Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hopes on Heartbeats


 Image credit: Koratmember


Our pediatrician paused too long with his stethoscope at Maya's routine check-up five years ago, and my own heart leaped to my throat as he recommended an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist.  We breathed much easier after the diagnosis - a small atrial defect that should close on its own over time.  There were follow-up checks at age three and age four, and while the hole still hadn't closed all the way, the cardiologist was comfortable waiting three years before our next appointment.

Last week we drove over for that check-up with a seven-year-old just excited to get a morning off from school.  Fully expecting this to be either our last appointment, or to get another three-year pass, we were surprised again by another referral recommendation - this time for an atrial defect specialist in Indianapolis.  Maya's defect is not worse, and her heart is showing no signs whatsoever of stress (enlargement, etc.) from the hole, it's just that it hasn't closed yet.  And while the doctor isn't concerned, and suspects that the specialist will likely still recommend a wait-and-see approach, he said that he hasn't had a lot of experience with patients Maya's age who have defects that are small, and yet haven't self-corrected by this age.

If she were a boy, there would likely not be any reason for a consultation, but aortic defects can potentially elevate risks for women during pregnancy, so girls tend to be watched more closely and procedures to close the holes are recommended more often.  We'll head to Riley this fall sometime - no hurry, we were told - to see what they say about procedure or no procedure.

In all honesty, we're not very worried about this.  We have friends who are facing far more serious health issues with their children. This situation is not even the tiniest bit comparable.  Maya has no restrictions on activity.  She danced this weekend at her spring recital, she'll twirl at her wedding someday, and she'll sway back and forth with a baby in her arms one day, God willing.  My main anxiety in it all right now is that it seems to be one of those on-the-fence things, where the defect is not large enough to definitely  warrant action, but is present enough to possibly (but probably not) cause issues later on.  Ack!  We'd much rather be given a clear recommendation than an ambiguous decision to make about a heart procedure.  Prayers for wisdom and clarity would be wonderful as we discuss timing for the consultation and eventually talk things over with the doctors there. 

These days, Maya runs and leaps and laughs and giggles and occasionally stops to present me with an outstretched wrist.  Her infrequent chest pain has been dismissed as almost certainly nothing notable or even heart-related, but the cardiologist wants me to check every now and then when it happens, to rule out a racing pulse.  So she runs over to lay an arm across my lap.

"My heart hurts, Mommy", she says almost matter-of-factly.  Her eyes watch mine while I count a few beats, give her a smile and a pat and release her with an all-clear to go play.

My heart hurts a little bit too, though. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Choosing to see the useful and pretty

With a blog name like In the Backyard, one might think that the backyard at my house is super awesome.

One would be wrong.

I mean, it's fine. The kids have a great time playing back there, and we sit outside some evenings to talk, and always invite a big group of people over on July 4th to view the fireworks show at the nearby golf course from the relative comfort of our yard.

But it's also quirky. The previous homeowners made some odd choices with the fence placement. The ground is uneven. Our new-ish subdivision doesn't have mature trees, so the west-facing yard is mercilessly lacking in shade in the summer months. And during this time of year? Well...we have what you might call a little bit of a dandelion problem. (Please imagine that last line as spoken by Chris Farley in Tommy Boy, because I am.)



Oh yeah. That's embarrassing.

We're going to take care of the weed issue soon. The yard was in bad shape when we bought the house, and then we've been hesitant to load the grass with chemicals, since our kids play out there so much. But at this point, it's predominantly weed.

This evening, Maya sat at the dining room table and worked very hard on a colorful paper cylinder with a base, asking me for occasional help with tape placement. Proudly, she presented her creation: a "seed flyer". The plan? To load it up with fluffy dandelion seeds, then run through the yard at top speed, letting loose a burst of white.

I was hesitant about the idea at first, explaining that dandelions are actually a weed, and we aren't really looking to spread them further. But then Mark mumbled, "I don't really think it can get worse...", and the man had a point. So we green-lighted the seed-spreading project.

She gathered and scattered the seeds for awhile.




"You know, Mommy, even though dandelions are weeds, I like them. Actually, they're really useful."

"Useful?"

"Yes! First of all, they can turn your cheeks yellow. And that's fun!"




"And they make really good decorations for fairy houses."




"And Noah and I use the stems to get spiderwebs off of our playhouse."




"Besides, they're really pretty!"



She makes a good argument. I guess until we get around to addressing the lawn situation, I'll look at the silver lining in these very useful weeds.

Our seven-year-old thinks our backyard is super awesome. That's enough.

And this one? Well, he doesn't care what it looks like as long as he can play basketball.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Considering the homeschool thing. Are we crazy?



Last summer, we spent the weeks before Maya started first grade debating about whether or not to send her to school. After much indecision, we finally felt led to have her go back for the year and reevaluate in the springtime.

Guess what! It’s springtime. Ack!

I/we are considering homeschooling beginning next year. Even saying that feels huge. I’m hoping to get some input here, because it all feels big and confusing and more than a little scary.

I want to begin with a few disclaimers:

- A decision to homeschool would not in any way be due to an issue with public school teachers. I love teachers. We have many close friends who teach or are otherwise employed in public schools. My parents are both long-time public school teachers. Maya’s first-grade teacher this year is awesome, and has made our decision to send her this year much more peaceful. I’m sure there are not-so-great examples out there (as there are in any profession), but we’ve not experienced that with our children. In my opinion, public school teachers are doing a heroic job with the regulations and restrictions they are given to work within.

- A decision to homeschool would also not simply be based upon a desire to remove our children from all outside influence, or exposure to people, materials, or situations that would not reflect our value system. We want our kids to grow up knowing how to relate to everyone – loving people who are different from them, and able to peacefully and confidently hold their faith and convictions close while in the midst of other mindsets. Not of the world, but most definitely in it.

- A decision to homeschool would not be one we would assume to be permanent or even applicable to both kids, necessarily. We would want to evaluate the situation often, taking into account our children’s needs and best interests at every juncture and – most importantly – praying over the decision regularly, open to God’s will at any given time.

- I totally, completely know that homeschooling isn't for everyone. Goodness, no. (We aren't even sure yet that it's for us!) Mark and I both had a really good experience in public school and know countless families whose kids are thriving within the school system.

- I will never own a denim jumper. I just feel like that needs to be said.


With that out of the way, here are my reasons for considering homeschooling for next year:

- By far, the most pressing matter in my mind is Maya’s education. Again, this has nothing to do with teachers or local schools, but has everything to do with the changes made by the government to the public school system over the past ten years or so. I voted for Governor Daniels and back him on several issues. I applaud his commitment to improving public education. It’s the methods the state is using to make these improvements with which I just wholeheartedly disagree. Nearly every teacher I speak with is more stressed and frustrated now than at any point in their career, and many feel devalued and unheard. Changes in approaches to reading and an increase in standardized testing just further concern me. The whole system frustrates me for everyone involved, and I fear it’s having a big impact on education in general.

When teachers themselves are some of the voices most strongly urging me to look into homeschooling...that seems significant.

- Maya has some very big interests in subjects that just aren’t able to be explored in school, due mostly to the issues I previously mentioned. (Teachers just aren't given the time to teach what they’d like to teach.) This girl loves, loves, LOVES science. She wants to learn about space travel, world history, musicians and composers. She wants to do hands-on experiments and see how money is made and understand the process that makes bread rise. I know I could do all of those things with her – and I do the best I can. But the truth is that by the end of a school day, she’s worn out. And then there are piano lessons and family gatherings and homework and baths and the day is over before we can blink. I worry that these budding passions will slowly be extinguished if they aren’t pursued and explored. And it hurts my heart.

- While I don’t want to her shield her from the world, I would very much value the ability to weave our faith into a learning curriculum. She’s at an age where she’s asking lots of big questions and beginning to really digest spiritual concepts, and I want to encourage that to flourish in every way. I’d love to explore science concepts through the lens of the Creator God who authored it all. To study scripture more deeply and link it to the academic concepts she’s taking in. I don’t see that as limiting her view, but rather expanding it to recognize the big picture.

I know that Christian parents can do an excellent job at instilling faith in their kids alongside a public school education. They do it all the time! This is just something that appeals to me when considering doing school at home.

- I genuinely love it when Maya is home. I look so forward to her days off, dread the end of summer vacation and don’t mind sick days or snow days in the least. I mean, believe me, I get frustrated and short-tempered and sometimes get to the end of the day just squeaking out, “How…soon…is...bedtime???” It’s not all ponies and butterflies around here. But the idea of having her home every day is exciting for me rather than draining.

- I think it could be fun. Exhausting? Yes. Often taxing? I’m quite certain. But I do get a flutter of anticipation at the idea of finding fun activities and unique ways of learning that suit Maya’s interests. Spending the morning looking up a new subject area of books at the library; learning about sea life and then taking the train into Chicago for an aquarium visit; reading a piece of classic literature and doing a unit study on the culture and time period. It's fascinating to me.

- I have the time. I’ll be honest that I’m not fantastic with time-management. I know that I would need to be more deliberate about planning my days if I took on homeschooling. I know there would be many days that would leave me feeling frazzled. But I can’t truthfully say that I don’t have the time. I do.

- I would have support. There are at least four families within our church congregation that will be homeschooling next year. Additionally, I continue to make connections online with moms who I happen to find out along the way are also homeschoolers. It’s a growing community, and resources abound for parents who decide to start down this road.

The drawbacks? Well, I’d list them out, but they’re the obvious ones. Discomfort over leaving what we know, fears over my ability to teach, anxiety that asks, “What if we start it and we hate it…or she hates it?” Will my kids become "weird"? Will they still be able to pursue extra-curricular activities (music, sports, etc.) in a significant way if they want to? How will I ever choose a curriculum, and will it be the right one?

So this is where we sit. Intrigued and excited, but wrestling through the questions and concerns.

I know God will lead us to the right decision. I also know He often speaks through other people. Help me think?

Do you homeschool? Or do you plan to? Why or why not?

What are some of the greatest joys you’ve found in home education? (Or what most draws you to the idea?)

What are the greatest difficulties you’ve encountered? (Or what makes you most anxious about pursuing this?)

Would I really be capable of this? (i.e. How on earth will I handle math? Yikes…)

Is second grade an odd time to start?

Should I give the denim jumper a chance? (Just kidding. That one's not going to happen.)


Thanks so much for any input or advice you’re willing to give!




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Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stuck on a Moment



“How old were you when you got saved?”

“I don’t know.”


*crickets*

Awkward.

It’s a great little evangelical party trick. But it’s also the honest truth. I don’t know when I was saved. There is no “Oh! It was 1984 and I was seven and my mom prayed with me on the couch in the living room” in my history. I actually wish I had a moment, because it would just be a little easier to fit in.

I grew up attending church, but didn’t actually hear anything of the “salvation language” until well into my teens. A few years later, by the time I understood and embraced it all, there was a moment – but it was less “I now believe and accept these things” and more “these things I have believed and accepted”. I prayed a prayer on my own that day that was confirmation rather than commencement. A journey already begun.

So I wonder when it happened. When I first heard the Jesus stories and absorbed them into my simple child-heart? When I was baptized – even though I didn’t really get it then? When I began truly seeking and shedding and studying and it all began to feel like home? When my heart leaped the first time I heard what I so vividly knew deep down – that I so desperately needed a Savior and had found for certain who He was? When – after all this – I prayed that little prayer? When following first became difficult and meant sacrifice?

What I have is a series of moments – a process that only He can interpret. It’s not neat and tidy and easy to unpack in a go-around-the-circle icebreaker.

And that’s okay. I think. Right?

I’ve wrestled with this tension as a mother. Nearly two years ago I looked at Maya and just knew - she gets it. From the beginning she was an intense observer and as a toddler was our Big Question-asker. At five-and-a-half, I heard her prayers and the stories that came out in play. We fielded the questions and watched her respond and it was just so clear. She knew Him. He was so sweetly visible in her.

It thrilled me, and yet, I panicked a little. There’s something we’re supposed to do here. She needs a moment. She needs to ask Jesus into her heart. (Even though we had discussed and acknowledged that that’s not even a Biblical phrase.) I just wanted an easier story for her.

Can I be embarrassingly honest? I said a prayer with her that evening as an insurance policy. Just in case. I’d been conditioned that this is how it goes and these are the magic words.

It wasn't wrong. For many people, a moment like this is foundational and life-changing. It was what I always wished I’d had myself. But Maya? I don’t even think she’ll remember it. Her story of life with Him had already begun – in spite of our fumbling.

I know now that as parents, our goal is not simply to lead our kids to a moment that we can identify as the one. It is to steadily point them to Jesus. That they would continually recognize their – and our – need for a Savior and grow in the grace and knowledge of Him. And that they would know that His call is not just to come into their hearts once, but to lead their lives. Saving us daily from sin and self.

On Sunday, a grandpa-figure in our church family handed Maya a penny he’d found on the stage of the theater where we gather. She beamed, eyes shining at the gift. I love it that she’s still at the age where a cool-looking penny is a treasure.

We loaded our coats and coffee cups and Sunday School papers into our arms to leave, and she made certain that her precious penny was secure in her fist. As I paused to exchange goodbyes and smiles with friends in the lobby, I felt a tug on my arm and leaned down to hear her shy whisper.

“I’m going to put my penny in the offering box.”

Later, at home, I asked her about the decision.

“Well, I just thought that penny could go to people who need it.”

She’s not an angel child. Oh no. A few hours later we were having pointed talks about listening and oh my goodness no more whining. But in that instant, I was so very blessed. And I know full well that I didn’t do that in her. He did that. I just need to keep encouraging her in that way. Toward all of those moments of transformation. We’re all on the journey.

He just relentlessly keeps on saving us.



Did you have a clear salvation moment? Or a process, like mine? I love how He works His perfect plan so uniquely in each of us, and - as always - I'd love to hear your thoughts.


* * * *

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, March 5, 2012

On bedtime questions and life after death


"Mommy, it seems like Jesus is never coming back."

She's a master at the bedtime stalling techniques, this girl. Big questions and conversation-starters blurted out desperately as the lights go off. I've learned to gently direct most of them toward the next day.

This time, though, there were tears brimming behind the words. I walked back to her bed and sat down once more.

"It just seems like it's taking forever, and I really want him to just come back now because I'd rather go to heaven with him so I don't have to...die someday. I'm afraid it will hurt to die."

We talk, and she holds on to me. I call Daddy in, and together we try our best to speak the right words, glancing at each other over her head and knowing that as our eyes meet, we're both in silent prayer for truth to come quickly to our lips.

She calms, hearing that we all have those questions, those thoughts, those fears over the unknown. That generation upon generation, humanity has waited in longing, and the last lines of the Word itself even echo the cry of her little heart. Her shoulders relax as we speak of the unspeakable gift of an eternity that will far surpass our grandest hopes.

I pray, stroking her hair and asking for peace and rest and trust. She timidly interrupts to ask, won't I please just pray that He comes back in her lifetime?

I smile, exhale deeply as I close my eyes again. She is my daughter, through and through.

In our book, I tell the story of praying so hard as a new mother for what I just knew was best. Craving the safety and firm lines of schedule and plan, I begged for it all to work. Why won't this work? Through my beating fists and frightened pleas, He whispered love over me by answering - instead - with what I needed.

He gives us what grows us.
And sometimes, in the moment, I don't want it. Left to my own devices, I'd choose the path of want and right now and I like this way better, God. My humanity kicks and whines and decides that I'd better just tell Him what His answer should be.

For centuries, His children - the seven-year-old girls at bedtime and the believers fully-grown yet still being grown - have pleaded. In your timing, Lord. (But...could it, maybe, be soon?) My prayers for His will are regularly sprinkled with pieces of my own. And He sits with me and strokes my hair and teaches me to trust. To lose my life in order to find it.

Our house, we've walked peacefully away from name-it-and-claim it, and found - surprisingly - a deeper reverence for the power of prayer. He hears. Always. He responds. Faithfully. And often unexpectedly. We've had to learn and relearn this lesson daily.

I want her to grasp this more firmly than I do. To grow up praying in faith and confidence, knowing that His answers may delight, may surprise, may only be seen in the looking back. But they're always good. Always praise-worthy.

One day, He will come. In the meantime, we lose our lives and find them fresh.

Sometimes...yes...the dying hurts. But what comes next is sweet, indeed.



* * * *

Image: nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A seven-year-old and her current favorites.

I had planned that my next post would be devoted to my thoughts on Jen Hatmaker's incredible new book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. However, my Kindle was proving so distracting to me during this time of work on the manuscript edits of our book that I handed it to friends who were leaving for a twelve-day vacation.

My Kindle is now vacationing in Puerto Rico due to my lack of self-control.

So! I may not have a review of 7 (shortened version: READ THE BOOK. You will not be sorry.), but I will report on another dear-to-my-heart event centered on the same number. My daughter - my first baby - turned seven this week, and I can hardly comprehend it.

Maya requested calzones for her birthday dinner (recipe at the end of this post!), as well as Brussel sprouts - which sounds totally odd unless you've tried the recipe that Megan linked to back in November. It has changed the entire way we view this vegetable, and given me the opportunity to use the phrase, "And here are your birthday Brussel sprouts!", to smiles and cheers.

Miracles. They do happen.

In related news, I've now developed an obsession with taking random raw vegetables, tossing them in olive oil and kosher salt, and roasting them awhile to see what happens. It's WILD around here!

Another new love of Maya's which brings me joy is her recent discovery of Beverly Cleary books. We read Henry Huggins together at our librarian's suggestion, and she was completely tickled at the hijinks of a boy growing up in small-town Oregon in the 1950's. I was delighted as well to relive the memories of my own childhood attachment to the book series - enjoying Henry's attempts to bring his new dog Ribsy home on the bus in a cardboard box; his foray into raising guppies, resulting in his mother's canning jars lining his bedroom filled with multiplying fish; etc. - all through the eyes of my daughter. A quick eBay search scored me a great deal on all six books in the Henry Huggins series, which Maya opened on the morning of her birthday.

She curled up in my lap the other night and shyly murmured that she was a little sad about not being six-years-old anymore. I hugged her tight and we talked about what it means to be nostalgic and I told her that she was just like her mama. Then I hugged her a little bit tighter.

On Saturday there will be a party featuring a pink cake with pink icing and fairy decor. As sentimental as I am about saying goodbye to age six, I'm equally excited to see what seven brings.




* * *
Calzones
(adapted from Allrecipes)

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T. olive oil
2 1/2 - 3 cups flour
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar (or mozzarella) cheese
1/2 cup diced pepperoni
3/4 cup veggies (mushrooms, green peppers, olives, etc.)
1 T. dried basil
1 egg, beaten
Parmesan cheese
garlic powder
marinara sauce

Dissolve yeast in water. Stir in sugar, salt, and olive oil. Stir in one cup flour and mix until smooth. Add rest of flour and knead for 5-10 minutes. Place in oiled bowl and let rise in warm place for 45 minutes.

While dough is rising, mix ricotta, shredded cheese, pepperoni, veggies, and basil.

Preheat oven to 375. Punch dough down and divide into two parts. Roll each into a thin circle. Spread half of filling mixture over one side of each dough circle and fold other side over. Seal dough by pressing edges with a fork. Place calzones on a baking sheet or baking stone and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garlic powder.

Bake for 30 -35 minutes. Slice and serve with warmed marinara sauce.


* * *
Note: Megan I do plan to continue our series of Spirit-Led Parenting discussion posts! The process of getting our manuscript ready has taken most of our focus and attention in recent weeks. Thank you for understanding!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm told that he fell with style.

The Toy Story obsession in our household has been going strong for quite awhile now. Noah is Buzz Lightyear about 95% of the time - activating his wings before leaping off of the furniture, checking his laser button for full function, and repeatedly assuring the rest of the family that he comes in peace.

In the months leading up to our Disney vacation last May, he developed a sixth sense for which of his playmates owned Buzz Lightyear action figures and how to track them down with great speed. Five minutes after walking into any such home, Noah would emerge with Buzz in his hands, not releasing his hold on the toy until we left to go home. "Buzz Lightyear is my favorite!", he'd chirp over and over until it became a running joke for our friends to casually ask, "Hey Noah, which toy is your favorite?", so that he'd stop mid-flight to start the ode-to-Buzz monologue all over again.

So, while at the Magic Kingdom, we felt it might be time to let Noah realize the dream of owning his very own Buzz Lightyear. He held the box with great joy, and has played with Buzz every single day for the three months that we've been back home.

You can imagine then, the panic that set in when Noah called me into his room the other day and I found him peering over the side of the bed, holding Buzz in one hand and gazing at one very detached space ranger arm lying on the floor.


Nooooooooooo.

Keeping it casual, I asked what happened, and learned that Buzz had taken a tumble at the wrong angle. Noah was quite calm, and while I was pleasantly surprised at first by the mature way in which my three-year-old was processing the damage to his favorite toy ever, I soon realized that star command, we have a problem. See, my son is familiar enough with all things Toy Story to know that Buzz breaks his arm in the movie too. But NOT TO WORRY because the mutant toys in Sid-the-destructive-neighbor-boy's room just sort of pop it back in place in one of those inspirational "don't judge a book by its cover" moments.

The problem is that our home is lacking in mutant, living toys with mechanical skills, as well as in hardware that would enable humans to complete the arm repair. (It's just plain busted.) Noah has not caught on yet, and has been playing with one-armed Buzz while checking regularly on the left arm, which sits on our bookshelf waiting for a miracle in either infinity or beyond.

Or until that crafty band of disfigured toys shows up. Anybody have their number?

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.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

And I didn't even require a sedative.

I'll admit it. Fevers have always sent me into some level of panic. I've heard all of the biological facts a million times: a fever in itself is nothing to worry about...it just means the body is fighting off infection...no need to administer a fever-reducer unless your child is uncomfortable...kids can tolerate very high fevers without any danger...

I know, I know.

But there's something about putting my hand to a burning-hot forehead and watching the digital display count higher and higher that can turn me into a crazy person.

On Thursday it climbed higher than I've ever seen in my half-decade of parenting. I watched the screen as 102 passed...then 103...then 104...(oh my WORD), then finally stop at 104.5. Temptation to panic? Massive. But instead? I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, walked said sick child directly to the bathroom and stuck her in a lukewarm bath, began Tylenol in alternation with the ibuprofen already in her system, pushed fluids like a madwoman and checked in with the doctor's office, where the nurse confirmed the course of action. And all the while I imagined the calm voice of my mother-of-seven friend Karen in my head.

I wasn't completely without overreaction, of course. At one point that evening, Mark had to stop me from paging the doctor-on-call just to check in, when there was literally no rational reason to do so. And I did sneak into Maya's room once or twice in the night, feeling her forehead until a sleepy hand batted mine away in annoyance.

But all in all? Light years better than the way I've handled moments like this in the past.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, five-and-a-half years into this parenting gig, I'm starting to figure a few things out?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Found

My schoolgirl had an unsettling moment this weekend.

While mingling with friends after our Sunday church service, Maya's friend interrupted my conversation with the report that they'd been playing, but he suddenly couldn't find her anywhere. Not a bit concerned at first, I gave the sanctuary a quick scan, my eyes not detecting the familiar sight of the bouncing hair and pink-striped shirt I'd tracked moments before. Assisted by my sister-in-law, I began to scout around. She headed for the nursery, I checked the stage. No luck. She searched the Sunday School rooms downstairs while I walked through the main women's restroom, my heart beginning to beat more anxiously. Meeting up back in the lobby, both of us empty-handed, we were just beginning to ask the other adults in the vicinity to aid in the search, when my eyes fell on the doorknob of the small lobby bathroom. It jiggled back and forth, panic obviously on the other side. Running over, I pressed my ear to the door and heard faint crying.

"Maya?"
"Mommy! Mommy, I'm stuck!"

Relief flooding over me, I called encouragement to her through the door, giving instructions on how to open the lock. In almost no time at all, the door was open, and she collapsed into my arms, cheeks streaked with tears.

Throughout the next several minutes, I attempted to calm her down as we sat together on the floor. I stroked her hair and whispered, "It's ok, it's ok." I told her that the lock on that door was tricky, and assured her that I would work with her to figure it out. I spoke about how, had she been unable to open the lock, we could have removed the door to get her out. Still, she wept and trembled. And then, finally...

"Mommy...I was afraid that maybe you would never find me."

And there it was. The fear underneath the tears. Finally understanding, I looked into her eyes and spoke the words her heart needed to hear. "I would never leave without finding you, Maya. Never. I would just never stop looking."

Within seconds, smiles replaced tears.


In Tim Kimmel's book, Grace-Based Parenting, he cites three core needs that all children possess: a secure love, a significant purpose, and a strong hope. I witnessed all three of those needs manifested in Maya in the aftermath of her experience being trapped in the church bathroom. The very first thing she needed was the security of my embrace. The next was the assurance that so significant was she in our lives that we would never, ever give up on her.

And then, the third. As I tucked Maya in bed last night, she spoke again of the bathroom incident, however this time it was to recall something Mark told her after she relayed the story to him later at home. "I was worried I wouldn't be found, but Daddy told me that I'll always, always be found," she said, sighing contentedly.

Hope. A strong hope.

The hope of being found.

It's a hope, a need, that beats in my heart as well. The incomprehensible love of a Shepherd who guides my life and counts me as precious. The grace and forgiveness of a Father whose welcome never grows weary and whose promises stretch across eternity.

In a life wrought with circumstances that leave me rife with insecurity, heavy with insignificance, weary with hopelessness - the lock is loosed, the door is opened and I fall into the arms of a Savior who whispers the truth that I am found.

I will always, always be found.

Several times yesterday after our return home from church, Maya requested that I recount for her the tale of what happened when she was locked in the bathroom. No fear left in her voice, she eagerly asked again and again, "Mommy, tell me again about how you were looking for me everywhere. Tell me about how you found me." All smiles as she takes it in. What could have haunted her memory as a frightening experience instead has taken root in her heart as one that proved love, significance, and hope.

My challenge is to live the same story. To cultivate a joy that wells up in my heart as I sit in His presence, come before Him in prayer, ask Him to speak to me through His Word.

"Tell me again about how You found me."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Schoolgirl

I blinked and it happened.

My eyes closed and she toddled toward me, all chubby-armed and wild-haired, babbling her first words.

They opened and she sat next to me on the couch yesterday, all lean with freshly-cut bangs, easily reading books aloud to me from cover to cover. My heart swells proud and breaks open with the bitter sweetness of it all.

I breathed in and she was two, no interest in pink frills or princesses, much preferring trains and trucks and wholly unimpressed with the world of branded merchandise. We were so pleased with ourselves for avoiding the gender-stereotyping and character-driven madness that lines the toy aisles.

I breathed out and she'll skip into Kindergarten tomorrow, clutching her beloved, personalized Ariel backpack. And a significant piece of my heart.

They told me it would happen. All of those veteran moms and wise friends and elderly strangers at the grocery store. With wistful sighs and pats on her head, their own memories playing like filmstrips behind misty eyes. At times I could glimpse the future and see it happen, could recognize it happening already. At others I was too caught in the momentary struggles to appreciate the perspective.

It goes so fast.

Each night this week as I've tucked her into bed, we've snuggled up together, she and I, for some “special, big-girl talks”. It's a tradition we plan to continue one night every week for as long as she'll allow. She pours out excitement about school and meeting new kids and meals in the cafeteria, sprinkled with worries about bullies and who will help when she needs a Band-aid. I speak reassurance and reminders, offering words about kindness to all, and seeking for close friends those who make her feel good about herself; about confidence in who she is and the work of her Creator within her. She takes it all in, and asks if grown-ups still have trouble with those things. I smile and say yes. We do. “I thought you would say that”, she replies. And I marvel at these moments when she's wiser than her years.

She bursts with delighted giggles as I remind her how very proud her Daddy and I are of her. Our big five-year-old girl who collects Care Bears, loves Jesus, and names her favorite activity as “snuggling up with my Mama”.

We pray and lie close. We blink in the dark and breathe deep.

And I savor every blink and breath, because now I know.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Noah

Nineteen months old. So hard to believe. You've entered the wildfire age of toddlerhood, where you grow by leaps and bound seemingly every day. This week you discovered the thrill of momentary flight, hurling yourself repeatedly off of the couch into Daddy's waiting arms...and attempting the same tricks when he wasn't quite ready for the catch. And this week we discovered that you don't so much enjoy taking turns with your sister (not surprised) and that you can count to ten (completely shocked).

And tonight...oh tonight. My favorite moment of the whole week. When I laid you down in your crib, sleepy-eyed but still awake, I covered you with your favorite fuzzy green blanket and stood there a moment, leaning over to gently rub your tummy and return your big smile. After a moment I let my hand just rest on your chest, feeling the gentle up and down of your breathing. And then I felt your two little hands grasp two of my fingers, continuing the circular motion of the tummy massage. And so I stayed a minute more, gazing down at you as you gazed up at me. It was one of the occasions I've had so far as a parent where I suddenly knew without a doubt that I was to savor this moment. That I'll look back on this night as I dissolve into a sentimental puddle on your first day of school. That I'll remember it wistfully when you're fifteen years old. That I'll tell you about it someday when you're all grown up, causing you to smile, shake your head, and say, "Oh, mom."

Finally, I gave you a little pat.

"Night night, Bubba."
"Nah Nah"

"I love you."
"luh loo"

Melt my heart, why don't you. My sweet, crazy little boy. You seem more grown up to me all the time. So for now, I'll treasure these days when you love puppies and bunnies and "choo choos" and Barney and platefuls of cheese and blueberries and reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear 14,367 times a day. When you think your big sister is the coolest thing ever and follow her around all day long, preferably wearing her shoes and jewelry. When you announce the people you love every single time they enter a room. When you dance your heart out to the Wiggles and sing everything to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. When you charm friends, family, and total strangers with that big, mischievous grin.

I love you.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I guess you could put it that way...

This afternoon, I was doing some pre-nap reading to Maya from her children's Bible storybook. We finished with the story of Jesus restoring the blind man's sight, and as I shut the book, the stalling questions commenced.

"Mama, why were that man's eyes closed?"

"Well, that man was blind. He was born unable to see. His eyes didn't work. So Jesus healed him and he could see again."

"How did Jesus do that?"

"Do you remember in the story about how Jesus put mud on his eyes?"

"Yes, but I mean, how can Jesus DO that?"

"Oh, well Jesus is so powerful that he can do anything, remember?"

"Like what things?"

"Um, anything."

"But like WHAT? Please tell me!"

('Please tell me' is the ultimate in stalling tactics, when she senses the end of a conversation approaching. But I decided this was an important line of questioning, so I listed a few things that Jesus could do, and then remembered another story reference.)

"Hey Maya, what about the other story we just read? Do you remember the one about the storm? When Jesus and his friends were in the boat and the storm came and his friends were scared? Remember how Jesus talked to the storm? And the storm stopped. So even storms listen to Jesus. He made the storm stop."

She considered this a moment and then observed, thoughtfully...

"Oh. Well, that was clever."

Indeed. Yes. Divine...astounding...clever...something like that.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

On Shopping with Kids and a Shot of Perspective

Earlier this week I was having one of those days where life felt frantic from the moment my eyes opened. The kids were cranky, my plans for the day were getting altered right and left, and I had a pile of errands to run and tasks to accomplish. By the time noon rolled around, I found myself loading up a fussy baby and sketchy three-year-old, facing the prospect of not one but TWO grocery store stops. Without yet having had lunch. So let's just say I wasn't in the best frame of mind from the get-go.

Store visit number one was not pleasant. We don't shop there often, so I was completely turned around as we navigated unfamiliar aisles, searching for items that (inexplicably) didn't exist in this particular shopping establishment. (You have strawberry, lemon, and funfetti-flavored gallon buckets of ice cream, but not VANILLA? That is bizarre. And inconvenient.)

Oh, and compounding all of this? The Halloween display towards the front of the store that featured a blow-up pumpkin that slowly opened every thirty seconds or so to reveal...eventually...come on now...yep, almost there...seriously now...a friendly little ghost, "popping" up (I put that in quotes because popping should really constitute quick movement) with some fake bags of candy. Why was this problematic? Because although one repetition of this process is enough for any sane person, the suspense is not lost on a preschooler on the second round. Or third round. Or...well, you get the point. So every time we would come within eyesight of that area of the store, Maya would yell, "Mama!!! I want to see that ghost again! He might pop out with the candy and I want to see him because he's a nice ghost and not a scary one and he has candy and why is it pretend and if it was real could I have some and could I have some candy sometime and why does he pop up like that and does he have friends and why does he live in a pumpkin and who gets to eat the candy and why is it all orange and why does the store smell like cinnamon and sometime can you make a pumpkin that blows up and can I touch the ghost and why is he nice and can I SEE him again because he's REALLY COOL, Mama!"

Or something to that effect.

So by the time we headed back to the van, having viewed the wonders of rudimentary Halloween decor several dozen times more than necessary, we were all a little frazzled. Maya was upset because we were leaving "such a fun place and I want to come here again sometime PLEASE...(repeat)..." and Noah was crying because I wouldn't let him eat my cell phone. And I was feeling a bit like George Costanza's dad in the Seinfeld episode with the self-help tape. ("SERENITY NOW!")

Arriving at store number two, I had one thing in mind. Get in and get the heck out. Well the thing is, though, that this store has car carts. Not the kind with the video screen, because I do not do those. And that's a rant for another post. These are just the kind where your child can sit up front, spin a little wheel, and yell things back to you that you can't possibly hear because you're about two cart lengths behind, with a thick layer of red plastic blocking all sound travel. It's actually not a bad situation... Anyway, Maya likes to clean her vehicle before driving. So as I'm strapping Noah into the front of the cart, she grabs a sani-wipe from the nearby dispenser and begins her car wash. (Focusing, mind you, on the TOP of the car. Not any part that her hands will actually be touching.)

But here, finally, was where it happened. Noah was babbling excitedly at the prospect of gnawing on the seat strap, Maya was singing a little song as she cleaned an obscure section of her car, and I was silently counting the minutes until naptime. And that's when a woman, in probably her mid-fifties, enters the store. And as she passed by, she slowed down for just a moment, took in the scene, gave me a wistful half-smile, and simply said, "I miss those sounds."

Now, I frequently have people stop when we're out in public to coo at my kids, talk to them, or tell me they're adorable. I've had more people than I can count tell me things like, "Oh, hold on to every minute...they grow up too fast." And while I know it's true, and know I should be taking that advice more to heart some days, I hear those things so often that I tend to forget them mere minutes later. But this woman's statement stopped me in my tracks. Both literally, as I paused mid-buckle to stare at her back as she walked briskly past us through the entry doors, and emotionally, as there was something about the look in her eyes when they met mine that spoke volumes about the reality of her words. I imagine that her children are grown, or nearly so. That those simple times of car seats and cart straps, urgent mid-store potty breaks, baby babbles and silly songs, are now just precious memories. I miss those sounds. She meant it.

So as I looked down at my sweet boy, now happily grinning a three-toothed smile at me, and over at my daughter, now working at disinfecting the car's wheels, I suddenly felt a welcome rush of contentment. A small part of that, in all honestly, was likely the knowledge that a Starbucks kiosk awaited me just inside those automatic doors. But mostly, it came from the much-needed dose of perspective that God had just gently placed before me. There will come a day very soon when I will walk, without thinking, towards those bright red and yellow carts, only to realize that my child has neither the desire to use one nor the ability to even fit inside. There will come a day when the only things I need the front section for are my purse and a latte. There will come a day when the sounds around me are quieter, calmer, more predictable. And while those days will bring new blessings and joyous seasons, I know I will likely notice the young mother, looking slightly rattled as she maneuvers her noisy children through the store, and I will both smile and ache at the same time. And I will miss those sounds.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I'm thinking relocation was a good decision for Grandma...

At dinner last night, Maya asked us who makes water. Choosing the simple answer over the scientific, we told her that God makes water. The trail of resulting, unsatisfied questions finally led to an explanation, by Mark, of how there is lots and lots of water on the earth. He gave a very nice, detailed description of rivers, lakes, oceans, etc.

Taking this all in, Maya nodded seriously and said, with understanding, "Ohhhh. Is that why the Indians live in Mexico?"

*blink*

- - - - - -

Last week Maya was feeling sad one morning about Daddy going to work, so in order to cheer her up, he hopped out the door on one foot. The plan worked, as she dissolved in giggles and waved a happy goodbye. Then she turned to me with a logical question.

"Mommy, did you do that when you used to go to work for cats?"

Me: "Ummm...did I...when I...what?"

Maya (exasperated): "Mommy! You know! When you worked at your job before I was in your tummy and you worked for cats!"

Through much sorting, I discovered that she was thinking of the story I had told her about how we came to own our second cat Bogey, after he was hanging around outside the office where I once worked. Apparently, she thought that was why I went to work - that I was paid in cats or something? Which is only slightly less odd than the scenario I was originally envisioning out of her question - that I was actually employed by cats.

- - - - - -

Maya has a fictional grandmother. This grandmother is neither of her two actual grandmas, but is a character that she brings out in conversation sometimes. Apparently, this grandmother is sometimes involved in stories from her Sunday School lessons...

(One recent conversation)

Me: "Maya, do you think you'd like to take swimming lessons sometime?"
Maya: "Oh yes! I love to take swimming lessons. They're my favorite! I used to do that with my grandmother."
Me: "Oh. Really?"
Maya: "Yes. She used to live at Sodom and Gomorrah, but she doesn't live there anymore."
(pause)
Me (inwardly): "EEEEEEK!"
Me (outwardly): "Oh, I see. Well...great, then. So, about those swimming lessons..."

- - - - - -

Three-year-olds. Their minds collect information so quickly that it results in a delicious combination of incredible insight and total confusion.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

If it gets up to fifty cents, she may prescribe Levatol...

It's too true what they say about how you spend far less time tending to your own needs once you're a parent. I'm past due for a dentist appointment, am doing well if I get my hair cut every six months, and can look around my living room and spot several piles of hobbies/projects that are just waiting to be started as soon as I can find the time. (Ha!)

One area, though, where I need not harbor unnecessary concern is my health. And that is because I am undergoing a rigid schedule of frequent checkups with my current primary doctor...my preschooler-turned-physician. She calls herself "Doctor Maya", makes convenient house calls (she lives here, and all), and she takes her job very seriously. She also utilizes top-of-the-line equipment, i.e. the Fisher Price Medical Kit, circa 1978. Lest you concern yourself about my current physical state, I will fill you on the report I received at this morning's appointment...

Doctor Maya began her exam, as per usual, with her trusty stethoscope. It's missing the original foam padding, but that makes it all the better for shoving confidently against any spot on the victim *ahem* I mean patient's chest, leaving a perfect red circle on said patient's skin, to the doctor's delight. At this particular check-up, she chose not to listen to my heart at all, actually, after deciding that testing hers would be "a really great idea". Seemed like a rather unusual method, but I guess once you've heard one heartbeat, you've heard them all.

My reflexes were tested next. You'll be glad to know that I showed remarkable response. Granted, it's hard to say how much of that was due to my fabulous reflexes and how much could be attributed to the sight of a three-year-old approaching me wielding a hammer. But regardless, my reaction upon being whacked in each knee proved most satisfactory to the doctor.

My temperature was judged "pretty perfect", when taken in the space between where my forearm rested on my thigh. An unorthodox choice of locations, to be sure, but I was nonetheless happy to hear the good report.

The multipurpose light tool was Dr. M's next selection. You won't even believe this, but she's such an experienced medical professional that she need not even look through the back of the instrument during the exam. In fact, by merely pressing it to the tip of my nose, jamming it forcefully into each ear ("This part tickles", she warned me. "ACK...erm...yes, yes it does", I replied.), and then holding it in frighteningly close proximity to my twitching eyes, she is able to give a diagnosis. "Looks good."

The blood pressure test is arguably Doctor Maya's specialty. She's exacting in her technique. So dedicated is she to getting an accurate reading, that if the Velcro tabs on the cuff don't line up to her specific liking, she thinks nothing of removing and repositioning it as many times as it takes to get it "just right". She's also quite thorough, squeezing the bulb approximately 21,345 times, all the while reminding me to "hold verrrrrry still". But never fear, I came through the check just fine, and she cheerfully gave me a reading of "Twenty-nine Cents". Phew! I don't have to tell you what a relief that was. I was hoping for under a quarter, but what can you do.

The final stage of the check-up, the grand finale, is always the shot. No matter how recently my last check-up happens to have been, I somehow always need an immunization of some sort. Doctor Maya relishes this task. With a sober expression, she loads up the medication, borrows an appropriate quote from the Berenstain Bears ("You won't even have time to say 'Ouch', Mama..."), and then plunges the blunt plastic syringe into my arm, punctuated with the spoken declaration - "Shot!" It's actually a nice touch. If you're going to get the shot anyway, you might as well celebrate it. I might suggest that to the nurse next time I need a tetanus booster.

So all is well, I checked out fine. She did suggest that I go straight to bed, for some reason. After having been up four times last night with her baby brother, I was actually quite excited by those orders. Unfortunately, she recanted them almost immediately when it was time to turn the tables and receive a checkup from Doctor Mama.

Ahhh...nice to know that I'm in such good hands.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I guess they do have Biblical names...

Maya's been asking me frequently in recent days to act out the story of Noah's Ark with her Fisher Price set. One day, while the animals were in the process of boarding the ark, she requested that I wait to close the boat's door until two extra passengers had a chance to take their places inside...Thomas the tank engine and James the red engine.

"Can Thomas and James go on the ark too, Mama?"

"Um, sure." I answered. After all - if talking, feeling, thinking trains had existed back in the day, I'm sure God would have included a pair among the ark-bound menagerie.

The updated twist on the classic tale grew more involved a few days ago when I was interrupted again, this time in the middle of the Lord's monologue to Noah about the upcoming flood and his related instructions.

"And Noah listened to God, " I was explaining, "and obeyed what he was told about..."

"And THEN, " Maya interjected excitedly, "Noah heard a 'Peep peep!'! Here comes Thomas the Tank Engine!"

That's right - in current repetitions of this story, Thomas and James have developed speaking roles. The new version also involves Thomas carrying all of the animals to the ark. He's sort of a railway assistant to Noah.

It's all good, I suppose. She's taking an interest in Bible stories and exercising her creative muscles at the same time. It does make me wonder what new fusion will show up next. Elmo at the nativity? Boots the Monkey curled up next to Moses in the woven basket floating through Egypt? Only time...and my three-year-old director...will tell.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Balancing the Bunny

She did it again, she did. My mind-twin, Megan, has once again posted a thought-provoking blog entry that has inspired me to write out said thoughts as a way of working through them.

I am so, so guilty of ritualistic consumption. Before the birth of my son a few months ago, a Monday just wasn't a Monday without a trip to Starbucks following a grocery shopping run with my daughter. There are certain times of year or even mood swings that simply seem to require the purchase of something...whether it be a new pair of sandals at the first sign of Spring, or a baked good loaded with chocolate when I need a pick-me-up. It's not something I particularly enjoy about myself, but there you have it.

Holiday seasons, however, most definitely bring the most challenges to my love/hate relationship with "stuff". Easter weekend in my childhood years was full of "things"...a brand-new dress, often paired with hat and gloves and corsage, and a basket filled with sweets and goodies and hidden somewhere downstairs for us to gleefully hunt on Sunday morning. Mark and I negotiated this point a bit when determining how to celebrate the season with our kids, as his Easters in growing-up years contained far less...er...fluff. And because, let's be honest, spending money in any capacity isn't something he jumps up and down about. (Love you, honey.) But he's fine with each of the kids wearing a new outfit on Easter morning, so long as it fits the constraints of our clothing budget, and he relented on the Easter basket debate (we keep them verrrrry basic).

I struggled at times with the question of whether or not these froufrou indulgences would diminish the true meaning of the Easter holiday. But I've determined that this no longer concerns me all that much. Even with all of the Easter extravaganza of long ago times, I still very much knew as a child that what really made the day special was the celebration of Christ's victory over death. And I've decided that it's much more important to ensure that both the birth and resurrection of Jesus be truths that are held close in our hearts and minds as a family year-round. The holiday hoopla, reindeer and rabbits, stockings and baskets, candy canes and jelly beans can be modestly embraced without undue paranoia as festive ways to mark the seasons, but we will do our best (God, help us) to make the deeper meanings a part of daily life.

There is an element in all of this that does cause me some alarm, however. And that is the fear that our kids (mine, and in society in general) will pay the price for our growing obsession with stuff, stuff, STUFF. I took a trip to Target the other day to pick up a couple of small items to put in the kids' baskets, and I was in complete shock standing in the holiday-themed aisles. Not kidding, it looked as though the Easter bunny had fallen into a blender along with Dora the Explorer, the Sesame Street gang, Mr. Potato Head and a box of pastel crayons and then someone had turned said blender on high and removed the lid. And don't get me started on the candy. Every form of sweet confection in existence...now in convenient egg form! So. Much. Stuff. And all of it for one season. I stood there reeling in front of the shelves and shelves of chocolate bunny choices and wondered just how much we're all messing up our kids by buying into this. Because here's the thing: as nauseous as it all made me, it got to me too. I found myself picking up several knick-knacks and thinking, "Ooo, Maya would really like this Elmo/bunny Pez dispenser...", and "Hmm...I could spend a bit more money and get her the chocolate bunny that's twice as big and wearing a dress..."

I had to work hard to restrain myself from those purchases, and then I walked away feeling guilty! Why?!? I mean I know that part of it is because I love my daughter and want to give her things that will bring her delight. But I know a lot of it is this keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thing that I so easily fall into. I was part of a conversation the other day where a friend asked, "So, what are your kids getting for Easter?" Totally threw me. Is this what Easter's becoming now? Another Christmas? Because I struggle then too. The part of me that shudders when I see mounds of gifts under Christmas trees wrestles with the part of me that wants to shower my kids with everything I know they'd enjoy...or at least enjoy for five minutes. And now it's happening with Valentine's Day too. There are some circles in which I feel awkward admitting that I *gasp* didn't get my children anything on February 14th. But seriously, when did that become traditional? Did I miss the memo? What's next - 4th of July buckets filled with red, white, and blue M&Ms and Cookie Monster waving a flag? Chocolate turkeys at each child's place at Thanksgiving?

It frightens me, because mine is the generation that is said to have "entitlement issues". But for all of my daily struggles with addiction to STUFF, I didn't have nearly the amount of things handed to me that I could easily hand to my children. And I worry that I will totally mess them up. Or that they'll hate me when they go to school and find out that the Easter bunny brought the kid at the next desk an egg-shaped Playstation or something.

So yeah, that's where I'm at. I've made my peace with a small amount of holiday "stuff", not wanting to fall into the reaction mode of boycotting it altogether. But I do see the downward spiral looming in front of me...and I fear that one day I'll push my Target cart too close to the edge and find that I've set my kids up for a life where they expect everything and are thankful for nothing. Lord, help me...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lessons from life with a 3-year-old - An ongoing list...

#1 - Concepts often elude them.

(This morning as Mark is in the bathroom, Maya is laying on her stomach outside the locked door, peering under the crack at the bottom and yelling at full volume...)

"DADDY!! DO YOU WANT SOME PRIVACY?!?"



#2 - Reasoning with them is futile.

(Yesterday, after she requested raisins for her afternoon snack, and I walked by to notice that she had eaten half of them and left the other half neatly in one side of her bowl...)

Me: "Are you going to finish your raisins?"
Maya: "No, these ones are yucky."
Me: "They're yucky? Why?"
Maya: "Because I don't want to eat them."
Me: "Why don't you want to eat them?"
Maya: "Because they're yucky."
Me: "Ok, but why are those raisins yucky?"
Maya: "Because we should throw them away."
Me (taking deep breath, trying one more time): "Ok, what makes them yucky?"
Maya (shooting me an exasperated look): "Me!"

[I give up]