Category Archives: mama life

The Prodigal Father

My pastor recently preached a sermon about the parable of The Prodigal Son and I have been chafing ever since.  She suggested that maybe the story was not about the wasteful spending and reticent behavior of the son, but that of the father.

Apparently, the word prodigal doesn’t mean all the things I always assumed it means.  It means wasteful, extravagant, lavish.  Not ‘returning from making bad choices’ or ‘regretful and sorry’ or ‘ready to receive deserved punishment, good and humble’.

Nadia (those of you who wince at the idea of a female pastor can just call her Pastrix Bolz-Weber) suggested that we focus on the lavish ways the father spent love and resources and take a lesson from that.  The older son is the character that makes the story hard for me.  He’s doing all the ‘right’ things and ‘good’ things and then throws a fit when the father celebrates the return of the younger son.  It’s easy for me to accept that we should celebrate the returned sheep, the returned son, the lost souls coming home.  But when the father tells the older son ‘all I have is yours’ I want to stop reading.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always enjoyed a science classroom, or because I grew up very outside the church, or because I don’t care to learn the social game and hierarchy within ‘normal’ churches, but I spend a lot of time around people who’ve been really hurt by church people.  People who are now actively rejecting church and even sometimes poking it with a stick because they’re trying to regain their sense of power.

So when I read this story, I see my friends in the young son, and the mean church people in the older son. I see people who said that people like my husband and I aren’t welcome in the denomination he grew up in.  People who say that my friends shouldn’t have access to the grace of God if they don’t understand and believe the right things.  People who say that my friends need to make the first move, when it’s church people who started the fight (and sometimes ended the relationship too).

And I don’t like hearing that the father in this story, or my Father in heaven, is going to give all that he has to these people who are hurting my friends.  And doing it in the name of God!  Ah!  It’s like saying Michael Pearl gets to pass through those pearly gates and that I’m going to have to play nice with him.  !!!

But I don’t have to check my pastor’s facts to know that she’s right.  I don’t need a dictionary to check her definition of prodigal, I don’t need to even crack my bible to know that she’s not misrepresenting the story.  The Holy Spirit does live within me, and sometimes when words pass through my ears and into my heart, the Holy Spirit does the stadium wave.  There’s no mistaking that feeling.  I can tell when I’ve heard Truth – even when it’s Truth I don’t like.  And so I’ve been changing the subject whenever my inner dialog goes back to this.  Suddenly being oh-so-happy to think hard about loading the dishwasher or signing a loud song with my girls or find some other activity that will engage my brain *just* enough to block out the knocking of an idea that makes my stomach turn.

The people who throw a tantrum about ‘welfare moms’ getting food stamps or having more children, the people who claim that the local university is trying to tear apart the church, the people who vote Republican after being GIVEN nearly everything in life -and don’t even see the irony!- they all get the same heaps and mounds of love and grace as everyone else.  Same as my friends.  Same as me.

The reason it hurts is not because I’m jealous.  It hurts because I’m judging them.  I want to see them held accountable for the ways they’ve hurt my friends and they ways they’ve hurt me.  I want to see them cry real crocodile tears for all the times they’ve made other people cry for feeling not good enough for God.  And I don’t know if any of that is going to happen.

At some point, it’s not about revenge anymore.  Not even the revenge I was pretty sure God was going to lay down on them.  It’s not about payment or punishment or even just knowing the repercussions of their words and actions.  It’s about accepting grace.  For myself.  And the inherent (and more fair than I have been able to admit) spreading of that wealthy love on everyone.  To everyone.  Even the Mean Girls (or, more traditionally in the church, Mean Boys).  

I don’t think I could have gotten that lesson without the parenting that I practice.  I am fully against demanding punishment or retribution from my children, because I believe their sins are paid for.  And extending the grace of God to them has familiarized me with the concept in a way that makes me now aware of its extension to the adults I judge as guilty too.  If I am going to pray without ceasing about anything, it’s about that.  Learning to extend that grace, forgive them, forgive myself, and live in a way that reflects the gift I’ve been given and not the gift I want withheld from them.  

It’s the only way I can be authentic.  Or honest.  Or face God in the morning.  I can’t love God when I’m absolutely refusing to live a life in response to salvation.  It doesn’t compute.  Even though I feel like I’m standing up for the oppressed and the marginalized and the lost sheep, I’m acting like that older son.  I’m stomping my foot all mad throwing a tantrum.  There is a fine line between advocacy and damnation.  I know it’s there, but I don’t seem to have any idea where it is.

And that is why I don’t like that sermon.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Battle of Allegiance with the AP Community

So someone said she was distancing herself from the AP community after much rudeness and shaming and frustration.

And somebody else responded that mothers who believe in AP principles should stay to show other moms that the AP community is more than the loud extremist voices.

It’s an old, common story.  Look, in every group of people you’re going to find some people who are angry and self-righteous and way too focused on tell all the other people where they went wrong.  Welcome to middle school, high school, college, and beyond.  Welcome to humanity.  And I often do stay involved with a community despite the behaviors of certain people (Christianity being the prime example).  But mother hood is an extraordinary time.  Trying to develop habits that will impact the course of your child’s life is not to be underestimated.  Community is both of utmost importance and a place of real risk.  Someone who undermines what you’re doing or trying to do can have a huge impact on your outcomes.  We’re vulnerable, we mothers of young kids.  Anytime someone tries to change their behaviors or habits (or institute entirely new behaviors after a major transition like becoming a parent) they are more impressionable to peer pressure.

If you struggle to stay on track when you’re in the company of certain people, change your crowd.  By all means.  Your journey as  a parent is infinitely more important than your obligation to the AP world.  If the AP community wants to thrive (and it does, and I believe it will) then it is going to have to learn how to play nice.  But leaving harsh and critical people doesn’t mean isolating yourself.  It means finding the other not-nutjobs and hanging with them.  We need support.  Not just as mothers but as people.  We’re social creatures – herd animals.

For every internet community that is angry and hurtful there is another herd of animals who are less inclined to rip your throat out.  They’re out there.  And as more people leave the angry mob for groups a little more inclined to practice what they preach (i.e. showing the kindness and grace the extend to their kids to adults online as well) the face of the AP community will change.  People will hear the loud and angry voices, but if we stop polarizing ourselves people will also see the rest of the community too.

This isn’t a black and white choice.  There is no official membership to The AP Club.  You don’t have to choose between bullies and your duties to The Club.  Just move your voice, your face, and your presence to a group that better demonstrates what you believe in.  You’ll thrive better, serve better, and experience a lot less stress.

[The problem with my argument is that the most strident voices on the internet are also people who spend the most time on the internet.  Some of them are going to pop up wherever you go.  I highly recommend Facebook’s block feature for dealing with those people.  ;)]

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Down Down Baby

Way up here, I’ve been so down.

 

The dark, the cold, I feel like I’m trapped in a tupperware in someone’s long unopened fridge.  Except we’re more than eighty degrees colder than any fridge.  It’s just too much.

 

The kids were sick, then our car’s block heater (a device used by people who live too far north that plugs into an outlet and keeps your engine from freezing solid) committed suicide and convinced the power steering hose to drink some of the kool aid too.  Then, we had healthy kids and a functioning car and the kids got sick again.  Now, we’re recovering, and the car is working, but the temperature?  -51*F.  I can’t take the kids out in that.  Where would we go anyway?  It’s cold enough that even WalMart had to close (burst steam pipe).

 

I am not Alaskan.  I love a snow day and an excuse to sip hot chocolate and watch old movies as much as the next person, but this is insane.

 

Still, no external forces should be able to command my heart so thoroughly.  Why would I let something as mundane as the weather make my days so dreary?  There are things I can do.  Things that renew my sense of self and things that revive my spirit.  Things that bring me a little farther from the earth up here and a little closer to the world I’m sure is still out there somewhere.

 

Tomorrow I’ll start a schedule.  We don’t have light in the mornings (yet) but I can still exercise.  I can still give my body some marker that suggests life.  The sicknesses gave me an excuse to sleep in and try to recover the sleep lost to mid-night nursings.  That should be reversed.  I can nap if necessary, but sleeping in is rarely the answer any more.  (welcome to motherhood)

 

Getting dressed in the morning will help too.  Doing something with my hair.  Putting on make-up. Tricks to signal to my long-dormant brain that there is life outside this house.  When I first moved up here everyone told me about how precious “getting out” is.  How it’s the only way to stay sane in the winter.  But where to go?  And is physical safety really less important than sanity?  (Why do I have to choose anyway?)  I just can’t believe that little fingers are safe going outside at these temperatures.

 

Today, even the airport shut down.  It’s too cold for airplanes to fly.  Don’t airplanes fly to Antarctica?

 

I’m awake now because nighttime is too much work to face.  Baby just doesn’t sleep lately and I don’t want to face another night of that fight.  I need a night off.

 

And some time away.

 

Never again will I stay the winter in Fairbanks.

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Natural Family Planning

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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If you’re looking to avoid chemical and/or potentially abortificant methods of birth control, you find yourself with very few options.  Morally, I’m suspicious of any birth control method that relies on making my womb ‘inhospitable’ to a fertilized egg [I don’t know where I stand on that whole “sperm + egg = baby” equation, so I’m trying to pretty much avoid it all together.] and physically,  I’d rather just not have sex at all than use chemical forms of birth control.  So our options felt pretty limited.

In the end, we decided to try Natural Family Planning.  The idea is, I would chart my temperature every morning, keep an eye on my cervical mucous, and plug this all in to the almighty internet who would then tell me whether or not I was fertile.  Then, we could plan our actions accordingly, and either abstain or use the dreaded condoms when I was showing signs of being soil ready for seed.

Taking my temperature every morning proved to be a more easily acquired habit than I expected.  And taking note of any cervical mucous wasn’t so difficult either.  Data.  I has it.

FertilityFriend.com let me plug everything in and I would wait till the end of the month to see if I could tell when I had ovulated.  I figured after a few months, I’d hopefully be able to see a pattern, and I’d be able to tell when I was fertile and we could just use condoms or abstain from intercourse and put off baby #2 for a little while.

But I was still nursing all night.  Which made my temperatures more uneven than they should be, and I never did see a spike in temperature that would indicate ovulation.  What I did see was that my mucous was way more informational than I ever gave it credit for.

I had 3 cycles after my daughter was born before my husband and I left on a trip.  We were going to be staying very busy and sleeping either in a hotel room with our daughter or in a house full of my in-laws with our daughter – i.e. no alone time.  I didn’t even bother to pack condoms, because I was sure we wouldn’t need them.  Well, one night my daughter was asleep before we were and my hubby and I found ourselves in a hotel room with free time!  At that point, I wasn’t going to break the spell by going to the drug store.  In the back of my mind I remembered that I had seen some potentially fertile mucous that day, but I was skeptical of the reliability of damp drawers.  Turns out, the mucous did indeed indicate fertility.

This time around, even though my fertility returned several months later than it did after my first child, I was able to accurately predict my first period by noticing my mucous changing.  Two weeks later: period.  I haven’t started charting my temperature yet because my little one is still nursing all night, but I know that’s the next step in our little fertility journey.  Natural Family Planning is certainly not a foolproof method, because there are lots of ways to impact body temperatures or misread mucous or charts, but it’s not introducing anything into my body or kicking anything out prematurely, so we’re going with it.  Well, as soon as I find my basal body thermometer.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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Well hello, Diva Cup, we meet again.

The time has come. My dear, sweet baby has started eating enough solid food to initiate the return of my menses.  (I realize it doesn’t work that way for every one, but solid food intake seems to be what brings on my fertility.)

 

It’s a sad day.  Not only has my baby’s yogurt-scented poop (thank you breastmilk!) turned foul, but my free ride on the Lactation Induced Amenorrhea has come to an end.  Please exit the ride to the right and have a nice day.

 

I’d take a picture to commemorate, but do you really want to see something that’s been all up in my business?  Besides, you know how to use the Google!  Or just follow this link.  Certainly one of the better decisions I’ve made over the last few years.  Bleached, chemical laden wads of dry cotton are for the birds.  Well, not the birds, the birds don’t want crap like that, but they’re not for me.

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Focus for 2012

The Hippie Housewife reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to write down.  I wanted to focus a bit this year.  I’ve chose the word brazen.

I love that it reminds me a bit of ‘amazon’ which gives me a feeling of physical strength and ability.  The actual meaning is as follows: 1. shameless or impudent.  OK, I don’t need the impudent part.  But I like the word, I like the sound of the word, and I wanted a word that incorporated ‘be not afraid’ with a lack of shame or guilt.

 

What reminded me:

The Hippie Housewife: 2012: Presence and Habit.

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Your kids are being punks because they’re BORED!

Well, you know, maybe.

Have you ever met a Kindergarten teacher who did no planning?  Can you imagine what chaos would ensue in a classroom that had only free time and recess?

Why do we mothers expect our days to function differently?  Our kids love having free access to their toys and activities, but kids also love structure.  Before you go to bed tonight, or first thing tomorrow morning, or today during nap time, or when they’re jumping on Daddy as he walks in the door, take 10 minutes and find an activity online that you can do with them.  With the entire internet full of ideas, you can find something that uses stuff you already have and will get their wheels spinning.

Cut up some pipe cleaners, let your kiddo drop them in a jar, then use a magnet from teh fridge to manipulate the pieces.  My toddler loved this.  The grooves and contours on the jar can make moving the pieces more difficult, so pick your jar based on your kiddo’s age.

There’s a Thomas the train story that ends with Percy getting a new coat of paint.  My toddler loves to give her trains a new coat of paint.  Every chance she gets.  If you’re going to bathe the kid today anyway, let her paint a metal train, then take the train into the bath.  Drive the train through the pain to make tracks, or give the child a spray bottle to wash the train down herself right in the kitchen sink.

Seriously, your days will go smoother when you have an activity or two planned throughout the day.  Write it on the fridge.  Or write your ideas on index cards, and pull one or two out each day to keep things from getting stale.  That seems like an idea that should be on Pinterest, doesn’t it?  😉

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