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So the other night I was feeding Baby, and he seemed a bit unhappy. I was thinking maybe I didn’t have enough milk.

(This is my second time around with a newborn, and truly I think about almost nothing. I hardly ever change his diaper, he’s had one bath since August 10. Serious. My firstborn fared a bit better in the bath department although just barely. And now I have zero routine or schedule to speak of. I haven’t even – gasp! – written down when he eats or for how long or on which side.)

(Also, the part about President Barack Obama comes at the end in case anyone is wondering.)

Back to Baby, I mentioned that I don’t think about anything anymore, so I don’t know why I even noticed that he was having trouble eating or why I was concerned about my milk supply, but here’s what happened.

He started crying, I got out of bed, checked my phone, it was just after 2am. I picked him up, started feeding, and then possibly fell asleep. Maybe. I couldn’t remember. Then I was awake, I didn’t feel like I had much milk, I couldn’t remember if I had fed him on the other side, and I was thinking, which was likely my first mistake because no one should be thinking at 2am, but think I did and it sounded like this:

It feels like I’m running out of milk. I wonder why. I should be eating or drinking more. Maybe I’m drying up. Maybe I’m pregnant. Could I be pregnant? What would I do if I was pregnant? The baby would be due right when Daniel is a year old. Three kids under three. Is that even possible? What if it was twins? I know two people whose third pregnancy was twins. Could I stay sane with four children under three? Would I get post partum depression? 

Then I spent a few more minutes thinking about PPD. No one should be thinking these things, but especially not at two in the morning. At this point I decided to check the time again. It was 3am. Problem solved. I had fallen asleep, he was a the one side for one hour. Of course I felt empty.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Vanity Fair published a lengthy profile about President Obama. It is a great read whatever your political persuasions may be. But the point that caught my eye was a comment he made about how he chooses his clothes.

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

I read this quotation and the article during the 2012 presidential campaign, and it was a light bulb moment for me.

I finally understood why I was so exhausted those first months after our oldest was born. The lack of sleep will always be the obvious culprit when we wonder why it is that we don’t feel the way we used to feel. But the hidden factor is the sheer number of decisions – however big or small – that we make every few minutes.

Is he hungry? Should I be putting her to sleep? Swaddled or not? Too cold? Too warm? Should I wake him up? Is it the right time to cut fingernails? What is that on her scalp? Tummy time? Too much tummy time? What size will he be in a few months? Should we go out? For how long? When will he next need to eat?

The first months are the get-to-know-you months, the time when you’re understand this new person, and that process involves hundreds of tiny decisions, decisions that exhaust you and make it difficult to make other decisions.

This idea will stay with me forever. I’m a thinker anyway, and even without kids, my brain is usually running around with lots of questions. It has to be quieted, decisions need to be pared down for me to experience an internal peace and silence.

How can I minimize the number of decisions I make every day? And in the event that I can’t, I try to be as easy on my self as possible in those moments when my brain can’t handle another decision or another question.

This post is Day 8 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

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Dear Devi,

I see you there with your crumpled feeding chart on one side, black ink pen bleeding through the small boxes as you colour, check and cross. Mind spinning moment to moment as you wonder if he will eat, wake or sleep. You’re tired but so on top of things, you can’t sleep during the day. Your mind is busy, wandering from one thing to another, muscles pulled taught at all times, and in the moments you have to sit down and rest, your eyes are like a mirror into the world of Facebook, glazing over, one click at a time.

And I want to tell you, you don’t have to be so in control. 

Yes, I know everything changed and nothing in your life feels the same anymore. The people you want to be around right now are continents away, the body you depended on is doing some strange things, the time and space you had in marriage disappeared.

You feel like he’s the only thing you can control, be in charge of, the only one you can boss around, you want so badly to be in charge of anything because your own life feels like it is out of your hands.  It’s ok for you to tell someone you wish you were somewhere else, that you wish for sisters, friends, people who would just come over and bring you food, clean your kitchen.

You don’t have to be so in charge, you can let down your guard, let people in. Tell someone you’re tired, tell someone you’re juggling so many balls that you feel dizzy. 

I see you making complicated meals, rushing around chopping bread and parsley, moulding dumpling balls and wondering if it will cook properly all while feeding a baby, laying him down to look at animals, rocking him to sleep and repeat. You’re trying to live your old life and making your son fit around it.

I see you trying to be a good wife, always listening to your husband, trying to do the things that people told you a good wife does after a baby has been born.  He’s not like that, you know. He wants you to be well, when he asks, How are you? at dinner, it’s because he wants to know, not the edited version, but all of it, the tears, the fears, the questions, the frustrations. He wants to help you.

If you would just talk to him, he would tell you to stop doing everything, he would tell you not to have it all together, he would tell you to just rest, live in the season. If you let him in, he would have been grace and freedom to you. Vulnerability is a door that opens to grace, and grace is the door that opens to freedom. You need all of it right now.

You don’t have to be such a grown up. 

People tell you how “together” you seem, like everything is normal, like you just picked up from birth on and kept moving, You seem so natural at this, they say, and you smile back. But you’re wondering every day, Am I doing the right thing? Am I succeeding at this? Am I loving him enough, spending enough time with him? Learning to love your son is opening a new space in your heart, and you feel like a child again, desperately in need of parenting yourself.

You miss your parents, badly, even though they have changed, you have changed, you still want to go back to that  place where you have a pink, polka-dotted layer skirt and pig tails. You’re in Lipa City, wearing flip flops and dusty, walking to a sari sari store for Royal Tru Orange in a plastic bag with a straw. Someone else was taking care of you. Someone else was making all the decisions.

The early days are crazy days, kiddo. You feel at once a child and a mother, navigating heart changes and nappy changes. Slow down a bit. Drop a few balls or all of them. Put down the feeding chart.

Eat chocolate. Pray. Sleep. Take a shower. Repeat. 


This post is Day 7 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. (New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

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There must be at least 1,493,259 books out there about parenting. At least. Parents are some of the most afraid motivated people out there, and every author, writer, thinker, hack, researcher, social scientist, psychologist, psychiatrist, pastor, imam, monk, talk show host and you know, PARENT has some sort of a book about the topic that will definitely answer all of your parenting questions today! Now! Perfectly!

I’m a reader, I love the feel of pages in my hand, and sitting down with a book for hours on end just filing information away in my head. If it makes me cry, even better. When Little Boy was nearing his first birthday, I ordered 13 parenting books and started working my way through the stack. It was like going back to school – nerd alert! –  the fun of learning without any tests. My kind of school.

Every week for this month, I’m going to review a book that impacted me and has gone on to shape the way I think about our family and our children. I think the real challenge for us is not figuring out what to believe but what not to believe from the sea of opinions out there.

This week’s review is Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel.

We are people of faith, and a large portion of our parenting books are written by people from the same faith background as us.  Most of the books have had a few chapters or tools that I appreciate and use regularly with our children, but it’s rare that I found a Christian book I could recommend wholeheartedly. (Although I’m sure there are many, many more out there that I haven’t read, including Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas, which sounds amazing.)

“Grace Based Parenting” is one of the few Christian parenting books I would recommend as a whole, and even if you are not from this faith tradition, I would say the book still has some fantastic insights about the power grace can have in shaping a home.

The main reason I loved this book was because I steered clear of the typical “Do this don’t do this” methodology of parenting books. This is not a how to or a must do or a can do. Philosophy or teaching is more where I would put Kimmel’s words; it gives a broad structure or frame and doesn’t so much deal with the “what do I do if my toddler is having a tantrum?” types of issues.

Simply put, this book showed me what a home empowered and coloured by grace looks like, specifically in how I relate to my children.

As we assessed our parenting options, we wanted a style that took into account our children’s unique personalities, their fragile natures, the corrupted world that surrounded them, their personal bents, and the individual pilgrimages on which God would take them. We wanted our method to be powered by our confidence in God rather than our concerns about the messed-up world we were raising our children in.

– Dr. Ted Kimmel, “Grace Based Parenting” (p133)

He then goes on to say that one of the aims of the book is to help parents raise strong kids, not safe ones (p121).

I have many thoughts about the fear-based culture that exists in evangelical Christian homes, churches and parenting materials – a lot – and will probably do a bit more of that in the weeks to come. So I will keep my little piece about that today very short, and it’s this: it seems to me that the vast majority of Christian books’ point is “Here’s How You Can Keep Little Suzy and Little Johnny From Getting Drunk, Looking at Porn, Having Pre Marital Sex, Becoming Gay, Doing Drugs, Walking Away from the Church,” and because that’s a long title, they’ve chosen some friendlier ones instead.

As I have gone through book after book after book, I find myself thinking, There has to be so much more to being a parent than wanting to prevent your kids from doing things. If you feel the same way, may I suggest “Grace-Based Parenting” as a resource for you?

Kimmel provides a matrix for grace-based parenting in the book (p135) built around what he says are children’s three main needs and the four ways adults can meet those needs. The three main needs are (p25):

  1. A need for security
  2. A need for significance
  3. A need for strength

And that children need to have these needs met at home (and from God) through a secure love, a significant purpose and a strong hope.

The four freedoms that provide the space in which children can grow:

  1. The freedom to be different
  2. The freedom to be vulnerable
  3. The freedom to be candid
  4. The freedom to make mistakes

I don’t want to go much further into these things, just hopefully whet your appetite for the book itself. I’ll end though with another point from the book that I thought was one of its most outstanding points, one I will never forget. This is a long section from the chapter on “A Strong Hope,” but honestly the book is worth it for this section alone.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (NASB).

Parents assume this verse is saying that if we raise our children in a Christian home, take them to church and Sunday school, point out the pitfalls of the corrupted world around them, and maybe put them in a safe environment (Christian schools, home schools, Christian friends), then when they are older they are going to embrace the moral and spiritual presuppositions they were trained with in their youth. For good measure, parents must make sure their children memorize the Ten Commandments, attend a Christian summer camp, and that they are prayed with before they go to bed every night.

A surface application of this verse says they might be correct. The problem is that I can come up with plenty of examples of kids who were parented according to the parameters I just outlined, but they rejected the spiritual training of their youth when they got older. When parents see this happen, they wonder if God broke His promise to them. The answer, of course, is “No.” Several have written on what I’m about to explain, so there’s nothing clever or earth-shattering about my observations. What is more amazing to me is how so many people continue to misapply Proverbs 22:6.

The “train up a child” part has an interesting usage when you break down the Hebrew text. The expression “train up” is used in other Hebrew literature to describe a maneuver that ancient midwives used to cause newborns to being the sucking impulse. Right after birth, they would take the juice of crushed grapes or dates and put it on their index fingers and massage the baby’s gums and palate. Besides developing the sucking response, this also cleansed the newborn’s mouth of amniotic fluids.

When used in Proverbs 22, the writer is saying that we should use childhood as an opportunity to build a clean and healthy thirst for life that God has uniquely designed for that child. Now, you may be wondering how I got all of that out of the phrase “train up…” I didn’t. That’s what you get when you combine “train up a child…” with “in the way he should go.” Some translations say “train him up in his way,” which is actually a more literal rendering of the Hebrew dereck. One of the most accurate English synonyms for dereck would be the word bents. This is how the same word is translated in Psalm 11 referring to the bend of a bow.

If you were making a bow out of a tree limb, you’d first study the limb to figure out what its natural “bent” is. Then you’d string it. If you didn’t do this, when you pulled the bow back, it would snap because it was strung against its natural bent rather than with it. In the same way, we are to groom our children according to their natural bents. This means coming alongside them with a plan to help leverage their natural and unique gifts and skills into highly developed assets that they can lean on in the future.

“In the way they [plural] should go” also means that we should study them enough to know which natural bents they have that push them in the wrong direction. They might struggle with an inordinate amount of fear, shyness, stubbornness, argumentativeness, dependence, independence, sexual drive, or need to take dangerous risks. We can’t make these liabilities disappear, but we are to raise them in such a way that we account for them and give them tools to help process them properly.”

– Dr. Tim Kimmel, “Grace Based Parenting” (p111)

This post is Day 5 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

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I guess you can call this “A Few Hours in the Life…” or “How We Eat Something Other Than Frozen Pizza.” (The recipe for a fabulous salad is part of the post…you just have to hunt for the pieces like a treasure because I have zero time to write it all out.)

I can’t remember when I realized I would have to cook something for yesterday’s lunch because there were no leftovers, but I had all the ingredients for a roasted butternut squash, fennel and spelt salad, and it seemed easy enough.

Baby went down for his nap in the crib upstairs, Little Boy was zooming around on his scooter. I started skinning and chopping up the half of a butternut that was in our fridge. Toward the end, I asked Little Boy to help me, and he came in and put the little pieces into the roasting tray, we sprinkled sea salt, pepper and olive oil and tossed it. I put the roasting pan into the oven (170C) and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Little Boy starts pushing the knobs on the oven, and I get down to his level, look him in the eye, and say Josiah, what are you doing? What is obedience? He looks everywhere except my eyes, eventually meets them and says, No. So I say, That’s right, kiddo, obedience is no touching, if you do it again, you get a time out. 

Baby starts crying – I did not check when he went to sleep but it had not been long – and Little Boy does not look like he will co-operate with the whole running upstairs, running back downstairs routine, so I put him in his chair at the dining table, turn on the nursery rhymes on Starfall.

I run up to pick Baby up, start rocking him back to sleep until I realize he will not go back to sleep without a bit of nursing, so nurse we do. Eventually I hear the timer start to ring, baby is “asleep” so I put him down, run downstairs – notice that Baby started crying again – pull the pan of squash out and set it on the counter while Mary Had a Little Lamb plays in the background. 

Keep trying to put Baby back to sleep. I put him down semi-asleep again, he starts fussing almost immediately, I run down anyway for five minutes.


So the next ingredient in the salad because – you know – I’m cooking!

I take one bulb of fennel* out of the veggie basket and decide not to use the second one, wash and start slicing into medium-thick wedges. I’m about to put it all back in the oven when I remember that there’s supposed to be a clove of garlic chopped into the mix.

Never leave out the garlic.

Back up the stairs I go to see if Baby will be soothed to sleep. At some point I give up and just take him down to the kitchen, plop him into the bouncy seat. My little extrovert. He’s full of cheeky grins and coos now and wants to have a little chat while I start chopping garlic into tiny pieces. I am thinking about the other bulb of fennel in the fridge. What will I use it for if not in this salad? Is this going to be one of those things that just gets thrown away after a week or two? I take it out, chop it up and put it into the roasting tin.

If you’re following, that’s the 15-minute roasted squash, two medium-sized fennel bulbs sliced, and a clove of garlic chopped. Top it all off with a toss and a bit more olive oil, and back in the oven it goes for 20 minutes. (Set the timer. It’s always a good idea.)


I measure out my spelt, which I don’t think is spelt but something I brought from Switzerland called Ebly – it looks like pearl barley. Maybe. Who knows. Some sort of puffed grain. Easy to cook and fun to chew, so I really don’t care any less. I have not had time to figure out what spelt is in Swedish. Or what spelt is in English.

Either way, it’s two cups of Ebly to three cups of salted water in a pot on the stove.

I go over to check in Little Boy who looks totally bored with Incy, Wincy Spider an happily wants to get down. We begin a little kitchen dance that involves him wanting to get into stuff and me trying to keep him happy because I know he’s hungry.

Want fruit! Want bread!

How about some butternut squash and fennel in a few minutes? 

Butternut KWASH, he says.

Zero, zero, he says pointing at the timer, ring ring! Ring ring! 

Nope, I reply, that’s an eight, see an eight can look like two zeros on top of each other, and I walk over to his blackboard and draw two zeros on top of each other that look like an eight.

Turn down the now-boiling Ebly so that it is only simmering.

We count down to zero while watching the timer. I am amazed that this can be fascinating to a two-year-old, but really, I’ve stopped asking questions.

The timer goes ring ring! and I pull out the roasting tray and toss everything again and scatter about 50 grams of whole walnuts on top, everything goes back in the oven for eight more minutes.

I check the Ebly, and it seems done, grab a colander, put it in the sink, check for the toddler before I start handling the boiling liquid and pour.

HOT HOT!! Very hot!

Now, I tell him, I’m going to get a nice salad bowl out, and we’re going to make a nice salad. 

But he’s hungry and wants to try the Ebly. Why not. So he sits down at the Red table! and starts eating a small plate of Ebly. He rejected it last week, so this is a success. I put the Ebly into a salad bowl that was a wedding present from Australia and watch the way the steam curls up toward the ceiling, with the still alive herbs and gorgeous October light in the background, and I think, I need to take photos of this.  Because the herbs will probably be dead by afternoon.


The timer goes ring ring! again, and out comes the tray of roasted veggies, I mix it all up with the Ebly and toss it on the red table! and then remember that half a lemon gets squeezed over the whole lot. Miraculously there is half a lemon, cut and waiting in the fridge.

Little Boy squeezes the lemon because citrus has no chance when his hands are around.


We sit down and eat our lunch. This salad is fantastic, I think to myself, the textures are lovely – crunchy walnuts, soft fennel and squash, gummy Ebly. There’s supposed to be grated parmesan through the whole thing, but I’m not eating dairy at the moment. 

There’s laughter and talking, Baby keeps smiling at Little Boy and trying to “talk” to him and to me. Little Boy eats all of his walnuts and starts to take mine off my plate.

How do you ask Mommy? I say.

Please Mommy ayyy I be cused! he says because it’s one of his little memorised phrases.

Not that one, I say, Please Mommy may I have a walnut. I don’t know what he says back to me, but I give him the walnut.

Butternut squash is let completely untouched – it was his favourite first food two years ago – and for two weeks now he has steadily refused it. I can’t be bothered arguing. There is enough salad for another meal for Husband and I (and snacks for me during the afternoon). Baby is happy, Little Boy is looking very ready for his nap.

I’ll call that a good morning. We’ll tackle the butternut squash again next week.


This recipe is from delicious. magazine, but I cannot find the recipe online. It was from the November 2011 edition, page 91, “Hugh Goes Veggie,” recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

*If you are breastfeeding and have supply issues, fennel is supposedly a simple way to increase milk supply. I was given fennel tea in large thermoses by the midwives in the hospital after both of my sons were born. 

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)