Friday, May 13, 2011

Saving Bath Time

Isaiah has been hating the bath lately. I mean, total melt-down, everyone's miserable, really hating it! It's weird because he used to love the bath, so I'm not sure what happened, but I was determined to do something! (Side note: We had already tried a lot of stuff hoping to return bath time to the happy days gone by!)

I had seen directions for making your own bath crayons in Super Baby Food that I had wanted to try. I thought maybe Isaiah would enjoy helping to make them, plus they wouldn't have all that junk I can't even pronounce like the ones you buy in the store. So, we gave it a try. Isaiah was super excited about the idea and couldn't wait to do it once I told him.
Basically, you use soap flakes or grate mild bar soap. I didn't know where to find soap flakes, so we grated bars of Ivory soap. The directions say to add one tablespoon of hot water slowly to 1/4 cup of soap flakes. It was hard to stir, so I stirred while Isaiah put in the water and food coloring. Asking a toddler to pour something in slowly is a little worthless, but he was enjoying our project. We put it into sections of an ice cube tray and let it dry. At some point a couple days later we popped it out to let the bottom dry better as well.
Isaiah told everyone who came over about our bath crayons and showed them off. As you can see from the picture, they weren't pretty! Unfortunately, their function was about as poor as they look. They were fun to try but not very effective at writing/drawing in the bath. Maybe more food coloring next time? They get slimy pretty quickly, too.

So, the bath crayons were not terribly successful, and I still have a ziploc bag of grated soap, but the experience was fun, and Isaiah actually got excited about bath time to use them. It didn't entirely save bath time, though, and the funny random thing that seems to have come to the rescue, at least for now, is a song I pulled out on a whim from Sesame Street. In the Puddle Jumping episode open, Baby Bear sings a song about singing in the shower. I have been married long enough to a man who makes up songs or changes the words constantly, so I made a little spontaneous adaptation for the bath, and he thought it was the greatest thing on the planet. So far, all we have to do if the fussing starts is start to sing the song, and we're golden!

Also, Isaiah has grown resistant to veggies at times, but he asked for thirds the other night because of the Veggies Revolt episode and kept going, "Crunch. Healthy." I have to admit that I am less than thrilled about Isaiah watching much TV, but I have to admit Sesame Street has come through for us lately! Thanks, PBS!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lessons on Grace

Both boys are actually napping, so I probably should be as well, but here I am jotting down my thoughts instead. I received a message the other day from a former student, and as I started thinking about it, I realized that she is now the same age I was when I was teaching her! It really struck me that I have now been in Los Angeles for 11 years! Today I find myself thinking about how very different my life is now than when I moved here.

I drove out to Los Angeles in the summer of 2000. I knew no one out here. I moved into an apartment by myself in South Central and started my job teaching middle school math there. John has described his first impressions when he saw me come in to his small group with my nose ring and toting my djembe on my back and my hippie clothes.

Today I am in one of three pairs of black work-out type pants that are the extent of pants that fit me right now, staying home full-time with my two boys, making dinner.

I moved here to determined to save the world and today feel pleased at having made dinner.

Life is challenging in new ways now, and it has stretched me a lot! It is not, in many ways, as comfortable for me as my early days in LA. I would have been pretty terrified, in fact, if you had told me at that time that this is what my life would be like right now. But, besides the most obvious reasons that I am so thankful for my life now--a wonderful husband and two beautiful, amazing boys--I feel like I am starting to understand grace.

Speaking of life being different, it is now two days later that I'm actually able to finish this post!

I used to get a lot of awe from people when I told them what I did and where I lived, and I have to admit that I liked that. I have been a really driven person for as long as I can remember, and I needed to be doing something that felt important and hardcore. Don't get me wrong; I loved what I did. But, I needed it. I have felt good at a lot of things in this life, but "good" never seemed enough. I was always striving to be PERFECT--the perfect student, the perfect teacher, the perfect Christian, the perfect person. I have struggled to come to terms with the reality that, not only does that not exist, it treats Christ's sacrifice on the cross as if it means nothing!

As I made dinner Monday, that old voice came into my head to think how pathetic it was that I was feeling successful for having made dinner one day. What a different measuring stick than what I used to have! But, then I felt such a peace. I didn't need to accomplish something, even this little thing, to have more value or to be a good mom or wife or prove anything to myself or someone else. I just had the chance to extend something of myself to try to bless my husband and my family with a show of affection for them. I could embrace the joy of something so seemingly insignificant because MY significance wasn't wrapped up in it or in feeling the weight to do more.

My life isn't glamorous these days, but I have a loving husband who honors me and our family and extends grace to me in so many ways, a toddler who is curious and fun and smart and compassionate, and a baby boy who is healthy and beautiful. It is a valuable way to spend my life, and I am thankful. And, most of all, I am thankful for God's grace that I can finally realize (and at least some days remember and embrace!) that whether I do seemingly big or small things or even feel that I have nothing at all to give and am utterly failing at life, I am a beloved daughter of the King.

Things have changed. And grace has changed me!

I struggle with it daily, but I'm thankful for the glimpses of His grace and moments to experience it!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Big Name for a Little Guy

We had trouble choosing a name for our second little boy. We really didn't want to sound like crazy Christian compound folks with a grip of Old Testament prophets for names or to feel like we had to stick specifically with a Biblical name, but we also had chosen a name for our first son (Isaiah Jackson) that had so much meaning to us, that we couldn't handle the thought of a name that just sort of sounded ok and was just an average name to us. Plus, Isaiah has a ton of little friends right around his age that have used a lot of names that we really like! So, at the risk of sounding like the wacky Christians (we already without knowing we were considering this name got two family members joking about this as a potential name), we are diving in with this little guy...Ezekiel Shalom Snowden.
John had, for a long time, liked the name Ezekiel. I took a bit longer to come around to it. :) We kept considering a bunch of other names, and there are quite a few that seemed fine to us, but nothing just seemed to connect or feel that special to us.

Ezekiel means "God will strengthen" or "Strength of God." I think that has been a particularly meaningful message to me during this pregnancy. We have been through a lot of transition in this season and many big things, and even though most of them were good, it has definitely been a season of stretching me way beyond the limits of my own human strength. I've written before the challenges for me in some of that, and there is a lifelong lesson for me in learning to really rely on God as my strength and trust His strength to be sufficient, but it has been a particularly fresh lesson in this season that has gotten taken to much greater depths. As I've wrestled with some fears and anxieties through this pregnancy, I particularly felt a few weeks ago, during a group time I am a part of with other moms at the Vineyard, the Lord encourage me with and impress on me this message again--that HE will strengthen! May our son be a testimony of God's strength and the beauty of a life lived in dependence on Him!

Shalom means "peace." But, the thing about this word that is so amazing to me is that it is so much bigger and deeper than the way we often think of peace. It isn't just the absence of conflict; it is that state of all things being completely the way God originally intended them to be. Fully restored and redeemed and in the state of perfect peace as God created them. Fullness of life. I can't imagine anything more beautiful than to think of our son being an agent of God's restoration and redemption in this world, pointing to God's glory and fullness of life and peace. Shalom. The prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament was an agent of redemption of culture and restoration of God's people, though being obedient to being God in that brought tremendous challenges. Ezekiel was God's voice to bring His people back to His plans and purposes when nothing around him made that an easy or popular message or action. May both of our sons stand with courage against culture, injustices, and the wrongs around them to restore and redeem God's plans and purposes around them for this world and His people!

And so, we now proudly introduce our little Ezekiel Shalom!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Re-Entry Blues

I can hardly believe that we've been back from Nepal now for 2 months! I realized that I should probably change the name of my blog, now that I am not actually a "Mountain" Mama anymore for this season. :(
I don't have any clever ideas to replace it, though, so for now, it will just have to stay.

The fact that it has been far longer since my last post than between postings while navigating life in a third-world country is an indicator of the adjustment it has been. Honestly, it was a rough landing coming back! I knew, on some level, it would be jarring and that there would be hard things about coming back, but I wasn't prepared for the extent of what I felt and experienced coming back. It seemed so difficult to feel "normal" again, despite being in the place that has been home now for us for many years.

One challenge was the obvious jetlag. Jetlag is no fun. Jetlag with a toddler who is also jetlagging is really not fun! Then Isaiah caught a cold, which added to the poor sleep at night. A series of circumstances proceeded that just felt like they kept putting off any sense of "normalcy" or routine returning.

In hindsight, it was not a great choice to return right before Christmas. For one, I absolutely love Christmas and get all kinds of ideals in my head for it being a special celebration, and I just didn't have the energy to pull off much of anything, especially with none of us feeling that well. Also, LA is a particularly weird place at Christmas. We had some very good friends who stayed here for the holiday, but the Westside is a place that largely empties out for Christmas. So, going to services at our church felt strange and empty, and it felt like we were home quite awhile before we actually got to spend time with a lot of people we would normally see often here. I think I expected at least a lot of logistics to be easier getting back. I was thinking of the convenience of just getting in the car and driving to the store and buying whatever I needed. But, even those aspects of life felt surprisingly draining upon return. It was raining a lot when we got back, and considering that it only does that for a short stretch every year, the driving and traffic get bad. Parking lots and stores were chaotic and packed, and a lot of people just seemed "on edge."

Perhaps one of the most frustrating dynamics of returning at that time of year was the hyper-intensified commercialism. LA is always a place where the marketing and materialism is at an abnormally high level, but Christmas time gets worse. And, having just returned from a third-world country, it felt like a really extreme contrast and bit of a shock. Having come from a place where the majority of the population has little to no disposable income and most things are that of necessity, it just felt jarring to be surrounded by so much stuff that no one ever needs and people frantically running around to get it. I made the huge mistake of going to Toys'R'Us on Dec. 22 because I had a store credit I thought we could use to get a little present for Isaiah. Almost completely pushed me over the edge! There are so many challenges of raising kids in Nepal, but I just felt so aware of the snares of life here and not wanting my son to grow up thinking all this materialism is the norm. Bleh.

Just as I thought maybe I was starting to hit a stride and get back into some sense of routine and settling in here, I hit that last stretch of pregnancy that just knocked the wind out of me. I've felt so exhausted, and it has been frustrating to feel like I lost a month of time that seemed almost like an out of body experience when I was wanting to get settled and prepared for the next little one to come and soak up some time with just Isaiah.

We have been able to get a lot of things prepared around the apartment, and in many ways, we are in a "normal" pattern of life, but I have to say that I still feel sort of unsettled and struggling to sort through my thoughts and feelings and vision and plans for life. For sure, hormones of late pregnancy don't help! I just want to connect to a sense of a purpose and a firm place for us to stand here or wherever we are. I can't help but feel like there is a lot of life that I can't quite make sense out of right now, and it hard to see quite where we fit here. I feel a bit overwhelmed heading into a new season of expanding family (and sleep deprivation!) with so little energy and so much feeling beyond my control. I suppose that is actually a much needed place for me to be, though, as the reality is that I can't control life or make it all fit into place. Have been reminded AGAIN (seems like I need constant reminders of this!) that I need to ABIDE in Christ! I need to rely on Him for strength and to be my source. As I battle anxieties or fears or frustrations, I so deeply need to remember that what I need is HIM!