Friday, September 30, 2011

computer Sabbath

A couple of weeks ago, I was totally ready to lose it.  The stress was piling up so high.  It seemed like I had constant commitments and projects: some for church, some of my own goals, some for husband and Burrito, some for others, some for writing projects.  And most of it centered around the computer.  Which makes sense, since my main skill set is writing.  But I just COULDN'T TURN IT OFF.

It wasn't that I disliked doing any of the projects I was committed to.  In fact, I loved every single one of them and every single one used my gifts and abilities.  I wasn't coloring outside the lines of how God designed me.  It was just that there was so much to do.  And I wasn't getting the down time that my introvert self needs in order to function well.

That this coincided with truly in-earnest toddler behaviors and some attempts at potty training did not make it any easier.  I felt upset at myself for over-commiting and doing the things I love to do.  Was I really being fair to my husband and daughter who need an unstressed, stable person at home?

And then I remembered something I have practiced during stressful times in the past.  When I was in North Dakota, I was getting a lot of stressful emails (and in this case, they were not related to happy situations in which I was using my gifts...they related to strife and judgment, and discussing strife and judgment with trusted friends).  And I was getting so stressed out by having to be "on" all the time that I began to adhere to a computer Sabbath.  This meant powering down the socially "on" button, saying no to workaholism and trusting that all the same problems and responsibilities would be there the next day.  I think I took my day off in North Dakota (Monday) as my computer Sabbath.  And it helped.  I was able to get as much of a mental break as I could muster in the situation, such as it was.

So as I began to feel pretty darn stressed out here in Montana, I decided to bring the computer Sabbath back.  I think that finding Sabbath is even harder for stay-at-home parents and other people who work at home than it is for those who work outside the home.  For most people who work outside the home, there is a clear end time of work and oftentimes even a whole weekend to enjoy.  I understand nobody's time schedule is perfect and we all have challenges getting in time to rest, recreate, and build relationships with our loved ones, but I think stay-at-home people and always-on call-people like pastors and doctors have a particularly difficult time.

We all need to learn how to use the "off" button for our work.  Work can be a wonderful and meaningful thing, particularly when it is work that we feel gifted for and called to do (as I do with my writing--for pay and for volunteer opportunities--and my work as a mother and support to my husband).  But even joyful work is a work from which we need rest.

There could be no more joyful work than God's artistic work of creating the whole world.  Think of the colors, the detail, the beauty.  And no one needed rest less than God Himself.  He is self-sufficient in Himself.  But He knew that we would need to rest.  And so on the seventh day, after six days of creation, God rested.  He did this so that we would learn to stop what we are doing and rest too.

To take a Sabbath means to trust in God enough that we take ourselves off of the throne.  Psalm 127:1-3 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves" (NIV).

What does this mean?  This means that we trust that at the end of the day, we are not responsible for the fate of the world--or the fate of any part of the world.  God has told us to rest and so we do it, trusting in faith that if we do, what He truly wants us to get done will get done.  We stop idolizing ourselves and our efforts in the world and we worship God alone.

And, oh, what a huge sigh of relief when we do this!  We don't have to always be "on."  We can take a rest and recharge and it will be ok

For every person, we may take Sabbath a little differently.  It's not about legalism.  As Jesus once said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27, NIV).  For me, because I find myself tied to the computer all the time (even for good reasons), because I sometimes focus on it too much, because I get overstressed if I don't take a break from all my projects, a meaningful step is to turn the computer off one day a week.  I do this on Sundays now.

And I'm not gonna kid you.  It's difficult.  Particularly for the first half of the day as I get used to the idea.  I am tempted over and over again to go turn the computer on and check something.  I almost feel like the computer is a third arm; that's how connected I am to it!  And I feel like I am missing an arm when I turn it off.  But that is precisely why I need a break from the computer.  I need to remember that God is on the throne, not me.  I need to nurture relationships with my husband and daughter (all too often, I turn away from them and to a screen).  I need to catch up on my enjoyable reading.  I need to breathe.

And it's amazing...really, little I miss when I step away.  Until I do step away, I essentially believe that I will miss everything if I look away from my computer for a second.  And I suppose once and a while, I may miss something fun or important.  But most of the time, there isn't much going on that matters that much.  And even if I do miss something, it will still be there waiting for me the next day.

I can't tell you the relief and stress reduction I am feeling as I step away from my work for a short time to get the rest God counseled us to take.  God truly is wise. 

How do you find Sabbath in your day to day life?  I'd love to hear your experiences.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

and she turns three...

Cinderella cake from Safeway.  Before her skirt melted.
I have been going on and on about the "terrible threes" in recent posts, but Burrito actually turned 3 only this weekend.  I had been looking forward to this day for a couple of months at least.  I could hardly wait to absolutely delight my daughter.  And she had been looking forward to her birthday for months too.  She was well-acquainted with the idea that birthdays mean presents and cake.  Every day, she asked, "It my birthday today???"  And every day, we had to say no.

And so, it was highly amusing when she woke up on her actual birthday and turned on the light in her room and got to playing, completely unaware that the longed-for day had actually arrived!  Christopher and I went in to see her and told her we had a song to sing to her.  We sang "Happy Birthday" and delight began to spread across her face as it began to dawn on her that it had at last arrived! 

She had pancakes for breakfast and got to open presents and got to do pretty much whatever she wanted (within reason).  She took a nap and in the evening, her friends began to arrive for her very first kid party.  I hadn't told her that they would probably bring presents because I didn't want her to have a case of the "gimmees" and I didn't want anyone to feel pressured to bring something.  So when each family showed up at the door with a gift bag in hand, she was so excited!  I had to smile.

Well, we had a few mishaps along the way.  We ran out of propane for the barbecue grill and Christopher made it to the hardware store just before it closed.  Whew, that was a close one.  And part of the frosting on Burrito's Cinderella cake melted as the kitchen got warm (but luckily, I don't think Burrito noticed).  And then there was the whole insult to my skills as a cake-maker that were overlooked in Burrito's preference for a sugary (tasteless?) store-bought cake.  But for once my foodie self yielded to my daughter.  A Cinderella cake she wants?  A Cinderella cake she shall have!

It was a wonderful evening.  Guests stayed in the backyard until the sun began to set.  Children decorated our patio with sidewalk chalk.  Children ran everywhere.  Children played in the new sandbox we gave Burrito.  Children blew bubbles.  Adults conversed happily.  The food spread was delicious (thanks to the birthday party ideas of Pioneer Woman, we served sliders and homemade mac and cheese with a topping bar of caramelized onions, Gorgonzola cheese and bacon...yum!). 

My heart was so full watching my daughter happily playing with her friends.  You see, growing up I had virtually no friends...or at least, virtually no "in person" friends.  Partly due to my shyness, partly due to a little over-protectiveness from my parents, and partly due to frequent moves that made it hard to put down roots, I was pretty lonely growing up, even if I didn't always acknowledge it to myself.  I love that my daughter has such wonderful social skills, such an ability to make new friends and interact with them whole-heartedly.  I love that she doesn't feel lonely most of the time.  After all, God made us for relationships, with Himself and others.

And my heart was full as I looked around at the group of parents who had gathered with us for this special day.  I was so very lonely in North Dakota, and now God has set this lonely one in a family of other believers with whom I can be myself, warts and all.  Each of the friends who gathered with us add something very special to my life.  I am a better person for knowing them all. 

My heart is full indeed...and my daughter is three...what joy...

Monday, September 26, 2011

multitudes on monday (56-60)

Today I am grateful for:

56. Time to write.  Not having to work outside the home, I find myself with far more time and energy for writing.  And it's wonderful and fulfilling.  I am so grateful.

57. A fantastic birthday party for my daughter who turned 3!  We had the most wonderful evening with a backyard barbecue, happy children running around and an absolutely delighted daughter.

58. Our friends, who make our lives so much richer.  In North Dakota, we had almost no friends our own age for most of the time that we lived there.  What friends we did have were busy pastors (just like us).  My soul was thirsting for friendships, real ones where I could be open and honest, warts and all.  God has given these friends to me.  In the flesh.

59. The opportunity I have to sit down and just soak in God's Word at a local Bible study.  It's so wonderful to not have to be the leader sometimes.

60. The end of a wonderful stewardship campaign that I assisted with at church.  The best part of it was the wonderful relationships I developed with two savvy, smart, faithful older women, who I worked with on the campaign.  They encouraged me so much and it has been so long since I was praised for something I did in ministry.  It was water to a thirsty soul.  It was so wonderful too to see how our gifts balanced each other out; each of us could do something the others couldn't.  What a blessing!

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

things i love about the three's

After my "mommy frustrations" post the other day, I thought it would be worthwhile to remind myself all of the blessings of having a toddler.  I quickly forget the trauma of past stages and focus in on the negative.  But since I am trying to have more of an attitude of thanksgiving in my life, perhaps I should apply the thankfulness principle to my toddler.

So, what do I love about having a toddler?  Here are some thoughts:
--I laugh far more than I ever used to.  I have a daughter who thinks everything is "silly" and "funny."
--I can now have conversations with my daughter.  She has a great ability to understand conversation and a great verbal ability.
--I have been having more chances to teach her to cook.  She loves to stand on a chair and dump ingredients in and stir.  She even remembers the "why" of instructions many times.
--Her extroversion gets me out of my shell with other people.
--I get to see my daughter have the friends that I never had as a child.  I delight in seeing her ability to make friends easily.  I delight in her extroverted personality and the way she runs up to a friend and just naturally gives them a big hug.
--She remembers to pray for people that I might forget to pray for, like people who have stopped by the church in need.  She prays for the "people in trouble" and once when my husband shared with someone who he was helping a second time that my daughter had specifically been praying for him each night, the man about teared up.  She is already doing ministry!
--She has a very active imagination and loves to sing and dance and act.  I love her creative side.
--She will sometimes burst out with an unexpected kiss or an "I love you very, very much."  And she melts my heart when she does this.
--She often compliments my cooking!  "Mmmm!  This tastes really good!"  (As long as its not "spicy"!)
--She sometimes says something and then adds, "I was just joking!"
--She is able to help in small ways around the house--unloading the dishwasher, getting parts of her lunch out of the fridge, bits of vacuuming.  And she is usually willing to help out.
--She has a great sense of fun and brings out the playful side in my usually too-serious self.

So, yes, some of the toddler behaviors drive me nuts.  But there is much to rejoice in too.  And on my frustrated days, I need to remember that and to model my belief that bad behavior times are an opportunity to show unconditional love.

What do you love about the toddler years?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mommy page: new website

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from the folks at Mommy Page, a new coupon/deals website whose target audience is, obviously, Moms.  They were looking to do a trade: interview me for their website and provide me some extra visibility, and in exchange gain some visibility for their website on my blog.  You can find the interview article here.  Thanks to Mommy Page for a little free advertising!  And I know my readers are always interested in a deal!

Here's the information they asked me to post, provided by Jennifer Drummond:
We’ve just launched a new site, Mommy Page, to bring expecting moms, new moms and veteran mothers a single source for all of the deals, coupons and savings chances offered over the internet!

Our goal at Mommy Page is to search the internet to find and consolidate the latest free samples, coupons and special offers from some of the best name brands that moms like us love!  When the brands we love most aren’t offering something special - we have a team of mothers that reach out to those companies to motivate them to offer something great to our MommyPage Turners!   

MommyPage currently has found and posted offers such as VTech Kids, Kellogg’s, ThredUp, Baby Talk and American Baby! 

Beyond our offers and deals, MommyPage facilitate all moms navigate their way through parenting. Our community of moms share stories on buying maternity clothes, healthy and balanced eating for two, baby behavior, first day at preschool and more!  Being a mom is about managing a home and way of living.  With our helpful hints on parenting and access to savings - we hope to help moms make parenthood a prosperous adventure!

We hope that you let us to join you in your adventure in parenting!  Visit our Mommy Page now.

the terrible three's?

I posed a question to my Facebook friends today, asking them if I was the only one whose child hit three and suddenly caused their mother to feel she was losing her mind.  Well, much to my relief, I am not the only one! 

The big changes have been happening in the past few months.  I've been struggling to articulate what I am finding so difficult about the "terrible three's" but a bit of therapeutic discussion on Facebook helped me to flesh it out a bit.  It's not just one thing that is driving me nuts (as in the infant days, "none of us is getting enough sleep!").  It's the cumulative total of toddler-related things that is doing it. 

Here are the terrible three's behaviors I am struggling with:
--Burrito used to be sweet and compliant and able to be reasoned with.  Now, not so much.
--The whining!  Oh, the whining!
--Wanting constant motion and constant attention (or at least, it seems that way).
--Refusal to sit in one place--at meals, when I am trying to talk to her, during prayers.
--Refusal to focus for prayer time.  Really, they're simple prayers.  Is a little respect too much to ask?
--Squirrely behavior during church.  I want to hear the sermon but I don't want to let her disturb everyone else.
--Getting up earlier in the morning.  Eek!  I'm not a morning person!
--Being able to escape her bed and therefore being able to play when she should be sleeping.
--Thinking hitting, biting, pulling hair, etc. is funny.  I tell her often that hands are not for hitting.  Not that I can get her to stand still long enough to listen.
--Occasionally saying mean things (although it does seem like she is trying on words for size as opposed to really meaning them).

She used to have her opinions, yes, but was far more influenced by Mom and Dad.  I guess she is just discovering her own mind.  And I respect that she has her own opinions.  I respect her.  I just need a little reassurance that she won't always fight me on so many things (recently, when I call her "my precious daughter," she says she is not but that she is in fact Angelina Ballerina).  I need reassurance that she will develop empathy and the ability to focus when it comes to faith.  Don't get me wrong...she has some beautiful moments of empathy, faith, kindness and love.  She is a sweet girl and I love her dearly but the independent streak is about to make me pull my hair out. 

This post would fall under the category, "Not Supermom!"  I would love to hear your strategies for dealing with toddler behaviors such as these.  And I'd love to hear about your strategies for dealing with the tiredness brought about by parenting such a rambunctious, independent girl.

Monday, September 19, 2011

multitudes on monday (51-55)

I'm juggling a lot of projects lately and missed posting Multitudes last week. 

Isn't it the truth that when we most need to reflect on our blessings and give thanks to God that it falls by the wayside?  This is a growing edge for me.

Here's this week's list of things I am thankful for:

51. An afternoon off on Saturday on which I took myself to see The Help and remembered why I loved the book so much.
52. Having 3 of 6 parenting Bible study lessons written for church...and having God challenging me in the areas I'm writing about.
53. New people in church yesterday and a husband who courageously speaks the truth in his sermons.
54. A break from potty training, which was exhausting me.
55. The ability to chew again!  TMJ seems to be gone, at least for now.

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, September 16, 2011

why don't we ask men?

The star of I Don't Know How She Does It, Sarah Jessica Parker, is on every talk show in existence this week promoting her new film.  From the reviews that have been trickling out, the film itself isn't that good, but the conversation surrounding the film is pretty interesting.  I almost always find SJP more engaging in an interview than in character.  She's a genuinely nice person, the kind of woman who makes others feel better about themselves.  And since she too has a pretty busy life, it's always a little instructive to find out a little more about "how she does it."

Yesterday, I was watching an interview with the cast of the movie on Anderson Cooper's new daytime talk show/Oprah void filler.  I thought Anderson brought up a pretty good point.  He said to Greg Kinnear, "I bet you've been interviewed thousands of times in the course of your career.  And you have 3 kids at home.  Have you ever once been asked, 'How do you do it all?'" To this, Kinnear replied, "Well, no I haven't!" as if he'd been slighted.  It was amusing but telling. 

This conversation left me wondering, "Why don't we ask men this question?  After all, working women are asked the question at every turn!"

I think a big part of the answer to this question is that we still fundamentally believe that women are the ones really responsible for parenting and raising children.  We accept that this is a fundamental part of the job description of woman, but we are slower to look at it as part of the fundamental job description of men.  I suppose part of the reason for this is that only women can give birth to babies and nurse them at their breasts.  There is a certain bond between mother and child that is unique and powerful.  And traditionally throughout history, women have often been the domestic managers, caring for children and taking care of the home.

But this is 2011.  If we are going to ask women the "How do you do it all?" question, shouldn't we be asking men too?  If we don't ask this question of dads too, we fail both men and women.  By relegating parenting primarily to the realm of the mother, we do a profound disservice to fathers.  For too many years, fathers have been made to feel that their contribution to parenting wasn't that important.  In a divorce, the mother often retains primary custody.  In marriage, wives often give their husbands the impression that they have no parenting advice of value to offer, we roll our eyes at our husbands and fail to listen to their perspective.  And yes, men often do have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to parenting, just because, through the generations, most of their fathers were not as actively involved.  There's a learning curve for active, involved fathers.  And there's a need for deep bonding with the child too; a man starts 9 months behind in terms of his relationship with the child.

But men have a different perspective on parenting than women, often providing helpful correctives and balances to their approach.  Their voices are important.  If their voice and influence were not important, God would have allowed women to spontaneously have a baby without the help of a man.  We need men.  I shudder to consider the day when science tries to convince us that we don't.  If that ever happens, we will be missing the balancing note of the universe.

So, failing to ask men "how they do it all" is bad for men.  But it's also bad for women.  Having been a working mother, I feel such a frustration with a system that penalizes women for prioritizing family and unevenly burdens her with the responsibility for the family.  The old guard of employers makes a woman feel her place is really in the home.  Simultaneously, the old guard expects men to stay in their place in the workforce, not offering much time or consideration to family. 

I am so grateful for a new generation of men who are now husbands and fathers and who do not ask this of their wives.  Men who do housework, care for children, and share the load of work and home.  Even as a mother who is staying home now, I have volunteer commitments and am attempting to re-launch my writing career from home.  And I need a little down time, now and then too.  I am so grateful to have a husband who is a real partner in life, who considers my goals important--along with his--and helps support me in achieving them.  He is a gift to me.

Let's start asking men how they do it all.  Especially those self-sacrificial men who come home at the end of the day and put their tired toddlers to bed and hug their wives and throw a load of wash in instead of putting their feet up and grabbing a beer.  They are heroes.  They should be acknowledged and appreciated.  And for those men who aren't doing their share, maybe it'll shame them into starting!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

what would Jesus do after 9/11?

It’s been 10 years.  10 years is a long time.  When the terrorist attacks happened on September 11, I was still in college.  I hadn’t met my husband yet.  My daughter didn’t even exist yet.  And the kids I talked with at Sunday School today were only 5 or 6 when the attacks occurred.  They mostly don’t remember the terror and even now don’t know many parts of the story.  They have only known a nation in which terrorism is a constant threat to our safety.  Their world is a different world than the one I grew up in. 

On 9/11, I had already forged a friendship with a Muslim family in our town.  Their son worked at the local fast food joint where I worked as well before I started college.  We continued to remain friends and I will always be indebted to him and to his family for all they taught me about moderate Islam. 

Before I met my friend (who I will call “John”), I had some pretty narrow-minded ideas about Muslims.  I believed that they all were oppressive to women, that they were restrictive and perhaps even hateful to others. 

But when I met John and had many interesting conversations with him over Butterburgers and frozen custard, I began to gain a real respect for him and his family.  They were pious and committed to their faith in a way that I rarely see of Christians.  John took time out of his day to perform his prayers, even at the risk of ridicule and inconvenience.  I learned that Islam is about submission to God, that Muslim men are allowed to talk to women (I had thought otherwise), that often a gracious way of speech and attitude came with their pious devotion to faith.  I learned that for moderate Muslims, having a women cover her head was an expression of modesty, that a women uncovered at home, and that men also had modesty restrictions.  I engaged in many religious debates and discussions with John as we sat at the lunch table.  I brought him a Bible and he brought me a Koran.  I read most of it and took copious notes.  I was surprised that there were many good and lovely things in the Koran that I could agree with. 

I was sad, however, that my friend didn’t believe in Jesus.  I never stopped praying for him and for his family to come to faith.  I pray for him still sometimes. 

When 9/11 happened, one of the first things I did was call my friend.  (Perhaps he was upset about being regarded as my personal Muslim expert on the terrorist attacks, but if so, he didn’t tell me.)  Instead, he expressed his and his family’s sadness and regret at the violence. 

I think if I had not had a Muslim friend, I may have looked at the world differently after 9/11.  I am forever grateful to him and his family for the impact they had in my life and on my perspective.  I know a lot of people who think of the world in an “us-them” kind of way.  They sometimes think of 9/11 as an attack on Christianity, but I don’t think of it that way, unless maybe it was an attack on false Christianity (evil Western practices that got lumped in with Christianity).  I know there are radical Muslims in the world who persecute Christians. I don’t deny that.  I just don’t think that’s what 9/11 was. 

As I think of what our continued response should be as Christians to the evils of that most awful day, I ask myself, “What would Jesus do after 9/11?” I don’t think Jesus would be out there telling everybody how awful Muslims were and scaring everybody about them.

I think Jesus might look in His community to see if there are some Muslims there who are scared for their safety, scared that they will be lumped in with the few bad eggs in their lot.  I think Jesus would do what He could to protect them and to befriend them.  I think Jesus would realize these peaceful people were also victims of 9/11. 

Do I believe Muslims are wrong about who Jesus is?  Of course I do.  And I want them to come to know Him as Savior.  But believing they are wrong about Jesus does not mean slandering them or calling them violent or terrorists.  We don’t do that to Jehovah’s Witnesses, even though we disagree with them.  (Come to think of it, we should probably try to befriend Jehovah’s Witnesses too!)

Christians should not be out in the world screaming alarmism over Muslims in their community.  They should be the first example of showing kindness, love and friendship.  They should be considering those who are most vulnerable and doing what they can to defend them.

I know there is a need for war at times in history.  This post is not meant to debate that or whether or not the wars we have engaged in in the past few years were needful.  I’m not talking one way or the other about the need for the government to exercise justice when there are wrongs committed. 

What I’m talking about is the Church of Jesus Christ and how God is calling us to reach out to a hurting, broken world.  And part of that world includes Muslims. 

And by the way, even if we are talking about a Muslim who happens to be a terrorist (which I still believe is rare in this country), God wants us to love them too.  After all, Jesus told us, “Love your enemies.”  That kind of an attitude could make all the difference in the world and it could inspire a watching world to ask questions, to ask the reason for the hope that is within us.  And then we can answer, “Jesus!”

How about you?  What do you think Jesus would do after 9/11?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

teaching realistic expectations: Dora vs. Fancy Nancy

I have a pet peeve with Dora the Explorer and it's not just her perpetually perky, high-pitched voice (although these qualities of said voice should be noted). There's nothing evil about Dora; it's one of Burrito's favorite shows and we'll continue to let her watch it, reservations aside.  But I worry sometimes that she is not getting an understanding of how to react to real life from watching Dora.

I can hear you saying, "Realistic?  Come on!  It's a cartoon!"  But one good thing about cartoons these days (as opposed to when I was growing up) is that most of them are no longer pure entertainment.  Most of them now have an objective to teach.  For Dora, the teaching is partially in the learning of Spanish.  It also teaches following a simple progression of directions ("Bridge...mountain...island!").  And there are the always good admonitions against swiping ("Swiper, no swiping!").

But Dora doesn't do a great job of preparing kids to handle normal preschooler problems and respond to them in a helpful way.  Does your toddler's world normally work this way?: Follow a simple formula, stop and congratulate themselves along the way, reach desired destination and congratulate themselves again? And do things work out the same way every time? 

I'm not talking about solving world peace here; I'm just concerned that Dora creates an idea in preschooler's minds that everything will always work out perfectly as we want it to and then we will congratulate ourselves on how "we did it!"  (And of course, there's nothing wrong with a healthy self-esteem and feeling good about accomplishing something and overcoming an obstacle.  But what about a story that would throw a normal obstacle or real life challenge into the path of a toddler?  A story that would teach them coping skills for these kind of obstacles?)

Well, never fear!  Such a series of stories exist!  I would recommend for the teaching of dealing with real life frustrations the Fancy Nancy series of books by Jane O'Connor.  This is probably a more helpful series of books for toddler girls, as they do tend to be rather "girly," but I think Fancy Nancy does a great job of throwing some real world obstacles and frustrations into Nancy's path, as well as entertaining and teaching some vocabulary in a fun way along the way. Through the everyday challenges Nancy faces, she regularly learns that life will not always give you exactly what you want, but that you can learn to adjust and still enjoy life.

For example, in Fancy Nancy at the Museum (I Can Read Book 1), Nancy embarks on a big exciting field trip to an art museum.  Nancy dresses up in an extra special outfit, but is heartbroken when she gets roadsick and throws up on her pretty shirt.  Her teacher takes the matter in hand, however, and lends her her art smock to wear over her messy shirt.  Nancy discovers that it's pretty cool to wear a smock like this to an art museum.  She learns to adjust her expectations to reality and enjoy what she has.

In Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas, Nancy is super excited about decorating her Christmas tree with a gorgeous (and gawdy!) tree topper that she saved up for earlier in the year.  But when the tree is jostled and her treasure falls to the floor and shatters, she bursts into tears!  How could this happen?  Is Christmas spoiled?  Her grandpa arrives just in time to comfort her with a big hug and come up with a solution.  Using simple craft supplies, they put together a sparkly tree topper that they plan to make an heirloom for the future.  They talk about the story they will have to share with future generations.  The love of family and the power of creativity save the day.  Rather than a simple progression of doing everything right and having everything work out perfectly, again Nancy learns to adjust and make the best of reality.  And she is lovingly comforted too.  Yay, Jane O'Connor!

In Fancy Nancy Sees Stars (I Can Read Book 1), Nancy has her usual enthusiasm for her latest adventure: a trip to the planetarium to see a night sky show.  But a rain storm and traffic jam cause her and her friend, Robert, to miss the whole show.  She is very disappointed, but when the family returns home, the clouds have cleared and she decides they should have their own night sky show in their back yard.  Again, she adapts.

In Fancy Nancy: Poison Ivy Expert (I Can Read Book 1), Nancy doesn't pay enough attention (as her Mom told her to) and gets poison ivy.  She is unglamorously red, itchy and completely miserable.  She makes it through a rough night, uses a home remedy given by a neighbor and feels better soon.

Yes, Nancy has misunderstandings, gets poison ivy, throws up, and breaks things.  Life isn't perfect for Nancy.  She doesn't lose her "fanciful" joy (hooray!).  No, she keeps her imagination, but learns to adapt when life doesn't quite live up to her expectations.

I'm probably not being fair in picking on Dora alone for her promotion of an unrealistic picture of the world.  Princess stories are no better.  "They lived happily ever after???"  That doesn't happen anywhere but heaven!  Too many girls have read princess stories and been unprepared for the realities of marriage.  Realities that are not glamorous or exciting, like the stomach flu, exhaustion from being up all night with a baby with colic, moving past infatuation to a deepened love, money struggles, and on and on.  Love can be great forever, but the story doesn't end at the wedding.  It's just beginning, with all the ups and downs of real life.

Life happens.  It disappoints us.  Things don't turn out the way we planned.  We can't always have our way.  What stories are we telling our children?  Are we preparing them for a life of frustration when life doesn't live up to their expectations?  Or are we preparing them for life as it really is: messy, awful, wonderful, disappointing, glorious?  Are we preparing them to live with life as it really is?

Dora might teach how to speak Spanish and how to follow a map, but I don't think she helps much with this skill.  I'm glad there are stories out there like Fancy Nancy that do.

Monday, September 5, 2011

multitudes on monday (46-50)

It's been a crazy week...Lots of exhaustion...plenty of busyness...dealing with potty training again...and a pretty darn awful case of what appeared to be TMJ.  Those are the kinds of weeks when it goes everything in me to be thankful.  Instead, I want to complain...or better yet, climb into a hole somewhere.  But God calls me to "give thanks in all circumstances," and if I try hard enough, I can see His light peeking through the darkness.  Here's what I'm thankful for today:

46. The ability to chew.  This is definitely something I take for granted.  But this week when even trying to chew a raisin or soft pasta was agonizing, I started to feel more grateful for the ability to chew.  What a blessing it is to be able to enjoy food as I usually do.

47. Friends who gave me lots of helpful, funny, encouraging advice in the midst of this painful episode.  And the result being that my jaw is feeling better every day. Thanks be to God!

48. The way exhaustion, pain, or struggles with toddler wills lead me to God.  Without such struggles, would I seek God earnestly?  I don't know (but doubt it), so I am grateful for the struggles.

49. A husband who "takes over" when I am so exhausted that all I can handle is throwing myself into bed.

50.  The blessing of a food processor...and the wonders of pineapple and its benefits for relieving inflammation.  Try it sometime!

What are you thankful for today?

toddler anthem: everything comes down to poo!

For the last week or so, this song has been stuck in my head.  A coping strategy?  Perhaps.  We are making another push for potty training.  And suddenly it seems as if my life is consumed with poo.  Attempting to make it land in the potty.  Cleaning up messes when it doesn't happen.  Assessing its basic qualities.  Oh, if only I had known how much of parenting involves poo!  I had no idea.  If you're a parent, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you're not, consider yourself warned...
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