On Feeding Imperfectly: Hard-earned Hospitality and Motherhood

Two posts in one week! I know, right? Today I'm over at Grace Table sharing about my long-journey into the kitchen and how--though I am not a natural cook--feeding my children has become a liturgy of grace in my life. Not all the good things we spend are lives doing come easy. In fact, plenty of them don't.

And still, on my son's "Top 10 Reasons I Love My Mom" list, my willingness to make him dinner was listed twice!

Here's a little preview.

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The Friday before Mother’s Day my second grader came home with a “Top 10 Reasons Why I Love My Mom” note in his hand, one he couldn’t wait until Sunday to give me.

This was one of those fill-in-the-blank, extra generic worksheets with cartoon illustrated smiling kids at the top, one of those pages of homework that will go into his bin of saved second-grade pictures and stories, one that serve as an artifact of a moment in time, when the child I’m raising wrote about the mother he knew more deeply than any other human on this earth, but only the me at this moment. Only the me who mothers him.

Some answers he got just right, exactly as I hope he’ll remember me. “I love my mom because she reads me Lord of the Rings,” number 10 says.  (I love myself for that, too.)

“I love my mom because she taught me how to read.” (Yes!)

“I love to hear my mom sing ReptillSong” (also known as “Reptile Song,” my own invention, thank you very much.)

And then there are the other answers. “I know my mom is smart because she knows multiplication.” (Ha! Of all the things that *might* make me smart, my math skills are not among them!)

“I know my mom cares because she makes dinner for me.”

“I love my mom because she works so hard at dinner.”

I'd love for you to read the rest at Grace Table. 

You, me, and Leigh: What living with my single friend has taught me (and my family) about friendship and unexpected blessings.

leighandme

leighandme

This is my friend, Leigh. She's also my roommate. Today I have a new piece up at about what it's looked like and what I've learned by having a single friend live with me and my family for the past year.

Spoiler Alert: I think that when families and single people live together it's good for everybody.

Here's a little nugget of the article.

When Leigh—a friend from afar who had just moved to my city—first came to live with us, it was supposed to be for two months: one month of cat-sitting while we spent a lot of time visiting grandparents, and one month of temporary stay while she searched to secure her own place. Now, almost a year later, Ezra the cat, whom she started feeding out of obligation, splits his nights between her room and the room I share with my husband.

At first, this was an arrangement of necessity: the San Francisco housing market is ridiculous. It’s competitive and incredibly expensive. As we watched our friend Leigh search, we learned two undeniable truths: it’s hard for a 36-year-old single woman to a) Make enough to live on her own … even in a tiny one-room apartment, or b) commit to sharing a single bedroom with a random woman from Craigslist. When this became clear, my husband and I invited her to stay for the year.

There have been sacrifices, sure. My baby, Ace, has slept in my room much longer than I’d originally planned: he’s going on 13 months now. This wouldn’t have worked with his older brothers, who were much more intense even at that young age, but, luckily, Ace is laid back.

Keeping him in my room has forced me to adjust his baby accouterments and accessories, along with my expectations for what a baby needs. It turns out that a baby doesn’t really need a navy striped with matching elephant prints after all. He doesn’t need a Pottery Barn shelving unit either. A big wicker basket in the corner of the room works just fine. We’ve simplified and are focusing on the essentials. And simplicity is good for the soul.

Of course, it hasn’t been a walk in the park for Leigh, either. Not only does she share a bathroom with my two older boys (ages seven and five) who—let’s be honest—don’t always succeed at aiming for the toilet, she also shares a wall with them. When they’re up at 6:30 a.m., no matter whether it’s her day off or not—their little voices come right through the air vent, like a morning alarm she can’t hit snooze on.

During the day, Leigh doesn’t exactly have the life a single woman might otherwise, either. Most days, she can’t wake up and decide to whip up a fancy breakfast on a whim … because, though Leigh loves to cook, our kitchen is a madhouse. I’m always there, making a snack, making a meal, washing dishes. I imagine Leigh relishes the times when we’re out of the house so she can make something wonderfully adult and delicious without worrying about when one of us will charge into her space and start slicing an apple for a whining kid.

Yet, for all that, after a few months of cohabitation, we collectively decided to make our living situation permanent for a while. All of us—my husband and Leigh and I—shared the same reasoning: this experiment was good. In fact, we all agreed that it had genuinely surprised us all with its goodness. Its unexpected gifts were making all of our lives richer, and taught us a few valuable lessons.

Join me at For Her to read the rest! 

Dear Parents of a Child with Special Needs (Revised and at TCW today!)

Monica Ayers Photography

Monica Ayers Photography

Several months ago of some things I wrote about some things I had learned in my then six or so months of being the mom of a child with special needs.

Today that piece (revised and with some additional thoughts) is over at Today's Christian Woman. You'd usually need a subscription to read the articles at TCW, but you're special to me, so I'm giving you a top-secret link. Feel free to share. :)

 

Delight: My One-Word for 2016 (and an announcement)

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delight1

You are a delight. We say that to Ace, the baby who seems remarkably gifted at sweetness. I say it while I tickle him or while he giggles to my lame-mom attempts at singing our way through the afternoon. I say it to my older boys when they’re snuggling close, their hair sometimes the scent of the dreamcicle ice cream pops of my childhood summers.

You are a delight. It’s a word that registers a moment of bliss, a surge of joy, a renewal of wonder. To delight to is stop the monotonous motion of daily routines, to be present, to receive the dearness of the moment.

Delight. That’s my word for 2016. I want to delight in my children. I want to delight in this life I have. I want to believe in God’s delight in us. I want to move slowly enough through my days that I cannot help but stop for the joy of it all. I want to read because I love to read. I want to write out of a sense of emotional health, not guilt, not obligation.

. . .

So what hinders delight? I’ve been asking myself that question for the past month while I’ve mulled over this word. What stands between the drudgery of regular life and the joy of the present moment?

My own mind: My obligations. The directions I’m pulled in. The guilt I carry of not doing enough for enough people.

And without delight, I am not the writer I want to be. To delight is to find a new way toward creativity.

. . .

I’ve been waiting to “figure out” this whole three kids thing. I’ve been waiting to figure out what it looks like to raise a little boy with special needs. I’ve been waiting for life to calm down so I can go back to writing like I used to.

And readers, I’ve come to a realization: I can’t write like I used to. Not with the same speed, not with the same frequency. My older kids may be in school, but they demand a different level of emotional attention. There are challenges that require a mom who is present, who is intentional with our time after school.

My baby is not in school, but his therapy schedule is surprisingly intense. And Ace not only demands constant nursing. (He still won’t take a bottle! Ahhh!), but he also struggles in things that were easier for my older babies. He takes a lot longer to eat. He naps for a smaller amount of time. He has exercises he's supposed to do every day! I need to be intentional in the time I give to him.

I’m learning how to be Ace’s mom. And learning takes time.

Delight in this stage of life looks like a different kind of freedom. I need to let go of my old expectations. I need to embrace some new ones.

. . .

I’ve decided to stop blogging.

This has been a long time coming. I’ve backed off more and more. I’ve gone longer and longer between posts. I stopped apologizing for those long breaks. But I’ve still felt an obligation to this blog, a loud voice in my head telling me that I need to do more, that I need to use my time to get something up on the screen.

And I’ve decided to permanently shush the blog-obligation voice. I’ve decided to take some time to let myself be inspired again, to let myself play with my kids without a guilty feeling that I should be writing.

I started blogging because I was inspired. I was reading things I was deeply excited about. I was full of ideas. I want to be there again. And I really believe that in order to get back to that head space, I need a little delight. I need fun books to read. I need notebooks full of thoughts. I need space to have some new ideas.

I’m going to keep this space open. I am not closing this blog. I’m planning to publish pieces from time to time in other places. And when I do, I’ll share links to them here. I’ll still be posting on my accounts. You can find me in all my places.

If you haven’t already signed up for my email list, please fill out the form in the side bar! =======>

I promise I will not flood your inbox. But if you’d like to keep up with what I’m writing, I’ll send you an email every time I post something up on the webs. That way you won’t have to keep coming here to check in, you’ll get an email from me instead.

The season of constant blogging was such a sweet one for me. I’m so grateful for you all for reading and commenting and supporting the work I’ve done in this little corner of the internet. The reality is that the blogging life is just not sustainable with my right now life. And I’m learning to be more and more at peace with that.

So I’ll be off practicing delight. Relearning what it looks like to choose books for fun, to use time to play, to write things that make me giddy. And I hope you’ll look for ways to choose delight as well.

Thanks for the freedom. I’m grateful for you all and I promise to stay close by.

With love,

Micha 

When the promises are in the distance, waiting to be welcomed home

 

Photo by  Timon Studler  on  Unsplash

We’re way behind schedule when we walk in the door and I call out a litany of frantic mother phrases, “Shoes off! Hands washed!

August-do-your-reading-for-ten-minutes!” while I lay Ace on the quilt in the living room and toss a couple of toys his way before starting dinner.

Brooks is not happy about my plan for fish tacos.

He’s on the verge of a meltdown all the time right now. He whines in the kitchen and I ignore his protests.

“Sometimes you like dinner and sometimes you don’t and that’s just how it goes, darlin.” I say. The last remaining bits of my Texas drawl show up when I lecture my children. Can’t help it.

August is not whining. He’s in his room with his nose in a book about snakes.

I breathe out a Thank you, Lord for that reality.

He’s seven now and beginning to overcome his temper. Asking him to read for ten minutes last year might have erupted in a full-blown big kid tantrum.

And, bless it, my child is actually doing what I asked.

Brooksie takes his whining away from the kitchen. The fish is salted and peppered and ready to go on the pan. I’m moving from fridge to cutting board, listening for Ace, watching the timer for August’s reading. Chop the onion, slice the avocado.

I hear Brooks’ little four-year-old voice. He speaks quiet: “You are the cutest baby in the whole world, little Acer. Cutest little baby in the whole world.”

I put down my knife and peek into the room next door, where Brooks is on his belly, his chin propped up by his hands. Ace is on his back, his neck contorted in that way only babies can bend.

He’s staring at his big brother in awe.

Brooksie sings, “I am Ace-y, I am Ace-y. I’m a sweet little boy! I am Ace-y, I am Ace-y. And I bring so much joy!

“Careful with your kisses, Brooksie!” I call from the doorway of the kitchen. Brooks is covering Ace’s face with wet smooches, and Ace is grunting his discomfort.

The giver of the kisses lets go and turns his head to me, still hovering above his brother’s face.“Mama, look. I can’t stop. He’s just too cute.”

I'm sharing the rest over on Ann Voskamp’s Good Reads blog today. On Ace, his brothers, and the hard work of learning to show hospitality to God's promises in the distance.

Down syndrome, Instagram, and friends of #ACEface

It's been 4 1/2 months since Ace was born, and I'm just beginning to wade into the world of Down syndrome awareness and inclusion. I've been taking a seat here behind my screen, just watching and paying attention to what's going on in this subculture I've just entered.

So much of my learning is coming from some of my favorite Instagram accounts:

@etst -- Kelle Hampton is the author of Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected and blogger at kellehampton.com. She has such style and takes beautiful photos. She has introduced me to Ruby’s Rainbow, a beautiful scholarship program that is helping students with DS attend college. Check it out. (And then try not to cry!) She's also introduced me to the #changingthefaceofbeauty campaign, which is working to make advertising more inclusive of people with disabilities.

@theluckyfewofficial -- I love Heather Avis in this Instagram account. I don't know her at all, but her spirit is lovely and so are her three kids, two of whom have Down syndrome. You guys have to watch Macy dance. She is dancing all over this account and I just adore her. Heather also blogs at heatheravis.com and is the host of my favorite Down syndrome hashtag #theluckyfew.

Heather Avis' account introduced me to @littlest_warrior (Littlest Warrior Apparel), who is currently selling so many amazing t-shirts that I keep almost buying. Here's Ace wearing his "chromosomally enhanced" Littlest Warrior shirt last month.

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Also, I'm a big fan of @jimbo_is_the_man. There's just something about seeing an older man with Down syndrome living a full, joyful life that gives me a lot of hope for my little guy.

Have you seen the video of Gungor's newest song about Lucy, their little one with Down syndrome? It is lovely:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_uioQqW8ac

Chris and I are only just learning (and watching) what Ace's life will mean for us. But we're so thrilled to step into advocating on behalf of Ace and all the little ones born with DS, many of whom do not have the support or opportunities Ace will have.

This year we're walking in the Buddy Walk on October 17 and we're wearing super cute t-shirts designed by TeePublic. You're all invited to be a friend of #ACEface and purchase your own shirt! All proceeds from the sales will be donated to the National Down Syndrome Society. You can also support Ace and all his friends by giving to our fundraising page for this year's NDSS Buddy Walk.

(Pick your own style and color! Kids sizes too!)

It's an honor to share my stories here. Thanks for reading and cheering for Ace from afar.

One year later, how Ace picked us

Photo by  freestocks.org  on  Unsplash

This past Sunday night was the year anniversary of the night I discovered I was pregnant with Ace.

It was August 17, 2014, the night before the first day of school and Chris was leaving for a redeye to somewhere I can’t remember now. I’d be alone for that first week of school while Chris was off on what was (in my mind only) some exotic work trip. He was leaving in ten minutes and I knew I couldn’t wonder if I was pregnant for the entire week he was away. Which is better? Knowing or not knowing?

Chris was frantically gathering his bags, lacing shoes, calling the Uber to pick him up and take him to the airport.

The result was positive. I sobbed.

. . .

“There’s no way I’m pregnant,” I told my friend Anne the night before that test. “I just don’t feel it. When I’m pregnant I feel something.”

That’s not entirely true. Once before I hadn’t felt it. I’d taken a pregnancy test in April and been shocked to find it positive. Those weeks leading up to the test had felt so different than I’d felt with August and Brooks. Probably it had just been the hormones with my first two boys that made warm waves in me. But somehow I had felt my babies there those times before, smaller than blueberries, swishing around. In April I didn’t.

And still. That baby in April was celebrated. I cheered, hugged my husband. I tried not to think about why it was different. A month later, I knew why. I stared at the ultrasound screen and my baby had disappeared. All that was left in me was the remains of a pregnancy that hadn’t worked.

That’s why. I’d thought. That’s why I didn’t feel it.

My friend Anne and I were on a night walk along a path that night in August. We were at a church retreat and had snuck away from the Saturday night gathering for a summer’s end catch-up chat. “But you could be?” Anne said. “You could be pregnant.”

She wanted to know how I was doing after the loss of my pregnancy two months before. She was four months along. Our babies would have been due at the same time.

This is all I knew: With the third pregnancy, with my miscarriage, I didn’t feel a surge of recognition that something powerful was happening in me. I didn’t feel the heat in my middle. I didn’t feel cells dividing.

“If I’m am—if I’m pregnant—then something’s not right.”

I said that. I said that the night before I knew.

. . .

I took the pregnancy test while Chris waited for his Uber to arrive.

Positive.

I wept. I’m going to lose this baby again. I’m going to lose the baby. I cried into his chest until the car arrived.

Chris promised to call when he got there. He promised I could make it through this week. “You’ll be okay. This is great news, right?” he made me look in his eyes and smiled.

Then he was gone. It was time for real life. I was pregnant and something was wrong.

. . .

It’s funny how you look back on things like that. How you remember, even though you can forget in the midst of the pregnancy. I held my breath for a month, waiting for the 8 week check up, certain they would tell me my little babe had gone missing in my womb, had never developed. Yet there he was on the ultrasound screen. A heart beating wild. I let myself forget that I had been afraid. That his presence had been too quiet.

Maybe the difference is hormonal, I told myself. That must mean it's a girl!

We’d know soon enough. We’d get our prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome at 20 weeks, just two weeks after learning that our baby was not, in fact, a girl. All sorts of signs in my pregnancy would point to low hormone levels. That feeling. That lack of feeling.

It was an extra 21st chromosome. That’s what it was.

. . .

I’ve been thinking about this: Trisomy 21 is not a condition that comes later in the pregnancy. It’s not something going wrong in the development of the embryo or fetus. It’s not something the mother does wrong. It’s not something the father does wrong. It just is.

That third 21st chromosome is present when the first cell splits. Ace has always had it. Most likely, the extra 21st copy was present in the egg or in the sperm before an embryo was even formed.

Who is Ace without it? He is not himself. Right?

. . .

I’ve been thinking about that this week.  About how I cried long before I knew what I was grieving.

About how Ace was not what we expected and how he was himself long before we knew him.

This summer, while August and my husband rode a roller coaster up and up toward the first steep drop,  August shouted at Chris above the metal’s scrape: “Aren’t you glad you picked me?!”

Chris wasn’t sure how to respond. He managed an “ummm, yes, of course!” and a “What?” in the same breath.

“I’m glad I picked you,"  August yelled. "When I was with Jesus and I saw you I knew I wanted you to be my dad!”

What sweetness, to think of my unborn babies picking us, in all our faults, all our goodness. To think of Jesus offering such a choice.

I’ve been imagining Ace picking us, exactly as he is: The secrets he knew about himself, the secrets he and Jesus knew about us as Ace’s parents. All of it discussed in the secret meeting between Ace and Jesus.

And, here we are. One year later. Don’t ask me what I believe about whether God ordains mental disability. I don’t know. Don’t ask me if heaven is a place where Ace will lose that third 21st chromosome and still be himself.

There are still a lot of things for me to sort out. But right now I’m thinking August is onto something. And Ace just might have picked us. What can I say to that except to hold it holy in my hand?

He picked me. From the very beginning. He picked me.