wishing I had made it to the garden earlier, because I KNEW there was more that I had missed.

Saturday was the last day of the farmers’ market. Sigh. I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up, since it was still snowing lightly at 10. But I couldn’t just ignore the last week, not when I had made up a whole list of what I wanted to buy. So I showed up with my $40 in hand (double what I usually spend), and gave my custom to the growers who had braved the cold.

I made three trips to the car.

It’s an affliction.

I bought:

  • parsnips
  • carrots
  • turnips
  • onions
  • hubbard squash
  • acorn squash
  • pumpkins
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • apples
  • green onions
  • red kale
  • beets

And I was given a sourdough baguette from a vendor anxious to get in out of the cold.

With my car full of produce, I headed home. Unfortunately, my kitchen was already full of Friday night’s haul, Thursday’s coop order, Wednesday’s visit to my parents’ garden, and leftovers from last week’s market.

I pulled on my gloriously stained apron and set to work. As of now (2 AM on Sunday), I accomplished:

  • one green tomato pie
  • ~2 pounds of okra, trimmed and cleaned for gumbo
  • 5 cups of zucchini, grated for bread (half in the freezer, half for now)
  • ~1/2 pound of blanched spinach in the freezer
  • 4 cups of rhubarb, chopped and frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups of rhubarb, chopped for use this week
  • a pot of soup composed of the last of my red potatoes, an aging leek, bacon trimmings from Wohlner’s, and a bit of cream
  • 2 heads of lettuce cleaned and ready for use
  • 2 trays of herbs drying

Oh, and remember that mystery photo? Those are unripe currant tomatoes. I plucked a quart of them off the vine. They are now residing in the freezer with everything else.

Did I mention that I made nutty sweet potato waffles for breakfast, sorted my baby’s clothes, closed all of the storm windows and did two loads of dishes? And I took my older daughter outside for a snowball fight. This is the most energetic day I’ve had in…uh…my life?

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.