Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lily: A Birth Story

December 19, 2016 · 11:20 pm

Tiny Lily

“135 over 85,” said the nurse, as she removed the blood pressure cuff from my arm. I looked at her in surprise. I was 32 weeks into a perfectly planned, perfectly healthy pregnancy. I was 32 weeks into a pregnancy with perfect blood pressures of 115/70. That’s higher than normal, I thought to myself. Read More →

Lessons in Parenting #2: Putting Your Foot Down

December 3, 2012 · 5:24 pm

We’ve all heard plenty of advice from parenting books, weather we read them ourselves our had them quoted to us by some fanatic.   It seems like the holy grail of parenting advice is to be consistent.  I guess I thought it meant, “I am consistently not a push-over,” or “I am consistently the boss of you,” because I always associated that phrase with laying down ultimatums and putting my foot down.

I have since learned that the exact opposite is true.  If you want to be consistent (follow through on what you say,) then don’t ever put your foot down ever.  The reason for this is quite simple: In all likelihood, your child can put their foot down harder than you can.



You say, “Child, you are not getting up from that table until you finish your food.”  Now who is responsible to enforce that  ultimatum?  You are, you stupidhead poor lost soul.  If you want to be consistent you are going to have to make sure that your child stays at the table until they finish that food.  Should I tell you a secret? The child doesn’t want that food.  The child will not eat that food.  At 10:00 p.m. they will be asleep with their face in a pile of spaghetti, and you will have missed that precious hour you are supposed to have to yourself between putting the kids to bed and passing out from exhaustion.  (Thankfully, this exact scenario has yet to happen.) The battle is over and they’ve won, because you can’t teach anyone a lesson when they’re asleep.  Taking a hard line in other situations is often just as futile.  For example, saying, “Stop crying,” or, “Go to sleep,” in a firm tone of voice is successful approximately 0% of the time.

Next time, try saying something like: “Now I see you haven’t finished all of the food that I labored to put on your plate.  I’d like you to finish it, but I’m a reasonable human being.  Let’s negotiate. I’ll let you get off with two more bites if you promise not to wake up before 6 a.m.  Deal?”

In conclusion, try not to say anything you’ll later regret if your child turns out to have a stronger resolve than you do.  In most cases, putting your foot down really is going  to hurt you more than it hurts them.

Standing Up

July 1, 2012 · 6:30 am

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. -1 Corinthians 10:13

Yohannes and I had only been married for a few weeks.  We were just getting settled in our new house in Lancaster and I was trying to get caught up on Social Security and County Assistance applications for my clients at work.  Then, without any warning at all, my heart was ripped out of my body, shattered into a million pieces and scattered over the ocean.  It’s been four years, but there’s still an ugly scar  and all those pieces being pounded into sand on the shore of Costa Rica.

I struggled deeply with my faith after Matt died.  Each Sunday I would stare out the church windows toward the cemetery and the pain and bitterness would boil up inside me.  I couldn’t bring myself to forgive God for what he had taken away from us.  The weight of the loss was so heavy;  I didn’t feel like I could stand up under it.  

The next year, when Natnael Matthew was born, I waited for that deep, overwhelming love to wash over me — the love I had heard about and read about and dreamed about.  What overcame me instead was a devastating pain.  I knew the instant I saw him that if anything ever happened to him, I could never recover.  There is not a more vulnerable feeling in the world.

But in the last four years, I have had the privilege of watching Matt’s mother Deb walk through her loss with the most incredible grace.  I selfishly wanted to hoard my grief and bitterness, because I felt like my mourning was the last part of Matt that was uniquely mine.  But watching Deb has inspired me to move beyond that.  Instead of hanging on to bitterness, she chose treasure his life, and that’s what I want to do too.

After four years, I finally feel like I can stand up under it.  Sometimes I still get swept away by the magnitude of what we lost, but now I can find my balance again.  I choose to treasure the memories.

Dear Matthew,

I miss you.

Love, Esther

Easter morning at E-town Mennonite.

Back Yard

June 28, 2012 · 6:00 pm

Yohannes turned one of our garden boxes into a sandbox this year.  Best 700 lbs of sand he ever lugged into the back yard.  Nati is in heaven.

Happy boy.

Lily spent the morning hanging out on the quilt.

Happy Girl.

Things I like about the back yard include food and flowers, though I apparently know nothing about flowers.




Yellow flower?

Purple Flowers?

Blue flower?

Purple banana flowers?

When Nati finished in the sandbox, he ate raspberries and blueberries as fast as I could pick them.


Things I don’t like about the back yard include wasps, mosquitoes, and the spider that crawled across my sleeping baby’s head.  Also, we have a lot of glass and trash that has been worked into the soil in the past.

I don’t like you, Wasp.

Hello, cracked glass marble in our strawberry patch.

In other news, Lily sucked her thumb for the first time.  Should I be glad that she’s self-soothing, or nip the habit in the bud?  I sucked my thumb as a baby…and toddler…and elementary aged child…so I see how it could become a problem.

Sleepy girl.

DIY Playdough

June 26, 2012 · 7:24 pm

I recently had a breakthrough in homemaking where there was only one week’s worth of laundry left unfolded at a time.  Score.  Since then, my resolve has deteriorated and I’ve got two weeks worth of folding that’s starting to get mixed up with the dirty clothes, but I WILL PREVAIL. (I hope.)

During my short stint as a groundbreaking homemaker, I decided to try to move up to the next level: homemade stuff.  I decided to make homemade playdough from a recipe I found on Pinterest. What you need: 1 Cup Flour, 1/3 Cup of Salt, 2 tsps Cream of Tarter, 1 Cup Water, 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil, Food Coloring.

In case you don’t know what salt is.

 Mix together the dry ingredients.  Add the water, vegetable oil, and a few drops of food coloring (I added a lot).  Heat on medium for a couple of minutes until its about the consistency of…erm..playdough.

Why yes, I did scrub down my stove top in preparation for this shot. Thanks for noticing!

Let it cool down and then play! I was really pleased that it feels and smells like “real” playdough.  I would’ve gone for the taste test, but playdough doesn’t seem as appetizing now as it did when I was a kid.  The whole process probably took less than 10 minutes, and it’s a great use for all those yogurt containers I’ve been obsessively saving for no reason.

He asked me to make yellow next. I forgot an made red. Oops.

Just be aware, if you leave the blue playdough on the counter in the yogurt container, your husband might take a peep inside, think that some aggressive blue mold has annihilated his precious Greek yogurt, and throw it in the trash…and then dig it back out again later when you explain that it was homemade playdough.


June 23, 2012 · 7:45 am

When I was at boarding school in third grade, I made a friend on the playground one day.  I was swinging by myself on a marry-go-round swing that was meant to have two people, and he came over and said, “Do you want a friend to swing with you?” Immediately followed by, “Well, not a friend.”  This was the obvious thing to say, because 5th grade boys can’t very well be friends with 3rd grade girls.  So he swung with me and even asked if I wanted some of his crackers.

It was a rare movie night and while we were waiting for the movie to start we wondered from the playground toward the entrance of the building.  We were on the top of a small slope, and no one else was in the area.  Somehow, our not-a-friendship evolved to the point where he pushed me down the hill.  I laughed it off, and climbed back up, but when I got to the top, he just pushed me right back down again.  I climbed up again and again and again, and each time, he pushed me back down.

I was starting to get a weird feeling about this guy. He no longer seemed like a slightly taller version of my other playmates.  Actually, he was starting to seem huge.  Gigantic.  More along the lines of a very tall, extra-strength 5th grade beast that puny little 3rd graders would never have a hope of outrunning.

Just then, one of his friends rode up on a bike. My not-a-friend said, “Hey, check this out! Total wipe-out!” Then he proceeded to demonstrate how he could push me down the hill.  I don’t remember what his friend said, but it was something along the lines of, “That’s not cool.”  I am eternally grateful.

Needless to say, after that little incident, I avoided my not-a-friend like the plague.  If I saw him across campus, I turned around and walked in the other direction, and I almost never went anywhere by myself if I could help it.  One day I was running late after lunch and needed to go to my dorm before class.  I was about half way there when I came up behind that 5th grader walking with one of his teachers at a leisurely pace.  If I didn’t pass them, I would be late.  If I passed them, he would see me.

I debated back and forth for a few minutes, during which time, they seemed to walk slower and slower.  Finally I decided there was no way he would come after me if he was with a teacher and I speed-walked around them and up the path toward my dorm.  I hadn’t gone far when I heard him hurriedly excuse himself and walk after me.  I decided to play it cool, hoping he would just walk past, but when we were in a wooded area with no one around, he caught up to me and grabbed my arm.

What happened next was a bit of a blur.  It involved some vague threat from him, a vicious threat from me in return (something like, “me and all my friends will get you”), and my nails digging into the flesh of his arm.  I got away and ran as fast as I could back to my dorm.  He never bothered me again.

A few years later, some friends were talking about someone they knew in the U.S. who was being bullied at school.  I got up my courage and talked about the 5th grader who used to terrorize me.  They brushed it off as not “real” bullying, because I didn’t get bruises or anything.  I never talked about it again.

Have you ever seen a toddler with a cat?  They love that cat.  But they don’t really know how to play with it.  The cat gets its tail pulled and feel threatened and will hide under the couch for hours if it has to. I think that’s how it was with the 5th grader.  I don’t think he was a bad kid. I just don’t think he knew of an appropriate way to play with a 3rd grade girl.  I’m sure he didn’t think he was bullying me, and he might even have thought I was having fun too.

I certainly didn’t feel like a bully in middle school when I made fun of the girls who wore makeup and had older boyfriends.  I had a low self esteem and thought they were pretty.  Somehow, in my mind that added up to mean that they were beyond my reach.  That nothing I said could really hurt them, or even matter to them. So I bullied them without ever knowing that that was what I was doing.

When I was at Binns Park a few days ago with Nati and Lily, there was a wide range of kids there.  In particular, there was a young elementary-aged girl playing with a slightly older elementary-aged boy.  A little later, an emo tween boy came. It was obvious that the younger boy looked up to him.  Somehow, the interactions that followed led to the girl standing in front of them and yelling gleefully, “I have ADHD! I was born that way!”  The elementary-aged boy started to make fun of her, but the emo kid immediately interrupted and said, “No, that’s cool! There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Dear emo kid,

My hat is off to you.

Binns Park

June 21, 2012 · 4:25 pm

Today was a water fountain kind of day. It is hot, and I didn’t want to hang out in the hot sun at the park.  The pool would be nice, but I’m nervous about juggling two kid by myself when neither of them can swim.  Thankfully, Lancaster was prepared for my dilemma.

Binns Park: the place where all your dreams come true.  That is, if it’s 95 degrees outside, and you are dreaming that cold water would bubble up from the ground into a glorious fountain and spray all over you.  When we first got there, Nati was shy and wanted to wait until all of his friends were done.  I explained to him that it was 95 degrees, so his friends were never going to be done so carpe diem. He hung out mostly on the edges.


Catch the water!

Lily was not terribly impressed by the water, but allowed me to splash a little on her every now and then to cool her off.  She was in more of a cuddling mood after getting her shots yesterday.

Eventually, Nati was emboldened to go closer to the center, but only if I held his hands.  This means I got soaked and later had to walk through a store to get prune juice for my constipated baby while looking like I had just peed my pants.  Still, it was worth it for the squeals of delight.

Alright? No. All LEFT.

June 19, 2012 · 6:00 pm

Yohannes has started teaching Nati his right and left.  He actually gets it right a surprising percent of the time, although I still have a hard time believing that it’s more than a coincidence.  Left is definitely his favorite.  He enjoys telling Yohannes to turn left at red lights, and seems to have a tendency to hurt his left hand or his left foot.

We actually haven’t been able to tell for sure yet if Nati is right-handed or left-handed.  It seems like each time we think he’s left-handed, he’ll go and kick the ball with his right foot.  And then when we decide he’s right-handed, he’ll pick up a spoon with his left hand and eat an entire meal that way.  Yohannes is a leftie, and he’s secretly very proud of that fact, so I know he’s rooting for Nati to be the same.

I receive monthly emails from Baby Center with information on child development for Nati’s age.  This morning, the email I opened told me that Nati is at the age where it will start to become more obvious if he’s right or left handed.  I hadn’t really been paying attention to his handedness for a while, so I decided to be extra vigilant today.

Just a few moments later, Nati walked into the room and walked over toward his Lego table.  Which hand would he use? The tension mounted.  Suddenly, Nati lunged forward with both arms and grabbed a Lego in each hand.  Alas.  Maybe he’ll give us a clue another day.

The American Dream

June 16, 2012 · 7:30 am

What is the American Dream?  I recently heard a program on NPR that discussed how home ownership is a huge part of the American Dream, because Americans don’t want landlords sitting on their backs.  It’s true.  I don’t want landlords sitting on my back.  I also don’t want banks sitting on my back if a mortgage payment is late.  It’s probably fair to say that I don’t want anyone sitting on my back, because that’s no fun.  Do you know who else doesn’t want anyone sitting on their back?  The whole world.

The American Dream was never about whatever material possession Americans currently want.  It was the idea that America, as a new country, could offer something new.  It was about freedom.  That’s a loaded word, and I’m sure that slaves and American Indians would have had a thing or two to say about it at the time.  But people flocked to America, hoping for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from poverty.

The American Dream is the idea that in American, anyone can be anything.  I think it’s true that America offers many opportunities.  It is possible to go from rags to riches.  (Possible, but not likely.)  There is a large measure of freedom of speech.  It’s not perfect, but lets be real: the thousands of people who bash Obama today are probably still going to be here to bash him again tomorrow.  (A moment of silence for those massacred in Syria.)

I fully support those who are motivated to make positive change in this country, I’m just pointing out that it’s a more decent place than we often make it out to be.  That’s why people all over the world want to come here.  A lot of people.   They can’t all come because we have countries and borders, which are necessary so that American law enforcement doesn’t all hop over to Amsterdam and start arresting people for smoking cannabis, and so that Saudi law enforcement doesn’t all hop over to America to start arresting women for driving.  That’s why America has many undocumented “citizens”, and I use that word in it’s earlier definition to mean “inhabitants of a city or country.”

Although country borders are necessary, immigration is a rigid, legalistic system that sometimes unnecessarily hinders the natural, organic movements of humans.  My in-laws want to come see their new grandbaby.  Great! They just have to get a couple of governments to sign off on it first. I have friends, former classmates, and several friends-of-friends who are undocumented.  That’s why I support the DREAM Act, which has been proposed to offer a path to legal status for some undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as minors, completed a certain level of education, and maintained “good moral character.”  I was happy to see that Obama is attempting to address this issue.  I just hope that the round-about method doesn’t railroad efforts for a more  permanent solution. Because the American Dream is not about buying a house.  It’s the dream that we can build a country where  the circumstances of your birth don’t dictate who you can become.

Mama Cat Fight

June 14, 2012 · 6:45 pm

At 5:00 yesterday, when I still hadn’t thought of a good enough excuse to skip it, we went to the park.  The ability to read into the future might have qualified as a good enough excuse.

One hour is our magic number for how long to stay at the playground.  It’s nice and round.  A big enough chunk of time to be meaningful, and also short enough that I can start counting down immediately.  We got there and everything went well for about 45 minutes.  Nati was being a little subdued, but alternatively played with the other kids and walked around the perimeter of the playground, or as he calls it, the river.

That’s when Lily started to fuss. I tried walking, bouncing, swinging, and even the dreaded bottle.  But when Lily fusses there is really only one thing she wants.  So I got out a nursing cover and an extra large scarf for good measure and started to nurse her on the park bench.

Just about that time, I saw Nati run up behind a couple of older girls and smack them each on the butt.  Um…where is this coming from?  I called to him, but he didn’t turn around.  He saw another girl walking away from him and hit her bottom.  I called him more insistently, but he didn’t answer.  I was just starting to think I’d have to get up when he turned around, saw a little one-year-old toddling nearby, and deliberately pushed him over.

Oh dear.  I slowly made my way to a standing position.  Lily was still a mysterious lump on my chest with a scarf draped over her as I head in Nati’s direction.  I hadn’t gone three steps when the little boy’s mom scooped him up and turned to Nati.  She pointed at him and said loudly, “Whose child is this!”  One of the other nearby moms pointed in my direction.  I walked faster, but she intercepted me before I got to Nati. “Did you see what your child just did?!” she asked.

“Yes, I did,” I said.  My voice was perhaps a little too soft and even, but I felt like she was being confrontational enough for the both of us.  Maybe a little intimidated by my eerie calm or the wiggling lump on my chest, she backed off, and I grabbed Nati’s hand and walked him to a bench. I explain to him that he may not push his friends.  He may not hit is friends’ bummies.  I told him we were going home, but first he needed to go say sorry to the little boy.

He jumped down from the bench and ran over to the little boy to say sorry.  Re-enter angry mother, who stepped in front of Nati and said, “You stay away from him!”

Adrenaline was already pumping through my body, and seemed to be edging me toward the fight rather than flight instinct.  Maybe I mouthed a mean name in her direction.  (Insert penance here.) In my head I started a little monologue to her about how I was sorry that Nati pushed her son, and he would be disciplined, but he’s two.  So please back yourself up and calm down.  

Much to Lily’s displeasure, I had finally detached her and returned to a more practical state of dress.  I buckled the kids in their stroller and left.  I was glad for the walk home to be able to untagle everything that I was feeling.  Anger at Nati for disobeying and acting out.  Anger at the catty mother for being rude to me and my son. Embarrassment at the public scene.  I tried to think of an appropriate way to discipline Nati that wasn’t based on my own misdirected feelings.

That’s when I realized that the other mom was probably having the same problem.  She had a burst of adrenaline and protective instinct that kicked in when she perceived a threat to her son.  All the animosity she displayed toward us was a result of the same misdirected feelings I was having.  Wasn’t it just last week that I (sort of) shouted at a store employee because my son almost got hurt?  I guess that means I have to forgive her, and that I really should do penance for my secret insult.

Post Navigation