Sunday, August 02, 2015

If you love my family....

I posted this on Facebook a long time ago and realized that it should be on my blog too.

I have a request for anyone that cares about my family or our birthmothers. Please stop using the terms “keep” and “give up” when referring to adoption. These are terms commonly used in reference to purging one's house of garbage and other objects. You have to decide what to keep and what to give up or throw away. These terms should never be used in reference to a child or the thought process behind a birth mother’s decision.

There are a tiny number of exceptions to this but overwhelmingly, an adoption begins when a birth mother (sometimes a birth father) carefully ponders what will be the best future for her unborn child. If she concludes that parenting the child herself isn’t the best option, she may choose to place her child with adoptive parents. She pours over adoptive parent profiles, she may pray, talk to her family and friends, and after much thought and consideration, she chooses a family to place her unborn child with.

Please don’t dismiss these word choices as simple semantics. “Keep” and “give up” are so charged with negative ideas. They reduce a child to something akin to garbage and a birthmother to someone who treated a child like garbage. I know it doesn’t roll off the tongue and will take some effort but please try to use the words “parent” or “place” when referring to what a birth mother decided to do.

I am eternally grateful to my children’s birth mothers for carefully considering what the children they carried would need and deciding to place them with my family. Birth mothers are my heroes.

I have never heard someone use “keep” and “give up” with the intention to hurt or offend. I do not get offended by people who use those words. So rest assured, I am not angry or hurt by any of my friends or acquaintances. I am worried about how my children or their birth mothers will feel when they hear people use those words. Thank you to all of you who already understand and use the words “parent” and “place”. There are many of you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Capturing the Spirit of Christmas

Ever have one of those Christmas seasons where you just can't quite capture the Spirit of Christmas?  I have.  Thankfully not this year.

But, if this is you right now, I have a recommendation:  Read Dickens A Christmas Carol.  No, a movie isn't sufficient.  Especially, the chapter in Stave III with the Cratchit Christmas.  Nothing gets me feeling the true Spirit of Christmas more quickly.  My family tries to read it every year.  We are a little behind this year and just read the Cratchit Christmas last night.  We'll finish the rest of the story today.  So good.

I love that the Cratchit's barely have their basic physical needs met (ala Maslow's hierarchy of needs) but within their own family they have such an abundance of the top 3 levels of needs that they are bursting with happiness and joy.  It reminds me like, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, that "Christmas doesn't come from a store" and isn't about stuff.  It means "a little bit more".

My family has a list of music, stories, and music that helps us capture the Spirit of Christmas.  Here are some of our favorites:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Luke 2 in the Bible
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell
The Little Shepherd by Don J. Black
The Forgotten Carols by Michael McLean
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Any Christmas Album by the Mormon Tabernacle (MOTAB) Choir
MOTAB and Sissel Christmas Special
Sarah McLachlan's Christmas Album, Wintersong
Any Christmas Album by Mannheim Steamroller
David Archuleta's Christmas Album, Christmas From the Heart
Any version of Gabriel's Oboe
Mercy Me's Christmas Album, The Christmas Sessions
Jars of Clay Christmas Album, Christmas Songs
We find new music we love every year.  Spotify has quite a selection and we add to our Christmas play list frequently.

A Sesame Street Christmas
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (classic version)
Miracle on 34th Street (we love the newer version)
Rick Steve's European Christmas

To all my friends and family who are celebrating Christmas, Merry Christmas, may you feel the true joy that comes with the Spirit of Christmas.  If you are celebrating another holiday this season, I pray you are feeling the full joy and Spirit of your celebration.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You Can't Scare Me. I Have Twins.

Having survived the first 5 years with twins, I am often asked for advice by expectant mothers of twins.  Here's my best advice for expectant mothers of twins.  Parenting is such a personal thing and there are so many ways to do it.  This is what worked for me and my family.  I have no problem with other Moms doing something totally different.  I'm ok with other people disagreeing with my methods.  Just offering this to anyone who wants it.  Take what you like, leave what you don't:  

Congratulations!  It's not going to be a piece of cake but having twins is really fun.  So many sweet/precious experiences are in your future that only come with twins.  Here are my thoughts for you.  I hope it helps.  I read a lot of books on twins but there wasn’t one that stuck out to me.  I learned many valuable things from all of them.  I suggest checking out whatever you can find from the library.  Following is everything I could think of that I learned from my experience.  Feel free to keep asking me questions via comments.

1.  Take a deep breath and accept that yes, twins will turn your life upside down for a while but it's totally doable and you will love it.  If you prepare mentally/emotionally to have it kind of dominate your life for a little while, that's half the battle.  I have a friend with triplets who said that it got dramatically easier every 6 months.  She was so right.  Try to think in terms of how to enjoy and survive the first 6 months for now and know that every 6 months things will get dramatically easier.  I think by the time my twins were 3, it really wasn't much different than just having multiple children of different ages.  If you have other children, that is going to be a real help in so many ways.  Everyone I know with twins has some circumstance that made their situation even more complicated in the beginning and they all survived wonderfully.  For example, my twins were born at 25 weeks in another state and were in the NICU for 3 months.  We could hardly take them anywhere for the first 8 months.  Then, when they were 10 months old, I got sick went to the hospital for 5 weeks and had brain surgery.  We are all totally fine now and we have many happy memories from that first year despite the challenges.  A friend of mine had her twins when her other 3 children were 5, 4, and 2.  She had 5 kids 5 and under for that first year.  Her twins are 1.5 now and she's doing great.  Don't worry if you are in a similar situation.  You can totally manage it. Really.

2.  Start thinking now about how much you can clear from your schedule for the first 6-12 months after they are born.  You might need to start this a month or two before they are born.  Twins tend to come early and there is a good chance you'll go on bed rest.  In the beginning everything is so much easier at home.  I'm not saying you have to become a hermit.  Going out can be really fun but trying to get places on time and do things that aren't baby friendly will be tough that first year and limiting it as much as possible will make life simpler for you.  If you have lessons or activities your other children need to get to, consider trading rides for them for watching other kids at your house.  Maybe not when your twins are newborns, but as soon as they are on some kind of schedule, watching other kids at your house could be a lot easier than piling everyone in the car to drive someone somewhere.  As often as possible, plan outings when your husband can go with you.  Consider doing most errands on your own when your husband can watch the kids.

3.  Get an Prime membership.  I have learned that Amazon will ship you almost anything and most of it for a really great price.  A Prime membership is I think $75/year and gets you free 2-day shipping on most of what they sell.  I bought/still buy most of my toiletries, laundry detergent, diapers, presents for bday parties, baby showers, Christmas, office and school supplies etc. on Amazon.  I homeschool my kids and teach classes in a co-op and every week I get most of my supplies for class from Amazon too.  Things you use regularly like diapers you can set up a "subscription" for and they will come every month or every other month or whatever frequency you like without you having to do anything.  You save money on subscriptions too.  It's called the subscribe-and-save program.  Seriously, Amazon has been one of my hugest secret weapons.  It has eliminated so many errands and shopping trips from my schedule and it saves me money. 

4.  Start preparing and storing freezer meals.  If you don’t have a large extra freezer, consider getting one.  In the beginning, especially the first month, you will spend almost all your time feeding and caring for your newborns.  I’m certain you will have plenty of people bringing you meals but when that ends, it is nice if you have the means to, easily, and healthily feed your family.  It always makes me feel happier and like a good wife/mother when I can feed my family healthy, yummy food.  Freezer Meals are the best way I know how to do this.  Most of the things you already make can probably be made into freezer meals.  Some things can be pre-cooked  then frozen in gallon Ziplocs to be reheated in a crockpock after defrosting in the fridge for 24 hours, some can be assembled and ready-to-bake in a disposable foil container after defrosting for 24 hours.  Search the web for freezer meals – tons of ideas out there.  You’ll get lots of great recipes from friends too if you start asking.  If you can have a month’s worth of meals ready to go in your freezer before your twins are born, that will be a huge help to you.  It’ll take practice to remember to defrost them a day ahead of time in the fridge so they are ready to reheat or bake but this takes 5 minutes and it’s not a hard habit to get into.  Also consider having 1 night a week when your husband cooks dinner and 1 night when you get Subway, takeout, already roasted chicken from the grocery store or something else like that instead of cooking.  If you know you can plan on those 2 nights during the week, it will ease some stress and give you a little break 2 nights/week.

5.  As quickly as possible get the babies on a schedule.  I don’t know what your experience with other children as babies has been like but I know a lot of people struggle with the idea of getting a baby on a schedule.  With twins, it isn’t an option to not have them on one.  Hospitals are experts at this.  You will be an expert on it soon:).  Basically you need to feed them, play with them, put them to sleep, let them sleep, and change their diapers every 3-4 hours.  My favorite book for helping me get my babies on a schedule is The Baby Whisperer.  But don’t be afraid to disagree with her or ignore anything that doesn’t feel right for you.  I didn’t like her twin schedule personally but I loved what she taught me about sleep training.  Another book I’ve liked is The Happiest Baby on the Block. Read them now while you can.  You won't have time or mental capacity after your babies are born.

Depending on whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, that will significantly influence your schedule.  I breastfed my twins for the first 10 months.  You have to decide first if you want to have your twins on the same schedule or slightly staggered.  There are pros and cons to both.  If you want them on the same schedule, I recommend using Podee Bottles for one twin every feeding, switching who has the Podee and who has you every feeding.  Here’s a picture.  A Podee bottle allows an infant to kinda feed themselves.  You put them in their car seat, put the bottle between their legs and the bottle nipple is kinda like a pacifier with a straw connecting it to the bottle.  You can put the nipple in their mouth and they suck on it.  Whenever it falls out, you put it back in their mouth, just like a paci – very easy.  This allows you to give most of your attention to one twin every feeding.  Initially I nursed my twins one-at-a-time, back-to-back.  That meant I was feeding them 16 hours a day in the beginning.  My situation was complicated because I adopted my twins and I was using an SNS system to supplement.  Even if you fed yours one-at-a-time, back to back it wouldn’t take that much time.  After 3 months I switched to tandem nursing.  Some Moms really love tandem nursing.  We had some sweet moments with this but most of the time it was a 3-way wrestling match and after 3 months, my nipples were so sore I had to stop.  You might be able to make it work – you probably won’t be contending with the SNS.  It does cut feeding time in half and allows your babies to be on the same schedule so you get more time when they sleep.  When my babies were 6 months old, I discovered Podee bottles and started using them. It allowed me to keep them on the same schedule, keep feedings to 6 hours a day instead of 12, and feeding one twin at a time allowed me to really bond with the one I was feeding and have a pleasant nursing experience.  I switched who I fed vs. who got the Podee every feeding so they both got half their feedings with my undivided attention every day. 

For sleeping, I highly recommend swaddle blankets like these.

Babies sleep so much better all swaddled up, even in summer, and they can’t unwrap these blankets.  Twins often do better sleeping next to each other in the same bed but if they aren’t swaddled good, they can disturb each other.  They eventually become immune to each other’s noises and crying.  My twins shared a room till they were 5 and very rarely woke each other up, even when one was crying really loudly.  They learned to tune each other out. 

I don’t know what your experience with sleep training babies is but it is critical with twins.  It just isn’t possible to rock-to-sleep or hold two babies while they sleep at once.  One option that could work if sleep training seems too daunting is get two swings and let them fall asleep in there.  I have a friend whose first baby slept in a swing for the first 6 months.  Totally doable.

6.  Say yes to any and all offers of help.  People are probably so excited for you and most people recognize what an overwhelming thing having twins is.  They will offer you lots of help.  Say yes.  You will need it.  You will pay it forward in the future.   Whatever they offer to do for you, if it seems helpful, say yes.  If they give a vague offer or ask what they can do, tell them you can use meals, rides for your older kids, or a couple hours to do errands or take a nap.   Ask anyone who offers to bring a meal to you to bring it in disposable containers – you won’t have time to wash, keep track of, and return people’s dishes and pans. 

7.  Figure out your strategy for going out with all your kids.   You need to figure out your diaper bag and your stroller/carrier plan.   I recommend a backpack for your diaper bag.  It holds so much more than a regular diaper bag and you need double the space with twins (two changes of clothes, double the diapers, two blankets, burb cloths, bottle, snacks etc.). Also it allows you to have both your hands free.  My twins are 5 and I’m still using my backpack whenever I go out with my kids.  You’ll need to decide how you want to convey your babies once out of the car.  In the beginning a double stroller that holds two carseats is very convenient.  Makes getting the babies in and out of the car quick and easy.  But, the stroller is enormous and unwieldy.  It took up almost my whole trunk and forget keeping it in the house.  And you can’t use it for grocery shopping, Costco, or other shopping trips where you need a lot of space in a shopping cart.  Even if you limit your errand outings with kids, there will be times you need to take everyone to the store.  When my twins were about a year old I discovered the Boba Carrier.  If I were to do it all over again, I’d use a Boba and a regular stroller right from the beginning.  With the Boba I could wear one twin and put the other in a single stroller or shopping cart.  So much easier to get around.  If you already have a stroller you wouldn’t have to buy a new stroller. If you have a toddler in addition to your coming twins, a Sit and Stand stroller plus a Boba could work really well for you.  You could wear one infant, put the other in their carseat in the stroller and have your toddler sit or stand in the stroller too.  When you go to the grocery store or somewhere with a cart, you wear one infant and the other can go in the shopping cart.  A lot of places have carts that will hold both your infant and a toddler.  Boba's are expensive yes, but worth every penny.  If you aren’t buying a new stroller it makes it easier to afford one of these.  Such a lovely way to carry an infant and I can still fit my twins (one at a time) in my Boba now.  Obviously a 5-year-old can walk on their own so I don’t use it anymore.  But I did regularly until they were about 4. We actually had two so my husband and I could carry them both when we all went out.  It’s nice not to deal with a stroller in some settings like a busy city or an event with large crowds. You can buy one from amazon here and from the boba website here.

8.  Plan now for how to refill your mental/emotional tank every week.  This is going to be an amazing and wonderful experience.  But, it will test your limits and take a lot out of you.  If you can figure out a plan for regular dates with your husband and regular times for you to run errands or take a nap or do something else for yourself, you can avoid breakdowns and running yourself ragged.  For dates, I recommend securing a babysitter for a regular weekly evening.  For you time, you could schedule an evening or time on Saturdays when your husband will watch the kids so you can do something for you.  You could also do a babysitting trade with a friend or pay a babysitter once/week so you can have you time.  My twins were on a pretty good schedule with 3 naps a day by the time they were 4 months old.  By the time they were a year old, my twins took one 3 hour nap, every day.   My oldest daughter was really good at staying quietly in her room during nap-time.  Having nap-time every day, all to myself, was my saving grace.  I couldn’t go anywhere but I could nap, read, get stuff done or whatever I needed and it kept me sane.  When my twins outgrew their naps at age 4, I started to lose it.  That’s when I started paying a babysitter to watch them one afternoon a week.  Still doing it.   The best way I know of to be a great wife and mother is to take care of my basic needs.  When I do that, I have a lot more to give my family. 

9.  Get whatever support you need.  It will be important for you to have other women you can talk to as you go through this experience.  Some women really love being part of a Moms-of-Multiples group.  They are everywhere. For me talking to my sisters and friends on the phone worked well.  Make sure you have some women you can vent to, problem solve with, and get emotional support from.   I have struggled with both anxiety and depression in the last several years.  I have found a wonderful counselor who has helped me manage both really well.  If you need help from a professional, get it. 

10.  Along with simplifying your schedule, put any major projects on hold for 6-12 months.  If at all possible, don’t try to potty train anyone, move, start a new exercise routine, or make any major changes to your life until your twins are 6-12 months old.  This might not be possible but do what you can to limit additional stress.  You’ll be able to handle whatever you have to but simplify what you can.  The one exception is my next point.

11.  If you have other children, start now to prep them to help with work.    My oldest was 5 when my twins were born.  She was and remains a HUGE help to me.  I don’t know what you and your kids are used to now so forgive me if I’m preaching to the choir.  But, kids are capable of a lot of work and you will need all hands on deck.  Even a 2 yr old can help with some work. If I were you, I’d focus a lot of energy now and until the twins are born on helping your kids learn to do chores and get used to a schedule of personal chores and family work so that when the babies arrive, things will keep humming along.  Depending on how many kids you have, you may be able to teach your kids to do the majority of the basic family work so that you are free to take care of the twins.  I’d focus on helping them learn to do their personal chores (make beds, clean their rooms, get dressed, put clothes away, brush teeth etc.); learn to help with laundry (sorting, washing, and folding); dishes /kitchen (loading and unloading the dishwasher, clearing the table, rinsing dishes, washing tables, and counters, sweeping or swiffering the floor); and bathroom (the mirror, sink, toilet, bathtub, and floor).  I use baking soda to clean my bathtub so it’s not toxic for a child to clean.  I do recommend gloves so their hands don’t get scratched.  It would also be nice if they knew how to do some basic food prep like microwave instant oatmeal, make PBJ sandwiches, peel and section Clementines or bananas, etc.  There may be meals when you need to rely on their ability to prep food for everyone. 

12.  Come to terms with the idea that someone will have to cry often.  With twins it is impossible to see to all of their needs immediately. Very often, one twin will be crying while you are helping the other one.  If you have other children, even more likely.  This is not a problem.  No baby or child ever died of crying.  All twins experience this and I don’t know of any of them suffering lasting damage because of it.  I actually find that twins and triplets seem to have a little more patience than other children because they are used to waiting their turn for Mom's attention.  If you already have other children, you probably already get this idea. 

13. Get Ready for lots of comments and questions.    I don’t know what it is but when people hear about or see your twins, a lot of them are going to start asking all sorts of bizarre questions and making strange comments.  Learn to laugh at it and respond appropriately.  You don’t owe anyone explanations and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your situation.  This video is hilarious and so true to my experience.  I’ve had almost all of these things asked of me/said to me.  I get even more fun stuff because my kids were all adopted and my twins are African-American while me, my husband, and my oldest are all Caucasian. 

14.  When at your wits end, just hang on.  I’m not going to lie, there were a few moments in that first year when I wasn’t sure how I’d make it another hour, let alone another day, week, or month.  But they were moments.  They passed.  When you feel like you are at your wits end, just hang on by your fingernails.  It will get better.  You will sleep again.  You will feel human again.  You will feel really happy and wonderful again.  All you have to do is keep you and your children alive, fed, maybe dressed.  Everything else is a bonus. 

15.  Enjoy this unique and precious experience.    As a mother of twins you will get to experience some amazing things very few other people do.  Most twins have an amazing bond.  I remember seeing my twins asleep in the same crib with one of their heads on the other’s tummy and arms wrapped around each other.  This still happens on occasion - on vacation last summer they fell asleep in a hotel bed wrapped up together. My little girl is brave and bold.  My son is cautious and shy.  My twins always have each other in almost any new situation.  It is so cute to see them holding hands when they go into any new situation together.  They always prefer having the other one with them – they are each other’s security blankets.  I’ll always remember how cute it was when they started crawling, watching two little bums wiggling down the hallway side-by-side.  I’ll never forget when they both started learning to say the work “fork” and practicing at the dinner table.  With twins the cuteness is more than doubled, it is exponential.  Dressing them is sooooo fun.  It might be my favorite hobby.  It is really nice to have two babies to go around.  My oldest was so excited to finally have siblings.  When they came home from the hospital, she told me, “Mom, you get the boy, and I get the girl.”  When grandparents, aunts, and uncles, are around, it’s nice to have two babies to pass around.  There will always be people dying to hold your babies.  If you feel comfortable, let them.  I love being a Mom and there is nothing like the feeling of having both my twins in my arms at the same time.  It is getting difficult to fit them both in my lap now but I so loved it while they were little.  As they get older it is so nice that they always have a playmate.  Now that my twins are 5, they really do need less of my attention than they would if there were only 1 of them.  They fight like any siblings but they also play really well together. 

Congratulations!  I’m so happy for you.  This is going to be a wonderful experience.  It’s normal to be worried but you are in for some great times.  Please do follow up with any questions you have. 

Good Luck!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day... A Mixed Bag

For me, Mother’s Day is full of mixed emotions.  Having spent 5 years desperately wishing to be a mother and enduring horribly painful and sometimes humiliating Mother’s Days before I was finally blessed to be a mother helped me become aware of how hard this day is for so many.  Of course now I have 3 children I adore and I get all the fun of being a mother on Mother’s Day.  But I can’t help but think of all the people suffering today.

A Day Of Suffering For Many
And the suffering is not limited to women who want to be mothers and aren’t.  There are people whose mothers have passed.  There are mothers who have children that have passed.  There are husbands whose wives have passed.  There are people whose family relationships are horrible.  There are families that have fallen or are in the process of falling apart.  There are people who never really had a relationship with anyone they would call a mother.  There are mothers who worry they are failing at motherhood.  There are mothers whose grown children are leading tragic or unfulfilled lives.  The list could go on.  Everyone knows someone who has having a really tough day today. 

I love the idea inherent in the holiday of Mother’s Day of celebrating Motherhood.  I can’t think of too many things more worthy of a celebration.  But I think we often come at it from the wrong angle. 

The Martyr Mother
Too often Mother’s Day is focused on recognizing and paying homage to the “Martyr Mother.” The “Martyr Mother” has a thankless job and deserves to be queen for a day.  The “Martyr Mother” is slowly killing herself every day making sacrifices for her children.  The “Martyr Mother” always puts her children first and suffers in the process.  The “Martyr Mother” is lauded as a noble creature but really she is kind of sad and pathetic.  It is all too easy for any mother to slip into this mindset on occasion.  What mother hasn’t said something like, “I spend all day (fill in the blank) for you and this is the thanks I get?  (In reference to some kind of terrible behavior their child(ren) are engaged in).  The “Martyr Mother” gets one day a year to be rewarded for her selfless efforts, Mother’s Day.

Another Way Of Seeing Things
I was not raised by a “Martyr Mother.”  I’m not going to try and argue that my mother was perfect.  I remember her losing her temper, more than once.  I remember her being overwhelmed a lot and not knowing how to handle a lot of situations.  I remember her being very normal and human.  I also remember how she felt about motherhood.  She always believed it was the greatest privilege of her life to be a mother.  She commented on the daily rewards of motherhood, daily.  She taught me, by example, how full and happy the life of a mother could be.  She spoke often and specifically of how blessed she was to be a mother.  My siblings and I always knew there was nothing she wanted to do more than be our mother.  She was so inspiring that me and my 3 sisters grew up believing nothing would bring us more joy than becoming mothers.  It was our greatest aspiration.  Lest you think we weren’t aiming high, our lists included things like, become the Queen of Ireland, ride an elephant, become a famous author, become a famous singer, become a famous dancer, get a PHD in physics, and become a millionaire, but motherhood was always more exciting to us than all of that.   

The Joyful Mother
Today all four of us are what I will call  “Joyful Mothers”.  And our brother married a woman who feels like we do about motherhood. Despite heaps of normal problems and challenges, we are all blissfully happy and we love being mothers.

Our mother showed us that as a mother sacrifices and serves her children, she is rewarded grandly.  Not once a year with chocolates, jewelry and dinner but every day, several times a day with hugs, kisses, sincere expressions of love, shared confidences, trust, friendship, admiration and wholehearted devotion.  These are what I call the rewards of Motherhood.

Along with pleasant tasks, Motherhood is full of mundane, repetitive, dirty, gross, and Sisyphean tasks.  I’m not going to try and argue that changing a diaper is a pleasant experience.  But, since I’ve been the one to change it more often than not, my children trust me.  They feel safe with me.  I recently heard another mother I respect talk about how intimate it is to diaper, bathe, and feed someone.  Being the one to do all of that, most of the time, creates deep bonds between mother and child.  Those bonds yield the daily rewards of motherhood.  It’s not a proportionate, immediate, directly correlated or predictable system of investment and reward. 

I think it is also important I acknowledge just how overwhelming and difficult motherhood can be.  Nothing I’ve ever done has brought me to my knees so much.  Nothing has been as rewarding either.

Attitude Is Everything. 
A “Joyful Mother” sees all her efforts to take care of her children and endure the really tough phases as investments in her relationships with her children.  She cooks, cleans house, does laundry, nurtures, feeds, bathes, diapers, plays with, teaches, helps with homework, reads to, watches soccer matches, sings to and more for her children.  She is rewarded regularly with hugs, kisses, sincere expressions of love, shared confidences, trust, friendship, admiration and wholehearted devotion.

A “Martyr Mother” does all the same things but rather than making an investment, she is fulfilling a duty.  Her perspective limits and even prevents her from recognizing and cashing in on the rewards of Motherhood. Her reward is the glory of martyrdom. 

Neither mother is perfect.  Both make plenty of mistakes.  It’s their motivation and the subsequent rewards that differ.

I prefer the rewards of Joyful Motherhood.   

Unlimited Potential
Today we all know that women can do anything.  In the career world, the glass ceiling continues to crumble.  In the political realm, Women hold many of the most powerful roles of leadership in the world – I don’t think it will be very long before a woman is elected as the President of the United States.  It used to be that women were artificially limited in what they could do with their lives.  That is not the case anymore.  I’m not denying sexism still exists or that there aren’t plenty of challenges for women today.  I’m saying we haven’t found a limit to what women are capable of and the barriers and artificial limits are much less formidable.    I submit that “Joyful Motherhood” is right up there in terms of nobility, contribution, and rewards with being a CEO, Head of State, or any other noble pursuit.  It is also a privilege.

Motherhood:  A Privilege
I would like to see Mother’s Day celebrations focused on what a noble privilege and blessing motherhood is.   I sincerely appreciate the gifts, treats, and kind words I’ve received today but the real gift is that I get to be a mother.  I remember how painful Mother’s Day was when I wished I was a mother.  In the church I attend, on Mother’s Day, mother’s are usually given a small gift of flowers, chocolate, a plant or some other token of appreciation.  It is a lovely gesture.  Frequently on Mother’s Day, well meaning people try to include all women when the gifts are passed out.  They want to recognize all women, not just the mothers.  It is a very kind thought.  But for me, it was just salt in the wound.  The gift was a poor substitute for the real rewards of motherhood that I craved desperately.  

Mourn With Those That Mourn
If you know someone who is suffering today, rather than trying to make them feel better, try acknowledging their pain and expressing your love and concern for them.  That was always very comforting to me on my sad Mother’s Days.

Motherhood: A Reward In Itself
I am now able to enjoy the yearly gift at church for mothers but I certainly wouldn’t be heartbroken without it.   The rewards of “Joyful Motherhood” are infinitely more wonderful.  Those of us blessed with the privilege of being mothers should be celebrating our good fortune.   And certainly we should recognize our mothers and thank them for their love and sacrifices.  But lets not forget that motherhood is it’s own reward. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Lost Boys: Harry, Severus, and Tom

The Lost Boys:
Harry, Severus, and Tom

Today in my Harry Potter class we are looking at the lives of Harry, Severus Snape, and Tom Riddle and comparing their circumstances, choices, and outcomes.  I hope it will be a thought provoking experience for the kids.  We're going to use a big roll of butcher paper and big sharpies to write down and compare each of the boys circumstances and choices at birth, during childhood, when they arrived at Hogwarts, during their beginning years at Hogwarts, during their final year at Hogwarts, after they left Hogwarts, and the outcomes of their lives.  We'll begin by reading my favorite quote by C.S. Lewis from his essay, The Weight of Glory.  I think the Harry Potter series is an amazing exploration of the idea that we all have the potential to become gods or monsters.  As Dumbledore puts it, it is our choices far more than our abilities that determine who we are.  But, as Lewis points out, our circumstances, especially the actions of others around us, can help us go one way or the other.  We all ought to consider which way we are helping our fellow men to go.  

From C.S Lewis's The Weight of Glory:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”  

Circumstances and Choices

Born to
H: Pureblood father, muggleborn mother, parents loved each other and him
S: Pureblood mother, muggle father, parents fought a lot
T: Pureblood mother, muggle father, mother tricked father into marrying her, when father realized he left her

H: By his Aunt and Uncle who didn’t love him and treated him horribly
S: By his constantly fighting parents who didn’t seem to love him
T: In an Orphanage by people who initially pitied him, then came to fear him and didn’t love him

Childhood choices about how to treat others
H: Wished for friends, tried to avoid being mistreated by his cousin, uncle, aunt and kids at school.  He was generally polite to everyone he came in contact with.
S: Tried to be friends with Lily but was unkind to her sister, Petunia.  He wanted to have friends and love but he wasn’t nice to everyone and he was sometime deceitful
T: Never sought friends. His goal was to have power over the other children around him.  He tormented them and made them fear him. 

Circumstances when they arrived at Hogwarts
H: Had recently learned he was a Wizard and that his parents had been murdered.  He had plenty of money.  He didn’t know anything about magic or the Wizarding World.
S: Knew he was a wizard.  He was very poor.  He knew a lot about the Wizarding World and a little bit of magic. 
T: Had recently learned he was a Wizard, confirming his belief that he was special and different from his peers at the Orphanage.  He was very poor.  He didn’t know anything about the Wizarding World and had figured out how to do some magic.

Choices in their beginning years at Hogwarts
H:  He asked the sorting hat to put him in Gryffindor and not in Slytherin.  He quickly made friends with Ron and Hermione.  He was loyal to Hagrid and cherished his friendship too.  He rejected Malfoy’s offer of friendship, power, and popularity.  He generally treated his classmates and teachers with kindness and respect.  He was anxious to learn about the Wizarding World.  He defended Neville when Malfoy was bullying him.  He helped Hagrid solve lots of problems.  He made enemies of Malfoy and Professor Snape.  He fought evil when he saved the Sorcerers Stone, Defeated the Heir of Slytherin, and defeatedthe Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets.  He saved lots of lives including, Ginny’s Life, Sirius’s life, and even Peter Pettigrew’s life.  He fought injustice by helping to clear Hagrid’s name so he could leave Azkaban, helping Sirius escape, and prevented Lockhart from leaving Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets. 
S:  Tried to be Lily’s friend and be friends with the kids who would one-day become Death Eaters.  He hated James Potter and all James’s friends.  He tried to convince Lily to hate them too while she tried to convince him to abandon his Slytherin friends.  He learned a lot of dark magic.
T: He wasn’t a real friend to anyone.  He built a group of followers who he promised power and influence.  They would eventually become his Death Eaters.  He learned as much as he could about they History of the Hogwarts Founders and about his own heritage.  He learned a lot of dark magic.

Choices in Their Final Years at Hogwarts
H: He was loyal to his friends and to the truth even though it meant sacrificing popularity, reputation, and comfort.   He started Dumbledore’s Army in an effort to defend the truth and to prepare his friends and classmates to fight against evil.  He told the truth about Cedric’s death and Voldemort’s return. He chose love instead of hate.
S:  He was cruel to Lily and lost her friendship.  He committed himself to the path that would lead him to become a Death Eater.  He chose hate and became totally bitter.
T: He learned that he was the Heir of Slytherin, the truth about his parent’s relationship.  He chose hate and murdered his father and grandparents and started making Horcruxes.

Choices After They Left Hogwarts
H: He found and destroyed Voldemort’s horcruxes.  He sacrificed his own life to save the world and then was resurrected.  He defeated Voldemort.  He remained close with his childhood friends, married Ginny and had 3 children with her.  He named his sons after Dumbledore and Snape.
S:  He became a Death Eater.  He told Voldemort about the prophecy he overheard which led Voldemort to murder Harry’s Parents.  Motivated by his love for Lily he repented of his evil ways and became a double agent working for Dumbledore against Voldemort.  Though he really disliked Harry and was never kind to him he devoted his life to saving Harry’s.  He was murdered by Voldemort  as part of his effort to protect Harry and his last act was to give Harry his memories which contained all the information Harry needed to finish defeating Voldemort.   These memories also contained a lot of personal information about Snape that would probably have embarrassed him.
V:  He became the Dark Lord, Voldemort and recruited the Death Eaters.  He made his Horcruxes.  He led the Death Eaters in a campaign of terror and murder.   After his second rise to power, he was finally defeated by Harry Potter. 

Ultimate Outcomes of Their Choices
H:  He had a lot of friends and family.  He was able to defeat evil and protect his friends and family.  He was happy and loved.  He knew that when he died he would rejoin his parents and friends who had already died, in a happy place. 
S:  He had no friends or family.  He suffered a lot knowing it was his fault Lily died.  He was able to protect Harry and help him defeat Voldemort.  He died knowing he was doing a good thing.  Harry came to respect him tremendously and may have even felt love for him.  We don’t know where he went after he died but Harry implied that even Voldemort could have been saved if he had felt some remorse and repented of his evil deeds so it is likely that Snape was able to be in a happy place with people who respected him and maybe even loved him.
T:  He had no friends or family.  He devoted his life to evil and to becoming immortal.  In the end he killed himself when the killing curse he was aiming at Harry  rebounded on him.  No one respected or loved him.  After death, he was probably miserable like the ugly horcrux baby Harry saw at Kings Cross. 

Discussion Questions
1.     What did the 3 boys have in common?
2.     What were some of the differences between them?
3.     Who loved each of the boys and who did they love? 
4.     Do you think the 3 boys all had the potential to become either gods or monsters?
5.     What did they each become in the end?
6.     Was Harry’s life happy?  Was it easy or hard?
7.     Snape became good in the end but was his life happy?  What did he miss out on?  What did he gain by repenting?
8.     Was Voldemort’s life happy?  Was he happy after he died?  What were the benefits of his choices?
9.     Were their circumstances or their choices more important in determining what each boy became?
From The Chamber of Secrets, p. 333

Do you think this is true?  Why or why not?  “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

11. Who helped each of the boys become gods or monsters?

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Depths of Harry Potter

I am a pretty huge fan of the Harry Potter Series.  I recently finished reading the series with my 9 yo daughter (We started on her 8th birthday) and this week I start teaching a 6 week Harry Potter class for 8-12 year olds.  This is what we are discussing tomorrow.  I have had so much fun pulling this all together.  Feel free to correct me where I'm wrong.  I've used dozens of websites, wikipedia, some reference books, and my own personal knowledge as sources for the information - I'm sure there are errors.  I think this demonstrates how much depth there is in the Harry Potter series.  I hope you have fun reading through it and making your own connections.

The Harry Potter Series references, alludes to and borrows ideas from other language and literature sources including
·      Latin
·      Mythology
·      The Bible
·      Shakespeare

A lot of the spells, potions, and names in Harry Potter are based on Latin words.  See how many spells, potions and names you can remember that have these words in them:
·      Amor = love
·      Animal = animal
·      Animus = soul, spirit,mind
·      Arduus = high, difficult
·      Arma = weapons
·      Con = with
·      Corpus = body
·      Cruci = cross or torture
·      De = away from, removing, down
·      Dolor = pain, grief
·      Draco = Dragon
·      Ex = off, away from, , out
·      Expello = drive out, expel, banish
·      Exspecto = to look for, expect, await
·      Felicitor = happily
·      Felix = lucky, fortunate, happy
·      Fidelis = faithful, loyal
·      Hominis = human
·      Impedimentum = hindrance, impediment
·      Impero = command
·      Inferi = those below, the dead
·      Lev = lift, light
·      Lum or luc = light
·      Luna = moon
·      Lupus = wolf
·      Malus = bad, wicked, evil
·      Mort = death
·      Nox = night
·      Pater = father
·      Patronus = patron, protector
·      Ped = foot Porta = gate, entrance
·      Prior = former, prior
·      Pro = in front of, before
·      Salveo = to be well, be in good health
·      Totus = whole, entire
·      Timor = fear 

Many of the characters and stories within Harry Potter are similar to characters and stories in mythology.  What characters and events in Harry Potter do these remind you of?
·      In the Iliad The Trojans are fighting the Greeks.  Hector is a Trojan.  Achilles and Patroclus are Greeks and friends.  Hector kills Patroclus and Achilles rescues Patroclus’s body so that it can be buried.
·      The Griffin is a monster with the body of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle, and a  back covered with feathers.
·      [The Roman poet] Ovid tells the story of the Phoenix as follows: 'Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors.  From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent's sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.'
·      In Greek Mythology, Cerberus is a three-headed, dragon-tailed dog who guards the gate to the underworld.  The Greek hero Orpheus put Cereberus to sleep by playing music on his lyre.
·      Argus was a mythical Greek guard, who was said to have a hundred eyes.
·      Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, the same as the Greek goddess Athena.  Athena watched over Odysseus in The Odyssey.
·      Remus and Romulus were twin brothers raised by wolves.
·      Sirius is the name of a constellation, also known as “the dog star”.
·      In Greek and Roman mythology, a sibyl was any woman inspired with prophetic power by the god Apollo. The sibyls prophesied in a frenzied trance.
·      Hagrid Rubeus was one of the early Greek gods, The Giant of Jewels. He was said to be the kindest of the gods, but Hades (Lord of The Dead/Underworld) framed him for the death of Perseus's son. He was banned from Olympus after that. Zeus, God of the Gods, took pity on poor Hagrid and gave him a job as the keeper of the godly beasts on Olympus.
·      In Greek mythology, Hermione was the daughter of King Menelaus of Sparta and Helen of Troy.
·      The lightning bolt is a symbol of Zeus, King of the Olympian Gods.
·      In Greek Mythology Hermes was the messenger of the Gods.
·      In Arthurian legend, before he was King, Arthur pulled a special sword from a stone, something only “the true King” would be able to do.

The Bible
Harry Potter is a Christ Archetype.  That means much of his life, character and experiences parallel the life, character, and experiences of Jesus Christ.  Do you see any similarities between Christ and Harry?

·      When Christ was a baby there were prophesies about a Messiah who would become the King of the Jews and free the Jews.  King Herod decided all baby boys should be killed.  Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt and Jesus survived.
·      Christ was born in very humble circumstances, a stable.  He did not begin life in a normal home with a normal bed or bedroom.
·      Christ was raised by His mother and an adoptive father, Joseph.  
·      The Jewish people didn’t realize Christ was their King until much later in His life.
·      Though separated from His Father,  God, who was in Heaven, Christ communicated with and was guided by  God ,throughout His life on earth.
·      Christ was famous for performing miracles.
·      Christ was hated and despised by the leaders of the Jewish government.  They put a lot of effort into trying to convince people He was a fraud.
·      Christ had a small group of loyal disciples who came to him to be taught.
·      Near the end of His life, government leaders used spys to find Christ and bring Him to be crucified.  These government leaders ignored the normal legal process and sentenced Him to death without a fair trial. 
·      Christ performed the hardest part of his sacrifice, the atonement, alone, in a garden of trees.  Some of His disciples went with Him to the garden but did not stay awake and at one point Christ even felt forsaken by His Father, God.
·      Christ gave His life willingly.  He could have chosen not to die.
·      Christ was known as the King of Kings and died on a cross.
·      Christ gave His life to save the world.
·      Christ’s body laid in a tomb for 3 days after His death while His spirit was in Heaven.  Then He was resurrected.
·      Prior to His crucifixion, Christ was whipped and beaten.
·      Christ had scars on His hands and feet to remind people of His crucifixion
·      Lilies are a symbol of Christ and His sacrifice.

·      In the play Macbeth, Macbeth is a Scottish General who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Macbeth chooses evil as the way to fulfill his ambition for power. He murders the king to become king and then furthers his moral descent with a reign of murderous terror to stay in power, eventually plunging the country into civil war. In the end, he loses everything that gives meaning and purpose to his life before losing his life itself. The play poses the question, what would have happened if Macbeth had never heard the prophecy of the 3 witches?

What other references, allusions, or similarities can you find?

If you  like this topic, you might like the lecture I gave to youth at the Family Forum in 2012:
Being the Star instead of the Sidekick in the Story of Your Own Life.  Don't listen to it if you haven't read the whole series, lots of spoilers!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Family Builder Seminar in Mukilteo, WA

I'm so excited to announce this! This fall, September 29, to be exact, I am hosting a Family Builder seminar. Here's a link to the seminar registration info.

It will be in Mukilteo, WA. Family Builder is the program Diann Jeppson and Jodie Palmer run to support family centered education. This seminar is 1 day long and very reasonably priced. Look at the agenda - I think it sounds pretty amazing and it will give you a good idea about whether or not this one is for you. The room I booked only has space for 50 people so register ASAP to make sure you get a spot.