Monday, October 27, 2008

creativity deferred

Marianna has had a string of unpleasant bed time episodes over the past week--crying, moaning, asking for blanket, socks, water, bathroom time, different pajamas, another bedtime book, a princess gummy--nothing is exempt. Of course I've made it top priority to nip this in the bud and go back to normal! So yesterday I came up with a somewhat brilliant plan. What if we could make bedtime similar to Chuck E. Cheese? Wouldn't that put a brighter face on things? It certainly would for me.

Here is how I formulated the plan in my mind. There would be tokens that could be earned for good pre-bed behavior. One for going up to bed immediately without protest, one for going potty, and one for putting on pjs and pull up with out delay or complaint. This gave the possibility for three tokens to be earned.

Now comes the exciting part. These tokens can then be spent for the things she most desires after we have tucked her into bed. For example, if Ruffy the dog falls out of bed and she cannot get him herself, she can call up, "Mom, will you please get Ruffy?" and I in turn will reply, "Do you have a token to give me?" And I will go up, get paid one token, restore Ruffy to the bed, and then go back downstairs. If her blanket comes off her feet, again, the remaining tokens can be used. If she would rather save the token for something more important, she can fix the blanket herself. It was my hope that this new system would restore some fun to bedtime, while at the same time, eliminating the endless requests we've found ourselves submerged in throughout the bedtime hour.

Last night the time comes for me to lay out the plan. I cut three green tokens from construction paper and deliberately place them in front of her, laying the bait. She looks interested. We go through a mock round of bed time where all three tokens are successfully earned and spent. And then it was time for the real deal. I asked Marianna to give Nathan a kiss and go upstairs. The first token was officially up for grabs. She hesitated, telling me she needed 20 more minutes. I hand her the green token and say, if you want this, you need to go upstair right away. Marianna grabs it from my hand, and I momentarily think we've gained victory...all the way until she makes it over to the trash can where she promptly disposes of token number one.

She is taken to bed against her will, made to potty against her will, and then finally earns a token (all the while telling me she does not want it) for putting her pajamas on quickly and without complaint. I leave the token on her bedside table and tell her she can use it to call us up if she needs it. I kiss her and go downstairs to see if my creative bedtime ploy will work. She comes out of her room a few minutes later, something she knows is off limits, and Nathan immediately tells her to go back in. She starts crying, almost hysterically, telling us that she has to throw some trash away. Nathan tells her to drop it through the stair rail to him and he will throw it away from her. She runs to the stairs and releases.

Down fluttered the mangled green token.

When she had gone back in her room, Nathan and I laughed our heads off. So much for my plan for bedtime ingenuity =).

Monday, October 20, 2008


What do you think about God? Do you think that he has absolutes? Things that are right or wrong whether or not anyone else believes it? Are there things that are true no matter the repercussions or inconvenience?

One of my earliest memories, I think from age 3, involves a little bouncy ball—probably the kind you get from a toy machine for a quarter. I was in a friend’s back yard one day when I discovered one of these balls, half covered with dirt and abandoned long ago by my playmate. For some reason I wanted that ball, and more than that, I wanted it secretly. So I took it without ever saying a word. Hardly any time had passed before that little ball began to eat me up. I couldn’t think about anything else but the stolen ball. I knew it was worth very little, I knew it would never be missed, and I knew my friend would have given it to me if I had asked, but despite all the justifications, taking it had been wrong, and I knew it.

The sad thing is, I think that often our moral compass is more on target when we’re toddlers than any other time in our lives. For a little kid, the fact that some things are right and some things are wrong isn’t a concept that all that hard to swallow. It’s only after we get a little wiser and grow a little older that the murky shades of gray begin to set in.

No issue personifies this better than that of abortion. It’s something a lot of people feel uncomfortable talking about directly, resulting in the many euphemisms thrown around that make talking about it less abrasive—and consequently much easier to gloss over. Like a frog sitting in the proverbial pot, many years ago our country was boiled slowly with nonsense about tissue and the lifelessness of a fetus until Roe vs. Wade was able to come in and swallow us whole. Suddenly the smallest and most vulnerable lives in our country became defenseless against legislation that left the balance of a life in the hands of its mother.

Justification was cut thick and doled out freely until the nation’s conscience was dulled and many had swallowed the lie. Even after science has proved that life, not tissue, exists from conception, the ruling stands because the desensitizing is already complete. Not even a beating heart, a developing bran, the presence of organs, or anything else can get in the way of a culture set against the right of the unborn baby to life. The inconvenience to our culture cannot be sacrificed to a reawakened conscience.

Now it is all about choice. If you choose life, that's your choice. If another chooses abortion that's her choice. But what ever made us think that the choice of life was for anyone but God to decide?

Recently I was participating in a Walk for Life with the organization we adopted Adrienne through. We were in a local park, so other walkers were out , and one of these made a point of telling us that she believed in a woman's right to choose. It broke my heart, and filled me with a desire to show her Adrienne. I wanted her to look at this perfect, beautiful baby and think of what would have happened if her mom had decided to choose something other than life.

I hate what legalized abortion has done to this country. Who can measure the toll it has taken, not just on the lives aborted, but on those who have been left to deal with the consequences of a conscience that wasn’t completely seared? How has it undermined our families and the moral framework of our country? How many women are left broken instead of empowered because of the “freedom” given to them by our laws?

I am broken for the women facing that choice. I am broken for the lives lost. I am broken for those suffering the aftermath.

This brings me back to where I started. What do you think about God? Do you think that he has absolutes? Things that are right or wrong whether or not anyone else believes it? Are there things that are true no matter the repercussions or inconvenience?

Psalm 139 says
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know them full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

I want to put aside the cultural pressures, the deceptive arguments, and everything else that numbs what I know is right. I want to remember Poppy Joy, a life that not many would have deemed valuable, yet who changed my life and so many others. I want to remember Adrienne, a life who would not be here if her mother had not made the courageous decision to give her life. I want to remember that anyone who God creates is innately valuable, and no amount of legislation, logic, or social convenience can change that.

It’s election time, and I’m not a single issue voter, but I do prioritize the issues, and I don’t have any hesitation telling you that the issue of life is at the top of that list. The next president of our country might have an impact on abortion and the future of our country, and I certainly don’t want to miss out in voting, and then praying for the man who step into office come this January. I received a call from a pollster one night last week, and I was happy to be able to express that this was the biggest deal breaker for me in the election. It's something worth fighting for.

Just a little food for thought.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

a few of my favorite things

Marianna will be three next month, which means several wonderful years of parenthood are already under my belt. Over that time I've kept my radar on the lookout for little tips, ideas, tricks of the trade, if you will, that I've seen or heard about that might work for our family. One thing is for sure: I wasn't inherently wired with all the creativity, know how, and genius it takes to be a great mom. But I quickly found out that no one is. Just as in the case of recipes, it's okay to borrow and trade parenting tips! In fact, my life would be a whole lot harder if I hadn't.

I'm dedicating this post to highlighting a few things that make my life as a parent a whole lot happier!

I'll start with my most recent discoveries involving the baby items that have WORKED big time for Adrienne.

First item on the list is this lovely swaddling blanket by swaddledesigns. My sister-in-law picked this up for me right before we brought Adrienne home, and she hasn't slept a night without it. Let me tell you, this thing has been a miracle worker. I wrap Adrienne up at bedtime, and she is almost instantaneously out. She sleeps cozy as a bug all night. I also discovered that it was the best cure for fussy moments. A good wrap in her blanket did more than any amount of rocking, strolling, patting, or any other soothing method I could think of! I recommend this for every new mom.

Another thing I got this time around was a baby sling. Mine is a hot sling, and while I don't use it on a daily basis, it's been extremely practical for some outings. Anytime when a stroller isn't necessary, the sling has been a great, comfortable way to carry Adrienne around, and now that she's old enough to sit up, she likes it even better.

This next one is for both girls. Someone several years ago told me about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which is a non-profit dedicated to increasing literacy. Basically, you can sign your children up, and at no cost, you receive one hardback book a month until the child is five years old. We have literally built Marianna's library in this way, and the books she gets from this are among her very favorites. I just signed Adrienne up, and theoretically, she will get a different set of books. It's really a neat idea, and it's one of Marianna's highlights to go out to the mailbox and pull out her new book.

I had heard amazing reports about a Leap Frog DVD called The Letter Factory, so when Marianna was 18 months old I got it. This DVD goes through the alphabet and teaches the sounds for each letter. Marianna loved it immediately, and by 20 months old, she could go through all 26 letter and their sounds. It's really an amazing teaching tool, and what this DVD did in an entertaining way in just 8 weeks would have taken me months.

Going along with this electronic theme, I have found our little portable DVD player that we got last year for $50.00 to be a life saver. Our car doesn't have a built in player, so this has been perfect for any long car trips! Also, I've found that if I know I'm going to be in a place where Marianna needs to stay quiet for awhile, whether I'm going to a meeting or something else that isn't kid friendly, we just pack this DVD player, and she is quietly entertained. So as it turns out, it's portability makes it better for us than a permanent one.

Something that is a very important part of each day is craft time. Marianna love to express herself with art, and so I've found some items that are excellent and come with less mess. First of all are the Crayola Twistables, crayons that don't have paper that will inevitably be torn or eaten off! They are a little pricier than the regular crayons, but worth every penny. I've also discovered that Marianna enjoys watercolors just as much as the messier versions of paint. Everything washes out, and she can stay busier for an hour easily. And they're cheap! It's hard to go wrong with Crayola, and I learned the tough way that permanent staining items don't mean more fun--just more mess.

Recently I've discovered the benefits of an old fashioned timer. Instead of telling Marianna that she must immediately stop doing something (whether it be color, dress up, do puzzles, or whatever) I have started setting a timer to tell her how much time she has left. This has been especially effective at bed time! She has time to gear up, and then when the timer goes on, she is a whole lot more ready than when I just lay it on her.

Something that I love doing is saving money on the expensive clothes I see in catalogs or clothes shows by sewing them myself. I've discovered that pants and dresses like these are super easy to make, and besides saving big bucks, sewing comes with the added benefit of a sense of achievement of being able to do it yourself! I still buy the basics, but as time allows, I try and make 5-10 outfits each season. Most of my patterns come from the Children's Corner, and I can promise you that everything I do requires a very low skill level! It doesn't have to be hard to be cute.

I have a friend who just recently recommended a book for Marianna called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I was skeptical. But Marianna started showing interest in the beginnings of reading, so I thought it couldn't hurt to try. When I got it I was instantly puzzled by the lack of brightly colored graphics usually found in preschool books, but we pushed through a few pages anyway. It only took one lesson for me to be very interested in the approach, and now, already 8 lessons into it, I think it's really a great starting place for teaching her how to read. I expect some of it to get beyond her ability, but already she can sound out a few two and three letter words, so in my book, it's a winner.

Last, but certainly not least among the sanity savers in the list, is Oxi Clean. Up until last week, I wasn't sold on any particular spot cleaner--I indiscriminately sprayed all variety of cleaners on my stains and hoped they would come out in the end. Then my friend told me about Oxi Clean. Of course I knew the name, but I had never given it a try. I tested it on an item that spray and wash wasn't able to handle, and when Adrienne's outfit came out clean, I became a believer.

These are definitely some of my favorite things. I'd love to hear yours!