Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cheese - and Praise Songs - for Jesus

My sister-in-law called me from the mall yesterday in the midst of a full-blown panic attack. She practically shouted at me over the phone: "Our daughters can never, ever grow up!" I was in the middle of fixing dinner, but having made a few recent trips to the mall myself, I stopped what I was doing long enough to ask her, "Was it the kids or the clothes?"

"Both!" she replied.

I feel her pain. As a Christian mother, I am loathe to raise 3 daughters and a son in the image-conscious, consumer-driven, sex-saturated culture that surrounds us. In a few short years, these sweet and innocent children I tuck into bed each night will be facing every temptation I've ever encountered, plus dozens more I don't yet know exist. Nothing drives me to my knees faster than the responsibility of raising godly children in a godless culture.

The good news is my kids are still a few years away from having to face that culture on their own. For now, Tyler and I are their primary teachers about what is right and wrong, Who God is, and why He loves them. And their secondary teachers are people that we've hand-selected to be a part of their lives: family members, teachers, and friends who share our heart for the things of God.

But for some reason, I worry that I'm failing my children when it comes to teaching them about God. Perhaps its because I have an unrealistic image of how I'm going to instruct these kids. I'll confess that when Ella was still a baby, I used to dream about that precious moment when my daughter - clean and damp from her evening bath, and snuggled up next to me in her bed - would look up and ask, "Mommy, tell me about Jesus?" I suppose in anticipation of this imagined conversation, I've spent the last three years preparing myself for that special moment.

Of course, my first discussion with Ella about Jesus wasn't quite the special moment I thought it would be. It happened early last December, just before Christmas. To borrow from the King James' Version of things, I was "great with child," and trying to waddle my way out of the shower when Ella strolled in to the bathroom and popped the question: "Mommy, where does Jesus live?" She took me off-guard, especially since my clothes were in the next room; but I was determined to take advantage of the opportunity. I wrapped myself in a towel as best I could - given my considerable size - and replied, "Well, Jesus lives in my heart."

Ella eye-balled me for a minute, and then asked the obvious follow-up question: "With Baby Ty?"

"Ummmmm.... Well, no. Jesus lives in my heart. Baby Ty is in my tummy."

"Does Baby Ty get to play with Jesus?"

It turns out Ella's interest in Jesus - and the fact that it coincided with my pregnancy - made for some pretty interesting theological questions. A few days after our initial conversation, I was eating a piece of cheese to stave off a round of pregnancy-induced nausea. Ella was watching me from the backseat of the car. "Can I have a piece of cheese, Mommy?"

"Oh no, honey. This is all the cheese I've got, and I need it for Baby Ty."

Ella was quiet for a minute, and then patted her heart and replied, "But I need some cheese for Jesus!"

I wish I'd had some great response ready to correct Ella's obvious confusion. But as most moms know, it can be hard to argue with the logic of a three-year old. I broke off a piece of cheese and handed it back to her, wondering how I was going to correct Ella's misconceptions about Christ dwelling in her.

But before I could come up with a solution, Ty's birth created a new complication that I suppose I should have anticipated. Shortly after bringing Ty home from the hospital, Ella announced that she needed to go to the doctor. I was taking Ty to the doctor's office anyway, and decided to let Ella tag along. When the doctor walked in, Ella plopped herself down in my lap.

"Jesus lives in my heart," she told the doctor, patting her chest.

My pediatrician, who I'm sure is used to kids' strange comments, just smiled and said, "Well isn't that nice."

"I need you to get Him out..."

Ty is 9 months old now and Ella seems to have lost interest in Jesus' living arrangements; to be honest, I'm relieved. It's given me the opportunity to begin again - starting with daily Bible stories, Scripture memory, and prayer. I'm not sure how much she understands yet, but I woke up this morning to the one of the sweetest sounds I've ever heard. My little girl was sitting in her room, singing:

This is the day (This is the day)
The Lord has made (The Lord has made)!
I will rejoice (I will rejoice)
And be glad in it (And be glad in it)!
This is the day that the Lord has made!
I will rejoice and be glad in it!
This is the day (This is the day)
The Lord has made.

Ella loves singing praise songs to Jesus. She loves saying grace at the dinner table and bedtime prayers each night. She knows the answer to questions like, "Who made the sun?" (God made the sun!) And she gives me hope that God can use an awkward, inexperienced mother like me to raise a new generation of believers who will minister to a world in need - or a least offer hope to some of those kids at the mall.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I just added two-dozen articles of clothing to my mounting pile of weekly laundry. And I couldn't be happier, because it's finally official: my twins are wearing big girl panties! I realize that if you haven't suffered through potty-training recently, you probably don't understand why I'm celebrating this addition to my wash pile. But I know you'll appreciate my enthusiasm when you understand the journey to this point.

Since Ella was born in 2004, I have changed approximately 17,865 diapers. No joke. I just did the math. Twice. Which means that in the last four years, I've stuffed around $7,800 into my diaper genie.

With all this money going (figuratively) down the toilet, it's been my mission to get the girls out of Pampers and into panties as quickly as possible. Which is why my mission failed from the very beginning, since my kids - particularly Ella - aren't quick about anything. Thus, what began 2 1/2 years ago with Ella, a cup of water, and a child-sized potty seat has ended in thousands of wasted diapers, a library filled with quasi-repulsive books like Everyone Poops and Once Upon a Potty, several pounds of M&M rewards, a state-of-the-art carpet cleaning system, and countless hours of my life I can never get back.

One of the reasons potty-training was so complicated is that I forgot a cardinal rule of parenting: The three things that no one can force a child to do is eat, sleep, or poop. I made the mistake one day of pumping Ella full of water, parking her training potty in front of the TV, and making her sit on it until she "went". In my defense, we'd been potty-training for nearly nine months and I was desperate for Ella to contribute even a drop in the bucket! But I didn't realize my approach inadvertently violated the rules of parent-toddler engagement, and that I was locked in a battle of the wills. Ella claimed victory when I surrendered after three hours and ran upstairs to grab a diaper; in my absence she hopped off the potty, piddled all over the new hardwood floors, and ran to perch herself back on her throne.

The other reason potty-training was so complicated is that while I was obsessing over Ella's unaccommodating bladder, the twins were developing some pretty nasty habits of their own - the worst of which was taking off their diapers during nap time. I tried everything I could think of to keep their pants on. The most obvious solution was duct tape, which works sometimes. However, I learned that there are three important factors to consider when duct taping a child into a diaper: 1) If there are 2 children in the room, they will work in tandem to remove the offending tape. Given enough time, they will succeed. 2) Tummies are rounder after a meal, and contract over time. Eventually, the diaper can slide right off. 3) You look like a redneck.

Probably the most distressing aspect of the girls' unwillingness to use the bathroom appropriately was the destruction of their rooms - particularly Emily and Evie's room. The usual progression of events began when the girls broke free of their duct tape and took off their diapers. The stinky contents were then discarded on the floor, and my bare-bottomed twins ran freely around the room, sitting on their pillows, quilts, and dresser. Sometimes I found fanny imprints on the windows, where they leaned to rest during this naked free for all. I never knew what I was going to find when I walked in their room. Frankly, I should have ripped up the carpet, thrown two mattresses on the floor, and painted the entire room chocolate brown. Perhaps they would have been less interested in using their poop as an artistic medium. Of course, if I'd actually done this, you'd probably catch me crying on the evening news as my diaperless children are escorted away to foster care.

Needless to say, this whole experience has left me - if you'll pardon the terrible pun - completely pooped. In fact, I called my husband a few weeks ago in hysterical tears: "I'm exhausted! I just can't, can't, can't scrub the carpet, strip these beds, or wash these quilts ONE MORE TIME!!!" Thankfully, I think Somebody else must have heard my cry. I know it might sound like a lot to some, but honestly, I think I can handle adding a couple dozen panties to my laundry pile.