Parenting in the Field


On Saturday we awoke to a forecast of 70 and sunny and immediately concluded that the only rational response was to hightail it to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.  We combined all of our rather formidable energies into getting everyone out the door at the speed of light, and two hours later we were off.


 There's not much to tell about the day, really, but watch me milk an entire post out of it anyway.

The reality of child-rearing is that the lower your expectations are, the happier you'll be.  It's easy to get swept away by romantic ideals of what a fun family outing should look like, for instance, but if you cling to them too hard those ideals will run you over, eat your lunch, and spit the regurgitated pieces back out in your face.

When we started out in parenthood, we had all the ideals.  Over time we've shed most of them, one by one, some more painful in the peeling.  The result is that our kids are not as well-behaved as we thought they would be, our home is more chaotic than we want it to be, and things that once felt critically important hardly enter our minds anymore.

But we are much, much better parents than we ever would have been had everything gone according to plan.

Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule?  Basically that the key to success in any area is putting 10,000 hours of practice into it.  I can see how this might be true in many areas but I don't think parenting is necessarily one of them (though the hours surely help), nor human relationships in general, really.  I think the key to success is being broken and coming back to life slightly different.

(Maybe this is an Easter post after all.)

Last week I posted a Rumi quote on Instagram and Facebook, and I've been thinking about it ever since.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I'll meet you there.

I'm not the same mom I was 4 years ago.  That mom was awfully caught up in the wrongdoing and the rightdoing and was hellbent on seeing the actualization of those romantic ideals.  That mom was snuffed out and crushed, and as painful as it was, I couldn't be more thankful to have taken the beating.

Do I still have ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing?  Of course I do.  The Law is important, and it has it's place.  But I'm no longer meeting my children there first.  First I'm meeting them in the field outside of all that, the field of grace.  And I'm meeting them, as people, as human beings, as image bearers of God. I'm not meeting them as reflections of my parenting or as little slivers of me. Because the beauty of knowing and guarding their precious persons is far more valuable to me than my stupid pride.

When I am old and gray and look back on parenthood, my deepest hope is that my children will say that they were heard and known.  For that, I will gladly accept the casualties of other people's judgements and my own inflated ego.  

Some things were always meant to die anyway.

Homemade Toothpaste for Babies and Toddlers (and possibly for you)


The debate over fluoride rages, and I washed my hands of figuring it out a long time ago.  My highly sophisticated solution has been to sometimes buy fluoridated toothpaste and sometimes buy the fluoride-free kind.  Ever the diplomat, I.

Luckily, everyone agrees on one thing: babies and toddlers (who can never, ever be trusted to not swallow everything toothpaste) should always have their teeth brushed with a fluoride-free variety. I am personally not a big fan of dyes, which most children's toothpastes contain, and am also not a big fan of paying $5 a pop for a natural brand if there is a cheaper alternative.  And luckily, there is.

I've used this simple homemade toothpaste recipe for both of my boys, and they both loved it. (Past tense for Alyosha unless I cave and throw in some extra Stevia, which has him salivating at the crack of the jar come 7:30 pm.  It's weird, Pavlov.)

Here's what you'll need:

4 oz glass jar, or container of choice
1 Tbsp castile soap
5 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp water
1 heaping tsp baking soda
1-2 drops peppermint oil (or orange, lemon, etc), to taste
stevia, to taste

Simply mix everything together, using the oil and stevia sparingly at first and adding more as you desire.

(Adults can certainly use this as well, if you're comfortable without the fluoride, but I'll give you the heads up that it's a pretty different feel than most of us are used to.  A little grainy and not much foam. No complaints from the toddler set, but the hubs has yet to make it past the first tasting.)

Happy Brushing!

Related Posts:
DIY Cloth Wipes
Things No One Tells You About Cloth Diapering
If You're a Sucker for a Birth Story
Why I'm Not "Training" My Children

Why Ishtar Doesn't Stop Me from Celebrating Easter


Not sure if you've heard (or stepped foot inside a grocery store, mall, Wal-Mart, Target, Hobby Lobby, am I forgetting any?...), but Easter's coming up!

Depending on the circle of Christians (or lack thereof) that you run with, you may or may not be aware of the emerging trend of eschewing the word "Easter" in favor of more specifically Christian terms like "Resurrection Day".  Sometimes this is coupled with a diminishment of Easter celebrations, with perhaps more emphasis on commemorating Passover instead.

(Regarding the last note, I want to say that I find celebrating Passover as Christians to be a powerful thing and am in no way implying it's not worthwhile to do.  But some modern evangelicals may be surprised to hear that liturgical denominations have celebrated- and continue to celebrate- it as Maundy Thursday for centuries as part of Holy Week leading up to Easter.  It doesn't have to be an either/or, and it's definitely not "the new Easter".)

I have several friends whom I respect who find themselves on various places on that spectrum.  To the best of my understanding, their reasons are first and foremost a grievance against the commercialization of the holiday.  Which, yes, I absolutely agree is unfortunate.  The next most common defense I hear is in regards to the alleged relationship between the Easter holiday and the pagan worship of the goddess Ishtar, a bit of a rumor that is best summed up by this meme:

Something like that.

I have read discrepancies on whether that is even factual, and it seems to me more likely that the English word "Easter" is actually derived from the Germanic pagan goddess Eostre.  But honestly, Ishtar/Eostre, potato/potahto.  

Here's the deal, Christians: our Savior came to redeem the world.  To make the wrong things right. To form beauty out of ashes.  To take the most broken, the most disturbing, the most jacked up of this whole humanity thing, and redeem it.  If that's not worth celebrating on a day that once belonged to darkness and perversion, then I just don't know what is.  If you think about it, it's actually the perfect day to celebrate the Resurrection, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We don't have to be afraid, you guys.  We don't have to be afraid of inadvertently worshipping pagan goddesses when we celebrate Easter.  We don't have to be afraid of worshipping Satan when we let our kids trick or treat on Halloween.  We don't have to be afraid of the fact that our world has a long, complex history on which our society had been built.  We get to embrace it all and see Christ in all.  But we can't do that if we're too scared to hold out our arms and open our eyes.

Because those pagans out there?  It's not about us against them.  It's just "us", all of us, the one human race that God Himself became part of.  Of course we exercise wisdom and discernment. But honestly, I'm not that worried about most of us accidentally finding ourselves in the middle of an orgy on Easter.  I *am* worried about us separating ourselves so far from the rest of humanity that our neighbors feel judged and weirded out and never get to experience the love of Christ.

And also?  Isn't our precious faith fractured enough?  We probably have more divisions than we have unity, yet Easter Sunday is the one day when every single Christian in the world pauses to remember the one thing we can all agree on, the one thing that it's all about anyway.  Easter is a sweet gift to the Bride of Christ on the earth.  I wouldn't give it up for anything, least of all because I'm intimidated by some forgotten pagan goddess with big boobs.


Dissenting comments are very welcome and encouraged!  We can disagree on this and still be friends- promise! :)

What I'm Reading - Spring '15


(doesn't it feel good to say/see/hear/read the word spring?)

I thought it would be fun to check in every once in awhile (possibly every season 'cuz you know how I love them but we'll see) with my reading list.  I have two motives here.  The first is that maybe just maybe you're like me and enjoy hearing about good (or not so good, we shall see) books that other people are reading.  I'm a bit of a media hermit so often the only book recommendations I get are from the blogs I read or real-life friends' bookshelves.  The second motive is that I'm hoping it will give me some sort of accountability to actually read these books.

If book lists ain't yo thing, I'm not offended.  Click away to something more exhilarating and check back in tomorrow for 7 Quick Takes from our trip to my grandparents' farm.  Ex-hil-ar-rat-ing.  ;)

For the rest of you, I march onward.

(you can click on the book cover image to find out more about it on Amazon...  these are affiliate links, and Alyosha thanks you for the 50 cents to buy gum)

Just Finished Reading

Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom

I read this one as part of the virtual book club at Liturgy of Life, and I mostly enjoyed it.  Bloom was an Orthodox priest and this is a book that's been loved by Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics all.  From time to time I found myself zoning out (which is not unusal for me + nonfiction) but he also had some really good food for thought as well.  I appreciated what he had to say about crafted prayers, as that's relatively new territory for me.  He also puts forth a pretty hard challenge to sit in silence for 5 minutes a day.  Not in prayer, particularly.  Silence.  In this day and age, that is pretty hard to do and I haven't yet succeeded.  But soon! (?)

Currently Reading

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

I love Dickens.  A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books ever.  And I want to like this one, really I do, it's just so long.  I've been working on this one for 2 years (and by working on I mostly mean looking at and thinking about opening it, so that by the time I actually do open it I have no idea what's going on in the plot, who the characters are, what on earth they're talking about, or why I am still so convinced that I'm going to overcome my lower inclinations, rise above, and actually finish this one day.)  Have any of you read it?  Anybody able to give me a little "push through, it gets sooooo good!" encouragment regarding ol Nick?  On a positive note, I have decided that the name Newman Noggs is among the greatest literary creations ever and will one day be bestowed upon an Evans dog.  Just wait.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table (with recipes) by Shauna Niequist

I ordered this one from the library at the recommendation of every Evangelical woman in America.  The reason I ordered it was not its popularity (I have a tendency to eschew popular things, for whatever reason that maybe I should be in therapy over) but because I am so stinking SICK of cooking.  I feel like I should enjoy the creative aspect, I should enjoy nourishing my family, I should enjoy making stuff that tastes amazing and is pleasurable to eat.  But the stress of meal planning, grocery shopping, trying to cook during the witching hour when my children just need need need me... it just does not work in my favor.  I do it anyway (most days), but wanted inspiration to really enjoy it.  I'm not sure if I found any kind of magic wand here, but I do enjoy the author's stories and it's a fun and light read so far.  Also it heavily emphasizes the importance of community, which is right up my alley, and I find that inspiring.  I will admit that this lady loves food in a way that baffles me.  If ever I was in doubt about my foodie status, this book has kicked my backside solidly in the NOPE camp.  (don't get me wrong, I sure like to eat, but this is passion that I previously only guessed existed)

Will Be Reading

The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict

Can you believe this book was written 1500 years ago?  My mind is just blown by that.  This book is typically used for those joining a religious community (becoming a monk, nun, joining a lay order, etc) but apparently it is highly valuable for those just seeking to live a simple, meaningful life as well.  I have no idea what to expect, but here goes!  This is another one I'm reading alongside Liturgy of Life friends.

Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

I've never read any of Kathleen Norris' writings (most notably Amazing Grace), have you?  I believe this one falls in the memoir category, and I love me a good memoir.  I'm really expecting to like this one, which of course means it should get saved for last.  But I might let her duke it out with Dickens.

So that covers me for awhile... what about you?  What are you reading these days?  I need to start compiling a "to be used later" list and I need recommendations!

The SAE Video, Tony Robinson, and Dinner With My Black Son


We went to an ophthalmology appointment today, just Aly and me.  It was long and boring, with a little dilating and a lot of waiting.  He did really well, but when we pulled the car out 2.5 hours after pulling it in, only to be greeted with bumper to bumper 5 o'clock traffic, we both started losing it.  So, I said, let's have a date, I said.  It'll be fun, I said.

What I couldn't have foreseen was that while we asked each other questions over oozing peanut butter sandwiches, the muted TV would be silently screaming at me from the corner of Which Wich.

I couldn't hear a thing, yet I could hear everything.  I could see the Sigma Alpha Epsilon video that just came out of the University of Oklahoma (a school our family has ties to), I could read the subtitles and hear that charter bus chanting them in my head.  I prayed a silent 'thank you' to my God that the television was on mute, not because I thought my 5 year old would understand but because I knew I would weep if he asked me what they were singing.

The coverage ended.  I struggled to regain composure.  Next, they said, next we would hear from the family of 19 year old Tony Robinson, the unarmed black teen who was shot and killed by police on Friday.  (I hadn't even known.  We'd been traveling, and I hadn't even known.)

I pulled mine close to kiss his coarse curls, the kind they hate so much, and he didn't ask why. And over that silent screen I could hear the thundering that black mothers have been hearing for hundreds of years.  And a few tears escaped, but he didn't see, and I can keep him safe for just a few years more.

When I was a freshman in college my roommate and best friend was black. She would often come home with me on long weekends and I'd drive through tiny Texas towns and she'd shrink low in her seat, telling me to step on it and let her know when we'd gone through.  I was 18, white, privileged, and the daughter of a civil rights activist and a fiery social worker.  I laughed her off and waved my hand at her antics, because "no one thinks like that anymore" and "this is 2001, not 1964"!

I was a damned fool, and so are you if you're still reading that script.

The only good thing, the only good, that can come from the deaths of all these unarmed teen boys and the chants of those SAE ignoramuses is that at some point we have to stop pretending that racism is dead.  These things don't happen in a vacuum.  It's insufficient to blame these incidents on a few bad seeds ruining the barrel.  Racism is still in the very fibers of our society, and white privilege is the foundation of it.

Strangers of all ethnicities mostly find my black son charming and lovable now (though much less at 5 than they did at 1), but how will you feel in ten years?  When you see him at the mall being loud with his friends, when he stands a little too close to you on the subway, when he touches things in your store?  What if he's wearing a hoodie?!?

Did you know that mothers of black sons worry about these things?  I used to not.

We're at a critical point in our nation's history.  It's time to see change, for real, not just sweep it under the rug.  It's time to examine our own hearts and habits and root out everything that needs not be there.  It's time to educate ourselves through reading that which makes us uncomfortable, having hard conversations, and admitting that the reality that we see may not be reality itself.

Below are some articles that I have found helpful.  I hope you read them, I hope you are changed by them, I hope you will help me be changed by them too.  Black friends, we need you to speak out, to tell your story, to help us understand.  Most of us want to.  White friends, we need you to humble yourselves and what you think you know.  We need you to look within and do away with every area that our culture of racism has snuck in to who you are.  We can do this together.  We don't really have a choice when children's lives depend on it.

Black Moms Tell White Moms About the Race Talk
The mothers talked about the times their sons had been stopped in their own neighborhoods because "they fit the description".  They shared the times their sons had come home full of rage and hurt for being stopped and questioned for no reason.  And they told the other mothers how often they told their sons to simply swallow the injustice of the moment.  Because they wanted them alive, above all.

White Privilege and What We're Supposed to Do About It
White privilege can look like being able to find a band aid that matches your skin tone.  White privilege can look like walking through an upscale residential neighborhood without anyone wondering what you are doing there.  White privilege can look like wearing a baseball cap and baggy pants and no one assuming you are a criminal.

What I Want You to Know About Being a Young Black Man in America
as scary as people think black males are, black males are conditioned to be ten times more afraid of everyone else.  We're conditioned to be afraid of going to certain parts of the country, afraid of people with certain political views, afraid of police officers, and sometimes afraid of other black and Latino males.

The Dream Lives
Tragically, 1 of 3 African American males born today will serve jail time if current trends hold, and in our nation's capital, 3 of 4.  In some states Black men are sentenced to jail for drug offenses at a rate of 20-50 times greater than White males.

Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It    (*book)

*amazon affiliate link

A Life Redeemed


I sit, and write.  Though dishes left undone, bathtubs left unscrubbed, hair left unwashed- my soul magnifies the Lord and so I sit, and write.


I dreamt last night of the One Who Broke The Heart Into A Thousand Pieces, now ten years ago.  He was leaving, ushered away to answer for crimes he had surely committed, and I came to him then- stood tall and kind and had to bend to embrace him; he, the boy-man, not so big after all.  I kissed his cheek and said the same three words I'd said so many years ago.  But now, oh how they soared off the lips!  Unfettered by fear.  Marinated in compassion.  And I awake to total peace; I awake to freedom and love and the warm spot on the bed where my husband lay long before rising with the sun, leaving me dreaming of mercy.

Today I think of that boy-man and that girl-woman who thought she loved him, only to wake up a decade later sure that she finally does.  And it's nothing like she thought.  Today I think on broken bodies and bloody arms and how cold the world seemed.  I think on how the God-Man saw that girl-woman, with her broken body and bloody arms, and how He came to her and offered His own.

And today the mystery is almost too much.  How that Body, Broken for Me, changed everything.  How those Bloody Arms of His could make an exchange so decided, so deep, so permanent.  How could I but love a God that powerful?  How could I but worship?  Deep am I in the mystery.  Deep am I in hope.

A life redeemed.

On Loaves and Fishes


I boarded that airplane to Indonesia with visions of mass revival among street kids, of orphans knowing love and worth for the first time, of a life of excitement and adventure and a me that was somehow more than I had ever been back at home.

But it's funny... wherever you run in the world, when you get there, you're still just you.  And days are still just days and every once in awhile you get one that takes your breath away, but for the most part they're full of all the mundane of life that you were convinced you could bypass if you simply chose adventure.

So you do things like language school and grocery store and too brief conversations and you wonder where you went wrong, why it's all so small, so insignificant.

I went into depression there for awhile, as our adoption process sputtered along and there were no orphans to visit and every possibility just seemed too hard and the resounding conclusion was that I am not enough.

But I read His Word on those rainy afternoons that dragged and dawdled, and I read that He said to bring Him the loaves, bring Him the fishes, and I read that it was enough for thousands.  It was more than enough.

So I did the only thing I could think of to do and it wasn't loaves, it wasn't fishes, it was breadcrumbs and fish bones but it was all I had.  I started a ballet class for little girls in my neighborhood.  With no qualifications, little dance instruction, an email of tips from my graceful sister-in-law, and a lot of YouTube videos, I taught those tiny dancers.  And wedged between my self-conscious tongue and third position, something happened.  I fell in love with Fridays and so did they.  We fell in love with each other's presence, with each other's gift of time and space and laughter, the way we held our hands just so and the way I faked knowing the right words.

Someone donated ballet shoes and their chins lifted a bit higher after that, especially the ones with the missing toes.  They leapt and twirled and knew they were just as beautiful, just as powerful as the Chinese girls at the real studio down the road.  And for the last few months of living in Indonesia, I had finally found my home.

That was almost four years ago and it seems like I should be able to check that lesson off my ever growing list of things-to-be-learned, but it still catches me from time to time at all the wrong moments.  I am not enough.  I can't.  I couldn't do it perfectly.  Someone else could do it better.   Someone else IS doing it better.  But I forget that all He ever asked of me was for that flimsy basket in my hands, the one whose contents seem only enough to nourish me... and maybe my little family. The one whose contents were meant to be broken and dispersed and flung wide over the hillside to fill empty stomachs.  The basket whose contents could be made enough, if put in the right hands.

Not long ago a friend who suffers from debilitating anxiety asked me to go to an appointment with her, where she would have to talk about things that she knew would make her pulse race and her hands go clammy.  She needed an advocate and my first thought was I can't do that, I can't be that. I'm not the best one to go.  I thought of all the reasons I was needed at home (I wasn't) and all the other people who would be better at it (they wouldn't), until I realized that this was ridiculous and I had a fish on my hands that was about to start stinking if I didn't get rid of it soon.  So we went (twice, actually) and she was empowered and she felt powerful and I did nothing and she did everything - SHE DID IT.  And it was small and it was trivial and it wasn't even worth writing about except that I was reminded that looks can be deceiving, and maybe when I enter into That Which Is Next all that will really matter was the small and the trivial.  Because loaves and fishes and my heart and my yes were all He ever really wanted anyway.

*part of the Live Small, Love Big linkup... how much do y'all know I love that title?*

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)