That sweet face – 10 months


(We’re overdue by five days, and the pictures were taken in Mimi’s kitchen instead of the usual location. But 10 months she is, so here goes…)

Eline at 10 months:

  • Weighs about 17 lbs. and is wearing clothes for 6 – 12 months and size 3 diapers
  • Is on her fourth week of pretty severe feeding issues, finishing bottles only in her sleep and often refusing half or more of the bottle during waking feedings. The Vandy feeding therapist suspects reflux, and we have a call in to the pediatrician.
  • Is taking all-formula bottles and seems to enjoy solid foods, including small bits of finger foods like fresh fruits, baby puffs and bread. I usually have to feed them to her, but she is able to do some self-feeding.
  • Has started refusing to allow anyone but mom, dad or brother to hold, touch and interact with her. She may smile at other family members or strangers if mom or dad is holding her and she is well-rested and in a good mood, but if she’s tired, just a look at a face other than ours will set her wailing. And if anyone but us tries to hold her, watch out. The trauma escalates until mom or dad takes her back and calms her down again.
  • Sits unassisted for minutes at a time, playing with toys and turning to noises, although she tends to fuss about how much work it takes.
  • Loves to play on her tummy and can spin herself easily in any direction and wiggle forward a bit. Wants to crawl and tries to lift her torso but doesn’t yet have the coordination to get on all fours.
  • Babbles constantly, blowing LOTS of raspberries, making guttural sounds and now using some consonants (mostly “da-da-da” and the occasional “ba” or “ga”).
  • Is a good sleeper at home, in her familiar environment – napping 30 minutes to an hour in the morning and 2 – 3 hours in the afternoon, and sleeping at night from around 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. to 6 – 6:30 a.m., with us feeding her asleep twice in the evening. She does not nap well anywhere other than her own crib but does seem to do okay at night.
  • Enjoys being cuddled, played with and read to and is a happy, good-natured baby. She smiles all the time in response to us and giggles some when she is being tickled and played with. She adores her brother and has even started smiling at the dog lately. She really absorbs a lot about her environment and notices so much of what goes on around her.
  • Loves to play with her toes and chews constantly on anything she can reach. She still acts like she’s teething, but nothing new has broken through.

I can’t believe my baby will be one in less than two months! There are real challenges day-to-day, as we deal with Lina’s quirks and needs. But there are also times when I’m glad that I get to enjoy my littlest being little for a while longer.

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A sudden good-bye

Last week did not end in “hallelujah,” after all. Instead, we learned Friday that we had unexpectedly lost Jon’s sweet grandma, Virginia (Ginnie) Geary.

I missed out during childhood on the experience of doting grandparents who lived nearby. When Jon and I got married, I felt like I’d won the grandparent jackpot. His Grandma and Grandpa Geary took me in as their own with such warmth and love, and I felt so lucky to be close enough to see them often. Since Friday, the memory reel has played almost constantly, of holidays and family vacations in Gatlinburg, of weekend visits, shopping trips, wedding days, Sabbath dinners, meeting new great-grandbabies and all the moments over the past 11-plus years that made Grandma Geary so very, very dear. I know Jon has an even longer memory reel playing. She was kind and generous, gentle and loving, always looking for the very best in people, a lover of beautiful things, a great shopper, a fantastic cook, a world traveler, a beautiful dresser, a good sport who loved to play games and laugh, and a much-loved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. The whole family is hurting and placing such hope in the promise of a day when we can be with her again.

For those who knew Ginnie Geary, a memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. on July 27 in Calhoun, Ga. If you loved her, as so many did, please join us in remembering the remarkable woman she was.

Grad Sharps

My college graduation, 2002

Three pretty ladies

The moms and Grandma Geary at our wedding, 2002

Jolene Baby Shower_0264

Grandma and Grandpa at our baby shower for Corin, 2010


Meeting Corin, 2010


Corin’s baby dedication, 2010


Corin’s first birthday, 2011


Savannah, 2011




Thanksgiving 2011


Meeting Eline, 2012

I swallow a lump in my throat as I look at what I know now is my last photo of Grandma Geary. I wish I’d taken more. There is so much I never captured. I wish my children could grow up knowing her. Please God, let us see her again soon.

Independence Day, overdue

Our Fourth of July was pretty low-key. It had been raining for days and was terribly soggy, so we decided to skip any big fireworks shows in favor of a good dinner with friends and family and a few sparklers for Corin. Our neighbors upped the ante with some fun home pyrotechnics, which predictably terrified my cautious son. He’ll still tell you about how he didn’t like that one big BOOM, which he makes sound very impressive, indeed.












Turned out to be a great way to celebrate everybody’s favorite summer holiday. God bless the U.S.A.!

In with a whimper, out with a hallelujah

What a week.

Jon has been away for work since 4 a.m. Monday. (Insert whimper.) He’ll be home tomorrow afternoon, and I would describe my status as hanging on by my fingernails. I owe an enormous thank you to my mother, who has made time in her busy schedule to take my son to Vacation Bible School three days this week while I ferry Lina to various appointments. It has made my life much easier than it could have been.

Lina went to Vandy Wednesday to get her loaner hearing aids. They were booked out so far for this appointment that by the time we got in, she had already outgrown one of the custom in-ear pieces. (The ear molds are obviously not loaner, but thankfully, Tennessee Early Intervention is paying for them, as they are not covered by insurance.) They took new ear impressions, sent us home with the one hearing aid that fit, and we’ll go back in 2-3 weeks to get everything set up for the full set of aids with updated molds (which will last for a couple months, until she again outgrows the ear pieces). However, since we’ve been home, I have been entirely unable to keep the hearing aid on my tiny girl. The loaner aid is bigger than newer models, and her little ear just doesn’t hold it in place. Another call to the audiologist this morning, and I’ve learned that wig/toupee tape can do the trick. We’ve ordered some next-day, so I’ll let you know how that goes. Let’s hope it works, because I’ve already barely rescued the thing from the dog once so far.


Pre-hearing aid


Post-hearing aid

This morning was Lina’s first physical therapy appointment. It was… not her best showing. She was exhausted, wailed the entire time and wanted nothing to do with anyone but mommy. But the good news is PT right now is really more for me, anyway. The therapist was able to identify some areas to focus on and suggest specific activities to do at home, which is pretty much the point. Lina loves to stand and extend and does not love to sit or move into a crawling position. She might like to walk before she crawls, which is not great, developmentally. So, we will be focusing on sitting and transferring to a crawling position.

I have a few new additions this week to my collection of parenting war stories. There’s the one about a three-year-old who decided, just as we were getting ready to walk out the door for Vacation Bible School, to smear himself, his clothes and the entire bathroom with bath soap. Or the one about the baby who rolled off our bed…again. (I know, I know. Please don’t call DCS on me.) Or the tale of a reliably potty-trained son who has decided to start intentionally peeing – and pooping, as of today – in his bed during nap time. I poured out my latest tale of woe to my dad today, and he suggested that we may be dealing with some jealousy issues as Lina’s needs begin to absorb more time and attention. I think he’s probably right. Figuring out how to deal with this is very much a work in progress.

There is also much to be thankful for this week. My kids are healthy and really an awful lot of fun. Corin and I have had funny conversations and good times reading stories and snuggling. He is so cuddly now, which I am making a point to appreciate while it lasts. Lina is making strides in her speech and motor skills almost daily, and her smiles truly light up my days. We have family coming into town tomorrow, and it should be a really fun weekend.

So, to finish out our week: Tomorrow is speech therapy at Vanderbilt, and then daddy will be home. Hallelujah.

I submit this

Jon and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary a couple weeks ago. I use the term “celebrated” loosely, because we planned nothing ahead of time and barely managed to catch a movie with friends (the very romantic Star Trek, if you’re curious) before heading straight back to pick up the kids. Jon says he’d much prefer the blogosphere to believe it was roses and candy and the French Riviera, but the truth is the truth. At least we have last year’s return to our honeymoon location to look back on.

In any case, I feel like 11 years qualifies us to have a few opinions on marriage. I promise you, we do not have this thing all figured out. We have our share of arguments and snappishness, the usual frustrations and annoyances that make up daily life with another person. There will doubtless be plenty more challenges ahead. But we’re 11 years and two kids in, and we’ve faced our share of hard times. We’re still in love and more grateful than ever to be sharing this life together. I PetalTossB&Wknew I was marrying a good man, but I have been consistently amazed by the remarkable husband and father Jon is.

But to the point: I say all that to establish my qualification to voice an opinion about Christian marriage. Take it for what it’s worth.

I have in recent years (read: since the advent of Facebook) seen links to various articles and blog entries on the topic of Christian marriage. Many have some helpful, if rather basic, marriage advice. But invariably, they seem to have one thing in common: They all name the principle of wifely submission as key to a successful marriage. They generally point to at least one of two passages. They may use Colossians 3:18, where Paul advises wives to “submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”* Most do go on to mention the following verse, which commands husbands to “love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” However, rarely do these articles mention that following the next two verses, which address parent-child relationships, is Colossians 3:22, which reads: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything…” And a few verses later, there is Colossians 4:1: “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” These passages we acknowledge as no longer culturally relevant. The second, more commonly quoted, passage is Ephesians 5:21-33, which reads in part: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy…” But again, these marriage articles may fail to mention the closing of this chapter: “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Most of these marriage articles make good points about the self-sacrifice that is necessary for any marriage. And they are clear that both husband and wife are to serve each other in love. But they take it a step further, arguing that modern, feminist culture has damaged the biblical model of marriage, which establishes the husband as head of the family, the provider and spiritual leader, with his wife standing behind him in a support role, managing the household and family life. Growing up, I heard it frequently suggested that husbands and wives should always seek compromise, but when they were truly unable to settle a disagreement, the wife should submit to the husband’s will.

You know what my response is? Baloney.

I know I’m straying into controversial territory for some people. Many of you may ascribe to the picture of marriage presented above, and if it has worked well for you, then by all means, continue. Some of you have likely been at this much longer than 11 years! I do not intend to tell anyone else how to run their homes. But I do take issue with a default Christian perspective on marriage that is, in my opinion, less than helpful.

First, let’s examine the cultural context of the passages quoted above. Paul paints a picture of a godly marriage, and it certainly contains a loving husband as head of the household, with a submissive and respectful wife supporting him. But let’s also acknowledge that this advice was given at a time and in a culture when women had few rights and were treated as property to be transferred from father to husband at the time of marriage. Paul also advised women to stay silent in church, saving their questions to ask their husbands at home. (I Corinthians 14:34-35) He specifically forbids women from teaching men, pointing to the creation of Adam before Eve and Eve’s first fall to temptation, and suggests that women are saved through childbearing. (I Timothy 2:11-15) I think I can safely suggest that most of us have a different understanding today of the roles and rights of women. Perhaps we can agree that a Christian marriage today should look a bit different than marriage at the time Paul was writing?

I also take issue with the idea that “secular, feminist culture” is destroying the biblical model of marriage. I won’t wade into the truly treacherous waters of dissecting what exactly constitutes “biblical marriage,” but I will point to research that indicates divorce rates in the U.S. are 50 percent lower in homes where women earn half the income and men do half the housework.[1] It simply does not hold up that by adhering to more equal gender roles, husbands and wives jeopardize their marriages.

There are really two related issues here: leadership  and domain. At least one blog I read recently connected the idea of submission to the husband’s leadership and the home as primarily the woman’s domain. Both ideas seem problematic to me.

On a personal level, this may seem hypocritical. Jon works full time, and I left my job in 2012 to become a stay-at-home mom. I love being a full-time mom. I wanted to do this, and it currently works well for our family. But here’s the thing: I approach my role as a job. I don’t mean to say the work is drudgery (although, like any job, it certainly can be). What I mean is that Jon and I both have our work during the day, and then we share what needs to be done in the time that remains. He does not clock out of his job and expect to rest while I continue to work around the house. Some of our division of labor looks pretty traditional, some doesn’t. But neither of us views the home as mainly my domain. (He would take the suggestion as an insult.)

Even more important is the issue of leadership. When it comes to decision making, Jon and I are partners who give and expect equal voice. If we face major disagreements, we work until we find a solution. In a true impasse (which has been very rare), sometimes I give, sometimes he does. We’re both terribly stubborn, so it can take a while, but we always get there. We together set the spiritual tone for our family and together establish our family’s values and beliefs. We lead our family as a team.


Yes, that really is us, circa 1998.

I don’t intend to brag or suggest that everyone should do what we do. Instead, I am suggesting that it would be a shame if we felt our Christian faith required something other than this happy, workable, equitable arrangement. Do we really want to suggest to single or newly-married women that they should have less of a voice in their marriages? Do we want to suggest to young men that being a godly husband and spiritual leader means asking their wives to take a back seat? Proponents of this “Christian marriage” model seem to suggest that these are not unequal, but different roles. I absolutely agree that men and women have different strengths and needs and will have different roles in the family. But the specific makeup of a family is very individual, and I do not believe we should emphasize to women the principle of submission or suggest to men that they assume a “head of the household” role over the wife and children.

So what should a Christian marriage look like? I submit there are many biblical principles that apply across time and culture and work in families as different as the individuals who comprise them. They include: willing self-sacrifice, service, kindess, purity, faithfulness, commitment, hard work, shared faith, respect, discipline, laughter, prayer and, above all, LOVE.

My marriage advice boils down to this: Find someone who shares the things that really matter to you, build an equal partnership on core biblical principles like the ones above, and commit unequivocally to it. The rest is just one big adventure.


[1] Lynn Price Cook, “‘Doing’ Gender in Context: Household Bargaining and Risk of Divorce in Germany and the United States,” American Journal of Sociology 112, no. 2 (2006): 442-72, as quoted in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.  

*All biblical quotes are from the New International Version.

Through this lens

It’s been a rough day. We’ve had a few of those lately, as you may have gleaned from recent posts. My nine-month-old has slept just over an hour since 6 a.m. It is now 5:30 p.m. There is more to the woe-is-me story line, but here’s the thing: I snapped some photos this morning of Lina, and in sorting through them, I have decided this is the lens I will use to view today.

Today she is wearing an outfit I bought the day after we found out we were having a girl. There was a time when those cute little outfits hanging in her closet brought me pain: the pain of hopeful expectations that seemed to have been dashed. But today, I am so grateful to look at these photos and see only my sweet baby girl in the strawberry top and ruffled bloomers that charmed me a year ago. I see the perfectly-matching headband bought for her by a wonderful friend. I see a big brother in love with his little sister.

Yes, their shenanigans are multiplying my gray hairs by the hour. These photos were taken around a dog and two other children wandering in and out of the frame, and the eyes that already looked tired in the pictures are much more tired now. But there is an awful lot of love and joy here, underlying and running right through all the chaos and exhaustion. Through today’s camera lens, I see how far we’ve come, and I’m ready to soldier on.

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