Posts Tagged ‘family’

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.

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.

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.

You know everything will be crazy when…

October 22, 2009

Your debit card is declined for a $6 donut bill.

Your bank account shows two purchases made at gas stations you have never heard of, in states you have never visited, totalling more than $200.

It’s the day before moving day, and none of your kitchen is packed.

It’s the day before moving day, and none of your bedroom is packed.

It’s the day before moving day, and none of your you have successfully packed only books, kitsch and coffee mugs.

It’s the night before moving day, and your mildly annoying cough of three weeks suddenly escalates into searing chest pain and an inability to breathe. Which leads to a five-hour emergency room visit, an IV, X-rays, a CT scan “to make sure it isn’t a pulmonary embolism”, antibiotics, and a diagnosis of pneumonia. Oh, and an injection of something that makes you unable to nurse your four-month-old daughter for 24 hours.

Which further leads to a trip to the pharmacy for formula, a prescription, a bottle, rice cereal and Pedialyte in case the baby won’t drink formula…and a bedtime of 5:30 a.m.  And you’re due to pick up the moving van at 8:30 a.m.

Wait. Somewhere along there the line between “will be crazy” and “is crazy” blurred. And I didn’t even get to driving to the hospital to pump breastmilk, my father-in-law’s bleeding hands and arms, furniture that wouldn’t fit through doorways or up stairwells…

Thank God for my parents, my in-laws and my friends. We never would have made it into the new place without them.

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.

The family that togas together…

September 29, 2009

toga

…gets to go-go together?

Sorry, I just can’t  think of a good way to end that sentence.

Summer reading #2

July 27, 2009

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

This was the second book I finished this summer, and so far, the one that made me laugh the hardest. I’ve listened to David Sedaris’s essays before, as he frequently contributes to This American Life on NPR. So I knew going in that the book would be funny.

What I didn’t know was that the book is mostly about his family, in all its dysfunctional glory. And that some of the stories would make me laugh and cry at the same time. That I would feel sick to my stomach at how a nine-year-old girl can treat a grown man. That Sedaris is closer to my parents’ ages than mine. That sometimes I would abhor him, sometimes I would pity him, and sometimes I would feel as if he were writing about my life instead of his own.

My favorite story, I think, is about his brother, Paul, and the arrival of Paul’s baby daughter. Of course, to enjoy it as much as I did, first you have to read the essay introducing Paul, a foul-mouthed, self-assured redneck who owns his own business–as compared to the rest of the Sedaris siblings, who are artsy, neurotic and existing on some kind of fringe. Just so you know where he’s coming from.

I love that this man, so unlike me and so unlike his older brother, could nevertheless be transformed into an awestruck daddy, wrapped around his little girl’s finger. I love that, despite his rather sexist ways, he stood up for his wife when the doctor-with-no-bedside manner told her she couldn’t have any more kids. I love that Paul calls his big brother every day so he can hear the baby cry and coo and sing–despite naming David “Uncle Faggot”. So many acts and perspectives I despise, juxtaposed against heartwarming acts of love.

This is why I loved Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. We are all a mass of contradictions. Sometimes we just need to remember it.