raising a mommy

raising a mommy

Saturday, March 28, 2015

#fmfpartysnailmail: again

Today's blessing:

Friends, I am so excited about this opportunity to build community. What seems like just yesterday (but was actually much longer ago...over a year? Is it possible?), I found myself saying "yes." I said "yes" to committing to brightening someone else's day, "yes" to spending 46 cents (then) plus the price of a card to remind someone that, even though I would probably never meet them, I cared, "yes" to bringing my online community into my real life.

It was a small commitment. And then it grew. It went on for one round. And then we loved it so much that it went on for another. And a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. Now, here we are, facing round six (six!) of #fmfpartysnailmail, and I found myself saying "yes" to something bigger.

No one, including Kaitlyn, could have imagined what this would turn into: five rounds, hundreds of women, and over 1000 cards. But you know how the cliche goes: all good things must come to an end...or maybe just change a little bit. Kaitlyn is stepping back from leading #fmfpartysnailmail, and I am so honored that she has asked me to be on a team of women who are taking over. Seriously, I am flattered and humbled to be joining Rebekah, Jen, Jessica, and Sarah Jo as we take this on and see where Christ leads it.

I really hope you'll consider being a part of this. The sign up form is open now, so please click here to sign up and join other wonderful women from around the world (that's right, it's not limited to just the US!) as we make a short term commitment to uplifting each other. It's one card each week for seven weeks. Five minutes a week to write a quick note...a total of 35 minutes out of your life to make seven lovely women smile as they open a hand-written card.

Think about it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

the call process: 101a

Today's blessing:

I'm sure you all read my previous post about the call process, because it's such a fascinating subject. Well, now I'm back to share my thoughts on the human side of it. You know what happens, but here's the emotional side of it. Because it can get very emotional.

So here's how it started.

I had my heart set on a certain region, and especially one certain synod within that region. It had everything we hoped for: a Tanzanian partnership, a good balance of rural/small town/big city opportunities, proximity to family...

Because of this, I had built up a bit of resentment for some of the other synods. I haven't lived "close" (read: within a 5 hour drive) to my family since I graduated high school, and I was ready for a change. However, it's not up to us.

The minute we got the e-mail that my "favorite" region and synod were off the table, the resentment completely disappeared. No joke. I'm not even saying that to convince myself; it's actually true.

That said, there will always be a little bit of sadness for what might have been. However, that sadness would be there regardless of our assignment.

Now, for the big question people seem to be asking:

"Is this what you were hoping for?"
- or -
"Was that your first choice?"

We were hoping for a full time call somewhere, and the numbers assigned to our top "preferences" aren't as defining as one might think. So to say that anywhere was actually our first choice is misleading. There were things that we were excited about in a number of different synods, and, no matter how we stacked the pro-con lists, there was never a really clear winner. I know this sounds really cheesy, but it is such a spirit-led process. It's one of those situations that you just have to let go of and really trust that the spirit is leading you exactly where you are supposed to be.

We have been called to a great synod that we are extremely excited to serve. That (in a full time position) is exactly where we want to be.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

the call process: 101

Today's blessing
Knowing something. When your whole future is up in the air for so long, it's nice, for a change, to see glimpses of what the puzzle of your future might look like.

Anyone who has been through it can tell you that the whole first call/assignment process is pretty crazy. We're in the midst of it right now, and I wanted to share a few thoughts from the perspective of the spouse. Let me start with a few disclaimers:

  1. These are my opinions and mine alone. I cannot speak for any other clergy spouse. Only myself.
  2. I'm referring to the ELCA here.
  3. This is going to be at least two parts. This post is only about the nuts and bolts of the process. I'll share some insider thoughts later.
I'm going to start with the very basics, because I'm guessing many of my readers aren't familiar with the education and call process for an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) pastor. After you complete a four year bachelor's degree, you can enter Seminary. There is a whole crazy application process including a several hour psychological exam and extensive interviews you must complete before you will even be allowed to say you want to become a pastor. Anyone can start taking the classes, but until you're "entranced," you're just taking classes for fun. You're not actually working towards anything.

Once you're in, you're looking at a four year program, though there is some restructuring going on that could change this sometime in the near future. For us, it was two years of school, a year of internship, and now the last year of school. I won't go into too much detail about any of this, because it's fairly straightforward.

On to assignment.

Once you complete internship and return for your last year of school, you begin the assignment process. Some candidates may begin this early if they only have one semester of school left or if the did a terminal internship, which is an internship in their last year, and not as scary as the word "terminal" can make it sound. For us, it meant all paperwork turned in at the beginning of December.

The ELCA has divided the country into nine regions.

Each region is then further divided into synods. We have been called to region three:
This isn't a great map, but I didn't feel like spending the time to find a better one. You get the idea.

One of the most common questions we've gotten is "Do you get to choose where you go?" To a certain extent, yes. To a greater extent, no. You can choose to restrict to a certain synod of number of synods, but you have to get special permission to do this, and it does not guarantee you a call in that synod. Some candidates who restrict have to wait two or three years for a call. Yikes. You can choose to be completely open and go wherever the bishops decide to send you. As much as I would love to say we were completely open, that would be a lie. We know ourselves well enough to know that there are certain places we just would not want to live long term. So we went with option #3: preferences.

Even the term "Preferences" should be considered very loosely. Yes, we ranked them. We had our "preferred" synods, one through nine, and we assigned a number to each. However, because of the way things are set up, number four or five could actually be preferred over number two or three, but isn't able to be ranked as such. If it sounds confusing, that's because it is. Thankfully, the bishops understand this and work hard to get to know each potential candidate and what their preferences really mean.

Finally, in mid-February, a full two and a half months after the paperwork has been submitted, a group of bishops convened in Chicago to begin the process of deciding the fate of the candidates and their families. Though there isn't really anything else to compare it to, in my understanding, this process is kind of a cross between the NFL draft and the papal conclave. For anyone interested in learning more about it, read this article. By the time this two-day process has come to its end, a candidate is assigned to a region. They are then notified of their region assignment via e-mail.

Next comes synod assignment. Things were tense before region assignments, and they just kept getting worse. The anticipation just keeps building. The more you know, the more you want to know, right? It was great for about two days to know that our future home had been narrowed down to within three states. Once that novelty wore off, I wanted more. I wanted a synod. Unfortunately for us, we had to wait another two weeks for this information. After the candidates are assigned to regions, the bishops from that region then get together to divide them up. There are so many factors that go into this process that I wouldn't possibly be able to list them all even if I knew them. For the sake of keeping things simple-ish, let's just say that the bishops work to match the needs of their congregations with the gifts of their candidates.

Once that's done and you receive the fateful phone call, you start to look at churches. Typically, the bishop or a member of his or her staff will provide you with the paperwork from several congregations, and you can decide to interview at some or all or none of them. This is where we are now. We have looked at a number of churches in our assigned synod, have shared our thoughts with the synod staff. They have sent N's paperwork along to the call committees at those churches we "liked" (for lack of a better term), and now those call committees are choosing to call or not call him to set up an interview. After the preliminary interview, a call committee will typically call back their top three or so choices for a second interview. After the second interview, they will choose a preferred candidate. This candidate is presented to the congregation, there is discussion and the opportunity for the congregation to ask questions, and then they vote. It is rare for the church to vote against the call committee, but it can happen. Meaning the call committee can have a preferred candidate in mind, and the congregation as a whole can vote against the candidate and tell the committee to keep looking.

After that is ordination and installation and getting on with life!

What questions do you have on the call and assignment process? I know I can't possibly have been that thorough, so I'd love to know what other questions are out there!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

an update on the kiddos {march edition}

Oh where oh where have my little babes gone, oh where oh where can they be?

Somebody has taken them and replaced them with kids. Madness.

Baby M is now six months old. Here's how awesome he is:
Mastered Skills (most babies can do)
Turns towards sounds and voices: He even turned when someone called his name the other day, though it may just have been a fluke.
Imitates sounds, blows bubbles: This kid is a bubble-blowing maniac. It's one of his favorite pastimes. And Daddy was clicking his tongue at him the other day, and it was so cute! M would stare intently, studying Daddy's face and mouth, and then try to do it himself.
Rolls in both directions: His other favorite pastime.

Emerging Skills (half of babies can do)
Reaches for objects and mouths them: Anything he can get his hands on, including paper plates, sleeves, and big sister's toys. She loves that.
Sits without support: Only for a few seconds. The he slumps forward and his fat rolls prop him up!

Advanced Skills (a few babies can do)
May lunge forward or start crawling: Not yet, thank goodness! Our apartment is too small for him to be crawling - we have enough trouble keeping track of him when he rolls or scoots places!
May jabber or combine syllables: He's getting more "jabbery." I don't know if I would say he combines syllables (are we talking "baba" or "mama" or "maba" or something else?) but he sure likes to communicate. He seems to be trying to be more conversational.
May drag objects towards himself: Anything he can get his little hands on.

We officially have two teeth. The first popped through the day before he turned six months, and he was a much happier boy after that...until earlier this week when number two started coming through. Now he's happy again. Hopefully for awhile.

Baby M got his first taste of "real" food earlier this week, and he was a big fan of the avocado! He did really well, too, and almost all of it actually made it into his mouth. We don't have our high chair yet, so he hangs out in his bouncy chair and I sit on the floor next to him. Not ideal, but it works.

Big Sister P continues to amaze and astound. She started dance classes last month, and she LOVES them. I think they were the best present Grammy and Ong Noi ever gave her. Plus, she's super cute in her leotard and tutu!

Our prissy little "nothing on my hands!" child has started to warm up to sensory play. I came across some fun ideas on Pinterest from the blog Fun at Home with Kids, and thought I might as well try. I'm not sure who had more fun with the gak, P or Daddy. And seriously...cornstarch plus water is so much fun! I had a hard time relinquishing the bowl!

That's right - messy hands!

Birthday present from Grandma!

Seriously, this stuff was so cool!

P reading M a story. And she's ready to go running with Mommy.

Do you see the look they're giving each other? They're plotting stuff already...

Teaching Baby M how to play piano

This kid LOVES her dance classes!

I set him down in front of the toys (the little green and yellow cubey thing and the blue and yellow car), I went to the bathroom, and this is where he was when I came back. Heaven help us, he's getting more mobile...

P wanted to wrap M up like a baby and hold him. She quickly changed her mind.

Seriously, that smile!

Now that the weather is starting to get a little nicer, P loves "helping" take the puppy outside.

M's first taste of avocado!

Monday, February 23, 2015

our little girl: three years

Wait. What? That must be a typo...

I don't even know what to say about our little kid. She amazes me daily with her kind and generous heart. Her vocabulary is ridiculous and still growing daily. And oh boy, can this little one throw a tantrum when she wants to.

P is amazing at sharing - not just for a toddler, but as a human being in general. She insists on sharing a bite of her dessert with Daddy and I whenever we have something special. There I am, hoarding my cupcake all to myself, and this little three year old is holding out her fork with a saliva soaked, sprinkle laden bite of cupcake, and she will not allow me to turn it down. It's humbling.

And so polite! (Most of the time.) She woke up sick one night and apologized for throwing up on her bed.

Until she decides not to be. We were playing one of those games at church the other day where I rolled something down the ramp, made a silly noise, and then chased her or something like that. You know, a three year old game. After about four times of doing the exact same thing, she decided she was done with me, ran to the end of the hall, and proceeded to lay on the floor, screaming and crying, until Auntie came to the rescue. Someone asked what was wrong, and all I could do was shrug and say "She's three."

As I was putting together my blogs this month, I realized that I've really been slacking on the picture taking front lately. That makes me sad. New Week Resolution: take more pictures!

Helping Mommy make biscuits for supper

Don't feel too bad for Daddy - he brought this on himself when he put the antlers on his head and said "Look, I'm Sven!"

We have a friend who works at Nadia Cupcakes, and she brought us some treats on her way home one day. So many sprinkles. And of course, she insisted on sharing.

"Look Mommy, I found a fun book."

I was putting together the tool bench she got for Christmas, and she got very upset when I tried to throw away the little plastic scraps in between the actual toys. Apparently they were her Allen wrenches.

Now that's a three-year-old birthday smile if I ever saw one!

Friday, February 6, 2015

our little boy: five months

Big Sister P turns three this month, so I figured that warranted it's own post, meaning Baby M gets his own post, too!

Mastered Skills (most babies can do)
Can distinguish between bold colors: How can you tell? He was watching a friend play one of those games the other day with bright colored "gems" (Bejeweled or Candy Crush or something like that) and he was absolutely enthralled by the screen, so I'll go with yes on this one.
Can roll over: Both ways. Just try to stop him.
Amuses himself by playing with hands and feet: Yes he does, and it's really cute when he tries to suck on his toes. He's so chunky that he usually can't get them quite there. He also hasn't figured out how to get his socks off his feet yet, thanks to these amazing little creations, so he whenever he does succeed in getting his feet to his mouth, he manages to soak his socks pretty thoroughly with drool. (I think I used my affiliate link there, so if you order anything from the site I make a small commission. I may not have done it right, so you can also click on the Nicki's Diapers button on the right sidebar and search for "Sock Ons." That will definitely work.)

Emerging Skills (half of babies can do)
Turns towards new sounds: He does. Sometimes I wonder how he gets his head to some of the angles he does and how it doesn't hurt him. He's like a little owl.
Recognizes own name: Not yet.

Advanced Skills (a few babies can do)
May sit momentarily without support: He does! I think I got a good five seconds out of him the other day! It might just be his fat rolls propping him, up, but I'll take it!
Mouth objects: He's really close. Sometimes he has the muscle control to get a toy neatly into his mouth, but usually there's a little bit of flailing involved before he makes it in.
Stranger anxiety may begin: So far he still loves pretty much everyone.

I'm not sure how we got so lucky, but we somehow ended up with a free consultation with a sleep consultant. More on that to come in a later post, but for now, I am SO EXCITED to share that M is usually sleeping though the night, is sleeping a lot more during the day, and is a happier baby in general! Yay!

He continues to grow at an alarming rate. We have let out the snaps (again!) on his diapers and are in either 9 or 12 month clothing. Yikes.

Baby M will be crawling way too soon. He's really working on getting the motion down with his legs, and I blame Daddy and all his kicking games. ("Run run run run run run run, jump stop, jump!" Every now and then he'll throw in a "hurdle" for Mommy. He's much more likely to end up being a steeplechaser like Mommy was, but that's a bit advanced for five months. Or a shot-putter if he continues to grow at his current rate.)

No teeth yet, but he drools all the time and likes to chew on things, like toys and fingers.

We make cute kids.

He really likes his mat...most of the time!

Though it really wears him out.

Look at those rolls! He refused to sit back during his bath. This makes it very difficult to get rid of stinky neck cheese.
I'm afraid I may be falling victim to "second child syndrome." I didn't have nearly the selection of pictures for M from the last month that I would like. It doesn't help that my phone is dying a slow, painful death and takes extra long to open anything anymore. By the time I get my camera open, I'm often too late. Sad day. I did dig out the video camera, though, and started using that again!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

you do have to wash the dishes sometime

"Dishes can wait. That baby will grow up before you know it."

I cannot count how many well-intentioned people have uttered this phrase to me since Big Sister P was born nearly three years ago, and even before that. It is so true. It seems like just yesterday I was up at 3:00 am nursing her on the couch and watching old sitcom reruns because those and infomercials are the only things on TV at that time and I needed something to keep me awake. Now she is running, climbing, having conversations, and turning into an actual little kid. She skipped the toddler phase. And then there's Baby M, who is growing at an alarming rate

And yet...

Dishes do not wash themselves. (Unless you have a dishwasher, which I don't. And even then, only some dishes can go in there and they still need to be loaded up and put away. The dishwasher only does so much.) You can only walk across an unswept floor so many times before the crumbs sticking to your feet drive you crazy. And if you ever want to wear unwrinkled clothes again, you are going to have to fold some laundry.

I would love to be able to tell you, new parents, when exactly is the best time to get these chores done. Sadly, I cannot, because I just don't know.

They aren't always fun, and they will either take away from your quality snuggle time or your sleep time, both of which are crucial.

So the next time you're talking to the overwhelmed parent of little ones and you're tempted to quip this cliche, please stop. They are well aware that their child seems to grow at least an inch every night while they sleep (however sporadically). Maybe stick with a "Hang in there - it gets easier" or "You're doing a great job. This is a lucky baby." It will be appreciated.

Now, if you can get them to help you, that may solve both problems.
Otherwise, just snuggle!