Thursday, December 21, 2006

Santa Magic

Yesterday we braved the rain, the crowds and the lines and went to the mall to see Santa. It's a necessary evil for the season. It actually went really well!

In case you didn't know, I used to be an elf. I took pictures of kids with Santa for several years during college. I had some wonderful experiences with some wonderful Santas. (And then there was the one Santa who put his beard on backwards - with the netting on the outside.) I will blog about some of those Santas eventually. But the Santa that was there yesterday was the real deal.

Of course these days most department store Santas have the real beard and long, white hair. No wigs and fake beards for them! This gentleman was no exception. And the poor guy was sweltering. After each kid he would take his hat off and pat down his forehead. Of course this gave his cheeks the rosy glow that Santa is famous for. He was gentle and sweet with every kid, listening intently to their requests and acting surprised and elated when they rattled off their lists. He was animated, quiet and genuinely seemed to love what he was doing. Then came the true test. The kid who was terrified.

She was about 2 or 3 years old (from experience I can tell you that those ages are the ages where kids decide that it's just not worth it to even get near the fat, jolly guy) and she was wearing a pink dress with a very full skirt. The dress had "Birthday Girl" stitched across the bodice and yes, it was her birthday. Her dad and her very pregnant mom were with her and really wanted a birthday picture with Santa. Birthday Girl got to the edge of the Santa area and would not budge. She clung to her mom for all she was worth. Poor Mom couldn't do much. Her center of gravity was already wacked because of her huge belly, and now she had a toddler clinging to her and trying to pull her the other way. No, there was not a tumble, but there was Dad to the rescue.

This Santa was a pro. He did not get up and try to coax Birthday Girl to him. He sat on his cushioned bench, smiled and opened his arms invitingly. He softly called to her, but she was still not budging. While Mom tried her best to convince Birthday Girl that Santa was a good guy, Santa and Dad hatched a plan (judging from the professionalism of the Santa, it was his plan and he just told Dad what to do). Then Santa disappeared. I did not see where he went, but I figured that he took advantage of the moment to go have a break.

Dad came back to Birthday Girl and said, "Sweetie, I really want a picture of you sitting on the bench. Can you sit with Daddy on the bench with the big Christmas tree behind us? Would that be okay?" It took a minute or so to convince Birthday Girl that sitting on the bench would be okay. So they sat. The picture taking elf rang her jingle bells to capture Birthday Girl's attention. Dad smiled, Birthday Girl looked up at the camera, and Santa popped up from behind the bench, spread his arms across the back of the bench, and they had their picture with Santa. Then Santa crouched back down. Birthday Girl did not know a thing.

I have to hand it to Santa for that little trick. He was good! He made sure that he was out of Birthday Girl's line of sight during and even AFTER the picture. He was all about the kids and making them feel safe. He did come out from behind the bench and wave at Birthday Girl as they were leaving, but he didn't force any interaction that she wasn't comfortable with. I almost cried.

Then it was our turn and Buddy didn't want to go to Santa (he's three, you know). So I knelt down next to Santa between him and Buddy and we took a picture that way. Then I got up and Buddy got a little braver. We took a couple more with Buddy sitting next to Santa. Our final picture was one with Buddy and Princess on Santa's lap with the biggest smiles you could want. Magic.

Up at the counter where we paid for the picture Princess kept prompting me, "Ask them! Ask them!" As I posted before, she's figured out that Santa can't be at every mall every day during the season. She knows that he sends helpers down to pretend to be him and to report back to him. She also knows that every once in a while he comes down himself just to get a taste of what's going on. She wanted to know if this guy was just a guy with white hair in a Santa suit, or if he was HIM. She was too shy to ask the big man himself, so we settled on asking one of the helper elves. The elf told us that this man was the real one! He came down from the North Pole especially to Barton Creek Mall. The look on Princess' face almost brought me to tears. She had seen the REAL Santa. She had talked to the REAL Santa. She still stood only feet from the REAL Santa. Her eyes got big as she looked back at the sweet man in the red suit. She smiled a shy smile. Then she breathed in really deeply and said, "He's the real one!" I hope she believes forever.

Oh, one last gem. As we were gathering the kids and ushering them from Santa's bench, I stopped to thank Santa for being so patient with Buddy. He watched Buddy and Princess walk away and said, "Oh, no trouble. It's all about the kids." I said, "You know, I was an elf for three years here." He looked up at me, cocked his head sideways and said, "Then you know!" I swear his eye twinkled at me. I felt a rush of inner warmth that can only be described as Christmas cheer. I almost cried (was I too emotional yesterday?!).

THAT, my friends, was the REAL Santa.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Sigh of Relief!

Ahhhh. The first grade Egyptian/Hebrew festival is OVER! I didn't realize how much I was thinking about it until it was over and I immediately had trouble keeping my eyes open! (I was in bed by 10:00 last night. That's very early for me.)

It went off yesterday morning without a hitch. Another mom and I headed it up and we had TONS of help. It was SO fun. The kids dressed in their costumes from their history reports (they each chose a person from either the Old Testament or Ancient Egypt and did an oral report in class dressed as that person) and visited four stations to learn more about the culture and food from the time. We had several King Davids, quite a few daughters of Pharaoh (Moses' adoptive mother), several Sarahs, two Nefertitis and a partridge in a pear tree. No, wait, that's next week's assignment.

The first activity was a traditional Jewish community dance. That was a lot of fun! The kids enjoyed it and it got the event off to a great start. Then we split the kids into four smaller groups (about 8 or 9 per group) and sent them to the four stations.

The first station was all about ancient Hebrew food. We had goat cheese, unleavened bread, liquid yogurt (to stand in for curdled milk), lentil soup, spices to smell and melons to taste. The kids sat on rugs on the floor and listened to a volunteer tell about all of the different foods. We even had some cleverly made locusts - hummus on celery with strips of bell pepper for legs and wings and a green maraschino cherry for the head (and icing eyes). The mom who made them said that they would probably taste nasty, but they looked good! I reminded her that real locusts probably tasted nasty, too!

We were very blessed to be able to have a real archaeologist / anthropologist come and set up a station all about Bedouin culture. She had authentic rugs, pillows, scarves, clothing, bowls, vases, you name it! She also went to Phoenicia Bakery the day before and got dates, figs, bread, hummus, and some really yummy honey treats for the kids to sample. She had fresh rosemary and mint for them to smell. She had books and personal stories all about how the Bedouins live. She told us that the Bedouins of today live very much like the Patriarchs of the Bible lived. I sat in her station under the canopy that we had set up and I thought, this was where Sarah was when she heard that she was going to give birth. She was in a tent like this with food like this when she heard that God's promise was going to be fulfilled. It made the story all the more real to me. I pray that at least some of that sunk into the kids, too.

Next we had Esther. One of the moms dressed up as Esther and told the story of Purim. The kids had shaker boxes (I forgot to ask why) and they sat on the rug and listened intently and shook their boxes at the right times. I wish I had been able to visit that station and hear the story, but I was at my station.

At my station we had an ancient Egyptian party! (It sounds more fun than it was. I had about 7 or 8 minutes of info and activities to present in 15 minutes. I should have planned better.) I dressed up like an Egyptian - complete with a pair of my huge silver earrings from the 80's! (I knew I would need them again one day!) I made some "wax cones" for the kids heads from red plastic cups. (They wore cones of scented wax on their heads at parties, making the hair or wig smell good.) We glued a circle of felt on the bottom of the cup and then I sprinkled the felt with essential oil (sweet orange - it was the least expensive and least offensive!) and those who wanted to wear them attached them to their hair with bobby pins. I wore a plastic cup on my head for the whole festival. (Sigh. I love my kid.) I also served dried figs, pita bread and hummus. Another mom had face paints and made the kids' eyes look Egyptian. It was a lot of fun! Oh, I also served root beer. Everything I read about ancient Egypt said that they drank beer at every meal. I just didn't think that bringing a six pack for a bunch of 1st graders was appropriate (although the mom volunteers asked why I didn't bring some for them!) so I brought the next best thing - fake beer (a.k.a. anything that said "beer" that could be served to kids.) Some kids loved the root beer, others made faces. But most gamely tried the food set before them.

It was a very successful event. I was pleased at how the moms stepped up and helped out. I think that the moms had just as much fun as the kids! And we all learned something.

When we got home I asked Princess (one of the Nefertitis) what her favorite part of the festival was. Her answer? "Eating watermelon."

Sigh.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Musings on Fertility and Motherhood

Not too long ago a friend wrote to me in an e-mail, "Being around all of my friends who have children has simply underlined my decision not to have kids. Most of their personalities change for the worst." That made me wonder whether I have changed for the worst. It also made me think about the process of becoming a parent.
The idea of starting a family seems simple enough – decide to have a baby, do what is necessary to become pregnant (hubba-hubba), wait nine months and you’re in the club. I think that’s the schedule that most newly married couples have in their minds. It’s certainly what I had in mine. And, to be perfectly honest, that’s pretty much what happened.
For so many others, however, it’s a much different story. There are months, even years, of staring at that home test waiting for the second line to appear. There are appointments with fertility experts, tests, procedures, prayer, hopes, more tests, anger, bills, more tests and fatigue. We watched one couple we know struggle through five miscarriages – three of which happened during my first pregnancy. We prayed with a couple through infertility treatments and IVF procedures. Another couple tried for 10 years before finally deciding on adoption.
I found myself feeling guilty for having such a successful pregnancy. We had friends who tried and failed for months and months while we got pregnant on our second try. I had a friend on complete bed rest while I walked the mall. I had a friend who had to take medication to help her keep down crackers and I visited Taco Bell every other day. I don’t know why God chose to give me such an uncomplicated time, but I am thankful.
Two years after my daughter was born, though, I got my first taste of what it feels like to have my own schedule vetoed by God. We tried for another pregnancy, hit on the first try, and lost the baby 9 weeks later. It was a surreal time. It felt as if I were watching a movie rather than experiencing it in person. I saw myself go through the office procedure to rid my body of the tissue. I observed the healing process – both in body and mind. But I didn’t feel anything. It still doesn’t feel like it happened to me.
Six weeks after getting the green light to try again, we hit a bulls-eye. I came back into my body the instant that I saw the positive test. The next summer we became a family of four.
The story of my fertility doesn’t stop there, though. It stops sixteen months after the birth of my second child.
I went to the doctor for a check-up. He explained at that time that I needed a hysterectomy. That one word – just five syllables – brought me to my knees. I had always wanted three kids. I didn’t feel like I was done having babies. That wasn’t in my plan!!!! The idea that the organ in my body that nurtured and kept my two precious children healthy during their gestation had to be taken out was devastating to me. Isn’t a uterus what makes me uniquely a woman? If I lost it, what would I be? How could I be complete? I wept. I mourned. I fought. I spent hours on the internet seeking advice and alternatives. And, most importantly, I prayed. In the end, God gave me His peace. June 7, 2005 – the day that our close friends gave birth to twins conceived in a test tube – I lost the ability to have another child come from my body.
At times I still grieve the loss of that ability. I am sad that I will never again thrill to the sight of a fetal heartbeat in a monitor. I mourn the fact that I will never again feel a tiny body hiccup in my belly. But God’s strength, His peace, and His healing are stronger than my worldly desire to produce another child. And the fact that I can’t have another child does nothing to take away from my enjoyment and revelry in the experience of being a parent.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Princess Holds the Key!

Yesterday in VBS the kids decorated sun visors. They all filed out of the church wearing little half-caps decorated with marker, sequins and glitter glue.

Princess decorated hers with a drawing (in her own hand) of Shamu, a couple of jewels and a foam heart sticker that says, "God". This was our sweet exchange when we got in the car:

P: This is a very important visor.
M: Why?
P: Because it says, "God" on it. That means that when people who don't believe in God see it, they'll know that God is real!

She plans on wearing it to Sea World next week. I'll let you know how many converts we get!

Another Book Report

I should have realized that I would be called upon to give a spiritual book report more than once this week. It just seems that when God starts working on you, He doesn't stop until He's made His point and YOU'VE GOTTEN IT! And then He works some more.

This week at VBS we've asked the kids to bring in spare change for a mission project. We are raising money for a specific Habitat for Humanity family. All of the money we donate will go directly to this family's house. The kids have really been excited about it and they come every morning with pockets, hands and sandwich bags full of coins and, sometimes, even bills. Last night we had a "situation" with Princess concerning the offering.

Earlier in the week I gave her our large bowl full of change to bring. She was very excited to be able to bring so much change. She took it to her room and started filling her "Give" jar. (She has three jars: Spend, Save and Give. Every time she gets her allowance we instruct her how much to put in each jar.) Last night I noticed that her "Spend" jar seemed a little more full than it had at the beginning of the week. I asked her if she had taken some of the money and put it in there. At first she said (a very weak) no, but then I had her look me in the eye and I told her that I could see that it was now overflowing whereas it wasn't a few days ago. She confessed. To much protesting, I took out the excess (I knew how much she had in there on Monday) and then I told her that we needed to get her dad in on the discussion.

Hubby was disappointed in Princess' actions, obviously. He had her apologize to me and to God. We all prayed. Then brought out her Bible to show her God's words about stealing. Deuteronomy 5:19 "You shall not steal." Then Hubby turned to Acts 5.

Here is the text to Acts 5:

Acts 5

Ananias and Sapphira

1There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception.
3Then Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren't lying to us but to God."
5As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?" "Yes," she replied, "that was the price."
9And Peter said, "How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this--conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Just outside that door are the young men who buried your husband, and they will carry you out, too."
10Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened.

(Before I go further, I must set the environment. At this point it was about 9:15 p.m. Princess was SO tired from a full day of running and playing and crafting, etc. Hubby was equally fried. Every waking moment that he's not at work, Hubby has been studying for a training that he's going to next week. Because of all of the pressure, he hasn't been sleeping well. This environment was not optimal for having a teachable moment! But the Holy Spirit was SO in charge. Read on.)

When Hubby turned to that story in Acts, I was with him. I knew where he was going with it. God wants us to be truthful in our giving and in our hearts. That is the point of the story and that's the point we wanted to make to Princess. Hubby started reading and I guess he just got into it. He didn't stop. He and I both realized that he wasn't stopping just about the time "he fell to the floor and died" came out of his mouth.

Have you ever seen someone say something just as they realize that they weren't supposed to say it? It's almost like there is a voice balloon coming out of their mouth and they are trying to suck it back in.

Princess looked up and said, "HE DIED?" just as Hubby said, "But you're not going to die!" Hubby did some great backtracking there! He explained that this was in the early church and God had to make an example out of these two people so that others would know that He was serious about commitments that you make to the church and to Him. He also pointed out that these were two grown-ups who should know better and Princess is just a kid and she's still learning God's word. I pointed out later that the couple lied to God and did not confess or show remorse. Princess did both. Hopefully we have not scarred our daughter for life! But hopefully she will think twice about stealing again.

But wait! The drama was not over!

Then Hubby told her that her consequence was that she had to give $3 of her own money into the "Give" jar. You would have thought we told her that we were going to pull her toenails out. She screamed, cried and kicked like a banshee! When she wouldn't stop pleading for us not to take her money, Hubby gave her 10 seconds to stop or he'd take another dollar. It has been a LONG time since I saw Princess scream and writhe like that. Hubby wound up taking about $5 more from her "Spend" jar and was about to take more. The Holy Spirit worked overtime on this one! I calmly asked Hubby to come out into the hall with me. I talked with him about his rule that once a child earns something, that thing cannot be taken away as a punishment. Princess had earned all of her dollars through chores (we have a chore system - each chore she completes equals a token and 20 token equal a dollar) and he was taking them away. He was very sweet and humble and went back into Princess' room and gave her back all of her earned money - even the original $3 fine.

We decided that we should all pray one more time and then, at a later date when all are rested and cooled, we would address the issue of Princess being VERY attached to money at this particular time in her life.

Sigh. Tough night. We were trying to be good, Christian parents and use scripture to illustrate our point, and we wound up leading our kid to believe, if just for a moment, that God was going to kill her for her infraction.

At least she'll have this post to print out and bring to her therapist's office.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What I Learned in VBS Today

Oh what a morning. Lately starting the day in our house is just . . . not fun. Buddy's main method of communication when he gets up is whining. And Princess's main goal at that point seems to be to get a rise out of Buddy. Breakfasts have been torture. Crying, screaming, whining, fits. And that's just me! (Ha - had to say it.)

This morning I had just had enough so I made Princess go back upstairs and wait to have breakfast. Buddy was already crying because of something Princess said (I think she told him that she was going to eat the same kind of breakfast bar that he had - HORRORS!) and as she started up the stairs she started crying, too. She kept wailing that she was SOOO hungry and that she felt sick because of the hunger (never mind that I had to ask her three times to come down to breakfast because she was playing with her Barbies).

I have to admit, I yelled. I threatened. I spoke very harsh words to both of them. You see, I was just DONE with it. Every morning. Every morning it's like this and I was just done. By the time I got the kids in the car I was almost in tears.

I mentioned in another post that I'm leading the kiddos in two songs every morning. On the way to VBS we listen to the two songs so that I can warm up and refresh my memory. We backed out of the driveway and Buddy requested his favorite of the two songs. Of course, Princess immediately asked for the other on. I said that whichever song came on when I turned on the CD player, that's what we'd listen to first. When Buddy's song came on first, Princess started her sassy talk. "Well I guess I won't get to hear my song because HIS song came on first. I guess I don't get to hear my song at all this morning." I turned off the music, pulled over, put on my hazard lights and we all just sat. I needed a "time out". I finally told Princess (in a harsh tone) that I was having none of that and that she needed to stop complaining and whining and apologize for her attitude and behavior. After a minute or so, she finally broke and said that she was sorry. So I pulled out into traffic and turned the song back on.

Here are the lyrics to the first song:

Love like You, I want to love like You
With patience and kindness, forgiveness, too
Love like You, I want to love like You
Oh, Lord, won't you help me to love like You?

When I'm feeling glad (Help me to love like You)
When I'm feeling bad (Help me to love like You)
When I don't get my way (Help me to love like You)
At school or at play (Help me to love like You)

CHORUS AGAIN

When Mom needs some hugs (Help me to love like You)
When my brother bugs (Help me to love like You)
In all that I say (Help me to love like You)
Every day (Help me to love like You)

Ouch. Those words pierced my heart. I knew that God was really speaking to me through those lyrics. I was not, in any way, shape or form showing my children His love this morning. The Bible verse that this VBS is based on is 1 Corinthians 13:4 - 7 "Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Now with that definition of love, was I telling my kids that I love them? How could I lead 500 kids in a song like that when I couldn't show two kids how to live it?

When we got to the church, I stopped the car and turned to the kids. I told them that we were not showing each other God's love this morning. I made sure that I included me! I asked questions about some specifics - when I did this, was I showing love? - and then asked them to forgive me for not showing them God's love.

Princess and I dropped Buddy off at his classroom and then we walked over to the main building where all of the older kids meet their teachers. I just didn't have peace that I could leave her. Something wasn't right yet. So I sat her down in my lap and prayed. I thanked God for giving her to us. I confessed to Him (as she listened) that I had not acted as He would have me act. I prayed that He would give me His strength and that He would truly help me to love as He does. As I spoke to the Lord who loves both me and Princess with a love that is perfect, I felt her little arms tightening around my neck. She buried her face in my neck and just held on. I felt healing and I felt peace that can only come from the Father. It was a sweet, sweet moment.

I wish we could have had that moment without the pain that preceded it, but God needed to take me to my knees. I have not been seeking Him lately at all. Oh yes, I have been praying. I always pray and I also try to praise and thank Him as many times a day as I can. And let's not underestimate how powerful prayer is. But I have not been going to His word for nourishment. Living a life that reflects Christ without going back regularly to read His words is like trying to give a book report on a book that you haven't read in six months. You might be able to recall a lot of it, but you probably wouldn't remember some subtle nuances that enhance the story and reinforce the theme.

Had I been spending more time seeking His will through His word, I probably would have been better equipped to deal with what went on this morning. I am not saying that reading the Bible is a magic pill that will make me able to listen to whining with a smile on my face. And I'm not saying that, had I been reading the Bible more regularly, I would not have blown up this morning. I'm saying that this morning I was asked to give a book report to my kids and I acted as if I had never even read the book.

But I'll bet that I have another shot at the book report tomorrow morning!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Big Ole Can O'Worms

So I've kind of avoided the subject of religion here for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that I shrink from conflict like a glacier from a volcano and I know that religion can stir up a lot of conflict. Another reason is that I'm always afraid that I'm going to be asked the "tough" questions about my faith and I hate saying, "I just don't know" or "Well, you just have to have faith". I have friends who have fabulous answers for all sorts of questions. I just freeze. I'm afraid that I'm going to seriously offend someone or that someone just won't like me because I'm Christian, etc. So I avoid the subject.

But not right now. I have some stuff on my mind.

I know that a lot of people are offended and annoyed by Christians who try to share their faith. (I also know that there are a lot of completely obnoxious Christians out there who are very pushy! We're just going to leave them out of it for now.) If people really know and understand Christianity, I would think that they would be offended and annoyed if we DON'T try to share our faith. We believe that Christ is the only way to reconcile with the Father and, therefore, be with Him in eternity. That path is open to anyone. Anyone at all. (Yes, it's exclusive - there are no other roads to heaven - but it's inclusively exclusive. All you have to do is believe.) Now if I believe that only those who accept Christ will be with Him in eternity, and I choose not to share that information with you, wouldn't you be a little offended? Wouldn't you wonder why I didn't think that you were good enough to share that very important tidbit with? As I was thinking about it, I kind of equated it to knowing that there was a place where you could go and get a free car - any car that you'd like - complete with gas and maintenance for life and all you had to do was go to this place and say, "Please". If I went and got a brand new dream car and started driving it around and didn't tell anyone else that they could get a free car, too, what would that say about me? What would people think when they found out? I know that some people prefer to walk and some just like to ride their bike or the bus. That is their choice. But wouldn't they appreciate me telling them anyway?

A few weeks back we had a series in our Sunday School class about what it means to be a Christian in today's world. Why does the word "Christian" put off so many people? Why do some people think that they wouldn't be welcome in a church? Why do some people loathe the idea of coming into a church? Is it Christ? Or is it His followers? We talked about and debated those ideas for several weeks. It was sobering. It made me look at myself and wonder what non-Christians see. What kind of messages am I giving off? Am I someone who people want to know? Am I someone who people want to flee? Are they surprised when they find out that I'm a Christian? And if they are, is that good or bad?!?

(I feel that I'm not really getting to any specific point - that I'm just rambling. But that's okay! It's my blog! I'm trying to work something out here!)

A few years ago I had a conversation that I wish 1) I could remember all of and 2) I wish I could have again so I could defend myself and my faith better. I was working for a small business that provided after school classes. We rented space at several places around town - one place being a church. The church stated in the contract that people who came into their building and rented space to conduct classes could not display any anti-Christian or Pagan symbols while they were there. I forget the exact wording. I had to let the owner of the business know about that clause because one of her instructors was a Pagan and wore Pagan symbols on rings and necklaces. I must have said something about Pagans that she didn't like because later she confronted me about it. She said that she knew I was a Christian, but hadn't pegged me for being judgmental. I honestly don't know what I said! But her confrontation got me thinking. How many times had I sat in meetings in that business and listened to most of them make fun of Christians and/or Christian holidays and not said anything. I just sat there thinking that that was their own opinion and I didn't want to be the party pooper. I didn't laugh and I didn't take part, but I didn't defend myself. Now I say one thing (and I still don't remember what it was) and all of a sudden I was called on the carpet. She was also pretty ticked about the clause in the contract. She wanted to look for another location, but the brochures had already been printed.

Think about the clause, though. We were asking to use a church. Christians revere their churches as a place of worship. We even go so far as to call a church "God's house". It stands to reason that they would not want someone who appears to have authority (like an instructor) come into God's house displaying Pagan symbols. What kind of faith and devotion would the church leaders have if they allowed that? Just like a vegan restaurant would not allow you to rent their party room for a demonstration on how to cook with beef.

Please don't think that I'm trying to play a "Christian victim" here. I don't really feel victimized. I just notice things. Discrepancies in behavior, in others and in myself, when it comes to the topic of religion.

Now, recalling my previous claim that I can't stand conflict, I hope that I haven't offended or weirded out any readers here. I say that Cabin 77 is where I am myself. This is me. I am a Christian. I will post more on my faith at some point in the future. To tell the truth, most of my friends in everyday life are Christian. My blog is where I get opinions and points of view based on different world views and different faiths. I enjoy that! Please feel free to comment, but please be kind. Remember the picture of the volcano and the glacier. And don't worry, I'll go back to posting about the kids soon. Buddy putting Band-Aids on his nostrils is infinitely more entertaining than dry posts about religion!

And now I will close. I had a big day today. This morning I led about 500 kids in singing songs about God in Vacation Bible School. So, of course, I had to question my religion! LOL! Would you trust your child with me?!? ;-)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I Feel Safe

Buddy is in a superhero phase right now. For his birthday he got two Batman dolls and one Superman doll. He also got a Spiderman riding a motorcycle, but Spidey just isn't as big as Batman or Superman. And Spidey doesn't have a cape. Buddy was running around the house singing a song (that he wrote himself), "I'm a superhero! I have a cape!"

Princess has a new Barbie doll. A bride Barbie. Princess is in heaven. However, she keeps trying to make Superman marry Bride Barbie. Buddy has explained several times in no uncertain terms that superheroes don't get married. His reasoning is that they wear capes instead. Princess met his argument that Bride Barbie also wears a cape, but it's around her head - her veil. So for the rest of the day Superman, Batman and Bride Barbie flew all over the house fighting crime. I do believe that we live in the safest house on the block.

Today they were playing "Superhero". Apparently that game consists of them running around from room to room yelling, "Come here, Batman!" Or, "Come here, Superman!" Or even yelling (as they pass the dog), "Come here, Superdog!" They fly up the stairs and defeat the Joker. Then they fly down the stairs and . . . defeat the Joker. I think that the Joker is the only super villian that they know.

Now they have me joining in. I'm Superwoman. I have defeated the Joker three times today already. I defy any telemarketer to call today. I shall take them all down, for I am Superwoman!

First Day of Home School 2005

I was looking over some old e-mails that I had saved as journal entries. This is an account of Princess' first day of home school. She is in a university model school where she is actually in class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I home school (with their lesson plans) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We love it! It has been so rewarding to be an active part of her learning process. And I love the flexibility to be able to practice spelling words in sidewalk chalk at the park if we want to. Anyway, read on for her first day at home.

Okay, by about 9:30 a.m. Princess had 1) gotten two time outs, 2) run screaming down the street, "You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!" and 3) flung poop on the wall. But it got better! I'll elaborate.

1) We had a slightly rough (and I mean that in the literal sense, not the sarcastic sense) transition from mommy/daughter to teacher/student. She was treating everything like a game that she could control (my daughter? Bossy? NO! - that was sarcastic) and was not taking the lesson seriously. We were outside in the driveway doing the Clock Game (I drew a clock face in chalk on the driveway and she was supposed to follow my directions in going from one number to another - learning about making letters clockwise or counter clockwise) and she was jumping on any number that she felt like jumping on. Time-out number one.

2) The Gingerbread Man thing is directly related to #1. After the first time-out we had a good few minutes and then she took off. Time-out number two and lecture. Now, you know my blood can run a little hot sometimes. God was SO in control here! I was calm, collected and serious, but very much in control of myself. My inner me was screaming "We've made a mistake! I can't do this! She will never 'let' me teacher her!" While God was soothing me and saying, "I led you here. I am in control. I will work it out." So I heard myself very calmly explaining to her that this was school. This was a lesson and she had to treat it as such. I asked her if she would run screaming down the hall during Mrs. S's class and she laughed and said that she wouldn't. I told her to treat me like a teacher because that is what I am during lessons. I told her that if she wanted to, or needed to, she could call me Mrs.Mommy. She laughed at that, too, but she immediately changed and got into the game and then the rest of the morning went very smoothly. Well . . . except for . . .

3) She went back inside to potty and was gone a very long time. I came back in to check on her and she said that when she wiped she had gotten poop on her hand. She was freaking out a little! So she had shaken her hand to get it off and it had gotten on the wall. Easily taken care of! Not really all that serious! But in the context of first day of homeschool, quite funny.

First of all, all praise is to God. He was all over this day. And praise to Him that he prompted me to get out of bed early and have some prayer time before I got the kids up. I cannot believe how God has blessed us with this school! I am overwhelmed and so excited! And I also realized how much Buddy is going to get out of our time in the home classroom, too. I'm just so fired up! I know that we will have not so great days, but we started this venture with poop on our walls! And ended the day glowing! How cool!

Back to present day. It's interesting to go back and read how we started the school year. Princess has matured SO much since that first day. I'm excited to see what next year brings.

Belated Father's Day Post

Here is a copy of something that I wrote on Father's Day.

Today is Father's Day. There are five significant fathers in my life who I would like to celebrate today. They shaped my life and my family.

The first is my grandfather, who we called Bigdaddy. I didn't know him as a father, but he was the best grandfather a kid could have. He had a rough, gravely, but tender voice. I remember nights at Cabin 77 when we would all sit on the screened-in porch and Bigdaddy would sing old country songs. He would also talk to the bullfrogs and to the doves. He taught me to fish. He never showed favorites between his two grandchildren - me and my brother. He told the best stories! I realized by the time I was a teenager that there was no way he could have been a cowboy AND an Indian AND a gladiator. He was also a wonderful great-grandfather to Princess. He adored her. I have a priceless photo of the two of them. They are sitting in two large comfy chairs. She is lining up all of her Hot Wheels cars on the arm of her chair. I remember that she was describing each of the cars as she "parked" them. He was captivated. That year for Christmas he bought her Hot Wheels cars.

Bigdaddy was on the front lines in World War II. He served in the 36th Infantry Division and proudly wore the Texas T-Patch. It is hard for me to watch "Saving Private Ryan" because some of the battles depicted mirror very closely some of the experiences I know he went through.

Bigdaddy was an honorable man. He was worthy of respect. I miss him.

Next is my dad. Now that I'm an adult, when I look back on my life and our circumstances I realize how difficult it must have been for him. He had two loves - his family and theatre. It's hard to maintain both of those, but he did. He was the director of a community theatre when my brother was born. When that job ended, he became a theatre professor. He taught during the day and then rehearsed productions at night. But I don't ever remember a time when we didn't have dinner together. His rehearsals usually didn't start until about 7:00 so we would have dinner and once a week we would have a family game night. Sometimes when he would have a rehearsal on a weekend he would bring me and my brother to the auditorium to play. We knew that place like the backs of our hands.

Dad was off during the summers and that was great! Every weekend we'd go to Bigdaddy's cabin at the lake. Dad taught me to water ski. He didn't teach me to fish, but I do remember lots of mornings and afternoons with him fishing off of our dock.

The most important thing that Dad taught me was the meaning of unconditional love. We never really talked at length about it, but I just always knew that there was nothing I could do to make him stop loving me. Oh, he got mad at me! But I never thought that he didn't love me. (I may have said that, just to be pouty, but I never believed it.) In that way he did an excellent job of mirroring God's love for me. And that's one of the most important jobs a parent has.

Another dad to whom I owe a debt of gratitude is Hubby's father. Tony. I never got to meet him. He died just after Hubby and I started dating. Tony was planning a trip to Austin to visit Hubby and to meet me in May of 1995. He died on the treadmill at his gym in March of that year. Everyone who knew Tony loved him. At family gatherings his presence is still missed. I hear stories about him all the time and every story is bathed in love, humor and warmth. From pictures I see that his smile lives in Hubby's smile. Obviously he is important to my husband's family, but he is important to me, too because he did a wonderful job of teaching Hubby how to be a father.

Herman, my brother, is the only father in this list who has step-kids. Herman and his wife have a wonderful story. They were high school sweethearts. When my brother went away to college they decided that they didn't want a long distance relationship and broke up. I know for a fact that Herman never stopped loving her. She married and had two kids and then the marriage ended. About a year after her divorce was final, she came to Austin to visit some friends and looked Herman up. I think she just wanted to make sure that there were no hard feelings (she married one of his close friends from high school). They went out to dinner and the rest is history. Kind of.

When they started to get serious, Herman stepped back a bit because he knew that she came with kids. My brother is not impetuous at all. He's spontaneous, but not impetuous. He knew that he loved her, but he wanted to make sure that he could love the kids as a father should. He weighed the pros and cons. Because the ex-husband was / is a non-presence in the kids' lives Herman knew that HE (Herman) would more than likely be the only dad that these kids ever knew. He wanted to make sure that he could be that man. He did not take that responsibility lightly. NOW the rest is history. He stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. He is amazing. And now they have a child together and he's all the more amazing for making a blended family work. My sis-in-law said that last week her son called from his grandparents house (where he's been visiting for about a week) and immediately asked for Herman!

Now for the topper. My husband. He was born to be a dad. Our "let's talk about having kids" conversation went like this:

Me: Well, we've been married a couple of years now, do you think we need to talk about when we want to have kids?
Hubby: I'm ready!(That was in 1998. Princess was born in 2000 - after only two tries - so you can guess whose feet were dragging!)

He has been the sole provider of income since I got pregnant. We decided as a couple that I would stay home with the kids. Sometimes it's hard, but he's never complained and he's never asked me to go back to work. He wants (as much as I do) for the kids to be brought up by US and not a day care worker. (But we are both VERY pro-Mother's Day Out!)

He was right there during labor and delivery of both kids making sure that I got whatever I wanted or needed. And when I damaged a nerve in my left leg during Princess' delivery and couldn't stand or walk without crutches for a week, he changed every diaper and brought Princess to me for every feeding - day or night.

He prays for and with the kids. The kids see and hear him pray about everything - big and little. They see him serve at church, they see him serve at home. And they see him do it joyously.

They also see him treat me with respect. He thanks me for dinner. He helps around the house. He gets me flowers for my birthday and our anniversary. He compliments me in front of them. They see that he values me as a woman and as a mom.

I am so aware that we shape our kids' future relationships. I know that Hubby is doing a great job of that. I pray that Princess will go out only with men who treat her the way her daddy treats her - like the precious gift that she is. And I pray that Buddy will find a woman who will allow him to be the husband and the father that Hubby is teaching him to be.

Happy Father's Day to the best of the best!

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Okay, here was my plan for Saturday, June 17:

Leave Lubbock (my parents' home) at about 8:30 a.m. Get to the half-way point (San Angelo) in time for lunch. The kids would fall asleep soon after we leave San Angelo and they would sleep until Fredericksburg - a stretch, but not out of the realm of possibilities. At Fredericksburg we would stop at the Fredericksburg winery to get a bottle of Hubby's favorite port for Father's Day. We'd get home in time for a relatively early dinner, then the kids and I would finish his Father's Day cards (I got some that had little frames where the kids could draw pictures of them with Hubby). The kids would be in bed by 8:00 so that I could straighten the house before Hubby's flight landed at 9:44. I would time it so that I was filling the tub with a bubble bath about the time that he would walk in.

And God laughed.

It was all going as planned until Fredericksburg. Princess slept only an hour or so, but then she quietly played Barbies and sang to herself and occasionally asked how many more hours until Fredericksburg. Buddy woke up as we entered the parking lot of the winery. Awesome! We walked inside (I carried a sleepy Buddy) and were there no more than three minutes when Buddy gave the loudest burb I've ever heard. Then emptied the contents of his stomach all over me. I will spare you the details, but my first of many thanks to the Lord is that we were traveling with suitcases and I was able to re-clothe us.

After cleaning us and the floor I finally got around to asking about the port. They had some, but couldn't sell me any because they had run out of bottles. The bottle are due there on Monday. Bummer!

I had thought that maybe we would get some ice cream, but then I thought about Buddy and I decided that we just needed to get home. In all honesty, he looked fine. He was running around like nothing was wrong so I just chalked it up to him getting overheated and car sick.

We made it home with plenty of time to spare. Okay, I can do without the wine, but we can finish the cards. I walked in the door and Hubby called. What timing! As I was telling him about our failed trip to Fredericksburg, Buddy came running up to me with arms outstretched. I hugged him and he promptly threw up down my back. Phone call over. So started the rest of my night. Poor little Buddy alternately threw up and dozed until about 9:00 when he could finally keep down some water. Hubby arrived home about 10:30 ( I had called him with a small grocery list of bland foods and cleaning items) and Buddy slept from 11:00 until 7:00 the next morning.

No wine. No bubble bath. But we're all home and together. Yet another thanks offered up to the Lord!

But here's where my plans and God's plan worked together for our good that day: had I called the winery (which I almost did) and found out that they were out of port, we would not have been out of the car at the time that Buddy's illness hit. And you can just imagine how completely horrible that would STILL be. Also, had we stopped in Dripping Springs to get some fast food (which I almost did), we would not have been home when the brunt of it descended. When I got home and realized the timing of all of it, I just thanked God and thanked God.

Now I'm praying that I don't get it. I know that's a complete longshot since my body shielded the floor from the mess at least three times. But I'm hoping that all of the hand washing, glove wearing and showering did SOMETHING to protect me!

Oh, and speaking of protection, after we got home and the severity of the virus showed itself, Princess disappeared upstairs with scissors, masking tape, yarn and a paper bag. She came downstairs wearing a mask that she had fashioned from said materials. She was also wearing a pair of rubber gloves about three sizes too big. Had I had time to unpack my camera between loads of laundry and carpet cleaning I would have taken a picture. It was priceless! And very, very smart.

And The Oscar for Best Performance By a Girl Who Doesn't Want To Clean Her Room Goes To . . .

Princess!!!!
Oh, the drama. The drama.
I told Princess to clean her room before coming downstairs. Without the drama it would have taken about 10 minutes, tops. With the drama, it took about 45. She wailed. She sobbed. Some choice lines:
"I'll be in here for two whole days cleaning and people will forget about me and start to love Buddy better."
"I can't DO it by myself!"
"I need a kiss!"
"You have to HELP me!" (said with the best wail you can imagine)
"I want a hug!"
"Let's make a rule that whoever is in the room when someone is cleaning the room has to help someone clean the room."
I just don't know WHERE the drama comes from!

Animal Planet out our Bedroom Window

This morning I discovered what Princess has known for a few days - we have a family of birds who are using our house for flight school.

Our garage is directly below Princess' room and has a small overhang with a rain gutter. The four babies birds (dubbed Birdy, Fluffy, Tweety, and Chloe by Princess) sit on the gutter under Princess' window and wait patiently for Mommy and Daddy to come feed them. When a parent is in sight, the babies flutter their little wings and cheep for all they are worth. I imagine that they are saying, "Me! Me! I'm hungry! You fed her last time! Pick me! I'm here!" Once the parent has flown off, all becomes quiet again. No bickering. No sibling rivalry. Just primping, preening and stretching until Mom or Dad comes back with another bug or berry.

Every 10 minutes or so the returning parent will give some sort of signal and all four little ones fly away. Within a few minutes they are back on our gutters, stretching and grooming themselves after their exercise. It is wondrous to watch!

Watching the little family prompted this exchange:
Buddy: When I grow up, I'm going to be a baby bird.
Princess: (very grown-up) Buddy, you can't be a baby bird.
Buddy: (disappointed) Why not?
Princess: Because you can't be something that you're not. (in an accommodating way) When you grow up you can be a scientist that studies baby birds and dinosaur bones, but you can't be a baby bird.
Buddy: I don't want dinosaur bones.
Princess: (exasperated) Oh, Buddy!

I like having such original commentary to the documentaries that I see out my window!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Surprise!

In every history of every parent there is a moment when a child becomes a part of the family. I love hearing everyone's story because they are all so different. Some involve a LOT of waiting. Some don't. Our friend Dave was coached by his wife's doctor on what to have ready at home in case he had to deliver their third child. His wife's labors had never gone over the one hour mark. I love the stories!

Several months before my due date I went to see my doctor to talk about my "birth plan". I was very apprehensive about the labor and delivery process because of the experience that I had with Princess. (Here's that story in a nutshell: she was induced two weeks early because the sonogram revealed that she was fairly big and I am not, I pushed for two and a half hours resulting in a pinched nerve in my left leg which caused me to be on crutches for over a week - I literally could not stand to change a diaper for the first two weeks of her life, and I had a third degree episiotomy tear that took forever and a day to heal. No fun. There's a reason she and her brother are three years apart.) So I discussed a c-section with my doctor. He was supportive, but he wanted me to really think about it carefully. I started praying about it that day and I got an answer from God - "Trust Me." Not the answer I wanted. Too vague! I wanted specifics! But I knew that was all I was going to get. I eventually told my doctor that the only way I'd want an automatic c-section was if my son was face-up. Princess was face-up and I think that's where all the hardship started.

Now, fast-forward to June 2. We had a sonogram scheduled at 2:00 and then a follow-up with the doctor at 2:30. From the sonogram they learned that Buddy was already hovering around seven pounds - at 35 weeks 4 days! Whew! Also, he was face-down. Yay! During the doctor visit we started talking about when we'd induce since Buddy was getting big. Princess was induced at 38 weeks (the earliest that they will induce) because she was so big. I guess I just start cooking overtime around month 8! Anyway, the doctor checked and I was 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced. Hubby mentioned that he had a business trip scheduled for later in the week and the nurse said that he shouldn't go anywhere. Then Hubby sealed our fate and said, "Well she's NOT going to have the baby this week!" To which the nurse just laughed and told me that I had better have a bag packed.

That evening Hubby and Princess were going to go help some friends move a couch and I was going to a small diaper shower that a friend of mine had planned for me. I was in the garage at 6:15 p.m. waving good-bye to Hubby and Princess as they backed down our driveway and my water broke. I signaled for Hubby to stop the car and I told him that I thought my water broke. He wasn't convinced. His exact words were, "That's not possible. Go check." So I dutifully went in to the bathroom to check. What exactly I was checking for is not clear. My pants were soaked. I could have told him that in the driveway! No baby head sticking out. Just wet pants. So I went back out and he said he'd stick around until I called the doctor. Well, the doctor wanted me to come in to the hospital just in case so Hubby and a now crying Princess (she was really excited about riding in Daddy's truck with a couch) came back inside.

My brother and his wife and family live less than five minutes from our house so they came over to help out with Princess. I was in such shock that I could actually be having the baby that I just couldn't think of what to pack. My sister-in-law coached me through it - she found a list in my "What to Expect When You're Expecting" book and we checked off the list together. After about 30 minutes of packing, I was in the kitchen showing her where breakfast bars were when the first real contraction hit. Whoa buddy. That's when sis-in-law said, "Okay, you guys have to go NOW!" and we did. She's had three kids - the first two came so quickly that she didn't have time for the epidural. When she said NOW, I knew it was serious!

The contractions started to get worse on the way to the hospital. By the time we got there they were between two and four minutes apart and really starting to get bad. We had to walk about TWO MILES from the elevators to the labor and delivery admitting desk - of course stopping every minute or so for a contraction. The nurse met us and got us settled into a room pretty quickly and then the paperwork started. We had registered at another hospital but had to switch at the last minute because the doctor on call was on his way to the second hospital to deliver another baby. So in between horrendous contractions I had to answer all sorts of paperwork questions and then try to hold a pen and sign stuff. The contractions kept getting more and more intense until finally I could barely even breathe.

Yes, contractions are extremely painful. I was very surprised at how painful they were. I did not get to the painful contraction stage with Princess. Because she was induced, I was able to get the epidural before any of the hard stuff started. So I did NOT know ANYTHING about true labor! When I had asked my mom about her contractions, she told me that they were painful, but it was a sweet pain. That with every pain she knew she was one step closer to being a mommy. Awww. I don't know what planet she gave birth on thirty-eight years ago. There's nothing sweet about that pain. Those suckers HURT! And it's not like it is in the movies. I couldn't have screamed if I had wanted to - I had no breath! And I am thoroughly convinced that a MAN devised the Lamaze system. Yes, I did need to breathe during the contractions. I'm sure that oxygen would have helped. How anyone can breathe when their abdominal muscles are doing their best impression of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant I will never know.

I'm sure that it is very disturbing to see the person you love most in the world writing in pain and knowing that you can't do anything to help. Hubby did try to help at one point by starting the chant, "Breathe. Breathe. Breathe with the contraction." I'm not sure exactly how I mustered the breath or the strength to talk at that point, but I know I looked at him and said, "You have to stop talking." My husband is wonderful. He did. Then a few contractions later Hubby very politely asked me to change my grip on his hand because the two-handed grip of the moment spelled a broken thumb in his near future. After every contraction I would apologize to everyone in the room for either being rude or for actually physically hurting them. Yes, I kept asking for the epidural and was promised that it would happen soon. The nurse actually said, "Sweetie, we need to make sure you're in active labor." A Linda Blair voice came out of my body. "I AM!" I finally got the epidural about 9:15 and it immediately started to work. Yay! It was a great epidural. I could feel no pain, but I could feel the pressure of the contractions so that really helped me a lot with the pushing later. (I found out later that during the time that the doctor was giving me the epidural I pulled my nurse's hair. I had a contraction and I thought I grabbed only her shirt. Turns out I grabbed a handful of hair, too. Again, I apologized.)

On a side note, they had this ridiculous pain chart that they referenced every time I said I hurt. It had little "happy" faces on it depicting varying degrees of pain from zero to ten. At ten the "smiley face" was crying. I told the nurse that my pain went to eleven. She didn't get it, but Hubby laughed.

For the next 45 minutes or so I dozed and just relaxed. Remember, I pushed with Princess for 2 1/2 hours so I was resting up for what could have been another marathon. At about 10:30 - during Leno's monologue - the doctor came in and checked me and I was at 10 cm! (Why he promptly left, I don't know. Although he only needs to be there to catch the baby. The nurse does all of the push coaching.) So at 10:33 I started pushing. I pushed through one contraction and then the nurse told me to wait. She said that she could see the head coming down and everything looked great. When I felt the next contraction coming I asked if she wanted me to push and she said no! So then Hubby, the nurse and I started taking bets for when we thought Buddy would make it into the world. I said I thought it would be 11:00. Hubby said 10:35. He didn't think that Leno would get through his monologue! The nurse wouldn't commit. I wound up only pushing through every third contraction. They sent for the doctor after the third push, he came in and one more push I had the head out then one small push and there was Buddy at 10:49! It was a much calmer and relaxed delivery than Princess! They lay Buddy right on my stomach, covered in goo and crying his head off! Then Hubby actually cut the cord. That was amazing! We were all joking and laughing and excited and no one was scared or stressed at all! He was 7 pounds 5 ounces at one month early. Wow. Praise to God that Buddy did not go full term!

Because he was so early, they had to do all of the preemie tests on him. (Each nurse that came to get him would look at him and say, "Are you sure you had the date right?" Yes. My husband had had several business trips that previous fall. He was home during just the right week!) Buddy sailed through all of the tests with flying colors. Yep, I just turn the oven up the last trimester!

My recovery was just as easy as the birth. I wasn't on crutches - I was walking around the room almost as soon as we moved to the mother/baby wing. I could actually sit down and not want to cry! A week later at home Princess and I were dancing together in the backyard!

I am just praising God for the way He took such good care of us! He said, "Trust Me" and what a blessing that I did! There were so many things that didn't go the way I wanted - a different hospital, my doctor wasn't on call so another doctor in the practice delivered us, Buddy was a whole MONTH early so we had a ton of stuff left to do - but I wouldn't change anything because it was all so perfect! God just knows exactly what we need and He is delighted to give it to us. Even if we put in an order for something different.

Oh, and here's the icing on the cake. As I was leaving the hospital on Wednesday I saw my anesthesiologist in the hallway. I told him that he was one of my favorite people and that his epidural was right on the money. I asked what his name was so that I could record it in Buddy's baby book. He told me and it turns out he and I worked together at a haunted house when we were both in high school! I went home and found a picture of us together - get this - 20 years ago! That picture is going in Buddy's book! Ha! Small world! Hubby said, "Well, looks like he's still coming after people with long sharp objects!"

Our Household Vernacular

Different parts of the country have different vernaculars. In the South, any kind of soda is called a "Coke" whereas in Detroit, where Hubby grew up, it's called "pop". We Southerners also say that we're "fixin' to do something" and Detroit people just do it. As a stay-at-home-mom in a community of stay-at-home-moms I find that each family has their own vernacular, fueled by the one (or two) in the household who don't quite have a grasp on language yet. Every parent knows which words to teach to the baby-sitter to avoid meltdowns. I myself know the frustration of asking for a Coke and being served one instead of being asked what kind of Coke I would like.

The vernacular of our household:
Princess is almost six so she's pretty much dropped her "special" words. But we used to have to interpret:
la-la = "water"
Ee-oh da-da = "Eeyore and blanket" (For a while she called her blanket "da-da". This was actually before there was a Dada calling his son "Blanket".)
ahng-gahng = "another" (There was much frustration before I figured this one out.)
Home Beto = Home Depot. (My parents still call it Home Beto.)
Scabettios = "Spaghettios" (She actually still uses this one. I can't correct her because it's just too cute.)

Buddy only has a few. He has a big sister to correct him:
poot = "shoe" (I have no idea. Thank goodness he's outgrown this one.)
sumping = "something" which actually means "yogurt" (Apparently the first time I gave him yogurt I asked, "Do you want something?" and then put the yogurt in front of him. I finally figured it out when he was banging on the refrigerator yelling, "Want sumping! Want sumping!" and I opened the refrigerator and he laughed, touched the yogurt container and very lovingly said, "Sumping!")
bigga one = "bigger one" = his lambskin that he carries around. (When we realized that he was attached to the huge lambskin that he sleeps on I cut two smaller pieces off so that we could bring it with us for emergency cuddling. There was tiny one, bigger one and huge one. He bonded with "bigga one".)

So when anyone is fixin' to come over to our house, we just tell them to grab their Scabettios and sumping and if they want to bring some Coke make sure it's Dr. Pepper. And take your poots off at the door.

Sit-Com Moment #2

Last year on the morning of Buddy's second birthday party Hubby went out to get a dozen helium-filled balloons for the table. Buddy was very excited about getting his balloons so we waited and watched for Hubby's return. Hubby drove up and Buddy and I came out on the front porch to welcome him (and the balloons) home. Hubby opened the pick-up door, pulled out the balloons and said, "Here are your ba-" and was interrupted by POW! POW! POW! POW! Hubby and I had both forgotten about the tree that hangs over the driveway. My poor husband looked at me and said, "Aw! I feel like I should be on 'Everybody Loves Raymond'!"

Luckily Hubby has quick reflexes and we only lost four balloons out of a dozen. No big loss. However, Buddy saw those balloons die and immediately began to wail. Again, Hubby has quick reflexes and brought over the remaining balloons to show Buddy that we still had plenty.

Disaster averted, funny story gained.

Time on my hands

What to do? What to do?
I am positively giddy. It looks as if I will have almost an entire week in June where I will be alone. Hubby is going on a work thing for a full week. I have worked it out so that my parents will have the kids during that time. I will be alone. Oh my goodness! I will only be responsible for my own food, my own bathroom habits, my own cleanliness. Wow. It's almost too much to take in. I'm almost afraid to post this entry for fear that I will jinx it!
My mind reels with the possibilities. Tackle some projects that are easier without four little hands helping? Take a couple of day trips ALONE? Rent some scary movies? Blog, blog, blog! My sister in law already has dibs on one night for a girl's night out. How fun! I never get to spend time with her ALONE.
I have about three weeks to plan. Oh, the possibilities!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The End of an Era

Buddy is now sleeping in a big boy bed. He's almost officially a big boy (he's still in pull-ups, the last hurdle to the big boy potty has not been crossed). I don't know how I feel about that.

Buddy has made the transition from crib to bed just fine. I'm the one having trouble! That crib has been assembled and in use in our house for almost six years. I can't get used to the fact that we're getting rid of all of our baby stuff. We're not going to have another baby. Ever. Wow. I'm not so sure that I like the finality of that.

It's been almost three years since I last gave birth. I know I have forgotten a lot, but I haven't forgotten everything. Babies are a lot of work with not much payoff for the first three or four months. (After that time, they start smiling. That rocks.) Things are constantly coming up - sleep issues, teething, weaning, trying solid foods, etc. It seems that once you get used to one schedule or one phase it's over and the next phase brings on an entirely new schedule! (Today is an example - Princess graduated from kindergarten. She's actually about to be in a GRADE!) But the maternal instinct is hard to suppress once it's activated. When you know that you are more responsible for this little thing than you've ever been in your life, when you know that if you did not do your job, this little being would not make it, when you realize that this little person bonded with you and knows that you will supply it with every need you can . . . that's so incredibly humbling and (dare I say it) addicting.

It's not power. At least, it's not for me. I don't feel power over my children. I feel a sense of responsibility and an overwhelming sense of humility. God has chosen me to shape these two little lives. It's actually beyond words so I don't know why I'm trying!

I fought Hubby when he wanted to take the crib down. I was not happy about it. Most of it was just the sleep issue thing with Buddy - we have had almost six months of really great nights and I didn't want to change ANYTHING for fear that it would rock the boat. But in the back of my mind, I just didn't want the symbol of babyhood to be gone. Getting rid of the crib is one step closer to Buddy and Princess not needing me like they do now. I go into Buddy's room and it's the room of a little boy - not a baby or even a toddler. I'm the mother of a 1st grader and a preschooler. Oh no . . . am I getting old? Is this about ME? (Isn't everything?!) ;-)

There are some phases that I'm glad are over - teething, 4 a.m. feedings, the stage where they can't walk really well, but want to do it without help . . . in a two story house - but there are some things I want to hang on to just a little while longer. I'm glad that I have Hubby to gently, but firmly, push me into letting go when I need to.

One of the most important things that my parents did for me and my brother was that they always treated us the age that we were. I don't ever remember being babied nor do I remember being asked to do things that were beyond me. I realize that I have to do that with my own children. I just didn't realize that it would be so hard!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Family Tree

I recently signed on as a consultant with a company called Once Upon a Family. It's a work-from-home company along the lines of Avon, Pampered Chef and Creative Memories. I signed on because the main goal of the company is to bring families together by implementing traditions that celebrate families. Of course the company has products to support all of the traditions! But what I like about the company is that the celebration is the focus, not necessarily the sales of the products. (My website is www.onceuponafamily.com/210147)

One of their products is a family tree. It's a foam core board with a beautiful tree printed on it. It comes with a bag of 25 paper leaves and push pins. I'm in the process of filling out the leaves and attaching them. The front of the leaf has four blanks - name, relationship, date of birth and birthplace. The back of the leaf is blank so that you can stick a photo on it. When my grandfather passed away I asked my dad and aunt if I could have all of the old photos that Bigdaddy kept in his office. I have those in my guest room now. I scanned them into my computer, color corrected, cropped and then printed out pictures the right size for the leaves.

Here I sit at my desk with faces of my ancestors looking up at me. Who are they? I know from looking up some family trees on the web that my great-great grandmother was a direct descendant of German royalty - the Brandenburgs. I have a picture of her here, but I don't know anything about her. What was her favorite color? What was she really, really good at? I see a picture of my great grandfather with his handlebar mustache. What did his voice sound like? I see that my grandmother had her mother's mouth. And the resemblance between my great grandfather, grandfather, father, brother and nephew is just plain spooky.

I am so glad that I have these photographs. I am so glad that I can pass this family tree on to my children and their children. And I'm glad that I can start a tradition of writing (blogging!) about the little things that make up a human being. Not just when and where they were born, but how much pepper they put on their eggs, if they were good at dominoes and what their favorite joke was. If humor is hereditary, that joke will have something to do with farts.

An Angel in Central Market

This is a journal entry from May 1, 2006

This afternoon I did a very brave thing - I took the kids to Central Market.

Look over that sentence and I will point out two very significant things.
AFTERNOON - morning is the optimal time to take the kids anywhere they will be semi-confined. Today I chose to take them at 1:10. To top it all off, they had not had a proper lunch yet. (There is an exercise class that I like to take from noon to one. I had intended to go straight home after the class, but realized during the class that I had nothing planned for dinner.)
KIDS - plural. Taking only one is usually fine any time of the day. Two kids at the wrong time of the day is just . . . brave.

Princess was asking great questions about shopping and I was trying to take advantage of the teachable moments to, well, teach her. She helped me pick out the bell pepper, the mushrooms, the eggplant, etc. It was very fun! I am continually amazed at her maturity. She even told me, "I'm going to help you today because that's what six year olds do!"

Oh my sweet little Buddy. His Central Market story is a bit different.

I can't let him tour a grocery store on his own power. He MUST ride in the cart. Picturing him loose in the Central Market produce section conjures up not a sit-com moment, but an entire episode. So he was in the front of the cart. He inspected all of the produce, too, but only to see how far he could throw said produce back into the cart. He also experimented with positions in the cart - seated, crouched, standing, backwards . . . you get the picture. There was one time when I actually gave him a little "pop" on the leg - something that I never do in public for fear that I will not be allowed to go home with him. (Side note - yes, we do spank. But we have very strict rules for our spankings so that we - Hubby and myself - hold each other accountable and don't misuse it. One of the things that gets an automatic spanking is willful disobedience. I told Buddy not to drop the bag of oranges, he looked at me, raised them and then let go. Pop.) Because of his "spiritedness", I felt that I was constantly fussing at him and was very conscious of who was around me.

All through the store I kept seeing this one woman. I noticed that she and I seemed to have the same things on our list. She was in the produce section when we were, she was sampling bread when we were, etc. She was a very well put together older woman with beautiful white hair and a stylish skirt and blouse. When we were ready to check out, for some reason I chose the line that she was in - not really because it was shorter, but somehow she seemed safe. I had no idea why, but now I see that it was divine intervention!

I got in the line and, once again, scolded Buddy for standing up in the cart. The woman looked back at me and said, "You know, we've been following each other all over the store. I had forgotten how busy young mothers are! It's constant, isn't it! And you don't get a break!"

Here's the picture - I have no make-up on, I'm stinky because I just worked out, and I have a writhing (and giggling) Buddy in my arms. My first thought was, "She called me young!"

"Yes! It is busy!" I said to her. "But you know, I just got back from a church retreat. Three days of BEING fed. It was great!"

She smiled. "That's so important" she said. Then she leaned in, looked me in the eye and said, "Your children are very well behaved."

What an amazing blessing those words were. One of the most difficult parts of not having a "boss" or a "job" is that I don't get yearly evaluations. I don't have a written job description by which I can measure my performance. There is no training manual with instructions that lay it all out with "A to B to C and then you get D". (Oh yes, there are plenty of parenting books - many of which I have thrown across the room.) The thing is, I won't really know if I did a good job as a mom until my kids are much older - if then. That sweet angel at the checkout line in Central Market acknowledged that my job is a hard job. And she told me that I was doing it well.

I would like to think that my true Boss used her to tell me that He is pleased with how I'm doing. And to Him I say, "Thank you, Sir. I love my job. I hope that I can continue to grow in it and to please You."

And I also hope that someday when I am a well put together older woman with white hair and stylish clothes (!) I can stop and encourage a young mom in a grocery store with a small boy climbing over her shoulder.

Playing Catch-Up

No, I'm really not this prolific. I am posting so many entries at once because I am copying from a journal that I have been keeping on my computer. It only LOOKS like I've got time on my hands to compose so many entries at once!

Just so you know . . .

A Huge Compliment - If You Know Where To Look

A few weeks ago Princess and I were talking about what she wants to be when she grows up. For the last year she has maintained that she wants to be a Shamu trainer at Sea World. That's fine with me! That means that I can go backstage and pet Shamu!

This particular morning I showed her the picture of her and one of the trainers that we took at Sea World. I said something about her being able to look back on that picture when she is a trainer. She said, "If I'm a trainer."

Me: "'If' you're a trainer? I thought that's what you wanted to be. Have you changed your mind?"

Princess: "No. I still want to be a trainer. But God knows what I'm going to be. He might not want me to be a trainer. He might want me to be nothing. Like you! You don't have a job."

Me: (and no, I wasn't offended - I was smiling) "No? This is my job! I'm not nothing! What am I?"

Princess: (with a huge smile) "MOMMY!"

There are two compliments in that exchange. One is that she is learning to seek God's will for her life. And the other is that she thinks that being "nothing" (a.k.a. a Mommy) would be a perfectly acceptable occupation.

Moments

There are two main categories of odd moments in my life: David Lynch Moments and Sit-Com Moments. They are incidents or encounters that would easily lift out of my life and be perfect in either a David Lynch movie or a sit-com. My latest Sit-Com Moment involved my kids. Surprise, surprise.

We couldn't find a certain, and beloved, sippy cup. So I gave Princess the job of finding it. She took the job very seriously. She drew pictures of all of the places that the sippy cup could be and then she would search those places and mark them off of her list. This was good because it occupied both her and Buddy while I got some things done. I was busy cleaning upstairs when I realized that I hadn't heard them for a little while. The last I saw, they were checking the Bug's House. (Household vernacular: the Bug's House is the corner of our yard that is the the ivy garden - just a lot of large limestone rocks and one large tree all overgrown with beautiful ivy. It's also the home to anything that Buddy wants to throw in there.) I looked out the window and couldn't see them. So I went downstairs to check the guest room. Nothing. I called for them and didn't get an answer. Just about the time that I started to get concerned and wonder if I could tell the police what they were wearing our car alarm went off. I ran to the garage to see both kids inside the car screaming in terror and banging on the windows. The lights were flashing and the horn was going off, as was the siren. I opened the car door, got them out and into the house and turned off the alarm.

Once I had my head on straight again, I asked what in the world they were doing playing in the car. Princess was being thorough! The car was on her list of places to look for the sippy cup. Buddy had come along, found my keys in the car (I keep them in the console), and accidentally set the alarm. Once Princess determined that the sippy cup was not in the car, she opened the door. Bedlam.

I don't think I have to worry about them ever playing in the car again.

We never did find the sippy cup.

My Mother's Day

Ah, Mother's Day! It's such a sweet day. I was awakened by the sound of Princess padding into my room. She put her hand on my shoulder, leaned in and then said, in her most urgent voice, "Mommy! We have to feed my hermit crab!"

Saturday we went to PetCo and got Princess a hermit crab. She was (and is) so excited! She carefully inspected the few crabs that they had and picked one that actually has some personality. Yeah, I know, how can a crab have personality? When you pick this one up, it doesn't go back into its shell, it spreads itself wide and looks right at you as if to say, "Hi! Yes, you have power over me, but I have claws. Put me down now, please!"

So that afternoon we carefully arranged Elina's (the crab - named after Barbie's character in "Fairytopia") habitat and then watched it (her?) inspect everything. It was actually really fun! I explained to Princess how we need to make sure she has fresh water and food every morning and we need to make sure to mist her a couple of times a day (they like moisture). So, being the responsible child that she is, morning came along with the panic that WE HAVE TO FEED THE CRAB NOW!!!! Happy Mother's Day!

I convinced Princess that Elina could wait another 15 minutes or so while Princess and I cuddled in bed. (Hubby was already up and in the shower.) So Princess and I cuddled and listened to Buddy playing in his crib. Then Hubby came out, got Buddy up and everyone presented me with my presents! Hubby and Princess had gone out Saturday afternoon during Buddy's nap and Hubby let Princess pick out a present for me. She did a great job! She picked out gift "basket" from Bath and Body Works. It wasn't actually a basket, it was a little purse! And it's so cute! She was very pleased when I transferred all of my stuff into it and took it to church yesterday. Then Hubby gave me a wonderful new soft pink robe. Buddy gave me some self-tanning lotion! (He shops in his sleep from his bed! David Blaine, eat your heart out!) It was all very wonderful and sweet. (Although Buddy kept asking where his presents were. He knows his birthday is coming up and he's not afraid to use that information.)

Hubby suggested that we go to brunch. We did NOT go to brunch. The thought of taking a preschooler who needs a nap to a restaurant full of other preschoolers who also need naps did not sound relaxing. We came home, put Buddy down, Princess went to play with her hermit crab, and I went shopping!!! Harold's Clearance Outlet was having a $9.99 sale so I just had to check it out. Alone. Ahhh.

I got home to find Hubby and Princess playing UNO with Princess' new Hello Kitty UNO set. Hubby looked up and said, "We've been playing for two hours!" He also said that Princess was kicking his butt! Ha!

While I was gone, Hubby took down Buddy's crib. Oh, that's a whole different post.

Then Hubby grilled steak while I played in the yard with the kids. The weather was wonderful, we had a great time, and the steak was perfect.

A lot of times I rail against manufactured holidays - holidays pretty much created by the card companies to sell more cards. I don't see why we have to set aside one day to honor a particular group (parents, grandparents, lovers, admin assistants) when we should threat them well and honor them every day. But then I have a day like yesterday where, as the honored party, I can take some time and really reflect on how richly blessed I am. And get presents. I guess it's not SO bad to buy a couple of cards.

God has blessed me so much with this family. We have amazing health, Hubby has a good job that he really enjoys, and I don't have to work so I can stay home and raise our kids. And we have two cats, a dog and a hermit crab! What more could we want? (Don't ask Princess - she's gunning for a friend for Elina!)

Friday, May 12, 2006

My Sit-Com Life

Wednesday I took the kids to get haircuts. I thought that my hairdresser was going to fall apart laughing when Buddy walked in wearing a baseball cap, a diver's mask (upside down) and a fine film of glitter (courtesy of his sister).

I don't need a TV. I travel with my own entertainment.

Millie to the Rescue!

I had an absolutely wonderful experience on Tuesday. I almost hit a chihuahua.

Now that I have your attention . . .

Really. I almost hit a little chihuahua. He ran out in the road, I stopped, he realized that he was in a very bad location and he turned around and ran back into the vacant lot where he and his buddy had been playing. I noticed that both little guys were wearing tags so I turned my car around and parked on the side of the street. Little Guy #2 came right up to me and was instantly my pal which was great because that meant that I could read his tag and find a phone number to call.

What a scary call to get! "Hi! My name is Millie and I have your dog." Turns out Chuy and Marty (the chihuahua and Little Guy #2 respectively) found a way out of the yard over the weekend. They thought they had fixed the problem, but apparently not. Doggie Daddy was extremely grateful that I actually stopped to help his two canine kids and told me that he couldn't leave, but he would call his wife and send her to my house immediately. I told him that was fine, I would definitely have Marty there, but by this time Chuy had run off again. Turns out we were only three houses away from their house and Chuy had gone home. I told him that I would put the two runaways in the back yard and wait for Doggie Mommy to get there to make sure they didn't slip out again.As I escorted Marty and Chuy into the backyard I was greeted by Sam, a Sheltie, and Hobbes, a beautiful brown and black Great Dane. For a split second I was worried that the Dane would be territorial, but she was a sweetie. She came right up to me and looked me over then nudged me for a pat. Chuy, on the other hand, decided that he was now a watch dog and growled that fierce, earth-rumbling chihuahua growl - like a German Shepherd on helium. Once I had made friends with Hobbes and Sammy I decided that I should go ahead and go back out front. It didn't really seem right to wait in their backyard.

It was a wonderful wait. Their house is THE house in my neighborhood. Every time I drive or walk by I try to sneak a peek into the backyard because what I can see of the yard looks amazing. What a fun gift to be able to do a good deed AND get to see the backyard of my dreams!! And it was indeed wonderful. They have a large stone patio with a stand alone fireplace. How cool is that? They have a small in-ground pool with a sandbox near it (for their grandkids when they visit). And there is a large deck/balcony coming out from the second floor. The way the house is situated in the neighborhood, there are no houses behind it. It looks out onto undeveloped land (which I really hope stays undeveloped.)

The house itself looks like a sweet little bed and breakfast with a cozy front porch, lots of huge trees giving it shade and hanging and potted plants everywhere. As I sat in a comfy chair on the front porch I noticed that one of the hanging plants looked like it was in need of water. This was very out of place because every other plant was well taken care of. I realized why they had "neglected" it when a bird flew to the rim of the planter with a bug in its mouth and I heard tiny chirps from under the leaves. (I then got a thorough blessing out by Mama Bird for being too close to her nest.)

Doggie Mommy got there about 15 or 20 minutes later. She got out of her car and gave me a huge smile and a huge hug. She just kept thanking me over and over for helping their "kids" make it back home. I told her that it was worth it to get to see her backyard!

I came home, put away the groceries and then went out to trim my roses. A few minutes later I saw her drive by and we waved at each other. It felt good to know another face and name in the neighborhood. Later on that evening the doorbell rang. It was Doggie Mommy with a beautiful hanging plant for my backyard. I love making new friends!