December 29, 2014

IKEA might just make motherhood easier

After weeks of planning, poring over their website, researching and measuring, I made my list and made the pilgrimage to IKEA yesterday. I call it a pilgrimage because it's on the far side of town, and the massive structure requires as much forethought and planning as a week-long vacation. Especially since I was bringing my toddler with me. To help me with my list and my toddler, I asked my mother to join us. She's awesome that way.

IKEA is kind of amazing. They have genius-designed products that they manufacture as cheaply as possible, and as a result I am finding new ways to organize my home even while I ask myself "Which one of these shelves looks the least like dorm room furniture?" And to me, an organized home is an organized life, and is thus less stressful which makes motherhood just a bit easier. I have yet to understand why they sell fabric by the yard in patterns of stick people kissing, but that's beside the point.

IKEA also makes me laugh -- they're the only retailer the size of an airport located in a suburb with massive McMansions that specializes in showing us how to organize 300 square-foot houses. But hey, they've convinced me that I'm in love with cubbies and bins.

Since they have designed their showrooms and walkthroughs like wandering paths through forests of immaculate retail wonderlands, and purposely make my shopping take 5 times longer than it should, they've thoughtfully included amenities to make my toddler happy: Shopping carts that spin in circles, a cafeteria with fries and meatballs served with jam, a toy area meant to be played in so my son can soil his diaper in front of everyone (which is also thoughtfully close to the restrooms), and random bins of stuffed toys to give him some eye candy while I'm eyeballing bathroom fixtures.

Now that I've figured out their game, and found websites showing me how to hack their products into unheard-of new uses, I came armed yesterday. I spinned my son in the cart, plied him with as many snacks as he wanted (even gum or mints), and most importantly I kept moving. What I ended up with was a fairly well-behaved kid who helped by putting items in the cart for me and was too distracted to throw fits. Heck, he even had a real conversation with the woman behind us in line.

December 16, 2014

why my son will and will not believe in santa

They're everywhere. Santa snacks. Santa lights. Santa greeting cards. Santa sitting in every mall waiting for you to sit on him. And with all this Santa-ing comes the question: Is he real to you? To your kids? Have you decided, or passively let media and your kids' classmates decide for you? Honestly, what you do with your family is probably already awesome. This post is just about how I address this in mine.

This was a bit of mild contention with my husband and I before our son was born, and for a long time I figured it was an either-or choice. Now that the boy is almost 3, and remembering references like Santa and angels and baby Jesus, it's time to start helping him shape his Santaview, like his worldview.

For instance, I'm starting to tell him that we exchange presents at Christmas to honor Jesus' birth, much like the wise men brought presents to Jesus when he was born. I don't frame it like "you'll get presents" because it's not about getting. It's about giving and honoring as celebration. The more we emphasize the gift of Christ, the less we focus on gifts in general. Besides, my son's current units of currency (bribery) are mints and sugar-free gum, and I'll milk that as long as I can.

While I can completely bypass the Elf on the Shelf thing (which I still see as a trend for some reason), Santa is too deeply entrenched in American culture to ignore. I can tell my son that Santa is a real person who used to give presents to needy children, and the ones he sees in the mall are pretending to be Santa. Ergo, Santa is pretend. He won't get presents from Santa, though, not until he understands what our family has done with this tradition (albeit unofficially): a present from "Santa" means it's something special from someone secret. And he doesn't even have to write a letter to Santa to get it.

Just don't ask me where the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny come from. One ficticious battle at a time.

December 15, 2014

pregnant with an alien - a dinner conversation

I went with my husband to his office Christmas party the other night, held in a private area of a chef-owned restaurant. This was a typically small affair, and a rare gathering of a virtual company with their significant others. There was plenty of great food, great wine, and great conversation. I actually enjoyed myself quite a bit, though nothing prepared me for our dinner conversation.

We sat at the end of a long table, with me next to the boss' wife and across from his daughter and her husband. I didn't know how long this couple had been married (it couldn't have been more than a couple years), but her questions revealed a lot more than her youth.

As is natural, she asked about our son. Interestingly, she (politely) asked how long we waited to get pregnant. I told her a brief version of our story: we waited a long time, and when we finally started we had problems. Did I get IVF or some other assistance? No, by the grace of God we had our son naturally. Do you mind if I ask how old you are? Sure, I'm 45. (eyes widened) I... never would have guessed that -- you look so much younger. (smiling) Thank you! Did being pregnant feel like having an alien growing inside your body?

(pause to giggle on the inside, then smile gently)

My answer: I've heard it described that way, but that wasn't my experience at all. When you are pregnant, you begin bonding with the baby right away. You are feeding this baby with your body, and when the baby is born you continue to feed him with your body, to the best of your ability. During pregnancy, the bond between the mother and child is physical, physiological, and psychological. And when you feel the baby start to move it becomes more real and even more powerful. So by the time the child is born, you've already bonded together. It's an amazing experience.

Not your everyday dinner party conversation, but I was so glad to share my experience with someone who was eager to hear it.

December 1, 2014

18 ways my child embodies faith

In my prayer group this week, we took turns praying for each other and asked God to give us words and pictures to help the person we were praying for. What God revealed to each of us was healing, profound, and intense -- especially for me, which was unexpected. Prayers and deep longings that I never thought to ask for (and didn't then) were revealed and answered. Most of it is too deeply personal to share, except what the Lord had to tell me about my son.

As a toddler, right now my son perfectly embodies what it means to have faith like a child. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17) Among His other words for me, I have been meditating on this one to try and understand it as deeply as possible.

Little children have many behaviors in common, but here I am building a list of my son's characteristics that I can see the embodiment of faith in. So far I can see 87 ways my child embodies faith:
  1. Trusting completely
  2. Open eyes
  3. Open heart
  4. Curiosity
  5. Always learning, growing, and changing
  6. Following after his parents, yearning for closeness
  7. A mix of independence and utter dependence
  8. Accepting gentle instruction and guidance
  9. Feeling safe in his parents' arms
  10. Separation anxiety
  11. Tantrums (don't we all get upset when we don't get our way?)
  12. Uninhibited nature
  13. Unquestioning love
  14. Without shame or ego
  15. Thriving in his parents' joy and approval
  16. Occasional doubt and rebellion
  17. Pouting after discipline, but always seeking restoration
  18. Loving fun and laughter
Some of the things on this list aren't shiny and pretty. But you know what? Real faith is just that. It is unique to each person. It is a relationship and a journey with no end. In a way, I envy my son for his pureness and simple beauty. I guess that in itself is a reflection of faith and the kingdom: Purity. Simplicity. Beauty.

With that in mind, what is Jesus saying when he tells us to accept the kingdom like a little child? Perhaps the way a child accepts his parents: Following. Yearning. Loving. Open. Uninhibited. Pure.