Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ascension Day

It is Ascension Day tomorrow. Traditionally, on Ascension Day, you climb a mountain to remember Christ ascending into heaven. We climbed a very tall hill last year, and while I'm hoping next year to make it up a mountain, I think we're going to settle for a short hill this year, as we have four very small children to haul up it.

It's possible the twins will have a bad night and we won't make it, but I'm hoping to take the kids to the park on Saturday and find a small hill the toddlers can climb themselves, and then we can talk about how Jesus went away to prepare a place for us, and how he'll come back and receive us unto himself. "Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again." Thanks be to God!

I love the church year.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Four Under Four Made Easier

On the homemaking part of homemaking through the church year, I thought I'd share a list of things that makes being a stay-at-home mom to four children under four years old easier. Some of these I picked up from smarter people, but I don't remember who all to credit. I don't have a ton of experience mothering this many littles - only 2 /12 months so far! - but I thought some of the things we do might be things other people would find helpful. These range from little, simple things that make life easier to deep, simple things that are indispensable. So, here's the list:

1. Clothes pajamas. This one I see to remember comes from Amy of Amy's Humble Musings. The idea is that you dress your children at night in what you want them to wear tomorrow. This is easier in warmer weather when they're just going to be wearing nice soft shorts and tees, or just onsies. So you have to change diapers in the morning, but not whole outfits. Honest, this is a wonderful, wonderful thing when you have four to get dressed and fed upon waking (not to count yourself!).

2. Slings/mei-tei's/other baby carriers. At least the one (or two) in the carrier is going to be happy. And don't just put the babies in them. Toddlers and preschoolers like being on mommy's back or hip too. I walked towards my husband's workplace to meet him on his way home this week, with the twins snuggled in the back of the double stroller, my son in the front and my oldest girl on my hip, sitting in a sling. It was a great time to talk to her, because she had my ear all to herself.

3. Baby swing. Mine's called a "Magical Mobile Swing." And it is. Magical. If putting Anna in it for five minutes means I can get the older ones down for their nap without listening to a baby scream while I do it, well, who am I to deny us that golden silence? (Honestly, I always feel a little strange about using a machine to calm a baby, but if it helps her fall asleep when she's really sleepy and just can't get there in this heat, or if it calms her down the five minutes it takes for me to get something necessary done before I can give her my full attention, well, it's a kindness, and not neglect. I'm sure baby swings can be misused, but used well, they're a blessing not just for mom, but for baby too.)

4. Menu planning. This means that I can make dinner a few minutes here, a few minutes there - even doing chopping a day ahead of time, if that's where I find time to do it. Because I know what we're having for the next couple of weeks, I don't have to do the prep all at once, but can fit it in to those odd spaces where I'm not nursing. (You nurse a LOT when you've two newborns instead of one.)

5. Audiobooks. Especially the Bible. I listen to the Alexander Scourby version (highly recommended if you're okay with King James; Scourby's a British radio actor who reads it beautifully, and you can get it on MP3 cd from Amazon for less than $20). I listen to it in the dark at night while I nurse the babies. It's such a good time, sitting there, feeding my twins and listening to the Word of God. Peaceful and good.

6. Pre-filling sippy cups. This is for the older ones. But I put sippy cups full of milk in the fridge at night and my oldest loves getting them out all by herself for her and her brother, and if I'm a little late getting breakfast on the table, the milk holds them over till our first meal of the day.

7. My husband. As Dr. Laura says, "Choose wisely, treat kindly." I recommend having done the first and continuing to do the second. If I was to write all of the wonderful things my husband has done during the twin pregnancy and this twin newborn period, Blogger would kick me off for using up all their disk space. But honestly, this time in our life has kicked so much of the pettiness out of our relationship. We just don't have the energy to get self-righteously annoyed at each other anymore (something I was much more prone to than he ever was anyway). Our fights now go something like this:

"I'm sorry, that was a nasty look I gave you."
"Yeah, it was. But I kinda deserved it. I just didn't want to do what you asked."
"Yeah, I understand. I mean, I really understand. I wouldn't've wanted to do it either."
"I know. Believe me, I know."
"So we both acted badly there."
"Yep. Sorry."
"Me too."

I mean, can you get more low-key about realizing you're sinful and owe each other repentance and forgiveness? It's great. Twin-exhaustion's being good for our spiritual walks. We're just too tired to persist in snottiness. It's easier to be kind, and I'm hoping the habit sticks after we start getting more sleep.
You know, a year from now.

8. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends. Seriously, don't just say "yes" when someone asks if you want help. Schedule when they're going to come over. And then seek out help on top of that. To quote Bujold, "I want three volunteers: you, you and you."
I used to hate to ask for help. I still hate it. I do it anyway. Why? Because I need it. I'm still not convinced that human mothers were meant to have litters, and that means, should God bless you with a litter, that you're going to need more than just you to take care of it. (No, babies are not puppies, but there are striking similarites! Chiefly: noise, mess and cuteness.)

9. Perspective. One of my mottos this past few months has been, "As long as by this time next year it IS next year, then I will be okay." In other words, as long as the 24 hours in each day keep ticking away at the pace they always have, I'll survive. If I can count on having one more day done when I get to the end of the day, well, then I can keep going. The idea that time might slow down is the real nightmare scenario, but as I learned during my 40 day hospital stay, everything does eventually come to an end. This is a great comfort during some very hard days. It won't last forever. And there is heaven at the end.

10. Prayer. Pray always, pray without ceasing. You cannot parent without God's parenting of you. Ask for his help, beg for his help, and when your prayers that they will JUST SLEEP aren't answered, pray for his help to take care of them and love them anyway. Thank him that they're here. Thank him for giving you food and shelter and family. Ask him to keep providing for you. Tell him you can't do it without him. Ask him to do it with you. Praise him for his inestimable love in the redemption of the world through our Lord Jesus Christ. Sing hymns to him through the day. Call him "Father" as you lay down to sleep at night. Mother of twins, of one, of more, of none, God alone can sustain you through this life.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, April 11, 2008

nursing twins

It's like a light switched on. In the past 24 hours or so, the girls have figured out how to latch and suck and (most of all) STAY latched on.

So now I'm nursing twins. I think. If there isn't any regressing.

I'm trying not to panic.

This is what I've wanted for the past two months, to have both baby girls happy, able nurslings, and now I'm scared. What if I can't make enough milk? What if they're not getting enough? How will I know without checking the bottles afterwards to see that the milk level that was at 5 ounces is now at 2 1/2?

Weird, right?

I'm constantly amazed at my ability to catastrophize. Especially after this year, which has taught me how God can take care of me and mine through situations I would never have dreamed up, let alone seen the way through.

God is good. I await seeing Him work here too.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Nightly Nap and Nights at the Movies

You'd think that you wouldn't get a lot of time together with your husband with newborn twins in the house. But Adam and I have found that we have a nightly date, of sorts, and that it's more enjoyable than we might have imagined.

After some trial and error, we've come up with a rather good system for getting the twins through the night with enough food and us through the night with enough sleep.

We put our older two down at 8 p.m., and then try to get to sleep ourselves as soon after this as possible. We've made it around 8:15 a couple of times, but usually it's more like 9.

We call the sleep that follows our "nap". As in "we're not really expecting to sleep much, we'll take what we can get, and bedtime is really a few hours away." Low expectations are key.

When the girls wake up again - anytime from ten minutes to three hours after we lay down - we get up together and do a major feed/change/pump/feed again/swaddle routine. It takes about an hour. During this time, we've been watching movies. Usually we'll watch the first half one night and the second half the next.

And you know what? It's pretty pleasant.

Then we head back to bed, after having determined who's on first shift and who's on second. (We basically split the rest of the night into two halves, and one of us gets up with the girls when they need it the first half, and the other gets up with them the second half. That way we each get a few unbroken hours of sleep, which I hear is good for your mental health.)

So, movies. We've been watching a few. And I'm beginning to appreciate them a little more as an actual art form. I'm afraid I'm the sort of person who's long looked at movies and tv shows as second-rate art - way, way, way behind the written word. And my bias is still towards books over movies. But it's like the common "women-are-weaker-than-men" statement. Yes, most women are weaker physically than most men. But the exceptions are legion. And, likewise, there are a lot of movies that are better than a lot of books.

I'm also beginning to be really impressed with how many different things have to be done well for a movie to be even remotely good. And impressed at how often that happens. I mean, if the music's bad, it ruins the movie. If the cinematography's bad, it ruins the movie. If the acting's bad, it ruins the movie. If the writing's bad, it ruins the movie. With all these potential weaknesses, it's impressive that there are so many watchable films, where maybe not all the elements are stellar, but enough of them are good that you have a decent film.

I read an article recently that made an argument that film is the art form of our time, and that it's wise for Christians to be conversant in it, aware of it. I'm not completely sure how far I'd follow that (I think there's an argument to be made that if you have to actually do a sinful thing to act like you're doing a sinful thing, then you are sinning. E.g., you don't have to actually kill someone to act like you're killing someone, so it's probably okay to for an actor to portray a murderer, however you do actually have to touch the breast of a woman who's not your wife to act like you're touching the breast of a woman who's not your wife, so aren't you really sinning there? And if it's a sin for you to do it, is it possible that it's sinful for me to watch it? You could argue against it, but I think the possibility has to at least be considered), but I think I do agree that film (or possibly television or blogs) is the art form of our time. And I'm enjoying watching a few more movies than I usually do.

Two recent ones we enjoyed: Thank You For Smoking and The Darjeeling Limited. Here's my limited endorsement: they both made me laugh, they're both thought-provoking, and I'd like to see them both again, if only to add the thought-provoking process along a little bit. Oh, and the second one is really, truly visually gorgeous. (The second one also, inadvertantly, showed me what I now plan to do if I ever happen to be in a Hindu temple. I'll go ahead and just pray to Jesus and then cross myself. Of course!)

So, anything y'all would recommend we add to our library requests as we continue our midnight dates?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, April 7, 2008

Plans for Pentecost

I don't know if we'll climb a hill for Ascension Day again (it's on May 1 this year, folks), though I hope so. It'll have to be a smaller one since we'll be hauling four kids up instead of just two. But I am looking forward to celebrating Pentecost. Given the fact that someone or other from our family was in the hospital from January 1 to March 3, we didn't get much of a chance to celebrate Christmas, Epiphany, Lent or Easter. Man.

So, I'm getting excited about Pentecost. I'm not sure what all we'll end up doing, but the two things I'm planning on now revolve around the dinner table.

1) Table decoration: there's a tradition of sprinkling your table with red rose petals on Pentecost, to represent the flames of fire that descended on the discples. I think this will be both beautiful and a be a good way to spark a conversation about the Holy Spirit with my older two children. Plus? It will be easy enough for my sleep-deprived self to accomplish. (The other traditional table decoration is to hang birds above your table, to remember the descent of the Holy Spirit. I'm not sure I'll manage this one this year, but I kind of like the idea of slowly building a collection of wooden birds for the purpose. Why only have Christmas ornaments? Why not Pentecost ornaments?)

2) Spicy food: there's also a tradition of eating spicy food on Pentecost, again to represent the flames of fire. I do run into a problem here: the last time I served chili, my daughter informed me, in a tearful voice, "Mom, I am not a spicy person." So, maybe I'll make a curry for my husband and I and pbj for the little ones. Or maybe have cinnamon hearts for dessert? I don't think the kiddoes would object too much to a sweet spicy.

Both of these traditions give a good opportunity to remember the presence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, and to contemplate God's great gift of salvation and sanctification. Where would we be without the presence of God's very own self in our lives to help us obey, pray and love?

I don't know if it's a good analogy (I'll have to think about it a little longer) but I wonder if you could say that as the kingdom of heaven is like the little bit of leaven that leavens the whole loaf, the Holy Spirit is like the garam marsala that spices the whole curry? All of our lives have a flavor and savor of Christ solely because his spirit is present in us, by his good grace.

Anyway, that's what I'm thinking about in regards to the upcoming holiday. Anyone else have Pentecost plans?

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell