The Chairs That Kept Coming Back

Flashback to 1978. My paternal great-grandfather was a retired Methodist pastor. He and my great-grandmother lived in a little old house in New Jersey, where my mom and dad would come visit from time while they were still dating. Whenever my mom and dad came over, Great Grandpa would pull out from the closet two small, folding rocking chairs for their guests. They would sit and rock and talk and sit and rock and talk. These two chairs were solid wood rockers, with upholstered seats and backs, and a bit of carving at the top. They were low enough to the ground that the two recent college graduates had the awkward sensation of their knees being propped up a little higher than was comfortable. But spending time with grandparents is important, and it was a small price to pay. Great-Grandpa was always full of stories and wisdom, and Great-Grandma could sing any hymn on the spot – all the verses, word for word.

Fast-forward to April, 1979. My parents were married in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where they would both be working for IBM. Great Grandpa and Great Grandma Wilson came to the ceremony, proudly delivering their wedding gift – a new set of identical folding rocking chairs.

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It’s too bad my mom wasn’t the biggest fan of those chairs.

But they took their dutiful place in the closet, ready to be taken out and used if company ever came and wanted to sit and rock and talk.

Twelve years and two kids later, my parents were getting ready to move from the Hudson Valley to South Florida. In the process of cleaning out the house, they held a large garage sale. The two rocking chairs did not make the packing list, so out to the driveway they went. They were purchased by an older couple from our church, affectionately known as “Papa” and “Mama” Tatsche.

Great-Grandpa’s uncomfortable rocking chairs had been conveniently done away with, or so we all thought.

It wasn’t too many years later that Papa and Mama Tatsche also moved to Florida. Our family drove over to Naples to visit them in their new apartment, and had a wonderful time catching up with them. My sister and I were in grade school by now, and were as enthralled by the chance to be in a new place as we were by the jar of candy that sat on the coffee table. As we were about to leave, Papa Tatsche caught us in the foyer and said, “You know, we live in a smaller apartment now, and we need to get rid of some of our belongings. However, I just can’t bear to part with those chairs we had bought from you all. We’ve decided that you should have them – you can store them away and give one to each of your girls as a wedding present one day.”

I’m sure my mom must have inwardly groaned as she cheerfully and thankfully loaded the rocking chairs into the van for the journey home. My sister and I were pretty indifferent to the situation…if anything, it just seemed weird that someone would give us back the chairs that we hadn’t wanted in the first place.  Those ridiculous, uncomfortable chairs just kept coming back! How could my mom get rid of them now?

So, the infamous chairs that kept coming back were dutifully stored in our guest room closet for two more decades and two more cross-country moves, waiting for my mom to find an appropriate, dignified way of disposing of them.

Fast forward to this summer. Mom and Dad had re-modeled their bathroom and put in a brand new walk-in closet. In the process of moving into their new space, they took the opportunity to sort through the contents all of the closets in the house, which they had lived in for almost fifteen years by now.

The time had come for the dreaded chairs to make their final departure from my parents’ thirty-four year marriage. So, into the Goodwill pile they went.

And there they sat.

And sat.

Because nobody could quite conveniently bring themselves to drop those ancient chairs off at the thrift store.

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Change of Scene: At about this time, my little eleven-month-old was going through an anti-crib phase, where she was suddenly refusing to nap in her crib. She would sleep there fine at night, but during the day, it was a different story. Even if I nursed her to sleep and softly crept up the stairs, as soon as I crossed the threshold of her room, Julia would wake, arch her back, and loudly protest any attempt to put her in the crib. She would rather stand in there, gripping the rails, and yelling her little vocal chords ragged for an hour, than actually lying down and sleeping in her crib! I tried everything. In the end, the only thing that started to have some success was to actually nurse her in her room, wrapped in her blanket, with the sound machine and fan on full blast. That way, I just had to tiptoe a few steps before gently placing my tightly-wrapped bundle in the crib, and although she usually opened her eyes, she was comfortable enough to fall back asleep on her own. (Babywise mamas: Don’t hate. These are desperate times.)

Anyway, all that to say, there was not a chair in the nursery for me to sit in during this process of getting Julia to fall asleep. And since, in my mind, this was just a temporary solution to fix a temporary problem, I didn’t want to exactly go out and buy a piece of furniture. What could I use to rock my baby to sleep, besides the awful step-stool I was currently using to sit upon every day?

And that’s when I remembered the infamous chairs that kept coming back!

By this time, one of them was in complete disrepair, but the other was holding together just well enough to make it through this last mission. It has been sitting humbly in the nursery corner for a week now, where I go several times a day with Julia to sit and rock and hold and sit and rock and pray. Until she drifts off to sleep soundly enough that I can put her in the crib without a catastrophic reaction.

And since I’m only five feet, two-and-five-eighths inches tall, it’s okay that the seat is so low to the ground. I need my knees a little propped up anyway, to hold my little bundle without killing my arms. And it’s okay that the upholstery is sagging in the bottom, because it’s a reminder to be thankful that I’m not sitting there on a stepstool.

And it’s also a reminder that this is a temporary arrangement. Julia will not hate her crib forever. She won’t wake up in the middle of the night forever. She won’t be teething forever. She won’t have to be nursed to sleep forever. This too, shall pass. And then, it will really be the end of the line for Great-Grandpa’s rocking chair.

But just as it will be with much reluctance that I say good-bye to that old chair, as uncomfortable as it was, it will also be with some sadness that I move past even the difficult stages of Julia’s life. Because as uncomfortable as it is at the moment, I have to remember that one day I will look upon those nap time nursing sessions with great fondness and nostalgia.

In the meantime, I think Julia’s Great-Great-Grandpa would be proud.

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Am I a “Crunchy” Mom?

I was browsing facebook yesterday looking up a support group for a friend in another part of the country, and I ran across a group called “Crunchy Emerald Coast Moms.”

When I think of the word “crunchy,” I think of hippy-type homeschooling moms with eleven kids who wear long skirts and longer braids. Crunchy moms mill their own organic flour and have a compost pile next to the vegetable garden outside. Or maybe they live on a farm. They recycle and reuse everything, never wear make-up, use natural remedies for sickness, and their children are always perfect obedient angels who say, “ma’am” and “sir.”

I hereby apologize to anyone who was just offended by the above misinformed generalization.

But then I read the description of the “Crunchy Mom” facebook group. It said, “The ‘crunchy’ way of life! (Breastfeeding, baby wearing, co sleeping, cloth diapering, etc!)”

Wait, is that what it means to be a crunchy mom? Because if so, I am falling dangerously close to this category. I definitely did not set out to be so… “granola.” Every decision I’ve made in the past year has been either for convenience or finance, and ultimately, what would glorify the Lord the most. And yet, somehow, I end up at 9am on a Thursday morning looking at facebook groups that have the word “crunchy” in them.

Let me back up. I grew up in a very metropolitan area. The concrete jungle is my kind of turf. I’ve been camping maybe once, have a Target, Publix, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart within biking distance of my house, and rarely go anywhere that doesn’t have wifi. I use paper towels instead of a washcloth to wipe down my countertops, and (confession here) I’m really bad at remembering to recycle. I am anything BUT a hippie. So anyway, I got a good degree or two, had a career that I loved, and then followed the higher calling of full-time motherhood, fully expecting to blend into the high-tech metropolitan mom world.

This transition into motherhood came with some decisions. The first one revolved around what kind of birth I wanted to have. I did a lot of research. A LOT. And became slowly convinced that although a lot of science and tax dollars had been invested in all of the medical interventions that often accompany normal hospital births, I believed that they interfered with the way the Lord had designed my body to work. So, I had a natural childbirth (in a hospital, to be on the safe side), completely spontaneous and unmedicated.

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I even sewed my own hospital gown.

The second decision had to do with feeding my baby. There was no question in my mind – not only was breastfeeding so much healthier for my baby than formula, it was also waaaaaay less expensive and super convenient! I am not suggesting it was always easy – I had more than my fair share of difficulties, especially in the first few months – but I never gave formula a second thought. Julia only drank mommy’s milk until she was six months old, and now as she’s starting solids, I’m looking forward to continuing to nurse her for at least a year.

Thirdly, where should baby sleep? Some people put their newborn in a crib, some let the baby sleep in their beds, but I felt most comfortable with Julia in a rocker beside our bed. Enough distance to make the transition to the crib easy, but convenient enough to nurse her in the middle of the night. After 4 months, she moved to her own room with no problem.

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Then, of course came the question, “So, when are you going back to work after the baby is born?” Well, I believe that motherhood is a calling from the Lord, and He has uniquely made me the best person to take care of the child He has given me. So, instead of letting someone else raise my child, Mr. Poole and I decided that I would be the best person for that responsibility. Full-time. So, I became a stay-at-home mom, which has been the biggest privilege and blessing ever! I’m so grateful for a husband who supports me in this calling!

But staying at home means the loss of an income. And as I am the one who is now contributing very little to the bank account, I am acutely aware of how much I spend. If I am going to have the blessing of being a full-time housewife, I need to be an expert steward of the resources that my husband works so hard to earn! So when it came to diapering our child, and I did the research and discovered how many thousands of dollars I would save by using cloth diapers, that is the route I took, and I’ve been loving it! I don’t mind the extra laundry (if I am going to be staying home, I might as well do a few extra loads a week, right?) and WOW are there some cute and convenient cloth diapers out there!

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So if you haven’t caught my drift, I have so far made five big lifestyle decisions that fall into the “crunchy” category. The sixth decision, babywearing, is something that has been more of a gradual process. At the moment, I don’t think I’d call myself a “babywearer,” but I think that some of my non-crunchy friends would assign that term to me. I’m actually pretty sure I don’t agree entirely with the “attachment parenting” worldview, which is the battle cry of most babywearers. Using a wrap, in my opinion, just makes life easier. Up until a week ago, all I had was a Moby wrap and a hand-me-down Baby Bjorn carrier, but I used the Moby every day. It was purely a convenience thing – why hold a baby in your arms when you can wrap her up and be hands-free, right? The Baby Bjorn is pretty uncomfortable for both of us, but the Moby has been a great blessing, especially during that dinner-making hour in the late afternoon when baby is fussy and mommy needs to keep things going in the kitchen.

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But the Moby wrap is really meant for infants, and it’s been getting a little uncomfortable for Julia, especially when I have to sit down with her in it. I was counting on her being content in the Moby when I started helping out with the school’s spring musical, but now she complains and arches her back when I sit down at the piano. So, I did my research again, sloshed through the unending baby carrier market, and ended up taking the cheapest route I could find – making my own woven wrap. This way, I could carry Julia on my back or on my hip without squishing her when I went to play the piano. I actually had a lot of fun finding the fabric on sale, serging the edges, figuring out where to put little loops for toys, and adding some decorative stitching. So far, Julia has really enjoyed it! We took a walk with her on my back the other day, and she was asleep within two blocks!

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With this new wrap, I feel like I have definitely crossed a line. Am I a crunchy mom? I don’t know. But it doesn’t bother me anymore. I am confident that every decision I has made has been the right one, for the right reasons, and I am constantly in prayer that God would give me wisdom to know how to be a good mom and a faithful wife. I have to trust that He will answer this prayer, no matter what stereotypes I end up becoming!

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Going Bananas

Today, we decided to go bananas.

Mashed bananas, that is.

My milk supply has worried me ever since Julia got sick, and then I got sick. Because then I got the world’s worst sinus infection, tried two different antibiotics and a decongestant, and still couldn’t hear out of one ear. Julia’s diminished appetite during her cold followed by my illness was a recipe for a decreased milk supply, and I knew it. And then there’s the fact that she is approaching 6 months, when milk simply isn’t enough to get her all the way through the night. So, sure enough, Julia has started waking up to eat in the middle of the night again.

Which means it’s time to start adding “real food” to her diet.

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I’m a believer in exclusive breastfeeding as long as possible, and had planned on waiting until 6 months to introduce food. But we’re only 2.5 weeks away, and with the sickness and medication and the waking in the night, I didn’t want to starve my baby for 19 more days just because the calendar said she wasn’t 6 months old yet! I did a little research and chose to give her bananas as her first food, given her age and my tendency to lean toward foods that God created ready-made, as opposed to processed rice cereal. Plus, we had ripe bananas on hand already.

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Julia wasn’t quite sure what to think. It was a puzzling experience for her.

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She was more interested in eating the spoon, and not so much the banana.

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I think she swallowed a total of 3 good spoonfuls, tops, before she started getting squirmy and wanting out of the Bumbo. I knew it would be a messy endeavor, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how much was going to end up on her clothes, her hands, the Bumbo seat, the tablecloth, her feet (?), not to mention her face and bib. Certainly, there were more than 3 spoonfuls of casualties. The biggest problem, I think, was that Julia didn’t understand the need to actually open her mouth. So, most of the time, I was trying to push banana into her closed lips, which was a pretty comical endeavor.

She sure liked getting her mouth wiped at the end!

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So, we have a bit of practicing to do for both of us, I think. I’m not sure that she ingested enough banana calories in the morning or at dinner to make a difference in her evening routine, but we’ll see. Should I try rice cereal next week? What times of the day should I give her food? Should I mix the banana with breastmilk? How do I keep banana from getting smeared all over my house? There are so many things I don’t know! I’m so thankful that every day, I can seek counsel from the One who created my little daughter to begin with. How I need His wisdom!

Mr. Poole took a video of Julia’s first few bites of banana today. Ironically, what cracked us both up SO hard when we watched the video later was not so much Julia’s expressive toes, or even her expressive face – it was MY face! Julia gets her demonstrative facial expressions from her mother, and it is nowhere more evident than in this video, where you can see me doing with my face what I’m trying to get Julia to do with hers! It’s really quite embarrassing. I’m posting this video at the risk of my own reputation as a normal human being.

In totally unrelated news, tonight while Mr. Poole and I were eating dinner, we put Julia in her Bumbo and put her little piano in front of her, right with us ON the dinner table. As she banged away to her heart’s content, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “It really doesn’t get any better than this.” In my soul, I asked, “Can I just ask for one leeeeetle favor, Lord? Can you just possibly maybe let time stand still for the next 70 years? I want to enjoy this moment for the rest of my life!”

But then 20 minutes later, after the dishes were done and Mr. Poole was holding Julia on his lap, sharing the piano bench with me while I rocked out to some Chopin, I thought again, “No, THIS is the moment that I want to last forever.” We were a little family, all cozy and snuggled up next to each other, enjoying each others’ company, and chuckling when Julia reached out with both hands to press the keys. It made my eyes get all watery.

Little girls won’t be little girls forever! They grow up into bigger girls who want to crawl out of your lap and do gymnastics and wear make-up and go to prom and study abroad. But I want my little five-month-old Julia to stay a five-month old for always! They tell me, “It only gets better as they get older!” but I don’t know how it could be true. Life is pretty much as awesome as it gets right now.

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My Gig Buddy

When Julia decided to refuse bottles – even bottles of breastmilk – at first, it was distressing to me. How was I going to live my life like a normal human being without ever being able to be away from my child for more than three hours? We tried everything – three or four different kinds of bottles, various nipples, warm milk, cold milk, Daddy giving it to her, in the chair, in the carseat, sleepy, awake…all with very limited success. There was crying, there was choking, there was spit-up everywhere, and in general, just complete protest against the fact that this was NOT WHAT I’M USED TO, MOM!!!

This photo documents the one occasion when she took two whole ounces without throwing a fit.

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I know that we could have pressed the issue and kept offering the bottle, but to make a long story short, it finally dawned on me that these few months when Julia would be exclusively nursing are such a tiny little blip in the big scheme of things. Everybody keeps saying, “Enjoy your baby! This time goes by so quickly!” And they’re right. These months are precious. If I can’t slow down my life enough to feed my child every three hours during the daytime, I have some idolatry issues to address in my life.

Sooooooo, this has meant that Julia often keeps me company during lessons, rehearsals, and gigs these days! I’ve learned how to teach piano, voice, and even guitar with her in the moby wrap (which I absolutely love,) and she is usually so entranced by the music that she stays pretty quiet. My private students are very patient with her, which is a blessing. Julia also comes along to church choir practice on Sunday mornings, and even attended a two-hour rehearsal for a performance of Beethoven’s 9th symphony this week. (She spent most of the rehearsal quietly in the moby, with her little cheek resting on my chest and her eyes wide open, staring with great interest at the other singers in the alto section.) It gets tricky when we have long, three- or four-hour church choir rehearsals on Saturday mornings, when I have to be gone from home for longer than Julia can make it between feedings, and she can’t come along. Fortunately, the Lord gave me the best husband in the entire world. He delivers her to me during the break in the rehearsal, I’m able to feed her there at church, and then he takes her home again!

Today I was accompanying a former student for a college audition. Since the school was an hour away, I knew I couldn’t leave home, drive up there, warm up, play the audition, and make it home by the time Julia had to eat again, so, into the carseat she goes! My student’s mom was going to be on campus that day, and was able to watch her during the actual audition. Julia had a great time hanging out on the big college campus, as you can see. She decided to wear her most musical outfit so that she would fit in as much as possible with all those cool fine arts majors.

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After a great audition, my former student was accepted into the school as a music education major. I am so proud! As I’ve blogged about previously, I try not to evaluate my success as a teacher based on how many of my students become professional musicians. But it still makes me burst with excitement when one of them grows to love music so much that he or she decides to make a career of it! I’ve had a few former students major or minor in music, but this would be my first to actually strive to become an educator. Julia is proud of her, too!

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