Monday, July 25, 2011

H.B. Reese (thank you, Wikipedia) was a confectionery GENIUS.

It. Has. Been. Hot.

I don't know how else to succinctly sum up the last several days around here. This has been the story pretty much everywhere, though, and I'm aware that my friends in the southern states are rolling their eyes and thinking that I can cry them many, many rivers about the "Excessive Heat Warnings" our news stations put out when we reach the high-90s.

We're very delicate in this state when it comes to hot weather. But just wait until January when we're buried under snow and negative temperatures and then it will be our turn to be self-righteous. We used to save all of our self-righteousness for the fact that we didn't observe Daylight Savings Time and didn't have to mess with the oppressive springing-forward and falling-back. Now that we do have to change our clocks, we mostly just whine about it incessantly on Facebook.

We're so charming.

Anyway, the heat has cut into my list of potential weekend activities quite a bit. REO Speedwagon was playing at the county fair on Saturday, which could have been enjoyable. But you know what feeling I can't fight anymore? Air conditioning.

So I stayed inside and made a dessert for a friend's baby shower on Saturday afternoon. The guest of honor said, "Something chocolate...or peanut butter...or chocolate and peanut butter", which are some of my favorite words to hear. I came up with this.

Yesssssss. Layers of homemade brownies between layers of vanilla-infused peanut butter pudding, freshly whipped cream, and chopped Reese's peanut butter cups. Amen.

On Sunday, I taught the 4-and-5-year-old class at church. (Chaos!) My favorite part came during review time, when I typically hold up pictures of scenes from previous weeks' lessons and the kids are supposed to shout out their memories of what took place in each story. They always start out strong with, "The lady lost a coin and then she found it again!" and "He rubbed mud in the man's eyes and he could see!", but by the end of the stack, their little memories tend to run out of steam. So this week they employed a new tactic, whereby when they couldn't remember a particular story, they would just pause a moment, and then scream, "Yay for Jesus!" The first few times I totally fell for it, since we were reviewing the Easter themes and I figured they were just super-excited remembering the resurrection. When they were still yelling, "Yay for Jesus!" as I held up a picture of Barnabus, though, I realized something was up. I know I could just go all "Oh Lord, give me a child-like faith like theirs!" about it, but I think in this case they were just totally playing me.

I think I'll use that tactic during this week's women's book study group meeting on Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. When it's my turn to give impressions of the themes in Chapter 5, I'll glance furtively around the room, stand up and shout, "Yay for Jesus!"

It could work.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In which I am old, and very old, and young again.

Mark recently purchased a handy machine on eBay that transfers VHS tapes to our computer. All I understand about the process is that it involves odd cord configurations and screens I don't recognize and then sometimes I hear our high school marching band music and I'm instantly transported back to 1995. (Figuratively, of course. The machine isn't that fancy. Although I would like to have a discussion with my teenage self about eyebrow waxing. Would the universe implode if my future self and past self came face to face, or is that just something Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd brainwashed us to believe?)

I digress. A lot.

Anyway, this is a project we've been wanting to accomplish for a long time, and there are currently piles of VHS tapes stacked around me as I type. I'm delighted by the prospect of finding a way to possibly dub alternate music into our wedding video (if that's not possible, don't crush my dreams yet). Mark is delighted by the opportunity that this glimpse into the past gives him to say things that freak me out.

"Do you realize that this video from our freshman year is eighteen years old?"
(Angry look from me.)

"Huh. That means that today's high school students weren't even born when this footage was shot. Interesting."
(Seriously-shut-up-now look from me.)

"Want to hear something else? In another eighteen years, we'll be fifty."
(I leave the room to go cry and make a shopping list that includes wrinkle cream and hair color.)

This morning at swim lessons (LAST DAY!), I was talking to another mom about the way I remember the pool from my childhood. Back then we had a standard-height diving board, and then the famous high dive. Few of my friends had been brave enough to scale the steps and make the jump. I made it up to the board once, only to turn right back around and head back down, making all of the older, cooler kids on the stairs sigh in exasperation as they moved out of my way. Good times.

As I spoke of these memories, one of the lifeguards walked by, overheard, and stopped in his tracks.

"Wait...are you talking about the high dive? I've heard it used to exist, but I've never talked to someone who actually remembers it! Tell me more! How high was it?"

Um, yes. It truly was this boy's lucky day to make contact with someone ancient enough to remember those fabled days of yore. Didn't make me feel like an octogenarian at all.

So, these experiences involving my darling, witty husband and my now-least-favorite pool boy could have sent me spinning into a defeated search for sensible, supportive footwear had it not been for the ray of light that was my grocery check-out experience this afternoon. I had noticed the cashier glancing at me a few times while I was talking to Noah, when she suddenly interrupted with these magic words...

"Is he yours? Wow, I would have never thought you looked old enough to have a child his age."

Ahhhh, much better. See, honey? Take that, impossibly tan lifeguard! This lady was surprised to discover that I was old enough to have a three-year-old! And although I realize that she's likely either a teensy big insane or quite a bit visually impaired, and also is someone trying to retain my business and make me a happy customer, I'm choosing to ignore all of that and decide instead that I LOVE HER and also that maybe I can hold off on studying these brochures on osteoporosis for the time being.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The five kids you meet at swim class

My hours upon hours of time spent poolside the past few weeks have resulted in some observations, mostly thanks to all of the nothing else to do. Noah’s current class of three-year-olds is an adorable mix of precocious personalities, and I love chatting with the other parents as we laugh and cringe through another lesson. Our conversations are part of the inspiration for these thoughts on the typical swim class personality types.

The Overachiever – This one walks into the water on day one and instantly pops up into a perfect back float. His legs kick stick-straight, and the proud instructors frequently call attention to his latest accomplishments. “Look at this!”, they exclaim, chuckling at the adorable brilliance. Mom lounges on a deck chair nearby. If this were a cartoon, her eyes would be tiny gold medals.

Daredevil Kid– This child is under the mistaken impression that she can already swim, frequently giving the row of onlookers near heart-attacks by hurtling her 30-inch-tall body behind the lifeguard’s back into the deep waters with a confidence not nearly matched by skill. “Um…um…UM…GET HER!”, we yell collectively, alerting the nearest red-suited person to grab the curly-haired girl by her sinking waist and bring her to the surface, sputtering but disturbingly unfazed. I send mental notes to her dad. “No beach trips this year, sir. I implore you.”

Splashing Kid – He’s cute as a button. He is also a hurricane of flailing limbs from the moment his first toe touches the pool. And since my own child finds calm, smooth water to be delightful, but fast-moving water to be ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING, it is not so convenient when he’s being hit in the face every two seconds with a toddler-sized tidal wave. My mental notes to Splashing Kid’s dad go something like…”Hey man, how’s the magazine? Great! Um, I was wondering if you’d noticed that the instructors have asked your sweet little boy about 57 times to stop splashing and he seems to be having a teensy bit of trouble processing that request. Also, they keep giving you beseeching looks. Just thought you might want to know. Thanks!”

Crying Kid – Bless her heart. She is not a fan of the pool.

My Kid – Noah loves swim class…until we actually get there. “I’m so excited about swimming lessons, Mommy! I just love swimming lessons!”, I hear as we pile into the van. Upon arrival at the pool, the monologue quickly switches to, “I don’t want to go to swimming lessons. I’m really, really scared of swimming lessons.” He sits on the steps, quietly holding a water toy while The Overachiever shows off a promising dolphin kick, Daredevil Kid tries to flail past everyone, Splashing Kid‘s dad catches up on his correspondence, and Crying Kid…well, you know. Smiles when the instructor glides him through the calm waters away from the ruckus, looking pointedly away when he’s asked to get his nose wet or demonstrate Superman arms. Refuses to attempt anything remotely resembling a back float. Aaaaaaand sits on the step again until it’s time to go. “That was so much fun, Mommy! I just love swimming lessons!” His teacher raises her eyebrows in surprise. I shake my head and smile apologetically. As Noah approaches, I give him a thumbs-up, and he responds by holding up his index finger, thinking it’s the same thing. The cute factor is enough to make another hot half-hour worth it.

So off we go, Noah wrapped up in his shark towel and me wondering how Splashing Kid is managing to dampen everyone in the vicinity even while out of the pool…

Preschoolers are weird, wonderful creatures.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mirror Images

Ungratefulness. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

Ironically, it’s also one of my deepest personal struggles.

So I guess you could say that I annoy myself frequently. And you would be correct.

Last Tuesday, after a rip-roaring holiday weekend packed with parties, fireworks, eating out, family get-togethers, and almost non-stop summer fun, I packed the kids up to head to the library on our first day back to the regular routine. On the way, we stopped at the local pool to sign them both up for another session of swim lessons. The line was long, the day was hot, and the sight of families traipsing through the locker rooms into the pool area was enough to start the inevitable whining.

“Why can’t we go swimming, Mommy?”

My responses started off breezy and understanding, explaining that we weren’t going to swim at the big pool today because we had other plans. After the second or third complaint, I started to get more serious, reminding both children of all the activities they’d been able to enjoy the past several days, noting that we had some other big plans later in the week, and offering to set up the little backyard pool later that afternoon if swimming was still on their minds. When the subject was still coming up as we buckled car seats to move on, I was more than a little peeved. My tone switching to the no-nonsense variety, I looked the kids directly in the eyes and firmly reiterated that we would not be playing at the pool, and that I would like them both to be thankful for the other fun activities of the week. And then Maya offered one last challenge.

“But we’re not getting to do what we want to do right now.”

Well. The look on my face must have registered something ominous, because she somehow retreated back into the depths of her seat with an expression that reflected both curiosity and anxiety over what would happen next.

Frustration boiling over. I climbed into the driver’s seat, jaw set and doors slamming, before launching into a monologue that included the $80 I’d just plunked down for another two weeks of lessons at the pool, invoked the name and plight of our sponsored child in El Salvador, and I’m fairly certain contained some snippy-toned scripture references (who can really be sure in those mama’s-losing-it moments). It was not my best parental showing. By the time we arrived at the library, things had blown over and settled, with apologies offered from all sides. And as I reached out for two small hands to cross the parking lot I reflected on it all. What was that mess which had just exploded out of my mouth – and thus, my heart? It seemed far deeper than just the day-to-day frustrations of child-rearing. This thing had hit a major nerve. It didn’t take me long to admit that the nerve had a name.

Fear. That my children were growing to be self-centered and entitled. That they were…well…becoming just like me.

How many times each day do I look past His every good and perfect gift, reducing them to commonplace things I expect and deserve? I grumble and complain, seeking my own comforts and considering others hardly at all – let alone better than myself. I wrestle daily with entitlement, ingratitude, and impatience.

I want more for these kids; desperately desire that they reflect Him, and know that it starts right here.

* * *

On Monday we sit at the pool waiting for the start of class. Maya bounces on her chair beside me and Noah runs excited circles around us both. The mother at the next table watches and calls over.

“They look exactly like you!”

I smile and nod my agreement, turning my gaze upward to study the clouds and take in the truth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A weight lifted.

Two weeks ago, a man in a mask punched three holes in my abdomen while I was sleeping.

Ok, so it was my gynecologist, Dr. Morgan, and he was performing laparoscopic surgery. I just have a flair for the over-dramatic.

Anyway, the problem was identified and corrected, and I am now pain-free for the first time in...oh...I can't even remember, plus free from the worry that's plagued me along with the physical discomfort. I can't describe the relief in words. Except to say that it is truly Grace.

And I am deeply, overwhelmingly thankful.