Therapy Thoughts--The Holidays

Because "the holidays' have the potential to be such a wonderful, special, and, to many, deeply spiritual time, they are also ripe with the possibility of disappointment. This phenomenon is completely normal for all people, with or without children, with or without therapy schedules. Mental health professionals are very busy this time of year.

Compassionate, others-focused people seek to love, encourage, and serve everyone around them at this time of year and every day. If you'd like to be especially helpful to a child with extra challenges or special issues, be one of those people!  It is not unusual for people of all ages and backgrounds to behave poorly, have outbursts over seemingly small things, or have other behavioral or emotional problems with disproportionate intensity during the holidays. Even typical children can only take so much of disrupted routines, long car rides, people they see twice a year trying to hug them, out of the ordinary foods, the promise of gifts with hours, days, or week long wait periods. It's quite the load of cumulative disruption.

If you'd like to make this time of year as pleasant as possible for those around you, consider the ideas below.

1--If you seldom see a child, remember to be the adult in the relationship. Some kids may run to you with open arms. Others may run away. Babies may cry in your face. This is all normal. This is no commentary on your innate value or worth as a person. Say, "Hi!" and offer a high five. Don't be upset if the parent does not require a child to hug you. There's a lot of danger in the world today, so many parents will not put upon their child to agree to physical contact with an adult if they don't want it. Save yourself time and energy and let the parent worry about the child.

2--If you seldom see a child, abstain from dispensing advice or making judgments about parenting techniques. You may be a professional early childhood parenting consultant, but this child's parent has not sought your services. If you leave a holiday event with real concerns, then think about the best way to address those concerns at another time.  I can assure you that unless the child is in immediate physical danger, the holiday dinner table is never the time to bring up concerns you have about someone else's child. There is tomorrow and the rest of your life to offer your thoughts about other peoples' children's issues.

3--Don't comment on "how well" a child is doing in any area in the presence of the child. A person is more than the sum of his or her abilities. A child should not grow up hearing others assigning grades to their personal achievements, especially at family gatherings. This is especially pertinent for "therapy" kids. Even at a young age, they've caught on to the fact that others are monitoring, nay, obsessed with what they can and can't say, understand, do, etc.  Give them a day off. What if the holidays was the time at which your most recent job review was delivered? Would that be a fun, relaxing time for you?

4--Tell the parent or parents what a great job they're doing loving their child well...or don't tell them anything at all. They too would prefer to skip a Christmas Day job review.

Yes, parents should keep their kids under control, ideally even at holiday gatherings.  Set an example of how a kind, self-controlled adult conducts him or herself at holiday gatherings. Children are paying more attention than you'd believe.


Therapy Thoughts--"Every Child Is Different"

[Since I can't seem to stop "talking" on facebook this afternoon, it is obviously time to blog.]

I have taken care of a lot of children. And, before our lives collided with the world of therapy, evaluations, norms, and percentiles, I would have been the first to tell you loudly, convincingly, and aggressively that each child is vastly different from any other child. And, in a sense, I believe that no less now than I did then. However, in another sense, I see how that is only true in its proper nuances and setting. One of the main reasons I hear parents and doctors say that their chid does not need an evaluation for therapy "right now" is that "every child is different," and as a parent, I understand; but as a begrudging student of pediatric development, I must beg to differ.

Listen, this was me. So, if you see yourself or your doctor or your spouse or your parents in this line of reasoning please know that I'm not blasting you or any of them. But I do hope you'll read on. And maybe let yourself "go there" with me on this. If it's hard to do that, then you probably really should.

First, yes, every child is so different. Anyone who has spent any amount of time around more than one child will know this to be true. However--this is a big however--there are people who have spent their lives studying children. They've done this precisely because they are all so different. And these people, hundreds, no, thousands of them (so don't feel like you're putting all your eggs in one proverbial basket) study trends, averages, and probabilites. And, you know what they end up with? Lots of helpful information.

This information does not discount that each child is different. It is based on it. It uses averages and percentiles. It gives a broad look at what is developmentally appropriate at different ages--for all different kinds of children. You have to be careful not to tell yourself that all other kids might do it this way, but your kid, he or she is so smart or so clever or so independent or so laid back, that he or she does it differently, and that that is no need for concern.

If your baby or child really is coming up noticeably different when compared to averages, that is reason to be concerned. And here's why: the people making those evaluations and averages and percentiles are not stupid. They are not making money or getting any sort of kick back if your child is delayed or needs therapy. They work very hard to learn what type of things are cause for concern. They have written the evaluations to "catch" those babies and kids. And, look, no one wants to "catch" them to make you feel bad as a parent or to make them look bad as a child or to make your doctor look bad as a primary care doctor. They want to catch them so that they can help them.

They know that on average kids who go on to have no problems do specific things at specific age ranges--they sit, they say specific sounds, they connect interpersonally in specific ways--all, on average, around the same time developmentally. These are not indiscriminate "milestones" so that your pediatrician has something to talk to you about before your child receives specific immunizations at their "well-visit."

In America, kids go on to school around six. At six, they're supposed to be able to do certain things. If they weren't doing the things they were supposed to be doing at 18 months, it will be a problem at six. If they weren't saying the things most other kids are saying at two, it will create a problem at six.  So, even if your baby or child and you are getting along quite fine, thank you, whether or not they are meeting specific milestones, there are future reasons to pay attention to them developmentally now.

So, let's discuss. If your baby is coming up fairly "different" on many general milestones, are they "fine" and "ok" and "different--in the way that every child is different?" Well, yes and no. Yes, they're fine in that they are alive and have bodily health and caring parents. They're "ok" in that they are wonderful little creatures who are most likely very loved and love others in return. And if their whole life could be done in whatever "different" way they learn or prefer to operate, there would be nothing else to worry about. There's not a lot of pediatric speech, occupational, or physical therapy in nomadic communities or in poverty stricken countries or in countries where immediate nutrition is life or death.
But, presumably, your little one will go to kindergarten and will participate in some version of a k-12 American system. If so, then it is very, very worth helping them if or when they come up short developmentally compared to their peers. [I'm not saying it's not "worth" helping all children; but I'm arguing against a "wait and see" approach that is common in America and not compatible with the way school or life is set up here.]

If, after months and months or years and years of missed or late milestones, you continue to "wait and see," you are waiting out precisely the time at which their little brains are so ready and malleable to receive help.  Now, even the adult brain is neuroplastic to a degree; but we all know how quickly and amazingly babies and toddlers learn everything around them. Their brains are wired for learning NOW. What a bummer to "wait and see" through the first five years of their life if there is cause for concern. The earlier they receive therapy (if it's needed), the quicker and better the outcome.

So, to sum up, people study what's normal. Every child is different to a degree, but after that, you enter into "different" that is associated with developmental problems in the long run.

Lastly, I will tell you that unless you are a trained professional, you won't be able to tell the difference between quirky and different-enough-to-merit-a-little-intervention. You really won't. I'm as avid a researcher as you'll meet. I read scholarly articles, talked to SLP's, and I watched Evelyn very closely as her language developed. I did most everything short of going to school to be a speech pathologist. I watched her as she did some of the EXACT same "quirky" speech and language patterns and habits as her older brother Spencer who has apraxia. Honestly, it was a bit concerning. I had her evaluated, and her scores were completely within the normal range--while doing all sorts of quirky things Spencer had done at the exact same age. And, to be honest again, it was hard to rest in that evaluation. But, guess what? The evaluator was right. Her language is average (in a good way). She has no issues.

I don't mean to say that evaluators or evaluations can't sometimes be wrong. Spencer didn't qualify for speech therapy at two, and he really should have. The SLP wasn't good, and I was so sick throwing up for 20 weeks of a pregnancy that I didn't pushed her on his scores. I didn't point out other atypical patterns she may have missed. I didn't ask for a second opinion. Mistakes were made by all involved. But we were told to come back. And we did. And he was behind. So, it's not as if they just sent us on our way.  The evaluation showed enough of a "delay" to flag him. That's what they're designed to do. And, in that way, it "worked."

I ramble to say, please don't decide for yourself that your child is "fine" when he or she is not within the generally accepted developmental norms.

They very well may be fine--Evelyn was. Or, they may not be fine.

My father, a general surgeon, will NOT under any circumstances diagnose a sinus infection, or a rash, or depression, or the chicken pox. If it's not in his area of expertise, he defers to someone for whom it is. Yes, he's been taught all about those things. Yes, some of those diagnoses might even seem easier than diagnoses a surgeon makes all day every day (and night), so, the assumption might be that of course he'd know about those possibly "easier" things. But that's not the way it works. A teacher is a teacher, not an occupational therapist. A pediatrician is a pediatrician, and none of the ones I've met have a degree in speech pathology or physical therapy.  If they do, they probably aren't practicing as a general practitioner. A parent, no matter how many children they've had, no matter how much they know, is a parent. None of them are trained to evaluate for pediatric developmental pathology automatically by reproducing. And that's ok! It just means we all have to be humble enough to defer to another specialist--or two or eight--to get an idea about how our child is doing developmentally if there is cause for concern.

If your pediatrician is "not worried about it," that does not necessarily mean that you should not be worried about it. With all due respect, it's not the pediatrician's child.  Children have parents for a reason. And that reason is they need an adult who knows them intimately and cares for them paramountly to help them navigate life.  They can't do it for themselves.

Every child is different. And that's really true. And that's really great.  As parents, we must work to ensure that all of the differences help them to become the person they were created to be as opposed to letting the differences dictate what will become of the child. This is not about your child being the best reader or the best runner or the best anything; this about your child getting what he or she needs to develop neurologically and physically.  Timely development is imperative for healthy development.


Therapy Thoughts--Waiting Room Lessons

Today in the waiting room of "our" therapy clinic, I held my screaming almost-two year old and listened to one mom's story about her struggle to get her daughter proper medical care and therapy. As much as I could piece together her story, it sounded as if her daughter was in multi-system organ failure due to dehydration and malnutrition before she could convince anyone that she needed help. Evelyn screamed and kicked and this mom just went right on with her story. As soon as the therapist came out, though, she immediately stood up and went back to talk with her.

Another therapy mom-turned-friend came by and patted my shoulder as we briefly chatted before she had to run out the door to pick something up from her child's doctor for his school. We would be gone when she returned, but we confirmed we would both be there Thursday. Our new Fall schedule lends itself to a fun, thirty minute window where we look forward to overlapping in the waiting room.

A mom of four waited with her three daughters, all of whom were kind and patient as Evelyn bordered on invading their personal space. One mom I often see around town, came in with her son to pick up her little girl who'd had a great day at therapy. The mother of four and the one who came in with her son apparently know each other too. They chatted for a moment before respective therapists came out to discuss each child's progress.

Therapy mom's* can be a lot of things. Speaking for myself personally, we can be scattered, overwhelmed, frustrated, confused, guilty of over-sharing, and a little crazy. But they can also be more patient than other parents. They know all children are different and all are of infinite value. They are more able to find the bright side. An age appropriate temper tantrum because the child wants to do it herself--awesome! They are more prone to believe your story or your thoughts about your child, even if your thoughts sound unorthodox or unusual. They've been (or still are) there.

It struck me today, though, that therapy moms, possibly more than the general population of moms, need someone to listen to their story. To be honest, it was a little strange that someone would continue to tell her story while the listener's two year old decomposed. And it got me thinking how probably few real, compassionate listeners therapy moms have. I hear story after story of pediatricians who refused to give referrals for evaluations. I'm thankful that my experience has had no resemblance to that sad, reason-less trend. Grandparents can sometimes be overly confident that the child is "perfect" or overly concerned and, unfortunately, poorly equipped to communicate those concerns appropriately. Teachers can be over worked and overwhelmed to get through the day with an entire class full of children. They may not have time, energy, or resources to be a sounding board for a concerned parent.  And many women don't have many actual friends to listen to whatever happens to be going on in life, including your puzzle of a two year old for whom things don't appear to be completely typical.

So, just like we all need people with whom we can freely share our or our child's "story," those of us with slightly atypical stories probably experience the need to be heard, understood, and encouraged even more acutely.  And today, I noticed all of these moms doing whatever they can to help their child--at home, certainly, and at school, and at therapy--dropping everything and standing at attention when their child's therapist entered the waiting room. My kids can be screaming and running. It's possible I'm almost screaming at them to stop doing those things; but it doesn't really matter. The mom has zeroed in on her child's therapist, and she listens and explains and asks questions and hopes for answers. And while the questions and particulars might be extremely practical in nature; there is something so powerful about a good or bad report. Whether it be a yearly evaluation, a goal met, or just a really great day; the encouragement and hope it can bring is strangely powerful. And, unfortunately, the converse is true as well.

And, as all of this dawns on me; I suddenly feel sympathy for these therapists. Many of them would be considered "young" in the professional world, many of them do not have children of their own, many of them go above and beyond every day.  They are doing a great, life-changing thing, but they are not trained to walk moms through the "therapy" experience.  And they can't always know how well the parent is coping.  I'm not sure, but I don't think they take a class on that; although I'm sure under a good clinical instructor, it could certainly be touched upon and discussed as part of good "parent communication."

Suddenly, the therapist's job is not only to be magically capable of making extremely difficult and often repetitive work fun, engaging, and productive for the child, but it also falls to them to ensure whether or not the parent is living with realistic expectations, plugging into a support network, liaising with the appropriate doctors and specialists, and finding ways of dealing with these extra stresses in a constructive manner. That's to say nothing of the parents they encounter who still need help moving into a parent role where they can learn to make caring for their child a priority. How much of that could depend on any one professional, regardless of their educational background?

So, as I left the waiting room, having watched the dynamics of the afternoon; I realized how much pressure and anticipation I can unknowingly place on the poor, unsuspecting therapists who treat my child. Of course I expect them to do their job with excellence; but I want to make a conscious decision to maintain a diversified portfolio of people with whom I can connect, vent, or find support. And, by doing so, I hope to be able to bring encouragement to the waiting room both for the therapy moms and for the therapists.

*While there are certainly therapy dads who bring their children, work with therapists, and have, no doubt, their own stories to tell, I do not make it a habit of speaking with them at great length.



Children surprise you. They surprise you by surprising you. When you most expect a specific, predetermined outcome, they change up the ending on you. The ending you've watched eight thousand times. This is at once comforting and terrifying. It's comforting when they surprise you by growing up a year's worth seemingly over night. It's terrifying that you never know what they are capable of right under the surface of who they are day in and day out. That you don't expect great things from them because you've become accustomed to some other not as great things. How sad that you would spend their precious toddler and preschool years so focused on all the crazy of the day to day that you forget to equip, encourage, and instill for who they will become as opposed to who they currently are.

It's easy to forget because they have to eat--regularly! Many also do eventually learn to talk, clearly and constantly--even the ones with apraxia. In this country, at least, there's also the expected outings of childhood that are pretty much a requirement. Luckily, that's one of the things I thoroughly enjoy about raising my kidlets; but it sure puts a damper on house keeping....or cooking....or functioning in really any other capacity; there's a lot of day to day to juggle around, let alone attempting to visionarily raise them.

It's easy to forget because there are so many people whose job it appears is to encourage you to focus on the here and now. Well-meaning, loving people who each have their own very specific area of training, expertise, world-view, and sometimes, if we can all agree to call a spade a spade, opinions, about where, when, why, how, how often, to what extent, and with whom your child should be, go, learn, do, create, and grow. As a mom who considers her family to be her career as well as her calling, it's a lot to take in.  If it's your job to do right by them, then, of course you are not so arrogant as to think there are not others who know more about some things than you. So, you research and listen and question and, sometimes, almost forget.

It's easy to forget the people they will be, the people you've not yet had the pleasure of meeting. It's easy to forget no one else will be responsible for the outcome to the degree that you will be. It's easy to forget how you'd hoped this whole thing would go. Your own ideas and values, that you'd dreamed of living out in your calling to these small, becoming creatures who call you "Mommy." The people they will be exist positively in so much as I'm creating in them love, kindness, courage, and capability now.  Keeping those people-in-the-making in mind helps tune out the noise.

In the end, they'll surprise themselves too. They have no way of knowing what is happening each and every day under their own precious curls. They know songs, stories, family, and teachers. They know more than I'm proud to admit of "Max or Ruby," "Veggie Tales," "Daniel Tiger," and "Psalty." But they don't know that someday, in retrospect, the surprises might form a fairly clear trajectory; that today, yesterday, and last week are not all that is going on. Characters are being formed; synapses are being made; love is being shared. And, I'm hopeful that those things are preparing us all for great surprises.


All About Spencer and Evelyn's Daddy

Interview with Spencer
Father's Day 2013

How old is your daddy?  I don't know.  Four?

What color is your daddy's hair? Black.

What color are your daddy's eyes? I don't know. He's a worker. He's at work.

What kind of clothes does your daddy like to wear? His blue shirt and all the other clothes.

What does your daddy like to eat? Peanut butter banana sandwich.

Do you see him eat that? Uh huh. A few weeks ago.

Your daddy is smart because he knows everything!

Your daddy works hard at work, at his office.

Where is that? At church.

What does Daddy do at work? He has a horse to ride. He lays on a pillow and takes a nap. Is that correct?

If you could give your daddy anything, what would it be? Me!

What is your daddy's name? Jonathan

What is his last name? Kelley

Where does your daddy like to go? All over the whole wide world--and he can do anything!

For fun, he likes to play!  What do you guys play with? With my bristle blocks.

My favorite thing to do with my dad is play Daddy tag.

I love my dad because I play with him!

Interview with Evelyn
Father's Day 2012

How old is your daddy? Daddy! [Giggling]

What color is your daddy's hair? Daddy! [Giggling]

What color are your daddy's eyes? [Laughing hysterically]

What kind of clothes does Daddy wear? [Laughing hysterically]

Do you love Daddy? No! [Squealing and laughing]

Spencer: Mommy, I think you better ask Evie again.


Evelyn Rose As A 20 Month Old

Evie Roo, you still love to help, especially when it means we are leaving the house. You love to get dressed, get bags packed, and when I tell Spencer to get his shoes on, you often go get them before he does and start putting them on for him. He's starting to appreciate this set up, and smiles delightedly and tells you "Thanks, Evie!" Y'all are quite a pair.  You love to hi-ya!, sword fight, play chase, and build forts with him, but you also love you baby dolls and you try to diaper them, change their clothes, wrap them up in blankets, and take care of them.

At night, you love to be tucked in with a collection of goodies, including your pacifiers, blanket, pillow, cup, two of Spencer's stuffed dog Natalie got him from Ikea, your Owl from Nana, your Violet dog who plays night time songs, and your baby doll along with its cup, bottle, and paci.  When I put you in your crib, you lay your head down on your pillow, and then you want to be covered up with a blanket. You sometimes sleep in your big girl bed with no problem, but we're still working on getting you to sleep all night long, so we haven't switched you over yet.

Spencer finally convinced us to let you guys play in the hose in May. It was not very hot yet, and you were freezing; but you so wanted to be involved.  Even when you were shivering and turning purple, you would not let me wrap you up and carry you inside.  When you saw me taking your picture, you said, "Cheese" with Spencer.

You already really enjoy accessorizing. The picture above is an example of your current style. After I get you dressed, you tell me, "Bow?" and we find you a bow. I have to be really quick or you start picking out all sort of clippies and head bands, along with paci clips (which you think are an accessory), and once you've decided you want to wear something specific, we usually just go with it. You're not easily swayed. You don't like to wear a pony tail very much. Sometimes if we're busy enough you'll leave it in, but as soon as we get home or you get still in your car seat, you pull it out.

You miss Spencer when he is at gone, but you do like playing with his toys without harassment.

You still LOVE Barney, and you really singing songs and dancing or doing the motions.  You love "Mr. Sun," "Skin-A-Marinkee Dinky Dink," "Itsy Bitsy Spider," the "ABC Song," "Wheels On the Bus," and "If All the Rain Drops." Anything you can do motions to, you really love. You like it when I sing a song and let you fill in the last word to each phrase.  I pause and you sing the missing word while smiling really big.  You do not like for games, songs, or movies to be over.

When I got home from a quick trip to Savannah, you ran up to me and said, "Hold me!" After that you have had an expressive language explosion. It's so fun to hear your little voice sound like a big girl. Some of your favorite phrases are "Spencer, aaaaaare yoooooouuu?"  "T'Mon, Da--ee, sit here."  And "'Mon, Ma-ee" along with "Clean up."  

You did so well with your Dad, your Aunt Natalie, and our church friend Holly while I was gone. I missed you so much, but I was so proud of you. They said you didn't fuss at all at Sunday School, or with Nat or Holly. You're growing up so quickly.

Also, waiting for me to get home from Savannah was the stomach virus. You and Spencer both had it the night I arrived, but Daddy and I managed to miss this one.


19 Months

Evelyn, every month you surprise me with how smart you are. This past month, Gigi met us one time at the soccer field for Spencer's soccer practice. The next time we were walking out the door to go to soccer, you started asking for Gigi.  Instead of jumping to conclusions and thinking you actually remembered that she was there once and thinking that you for sure knew that we were going to soccer, I just thought that sometimes when we leave the house in the afternoon, it is to go to Gigi's house, and that is probably why you were asking for her. But, as soon as we got to the soccer fields, you started asking for her again. You don't miss a thing.

You are hilarious and you love to do what Spencer thinks is funny or cool.  You love to imitate his evil plan laugh, and you always use it in the perfect social context, i.e., if you sneak off to do or get something you know I don't want you to. If I catch you, you look at me and say, "Ah ah aaaaaaah!" with conviction and a giant smile. Then you run away as fast as your little waddle-y run will take you.

You have started saying, "Oooh, man!" whenever you are disappointed. You will say it to yourself if you drop something or can't get something to work right. You will say it to me, through tears, when I tell you "No," or that we're doing something you don't want to do. You say it with all different tones and intonations, but you always use it just perfectly for whatever the disappointment of the minute happens to be.

You still love Barney, and I'm ashamed to say that you've learned many, many age appropriate songs and motions to the songs from that purple dinosaur instead of your mom.  You love to sing and act out the song they sing at the end of every episode. It is so precious.

You still love your bottle. Why you couldn't have loved it at 8 months, I'll never really know; but you sure love it now.

You also still love your paci.

Second only to bottles and paci's are babies.  We have officially lost the baby doll you got for your birthday, and just today (at 20 months) you brought me its clothes and asked me for it. Nana gave it to you for your first birthday, and you may have to ask for a replacement baby for your second birthday. And I'll insist you leave it at home precisely because you love it so much.

You went with me to Spencer's Easter party, and you thoroughly enjoyed yourself. There seemed to be only months as opposed to years between you and the kids in his class. You loved it so much, in fact, that you persuaded your mom who planned on keeping you home at least one more year that you had to be signed up for Mother's Day Out this fall. Since you're a September birthday, you'll be almost two when it's time to start.

Your second Easter was so much fun. We went to Easter events all weekend, and you discovered that you love candy, particularly chocolate candy, but you even made your way through some Twizzlers in your car seat. It did seem to upset your tummy, though, so while I was happy to throw caution to the wind in light of our risen savior, I was also encouraged in how I usually feed you. Your tummy just doesn't know what to do with all that sugar.

In April, you saw the ocean for the first time, and when it was warm and sunny, you really had fun at the beach. You also loved staying in the condo with family, and you slept in a regular bed much better than you've been sleeping in your crib. You had a few rough nights of being awake too much, but you had a couple nights where you slept all night. Getting you to sleep was hard, and I finally had to just leave you in there screaming. I told you if you got out of bed you'd be "disciplined," and you bought it, "protested" for a bit, and then went to sleep every time--naps and bed time. I wish I had figured this out at the very beginning of the trip, but it was also great to see that you can sleep in a "big" bed whenever we need you to. We did take side rails for the bed, and those are definitely necessary for how actively you sleep, but all in all you did awesome.

You did not do as awesome the one night we tried to go out to dinner.  You didn't want to sit there, and you let that be known loudly and frantically. We got through it, and you liked your Gulf shrimp; but it was wild.

You had another cold this month, but you didn't develop any kind of secondary infection, so we were very thankful for that.

You're really enjoying your books these days, and you have more patience for something reading to you.

You love avocado, refried ones, and string cheese. You want every single thing on your tray that is on any other person's plate at the table. It's great in my book, because you are trying all sorts of food that is good for you.

You are really a Mommy's girl these days, but you love Spencer and your Dad so much too. You really keep me on my toes, and I so love watching you figure things out and ordering your little world as you see fit.


Enough Bad Theology: Death

I make few things about my life, interests, and beliefs secret.  I love to learn.  I love to teach, in as much as I love to tell the truth to those around me.  I try to be humble--to know what I know and what I don't know.  I left college knowing just how little I knew.

Epistemologically, many will disagree with me; but I'm not naive about what I believe or why I believe it.  I'm not afraid of disagreement; but I am discouraged when others disagree using poor logic, poor reasoning and an arrogant attitude.

My Facebook newsfeed never fails to shock me with how many people know the answer to all of life's great questions--without a shadow of a doubt.  Never mind those silly people who for millennia have pondered these sorts of questions.  What did they know?  People who literally dedicate their lives to study and, in the end, have learned a lot but feel there is much that remains uncertain.  Too bad they weren't on Facebook.  They could have had those questions cleared up in a matter of minutes.

I try not to "preach" what I believe in as much as that word has bad connotations.  However, there are some things that I think about for years and years.  Things that, if I could talk through with every single person I know, I would, because it is that important to understand if one is to live fully.

And here it is:  God doesn't want bad things to happen.  And God doesn't make bad things happen.

Now, this is filled with words that have to be defined but since this is in no way an academic exercise, I'm just going to throw a few things out there and get on with it.  By God, I mean the God who Christians believe revealed himself in the Old Testament and New Testament.  By "bad" I mean horrible, evil things, but in particular, I mean death. Death is the opposite of what the Bible says God is about.  If you care to know the God of the Bible, you'll have to go along with hearing what the Bible happens to say about him.  If you don't then there is really no need to keep reading.  I'm not mad at you, but you won't like how I "argue" the rest of this.

And that's ok, because I'm mainly typing to my evangelical friends here.  The ones that can look me in the eye and tell me that God wanted their baby to die or that God gave their brother cancer.  I hold that this thinking is built on bad exegesis and a bad understanding of who God is.  He makes beauty from ashes, but he calls them "ashes"--not things that look horrible to us dumb, unenlightened humans but are in some secret way a really great thing.

This is important not because Christians should split hairs with each other or because I need to be right about this; this is important because erroneous teaching along these lines is one of the major reasons Christianity sounds so horrible to non-Christians.  And, there is much about Christianity that will not be welcomed by a non-Christian; but if you are representing Christ, you're going to want to do that as truthfully as you can.  Poor representation is also called blasphemy, and worshipping your own poorly made representation is called idolatry--neither of which is the goal for the Christians I know who are seeking to fight the good fight.

One of my favorite discussions about this comes from Ben Witherington's "When A Daughter Dies," and I hope it's not illegal for me to retype some of it here, in quotes with credit to him, of course.  If it is, please let me know in the comments.

[I'm quoting this from my kindle which does not show page numbers]

From Chapter 1:  Was This God's Will?

"I was determined from day one after Christy's death to be open to whatever positive thing there might be to glean from this seeming tragedy.  I clung to the promise of Romans 8:28 that 'in all things God works for the good of those who love him.'
The first point that was immediately confirmed in my heart was theological: God did not do this to my child.  God is not the author of evil.  God does not terminate sweet lives with a pulmonary embolism.  Pulmonary embolisms are a result of the bent nature of this world. As Ann [his wife] kept repeating, 'God is not the problem; he is the solution.'
One primary reason I am not a Calvinist is that I do not believe in God's detailed control of all events. [. . .] Third, because Job's words, 'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away (1:21), do not express good theology! According to Job 1, it was not God but the Devil who took away Job's children, health, and wealth.  God allowed it to happen, but when Job says these words, as the rest of the story shows, he was not yet enlightened about the true source of his calamity and what God's will actually was for his life.  God's will for him was for good and not for harm. . .
As I stood before the casket and stared at our 'Christy girl'. . .I was so thankful that the God of the resurrection had a better plan for her. . .The phrase, 'It's all God's will' is likewise cold comfort. . .I believe in a God whose Yes! to life is louder than death's No! Death is not God's will.  On the contrary, God is in the trenches with us, fighting the very same evils we fight in this world--disease, suffering, sorrow, sin and death itself.  He cries with us!"

Given, there are many philosophers and theologians who disagree.  But, please, approach these matters with due humility and realism about yourself and your study.  Google the author.  He's studied the Bible a little bit.  That certainly does not make him infallible or right about everything, but it does make him worth considering.  More than anything, agree with this, disagree with this but think about what actions you ascribe to God--especially if those actions are the very thing Christians believe he came into the world to defeat--evil and death.

Disclaimer:  If I were writing a paper, this would be a VERY bad one.  I'm speaking conversationally and putting some thoughts "out there." This is in no way a comprehensive treatment of this issue.  It pinpoints one of my least favorite angles taken on this topic.

Homework:  how do songs we sing strengthen this misinterpretation of the verses in Job?


Evelyn at Eighteen Months

Evelyn Rose, you are one and a half years old!  You are so smart and so funny.  About two weeks ago it seemed as though you grew up three months' worth over night.  You woke up with little soft brown ringlets, more grown up expressions, more words, and even more opinions.

You had your well-visit March 22, 2013.  You weighed 23 lbs. 5 oz. (35th percentile), were 31.5 in. tall (46th percentile), and your head circumference was 18.5" (64th percentile).  Dr. Marin said your growth curve looked great.

You still love your paci, and you still want to be rocked with a bottle at night.  You can climb onto almost everything in the house.  You give the biggest hugs and the sweetest kisses.  You say, "huuuuuug" or "mmmmmwa."  I put a blanket on you in your carseat the other day, and you cuddled it up to your face and said, "soooooft."  You love music and dancing.  Your favorite songs right now are "Skinamarinky Dinky Dink" and "The ABC's."  You also love to watch Barney, and you want it on both televisions constantly.

You love your brother so much, and you were so excited when he started moving and playing around the house again after he had a stomach virus.  You had the virus before him, and you were such a big girl through the whole thing.  You're also enamored with your daddy.  You squeal with delight when he gets home, and you scream when he leaves in the morning.

Miss Holly from church took care of you and Spencer a few weeks ago, she was your first real babysitter, and you did so great as soon as your dad and I got out of the house.  She said you played so happily, and she was surprised at how much more talking you did at home than you do at church.  She  gave you your bottle at bedtime, and you fell asleep with her rocking you!

You are such a little helper.  This month, I told you I was going to do some laundry, and then I walked away.  You grabbed a pile of dirty clothes off the living room floor and carried it to the laundry room for me!  I may put you in charge of the laundry soon!

You have been eating lots of new foods lately that you haven't cared for up until now.  You have also continued to love refried beans and avocado.  The avocado seems to make your eczema on your fingers and face flare up pretty badly, but it's so good for you, so I've continued to feed it to you.

You may have regulated your little internal clock to sleeping all night without waking up.   You've done it three or four nights in a row for a couple of different times now.  It's certainly time to get that worked out!  [Edited March 22, 2013, you haven't slept through the night since then.  Bummer.]  You love your aunts, uncles, and grandparents so much, and you still love babies.  Whenever you get the chance, you take my computer, open it up and ask me to show you babies.  Sometimes, you'll settle for looking at dogs in books.  They are probably your second most loved thing right now.  You also get my phone and ask me to call "Na-nee" so she'll bring over the baby.

You let me put a pony tail holder in your hair last week while you ate a popsicle, and you left it alone until nap time.  That was by far the best you've ever done with a pony tail!

You love to play outside, and you love to play with Spencer's toys.  You get out every book you know of that has a picture of a baby in it, and you insist that I find the picture and talk to you about it.  You don't have a lot of patience for listening to books in their entirety right now.  You like to color, but you also put the crayons in your mouth, so it's still not a great activity for you.

Whenever you see me drinking something with ice in it, you ask for ice in your water cup.  You very deliberately walk to the freezer and say "ice, ice" while pointing inside your mouth.  Then, once I've put a piece in your cup, you walk off so proud of your big girl self.  You want to eat food in the exact form that Spencer, me, and your dad eat them in.  You will not eat your strawberries cut up, and you want them sitting on the napkin or paper towel that I used to dry them off, just like I serve them to Spencer.  If we have shredded lettuce on our nachos, you want shredded lettuce!  You want to do and say just what Spencer does and says.  You kept telling us "back!" one night, when you were leaving the room until we figured out that you were saying you would be "right back"--just like Spencer says when he runs out of the room.

The picture with you climbing onto the ice chest makes you look like a little ballerina doing her barre exercises.  I was impressed with your form!

You have a mouthful of teeth, most of which have been there a long time but have recently seemed to grow further down. You still have a few some molars missing.  Your eyes are the same exact hazel color they were the day you were born.  You hair is light brown, and it was even lighter after you spent a sunny morning outside at Benjamin's birthday party.  You still have faint tan lines from last summer even though you were constantly covered in sunscreen!  You're going to look like a little lake or beach baby for sure in just a few short months.


17 Months of Evelyn

You still love babies.  You point them out whenever you see one.   And, this month, you found a way to make your dollhouse a "baby" activity.  There is a little cradle in the dollhouse, and there is a baby that is made to fit into it, but I've never pointed it out to you or talked to you about it.  I walked into the living room, and you were saying "rock, rock...rock, rock" while rocking the dollhouse cradle.  I looked inside of it, and you had perfectly placed the little baby in the cradle.  You had a huge grin on your face and were obviously proud of yourself for playing with it "right."

You and Spencer were very sick for the last half of January and the beginning of February, but the plus side of that was you got to have your first popsicle.

Here you are doing your happy dance.  Oh, the deliciousness of a fruit popsicle!

Once you had your first popsicle, you have asked for them constantly.  You really don't like how cold they are, though, and you only "eat" them for a few minutes.

Now, whenever Spencer asks for a popsicle, you chime in with "Pop! Pop!"  When I say "No" you both scream at me in unison.  You call suckers "pop's" too.  You get a dum dum "pop" after I get my allergy shot; and you think you're pretty big stuff.

Here you are on a Sunday morning before church.

You didn't scream at me when I gently took out your paci, but you gave me this look, like, "How long am I supposed to sit here and act like that didn't bother me?"  

You enjoyed playing with your baby play mat when cousin Lucy was finished with it.  It made a nice breakfast table.  

You're wearing a romper that Gigi made for me.  You're such a little love.

Every afternoon around 3:30 you start asking for your daddy.  You love him so much.  You cling to him all morning while he's getting ready for work, and you usually throw a fit when he leaves.

You found one of my necklaces and just had to wear it--and then tangle it beyond recognition.  

Your Grandmother and Grandfather were sick some in January and February too, so they didn't come for a visit, but they sent valentine cards to you and Spencer, and you both enjoyed them.

That's yogurt on the side of your face.

You still like your electric toothbrush from your stocking.  "Brush my teeth, Mom!"

You and Spencer stayed with your Dad (and with your Nana and G-Dad when Daddy worked on Sunday) for four days while I went to Nashville to visit Hillary.  Ruby went with us and got all the attention for a change.

She ate, talked, slept, and pooped--to the point of needing baths.  We ate, talked, shopped, and watched tv--Vinsant Girl style.  It was a lot of fun, but by the third day I was missing you and Spencer so much!

We found some fun shops with cute kid clothes.  Ruby took a nap in her Moby wrap on me, proving that I have always been using it properly but never had a baby amenable to being worn.  

You and Spencer had tons of fun with your dad while I was gone.  He sent me pictures and texts so I could know y'all were doing good.

This is my favorite picture he sent me--you as the dragon and Spencer as the knight!

Don't worry, you have some girl-y costumes too; although now that I'm looking at this one more closely, it might be time to hand that one down to Ruby.  

As soon as I got home from Nashville, you, Daddy, and Spencer had a costumed sword fight.

You very much enjoy being right in the middle of things.

I got a few cuddles from my beautiful hazel-eyed girl too.

You don't shy away from physical confrontation.  Thankfully, your physical confrontations are always in good fun and closely monitored.

I peeked in the living room Valentine's Day morning, and this was what I saw.  I thought, "God did that just for me!"  I so enjoy watching you and Spencer become friends.

Jenny made you the sweetest shirt for Valentine's Day and you got to wear it to Spencer's school party, where you thoroughly enjoyed yourself.  He shared his cookies with you, you played with the baby dolls, and got a sucker out of the deal.  Spencer was beyond proud of you when we walked into his room.  He introduced you to everyone as "My little sister Evie" and talked about you the whole time.  I couldn't keep him interested in his "party" activities at all.  It was so sweet, and it took me completely by surprise.

Spencer loves you so much.  He asked to rock you for your nap the other day, and I let him.  He got in your glider, you laid down in his lap and drank your bottle, and he sang, "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves the Little Children" while I pushed the glider back and forth.  You were smiling up at him so big!  Neither of you would have been cool with this a year ago (when you were more the appropriate age for being rocked with a bottle, ha!).  We have these glimmers of peace and love more often these days which is such an encouragement.  You and Spencer are both such sweet, loving kids.

I couldn't hold out any longer--Gigi and I got you some cute new spring clothes.

The Monday I got home from Nashville, Miss Natalie and her little Audrey threw a fun Valentine's Day party.  I was afraid I wouldn't be home in time to take you; but I was, and it was so fun.  Natalie had everything that should be at a toddler / preschooler Valentine party, including treat sacks with hand made cards and no candy at all!  She's my hero.  Since your dad took off work that day to take care of you and Spencer until I got home, Spencer insisted that he come too--it was a family affair.

Here you are playing with Audrey's toys.  I hope you girls get to be friends like her mommy and I are friends.

You had a big month, little lady, and to top it all off, on February 20, 2012,  you said your name.

I think you've been attempting "Evelyn" for a couple of months when prompted, but it's hard for a baby to say that, making it harder for me to be sure you that's what you were saying.  I you would try to say it some, but I was never sure which times you did and which times you didn't. (Ha!)  You're still not the clearest talker.  However, we were looking in the mirror and talking, pointing, and I was saying our names, etc., and then, I told you to say "Evie."  You immediately said, "E-bie!" and smiled the biggest smile.  I cheered and clapped--I was so proud of you!  You do not say it very often, but every now and then I can talk you into saying "E-bie" again.  Way to go, E-bie!  Keep up the good work!