Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa and All That Hooey

Dave and I have made a scandalous decision. A decision that will make you question our American-ness.

We've decided not to perpetuate the myth of Santa.

If there comes a time that our children choose to believe, we will let them. I fully expect conversations and questions about him, but I will probably answer most of them with "What do you think?" I'll glady give them the history of Santa and other Christmas traditions. I don't care if they read books or watch movies about him, but I don't think I can actively pretend that he exists. I don't think they'll need me to. Ella is pretty good at pretending without my help. She spends 90% of her time in an alternate reality; guess who doesn't exist there yet? Santa. Guess who does? Baby Jesus. And Mary. And Joseph, and wise men, and evil King Herrod that did Bad Things. Shame on him.

This is a lot of the reason we've come to this decision. She very much understands that we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus.

She does recognize Santa. She will get gifts at Christmas, but only one of them will be unwrapped and none of them will be labeled from Santa. When she is asked the question, "What is Santa bringing you for Christmas?" She responds with a look of confusion. If the asker continues to ask, I usually just prompt her with, "What do you want for Christmas?" The answer: baby dolls. (I think I need to discuss the student/teacher ratio with her. I believe 10:1 is high enough.) Because we've had several of these encounters, it occurred to me that she doesn't understand the whole Santa concept. Then it occurred to me that she doesn't understand because we've never taught her. We decided we are okay with that. We haven't been to see him this year because, let's face it, it would be a waste of our time. I refuse to make her sit on a stranger's lap for a picture, so there's no point in going. We're okay with that, too.

The whole "be good or Santa won't bring you anything" thing is just a load of hooey. I will not say that to them because it isn't true. Santa doesn't decide who I buy gifts for or why, and there's no reason to malign the Christmas spirit with idle threats that will just worry them. EGR would worry.

Christmas is magical. It is magical because there are pretty lights to look at on the way home in the evenings. It's magical because there are cookies to bake and share with our friends. It's magical because there are decorations  and toys that come out for only a short part of the year. It's magical because there are gifts to give and receive. It's magical because an angel announced the birth of a newborn baby who would be our Savior. I would hate for it to lose it's magic when they realize one day that Santa isn't real.

Some might say I am perpetuating the myth of Jesus. Maybe they are right. Maybe He isn't real, maybe He wasn't born of a virgin, and maybe He didn't die for me, but I've chosen to believe all of that. The only way I will get confirmation of Him is through death. That's called faith. 

I know, without a single doubt, that a strange, old guy does not enter my house in the dead of night (via chimney or otherwise) to leave presents under the tree. I know this because I spent many years spying on my parents, and now I'm the one who puts the presents under the tree.

The Christmas traditions we are establishing are about spending time with family and celebrating the birth of the newborn King. We decorate our tree, make cookies, look at Christmas lights, read the story of Jesus, participate in Night in Bethlehem, and exchange gifts. This year, we are adding a new tradition, something I've wanted to do for years but I felt silly about until I had a preschooler. We will be baking a birthday cake for Jesus.

So, in our house, Santa's role in the Christmas Chaos (which is a limited edition, speciality version of our regular brand of Chaos) is supporting at best. I hope it stays that way.

Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday is magical, however you choose to celebrate it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What will I teach my children about sex?

This topic keeps making its way to the front of my mind – because of things I’ve read and things I’ve witnessed – so I guess it’s time to write about it.

My beliefs about sex are biblical. Not “because the Bible says so” biblical, but “the two shall become one flesh” biblical (1 Corinthians 6:16). I believe, through my own experience and validated with scripture, that sex is a gift given by God to be shared within a marriage.

If you are thinking you need to stop reading here because I’m getting ready to beat you about the head and shoulders with a Bible, please give me a few more minutes.

The verse I referenced above says, in full: “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’” As a harlot would be any woman who shared her body with a man outside of marriage, please replace the word “harlot” (and all its connotations) with the word “woman” or “man” as the case may be.

In plainer words: When you have sex with someone, you bind yourself to that person for all eternity.

Now, that’s just something worth considering. It’s also the root of what and how I will teach my children.

Christian or not (so strip out the biblical reference if you need to), there is no denying that when you have sex with someone, you give that person a little piece of yourself. If you have sex with multiple someones, you give a piece of yourself to each of those people. You are no longer whole. If you decide to marry someday, you will give your husband or wife a partial you AND a piece of all the people with whom you’ve had sex.

So what will I teach my children?

I will teach them that sex is fun, it feels good, it’s intoxicating, it’s normal, and if you feel shamed by it, something is wrong. I will also teach them that it’s powerful, it will turn you inside out, it can scrub you raw, it can bind you close, and it is a vital part of marriage. It should be enjoyed within the confines of a mutually respectful relationship. It should never be used as a weapon or a means to get something you want.

In my fantasy world, they will listen to everything I say on the subject and wait until they are married (to virgins). In reality, I expect them to make their own decisions about their bodies and the best I can do is equip them with knowledge. So not only will I teach my beliefs about the sacredness of sex and the value of abstinence, I will also teach them some science.

I believe sex education begins at birth. It starts with forming strong attachments and mutually respectful relationships with parents and caregivers. It means freely giving affection and constructively criticizing, so as to build them up rather than tear them down. Before they start making decisions about sex, I want them to have confidence in their value as people.

It also means giving them the proper labels for their body parts. It means teaching them that those parts are private and that aside from assistance with using the bathroom, diaper changing, and doctor visits, no one should touch them except the owner of the parts. It also means allowing them to explore their own bodies and teaching them that the exploration of private parts should be done in private.

As they get older, I will make sure they understand human reproduction: the hormones, the organs, menstruation and its purpose, and how a pregnancy is created. They will know about sexually transmitted diseases and how they are contracted, including touching, kissing, and oral sex. They will not only learn the short-term effects of the diseases, but also the possible long-term effects. They will know about and have access to birth control.

They will learn all of this from me and Dave, because this is a subject so important that I am not willing to entrust it to anyone else. Not church, not school, not peers, and definitely not society. My kid will be the reason your kid comes home asking about sex, not the other way around.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

4 Nights in a Stable - Light of the World

The whirlwind I stepped into last Wednesday finally set me down in my house again last night. We, Dave, Luke and I, spent four nights in the stable as Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus for our Night in Bethlehem program at WBC. We, Ella included, also attended a family Christmas gathering, a birthday dinner, and a preschool Christmas musical. In the spare moments, I squeezed in 10 loads of laundry, a trip to the grocery store, 2 dishwashers full of dishes, and a last minute trip to the pediatrician. It's time to take a breath.

While four nights in the stable was a big committment that completely disrupted our routine, I am so very grateful for those hours of sitting quietly with my husband. If I've been busy, he's been completely overwhelmed. It was really nice to be in his presence without rushing here and there while trying to have adult conversations in code and spelling. It was cold. We were tired. I couldn't have been happier. I hope that we were a blessing to the families that attended the event, but I know that the biggest blessing I received was a few moments of peace.

Since I was a little girl visiting the live Nativity at church, I've wanted to be Mary with the baby Jesus. Here he is, Luke, as our Infant Lord.
With the help of Aunt Jessica, Ella finally fulfilled one of her goals at our first Christmas gathering of the season. She has been on a quest for a "wittle Tiana" to complete her set of princesses for months now. (If you don't know, Tiana is the princess from The Princess and the Frog.) Aunt Jessica searched high and low, thought we were playing a joke on her, and finally found little Tiana. I only hope we have another moment this Christmas as magical as the one where Ella opened that present. Her reaction was priceless: large gasp followed by, "We got her!" Full of wonder.

She also made it through her Christmas musical, Jesus: Light of the World. She was a ball of nerves on the way to school last night and she melted completely down as I was dropping her off. I had to peel her off of me and give her to her teacher. By the time the show started, she had recomposed herself and she did great. It was obvious which parts were her favorite because those were the parts she actually sang or did, but she stood in her place the whole time without any tears, accidents, or other wild scenarios that were playing through my mind. I think I was just as nervous as her at the beginning. I was so proud of her. She was just relieved when it was over.

I also cleared the memory card for my camera, so I have a few other pictures to share. Dave took this one on our date with her to see Disney on Ice. Princess Wishes, of course.
I look forward to embarrassing her with this one some day. 
 This is what happens when Big Baby doesn't get enough sleep.
This is my almost 4 month old son trying to see what his sister was doing. He gets positively angry if you try to sit him down and even angrier when his legs get too tired to hold him up any longer.
This sight swells my heart. Dave-o has learned to appreciate the beauty of holding a sleeping baby. He did not want to get up to go to my birthday dinner, and he made me take this picture before he would move.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thirty is the New Twenty

Today is my 30th birthday. I don’t really care about the number, and I certainly do not want to relive my 20th year, but I have made a couple of concessions to thirty.

1. I upgraded my moisturizer from Neutrogena Oil Free SPF 15 to a day cream with SPF 25 and a night cream for 30 year old skin. I’m still using the Proactive, though; having thirty years under my belt has not stopped me from breaking out like a teenager.

2. I’ve joined the ranks of the pedometer wearing exercise crazies. I have a lingering blood sugar issue and my doctor told me to walk more. But, the truth be told, I’m doing it for the money. I earn 60 Healthmiles for every 7000 steps I take through my company’s fitness program, and then I get to cash in my miles for gift cards. Watching this little thing count my every step really has motivated me to move more. I’m not above marching around the house at bedtime to get the last 1000 steps or clipping it on for a middle of the night run to the kitchen for infant Tylenol.

Would I relive any of the past 30 years? Maybe the 19th - that’s when I fell in love with the man God made for me. And, I wouldn’t mind having my 23 year old body again. I really should have enjoyed it more. It’s ironic that I’m so much happier in this 30 year old body, that’s stretched and scarred and 25lbs heavier, than I ever was in my younger body. Maybe that’s because of wisdom or maybe it’s because of motherhood, but I’m certainly glad I no longer obsess over 5 lbs lost or gained.

Would I do anything different? Nope. While I’ve made plenty of mistakes, I do believe that the life I’ve lived makes me who I am today and I would not change that.

Have I learned anything? Ha! I haven’t stopped learning things and I hope I never do.

- I’ve learned that even though it chaps me, it usually is best to suck it up and be the first to apologize in a stalemate.

- I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. Words don’t need to be said just for the sake of saying words.

- I’ve learned to be more flexible and to let others be in control. Sometimes.

- I’ve learned that I can only do what I can do – in 8 hours, in 24 hours, in a week, and I don’t stress about what doesn’t get done. It’s always there when I get back to it. Especially dishes and laundry.

- I’ve learned to give myself a break sometimes. It makes me a better person.

- I’ve learned to indulge – in a caramel latte, expensive conditioner, a fat book that I’m just going to read in a day’s time and give away, whatever.

- I’ve learned to give things away. It clears my mind and helps someone else.

- I’ve learned when to compromise and when not to. Most things are negotiable, but a few will never be:
     1. The path to Heaven.
     2. The sanctity of marriage.
     3. My relationships with my children.
     4. My right to decide what or what not to do with my body.
     5. The genius of J.K. Rowling.

- I’ve learned that the things I like least about myself are the very things that will mock me in the faces of my children. And I’m learning how to deal with that.

- I am still learning how to walk around in this world with my heart outside of my body. I think that one really might take the rest of my life.

So, here’s to 30. I hope the next thirty find me as happy and satisfied as I am today.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Big Baby's World

I'm pretty sure EGR spilled the beans last night on what was supposed to be a Christmas surprise for me and Dave. A couple of nights ago she needed a camera to take a picture of her babies. We found her a little digital photo keychain that never worked like it was supposed to, and she's been using it as her camera (after Dave confiscated the binoculars that she was using as a camera). I assumed this was just because we had Christmas pictures taken recently, but last night she was telling me at the supper table that she was taking pictures of the babies to give to their mommies and daddies. I asked her if her teacher has been taking pictures of her at school and she confirmed that she has. I see a photo gift in my near future. By the way, this is also the reason we don't discuss secrets in front of her. She may pretend that she doesn't know how to talk around most people, but I will eventually find out all the goods when she acts it out in play.

Because she is so involved in her classroom when we get home in the evenings, we've resorted to moving her little table into the kitchen so that she can eat with the family and still make sure the babies get their lunch. After lunch, they have rest. Every available flat surface in our Big Room (dining room/sitting room) has a baby napping on it covered neatly with a blanket. The bottom drawer of the changing table where I keep receiving blankets is empty. When nap is over, she tosses the blankets under the end table to store them until the next nap time. I've learned a lot about her teacher's mannerisms from watching her teach her babies.

She has handled not having milk to drink amazingly well so far, and she's pretty much opted to just skip any type of milk until she can have cow milk again. She has had a couple of cups of my milk (we call it Mommy Milk) but that was only when she really wanted some milk. At bedtime the other night she was trying to convince me to give her some cow milk. She told me, "I'm feeling better. I can have cow milk now. My nose feels better." I told her she still has to wait until we see the doctor again; she opted for water that night.

As further proof that she pays attention to the conversations around her, especially if they are about her, every time I do something that the allergist told me to do she asks me, "Who told you to do that?" I've gotten that question about the milk, the new purifier in her room, the allergy covers on her pillows and mattress, the pillows I used to prop up the head of her bed, and the cats new outside home.

Last night she opened the door to let Georgia inside (!) and Gypsy came in. She went running after her saying, "Mom, Gypsy came in!" I told her I would catch her and she went and closed the door! I didn't realize she had gotten tall enough to open the door and close it back again. She has really been in a helpful phase lately. When I put the mattress cover on her bed over the weekend, she actually stood on the opposite side and helped me pull it up. Then she pulled up the sheets while I tucked them in at the bottom and she put the pillows on the bed. Two nights in a row, she has washed her own hair in the bath tub (and done a pretty decent job of it) and tried to rinse it. She can almost brush her teeth by herself now, I just give them a good once over when she's finished. She has a screaming fit if I've already put all the laundry in the washer or dryer before she gets there. That is her job now. It's amazing.

I've recently learned that her family (Big Baby's family) has a house in Birmingham with two dogs - a big dog and a little dog, and a baby sister.

The H. Luke Update
Luke is serious about the hand play. I watched him reach and grab over and over last night until the got the one toy he was reaching for on the high chair tray. He loves all the dancing and singing Santas and reindeer and dogs, etc. at the various houses he visits, and when they are playing he needs to stand on the floor and dance with them. He has already developed a love for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. If it is on in the room with him, he will contort his body until he can see the TV and then he watches wide-eyed until it goes off. He has also discovered he can blow bubbles with the large quantities of drool dripping from his mouth.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Big Baby Only Wikes Cow Milk

It seems so fitting that the week when Ella cuts her last tooth is the same week that Luke cuts his first tooth. I got visual confirmation during Mr. Dentist time two nights ago that Ella's last molar is finally breaking through the skin. I haven't gotten a good look at Luke's new tooth yet, but I can feel the sharp little edge of it with my finger. Plus, we've wiped buckets of drool off of the child's mouth - upgrading from burp cloths to receiving blankets in the process.

Sweet little Luker is another sponge, soaking up all that happens around him. He has learned to scream a la EGR, and he sounds just like her. Right now it's cute and funny; 18 months from now I'll be banishing him to his room when he won't stop.

He is getting really good at grabbing things with both hands and putting them in his mouth, and he's starting to show preference for certain toys. Given a tray full, he always goes straight for the little plastic rhino that Ella gave him from the elephant train. Before you go thinking "Oh, how sweet," let me inform you that she no longer "wike[s] rhinos." But, she usually is very sweet to him.

She had her follow-up with the allergist yesterday and we did the skin testing. She did fantastic. She cried silently through the whole process and several minutes afterward, but she sat very still and didn't try to scratch. Considering what I was expecting to happen, this was nothing short of a miracle (and thanks for the prayers, too). I'm pretty sure the crying was more due to being touched repeatedly by a stranger than from the actual testing because she never indicated that it hurt, but she flinched every time the nurse touched her. She is my child through and through. I require a healthy respect for my personal space and so does she.

I was really hoping to hear that she only has seasonal allergies, but we weren't that lucky. She is mildy allergic to milk, cats, feathers, and weeds and trees. So, my milkaholic has to quit the dairy for the next 6 weeks so we can see if that's what is keeping her stuffy and infected. She gamely participated in picking out soy and almond milk at Pugits, but she didn't want to taste test them last night. I gave her plain soy milk in her cup this morning and she took several sips of it before she asked me to dump it out because she doesn't like it. She flatly refused "Wuke's milk" when I offered that, but I think I might try just giving it to her like I did the soy. I will gladly go dairy-free and pump for her if she'll drink it. We also have vanilla soy and plain almond milk. If she'll get over the fact that it's not cow milk, I think she'll like the vanilla soy because it tastes a lot like the "milkbox from Starbucks." Also, no more cheese, yogurt, ice cream and sour cream for 6 weeks. It's not going to be easy on her, but I think we'll end up being able to add that stuff back in occasionally once we finally get rid of this sinus infection that she still has.

She's back on antibiotics again and the doctor increased her Prevacid from once a day to twice a day because she's still having bouts of reflux and the nasty bedtime cough. The doctor still believes the reflux is the main problem, and I still agree, but we are also eliminating the allergens in an effort to get her well.

Jewel and Gypsy became outside cats last night. The nurse told me we didn't have to get rid of them, just keep them out of the bedroom and off the furniture. Yeah. I fixed them up with a warm blanket and the food and water bowl in the carport. They thought they were just having a picnic until I turned out all the lights and they realized I wasn't going to let them in at bedtime. It sucks, and they really played it up, fluffing out their fur and crying at me with sad eyes.