Saturday, May 29, 2010

Baby Food

It's official. This week I became that mom. I snagged a brand new food processor off Craig's List and gave a visit to our neighborhood fresh food mart. Mangoes, yams, carrots, avocados, papayas ... if I could pronounce it I brought it home. Two days later the top shelf of my fridge is piled high with all sorts of pureed goodness. Me, the maker of homemade baby food?

In ninth grade I spent my lunch money every day on a Nutty Bar and a bottle of Sunny D. I'd rather shoot hoops in the driveway than cook anything in the kitchen. I couldn't imagine a day when my mom wouldn't be nearby to sew on a button or make sure I separated my whites and colors. And heaven forbid I eat my morning Golden Grahams with anything other than SportsCenter streaming through the tiny TV on our kitchen counter.

But then something happened. A slow evolving. A subtle transformation that comes with ordinary days and kairos moments and is measured only by the fine lines next to my eyes and the year on the calendar. It didn't happen the day I graduated from high school or donned cap and gown four years later. It wasn't just with my first kiss, my first teaching job, or the first time I didn't get the position I interviewed for. It can't be defined just by the private moment I shared with my dad before walking down the aisle or when I promised forever to my best friend a few minutes later. It wasn't in the wee hours of that Colorado summer morning when my Jalynn breathed her own air for the first time. And it wasn't marked solely by the birth of my California baby, my messenger of God, my squishy Malakye.

I can't pinpoint it to any one of these. Yet somewhere in all of this I grew up ... I guess it took a food processor and some fresh produce to make me realize it.

Now here I am. Mommy of two. Planter of flowers. Experimenter of chicken casserole recipes. Serious considerer of homeschooling. Packer of picnic lunches. Mender of buttons. Maker of homemade baby food.

I wonder what's next ... Cloth diapers? Mom jeans? Bangs?

Naah. I'll just stick to baby food for now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Thing I Dreaded Most

I'd been a mom for less than five days when I did the one thing I dreaded most (and I blame the percocet) ...

Jalynn is an unconventional girl. Today she dumped a whole box of princess bandaids on the floor in search of just the right one. I asked her to pick them up. Her response: "Actually, you're gonna have to do that. I have to go work out." Two-and-a-half and already working out (I'm fine if you wanna believe she learned that from me).

She's always marched—or should I say "worked out"—to the beat of her own drum. Even before she was born she did things her own way. Three weeks before her due date I felt a tectonic shift within me. I looked down and saw little limb shapes protruding from my tight round belly. This was far from an ordinary baby kick. And sure enough, an ultrasound two days later showed that my little passionate one was sitting on her behind ... breached. She would be born c-section.

I sat in bed nursing Jalynn on my fifth night of motherhood, foggy from lack of sleep and percocet. I remember holding her up against my shoulder for a post-snack burp. And, yep, that's pretty much all I remember.

I don't know when I came to. Five minutes later? Maybe an hour? All I knew is that my arms, which were supposed to be holding seven and a half pounds of miracle, were empty. I had done the thing I dreaded most about being a mom: I had dropped my baby.

In one terrifying moment, I jabbed Jimmy awake and jumped out of bed. "The baby. The baby" were the only words I could manage. I stood hovered over Jalynn. My hands were shaky and my legs like gum. What if she was broken? I didn't trust myself to touch her. Jimmy swooped her up. She wasn't just okay, she was wide awake and perfectly content (a combo that'd prove itself pretty rare for the next three months).

In the panic of the moment, Jimmy and I didn't think much about how and where Jalynn lay when we found her on the floor. I don't think either of us slept another wink that night—our nerves beating out fatigue—so we had plenty of time to think. As dawn first peeked through our blinds, it occurred to us ... I had been holding Jalynn at the head of the bed. We found her at the foot. Next to the head of the bed was a table. At the foot was a soft, plush rug. Unless I chest-passed her across the room, it didn't make sense. We reasoned a little more: if you've ever dropped a gallon of milk or sack of potatoes from, say three or four feet in the air, the resulting thud is pretty noticeable. When I dropped Jalynn, there was no noise. No shriek of a surprised newborn. Nothing.

Jimmy, always the researcher, sat on my side of the bed, took a stuffed animal, and tried dropping it at every realistic angle. There was no way that Jalynn should have ended up where she did. Unless, of course, she didn't actually fall. Unless someone caught her and placed her gently on the soft rug near the foot of our bed.

I grew up knowing about angels. There was never a time when I would have denied their existence. Yet the reality of the spiritual mingling with our everyday realm wasn't something I gave much thought to. That night changed my life. God began opening my eyes to glimpses of His supernatural glory, of His crazy crazy love for me.

My unconventional little girl now talks to angels at night and laughs with them during nap time. She gets to grow up knowing a God that it took me almost 30 years to believe in. A God whose supernatural glory isn't reserved only for the book of Acts. A God who loves my babies so much that He's handpicked angels just for them.

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matt. 18:10)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Strangers at Target

I had hoped one of my kids would do something cute and memorable today. Something I could write about. Something inspiring. And then today actually happened ...

We've all been in line at Target or the grocery store and seen a mom who was in way over her head. Screaming infant, toddler defying everything in her loudest outdoor voice, hand-held grocery basket digging into the crook of her arm, and 24 pack of Angel Soft balancing awkwardly on top of the double stroller ...

If I'm not in too much of a hurry, I give her a sympathetic smile. Otherwise I pretend not to notice her as I rush by. The exchange reminds me of times I've sat in my car and looked straight through someone panhandling on the corner as I wait for my light to turn green. I'm good at pretending the red light is the most interesting thing I've seen in weeks.

Well, today I was her. I was the mom at the grocery store, stressed and unlovely and not sure whether I wanted to be noticed or ignored.

But then the most amazing thing happened. I didn't scream. I didn't cry. I didn't even grit my teeth or bite my tongue. I did what moms everywhere do every day. I took a deep breath and kept going. Then a kind woman stopped and bent down to talk to the screaming Malakye in his stroller. He stopped crying long enough to flirt with her before she went on her way. Next the teenaged boy at the check-out counter offered to help us out to the car. I accepted.

I experienced a universal mom moment today—I tasted grace through strangers at Target. Maybe next time I see another mom in over her head or a homeless panhandler sitting at the corner, I can be that kind of stranger.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

On being tall

I have tall kids. Really tall. So tall that every time I take one of them to the doctor the same nurse asks me how tall my husband is. I answer, "6' 2,"" and she acts surprised. Then she steps back, sizes me up, and concludes that I'm tall but not that tall. The same conversation. Every time.

Having tall kids is a mixed bag. It's got its perks. But it's also taught me more about myself than I care to know.

Kids two and under get in free to all Disney parks. And if your two-year-old happens to be 43" tall, she qualifies to ride just about everything there is to ride. Jimmy and I are taking Jalynn to California Adventure on Tuesday, a little belated Mother's Day celebration (at least that's our excuse this time). I anticipate raised eyebrows at the ticket entrance and already have a copy of her birth certificate in my bag. I feel like we're beating the system.

Jalynn loves playing with Savannah, the girl from across the street. J's got her by about an inch. Savannah will be five later this month. And while Jalynn may look like she's headed off to kindergarten, in every other way she is undeniably two-and-a-half. She laughs at things two-and-a-half-year-olds think are funny and falls apart when the tiniest thing doesn't go her way—a crooked blanket, having to wear pj's to bed rather than a tu tu and winter jackst, being told "no" to just about anything. Up until February she wore diapers like--well--like a typical two-year-old.

She'd be climbing the slide at the park as confident as ever, wet bulky diaper sagging noticeably under her pink sweats. I, on the other hand, had become a master at redirecting every mommy-to-mommy chat to Jalynn's age. "Your son is so handsome," I'd tell the other mom. "How old is he?" I knew, of course, that she'd do the nice thing: return the compliment and ask how old Jalynn is. Ahh ... unspoken judgement averted. Contrary to how it might appear, my diaper-wearing daughter is not four years old. She's only two. And that, my friends, is acceptable.

But who would really care if she wore diapers past the age my Parents magazine says is typical? Who cared if she showed no interest in coloring between the lines or in counting beyond 10. As I stood there watching Jalynn's little diapered behind run towards the swing, I realized that I did. I cared. And not for her sake--she was more sure of herself than I've ever been--but for the sake of the other mommies by whose perceived judgments I graded my success as a mother.

At 29" and 22 pounds, Malakye is stretching his 12 month footie pj's to the max. He's six months old. He started sitting on his own yesterday, about two weeks later than what my Parents magazine says is typical ...

Father, remind me every day that You didn't give me my children so that I could teach them to perform for an audience that may or may not be watching. No. You've loaned them to me for a while so that I can show them Your love--Your unconditional, can't-be-earned-or-lost love.

Transform me, God. But don't let my kids change.