A 13 year old in-flight babysitter sent from heaven above.

Anyone who has flown with a lap child (child under 2 years old) can attest to how incredibly difficult it is to truly keep said child on your lap during a flight, especially a flight across country with a layover.  I was fully prepared and armed with enough snacks, toy cars, coloring, stickers, and cartoons, which all lasted an hour tops till I ran out of tricks and entertainment.  Flying in general makes most grown adults agitated, and an almost two year old with boundless energy was no exception.  We hadn’t purchased a seat for our son, but lucked out on an early morning flight each way.  That did make a huge difference, but even with an extra seat our son wanted to wiggle and stand in the aisles, and it was a constant struggle to whisk him out of the aisle when the beverage carts rolled by and the line for the bathroom was nonstop. I took him to the claustrophobic bathroom just for something to do, and walked him up and down the aisle, but we felt trapped and confined, weary and restless. There were many sympathetic smiles from fellow passengers, and remarks as to how well he was doing, but on the last leg of our journey we were on our last leg of exhaustion over sheer boredom and confinement.  Into this came the sweetest God-send of a 13 year old girl named Abbey, traveling with her younger brother alone to visit her grandmother in Virginia.  My son immediately took a liking to her, and she in return.  It started when Southwest’s open seating sat us right across from each other.  This flight had no extra seat so I was going to have to wrestle with him on my lap.  Abbey drew and colored a pink llama and gave it to my son, and he was sold.  She offered to color with him, which led to him on her lap, which led to her feeding him snacks, helping him with stickers, showing him pictures of animals on her phone, bouncing him, and becoming the best in-flight babysitter we’ve ever had for the next 2 hours.  My son didn’t want me again, and I got a much needed reprieve.  I was so beyond grateful and chatted with this 13 year old girl who loved kids and wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.  If she lived in Virginia I would have snatched her up as a babysitter, but she was exactly what we needed for this final flight home.  I marveled at how God supplied her at an altitude we needed most, and how gracious He showed Himself through that little girl. The next time you fly or travel publicly, please be gracious and compassionate to those littlest travelers.  A smile, a joke, a compliment, and even an in-flight babysitter goes a long way especially high in the sky.

  • How can you show compassion, kindness, graciousness to families with young children when traveling?  In my experience it was total strangers offering me snacks, taking my son on their laps to look out the window of the plane, playing peekaboo with him between the seats, and a flight attendant offering to take my dirty diaper out of my hands in flight.
  • When have you (including me!) become irritated or dreaded seeing babies/toddlers when traveling, and when did that turn into a happy experience?

Feeling two feelings at once

Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood always does catchy teachable jingles, and one was about feeling two feelings at the same time, which got me thinking, I feel two feelings a LOT, and oftentimes they are in direct opposition to one another.  

I feel impatient for my son to grow up to start school so I can be free, yet feel sad whenever I see a school bus or think about him leaving.

I feel lonely and crave genuine friendship and connection, yet feel shy and intimidated in social settings (MOPS, the playground, the library, etc).

I feel like God chose me to be a mom, yet feel insecure and lost in raising a kid.

I feel that motherhood is a noble and worthy profession, yet feel discontent and under-valued to stay home.

I feel like I need to get out of the house and go and do things, yet feel less satisfied and fulfilled when I’m always on the go.

I feel like I’m a pretty organized planner, yet feel the unexpected, spontaneous surprises are more fun.

I feel like I keep the house clean and in order, yet feel like my house is too small and a mess.

I feel like I’m constantly picking up toys and books, yet feel like what’s the use when they get dumped out one second later.

I feel like I need me time (blogging, running, reading) yet feel guilty when I get it.

I feel like I cook all the time and never get takeout or go out, then feel enormously lucky when my husband helps cook on the weekends for me (yay grilling!).

I feel like I am so blessed, and yet I lose that perspective every day.

What conflicting feelings do you feel, and how do you cope?

 

When is enough, enough?

Am I the only mom out there who constantly wonders if I’m doing enough for my child? Doing involves not just making sure their basic needs are met (clothed, fed, clean) but that they’re thriving, developing mentally and emotionally into a young, respectable person.  Who measures this?  During the infant and toddler years there are milestones to achieve, in school there are standards to be met, but don’t we as parents place the bulk of responsibility for our child’s development on ourselves?  I’m constantly wondering if my almost two year old is stimulated enough, challenged enough, playing enough, being outside enough, being educated enough, being socialized enough, being well-rounded enough.  I take him to the library, to the gardens, to the playground, to the splash pad, to the zoo, to the children’s museum, to the beach, to play-dates, to here, there and everywhere, and still I wonder if it’s enough.  I make sure he gets a minimum of an hour and a half outside every day, and maximum of an hour of TV watching every day, and yet I wonder if he’s damaged already by too much TV or not enough outside play.  How does one measure this? Sometimes I think we’re on the go so much and we need to stay home, but there’s only so much indoor play, crafts, dishes and laundry and meal prep this mama can take. I get ancy to get out of the house and go do something, anything sometimes, but to the detriment of my child?  Is it healthy to be always on the go?  There are two extremes: always going and not going enough.  Again, what’s enough?  Who’s to say?  The parents? Doctors? Teachers? As a first-time mom of an only child, it’s very easy to pop him in the carseat now and go, but I know that all changes with two.  Having a routine is almost a necessity for stay-at-home moms to avoid going crazy (at least for me) but in the summertime that all changes as well.  Today we went to a splash pad in the morning, a highly interactive children’s museum in the afternoon, and a paddle boat ride after dinner out.  My son was over-stimulated and so tired he even sat still in his highchair in a restaurant! (a rarity).  I could get carried away by so many programs and activities but I realized that it was a rare treat to do so much in one day.  I think of the parents who have enrolled their child in every sporting event and extracurricular, and I think how wise doing “one thing” is.  Your child doesn’t need to be constantly entertained, on the go, stimulated and socialized.  He/She needs his/her mother. The quality time of playing in the sandbox, kicking or throwing the ball, going for a walk, reading the 20th book, is invaluable for me and for my son.  Those are the moments that will last.

  • Are you tempted to constantly be going, doing, rushing onto the next activity for your kids, and if so, why?
  • How do you make quality time with them a focus?

Truly a partner

When people talk of marriage, the word partnership oftentimes comes up.  Before I was married, partnership wasn’t a prevalent label I’d have given to marriage.  Soul mate, romantic lover, best friend, these were my labels.  Yet after I married I realized how much of a partner my spouse really is.  “A person who takes part in an undertaking with another with shared risks and profits.”  Marriage is a life undertaking where there are shared risks and profits.  Risks of being vulnerable, of sinning against that person, of instability and life events beyond your control. Profits of shared dreams and goals, of living with someone who knows your faults and weaknesses and still accepts you, of shared adventure and laughter and love.  The profits far outweigh the risks, I would hope.  But marriage is hard, if you haven’t heard already.  It’s day in and day out choosing to love someone who isn’t always worthy.  It’s learning how to communicate, forgive, bear with, grow with, dwell with, and love despite. Partners are fellow workers and teammates that can share the load and lean on the stronger one at times. This has become so very apparent when I get sick.  Now that I have a toddler to take care of who’s constantly on the go, I’m not just responsible for myself anymore.  So when a bad case of stomach bug hit me (after hitting my son), it was my husband who saved the day, stepped in, and became my partner.  He took over all household chores and duties, kept my son fed and clean and entertained while I weakly recovered in bed.  I was especially grateful when he grocery shopped, cooked, and took my son out of the house for some peace and quiet.  It was like having a nanny and housekeeper all wrapped in one.  Except he isn’t just a nanny and housekeeper, he’s my husband.  Sometimes I feel like I treat him so, and as I was thanking him for his help, he simply said, “of course I take care of him, he’s my son.”  I realized he had just as much equal responsibility for caring for our son as I did, even when he didn’t always do the traditional mom roles.

  • When have you treated your spouse like a housekeeper, or nanny, or chauffeur, instead of as a life partner?
  • When have you last thanked your spouse for their help around the house or with the kids?

Our best versions of ourselves online…is it real?

I have always loved and longed for professional family photo shoots, where the picture quality is so amazing that it makes your family look effortlessly and beautifully happy and in harmony with one another…picture perfect.  I love professional photos because they erase the flaws of physical imperfections and emphasize the beauty of human relationship…the product of a literal thousand takes.  So when my amateur photographer friend wanted to use my family as guinea pigs to test out her fancy expensive camera, of course I was more than willing to comply!  We chose a beautiful setting, a botanical garden, at a golden dusk time of day, wearing our finest clothes and smiles.  And after taking literally over a thousand shots, my friend’s natural eye caught some very eye-catching, picture perfect portraits.  The takes were so frequent that each shot was like a moving picture.  There was that one in a million shot where all three of us (my 20 month old included) were open-mouthed smiling and all looking directly at the camera.  As I uploaded the best of the best shots to my social media, I was convicted that I was showing my best, and my family’s best, to my online friends.  But was that picture perfect photo a true reflection of my family?  Certainly it captured the joy and beauty and love of the moment, but there are also moments of pain, and trouble, and weariness, and frustration…many more moments that are a part of life, of everyday living and struggle, that aren’t shown.

  • Why do we post our best images online for all the world to see?  Are we painting a false perception of ourselves?

I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong about posting beautiful photos online for our far away friends and family to see.  Social media enables long-distance friends to “see” the growth of our family, for which I am thankful.  But I also think more “real life” photos should show the “real us.”  Real photos that aren’t airbrushed or mega-pixel-ed, real photos “in the moment.” I confess I get rather annoyed by friend’s incessant posts of themselves eating or entertaining, or of their kid’s every moves, but the photos that capture every day living is more compelling than any professional staged session ever can be.  My goal in posting should not be to gather glory for myself, or my family, but true glory is glorifying God in me.  Glory (synonyms: renown, fame, prestige, honor, acclaim, praise) that is asked for is not real.  I fear that the motive behind posting such amazing photos online is to garner more likes and comments and adoration instead of displaying Christ in me.

  • Is your motivation in posting photos to bring glory to yourself, your family, or to Christ in you?

Sin’s curse and payment is what Easter is about

The older I get, the more serious the gravity and weight of the cross of Christ becomes. This year especially, going through an in-depth Bible study of John, I see Jesus’ singular focused mission to do His Father’s work and will, which was dying the most gruesome death to redeem sinners such as I.  As I was processing Pilate’s interrogations of the truth standing right before him (Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”~John 14:6) and his rejection of the truth (“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”~John 18:38), of the crowds and religious leaders mocking and condemning Jesus innocently to his death (“As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”~John 19:6), of Mary, Jesus’ mother, at the cross watching her son die (John 19:25-27)…these images and the price of my sin are in stark contrast to the commercials I’ve seen of kids engaging in an egg hunt, of new Easter outfits, of the Easter bunny and candy.  How do I raise my son in a culture so counter-cultural to Christ?  How do I teach him that Easter is not about bunnies and egg hunts and egg coloring and candy and Easter outfits?  How do I teach my almost two year old that he is a little sinner who is so beloved by God that He sent His only son into the world to save him? (John 3:16)  How much does a toddler understand of his own sin, when adults struggle to see or admit their own? Certainly I see it…his failure to listen and obey, his frustration in not getting his own way, his ferocious selfishness not to share.  But I see those failures in me and in adults too.  Sin is not just doing wrong, but failing to do what is right. Sin has become such a bad word and concept in our culture today. People view themselves as good when sin says you’ve “transgressed against the law of God.” (1 John 3:4).  People ask how a good loving God could send people to hell when “the wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ!” (Romans 6:23). You can choose to receive Jesus or reject Him, but you must choose. Like Pilate did.  Like the mob did.  Never underestimate the depravity of human hearts. We may think we would never condemn an innocent man to death.  But yet we did.  Our sin condemned Jesus to death, otherwise why did He have to die?  He was the only sinless sacrifice that could pay for sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”~2 Corinthians 5:21. “Again and again the priest offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest (Christ) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God-for by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”~Hebrews 10:11-14.

Never have I been more aware of my own sin as when I study the Scriptures and see the cost of it in Jesus’s death on the cross.  Never am I more convicted of it when facing my spouse who sees my weaknesses and imperfections every day. Never am I more confronted with it when contemplating my son’s sin nature at a mere 20 months old. And never am I more grateful for Christ’s obedience and submission to His Father’s will for Him to die so that I can live free of my sin.

  • “Christ Jesus made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”~Philippians 2:7-8.
  • “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”~Isaiah 53:5

 

Parade through the eyes of a parent

I for one have never really liked parade watching. There is the pageantry of it, the marching bands, the civic leagues, the community pride, the patriotism, the old cars and floats, but I was always mystified why parades were so popular.  I even went to the NYC Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade and although that one was very entertaining, I had to stand in one place in a crowd for so long my feet grew so numb that I couldn’t walk afterwards. Crowds are just not my scene. Particularly St. Patrick’s Day parades. I’ll never forget my first St. Patrick’s Day taking the train into NYC and there being insanely drunk people swaying in the aisles and getting kicked off the train at 8am!  But the things you will do for your child…I found myself at another St. Patrick’s Day parade this year.

Parades are entirely different now from the perspective of a parent watching their child watch a parade.  To a child, parades are the most incredulous sight to see. Through their eyes, every act, every sound, every sight is one of awe and wonder. The simplest floats, or musical notes, or firetruck, or musician is deemed amazing.  Parades are the most wide-eyed, jaw dropping events in their limited experience.  Seeing the parade through the eyes of my child made it fun.  But what stood out even more were the random acts of kindness displayed towards my son that gladdened my heart.  The morning of the parade was dreary, and it began to rain, and of course we weren’t prepared.  We arrived an hour early to stake out a spot along the route, and I wasn’t looking forward to being miserably cold and wet the whole time, but I was prepared to tough it out for the sake of my son’s enjoyment.  A resident who lived along the parade route came out of her house and offered me the shelter of her umbrella.  I was so grateful and touched by this.  When the parade began, she sat outside without an umbrella to shelter her.  This made her personal sacrifice so much more meaningful to me.

Parades are known for candy throwing, and there were three elementary aged children right beside us who had come armed with plastic bags for stashing all their loot, which they got.  They were so aggressive, calling out to the parade participants and leaping in the street, for anything free, that we began to be overshadowed by them.  My 19 month old was too awe-struck to shout and draw any attention to himself, but it seemed that the participants were in tune to the littlest parade watchers, and they seemed to single him out.  He got plenty of candy, and beaded necklaces, and plastic toys, but the one gesture that stood out was right after a herd of puppies paraded by, a lady held out a small stuffed puppy straight to my son, and in disbelief that it could actually be his, he slowly clutched the puppy dog as if it were real.  I thanked her and it was this small gesture that made my day.  Earlier we had seen the parade carts full of chachkies (definition: yiddish word for trinkets and collectables…Tchotchke…a small piece of worthless crap, a decorative knick knack with little or no purpose).  My husband and I are much too thrifty to buy “worthless crap” but now that we have a child, it entices us to want to give him things that will bring joy.  Of course marketers capitalize on this parental desire.  But we knew the items were way overpriced and poorly made.  Still, it pulled on my mama’s heart not to indulge him…so when that stuffed puppy dog was gifted just to him, it was a tiny gesture full of enormous meaning.

  • What “worthless crap” have you been tempted to indulge in for your child(ren) and when has it paid off?
  • What does the following verse mean to you as a parent?  “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”~Matthew 7:12
  • What random act of kindness could you do today?‎