Wednesday, January 31, 2007

in praise of boredom

"I'm bored," Twin B told me yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. We've been spending a lot of time at home lately, doing nothing. I'm a big fan of kids doing nothing. While I love to plan art projects and outings, I also put plenty of "downtime" in our schedule. Kids need time at home doing nothing. They need to get bored--that's when the fun begins!

I used to jump every time one of my kids got restless. "Let's paint!" or "How about a game of UNO?" or "Want to watch a movie?" While I still direct their play at times, I also like to see what they come up with when I don't. Yesterday they decided to form a band and have a parade. They practiced for an hour-and-a-half with the drum and harmonica and maracas. They hung a colorful banner--PARADE TODAY--so nobody would miss it. They gathered their "friends"--stuffed bears and snakes and turtles--and marched around happily for another hour.

Last week they made robots out of diaper boxes. They spent the entire day cutting and gluing and decorating. They proudly wandered the house chanting, "I - Am - A - Di - Per - Ro - Bot." They were careful to show the baby that it was "really them" so he wouldn't be scared of the doctored up Huggies boxes roaming around the house.

Building is another favorite activity. Tinker toys, an erector set, and legos turn into an entire city of houses and ice cream factories.

Oh, the fun we would miss if I, in my limited creativity, did all of the activity planning!

Monday, January 29, 2007

On the bright side

Thank you, kind readers and dear friends, for your thoughtful notes and emails during this past week. (Not to mention the lasagnas, pizzas, and other yummy food you've sent my way!)

Things are looking up. The pain is significantly less than it was; I can lift my baby again, as long as I don't do it ALL day, and while I'm still taking people's offers of meals and babysitting, I'm not as dependent on it as I was last week.

Here's a little bit of what I've been thinking about and learning:

1) I'm lousy at asking for and accepting help. This week has stretched me in this area, which is a good thing.

2) Community is valuable and worth the investment of time and energy we put into it.

3) My 5-year-old noisy boys are more flexible and independent than I thought they were. I'm such a "routine" kind of Mom, and it was good for me to see how easily they rolled with the punches. (Twin A, who if given a choice would have spent the last five years of his life never leaving our house, excitedly asked me, "So, what's my schedule today? Who's taking me to preschool? Will I have a playdate after school?") It does my heart good to see them able to connect with other people in their lives and be fine, even without ME to take care of their every need.

4) I am really, really grateful to have such a happy, easygoing baby. Enough said.

5) My identity is more wrapped up in my role of Mom and Wife than I thought it was. Take away my ability to take care of everybody, and I'm pretty unhappy. I know my identity needs to be found in Christ, but it's not. Pray for me.

6) Doing my job is exhausting and in "normal" day-to-day life, I'm too hard on myself. Watching my husband be "Super Dad" all week wore me out as I objectively watched him do the million things I normally do, and collapse on the couch at seven o'clock exhausted. Raising three kids and taking care of our household IS a huge job, and at this stage of the game, I'm never caught up on everything. But that's okay.

7) God has blessed me with a wonderful family. I complain about the chaos too often on this blog. I love our family full of noisy boys, and--even more surprising--I really do love my job as a stay-at-home Mom. When the twins were babies, I used to dream of putting on my pantyhose and going to work at a "real" job. It felt like a huge sacrifice to be home with them and not pursuing my own career interests. It doesn't feel like such a sacrifice anymore. I like where I'm at in life, and the people I share life with.

8) This blog has become too self centered. Seriously. As I ease back into life, I'm sure I'll have more intersting things to write about than ME. :-)

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Pain Scale

“On a scale of one to ten, rate your pain, with ten being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, and one being no pain.”

I hate that question. Over and over while I was in the hospital, nurses asked me this. I never knew what to say. Ten is reserved for childbirth and having my legs crushed by a cement truck, so compared to that, everything is fairly mild. Four? Five maybe? And then when the tests started coming back, the nurse said, “Really? Only four?” And I laughed. “I recently gave birth.”

Pain is all relative. This morning, I was relieved to wake up to less pain. For a moment, I got excited. And then I coughed. Ahhh, there it is. The familiar, stabbing, shooting, burning sensation that has been my companion for the last four days. I’m having a hard time being patient with this pain. Unlike childbirth, it came unexpectedly and brought nothing good with it. I’m tired of sending my kids off with friends and grandmas and aunties. I miss my baby. I miss my hectic schedule and the feeling of importance it gives me. I miss dropping the kids off at school, running to the grocery store, making supper, vacuuming, washing bottles, all of the normal things that make up my typical day. Sleeping in until 8:30 and then lying down again at noon for a nap is not normal.

If I were to rate my contentment at this moment on a scale of one to ten, with ten being completely discontent and one being perfectly content, I’d have to give myself an eight. Not very good, I’m afraid. I’m ready for Pain to move on and Normal to move in.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Home Again

There's no place like home. As the llama papa reported, I went into the hosptial on Sunday with pain, and they removed my gall bladder last night. (Good riddance!) Recovery is easier than I expected, though still painful. My hospital visit provided me with lots of good blog fodder, though, which I'm sure to dig out in the weeks to come. Hmmmm, which story to tell first: Yelling Man, Vomiting Girl, or Nurse from Hell?

As Llama Papa said, I'm so grateful for family and friends who have stepped in to care for my family while I've been (and still am) out of commission. I'm thankful for our church family, who have been praying and have already started bringing food. And I'm thankful to be back in the middle of my noisy household! Quiet afternoons to read are nice, but I sure missed my noisy boys and cuddly baby!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

An Unexpected Day!

Tonight, the Llama Momma is resting comfortably in the Llama Hospital.

She woke up this morning with stomach pain that quickly intensified. Grandpa came over to take care of the noisy boys and the baby. About 45 minutes later, the ER room was able to do an initial diagnosis that her gallbladder was the problem and then get her some pain relief. It took a couple of more hours and an ultrasound to confirm that she had gallstones. Upon reflection, Llama Momma realized that she has had several previous incidents though much less severe.

The arthroscopic surgery should happen tomorrow though, due to the Bears game, we haven't talked to the surgeon yet. After a hearty dinner of clear liquids (Would you like chicken broth or vegetable broth?) she was able to relax by reading a book . . . in a quite room . . . without interruptions from any five year olds. (She really hated that, by the way.) We were both reminded how very blessed we are to have good health insurance, a great hospital nearby along with family and friends willing to help out when we are in need.

Thank you for your prayers.

[Editor's note: This post was not written by the Llama Momma and should not reflect on her ability to spell, string together cogent sentences or otherwise communicate with the written word. And besides, who knew that gallstones had nothing to do with the French?]

Thursday, January 18, 2007

9:33 a.m.

That’s what time it was as I plopped a load of clean clothes on my bed, unfolded, and declared this day a failure. Beating myself up for leaving the laundry, I moved on to dry my hair before the baby woke up from his nap. After all, I reasoned, if I don’t dry my hair now, it will look funny all day. My dishwasher is half-unloaded for a similar reason—the baby needed to go down for his nap, and I needed to quick grab my shower before he woke up again. It’s all perfectly reasonable, but all of these half-finished tasks scream out at me: Failure! Failure!

So, at 9:33 I admitted defeat. I am a failure. Absolutely hopeless. And the problem extends beyond household chores. I’ve also been an inconsistent parent, telling the noisy boys they could watch just one show and then they needed to turn the TV off, only to give in to their plea of “Please, Mom, just one more?” I’ve been a lousy Christian, thinking terrible thoughts about someone during my morning devotions. (Ironically, while reading the story of the ungrateful servant who had been forgiven a huge debt, only to turn around and have someone arrested for a much smaller, unpaid debt.) I’ve been lazy—just one more cup of coffee and the front page of the newspaper. After all, when’s the last time I allowed myself that luxury? I’ve yelled at my children. (Bopping a balloon around the kitchen while Mom is cooking eggs is generally a bad idea, but not an excuse to lose my temper.)

The list of failures continues. And yet…yet…it’s only 9:33 in the morning. Surely all is not lost. After all, the list of what I have accomplished is also long: devotions, breakfast for the kids and myself, a load of laundry (albeit unfolded), Valentine’s for the noisy boys’ friends ordered, bathroom cleaned, hotel booked for an upcoming Mom’s conference, an email to a discouraged friend, prayers for another friend undergoing surgery today, diapers changed, bottles made, the baby’s down for a nap, and I’m showered and dressed.

Why do I expect perfection from myself? I’ll keep plugging away today, no doubt finishing some tasks and leaving others. I’ll do my best to love my kids and create a safe and happy home for them. I’ll take them to the library and make chili for supper. I’ll cut up apples and pears for snacks, change more diapers, and play a few rounds of Whac-a-Mole. And, no doubt, I’ll make a few more mistakes along the way.

Can I be okay with “good enough” today? Can I accept my own limitations and rely on God for guidance and strength? Can I surrender my goal of “supermom” and exchange it for my true identity: a woman in need of grace?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Do you ever just stop and see yourself from a distance and think, “Is this REALLY my life?” This happened to me last night at Costco. After a lovely afternoon playing with our friends, I was in a decidedly non-cooking mood, and our grocery list was huge. So I made an executive decision and off we went to Costco for supper and shopping. The noisy boys were thrilled—pizza, hot dogs, and soda—and as Twin B commented, “With all of these snacks it’s just like a buffet!” And all for less than ten bucks, which is a good thing since we spent two-hundred-and-something on grapefruit and pork chops. And a few other things.

We made our way through the store, piling our carts high with diapers and formula and coffee (the baby pushes us over and we’re officially a 2-cart family now). So there we are, my husband, me, the noisy boys, the baby and our two carts full of stuff, and I hear a woman say, “Whoa!” as she walks by us. Now, it’s not unusual for people to comment on the twins, or casually say, “Boy, you’ve got your hands full” as they walk by me. But, “Whoa!” sounds kind of shocked or surprised, and when she said it, I laughed. I realized we must look like a “Whoa!” kind of family with our three boys and two carts full of food. And I laughed because I never imagined my life like this. Marriage? Three children? Dinner at a grocery store for a buck-fifty including the drink? Yet here I am. And shopping with my dear husband, who is the love of my life, and all of these kids, who are OURS, is a hoot. Day-to-day I don’t feel like a “Whoa!” family. We’re just us. And it feels right.

Monday, January 15, 2007

“Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity”

I ordered this book before Christmas, and it finally arrived a week ago. I was in the middle of mopping the kitchen floor when the UPS guy rang my doorbell, and I took it as a sign that I should stop doing housework and lie on the couch for awhile. The housework was mostly done anyway, and with the noisy boys at Grandma’s and the baby asleep, the opportunity was just too good to pass up. I put it down long enough to toss in a frozen pizza, play a round of Whac-a-Mole, and get the kids tucked in. And then I picked it up again.

Every evangelical Christian should read this book.

Ed Gilbreath offers a fresh voice to the discussion of racial reconciliation. Raised in Rockford and bused to the “other side” of town to attend school, he is a self-described social experiment. He grew up going to white schools, a white church, and, eventually, a white college. It’s there that he began to see himself as a bridge builder. And he is. As editor of “Today’s Christian” and a member of a predominately white Evangelical Free church, (incidentally, the same church I attend) he is uniquely situated to discuss the issue of race within the evangelical community.

Gibreath weaves his own story and the stories of other contemporary Christians into the solid framework of history. The chapter about Tom Skinner was my hands-down favorite, and his book, “Black and Free” now graces my “to-read” list, along with the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. I was struck by the boldness of this man, Tom Skinner. His sense of calling was absolute. And it got me thinking just how powerfully God can use one man (or woman) to bring radical change.

It’s easy to bash on the evangelical church, something Gilbreath doesn’t do. He approaches the subject as both an insider and an “other.” He recounts a story of being in a small group and voicing a different political opinion than everyone else. The critical reaction of the group made him want to run. Who of us hasn’t been there? I know I have. And if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I’ve been on both ends of this—the “other” and the critical voice of “I would never…”

In his review, Philip Yancey describes Ed as “a gentle prophet.” Yes. He brings us hard truths, but never harshly. The tone of the book is redemptive. It’s eye opening and challenging. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

maybe there is a God

I’ve been a Christian for seventeen years now. Well, longer if you count the five-hundred-and-eighty-five-plus times I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” as a child, for fear of going to hell if I didn’t. But the definitive moment for me, that moment when everything and nothing changed, was in a Crisis Pregnancy Center seventeen years ago. My faith in God became my own, and my journey as a follower of Christ began.

And what a journey it’s been. This morning I was reading in Matthew, and the end of chapter 14 finds the disciples on a boat, terrified and trapped in a storm. Jesus walks on the water toward them, and at Peter’s request, calls the disciple to come out on the water with him. Peter walks toward Jesus, then gets scared and sinks. Jesus pulls him up and climbs into the boat. Instantly the storm stops. The disciples’ response? They worship him and exclaim, “You really are the Son of God!”

These are the disciples! They lived with Jesus. They observed and participated in his miracles. Just that day they had seen Jesus feed over 5000 people with five loaves of bread and a few fish. And yet doubt lurked in their hearts. When placed in a boat and tossed into the middle of a storm, their faith waned.

This morning, I find the disciples response to Jesus strangely reassuring. My own heart is fickle and riddled with doubt. If there is one thing that has characterized my own spiritual journey it’s doubt and a lack of faith. And yet I’ve seen God undeniably at work, even in my own life. And too often my response has been, “Maybe there is a God!”

Flannery O’Conner once said, “It’s much harder to believe than not to believe.” This has been true in my own life.

Jesus knew his disciples and their faith struggles, just as he sees the struggle within my own heart. Recently I’ve had a shift in thinking that has resulted in greater faith. And while I’m grateful, I’m also aware that tomorrow could find me in a boat tossed by waves and afraid for my life. “Lord, I do believe, but help me with my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Why do people never stop by when my house is clean? Even reasonably tidy? But leave those dishes in the sink and the laundry in a pile and inevitably the doorbell rings. I woke up this morning with some kind of stomach bug, and went back to bed. My dear husband took all of the kids...somewhere...and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, I just ventured downstairs. (Home of "The Mess.") That's when the doorbell rang. The neighbor girl is selling girl scout cookies, which I wouldn't want to miss, of course. I just wish she would have stopped by on Thursday.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dante's Inferno: the tenth circle?

I used to wonder why they sold beer at Chuck E. Cheese. After all, it's a children's pizza parlor. And then I had kids.

The noisy boys celebrated their 5th birthday today with their preschool friends at -- you guessed it -- Chuck E. Cheese. The kids all had a blast, and we didn't actually lose anybody (not long-term anyway), but man my head hurts. (And not because I drank the beer, in case any of you are wondering.)

The best part? It's over. Everyone is alive, including me. And now I'm you think the library does birthday parties?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


The noisy boys got some really cool new puzzles for their birthday. One is a big map of the United States, and the other is a big map of the world. So, this afternoon while their baby brother was napping, we got out the U.S. map and tried to put it together. "Tried" being the key word in that sentence. Everything was going along fine as we went around the edge, matching up the happy fish pictures. Then we got to the middle section.

"What state is this, Mom? Where does it go?"

Um, let's see. Where DOES that go? I spent most of the afternoon staring at this little picture of the U.S. on the box, trying to match up the states and get this puzzle together. And a big part of the problem is the fact that I cheated in geography. (Math too, but that's another post...) I wrote all of those little states in order on my arm and copied them onto the test. The whole cheating process probably took longer than actually LEARNING the states in the first place. I never did get caught. But here I am today, a college educated woman, and I don't know where all of the states in a children's puzzle go. (Even worse, where the actual states are in relationship to the other states!) So, now you've got a good illustration as you warn your kids against cheating. "Let me tell you about the Llama Momma..." Of course, it's never too late to learn.

Please don't hold it against me, dear blog reading friends!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


I have a love-hate relationship with my crockpot. When I’m making chili or soup, my crockpot is my friend. When I come home to a pot of chili, I’m in love. Suddenly, I want to make everything in my crockpot! So I search for new recipes and I try them…and…well, they never live up to my expectations.

When my husband and I were dating we read this book, “Too Close, Too Soon,” by Jim Tally and Bobbi Reed. It’s a great book and was a real help to us in managing our courtship. (Actually, I think my husband—then boyfriend—managed it. Remember the “Tallygraph” honey? Don’t you wish we still HAD time alone together? ☺ ) Anyway, one of the basic premises of the book was this: “unrealistic expectations can destroy the natural progression of a relationship.”

And that’s exactly the way it is between me and my crockpot. Yesterday I tried to cook a chicken in it, excited because I had a new recipe promising me a deli-like roasted chicken. Just crumple up foil in the bottom of the crockpot, rub your bird with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoned salt and let it cook on high for 4-5 hours. Sounds easy enough, right? That should have been my first clue. My second clue? I hate chicken cooked in a crockpot. The flavor is always bland and the texture is, well, it’s “crockpot-like.”

I think it was the crumpled up bits of foil that threw me for a loop. Why would someone go to the trouble of publishing a recipe that specified CRUMPLED UP FOIL if it didn’t make a difference? It’s all about expectations.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Christmas Pride

Ever since their arrival, my children are s-l-o-w-l-y teaching me humility. Or maybe I’m just a slow learner, I don’t know. But the lessons keep coming.

The week before Christmas, the noisy boys had a holiday sing-a-long at their preschool. They keep the whole thing fairly low-key since the kids are so jazzed up over Christmas already, but still, it’s a chance to show off their friends and their school to Mom and Dad. The noisy boys get pretty excited about it.

On the day of the sing-a-long, the boys came down the stairs, dressed and ready to go—Twin A was wearing faded navy blue pull-on pants and a slightly different color blue play shirt. Twin B had his favorite hand-me-down baggy blue sweatpants (aka: cozy pants) on and a striped play shirt. I kept my expression neutral and mentioned that maybe they’d like to dress up today, since it’s a special day.

“How about your new sweater vest and button up shirt outfits that you wore to church last week? The ones with the cozy corduroy pants? You both looked so handsome in those. I’ll bet your teacher would like to see those nice outfits.” I asked, hoping to convince at least one of them.
“No. I like this outfit.” Twin A responded.
“Yeah. Me too.” Agreed Twin B.
“Don’t you want to wear something just a little bit fancier?” I tried again.
“But I AM fancy,” exclaimed Twin B, “this is a VERY fancy shirt!”

So I gave up, and off we went to the sing-a-long. I should back up here and say that all summer long I really encouraged them to be independent (after all, we had another baby on the way). They are responsible for making their beds (however it turns out is just the way we like it), getting themselves dressed, and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper. At five, you don’t get to make a ton of decisions, and I believe that unless you’re on your way to a wedding, what you wear should be one of them. Fortunately, when you’re five, the general public gives you plenty of fashion grace.

Anyway, back to the program. There we were, sitting in a semi-circle with the other parents, while the noisy boys proudly sang “S-A-N-T-A” to the tune of BINGO. They were cute in a ragamuffin kind of way. Meanwhile, most of their classmates were wearing Christmas sweaters and red velvet dresses, and there, right in the middle of them, were my boys in their grungy play clothes. It was a proud moment, let me tell you.

They didn’t seem to mind being under dressed, and their preschool teacher had a good laugh with me. I keep assuring her that we DO own nice clothes, even though they keep showing up in the same grungy sweatpants every day. Thankfully, she’s also a believer in letting kids learn by doing. At least someone is on my side! ☺

Friday, January 5, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

After a thrilling afternoon of playing Whac-a-Mole and building a highly unstable tinker toy lighthouse with the noisy boys, I really needed to get out of the house tonight. So I called a friend, and off we went to the movie theater. Not the big, flashy one a mile from my house, but the $3 theater on the other side of town. I love it there. Free refills on slushees and popcorn, plus a mint when you leave. And if you go as infrequently as I do, it doesn’t really matter how long the movie has been out, or even which movie you see, as long as it doesn’t have the word “flush” in the title, it’s all good.

Stranger than Fiction is, well, strange. I had heard from several people that this was a pretty good movie, so I suppose my expectations were slightly out of line. I was expecting GREAT, maybe even FUNNY, and while it had its great and humorous moments, as a whole I would not describe it as either.

And what’s with the whole “writer as misfit” thing? Does that get on anyone else’s nerves? Why does the writer character always have to be a maladjusted, quite possibly suicidal, chain smoking alcoholic in a crisp white shirt? Why not a middle-aged, slightly overweight stay-at-home Mom who scribbles down stories on napkins at McDonalds while her children play? And, of course, these crisp-white-shirt writers would never publish said stories in some obscure journal that nobody reads in exchange for a few copies; no, it’s always a big, fancy publishing house. Or even better—the writer is rich and lives in a beautiful mountain cabin, writing the day away. She never has to do laundry or fix supper; it’s brought to her on a silver tray, presumably purchased with the vast sums of money she’s made on her first novel. Right.

The popcorn was good, the company stellar, and I don’t have to put anyone to bed except myself. And I’m complaining about…what exactly?

Thursday, January 4, 2007

travel advice needed

My husband and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary in April and plan to take a trip, just the two of us. The only question is: where to go? I vote for Paris. My husband wants to go to Washington D.C. I am not making this up. In his defense, he travels constantly for work, so he's less excited about a long plane trip than I am. (Heck, sitting on a plane going anywhere without my children sounds like heaven!)

Anybody have any good recommendations for us?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Last night after I sent the noisy boys up to bed, I peeked in on them to tuck them in. I overheard Twin B talking to his new stuffed dogs (a mom and a baby dog). "Come and join the family," he said, "Here's your place right here, next to Zebra. There, now isn't that cozy?" He must have fifteen stuffed animals on his bed, but they each have a special place!

So, so sweet.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Happy Birthday, noisy boys!

I complain about my kids plenty on this blog. I don’t mean to complain, I just describe what is, and it sounds like I’m complaining. For the record, I love my children more than anything else on this earth.

Let me tell you just a little bit about my life five years ago. My husband and I had moved across the country and had few-to-no geographically close friends; I was pregnant with twin boys; my husband was unemployed. Okay, you’ve got the picture. 26 weeks along in my pregnancy, I went into premature labor and was admitted to the hospital. It was the day before Thanksgiving. At 4 cm dilated, the doctor didn’t expect me to make it through the night without giving birth. They gave me a shot of steroids in an effort to develop the babies’ lungs and started me on a drip of magnesium sulfate to try to stop the labor. It wasn’t stopping. They prepped me for an emergency c-section and a neonatologist came into my room and gave me all kinds of scary statistics that I think she thought would reassure me. All I could think was, “This is not happening. These babies cannot come tonight. If they do, they’ll die.” I told the neonatologist to leave. Now. And then I told my doctor that my babies would not be coming tonight, and I would do everything in my power to stay pregnant until 32 weeks. My doctor laughed and told me to try to hang on a few more hours. My husband prayed. I prayed. And then the medication took over and I couldn’t form a coherent thought, but in my soul, I prayed still. And the labor slowed down.

I spent that first night throwing up while my husband and an angel nurse soaked towels in ice water and draped them across my burning-up body. Magnesium sulfate, among other things, causes hot flashes and nausea. I didn’t think I would survive, but I did. I named our noisy boys that night and let myself imagine that they would live. I dreamed of the noisy chaos that is now an everyday part of my life.

And for the next 6 weeks, one day at a time, I stayed pregnant. My doctor couldn’t believe it. Nurses went on vacation and came back, amazed that I was still there. Nobody tried to explain away the miracle. I went in and out of active labor; on and off of the magnesium sulfate. A few times, I got to get out of bed and take a shower. And on January 2, 2002, one day shy of 32 weeks, my noisy boys were born. I wept with relief, both that my ordeal was over and that they would both live. In the end, they each spent 6 weeks in the NICU. And today, they are healthy, happy five-year old boys who have no idea why their Mother holds them so tightly and cries on their birthday.

So, for all of the days I complain about the noise and the mess of raising these boys, let me balance it out by saying I wouldn’t trade my noisy boys for anything in the world. They are gifts from God. And, for the record, I haven’t missed a shower in the five years they’ve been alive!