Friday, August 31, 2007

The Power of Prayer

I have been teaching Jacob how to pray during difficult situations. It is not an easy task. I am quite private about my prayer life and I do not often pray with others outside of communal events. Other than the occasional "You are in my prayers," it's just not a topic of conversation. My prayer coaching for Jake has consisted of reminders and examples. "Oh, you're feeling frightened! Well, you could pray about that." or my favorite, "You seem to be having a hard time controlling yourself. Maybe you'd better ask God for some help." The latter is rarely well-received but it does serve as a reminder to me to ask for a little help! Last night, in the most unexpected way, Jacob showed me that my little lessons have been slowly taking a foothold in that stubborn little brain of his.

I was assembling the ingredients for pancakes when I heard Jake hollering at me from the bathroom. "Heeeeeeeeeeeelp meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! It huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurts!" Having been Jake's mother for all of six years now, I knew the problem in an instant. Jacob has a little trouble relaxing in unfamiliar bathrooms. So any time he changes environments, we have to live through a little adjustment period while Jake familiarizes himself with the new bathroom. We all know what relaxation issues lead to and we all know that it's uncomfortable. Once we get to that point, there's not much for me to do assistance-wise beyond some hand-holding and cheer-leading. After about 10 minutes of excruciating waiting, Jake asked the big question. "Mom, do you think God can help me poop?"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nine Years

Nine years ago at this very moment, I was in my dining room putting an entire can of hairspray on my recently curled hair in a pointless attempt to coax my stick-straight hair into staying curled long enough for pictures and a wedding ceremony. It worked, although I have almost no evidence of my success due to a low-down dirty dog of a photographer. He went out of business after we paid for our pictures but before he had actually delivered them. Several other couples were in the same circumstance. I cried so many tears over those lost photos.

For our first anniversary, Nick gave me the negatives. I still don't know exactly how he managed it, but he did. He sweet-talked another photographer into developing one of the pictures. He went through all 500 negatives to find a picture of the two of us before the altar. He carefully put it into the pewter frame that I had picked out for our registry. He wrapped it in actual gift wrapping paper - a huge ordeal for a man who generally "wraps" presents in a plastic grocery bag. Through all of this selection and handling of the photograph, Nick never noticed that my eyes are closed in the picture.

I display the picture anyway. It makes me inordinately happy to see it in a prominent location in my living room, showing me in all of my unattractive glory. I have the negatives and I could replace it and even have a wedding album printed, but I don't really want to. I don't need them any more. Memories of a perfect ceremony are nothing next to memories of an imperfect, happy marriage.

I was peeved at Nick this morning because he forgot to write "I love you" on his card to me. I would rather be peeved at him than anyone else in the world. After nine years, I am exactly where I want to be. I can't wait to see what the next nine years holds for us.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Strong Women

A while ago, Katie posted a lament about today's heroines. I'd like to link to it, but having spent 5 minutes looking and not finding, my lazy bone has cried "Enough!" Unless the kind, wonderful, witty Katie helps me out (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), you all will have to make do with my summary. Summary: Young women today lack heroines of substance.

Obviously, the original post got stuck in my craw. I want better than drunken heiresses and vulnerable pop stars. I've been keeping my eyes open for real heroines. This weekend, two very different women hit my radar again.

Carolina Kluft is a timely heroine. She's strong and graceful in competition. She appears to be both genuine and bright.

Mother Teresa is a timeless heroine. A book recently published reveals that she was deeply and spiritually lonely, yet she has done more than any contemporary person to ensure that others need never feel forgotten or alone. Would that we all could use our weakness to such meaningful ends.

UPDATE: Katie helped me out. She's good like that and I am grateful.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Hard Pill to Swallow

Jacob takes an antihistamine every night for allergies. He graduated from the liquid to disintegrating tablets about a year ago. Those are a pretty neat invention, really, and somehow I believe that they were the brainchild of a frustrated parent.

Last night, I realized that we had run out of the melting tabs. I decided that it wasn't a problem. I was confident that Jake could learn how to swallow a tiny little pill. He was game as well.

I told him to put the pill on his tongue and take a big gulp of water. He did. Then he stuck out his tongue with the pill still on it. "Move it back a little farther, then try again." Another gulp. The pill was still on his tongue. "Move it forward to the tip, then try again." Another gulp. The pill survived. "Bend your head forward and swish the water around, then swallow." Jake complied with only the tiniest roll of his eyes. "Hmm. Well, maybe if you take two drinks in a row."

"This is boring, Mom. I just crunched it instead." I bought another box of the melting tabs. We'll try again the next time I forget to stock up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

T that rhymes with C

Claire is two - and is she ever two. She is willful, dramatic, independent, and itching for a fight. All of these are important to her development as a person yadda yadda yadda. I can put a nice spin on it, but the low-down dirty truth is that Claire is not easy right now. We grit our teeth and grimly enforce the house rules. We tag team her, switching off when we get near our breaking points. We remind each other of Jake's exploits at this age to reassure ourselves that we will make it to the other side of this phase. At the end of the day, once she's asleep, the entire house lets out a deep sigh of relief.

Claire's favorite battlefield is nap time at daycare. She has decided not to nap against all logic and evidence to the contrary. This has been going on for a while, but two caregivers have managed to retain their authority. They would lay her down, give her the old stink-eye, and Claire would sleep. In the past week, one of the caregivers has moved to another class. Claire beat the other one yesterday.

I walked in at the end of the day to find a manic Claire running around in circles. "Uh-oh!" I said, "It looks like she hasn't had a nap." I have heard that some children get tired and fall asleep when they haven't had naps. My children get more and more manic. The more frenzied the activity, the more tired the child.

I turned to look at the caregiver. She sighed heavily, drooped her shoulders and said, "She beat me." Gulp. Gulp gulp. This caregiver - this experienced mother of 4, grandmother of more, caregiver to dozens of children - gave up in the face of a determined two year old child. I completely understand how that can happen. I have been a hair away from conceding on a few occasions. But now that the caregiver has abdicated authority, she's going to have to earn it back. Claire, who was testing the stability of her world, is reeling.

We're in trouble now, my friends. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for Claire. The next month or so is going to be a long one.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Erasers and Pencil Cases and Backpacks, Oh My!

I took Jacob, Claire, and my mother to Target on Saturday to purchase school supplies for the upcoming year. Claire was just there to make the outing slower and louder. I'm thankful, really, because back-to-school shopping is really too easy without a two year old sister (Nick has recently taken to calling her "the meth-head" when the littlies are out of hearing) to gum up the works. Grandma was there because Claire was there. Girl Baby doll, two library books, an extra cart, and a bag of goldfish were also there for Claire. I can't pinpoint the exact moment when running errands morphed into a full-fledged parade complete with sparklers and a clown car, but I'm pretty sure that we can never quite get back to a simple in-and-out trip.

List in hand, we hit the mobbed school supplies area. Then a miracle happened. I said, "You need 4 two-pocket folders, Jake!" Moments later, he handed me 4 two pocket folders. I tried again, "You need three wide ruled spiral notebooks!" We ran into a roadblock there because Jake didn't know what a spiral notebook was. But after a quick explanation, he tossed three of them in the cart. Then glue, markers, pencils, crayons. I almost cried right there next to the pencil cases (which were all the WRONG kind of pencil case, of course).

Jacob is growing up. A lot. This past summer, he has made such strides - great big leaping strides that cover furlongs. Sometimes, it's really hard for me to step back and trust that he will be ok without me. Other times, it's just a little trip to Target that shows me how very ok he is going to be. And then I quietly cry with relief while pretending to evaluate the girliness factor of pencil cases.

School starts one week from today. His backpack is chock full and ready to go. This year, I know that my little first-grader is going to be fine. I can't wait to hear all about the first day.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Who is telling her these things?

Me: Yes, Jake, I know you want to be Spiderman for Halloween. We'll start working on it soon. What about you, Claire? How do you want to dress up for Halloween?

C: I want to be Barbie

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Age of Misinformation

School starts in a week and a half! I told Jake last night that we would make a special trip this weekend for school supplies. I thought that he would be excited. He had been talking about being a first grader early on in the summer. I was quite surprised when I heard a small voice from the backseat. "I don't want to go to first grade. I'm scared. In first grade, you have to take math testes and they are hard."

After swallowing a few giggles about the "math testes," I asked Jacob what he knew about tests. He knew nothing, of course. Lack of knowledge has never done much to stop anxiety, though. We we talked a bit about quizzes and tests. I even gave him an impromptu spelling test. He passed it with flying colors (it may have been ever so slightly rigged).

Later, I told Nick about Jake's anxiety. I wanted Jake to have a little extra reassurance that all would be well. Nick emerged from Jake's room laughing and shaking his head. My spelling test had worked all too well - Jake is now concerned that first grade will be too easy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Miscellaneous Vacation Tidbits

  • Kansas must have the most museums per capita in the entire world.
  • Kansas State Troopers monitor speed on I-70 with slightly more zeal than that of a new mother monitoring bowel movements. I got a ticket near Shawnee and spent the rest of the trip driving agonizingly slowly.
  • Salina, Kansas has remarkably good Mexican food. Woodland Park, Colorado does not.
  • If anyone finds a right pink mary jane sneaker somewhere around Limon, Colorado, please let me know. Claire's only response has been "I throwed it."
  • Jacob pulled out a loose tooth while hiking in the Florrisant fossil beds. I carried it around in my pocket for days and then accidentally left it in Colorado Springs. Thank goodness the tooth fairy is a forgiving sort. Of the three teeth Jake has lost, only one has actually made it home to be put under his pillow.
  • Jacob climbed Blue Mountain. I couldn't quite make it to the top. He's one rough, tough little dude.
  • Nick can't sleep while camping. At all.
  • After a heated discussion, we've decided the correct way to call a llama is "llama llama ding dong!"
  • If you give a six year old boy a stick and tell him to go catch a deer, he'll stay busy for a very long time.
  • If you give two two-year-olds a frisbie and a pile of dirt, they will stay busy for a very long time. They may or may not ingest the dirt.
  • Hotels with water slides are perfect for children who have been cooped up in a car for hours and hours.
  • It's always good to come home again, even if home is 102 degrees in the shade with a broken air conditioner that's struggling to keep the house below 85. It'll be better to go home tonight after the repairman has paid us a visit.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Jean Luc Picard, Kathleen Norris, and Carey Landry bopped me on the head.

I've been reading Kathleen Norris' The Cloister Walk for what seems like 74 years now. I even had to extend it at the library. It is a difficult book for me. Norris is a poet by trade, and well, it's obvious. But underneath the difficult prose are really meaty ideas. And underneath those meaty ideas is something that's been nagging at me, making me pick up the book again and again. Her stories about monks past and present keep drawing me in. The section on celibacy broke something free - a little something that's been sitting right on the tip of my tongue for a week now waiting for me to figure out what the heck it is and spit it out already (it's a hairy little something and it tastes a little funky).

A few days ago, my mother-in-law came over to babysit. She brought a book of songs with her. I thumbed through the book, singing songs that I remembered learning in elementary school. The book had quite a large section of vacation bible school songs. I recalled my favorite ever VBS song "Bloom Where You're Planted" and I sang it for my amused and befuddled audience. I guess you had to live through the "Hi, God!" phase of the 70s to really appreciate Carey Landry's lyrics. Singing that song with my friends accompanied by the gentle strumming of guitars is a happy memory for me, though. I can remember thinking that I would bloom where I was planted! I would be a beautiful daisy no matter what my surroundings!

A few weeks before the little blast from the past, I had a chat with a good friend. I don't remember the whole conversation, but I do remember that Mother Theresa came up. "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

These three topics have been knocking around in my head a good bit. I couldn't figure out why they kept coming to the front of my mind all the time, much less why one triggered the others. I'd be telling the kids to stop bickering, cooking dinner, and making to do lists in my head when, seemingly out of nowhere, I'd start humming that little song. So last night, when Jean Luc Picard popped into my head while I was mopping, it was a welcome reprieve. I dunked and wrung and pushed and then Jean-Luc-in-my-head said "ENGAGE!" I'd like to pretend it was an "aha" moment, but it was really more of a "well, duh" moment.

I believe that family life is my vocation. I have been called to marriage and motherhood by God - I have no doubt of that. But I sort of forgot that a calling is not an event so much as a way of life. I haven't fulfilled my vocation because I had a wedding or a childbirth (or two). I live my vocation by loving my husband and children. To be honest, that's been a half-assed effort of late. I've been disengaged. Now that I've had a little head bopping, though, I'm ready to really throw myself into my life again, to fully engage in all the little acts of great love that will fulfill my calling. And I can finally put down that book and start something else!