Thursday, February 27, 2014

biblical parenting // grace-based discipline

I need to say two things before we start:

a) by biblical parenting I do not mean "spare the rod ..." etc. If you are gearing up for a spanking/anti-spanking lecture you won't find it here. And I don't want to find it in the comments.

b) we all parent differently. This post is a little bit about what I am doing right now, and the resources that are helping me.

I've been at a complete loss on how to effectively discipline Bennett for a while. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, but the things I did do either didn't work, or weren't very effective.

A few weeks ago I began looking into gentle discipline, or grace-based discipline. I wanted to read some parenting books from a biblical perspective, but the books that are common in the parenting circles I run in (also, the church) made me a little - and in some cases a lot - uncomfortable. Now if you are my friend and reading this don't get offended. I am not judging you, or your parenting, or the way you choose to discipline. The books made me uncomfortable.

Then I found Pastor Crystal Lutton's book Biblical Parenting. It is SO good. And short. Short is good when you are a parent and have very little time to read. Pastor Lutton writes on the subject of grace-based parenting, and how to parent kindly and gently without being permissive. She also breaks down the rod verses and what they really mean, which was really interesting.

Pastor Lutton explains the idea of grace-based parenting as such: "Punishment creates the illusion of a lesson learned by demanding results while Grace-Based discipline teaches the lessons and trusts that when they are learned the results will be present." 

I've been spending way too much time trying to control Bennett's behavior. Pastor Lutton's method is all about teaching children self-control, because it is impossible to control someone else's behavior. 

My attitude and parenting methods have changed immensely in the last few days. And Bennett is responding really well. We went to Target today and he was able to walk next to the cart the entire time. Usually he starts out walking, but I end up putting him in the cart because he is all over the place. I feel a little silly saying, "You need to stop ...." all the time, but it works. At Target he saw a huge display of  colored vases and charged towards them (what kid can resist that?!). All I said was, "Bennett, you need to stop yourself from touching the vases." That's it. One simple sentence. He didn't touch them. He stood very, very close. He stretched his hand out. Then he stopped.

When that sentence doesn't work - and there are many moments when it doesn't - there are more steps to follow. I love this book because it's all about teaching my children to love Jesus through my actions. Pastor Lutton also presents the idea of a window, which I can't even begin to explain, but it's really helped me know how to handle different situations that come up throughout the day. This is one passage from the window chapter that I just love:

"As a parent you will need to act both as authority and servent, but choosing which way is to take priority will depend upon the age of your child and what you are trying to accomplish ... A servant is kind. An authority is firm. As a parent you must be both, but sometimes you need to emphasize kindness and other times you need to be firmer. One of the most difficult aspects of parenting is determining which role you should be in."

Implementing this kind of parenting has required so much prayer and patience. I could feel myself wanting to yell when Bennett walked out of his room starkers this afternoon and peed all over the floor, but I kept my calm and was able to recognize he was seeking attention/trying to get out of rest time.

The days have felt so long lately. I am very tired and overwhelmed, but I've managed to stay calm and use the new methods I've learned. There is so much wisdom in Pastor Lutton's book. I've been reading Two Thousand Kisses a Day by L.R. Knost as well. And I use a little bit from the Love and Logic books too. I want to read Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson as well.

I recommend taking a look at gentle parenting, whether you are a believer in Christ or not. I like the idea of being able to guide Bennett within a set of boundaries I am comfortable with. I love finding books that encourage faith based discipline without the pro-spanking chapters.  I like that Pastor Lutton emphasizes the parent as authority, but encourages kindness and empathy as well. I think I've done a poor job of considering Bennett's feelings in many situations, but I think we can get to a better place with the tools I am acquiring.

I don't know everything about parenting (who does), but I do know there's no way I could do this gentle parent thing without the power of Jesus. I've finally found books and resources that make sense to me. And now I am going to take a break and head out with friends. Today has been incredibly rewarding - the Target run - and incredibly frustrating - the absolute refusal to leave clothes and a diaper on. Dessert and girl time is in my near future and I. can't. wait.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

where I last saw you

Jon and I took a class on herbal antibiotics this morning at the birth center where Charlotte was born.

I hesitate to write about that place because my words have been twisted, my motivations criticized, my intentions questioned. All I can say, over and over and over, is that we acted with love.

I believed wholeheartedly that was where we were to go. You don't choose to birth out of hospital because you want the easiest route. I still believe the hand of God guided us there. We see a singular event, but He sees the whole map and He is the creator of that map. I choose to trust the hands that made me, even when it's so dark I can't imagine day will come again.

Through our decisions lives were altered. I hate the shameful pall that hangs over Charlotte's birth; that heavy, awkward burden I carry. I exhort others to lay down their guilt, but I can't shake mine. Nearly four years after Charlotte died people hear her story and experience heart and life changes. I believe that's why she was born.

As I sat in the kitchen of the house where Charlotte was born I took notes, I listened, I learned, and I felt the weight of what happened to us. The heaviness and darkness of trauma. The dreams we left in that place.

I'm still angry I didn't get to experience the postpartum haven I expected. During the class a stack of wooden trays on top of the refrigerator caught my eye and I found a well of bitterness in my soul. I ate breakfast off one of those trays mere hours before Charlotte died. 

I wanted lunch and dinner too. I wanted a baby who lived more than an hour. I wanted her life - her dreams, her hopes and her sorrows. I wanted more. I hate that some believe I could have had more; that I chose death for my daughter out of selfishness and naivete.

Things that I read, words that were said to my face, condemnations that were whispered when my back was turned are etched in my heart. When I can't sleep I run my hands over the carvings and defend myself. I don't know if that need to defend and protest will ever go away because the markings are deep and I visit them often.

Though there is trauma in that place there is comfort as well. The walls hold the echos of Charlotte's first heartbeat. The wood floors supported my pacing feet as I labored. I learned a lot in that house. I became a mother there. A mother. Then a grieving mother. But first, a mother.

And as the days lengthen and winter unfurls into spring I hope this birthday will be easier than the last. I hope for kindness and the relief of having space to remember without accusation and criticism pulling me to a darker place. I want to celebrate Charlotte's life this year. I want to find joy in who she briefly was. I want to pry the negative words from my heart so something positive can take root and begin to grow. I believe there is light everywhere, even in death, and this year I want to seek it out.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

gluten and corn free tortillas perfected

It took me somewhere in the range of nine months to figure out how to make a good gluten and corn free tortilla. Of course it's free of nuts, dairy and eggs as well. I've had the basic recipe for a long time. I got it HERE. But I couldn't make it work perfectly for me. The dough was sticky. The dough fell apart. The dough worked, but the taste was mediocre, or downright awful. I threw away entire batches. I got mad. I got frustrated. And then I figured it out.

The only flour that I have had success with is the perfect flour blend from Namaste Foods. I buy it at Costco. Now, I can't figure out how to make anything else with this flour, but it makes a mean tortilla.

So Namaste flour plus the rest of the ingredients - minus xanthan gum because it's in the flour blend & I use coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar - is the magic mix. The tortillas come out pretty small. Next round I think I'll double the batch so we can have bigger tacos.

Form into balls, roll out on parchment paper (use a little brown rice flour if dough sticks to roller) use a bowl to make each tortilla into a perfect little circle, and warm over medium heat until it's as done as you like it.

5 ingredients.

Simple. Easy.

We can finally have tacos again. And elephant ears. I can't wait to try this out with butter (or ghee) and cinnamon sugar.

I'll leave you with a picture of Ains, who shouted at me the entire time I worked on the tortillas. Her new nickname is Queen Squawkers. She is going to love that when she's a little older. It's almost as good as Grumpy Bear. Maybe we should combine it - Queen Squawkers Grumpy Bear. Now that's a nickname.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

the place between

I was folding laundry when it happened. Fold, stack, check the kids, fold, stack, check the kids, fold, stack, check the kids, pause. Bennett is building towers while Ainsleigh kicks around on the floor. Between them is a space, a little bit of floor where their sister should be.

I spend my days caring for babies, keeping house, running errands, and helping our family function. Underneath the minutiae of the day to day is the constant feeling that something is off. The world is off kilter, forever tilted a few degrees south of what I expected and hoped for.

It is darkest winter here. The weather is unforgiving. Snow storms followed by rain storms. Days of staying at home and watching the toddler climb the furniture and ricochet off the walls stacking up and toppling over with a sudden crash that leaves us all uneasy and on edge.

This is a valley. I recognize it. The balance of the house is off. Sadness and grief seep from the walls. I write less. I read less. When the kids go to bed I sink into the couch and turn on the television. It's in the valleys, in the weeks - months even - when the voice that insists someone is missing becomes impossible to ignore. It's amazing that a little girl who hardly cried has left a space that roars.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

the firemen came to visit me!

I can hear Bennett talking to J in the kitchen. He is detailing his day, which was very eventful.

"Daddy the firemen come to see me. They did. About the crackers. The firemen tell me not to eat the crackers ..."

While I was at the specialty hospital this morning having Ainsleigh's eyes looked at (all is well) Bennett was at my mom's with my sister and her kids. When my sister stepped out of the room my three-year-old niece opened the pantry door, got down the goldfish crackers, and handed out snacks to everyone.

My sister wasn't sure if Bennett ate anything, but his lip began swelling and his breathing changed so she called 911. The paramedics and firemen spent thirty minutes at the house monitoring Bennett. By that time I was on my way home so they left with instructions to watch him closely for the rest of the day. Bennett is not allergic to wheat - he's intolerant, but not allergic - but my sister was very proactive about calling and making sure someone with medical knowledge and equipment was in the house just in case the situation worsened.

It's so hard for me to stay calm when things like this happen. I know he was in good hands. He was probably in better hands with my sister than me honestly. My sister is very good in terrifying situations, especially if the terrifying situation has anything to do with blood, or hospitals, or paramedics.

I worry about taking Bennett places and after a day like this it's hard for me to resist putting him in a bubble and keeping him with me at all times. Every birthday party is a minefield. Everywhere we go there are foods that can make him sick. A couple weeks ago we walked into an Asian restaurant. I stopped in my tracks in the doorway and looked at J. "Peanut sauce!" I said. Peanut sauce and eggs! It's everywhere!" We haven't gone to a Chinese, Thai or Asian restaurant in two years because the risk is too high. When the restaurant was suggested we thought it sounded good because we hadn't gone in so long. I didn't realize why we had avoided those types of restaurants until we walked in the door.

I try to be calm about Bennett's food allergies. I do my best to be relaxed because I know his allergies are inconvenient, but I have to keep him safe. I can't explain the feeling in my stomach when a mom pulls out a bag of snacks at the park or coffee shop. I live with so much fear, but I don't want to pass that on to Bennett. And I don't want him to feel like there's something wrong with him.

I know I've written about Bennett's food allergies and my concerns, but it's a constant element in our lives. There's so many things we can't do because of potential hazards. Tomorrow night our church is providing child care so parents can spend time together for Valentine's Day. It sounds like a great event, but they will be serving pizza and Bennett is too young for me to put him in a situation like that.

When Ainsleigh was first diagnosed I was talking to our pediatrician about how I was coping. When I told her I felt overwhelmed she said, "Ainsleigh's issues are really intense right now, but in the long run they will be easier to manage than Bennett's food allergies."

You know what? I agree.

I'm tired of spending so much time thinking about food, packing food, looking out for potential food hazards and creating an environment that makes Bennett feel normal while keeping him safe.

I know I'm going to receive comments about living with food allergies, how it's manageable and everything will be fine, but I honestly don't want to hear it tonight. Tonight all I can think about is my baby boy and what he went through today.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


This is one of those times when I don't have much to say. So I'm just going to post a few pictures from the snow storm and leave it at that. Please forgive any formatting issues, I'm using my phone.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

snow // hot chocolate memories

It's cold and snowy here. Snow that sticks is not very common around here, but this is the second time this season so I guess we better get used to it.

Snow makes me crave pasta, bread, hot chocolate and anything else warm and doughy. Like donuts. I saw a picture of a donut on someone's Instagram feed around 3 and now I want one.

We don't even have hot chocolate in the house. I had to stop buying it because a) I'm addicted and b) the calories and c) the expense. I don't drink coffee but I love hot chocolate. My mom drinks it every morning in place of coffee. When I was working at the bookstore I got in the habit of drinking a mug at my desk before the store opened.

Man I miss those mornings. No one else in the store. The only sound the whir of a space heater as I answered e-mail and looked through catalogs. The smell of paper and the ancient heater struggling to warm up. My bookstore years were some of my happiest. I would like to visit that place in time. I would like to lean over that girl - the 2009 me - and say, "hey there, stranger. So this is what you used to be like." Okay, let's add a d to the list above: d) too many memories.

I told J to come on home after work, but then I decided we should have spaghetti for dinner and I really wanted bread. J will do a lot for me, but I didn't want to ask him to go back out in the snow when he isn't feeling well (cold, not flu), and I certainly wasn't going out, so I made rolls. I found a thirty minute roll recipe and it actually worked fairly well with this gluten free baking mix that's been sitting in the cupboard for ages.

As I was making dinner Bennett listened to music and J walked Ainsleigh around the house (if she can't have me she gets mad). We received a wonderful book and CD set at Christmas that Bennett just loves. He'll sit and listen for 30+ minutes. It's incredible. I highly recommend it.

The music was playing, snow was falling outside, and the steam from making dinner partially fogged the windows. After dinner J made a hot chocolate that Bennett could have. It was Bennett's first hot chocolate. He loved it.

It was so strange to give him rolls at dinner followed by hot chocolate. There are many foods we cannot give Bennett, but when we find a way to feed him a fairly normal meal it makes me happy, like I'm giving him more than just food. He won't remember this snow storm or his first hot chocolate, but I will and someday I'll tell him about it.

It's time for my third cup of tea today. It's freezing. I need comfort and warmth. Of course I derive emotional comfort from tea too. Maybe someday I'll tell you about the first cup of tea I remember drinking. It was late and I couldn't sleep so my mom went to the cupboard ...

mornings with ainsleigh

Ainsleigh often wakes up before Bennett does in the morning. She is often starving because she's slept for a four or five hour stretch, but getting her to settle in and eat is impossible. She wants to chat about her night, how it went, how she's feeling, what her dreams were.

I didn't know if Ainsleigh and I would have time alone to bond, but mornings have become our time. Some mornings I have five minutes alone with her, others I have thirty. This morning we've had over an hour. I am expecting Bennett to wake at any moment, but he has a cold so it is best if he sleeps as long as possible.

Mornings are Ainsleigh's cheerful time (she did not get that from me) but after an hour of happy chatting and playing she's usually ready for a nap. I'm going to put her down for her morning rest and then I am going to watch out the window for the snow storm that is supposed to be coming our way. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

baby tears and long days

I've put together a lot of posts about our daily lives (that's pretty much what this blog is about) but I try to avoid the detailed daily life posts because a) they're boring and b) who cares. This one time I'm going to get a little more detailed. Please stick with me. Please don't get bored. I'll be quick:


Ainsleigh wakes up. Ainsleigh hungry. Ainsleigh asleep. Bennett wakes up. Bennett hungry. Wash dishes from last night (dishwasher broken). Ainsleigh wakes up. Ainsleigh hungry. Ainsleigh is unhappy. Think about meeting up with friends as planned. Ainsleigh won't be set down. Ainsleigh unhappy. Ainsleigh asleep. Read to Bennett. Put Ainsleigh in crib. Ainsleigh screams. Give up on going out. Ainsleigh hungry. Bennett hungry ...

And that, friends, all happened before 10 am.

Ainsleigh WILL NOT be put down today. She just wants to sleep in my arms, which I should have anticipated after our busy weekend. When she gets like this she WILL NOT go in a wrap or the Ergo either. I *think* some of her being worn dislike can be linked to her hearing loss because she can't see everything around her when in a carrier, but I may very well be wrong about that.

Bennett was really good and helpful today which made things a little easier. His latest trick is to climb anything and everything, but he kept his feet on the ground today. Ainsleigh's discontent was so constant and intense this afternoon Bennett chose to sit quietly (for thirty minutes!) in a different room with music on and a stack of books to look through. And when Ainsleigh finally settled Bennett watched Thomas the Train while I watched Gilmore Girls and we both tried to get the sound of baby screaming out of our ringing ears.

What no one tells you before you become a parent is that sometimes babies cry and there is absolutely nothing you can do to soothe them, though you will try everything you can think of to make it stop.

I have learned that one of two things always happens just before I hit my breaking point:
1) J comes home
2) Ainsleigh stops crying and gives me a big smile which somehow makes the hours of crying seem less painful

I have no idea what is wrong with my sweet Ains but she is out of sorts and very unhappy. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little easier.

Monday, February 3, 2014


February is a bleak, cold month. I've been slowly using up the quarter of a cow we bought at the end of summer. In January I faced the depths of the freezer in the garage and began pulling out a cut of meat then finding a recipe to cook it. There's been a lot of Google time: "what is an arm roast? Can I cook that like a traditional roast?" and "paleo rib recipe (this one was actually pretty good!). We're not committed to the paleo diet, but we tend to eat in that style thanks to Bennett's allergies and intolerance to most food.

We've been really busy. Yesterday we began our day with church, then we went to a birthday party, and then to a Super Bowl party. I've always lived in Oregon so I really, really wanted the Seahawks to win (we don't have a professional football team) and they did not disappoint.

For me the Super Bowl is about football and food, but there are memories too. Super Bowl Sunday four years ago I was eating candy hearts (J says I love the grossest candy from each holiday because I like candy corn and candy hearts, but I disagree because I love Cadbury eggs at Easter time and those are fancy!) and talking to my sister when Charlotte's name slipped out. My sister kept it a secret until Charlotte was born because she knew it was important to me.

2010 was a hard year for my family. There was more than one unexpected death. February is the beginning of the anniversaries; somehow this is the fourth year, which is such a short time, but so long too. Four years is a long time to be without a mother or daughter.

I have soup on the stove that I need to finish making for supper, but I had a few minutes so I wanted to write something down. That seems to be all I have time for right now. A few borrowed minutes here and there in which I throw some thoughts down and hope for coherency.

I hope to convince J to write a post soon. Wouldn't that be interesting? If you have any topic ideas shout them out and I'll do my best to convince him.


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