Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mama Bean thinks about Advent differently now

Now that I'm a mom, I mean.

It's only been a few years that I've even paid attention to Advent as a season, versus solely focusing on Christmas day. As a kid, the only connection I made between the little waxy chocolates I got to eat one at a measly, waxy time and the magic number of 24 was that, if I started eating on December 1st, I got one per waxy waxy day until Christmas day, when there were much better things to eat. (Srsly, those supermarket Advent calendars have the worstest chocolate ever. I know, what a "first world" thing to complain about, but like, save your $3 or whatever and give it to the third world rather than subject people you care about to eating those things.)

My awareness of Advent coincides with my awareness of Lent and all things having to do with the Liturgical Year of Awesomeness. I love that every Sunday can be included in a broader celebration, instead of coasting with boredom from Big Holiday to Big Holiday. I love expanding the joy of Christmas from one day to several weeks, each with their own particular spiritual focus on what Christmas means, the people involved, its place in history, etc.

Plus, there are candles!

Last year, I was just barely coming out of the Delirious Early Days and juggling the new demands of Major-Family-Holiday-with-a-Sought-After-and-Coveted-Grandbaby, so I wasn't thinking much about anything, let alone Advent. I'm surprised people got gifts last year. But this year I'm much more able to engage and celebrate properly. And I found my Advent thoughts this week centering on Mary, because I feel like I can look through her eyes with a little more understanding, now that I've welcomed a baby the way she welcomed a baby. (Well, not exactly the way she did - no angels, no manger, etc. But you get my drift...)

The whole thing about Advent is anticipation, right, this growing expectation of this really Universe-changing event that's about to take place. And the first week is traditionally focused on Hope, the hope for a saviour that permeated culture back then in this very intense, taste-it-on-your-tongue kind of way. But Mary wasn't just pregnant for the four weeks of Advent; she'd been pregnant since early Spring. She'd been anticipating and expecting and hoping while simultaneously knowing that this child, her child is the very Messiah everyone's so desperate for, for almost ten months. She just hoped and hoped and hoped all the way to Bethlehem.

I have anticipated and expected and hoped things for my child through forty weeks. I am doing it all over again for the little Sprout in my tummy now. I can imagine, in a small way, the internal light of hope Mary carried in her mind, and heart, and soul, and tummy. It's just this totally different, totally unearthly, yet fully earthly and normal and natural kind of love. That's the love of Christmas! I mean, times a million, considering the end result of Easter. But the love of Christmas starts with the love of a mother. And I get that now, because I am a mother. And it really changes the way I approach Advent, and the way I'll consider the next twenty-some days. I cannot imagine carrying a child knowing he's destined to die. Where is the hope in that? And yet. Carrying a child knowing he's destined to save the world...

The somewhat abstract concept of Jesus arriving in the world as a baby now has very concrete, very real memories and touchstones for me to hold in my hands, and my thoughts, and my heart. I know how small he was, how light and fragile. I know what it was like to nurse him (albeit, aided by a glider, nursing pillow, pump, nipple shield, fridges and freezers and bottles - but she probably had receiving blankets, right? So it was totally the same thing...) I know that his poop smelled just like everyone else's! And I will add to this knowing, in the coming years, imagining Jesus learning to walk, saying his first words, tying his own shoes (sandals,whatever!) Learning to read. Discovering the world. Discovering God.

Ultimately, I think I simply feel closer to the story, I feel like I've moved up from the back seats into the real deal, with dust on my feet from the straw in the manger. I know what a baby is, now. And so I can know what Jesus was, and what that means, in the Big Picture, about what he did for me. From where I sit now, that Advent candle looks a little brighter, a little warmer; it looks and feels like Love.

Merry Advent, everyone...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mama Bean remembers with gratitude

“For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mama Bean doesn't quite know what to do with her weekends

I have a different perspective, now that I'm a parent, about weekend plans, particularly when it comes to alone/me/without-Bean time. I try to be careful about how much I plan on these activities, because weekends are important rest and leisure time for both PB and I, and I don't want him to feel abandoned too often. Being that our work schedules and stuff are so busy during the week (and the lingering effects of our time in Cowtown when the weekend was just an extension of the work week and we never spent any time together) we've really come to cherish our unencumbered time together on those two precious precious days. (Well, I'm speaking for him, but I think he cherishes this time... I'm assuming he does.)

Everything is just so much easier when we can do it together. Saturday mornings are pretty awesome, because I don't have to do the whole morning fetch/feed/change/dress routine alone - PB can make the bottle while I fetch Bean from his room, or one of us brings baby and bottle to the other of us still dozing in bed, and we have a little family lie-in. It's all a little more relaxed. I don't have this desperate feeling that I must pee/brush teeth/wash face/put in contacts/fix hair/warm milk before Bean's noises get really insistent, because there is another adult on the premises who can do at least some of those things for me, while I do the things that are really my responsibility alone. (I'd like to see a game show for married people, or on Minute to Win It, where one person has to put in another person's contacts...)

Even when all of a Saturday is just running errands from store to store, at least I'm not clipping into car seat, getting cart, clipping out of car seat, wrangling beast in cart, keeping beast amused without chewing or tossing everything I put in the cart, unloading goods, returning cart, clipping back into car seat ad nauseum by myself. My big, strong husband is there to share the duties. I hope he forgives me when I save up errands through the week just to blitz them all on a weekend.

However, weekends are also the biggest block of time either of us has for scheduling activities best performed solo. For PB, at this time of year, that becomes the only days all week when he can maybe go out hunting or shooting or whatever. For me, it's mostly about shopping or crafting or similarly girly activity. I recently started a weekly prenatal yoga class on Sunday afternoons, which is gonna be awesome(!!)

So, here's the thing that really prompted this post. I lately find myself dithering about inviting friends to join me on these outings, because most of our friends are also parents, and I imagine their weekends are similarly dedicated to doing things with their spouses, and I don't want to tear them away from that with my oh-so-tempting offer to shop or whatever. And I also don't want them to feel awkward about accepting an invitation if it means leaving their spouse abandoned with the baby, if that's an issue in their relationship.

And basically this is simply not something I would have bothered to think about before Bean.

I mean, often during dating or marriage-without-kids, there are very specific efforts to do things sans spouse, to Have Your Own Life, whatever that means. There are repeated articles in all the right magazines assuring us that, as independent modern feministic women of power, we have a right and obligation to pursue individual interests outside of our primary relationship (and we must be comfortable with our partners doing the same, but not too much, in case that means he doesn't love us enough or is having an affair or some such rot.) And, to be honest, having My Own Life really fell by the wayside long before Bean came along, and I've been stumbling in my efforts to get a hobby (any hobby!) because, again, all the right magazines tell me that's what healthy mommies do. Before becoming a mother, I wouldn't have considered, "Ooh, should I ask Suzie to the mall, since this is weekend time to spend with Bobby?" but now I find myself wondering, "Hmm, should I ask Suzie to the mall, since this is weekend time to enjoy Bobby Jr. with Bobby's help?"

Maybe I'm just projecting my values onto my friends? We did have that arid time in our early marriage when weekends were meaningless, and moving to the PVC was just a gift of this absolute luxury of time with each other. And during that arid time the whole reason we were working so much was to make enough money for ends-meeting, not anything extra, so hobbies really didn't mean anything. And again, moving to the PVC has been a gift of the luxury to actually buy the stuff you need to have a hobby. So maybe I'm just assuming thought processes for my friends that don't really exist.

But I also think it's pretty universal that caring for children is easier in teams, and given the reality of at least one, if not both, parents working outside the home, that teamliness doesn't generally get to happen in a concentrated fashion during the week. So I don't think my projecting is entirely baseless. Anyway, this is just another thought process that didn't run through my little mind before babies, and it's been interesting to notice the pattern. I don't think it's becoming a problem yet, but I realize it could lead to being a bit isolated if I let it get out of balance. Also, everything is about to change after Sprout arrives. PB's schedule will totally change from the crazy-super-packed-extravaganza-of-crazy-super-packedness it is now, as he becomes a SAHD again. And we'll have two babies to chase around, while wondering what this mythical "free time" is and whether we'll ever experience it again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mama Bean is fantastically horrible at sharing

Papa Bean says I should have failed kindergarten. I blame being the youngest, and being spoiled, and being a princess. He's the oldest, he learned to share from 20 months of age, and never stopped. He is the perfect person for selfish little me to be married to, not because he's taught me to share better, only because he's already good at putting up with it. haha.

Actually I think he has made me a better sharer.

Is that a word?

Here's a Halloween story about how good at sharing I am. We didn't give out candy this year, because we've had so few kids the past few years, it just didn't seem worth it. But we did buy candy - the next day, half price :) That's just how we roll. I bought 125 pieces of Hershey's candy (Reese's PB cups, O'Henry, and Reese's Pieces) 125 pieces of Cadbury candy (Wunderbar, Caramilk, Crunchie, and Crispy Crunch) and a dozen minipacks of Swedish berries. I'd been craving them. (Oooh, and we got an extra two packs!) Then I came home and dumped the candy into a bucket, and divided it equally into two boxes. As in, one caramilk for you, one caramilk for me, one o'henry for you, one o'henry for me, etc. So that each of us got exactly the same number of each chocolate bar. Because I am the best sharer in. the. world.

That's sharing, right? LOL.
But it's really just the best solution for us, because otherwise everything gets messed up. I eat candy slow - by the time I finish one peanut butter cup, PB's had six. I eat Reese's Pieces one at a time, PB a package at a time. I mean, we've got to add in to the general complexity of this issue my particular food neuroticals. I eat chips from biggest to smallest, saving extra flavour-covered ones for last. If we've got one bowl of chips, PB's utterly indiscriminate eating pattern totally interrupts my totally reasonable and not-at-all-crazy method! I eat m&m's in colour order, yes, I know, they aren't flavoured, they all taste the same. And yet. Brown first, then green, then yellow, then orange, then red and blue. That's just The Way It Is.

We have to get two bags of popcorn at the movies (when we splurge for popcorn, i.e. when we don't buy two tubes of Pringles at Wal-mart on our way to the theatre.)

I'm bad at sharing. PB is a saint.

He has a joke that sharing was part of my vows. It was part of saying "I do." Apparently, what I really said was, "I do will share." Which doesn't make any grammatical sense to anyone that isn't married to one of us. Of course, this has expanded into all sorts of nonsensical phrases, like "I do will clean the bathroom for my pregnant and/or generally lazy wife" or "I do will wash the dishes with a cheerful heart" or "I do will never tickle me again upon threat of castration." These supposedly implied vows don't always come true (though we're doing well on the bathroom one heehee) but they are fun to say. I say "I do will share" all the time... but that doesn't mean I actually share.

I'm just a little pre-occupied with fairness. I want my fair share. Maybe a consequence of growing up with two ravenous teen-aged older brothers? Maybe a consequence of just expecting to always get what I want? This is the problem with my Not Sharing, after all; what I really want is special treatment. I want maybe a little more than my fair share. And I'm only gonna get that if everyone else for sure only gets exactly theirs. Did that make sense? It does in my head...

I think PB will agree I have changed (for the better!) since becoming a mom. I will share with at least one person, without hesitation, and that lucky little bastard is Bean, of course! If PB and I are both sitting with identical bowls of food, Bean will crawl to me with wide eyes and open mouth first, because he knows the odds are good. The odds are very, very good. Though all this sharing hasn't seemed to make a difference to my waistline yet... (I kid, I kid. I'm pregnant, my waistline doesn't exist anymore. It may never exist again, frankly. /sigh.)

So, let's just hope with the arrival of one more child, all my neuroticness will break down and I'll turn into an angle of selflessness :) Or, maybe we'll just be this weird family that buys four bags of popcorn at the movies... and handles the Halloween candy very, very carefully.

(Let's not even discuss how we deal with bed blankets...)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mama Bean rocked her baby to sleep last night

...and is maybe having some trouble letting go...

hence, poetry.


the weight of my sleeping baby in my arms
is the heaviest load i carry
love with the most density
responsibility (for life!)
but it is also unbearably light
time makes growth
too fast
he will never be this light again
i carry with new strength each day
for that day's new challenge
i think my grip could not be more gentle
but time will ensure my touch grows even lighter
with every passing night
then empty arms will feel heavier
than this baby ever could

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mama Bean wants to sing at your wedding

I try not to regret things. (I mean, I think my default reaction is to cry over spilled milk when it spills, and then while I clean it up, and then while I tell my husband the (exaggerated, sordid) tale (why does exaggerate have 2 g's?) and then again any time a milk-related topic comes up in conversation, and I relive the episode in my head or out loud. If I let myself, I will roll around in sack cloth and ashes while I cry over spilled milk, but I do try not to let myself.)

But here is something I regret. At the age when most of my friends were getting married, I didn't have the same confidence (or same ability) in my singing that I do now, so I didn't really put myself out there as available to sing for them on their special day. I've been a musician for a long time, I've played piano in at least a dozen weddings, but I've only sung at one, my own. I was probably reasonably confident then that I could do a good job, but I really didn't have the experience singing alone (vs. my experience soloing on piano, or singing in a choir) with a microphone in front of crowds who expect a very magical and memorable moment (holy, alliteration!) enough that people identified me as that Singer in their life who could Do The Wedding.

I didn't get that experience and comfort with microphones and really being heard as my own voice until I sang with the worship band at Crosspoint church in Iowa, under the wonderful talent and encouragement of our worship pastor, Chad Doran. And I didn't get the confidence as a soloist until I sang with the team at Journey church in Cowtown, with the wonderful talent and encouragement of our worship pastor, Malcolm MacMillan. When I think about the more important mentors and coaches in my life, these two guys definitely stand out.

So now I want to sing at every wedding I see, but I don't really see that many, because almost all my friends are already married. I feel like I missed the boat, and that makes me sad. It's some spilled milk that I can't do anything about, but I still kinda cry over it :(

I also wish I could have sung at the funeral for my neighbour, who died at work waaaaay before his time. Partially because the music that was performed wasn't really my style, nor really the style of the family in the question. And mostly because I love that family so much, and I feel like music is one gift that would mean something beyond platitudes and cliches when you're mourning your husband and father.

I guess that's what it comes down to. Not to sound all super-Ego, but I feel like music is a gift I can give that's very personal and unique and Filled With Meaning, and a wedding (or a funeral) is a wonderful time to share that kind of gift, and I missed my chance. Which makes whatever gift I did give them (dishcloths, pillowcases?) seem pretty empty by comparison. So, let it be known, if any of y'all are getting married (maybe for the second time, if I missed the first time) you let me know, and I will be there with bells on haha.