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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Some Mal Anecdotes

Gosh, Mal is still nursing a lot. So that hasn't changed. But you know what? He IS growing up. Here are a couple of cute stories from the past few days:

Two nights ago, Mal was watching his videos and started shaking his head. I thought it was because he wanted a different song, so I was looking for another one. He shook his head again, closed the laptop, latched on, and nursed himself to sleep.

Yesterday, I was making dinner and Mal had pulled out some of the dishes. He was clanking around in the living room, and I was going to ask him to stop smacking glass together, but first I looked around the bar to see what he was doing. He was skiing around the living room with each foot in one of our two Pyrex loaf pans.

Also yesterday, Mal had gotten his dad's battery-operated metronome. It's been in storage a long time, and is on the verge of dying. It kept slowing down and shutting off, so I opened up the battery casing and found that the battery expired in 2005, and that it was a 9-volt, which we don't have sitting around here. I told Mal, "It's not working; it needs a battery, and we don't have this kind of battery, so it's like it's broken right now. We'll fix it, though." Mal walked over and opened a drawer. I thought he was looking for batteries, so reminded him that we don't have 9Vs. Instead, though, he pulled out the packing tape and brought it to me, I guess because that's how we "fix" most of his things (books).

Mal is singing when he plays his ukulele, he talks on his plastic phone a lot, and he reads to himself. Suffice it to say, he sounds completely ridiculous when he does any of these things (except the singing is actually kind of cute), and it makes me feel self-conscious about how I must sound doing those things if that is how he thinks I sound.

He knows that there is a giant dish of Jolly Ranchers up at the apartment office, which is approximately 1/4 mile from our place. Any time we're outside, he either signs "eat" (he adds a smacking with it, and it's precious!) or "water" (which he signs like "mother" for now) -- because of the pool -- and takes off up the hill. We seriously walk up to the office every single day... for a Jolly Rancher. I think the staff is sick of us, but they're about to raise our rent by $100 a month, so we're going to take them for all of the penny candy, Starbucks coffee, and mandarin oranges we can.

It's been too cool to swim -- for us adults -- but Mal always wants to play around and maybe in the pool. Yesterday, I told him we couldn't get in but could put our feet in, and sat him down first on my lap at the steps of the pool, then let him sit on the concrete himself with just his shins-down in the water and my arm around him. He seemed to enjoy kicking for about ten minutes, then was ready to go. Hope that takes care of things, because I get really stressed when he makes a bee-line for the main part of the pool. He totally doesn't get that it's deep, he can't swim, etc.

There is more... Always more. But I think he's waking from his nap. So this is going live now!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A spiritual crossroads?

The other day, Mal wanted to do the Bible App for Kids, a great program from YouVersion and Life.Church. As we were going through the story-- I think maybe it was David and Goliath? Anyway, whatever it was, I was thinking, "When D was this age, we were already doing Bible stories every night..." When Mal was little, I read through the Jesus Storybook Bible (one, if not the best, of the Gospel stories EVER) two or three times; now he's too impatient to sit through a whole "chapter," so the app is about the only Bible he gets, unless he's paying attention in church, which he does not appear to do unless there's music or communion.

Anyway, while I was considering all of this, a few things crossed my mind: 1) With all of my intentional and careful input, Daphne couldn't care less about church and maybe God and spiritual things right now (or maybe she could, but just doesn't discuss it with me). On the one hand, I get it: I wasn't extremely interested when I was her age. The main difference is that it wasn't an option not to participate in church. Daphne probably thought so, too, until I cut her loose. 2) How much of the Bible do I want to expose Mal to as a youngster? I mean, what do I think it's important for him to understand and believe? Which led me to the million dollar question: How much of it do I understand and believe?

Over the past ten years, many of what I would say were my "foundational" beliefs have changed. That was after they'd changed drastically, becoming much more fundamental, probably fifteen years ago. For example, when D was born, it was very important to me: that there was a literal 7-day creation that happened within the past ten-thousand years, that homosexuality was wrong (but God love 'em!), that the Bible was wholly inerrent, that husbands were in a benevolent hierarchy over their wives (and with good reason), and that scripture interpreted scripture so that the whole Bible was understandable on its own, with no outside cues or context.

I don't know exactly when this started unraveling, but all I know is that when a friend of mine posted a "proof dinosaurs roamed the earth with man" conference the other day, I just sighed and thought, "Who cares?" I mean, ten years ago, I would have gone. I would have been so excited and interested. "Billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water all over the earth" and all that. Now, I just feel like God has more on our plates for us, here in the world, than convincing ourselves (the ones who allegedly believe in the Bible) that the Bible is correct. I love science. I believe that all scientific truth is God's because he designed everything. But I don't see anymore how it's necessary that the flood was worldwide to continue believing in God.

And there's another thing: The flood. Awful. It's difficult for me to live with this near-complete destruction of humanity as coming from a loving Creator God, and I start to wonder if people are right that we borrowed the flood story from other cultures, and that it's been tweaked to be a morality play, enticing us to believe or else.

I really toed the Beth Moore line of "If there's something that seems off when we read the Bible, there must be something else going on underneath that, because God doesn't ever do the wrong thing." That's a paraphrase, and she said it about the guy who died when he tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant with his bare hands. But now... I think it was Daphne who really opened my eyes to this, actually. She asked me once about the Egyptian first-borns who died. She had tears in her eyes, and asked how God could kill innocents like that. I explained that he'd warned the Pharaoh, and tried to make her understand that sometimes people pay the price for immoral leaders, parents, etc. But she was insistent that God could have freed his people any way he wanted to. He didn't have to murder children to make a point. And as I thought about it, I could understand her anger.

This doesn't sound like the loving, caring Father I want to know and worship and have as a deity. I have come to want to believe that this was also a story people put in to serve their own purposes. That's manipulative, but it seems better than the alternative to me.

And I get it, I've even said it: God doesn't have to explain his actions to anyone; He's God. But if he's a God who routinely wipes people out, including little kids, is that someone I can sincerely trust and respect? If the Bible is inerrent and tells everything exactly as it is, then God not only allowed but commanded his people to commit genocide, kill the wives and children of criminals, and keep some foreign women as spoils of war, in order to rape and maybe marry them against their wills.

These are things that have always been in the Bible, and when, say, my daughter was younger and asked about them, I had answers. Things like, "God is God and he's holy, and so the things he does are holy, even if we don't understand them with our finite brains." But that just feels like garbage to me now.

Another thing I've heard, and probably said, was that the times were much more brutal back then and God's law and ways still showed more restraint and were more humane than the barbaric culture of the day. Well, humans might have evolved since then, but my God, the one I believe in and want to believe in, doesn't change. I can't believe that the Lord I serve was at any point and for any reason less ethical than the Geneva Convention.

A few years ago, I read this article by Zack Hunt, formerly of American Jesus, I guess now he just uses his own name to blog. It's on how the Bible isn't perfect and doesn't have to be. You can read that if you want; it really stuck with me and I've thought about it ever since. I feel like most analogies break down at some point, so comparing the word of God to the word of his mom might not work for you, but overall, I thought this was very respectful and well thought-out.

There are a lot of Christians who will say that you either take the Bible as it is, or don't take it and, honestly, I'm at a point in my life where if those are the only two choices, I have to leave it. I can't explain why this didn't hit me sooner, but I can't serve a master who would allow anyone to throw rocks at their own child until that child was dead, much less prescribe it.

I have to believe that there are portions of the Bible that the authors put in there, and I can give them the benefit of the doubt in saying maybe even with all the best intentions, maybe even thinking that they were speaking for God... but they can't have been. Not the God I talk to. Not the God who loves me and whose Holy Spirit indwells me and tells me (as Jesus did) that things like murder, retaliation, and abuse of authority are wrong, while forgiveness and love are right.

I think that when I married an unbeliever, some people worried that my faith might suffer. But I'm going to be honest with you: my husband is supportive of my faith as a valuable and inseparable part of who I am. Do you know what has caused me to rethink so much of this stuff lately? It's the very vocal and visible "Christian" response to many social and political items of the day. I see mocking and anger and suspicion and hatred coming from people who are supposed to be known for our love (at least according to that pesky New Testament).

The fact that I don't like their means is one thing, but then I started realizing that I didn't really like what they were saying. I don't agree with a lot of the things they say that are based on the Scriptures, or their interpretation of the scriptures. I don't appreciate the way that a lot of "us" parent our children. I chafe against the way "we" stand up for our rights, when I don't see any new covenant example of that at all.

We can't all be right about what the Bible means. Maybe I'm wrong and those people up there have it right. If so, I can't and won't be a part of that belief system.

It's funny; at first, I wondered whether I was having a crisis of faith, but even as I was ruminating on that, I found myself praying a lot during the night as I woke up, or during the day as I thought about people. I am confident that there is a God. I believe that the Bible is important, and has much to say about who God is, and why we're here. But there are things, mostly from the Old Testament, but really even some things in the New, that I think just don't apply across the board to everyone's lives the way that the "one another" commands do.

If you want to get really specific, I'll tell you a couple of them right now: I'm not a complementarian; I'm an egalitarian. I believe there are numerous valid, God-honoring reasons to get a divorce besides just sexual infidelity (though I get why he hates it; it's awful). I don't think homosexuality is a sin - and if you're going to ask me how I can believe that when it's in the Bible, just take whatever answer you'd give as to why you're okay with women dressing up fancy or not covering their heads in church or having short hair, or why you think it's okay for people to divorce if there is physical abuse or why you don't give to anyone who asks, or how you justify praying in public, or why single people seek out mates, or how you can say the Pledge of Allegiance, and assume my answer would be something along those lines. Even more, you can figure out why you're not a Calvinist if you're not, because a pragmatic reading of the entirety of Scriptures allows nothing else. Heck, guys, I might not even believe in Hell. I'm chewing on that one right now. This post has some good thoughts, and I actually have "Love Wins" on hold through the library at this very moment.

None of this is really earth-shattering, but I realize that parsing it out like this means that many people I love and admire will probably think now that I'm not truly a Christian. But I still *feel* like a Christ-follower, and know God understands where I am and where my heart is. Also, the more I come to grips with these thoughts and beliefs, the BIGGER God is to me.

So there you have it. Wading on, wrestling on...

Edited to add: Thanks for walking with me, and thanks for caring about me. If you're concerned, you can pray for me, but you don't need to contact me to give me other things to think about because, I promise, I've probably held the same kind of views in the past... things about the sovereignty of God; about how we, as ants, can't expect to understand a concept so big as God so we shouldn't try to shrink him by making him make sense to us; about how all of those horrible, violent stories are a picture of how awful sin is to God, etc. The fact is that I believe in Jesus, and the God he is and the God he represents. So for now, I need to reject anything that seems inconsistent with that. There's plenty of "bad news" to offset the good news of the Gospel without it.

Another thing I've thought a lot about lately is the verse about how, in the future, people will reject sound doctrine for whatever tickles their ears. We hear that, and we shake our heads sadly, and we assume that "those churches" or "that preacher" with "that congregation" is doing that. We never assume that we are the ones having our ears tickled. Like we think if we hear a convicting message and say, "That's a hard teaching, but yes... yes..." that means we're not just sinking in to an easy belief system. I want to do the hard work of wondering, "Is my faith a little too comfortable?" every once in a while, and then parse that out with my very understanding heavenly Father.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Transitioning from Shampoo, Part 1

My hair has been four to five inches longer than it is right now in the past, but for the most recent several years, I haven't been able to grow it out. As soon as I get some length, it's dead and I need to cut it off to keep my hair healthy.

Because of this, I decided to try to us zero hair product, aside from coloring every 6-8 weeks, and see if maybe that would help. There's a whole philosophy behind not using shampoo, and it's explained all over the internet, so I'm not going to do that here. There's a lot of good information, documentation, and an explanation of why on this lady's blog.

Like her, I decided I was going to try to use only water. I'm not ethically opposed to shampoo; if I wanted to clarify my hair, I'd just use shampoo. My experiment was to try to use only water and see if I could get my sebum production down to normal, and have that condition my hair. I decided to give it eight weeks and see what happened. We're just about half way through.

Four weeks ago, on March 21, I colored my hair and used coconut oil on the tips instead of the conditioner that came with the color. The reason I did this was that I knew the color had stripped my hair and I did not want to put product on top of it again. When you wash with just water, it can't strip the silicone or something, it's been a long time since I read it. Anyway, I wanted to start with clean hair.

The coconut oil was interesting. I think I used too much and it coated too much of my hair shaft. I should have just dabbed it onto the ends. As it was, we had some rare dry weather in Austin and my roots and associated hair had static electricity, but the ends did not. It was weird.

I waited two days then went in for a cut. I had her shampoo but not condition my hair, and put no product in it. Please excuse these pictures. I haven't really documented it except on Snapchat with my crappy phone camera. You know, toddlers and such.

Right after the cut.

I bought a boar bristle brush and made it two days before I felt like I needed to use that to try to coax some of the oils down from my scalp to the hair. It was fine. I could tell that there wasn't as much oil at the scalp. It actually wasn't as awful as I thought it would be, because usually, I have to wash my hair every other or every third day at the least.

Toward the end of the week, I started searching the internet for "dirty" hairstyles. I learned a couple of things: 1) The models in those tutorials have clean hair. 2) And/or, the models in those tutorials have thick hair. I found a couple that worked okay for me.

After that, I pretty much used the boar hair brush every day. I also got a bamboo comb.

On March 30, after a week, I did my first water wash. It was *SO MUCH WORSE* after I washed it! I think I didn't scrub at the scalp enough, and it was just clumpy and icky. Two days later, it started calming down a little bit. The third day, though, I used my "dry shampoo" for the first time: 1 part cocoa powder (since my hair's dark) and 1 part corn starch. It seemed to lift the roots a bit, so that was nice. Plus it smells gently of chocolate.

This was probably my favorite style. It was easy and looked fancy. I actually pulled out earrings, too.

Okay, so this next picture... I was illustrating the difference in thick hair and my fine hair. First, I took the picture with my phone's "real" (outward-facing) camera and, gosh, the quality is so much better! Anyway... Here's the tutorial that shows what it's supposed to look like. Here's what mine looked like.

It doesn't cover nearly as much scalp as the other picture. Because... I don't have *that* much hair.

For the second water wash, I "scritched" a LOT, and spent some time in the shower really scrubbing and trying to pull the oil through my hair. Oh, I'm also doing the last rinse in cold water, so... brr. This time, my husband was home, so I had time to blow dry the roots before we headed out on vacation.

Everyone says, "I can't even tell!" but I think that in this picture, you can totally tell. Of course, it was also the day before the third water wash.

Basically, now, my hair's not super oily, like I thought it might be. It's just different. And I don't like it. It feels like there's product in it, like if you sleep with conditioner in your hair for a good, deep condition. Only in this case, it feels like I didn't rinse it out. I brush my hair and it looks okay, though a little oily at the roots. Then later, it calms down at the roots but the next six to eight inches seems to glop together, and it makes little cracks and holes in my wig, if you know what I'm saying.

I am definitely going to give it eight weeks to see if the oil spreads all the way through and my scalp stops overproducing sebum, but if it is no better than it is today, I might go back to shampoo. Then again, I'll probably need to color it again around then and that should strip everything. Hopefully it won't send my scalp into overproduction again, or we'll have a vicious cycle I can only battle with soap.

Today, for the first time, I hot-rolled my hair. I haven't used these curlers since Mal was born, and it's literally 100% humidity, but at least it gave my hair a little lift.

The last time I washed was Friday morning, and so I'm still the better part of a week away from washing it again. Or "washing" it again. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming in a few weeks...

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Our Last-Minute Mini-Vacation to San Antonio

If you follow, you are aware that I am a planner! We actually had a conference planned for this weekend... until last weekend. Several things lead up to our deciding not to go, but that's not what's really important. What's important is that I found this awesome townhouse in Alamo Heights where we were able to stay for LESS than the little camping cabin where we were supposed to be staying.

So Thursday morning, we drove down. We stopped in Gruene first to have lunch at The Gristmill.

We loved the country store. James picked out a salsa, I got some amaretto honey pecan butter, and Daphne got a toy to share with the cats and a puzzle. Then we drove on to the snake farm where I'd taken Daphne about ten years ago. It's grown, but not too much. It was so nice to have some pretty up close and personal interactions with the animals. I think it's been D's favorite thing so far, and maybe all of ours. I will say that after about ten minutes in the snake houses, Mal was freaked out and ready to be outside.

We had a laid-back evening, and visited the Witte Museum yesterday. D straight-up saved a bird's life. It was little, and it was "stuck" on a rooftop garden area. She sat with it a long time because it was quite terrified of people being around. Eventually, it let D pick it up and once it was held up higher than the concrete walls, it could see the trees and flew up to one. It was a good 30-minute process. D is definitely the animal whisperer.

Mal liked everything. Like, he gets into something and never wants to stop ever. So there might have been some crying and fits and stuff, but eventually I got over it and acted like the mom again. I think James really enjoyed the Splendor of the Range exhibit.

After the museum, we walked over to Koi Kawa Japanese Restaurant for some sushi. We came "home" for a nap and to unwind a bit, then later got back out to Cheesy Jane's for dinner. Well, James had dinner. I just got a peanut butter and jelly malt. It was fabulous. Fun place, too.

We let Daphne have this morning "off" (read: she slept) while we took Mal to The DoSeum. Yeah, it was full of 0-10-year-olds and D would have hated it, but Mal LOVED it. We spent a good two and a half hours there, maybe longer, and Mal actually fell asleep nursing in this room that made it look (and sound) like you were under the ocean waters. 

We took our fate into our own hands and attempted lunch out immediately after that, and it turned out not too bad. We ate at The Pig Stand and had the obligatory pig sandwich, but we actually ADORED the patty melt even more. Mal had a blueberry corn dog (yeah), of which he ate little, with a scrambled egg - he devoured - and apple sauce. He napped long and hard when we got home.

Later, with Mal in the stroller, I walked to Whataburger to get breakfast/lunch for D, and otherwise, we've just had a quiet afternoon in. That's one reason it's nice to be in an apartment/house instead of a hotel. We can go outside and look for cats or walk around the yard. The neighborhood is cute, and everything is amped up for Fiesta. It makes me wish we were here next weekend to experience it... maybe. If it's like SXSW in Austin, maybe not. But it seems like a very neat celebration, and we're loving all of the decorations.

Tomorrow, we're going to try to get to the zoo. We're kind of winging it, which is both weird for a vacation involving me, but also necessary because our kid gets overstimulated very easily and needs some serious down time. The younger one, I mean. Well, and my husband. And the older kid needs *a lot* of down time.

Oh, and an update: In the past week or so, Mal has started trying to imitate words. He'll say "pizza" now ("dee-dah") and today mimicked my saying "Don't die!" when he was climbing on furniture. He just smiled and said, "Die!" over and over. Then later, in the bath, he noticed a mound of bubbles. When I said, "I see all of those bubbles!" he said, "bah-bah!" and did THAT over and over again, too. He also tried to say "muffin," which was "mah-mah" which almost sounds like "mama," which he will also say on occasion now. It's just all of a sudden that he has an interest in repeating sounds like that. Pretty fun, and he's super proud of himself.