My Deep Love for Maycomb, Scout, and Harper Lee

In all my years of teaching high school English, my favorite part of each school year was introducing my students to Scout, Jem, Dill, and most of all, Atticus Finch. I read and taught To Kill a Mockingbird approximately six times a day, six weeks at a time, for four years in a row (the other few years I wasn’t teaching freshmen, so it wasn’t in my curriculum). Needless to say, I have developed a deep love for Maycomb.

Mockingbird is told from Scout’s perspective, ages six to nine. We learn about Atticus and Maycomb’s ways through her eyes, knee-high-to-a-grasshopper. We are regaled with fanciful childhood tales of  adventure, alongside Jem and Dill. Harper Lee sweeps you up in the Deep South’s pre-WWII way of life. Up to a certain point, the scariest thing Scout had encountered was Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose…and just when you’re good and settled in this magical, southern atmosphere, Lee opens your eyes to something ugly. Racism. Of the Deep South variety. She does the exact same thing in Watchman. Except this time, we’ve had fifty-five years to get good and settled in Scout’s childhood.

Go Set a Watchman takes place twenty years later (albeit written first), and is told in third-person. We are no longer seeing Maycomb only through Scout’s eyes. It is very much a parallel text, but it stands alone. While written sixty years ago, reading it through the lens of our current racial climate lends it more credence.

Twenty years of life experience gives us all a new perspective on our own parents; Scout is no different. We go from a rose-colored view of Atticus (who I like to refer to as Literary Jesus), to a man. That’s it. Simply a man. His white, flowing robes of righteousness are removed to reveal a very real human — not the deity we all want him to be. He is a man with faults, idiosyncrasies, and hidden pain behind his eyes. 

Mary Badham, the actress who played Scout in 1962, sums it up quite accurately:
“The difference between Mockingbird and Watchman gets down to this: The first book was an idealized view of a father, Atticus Finch, from a child’s viewpoint; the new book is about seeing your parents as an adult. He’s making compromises that you had to make in order to survive in the South…. What you have to do is put your mindset in that time period, and you have to understand what we lived through. When you read the book, you’ll get it… The root of all evil is ignorance. Education is the key to freedom.” (Find her quotes here and here.)

Perhaps Atticus Finch never changed. Scout did. Miss Jean Louise Finch grew up, and it’s jarring for readers to go from the innocent perspective of six-year-old Scout to twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise.

Go Set a Watchman, like To Kill a Mockingbird, is beautiful and timely and poignant and impactful. But it is all of those things (and more) in its own right. Lee’s a truth-teller through and through…even when the truth makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s when the truth matters most. Turns out, Atticus is still right: “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.”

Your Second Baby: Tips to Ease the Transition

The joys of growing your family are often tempered with well-meaning (albeit unsolicited) advice. One phrase I routinely heard throughout my second pregnancy sounded something like this: “The transition from one to two children was tough! You better start getting ready now!” Mothers of three or more often told me that adding the third or fourth baby was easier than the initial transition from one to two.


While I mentally braced myself to have our little world completely rocked, I started planning to make the transition as easy as possible — not just for my husband and myself, but for our two-year-old son. Now that I’m thirteen months removed from our major family transition, I wanted to look back and inventory our most helpful preparations. Please know that I did not and do not have it all together. Making plans helps me combat stress and anxiety, so I put these things in place for my own mental health…not because I am Supermom.

For those who like timeframes, these things are best accomplished beginning in your second trimester (or whenever you feel up to it). Depending on the situation, adoptive mommies may not have several months to prepare — just do what you can when you can, every little bit helps! Some of these things I figured out before Baby #2 arrived, and others came together in the months soon after his birth.

1. Organize!
I took my pantry from crazy-town to a regimented, compartmentalized system. I decided on a rotational meal system, and created space in my pantry for each meal. In an effort to keep it simple, I chose about seven meals. A few of my tried and true favorites were Chipotle-style rice and bean bowls, loaded baked potatoes, chicken and veggies, crockpot roast and veggies, and pizza. We’re a gluten-free and (mostly) dairy-free family, and I have a host of food allergies, so I knew that no one would be jumping at the chance to bring us dinner. (I don’t blame them — my extensive list of food allergies still freaks me out.) I chose easy-to-prepare meals so that my husband (or any other visiting family member) could help without feeling overwhelmed. The idea of eating the same things over and over again may sound boring, but didn’t bother us one bit. Stocking your freezer is also helpful…but our freezer is particularly small, so I couldn’t hoard.

Painters tape and labels helped keep things tidy and made it easy for my husband to put groceries away. I put my toddler’s healthy snacks on a lower level so he could forage as needed. I spent countless hours in the rocking chair nursing baby brother, so this kept him from waiting (and waiting and waiting) until little brother was finished.

2. Implement a routine!
Scheduling with a toddler and newborn can be a double-edged sword, so I prefer predictable routines over strict schedules. I wanted my older son to have an established routine so he would have some semblance of normalcy in the midst of change. It was important for him to have ownership of his routine, so we came up with a chart to keep us all on track. It didn’t take long before he was reminding Mommy and Daddy that his teeth needed brushing and he needed to clean up his toys.

Creating an environment that allowed his autonomy to flourish helped quell outbursts and meltdowns. We still had (and have) our fair share of epic fits, but they aren’t nearly as bad when he follows a predictable routine.

3. Guilt-free entertainment!
I am not one to use technology as a babysitter, but the first few postpartum months often looked like survival mode. It’s nice to have educational shows that teach while they engage — after sleepless nights and growth-spurt-nurse-a-thons, popping in a DVD can be an absolute lifesaver. Now, at three years old, my son knows all of his letters, numbers up to thirty, ridiculous amounts of sign language, a handful of Latin phrases, and has fistfuls of knowledge that rival seasoned kindergarteners. I don’t say this to pat myself on the back, but to show that purposeful “edu-tainment” is a better option than mindless cartoons.

This area proved to be a huge mental struggle for me. I felt so guilty about Asher sitting in front of the TV and iPad more than usual, but I was on my own within four days of Keane’s birth. The majority of the time, it was just me and the boys from 8:00am until 6:00pm, five days a week. (Thankfully, my in-laws were quick to take Asher to their house for a few hours each week.) During the early days of our transition, I lamented the TV issue to my trusted mommy group; a wise friend told me to give myself lots of grace and 100 days of guilt-free technology use. I chose to use technology as an ally from that point forward. My favorites are Signing Times, Preschool Prep, and Song School Latin.

A note about potty training: I’m of the mindset that it’s never too early to start teaching toddlers how to potty. Cultures around the world begin potty training much earlier than we do in America — and it all works out just fine. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers today will happily tell you that it was almost unheard of for a walking, talking toddler to be in diapers fulltime. I know not everyone can pull it off, but having one child in diapers is more manageable than two. I started potty training Asher when he was 20 months old — he was diaper-free by the time he was 25 months old. It takes effort, but it’s totally worth it!

4. Cut corners!
Whether your second bundle of joy is blessed with a full-fledged baby shower or just a sprinkling, don’t lose sleep over thank you cards. During your third trimester, design a ready-to-go thank you card (use a sonogram picture or a maternity photo), print a handful of them, and address the envelopes as needed.

I didn’t anticipate many gifts this go-around, so I didn’t do this beforehand. I did, however, print out generic thank you cards that showcased my adorable newborn. This proved to be a timesaver and a stress-reducer. Win-win! (You can also prepare birth announcements in advance — just go back and add photos to the saved announcement.)

5. Simplify!
I care about the environment, but I also care about my sanity. It was my sanity that led me to buy paper plates in bulk…I haven’t looked back! It’s nice to have the option to throw the dinner dishes in the trash instead of loading and unloading the dishwasher one more time.

Beyond disposable dishes, line up people to help with laundry and/or cleaning. Save up a few extra dollars to have someone come clean for the first couple of months. If you can afford it, get $10 to $20 cashback each time you get groceries during your last trimester. Stash away the cash to help pay for housekeeping. If you’re involved in a church, ask the youth minister if there are any teenagers who are looking to earn money for summer camps or mission trips — you may find yourself a reliable mother’s helper! If neither of those avenues is an option, check out the Fly Lady’s website for help managing household chores.

Bringing sweet Keane into our lives has been absolutely phenomenal, but the early transition period was not without its challenges. I had no control over my lack of sleep and utter exhaustion, but I could control the state of my pantry, a responsibility chart, and a handful of DVDs!

I’m "Just" a Stay-at-Home Mom

This past week my husband and I had the pleasure of having dinner at our pastor’s house. Every couple of months, they invite a group of new church members over for food and fellowship — it was fun getting to know others and relax for a couple of child-free hours. At one point, one of the pastors asked what we did for a living, and I responded with, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom!” Without missing a beat, he said, “There’s no ‘just’ about it, that’s a fulltime job!” He was absolutely right.

My life as a stay-at-home mom far surpasses my former life as a high school English teacher. I truly loved my students, but the love I feel for my own children is enough to take my breath away. These last three years as a homemaker are vastly different than the six years I spent in the classroom, but they are infinitely more rewarding. The fact that God allows me to be exactly where I am, doing exactly what I’m doing, overwhelms me with gratitude and humbles my heart.

Meeting my husband’s and children’s needs is a never-ending task, but one worth pursuing. I’ve come to see my responsibility to my family through the lens of Christ’s sacrificial love. My attitude is paramount to living out sacrificial love to my family — if my heart is not centered on God, then my patience runs thin and my children suffer. Finding balance in keeping the home, loving my husband, educating Asher, taking care of Keane, preparing meals, and pursuing my own creativity can take a toll…if my focus is in the wrong place.

Aside from anchoring myself in scripture, I have found these books to be essential to my motherhood:
     1. Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
     2. The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
     3. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms
         by Gloria Furman

My bookshelves are also stocked with titles on strong-willed children, childhood brain development, and methods for classical education…but I’ve found that it’s much easier to deal with my strong-willed child when my will is bent to his Maker. When I respond with grace and sacrificial love, his tantrums tend to be curbed from melt-downs into teachable moments that involve scripture. Is every discipline encounter full of snuggle-hugs and bible verses? Absolutely not. There are still plenty of off-the-charts melt-downs, but when I’ve taken the time and effort to center myself in God’s word, I am more inclined to respond as Christ responds to me.

There are days when I’m beyond exhausted from sleepless nights, and on those days it’s God’s grace that carries me through. There are days when I scoop my three-year-old up in my arms and ask his forgiveness for my impatience and my poor attitude; hearing his sweet voice say, “I forgive you, Mommy,” humbles me anew. I don’t have it all together. I am not perfect. My failures are enough to fill a vast ocean, yet his mercies are new each morning. His grace is sufficient for me, his power is made perfect in my unending weakness.