Red Vine Spirituality

Taylor K. Arthur balances Bipolar 1 Disorder, marriage, and motherhood with a nitty-gritty faith inspiring a twisted, blissful life.

Category: Nitty Gritty Mama (page 1 of 6)

What No One Tells You At Your Baby Shower

Motherhood keeps surprising me. I just relaxed into the routine of summer with kids home full-time lolly gaggin’ around the house and whining bored. I just settled into morning snuggles and afternoon swims, grilled dinners on paper plates after the sun sets to our backs. Now it’s over. And this turning of the seasons from green grass to golden leaves always stings me just a bit. Why? It’s more than just summer being ended or school beginning; a whole season has packed up and left me. We’ve phased in seasons from summer to fall, but as a family, from babies to big boys. And this mama stares change in the face again, to find her way into a new season, to swim the current of motherhood’s phasing. Continue reading

For your Noah days

This afternoon, driving Abraham home from school, I plow through bouts of rain and breaking sun and brake lights and ask the usual, “So who spoke at chapel today?” and “How was your teacher? Were all the kids good?” He chomps down the rest of his lunch and reluctantly doles out snippets of his day. Continue reading

Why I tell my kids I’m sorry

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV

It was 11:30 at night, and I was deeply asleep. All of a sudden I heard, like a tickle I couldn’t ignore, “Mama? Mama?”

It was quiet and harmless at first, but slowly a little voice calling my name pulled me from my cozy slumber, out of my bed, and down the hallway toward the boy’s room.

The source of the tickle was Samuel, laying sideways in his bottom bunk with one leg propped up on the bunk bed ladder, lounging as if he were sitting next to a pool instead of systematically waking his family up in the middle of the night.

Let me just say: I was already perturbed.
Continue reading

Tardy Artys

Better a patient person than a warrior,
 one with self-control than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Two falls ago, when Abraham began preschool, I went through—what shall we call it?—a Momzilla season. I was obsessed with the idea that I was going to be the perfect preschool mom: on time, makeup on, every single morning. I wanted to make my family proud, proving to everyone I encountered in this new environment that I was a fabulous mom. And, because of that silly little thought stuck in my head, I behaved differently toward my sweet little flibbertygibbit preschooler than I would have otherwise.

Abraham has never cared about food. When he was an infant, I had to wring ice cold water over him to wake him up enough to keep nursing. He has always barely hovered at 5th percentile on the growth chart, with his little ribs sticking out, despite my Ma Ingalls efforts to feed him homemade, organic, whole foods slathered in butter and olive oil. Throughout his babyhood, I often left the doctor’s office crying, after rattling off my list of “good mom” reasons he should not be so little, wondering why my home-made purees and breast feeding didn’t seem to be growing him any faster. The words Failure to thrive haunted me. So, every meal his entire life has consisted of some kind of negotiation or battle. Every meal.

Of course, beginning preschool brought a new stress into the breakfast negotiations because we were on a set timeline for the first time in his life. And yet, this free little spirit still acted as he always had, twirling on his bench even though I told him ten times a meal not to twirl because he often fell off and hurt himself, playing with his food, talking to his brother who chortled at everything he did. . . everything but eat!!!! And I started out patient. But, when the child began eating at 7:30 am and had barely made a dent in his oatmeal one hour later, I started to panic. And, then, Momzilla emerged.

I lost my pleases and thank-you’s and the low, kind voice I greeted him with every morning. I entertained fantasies of shoving his mouth full of oatmeal. I took deep breaths and asked God to help me not let it come to that. I spoke louder. He still sat on his bench, looking at me like “there she goes again . . .” The baby laughed, thinking it was all a new breakfast joke routine. 8:31. There were only fourteen more minutes left until we had to leave, fourteen more minutes to change a flibbertygibbit, who would now be uncooperative because, alas, he did not eat his breakfast. And, how could I unleash an unbreakfasted child on those sweet preschool teachers? He would turn on them–for sure–after being awake for hours and eating nothing substantial. We would be known as the late family, ushering the last preschooler through an already closed door. The teachers would frown, labeling the Arthurs the problem family of three-year-old Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I would be known as that mom who could never get her kid to school on time. That mom. As if by accident, I became so worked up over the idea of Abraham getting in trouble at preschool and me being that mom that I found myself screaming: “Get on your clothes! Sit still! We’re late!”

As I was losing my mind that morning, screaming, wondering when my own head was going to start spinning around in a 360 degree demonic fashion, a thought struck me: this has nothing to do with what’s happening right now.

I stopped. I looked at their little, shocked faces, trying to figure out why their sweet Mama had turned into a raging lunatic.

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And I asked myself this:

Why are you doing this? Why are you so worked up? Five years from now, who will remember this morning?

Funny thing: I know five years from now, it will be a miracle if his preschool teachers will be able to remember our names if we bump into them in a different context. Five years from now, I will not remember this morning. But five years from now, their character and spirits will reflect the choices I make today. The choice to be patient, to be late instead of raging, to be kind instead of having my makeup on, will reflect in who they are as people.

When I forget that loving these little faces is my most important job in this moment, that my actions toward them should not be reflective of my past frustrations or my future fears, I allow love to transcend everything else. Maybe my kid’s a slow eater. Maybe we’re late a lot. But really? In the big scheme of things? Who cares?

He’s fabulous in a million ways. He’s the most miraculous piece of Rainbow I’ve ever known. I choose to love him, to be patient with him, even as I am ever trying to find new ways to make him eat faster. And guess what? Two years later, he can just now eat his dinner in one half an hour. Progress, people: slow and steady.

So, I don’t know if your kid eats like a turtle or screams endlessly (we went through that) or hits every other kid smaller than him at every party you go to (yup, we’ve done that, too). And if you’re like me at all, I know how it feels to want to crawl under the carpet and hide as you assure all the other parents that screaming/throwing food or tantrums/hitting other kids is not acceptable in your family and won’t be tolerated and you’re sooooo sorry that your kid just pooped on their carpet (yup). But in the end, that face will matter long after that party full of people’s opinions. And that face will remember and reflect my behavior for the rest of his life.

As for this failing and sometimes still screaming Mama, I would rather my family say that I was patient than punctual. I would rather them know love than all the worldly success of those kids I never understood that win the “no tardiness” award at the end of the school year.

May we be the Tardy Artys, patiently and kindly standing in line at the school office waiting for our late slips. May I ever choose to exchange my fear, pride, and anger for a child grown in love.

Trying, reaching, ever-failing and exulting in God’s grace,

Taylor

When you’re drowning in laundry . . . or life

I had been folding laundry for days.

We had just returned from taking the boys camping this summer, and I was exhausted. Because of the burn ban (when is the last time you remember not being able to have a campfire in Washington state? Really?), we changed reservations at the last-minute and headed to the Oregon coast. We set up and took down three sites in a matter of eight days. Yes, you read that right. I should have known it would be a hard week when we were pulling out of the driveway, and this was all the kids could muster:

And even though there was a burn ban on, even though I already wanted to go home early, even though the Pacific Northwest is in the middle of a drought, it rained while we were camping at the beach. Yes, in this streak of scorched earth, drought, and burn bans we Seattleites have no clue what to do with? The rain did find us at the beach.

Everything: every pillow, sleeping bag, and piece of clothing we had packed needed to be washed.

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With my medium-sized washing machine, that took four days. I’m still folding.

We did have some fun. We walked with the kids as they rode their bikes, spent time at the beach, climbed trees, and went on rides. There were campfires and even some really good dinners.

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I came home so tired I could barely speak, and the laundry just seemed to be a dirty joke. Literally. So dirty.

But, last night, as the boys were moaning about carrying more clothes and pillows up the stairs, as I felt that I would drown in my family’s laundry once and for all, a tiny realization caught a hold of me.

I kept tearing up at this stack of new clothes that arrived in the mail while we were gone, that I had washed clean and folded for the school year.

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Do you know what is so amazing about this stack of clothes?
Do you know what made my heart swell and my eyes brim?

This simple thought:

I bought these clothes a size too big because I know he’ll grow into them.

As I folded that little stack of new slacks and polos, I marveled at my audacity and certainty. I marvelled at my own HOPE.

Hope from this mother whose first baby was lost because he didn’t grow.

This mother who crammed protein smoothies and ding dongs down her throat (the good fats and the bad, right?) during her second pregnancy to ensure this baby would grow.

This mother who pumped every bottle full of breast milk her heart baby drank, just to fill it with a serving of formula, to make sure he would grow.

This mother who has laced every ounce of home-made, antibiotic- and hormone-free food she’s fed her children with organic butter and olive oil to help them grow.

This mother who sat in her car after well baby check-ups and cried year after year because her babies were always at the bottom of the growth chart, no matter how she tried to make them grow.

Now, that mother buys clothes a half-size up BECAUSE SHE’S SURE THEY’LL GROW.

Now, that mother swims in laundry and legos and teaches little boys how to fold laundry and put it away.

That monstrous fear, this nagging itch at the back of my heart has slowly given way to certain hope.

Where did that hope come from, Lord? that certainty that used to be so fear-haunted, so timid, so human and frail?

I am beginning to understand Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-5:

. . . We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

God’s love has been poured out into our hearts. His love. And through our struggles, our dark days when we don’t possibly see how olive oil-infused, homemade, organic food can be any kind of weapon against our deepest, darkest fears, we persevere.

Whatever little perseverance you can manage to drum up today, He will use it.

And He will pour, pour, pour more into you.

Friends, we are all scarred by life’s heart breaks. We all have wounds that masquerade as fears.

Here is the truth you can take home today:

Hope can be born in the midst of this very moment’s struggle.

In Him, through Him, your suffering can be transformed and become perseverance and become character and BECOME HOPE.

What hopeful act can you muster today in the face of your fears?

How can the Holy Spirit pour into you today?

What is the fear, pain, or struggle tripping you up today that will be your stack of laundry, your audacious hope tomorrow?

Thank you, Lord, for that little stack of hope.

Thank you for pouring your love right into us.

And thank you for helping me survive all of that laundry.

Amen!

Taylor

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