level up, self-awareness

Here's a meal I made while holding a baby. I blog it to make you think I'm hot shit.

This morning I was prepping a big meal in the kitchen, listening to the sermon I missed in church on Sunday. Elijah is working through a baby virus, so I stayed home with him to rest while Dan took the older boys on a play date. While Elijah slept fitfully I figured I'd use the time to prep tomorrow's 9-person dinner. At least cut up the vegetables, I said to myself, so I can pop them in the oven tomorrow when I'm dealing with three kids at once.

I often miss the sermon on Sunday because I'm working in kids' church, and then dealing with my children's nutritional and social/emotional needs afterward. Once they all get lunch and juice and playing on the playground we sometimes get a chance to do a little worship together. It makes for a lovely morning but not exactly a growing-in-God type of regimin.

So when I get a quiet moment during food prep I try to catch up on whatever the church is teaching. Not for my own sake, of course, but because I lead a small group and I have to be up on the message for the benefit of others.

I live on a very high ivory tower and that is the subject of my blog post today.

So I turn on the sermon while dicing potatoes and I hear our pastor ask this odd question: If you had a t-shirt emblazoned with a phrase that represented your identity, what would it say?

What indeed?

I have a friend who exercises in a tank that reads, "I want it all!" She exercises pretty hard.

My neighbor's daughter has a shirt that says, "Princess." She comes into our house and demands cookies.

So what would an accurate t-shirt say for me? I reflected for a moment, scrolling through all the phrases that reflect my hippy parent self-presentation. "Local milk supplier" for example, or "Powered by stevia and not cane sugar!"

And then it hit me, the phrase that I'd never put on a t-shirt. The phrase that describes my personality 100%.

LEVEL UP, BITCH.

What are you doing, pouring glycerine soap into cute little sheep molds? Make your own soap! LEVEL UP, BITCH! What are you doing, attachment parenting one single child? Homeschool three! LEVEL UP, BITCH!

What are you doing, trying to rest with your sick kid because you haven't slept in three days? Cook a day ahead and write a blog post! LEVEL UP, BITCH!

In my own mind, I can never stop working. In my own mind I am never trying hard enough.

I am not alone in this, I find. This is an American mothering thing.

I came across this article the other day while I was nursing sick Elijah for like ten million hours. It made me laugh because it put into words the way I think about domestic tasks. "Bento Boxes That Will Establish Your Dominance Over Other Moms."

'But this is taking me too long!' Waaah waaah waaah. What are you, a little bitch? Set an alarm for 3:30 am and get it done!

Dan says I'm attached to the praise of others. "You're so AMAZING" and "How do you DO it?" I say, haha that's generous. Caring what others say would mean having a genuine relationship with them. Instead I have a genetic inability to process compliments. What matters to me is my own definition of winning, a warped view of Christianity in which Jesus loved Martha better and demonstrated it by ordering more sandwhiches.

I have thought: "I am the fucking Michael Jorden of giving myself to others."

Dan says this is a spiritual issue and I need to repent. I guess I'll have to, because I am the fucking Michael Jorden of obeying my husband.

Anyway, let's wrap this up so I can go back to cooking.

What should you do if, like me, your self-concept is a little unhelpful?

Go back to God for a different t-shirt. Ask him what he thinks it should say. If I honesty ask God how he sees me I hear, "Oh honey, you are sooooo tired. You're afraid that you're a loser and you'll always be a loser. This not eating sugar thing isn't going to help."

Maybe instead he'll give me a pink t-shirt that says "Princess!" I wonder if my neighbor has any cookies...

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hairy decisions

It's been over two years since the last time I shaved any of the hair on my body. At the time I thought going natural was a BIG DECISION. Now I think that's stupid. What a loser society we live in if the choice to sport leg hair or not feels like a defining factor of identity.

I didn't have any hippy rhetoric floating around my head when I said, "Forget it, I'm done shaving." I just had two very young and needy kids and I didn't feel like taking any longer in the shower. This was after I had dreaded my hair, so my shower times had already plummeted. I saw not shaving as the low-hanging-fruit of life hacking my way to sanity. Mornings are sometimes tough, but I'm a person who feels better about myself if I have a quick shower before I get dressed. It's a nice thing to put a baby in a playpen, hop in the shower, and be out and dressed before he notices you're gone.

If my husband had said, "Ew! leg hair!" I would have relented, but he assures me he's not that type of guy. Also I keep him on a short string by making sex a rarity. It's the same technique I use with my kids regarding screen time. They don't get it very often, so they f-ing LOVE cooking documentaries.

But back to not shaving...

Two years with body hair, I can say that this has been mostly a positive experience. Not a groundbreaking one. Just, like, a slight life improvement. It saves me time and nobody has stopped being my friend because of it. It turns out it's not life shattering when some women choose to have leg hair.

Although I will say one thing.

I carry our cultural beauty standards around in my head as much as other people do. When I look down at my own legs I sometimes have a moment of "Ew, is someone gonna clean that up?" The underarm hair was much quicker for me to accept, because I see beautiful women in other societies doing that. And because armpits are not that pretty with shaving bumps either. But legs do give me a moment of pause. The first few times I went to the gym in shorts I was rather self-conscious. But I got over that quickly because I no one is really looking at you at the gym. I do notice that I choose to wear long skirts when I go to a gathering of people I don't know. Church is a long-skirt place for me, as are small groups and parties. It's partly that I don't want someone to be taken aback by my leg hair, and partly because that's what I wear to look fancy. I also wear shorts at the beach to hide my pubic hair, but dressing for the beach is a whole 'nother issue for women, am I right?

Mama and Elijah in the rocking chair on the porch, both smiling for the camera

happy times

Can you see it? Can you see the disgusting abomination of follicles?

They say that blogging is navel gazing, and these 500 words about the hair on my body really drive that point home. Still, I hope it's helpful for some aspiring hippy who's wondering, "Dare I do it? Will my life be plunged down a slippery slope of dishevelment?" The answer is probably yes, but it won't be a big deal. You'll see. Two years will go by and you'll barely even stop to write about it.

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fair exchange?

It's a good thing our hens give us plenty of eggs, because they sure eat their fill of our fruits and vegetables. This year they enjoyed lots of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries—and about all of the tiny crop of blueberries (we have six plants, but only one flowered this year). And then today they got into the garden and ate three-fourths of the first almost-ripe tomato. I wanted to eat that tomato! I mean, share it with my family, of course. Luckily there are a great many more that we can expect to come ripe at some point in the near future; I only hope I can manage to improve the fencing in time!

everything up to this moment

It's been a very busy summer and I find that I don't have as much time for recording our experiences as I'd like. Rather than make myself frantic trying to 'keep up' with duplicating our lives on this blog, I've decided to post some pictures I want to remember. These are things which might have become blog posts on their own if I hadn't spent so much time playing or cleaning or sleeping. Imagine the blog post yourself. Something something, self deprecating joke, something something deep ending. You get the idea.

sing out boys!

Harvey and Zion got ukuleles for Harvey's birthday. I got these red and blue models from The Land of Nod and they are awesome, notably because they tune via a detached key which means the boys can't detune them every second.

Speaking of the Land of Nod, here's a joke from the other day. I got a coupon in the mail from said establishment and I exclaimed, "Hey! 15% off the Land of Nod!" Dan looked at me wide-eyed and asked incredulously, "The whole land?"

posing

Harvey got a golden shirt from my grandmother, and he calls it his armor. Grandma is always trying to find presents to give the boys, despite not having access to cash or being able to get around very well. She lives in a nursing home nearby and we have been visiting her once a week since her health went into decline. It can be intense balancing the physical and emotional needs of my grandmother vs those of my children when we visit. On the plus side the nursing home cafe has very cheap hot dogs.

view from the loo

This is what it looks like when I sit on the toilet with the door open. I have three kids now and my living room is intense.

working with a limited scope of colors

The kids painted a canvas for my mother's 60th birthday, under my art direction. The trick to painting with kids, if it's something you want to turn out a certain way, is to start drinking 30 minutes before you set out the materials. I didn't do that, so the project was very stressful for me, especially the hand print part. This was the final product:

there should be an app to do this

The hurricaine took down a tree in our back yard and it fell on our rapsberry pushes. Luckily nothing else was damaged. Harvey helped get the wreckage cleared.

he's getting to be a big help

Harvey also climbed on all the branches and a stick we set up as a makeshift climbing structure. He's getting very brave.

hang in there

Zion put his belly on a skateboard and pretended he was swimming in the street. That boy has some problem solving abilities.

zion on his belly on a skateboard in the street

dis bein da water

Harvey frequently asks to hold Elijah. I think they have a similar look about them.

biggest and littlest

Even though it's 90 degrees, Harvey still dons his king costume frequently. The other day he was entertaining the baby and said, "Elijah likes being with the king!"

king and subject

Elijah is the baby of the world.

elijah and balloon

And now I think we're up to date.

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dedicated

Last Sunday we dedicated Elijah during our morning service. It was a low-key event, this being an adult baptism kind of church, but nonetheless I managed to get all three children into matching shirts. Zion threw a raging tantrum in the morning, I forget about what, so by the time we were dressing to leave I was finished giving him options. There was none of my normal "collared shirt or t-shirt because you have self-determination," it was all "put this on and get in the car or you're not getting a bagel."

I'll bring you an apple, I offered. He whipped on that botton-down lickity split.

Oh wait, now I do remember the nature of the tantrum. He was lying on the floor yelling "Mama, Woah!" and pretending like he couldn't stand up. Whether he has a right to my attention at any given moment, he does not have the right to demand it in a rude manipulative manner. So I told him he could ask for my attention in many ways, say "Mama I want a hug" or walk over to me. But I would not reward phony helplessness, I said. I said this many times, in many different ways. In many variations of volume. He also varied his volume, Zion. At the most heated point in the argument he shouted, "I CAN'T GET UP!" and I shouted back at him, "Bullshit!"

And then I thought to myself, "Well that does no good. He doesn't even know what bullshit means!" I have to get all teachy on him and say, "Zion, when I say the word 'bullshit' it means that I don't believe you and also that I'm getting really mad."

Eventually we made it to the car. Harvey was also unhappy about something. On the ride to church I said to Dan, "It's a good thing we dedicate our children to God, because right now they're not doing much for us."

take off your shoes, it's holy ground.

In between serving bagels at kids church, running across campus to get up on stage, and running back to the classrooms to teach again, Dan and I had to answer some penetrating questions.

Do I promise to raise my children in the knowledge of God, the Father Son and Holy Spirit? Yes. Do I bless my children's relationship with God, whatever that might look like? Well, okay, I guess I have to. Do I ask for God's help in my parenting? Every single f-ing second. Okay so that's not actually true, but I wish I did - things might go better.

The truth about parenting and faith is that they're both moving targets. What works in my parenting changes from moment to moment. This is true of my relationship with God as well. I don't have any great insights into either, how to do parenting or faith exceptionally well. Just keep showing up, I guess. Keep putting the kids in the car and driving to church. No matter what it takes to get there. Even if you totally forget to bring their shoes. Show up together and eat a free bagel and see if God wants to lead you anywhere.

And welcome to Elijah, my little gift from God, and dedicated back, and given back to me again. Thanks for doing this crazy thing with us.

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