Sunday, January 25, 2015

We Don't Know What Didn't Happen

I'm kind of impressed by the people of Ninevah.
For three days a man, who could very well be taken for crazy, goes around announcing that God will destroy them if they don't shape up and do it now.  
And they listen!  
The people begin to fast and put on their sackcloth, the king even orders a fast, and God changes His divine mind.

I feel like there must be more to the story because I think the majority of people, even in ancient times, would have written this person off as a mentally challenged lunatic and dismissed his warning.  I mean, the guy just claimed to have been swallowed by a fish, been in the belly of that fish for three days, and somehow survived that.  But they didn't.  They listened and things changed.  

It is so hard to get my head around that.
Not only that they listened and God changed His mind (which has all sorts of ages-old questions implied) but it also reminds me that we never know what didn't happen.  This boggles my mind.

The Ninevites, after the wrath of God was spared, did they know it?  I mean, nothing really changed from the outside.  Did they laugh at themselves or just blindly trust this random guy that they truly had been spared some pretty awful stuff?  Could they really believe that something didn't happen?  Do I believe that?

Prayer is a weird and funny thing.  We believe it can change things and yet we never really know what would or could have happened.  Heck, even in normal decision making, we don't know how different things would be had we taken that other choice.  Do you ever go back and think about that?  How things would be if we had taken that other route?  (Sometimes with profound gratitude and sometimes with a sigh, right?)  Even in the tiniest of decisions, it's true.  Despite what well-meaning people want to tell us, our decisions, little and big, have consequences.  We believe in guardian angels and that they have the ability to protect us from harm but we never really know the extent of that.  We believe in Providence and yet we believe in free will.  Their interplay is beyond our current understanding.  When you get deep enough into it, you realize the possibilities of what could have happened are truly infinite.  

Do you think we'll have this awareness in heaven?  I kind of hope so.  I hope we get to see the greater picture and understand not only how it all worked for our good but also see how the myriad of things that didn't happen worked for our good and the ways in which our prayers and decisions played into that.  Maybe I'm crazy for wanting to know something so infinite, and I'm certainly no philosopher, but I think it's interesting that the psalm refrain today is 
"Teach me Your ways, O Lord."
It's referring to the upright and moral life, yes.  But I also think it means that it's okay, in fact it's holy, to probe and seek to understand and question.  It means we're seeking the mind and heart of the One we claim to love.  
True love seeks to know the other.

Our prayer somehow changes things.  Our sacrifices change things.  Our actions, our little and big decisions, change things.  And we will never know, not in this life anyway, the extent of that God-given power and freedom.  It's all at once humbling, motivating, terrifying, and dignifying.  
Lord, may I seek to live my life at every moment, even in the littlest ways, choosing the best I can, glorifying You, and trusting in Your providence and mercy through it all.

{Sunday Scripture Snapshots}

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Friday, January 23, 2015

What I Didn't Really Need for that First Baby

I told you I was going to make this a thing :)

I wrote about the things I wish I had from the beginning so now today I get to regale you with the things I was told I'd need but didn't.  Yay!

 Do you feel sometimes like our culture makes having a baby into a much more commercialized (and therefore expensive) thing than it needs to be?  I think there's some truth to that.  And it scares people.  Yes, you will need some things but you won't need ALL those things, despite what they tell you.  I wonder how many people are put off from having children or are terrified of the idea of parenthood partly because of this idea that they are so expensive and complicated and need all the things.

Now, I know, some of you will look at this list and proclaim how much you needed said listed item and how wonderful it was for your life with a newborn.  That's fine.  There's nothing wrong with anything on the list.  But I thought I'd share a little bit of our experience since the store registry list is going to tell you you need ALL THE THINGS.  And really, you don't.  I would say probably, at most, half those things are actually "needed."  Some of it is trial and error figuring out what works for your family but some of it, maybe you can skip all together when you are able to think clearly and before you walk into the baby supply store and they hypnotize you with all their baby powder magic.

So this is our list of what we didn't even need a little bit for that first baby.

The Diaper Genie
(or any other specialized diaper disposal system)
Otherwise known as the glorified and very expensive garbage can.  We received one of these with our first when we were still using disposables because it was on The Store Recommended Registry List (henceforth referred to as The List) and we we apparently needed it.  It is seriously a garbage can with special (read: expensive) liners you have to buy and it twists up each diaper individually in the can to decrease the possible smell.  Surprising fact:  breastfed newborn diapers don't smell that much anyway.  Plus, there's also another option:  take out your garbage.  We filled it up once and never really used it again, selling it at a garage sale before we moved.

Dozens of Washes/Creams/Lotions/Powders
I registered for a few and then got a whole bunch more as little add-ons to gifts.  I used to think the smell of Johnson's baby lotion was THE baby smell but then I had babies and realized that they make the best newborn smell all on their own without any help.  We barely used any of those items.  Partly because I didn't think they were needed but also as I got crunchier and read the labels on them, I was kinda freaked out about slathering all those unpronounceable things on my baby's skin, even the "natural" ones.  (Part of that was due to using topical progesterone cream during my next healthy pregnancy and learning that all that stuff really is absorbed into your bloodstream.  That previously loved Johnson's is now planning on graciously removing the carcinogens that they've contained.)

Babies don't need to be washed washed a whole lot, especially in the winter when it's already so dry.  We Americans get a little obsessive about our hygiene and it ends up backfiring.  Sometimes we start a cycle of washing too much, using a soap, and then baby's skin gets too dry so then we do have to use lotion and all the time we're the ones perpetuating the need for all those things.  Now, I use a homemade olive oil/beeswax salve on them only as needed which is only a few times during the dry winter months.   For washing I use plain old water…if they're older and genuinely dirty, I use a small bit of organic wash.  I still don't really know what powder is for but my kids have gotten along pretty well without it.

The Baby First Aid/Grooming Kit
Several of the things inside are helpful, definitely.  But most of it is pretty superfluous to make you think you're getting some great deal.  For us, I think we'd have been better off just buying a pair of nail clippers, a bulb syringe (though everyone is swearing by the Nosefrida now), and a thermometer.  Do people use baby nail files?  (Maybe.)  There's usually a few medicine dispensers in there as well but almost every baby medicine comes with its specially designed dispenser and makes sure to specify that you should only use that one anyway.  Hair brush and comb?  No.  If you're one of those lucky parents that has a baby with long hair that does need to be combed, you can pretty much use your own or buy a better one separately.  And no, you also don't need a gum brusher.

Special Towels
Yes, they're cute so get one if you want.  Wash cloths, too.  But you don't need a specially designed/shaped/charactered towels to dry your baby.  Regular people towels and wash cloths work just fine and, in my opinion, are better baby burrito makers.
The Dresser/Changing Table Combo
The List said we needed one.  So we took a whole bunch of store credit we had saved from all the gifts we knew we wouldn't need.  (I worked at a very wealthy parish at the time and received some very generous gifts at the shower.  Expensive stuffed animals, clothes, etc.  Thank goodness for easy return policies!)  We were able to get the special changing dresser without paying a dime.  It looked cute, yes.  But after having the baby, we realized that most of our diaper changes were happening downstairs on the couch or floor and not in the specially designed and positioned Changing Area of the upstairs baby's room (which didn't even hold said baby for a good four or five months).  No one runs upstairs just to change the baby.  I wish we had just gotten a plain old dresser that would grow with the child or saved the credit for diapers or something more useful.  If your changing area/bedroom is downstairs, it may be more useful, but still, the weird shape of those things means that it doesn't really make sense beyond the baby years.

Toys and Stuffed Animals
Having a baby?  Get ready to get ALL the toys and stuffed animals.  Here's a secret that experienced moms know but that The Man doesn't want you to:  newborn babies don't play with toys.  They don't even care about stuffed animals.  But those toys and animals will slowly take over your house if you let them.  When they do start playing with things, they usually prefer the weirdest and/or simplest things anyway…mom's necklace, a plastic bottle, grass, the chewed gum they found underneath the playground picnic table.  All of that is much more appealing than the expert-designed, educationally stimulating toy that will surely help them to read and perform simple mathematic equations by the time they're eighteen months.  I'm so glad we set up a precedent with our first and kept only one or two baby toys and a couple stuffed animals (and those animals were later discarded as well).  Part of it was that we just didn't have the room and part was because people had spent money that at the time we really really needed for more important things so we returned them.  I'm so glad we did, though.  I think it prepared us to be pretty discerning in the amount of stuff we let in our home and avoid the trap many fall into a few years later of drowning in all the kids' stuff.

Bottles (and all! the! accessories!)
Baby equals needing baby bottles, right?  That's like item numero uno on The List and the quintessential baby item.  Not necessarily.  Now, obviously, a lot of people are going to need bottles and those people should buy them.  But what was really surprising for us was that we didn't use them at all for our first three babies.  Much to my own shock I didn't really leave our babies much when they were tiny and I was able to exclusively nurse and that worked really well for us.  By the time I was ready to leave them for more than an hour or two they were able to take a sippy cup.  All those bottles and washers and accessories went unused until I finally donated them.  If you plan on nursing and not leaving baby for the first few months, you might not need all the bottle things.  If I were doing it over, they would be something to hold off on and only bought if I did end up needing them (or, if that makes you nervous, have them but leave them in the package so that you can return them if you don't).

A few honorable mentions:

Pacifiers - I like to have one around just in case someday one of our newborns will take one.  None of them ever really did (despite some moments where I desperately wanted them to!)  But I never ended up needing the six or seven that we got at the beginning.

Boppy - Some people LOVE their Boppy but I didn't find it helpful for breastfeeding at all.  Too small and I still had to hunch over or bring baby up to nurse.  I did use it for sitting on after having stitches, though!  And a couple times to prop up baby.  I ended up getting rid of it.  For nursing in the early days I much prefer the Brest Friend that I got when I had my second.

Diaper Bag - Do you know what a diaper bag is?  It's a big bag with several pockets.  You'll need a bag, of course, but a good size purse of backpack is just as good.  Diaper bags are much cuter nowadays then when I started but still, just a fancy bag so you don't NEED need a special diaper bag. I've had several diaper bags - one new from a shower, others from garage sales or hand me downs.  Every single time I try one I end up going back to something simpler.  After a few months you realize you can get along pretty well on short outings just by throwing a diaper and maybe an extra onesie in there.

 ALL the Onesies and Blankets - The List will tell you that you need thirty seven onesies and seventy two receiving blankets.  You don't.  I would say 10-12 onesies and maybe six blankets is more than enough.

Special Baby Laundry Detergent - This stuff doesn't make sense.  It's heavily fragranced, which isn't really good for any skin, let alone baby skin and there's really nothing else about it that makes it special for baby except the packaging.  Stick with a free and clear normal or naturally-derived detergent.

ALL the Baby Holders - There are so many contraptions out there and this one is tricky because you don't really know what you and baby will prefer until you're in the thick of it.  But chances are you won't need the bouncer AND the newborn seat AND the swing AND the bassinet AND the play yard AND the cradle AND the exersaucer AND the jumper, know what I mean?  We barely used our swing and ended up getting rid of it a few years later.  Same with the bassinet.  We do like having a little bouncer type seat and something for when baby wants to be upright (we got rid of our exersaucer because it got gross and those things are huge to store…not sure what we'll use this time but maybe just a baby seat/Bumbo thing.)  All those things are good things to pass around between other friends with children and borrow if needed rather than everyone shelling out the money for all of them.

So, how'd I do?
Was your experience totally different?
Any "we didn't need that at all" items on your list?

Linking up with Kelly and 7 Quick Takes despite the non-quickishness of it all

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How We Met (a tale of shoddy appliances, dangling undergarments, and a God Who planned it all)

Our dryer broke last week.

It's okay.  It had this same issue before and Brian knew what it was. I'm very thankful that the inconvenience only lasted a week, the part came in earlier than expected, and he is a capable, awesome husband and was able to fix it himself.  We just did a lot of clothing inspection to see if things are really dirty (I mean, it doesn't smell, right?) and my laundry system works pretty well for a situation like this.  I had my quaint little line draped across the laundry room to hang dry the underwear and socks and things that do need to be washed every few days (though it was at the risk of being - literally - clotheslined when you walked in unsuspectingly).  In a weird way, it was kind of fun, despite the hanging undergarments that flagged the room right next to our entry door and how blessed am I that I have a husband that intuitively just seems to know how to fix things like that?

Which reminds me.

I've never told you the story of how we met, how this whole family we've got going on here, all began, have I?

It all started with a similar broken dryer and similar dangling undergarments.  Or a tad bit before, I guess.

Ahem.  Prepare thyself for the romance.

Once up on a time in a time before Facebook and smartphones, in a time where a blog was a new and ridiculous concept, a whole thirteen years ago, there was another broken dryer.
This was in the land of college.  The land where you sleep when you want and eat things that have barely the capacity to sustain life (and yet they somehow do) and where you and your housemates light dozens of candles to somehow make up for needing to keep the heat at 58 degrees because even split among six people, a several hundred dollar gas bill from an ancient drafty old house is impossible to pay.  (That doesn't work, by the way.  But the ambience was nice even if I did twice set my hair on fire.)  I had just returned from a summer spent interning in Colorado and it had been a summer filled with peace and joy and an interior knowledge growing in me that God had something around the corner.  I had no idea what but I was in a beautiful, freeing place where I had no preference.  

I wasn't supposed to live there.  I had made plans to live in a different house with a group of people I didn't really know all that well.  But it was so much cheaper than living on campus and I was beginning to resent the dorm life.  I had one semester to go and would graduate in December.  The plan was sketchy at best but it was college and who needs to plan things like where you're going to live and all, right?  So I showed up at this house of the girl who was a household sister but whom I didn't know well at all on that late afternoon in August ready to meet my new housemates.  I can't even place her name now.  My little stick shift Mazda Protege was packed full of everything I would need to survive the next few months and I went in.  She welcomed me in and things were just…off.  I got really uncomfortable when I saw the house had a bunch of random people in it that I didn't know.  "This is Joe…he's needing a place to stay for a bit so he's going to be here, too.  Hope that's okay."  Umm…okay?  As I was taking the tour the direction of the conversation I was overhearing threw up more flags.  There were snippets about getting high and parties to plan and who would sleep where…and it smelled funny already.  I was feeling more and more like this was not the place I was supposed to be and knew I couldn't stay.  I excused myself somehow, I don't really remember how, and drove off.  I dialed the number of another household sister who had called once during the summer hearing that I might need a place to stay and they had one if I needed it.  I had declined at the time thinking I was all set.

"Umm…Mary?  (Yes, another Mary.  It was Steubenville, after all.)  Is there, um...still space at your house?"

Thank God there was.
I called and cancelled on the other place.

Fast forward a week or two.  
Moved in.  Bonding with the new housemates.  Old huge drafty house with six girls.  Lots of pasta and beer.

The dryer breaks.

Six women in one house and it was kind of a big deal to get it fixed.

One of my housemates was good friends with this kid who lived on lower campus who offered to come look at it for us.  His name was Brian and he claimed he might be able to figure out what was wrong and fix it.  We obviously knew our landlord well enough to know that going that route wouldn't be fruitful.  So the two of them decided a time for him to come over and check it out.  I, however, was not let in on the plan.

When he came and knocked on the door that late summer evening, I was sitting on the floor in the living room, beer bottle in hand, donned in some sort of pajama pants and tank top getup watching I have no idea what on TV.  I was in the midst of some necessary laundry doing and all my undergarments were at that very moment bannering the basement makeshift clothesline.  I jumped at the knock, hastily and awkwardly covering myself while he told me why he was there.  I stammered out that I'd be right back while I hustled downstairs to hide a little bit of my wardrobe from view.  It would've been awkward no matter who it was but this guy was kind of cute to boot.  As I was pulling them down and hurriedly clothing myself in a damp bra to save myself a little bit of embarrassment, he came down the stairs.  Having a hint of what I was doing, he fumbled out, "It's okay, I have a sister." (#awkward)

I hastily collected the rest of my things and booked it upstairs while he checked out the dryer.  (Later confession:  "I don't think I had any idea what I was doing.")

And that was that.  Amidst the dangling underwear, I had met my future husband.

He actually did figure out that the plug needed replacing, drove out to the appliance store a day or two later and got it for us, and proceeded to fix the dryer.  To this day, I still think that must've been part of what hooked me in.  Even if he had no idea what he was doing on the inside, there definitely is something about a guy who is willing to take a look and try.  I'm not sure I could ever be married to someone who wasn't handy.  Much to his sometimes chagrin, I still think Brian is able to fix, create, or do anything around the house or pretty much anywhere.  I'm usually right.

A few days after the dryer incident we think he came over to hang out with a big group of people on our porch.  I don't remember much of that but we must've chatted or at least clicked somehow because a few days later he and the housemate conveniently arranged that we would join up with some friends at the Pittsburgh Irish Fest.  Because of differing schedules, the three of us would have to drive together.  They were tricky.  I have vague memories of lemon ice, beer, Irish music, a pick up truck (interior me:  He has a pick up truck!!!!), the Corrs playing on the radio, and a very late night drive home.

A few days later he asked me out on our first official date and that was that.  I was hooked.

Babies!  (And probably the only picture I will ever show you from that era…)

Six months later we were engaged and six months after that (much to the shock and concern of some friends and family), we got hitched.

 It's amazing to me looking back.  Six new people (and who knows how many more), a marriage of some crazy ups and downs, and a whole life I never would have planned…all because of a shoddy dryer, some dangling undergarments and a God Who planned it all. 

Learning from the best how to capture a lady's heart

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Why Our Babies Aren't Angels…And Why It Does Matter

My baby’s not an angel.  And I’m glad for it.  Almost anyone who has ever lost a child has probably heard it or said it themselves.  In the midst of condolences or their own processing of grief, they are told that their child is now an angel.  The platitudes are many:
You’re now a parent to an angel.
They just received their angel wings
I have two angel babies in heaven.
Now you have your own guardian angel.
There is talk of an “angel day”, jewelry with angel wings representing their baby or loved one, sweet poems regarding our new angels in heaven, and even Catholic companies selling items bedecked with winged babies as a memorial for miscarriage or infant loss.  “Angel baby” is a common term in the miscarriage/infant loss world for a baby that has died.
It’s a tricky topic to bring up.  Who wants to be the person to gently remind someone that that isn’t quite the case?  That their child, or any loved one that has died, does not become a different creature in heaven?  (And certainly, there are often times when it’s not appropriate, of course.)  And anyway, does it even matter?  Why not just let people believe whatever they want to in their grief, if it’s consoling to them?  But the fact remains, and thank God for it, that our babies do not become angels when they die.  Nor do any of us.  We will never ever in all eternity become an angel.
And that, dear friends, is wonderful and important.  Because we become something far more incredible
Please click over and read the rest here.  
I'd love for you to share your thoughts. 

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