Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If There's Pride, You Know a Fall is Coming!

I am a veteran. I laugh at those new parents who use 18 wipes to change a wet diaper and somehow still get sprayed in the face by their newborn son. I am strong; even this one didn't faze me. But today? Today I was humbled.

He half-limped into the kitchen, a look of intense discomfort on his face. "Change-a diaper, peese."

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I knew that a two-year old who's uncomfortable in his own diaper must have a doozy, but I didn't pay attention.

He waited, grabbing at his pajamas, "Change-a diaper Mama! Change-a diaper!!"

Stopping what I was doing, I took full notice of his bowlegged gait as he shuffled into his bedroom. I unzipped the footie pajamas and saw the Horror of Horrors that used to be his diaper. Huggies should mention a load capacity on their packaging. Never mind the weight of the child; what's the maximum capacity of the diaper? This one had gone way over capacity. It had sneaked out of his diaper and was from his hip to his toes. Toes! In footie pajamas! Caiden, never one to be left out of a show, was spectating and running commentary. "Ooooh, Mama! That's a bad one. That's a really bad one. I'll go get the air freshener." He ran to Addie's room, and then, because I had tried to stop breathing and had run out of air, I took a huge gulp of room air.

I dry heaved, loudly. Grayson looked at me and retched. There we were, both of us now covered in the contents of his diaper (What on earth did he eat last night?), retching. I ran from his room, leaving him stranded, half-naked, and smeared with It. There are not enough wipes in this world to fix that situation. I turned on the faucet in the bathtub, tried to get it together, and headed back to the Room of the Stench. Grayson was still lying on his changing table, looking slightly shell-shocked. He reached down, trying to decide exactly what was going on, while Caiden and I shouted in unison, "GRAYSON! DON'T TOUCH YOUR DIAPER!" Too late.

I peeled off his pajamas, heaving and with eyes watering and carried him in the stiff-armed move made famous in "Three Men and a Baby," while It fell off his legs and onto the carpet. Tiptoeing through the tulips poo, I headed for the bathroom, shoved him in the bathtub, and poured water down his legs, watching It cling stubbornly to his baby skin. With no washcloth in sight, I had to scrub him down bare-handed. I practiced my labor breathing and engaged in serious self-talk: "Sarah, you will not throw up! You sorry excuse for a mother, you'd better not throw up! Girl, get it TOGETHER!" Once he was clean, happily sitting in the tub and looking terribly unconcerned for my trouble, I wiped my nose with the back of my hand, trying to remove the scent from my nostrils. Instead, I wiped poo on my own face.

I turned and ran for the sink. Yes, folks, I threw up in my own sink. Over a diaper. And I call myself a veteran. Motherhood is nothing if not glamorous.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Thought You Were My Friend

Dear So-Called Friend,

I don't know what to say. Before we became friends, I'd heard about you. "Beautiful," they said. "Makes the world a nicer place." And even "Low maintenance."

I'm hurt. I've done my share of work on our relationship. I introduced you to my family, and was proud of you in front of other friends. I've catered to your every need, even when it wasn't convenient for me. And I've continued to talk to you, even though your unresponsiveness would drive some away.

What have you done for me? You pout, you cry out for more love, and you don't even pick up after yourself. One wrong move on my part, and you fall apart. I have to tell you, I've tried being patient, but life's too short to put up with your high-maintenance demands and unreliability.

So I'm reaching out only one more time: shape up, or I'm kicking you to the curb. So to speak.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Unasked Question

"How are you?" "I'm fine, how are you?" "Oh, I'm fine." "Great! See you later."

That's how most conversations start and end. The words are automatic, regardless of whether they're true. I say I'm fine, you nod, and we both smile and walk away. The end.

Chris and I have some friends who've recently suffered a double loss--their first child through a miscarriage, followed closely by his father. We called, prayed, sent a card. They were on our hearts and minds often during the days right after. Then we saw them, had them over. What do you say? It's awkward. We don't want not to ask; that would be rude. We don't want to pry, pouring salt on the wound. So we tread lightly, dancing around the edges of their pain, letting them know we care, but not delving too deeply. It's awkward.

I get that look from people now. People don't ask me how Addison is. Instead of asking the obvious, they tell me how good she looks, or compliment her outfit, or say how big she's getting. (Which always makes me laugh--she's almost nine months old and weights 13 1/2 pounds. There's nothing big about that!) Often I get that awkward silence, or the compassionate look, but nobody asks the real questions. And usually that's okay. I don't want to answer the real questions.

But sometimes I just want someone to say, "Sarah, how are you doing? I know your world fell apart last year, and that you're moving on, but how are you doing? Are you making it? Are you holding on to joy? Are you secretly falling apart? How are you?" But it's a delicate balance; just the right person has to ask. I don't want my mom to ask; she's too close. I don't want casual friends to ask; they're not close enough. My best friend already knows; she doesn't have to ask.

There's not an easy answer. If somebody at church says those things to me, I'll either fall apart or keep my resolve to be steady, hopeful, a little distanced, depending on who it is. And I have no easy answer, either. On some days, my reply would carry only worry, fear, dread. On others, I'd be full of hope, peace, joy.

Why are we unsure around others in pain? Is it because of the very fact that when we're in pain, one wrong word can send us in a downward spiral? I want you to ask; please don't ask. I don't know what I want.

No, I do know: I don't want you to be cavalier--I don't want you to make light of it, or pretend it doesn't matter. On the other hand, I don't want you to be a doomsayer--Don't act like having a child with a medical syndrome is the worst thing that can happen. Don't act like her life is less because she might accomplish less. It's a balancing act. I guess that's why we're awkard. Balance is hard to come by.

It's lonely, in this place. I know of only a few people whose children have life-altering diagnoses. And even then, nobody else knows how I feel. It's like Matt Mooney said, pain cannot be measured, and it cannot be compared. It can only be experienced. Nobody else can compare their pain to mine. Nobody can weigh theirs against mine. I am alone in this place.

Then again, I'm not alone. I am never alone. I don't know exactly how--theology has never been my strong point--but Christ says He can identify with all my sufferings. He never had a child with this syndrome, yet He can identify. How? I don't know. I don't have to know. He says it; I believe Him. When I'm surrounded by a sea of people and feel utterly, hopelessly alone in this journey, I hear Him whisper, You are not alone. I will walk with you. I will take care of her with you. I will love her, too. You are never alone.

I can't expect others to do what I'm unable to--know exactly what to say to a friend in pain. Know when to ask, when to refrain. Know when to be joyful, when to mourn. It's just awkward.

That said, a particular woman approached me at church last night. I only talk to her once in a while; each time, she asks me how I'm doing. I can tell, from the look in her eyes, that she means it. She's not asking out of social obligation. She truly wants to know, but she doesn't pry. Her one look conveys that she's praying for us, hoping with us, rejoicing and mourning for us. And if I wanted to say how I'm really doing, she'd keep on listening. I imagine, if Jesus were here on earth in the flesh, His eyes would carry the same look.

In the end, we're all going to suffer. Very few of us make it through unscathed. We lose parents, spouses, children, jobs, homes, health, sanity, peace. If I can learn anything through my life with a child whose needs will be greater than I'd imagined, it's that pain can be used. It can mold us, shape us, soften us. And if we let it, it can give us that look--the look that conveys the love of Christ to somebody else who's hurting. We have to push through what's awkward. We have to pay attention to somebody other than ourselves. We have to be willing to hurt for, hurt with, another.

I don't want life with Addison to be in vain. She's a gift in herself, just being one of my children, but her life can be something huge, something great, if I let Christ work. I guess that's what I'd say if you were to ask.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Voila!

Out with the old sink!
I love this boy!
My plumber is way cuter than the ones at Home Depot!
Much better!
It. Is. Finished. Hallelujah!

Well, here's the finished product! It has taken me a few days to get used to them--thanks to everyone who left a comment affirming the decision to paint the cabinets black. I had already had Chris, Caiden (who wanted, initially, to paint them purple), and Bridget give me their opinions half-way through, to make sure I wasn't making a big mistake.

I also decided that since I hate the kitchen sink that was installed when the house was built, this would be a great time to change it. I'm sure Chris was equally thrilled:) It was white porcelain, and although it looked great when it was new, several years of use ended up with it chipped in two places, and all the scratches in it got stained very easily. Since it's the center of the kitchen, I thought it needed a makeover. I chose a single-bowl sink--it leaves tons more room beneath the cabinet, and having one huge bowl makes it possible to wash and fill very large pots and pans, as well as bathe babies. And stainless is a no-brainer. Thank you to my husband who spent his entire day off installing the sink, even though he liked the old one just fine, thank you very much! It's so nice to be married to someone handy and cheerful!

If you don't like the new look, please don't tell me. After two coats of paint and three coats of polyurethane, it's too late :)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

An Easy Relationship

I talked to my mom today. That's not unusual; we usually talk several times a week, sometimes several times a day. She's in Pennsylvania; I'm in Texas--1200 miles apart. If you asked, I couldn't really tell you what, exactly, we talk about. Birds, snow, the dog's birthday, my birthday, family, upcoming trips, "mom butt," tummy tucks. Important stuff.

We have an easy relationship. There are no awkward silences, like with my biological dad, and there is no carefully choosing words, like with others I want to like me. She already likes me. Every once in a while we tackle an issue, sibling rivalry or hurt feelings, but mostly we just yak. It's the kind of relationship that feels pretty effortless. I mention a book I'd like to read; she mails it to me. She tells me she misses the boys; I have them call her. We give and receive without much thought.

It wasn't always like this. I'm strong-willed. And opinionated. And stubborn. And defensive. I wasn't easy to raise. Losing allowance quarter by quarter was the punishment meted out after I grew out of spankings. I vividly remember standing by the fridge, in an all-out war of words. I forgot to mention that I'm also sassy and quick with great comebacks. It's very rewarding personally but rarely impresses parents. I'd pushed the line too many times and was down to 75 cents. There was a tally kept and attached to the fridge. We were in a war of words and were both furious. She pushed me--she's also strong-willed, opinionated, stubborn, sassy, and good with comebacks--"You've got three words left, Sarah. Choose them carefully." She dared me. I picked up the pen, glared at her, and pointedly spat out, "I. Hate. You." Crossed off the three remaining tally marks, and put the pen down. It was the only time I said it, out loud. Somehow she restrained herself from throttling me.

Somehow, probably due to the grace of God alone, I grew up. I stopped having to say the last word (mostly). We became friends, to a healthy level. We took on projects together--ask her sometime about painting the basement--had Friday dates at the Dairy Queen after school, learned how to have two women in a house and still have peace. I went to college and was homesick. She wrote me a letter everyday and decorated each envelope to cheer me up. I finally fell in love and embraced my home away from home. During visits home, we'd discuss new books, walk the trail, remake her wardrobe. She made my wedding veil and most of my mementos for the day. Then I moved far, far away.

Now I'm here, and she's there, but we're probably closer than before. I've learned that if she irritates me and it's not entirely petty, I can say something, and our relationship will stay intact. For a non-confrontational person, that's a victory. I like to be right, but I sure don't want to disturb the peace to be proven so. And she can do the same thing. We've seen that trust is supremely important, and absence makes the heart grow fonder--even if we haven't seen each in four months, a ten day visit will drive us both crazy. We can admit that. Our relationship has gotten easy.

I'm a wife and mother now, and she's an empty-nester. I ridicule her when she's tired, reminding her it's her own darn fault for not getting enough sleep when the only person she has to take care of is herself. She refuses to attend my pity parties, reminding me I chose to have these kids, and that I don't want to have any regrets when they're out of the house. We are honest with each other, for the most point.

It's a good relationship, one with very little baggage and many happy memories. It isn't perfect, and hard work has been done over the years to make sure it stays balanced and healthy. She's not my best friend; I'm not hers. She doesn't tell me what to do anymore. She's there when I need advice but doesn't offer it without me asking. She's a blessing.

If I had known, as a fifteen-year old, that it would be this good, I would've shut my mouth and kept my allowance. I have a feeling, though, that a certain little girl named Addison will get a kick out of hearing the story someday when she's a sassy teenager. I guess I owe my mom that one.

Wisdom

I'm mulling over something that I want to write, but the words haven't figured themselves out yet. So in absence of that, here is something with more wisdom than I could ever come up with. Please go read it. If, when you're reading, you're unfamiliar with the story, start at the beginning of their archives. It's well worth the time.

God bless y'all today!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Because I'm Nuts

I decided, sort of on a whim, to repaint my kitchen cabinets.

I've already painted them once, back in 2003, and although I still liked them, it was time for a change. So I went and bought the paint and started before I could wise up chicken out.

To see the "Before," go here. (Scroll down the page. And I had to laugh when I looked at these photos from the Tour of Homes--the only room that looks the same today is my bathroom! I LOVE change.)


Here's the halfway point:






I'll post the "after" pictures when I'm finished. (Dear Lord, please let me finish soon! If Grayson helps himself to one more cupboard, I'm going to have to duct tape him to his highchair!!)

Happy painting!

Monday, January 22, 2007

My 200th Post, Meg, Chris/Pace, and the Daniel Fast

This is, officially, my 200th post. Unofficially, too. :-)

I feel like the occasion requires something deep or spiritual or both, but I'm in the middle of painting my kitchen cabinets (again), and I have nothing deep nor spiritual.

So, I'm referencing a conversation my husband and his sister, Meg, had via iChat (She's in Australia) about the Daniel Fast we've been doing. I tried to copy and paste the entire thing here but wasn't able to. But click on over; there's a lot of food for thought, so to speak.

(And for those of you who've read that my husband's name is Chris, and see him called "Pace" on her site, that's another story for another day. Chris and Pace are one in the same. I promise I'll tell it--that's a good one.)

When I'm feeling--like right. this. second.--that I want to indulge in some macaroni and cheese, or a Diet Coke, or for the love of Pete, chocolate, I go back and read their conversation and remember why I'm doing it. Meg is like that--she has always steered me closer to Christ with her out-of-the-box love for God. When she and her husband, Ken, stay with us over the holidays, I generally am exhausted by all the theology and debating by about midnight and wimp out go to bed, but they're usually still going strong until the early morning hours. Meg and Ken have also pointed me to some amazing Christian writers I'd never have heard of otherwise, like Brother Lawrence. Now that's some good writing about honoring God while washing dishes!

Okay, I've veered entirely off my point. Go here. You won't be disappointed. Anybody who can tie in Big Macs, Hummers, and South Park to the Daniel Fast is worth reading.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Passing On My Love

I judge books by their covers--in my mind, any book that's worth reading has a cover that's worth looking at. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but only a few. This book is not an exception. It was the cover that lured me--a beautiful, hazy illustration of a rabbit approaching a mysterious door. The title, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and the fact that it's a hardcover, something that seems extravagant and delicious in a book, clinched the deal. I bought it and brought it home.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo

I wrapped it and placed it on Caiden's bed, where it waited for him to come home from his surgery. I promised him that anytime he was awake during the first few days after surgery, I would read to him. This is a treat, now that two siblings have been added to the family. Before, when Caiden was the only one, we'd spend afternoons snuggled together in his reading chair, surrounded by piles of books. Now books are read in snippets, and library trips are seldom. But he and I love books, something that's evidently hereditary.

Tonight we finished the book. I turned the page to the last chapter, glanced at the pen and ink sketch, and It happened again. I teared up. Oh, no.

Turning the next page, I started reading, and my voice broke. When I finished the chapter, tears were streaming down my face, my throat scratchy. Caiden stared at me, aghast. He pushed a strand of hair out of my eyes, shook his head at me, and whispered, "My crazy mama."

"Do you think I'm silly for crying at a story, Caiden?"

Without hesitation: "Yeah. Really crazy." He whacked himself on his forehead and fell over, dying a mock death on his bed.

Even though he mocked me for my emotional attachment to a fictional china rabbit, I remember not too long ago when I first read "No, David!" to him, and he cried at the sight of David's ferocious teeth. And he still laughs a great big belly laugh when he sees David's naked backside running down the street. "COME BACK DAVID!" he shrieks with me as I read. I watch him sigh with relief when Wilbur is saved from certain death by the wits of his spider friend, and I already know how he's going to love James as he rolls through adventures with a bunch of bugs inside a giant peach.

And really, crying and laughing are closely related. So although he watches in horror as I weep at the conclusion of The Velveteen Rabbit (What is it with the rabbit stories?), I can see that books already speak to him. On those days when my mothering is filled with more sighs than the fruit of the Spirit, I remember that I don't have to be perfect, I just have to love him. Reading to him is one of the best ways I can do that. I hope when he's grown, he knows that, too, even if he doesn't shed a tear while reading to his own kids. Because, well, that would be really crazy.

*Pardon the blurry image--I have very limited computer skills!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What Can I Say? The Inmates Run the Asylum Here

You know your morning isn't going well when the 90-something year old lady on the park bench at Wal Mart greets you with a toothless grin and "My, you've got your hands full!" Lady, you have no idea.

I should've taken that as a sign from God and turned around, gone home, and borrowed a roll of toilet paper from the neighbors.

Because, see, that's all I needed today. A roll of toilet paper. So I gathered the kids and all the necessary paraphernalia, resigned myself to running errands, and headed out the door. It's 28 degrees here today. I live in Texas. We don't know what to do with 28 degree weather. I crammed Russian-style winter hats on the boys, which seemed out of place with their sweatshirt-weight hoodie jackets, and bundled up Addison in a blanket. None of them has an actual winter coat.

We headed out, and the din in the car was already at a disturbing high before we'd made it out of the neighborhood. Addison has discovered that her vocal cords are, evidently, not as tiny as the rest of her, and if she's awake, she's loud. Growling, screeching, blowing raspberries. Grayson, whose name means "Quiet one," has decided that talking is fun, and he never stops. "I SEE TEES! I SEE TEES! I SEE TEES!" until I acknowledge him. "Yes, Gray, you see trees. Good." "I SEE CARS! I SEE CARS! I SEE CARS!" until the fact is once again confirmed. And then there's Caiden. When I told my grandmother years ago that I had to talk or I couldn't breathe, heaven broke out in a hilarious fit of laughter, and I have since given birth to my clone. He never, ever stops. He talks in his sleep, for pete's sake. All that to say (See, I do NOT have the gift of brevity) the car was loud. And we were only three blocks out of the driveway.

I dropped off a prescription. Went to the bank. Forgot to go to the ATM, turned around, checked it off the list. Off to Wal-Mart.

I hate Wal-Mart.

I mean, I love Wal-Mart, but I hate going with children. In 28 degrees. At lunchtime. And when the gummy grandma at the front door cackled at me, I should've just surrendered right then. But we needed toilet paper.

Halfway through the store (after purchasing roses, toothpaste, eyeliner--what on earth am I doing? I thought I was buying toilet paper; does Wal-Mart spray "Buy Me" pheromones through their vents?) I smelled the Stink of Stinks. I hurried Caiden, Grayson in the stroller, and Addison in the carseat into the family restroom. Addison, who's evidently teething (read: wakes up screeching in the middle of the night and is starting to bite me), had a diaper explosion that's impressive for a girl her size. Half of her clothes went into the trash. That's right. In the trash. I was not in the mood for carrying around baby-poop stained clothes around Wal-Mart. We create enough of a scene as it is. Upon realizing I didn't have any of her diapers in the bag, I fastened one of Grayson's Size 5 diapers on her. So what if she wears Size 2? Now there's NO chance of another blow out. Everybody was snapped up, fastened, scrubbed, and we resumed our shopping.

Caiden, who's in charge of pushing Grayson in the umbrella stroller, is inadvertently taking out all manner of elderly cane-wielding folks, most of whom are extremely gracious. I, on the other hand, am starting to lose it. My hair is coming loose out of my ponytail, and I'm starting the incoherent mutter I adopt when I'm frazzled. "Of all the stupid ideas. . .28 stinkin' degrees . . .Get out of our way . . .I hate Wal-Mart . . .Who needs toilet paper anyway?" People are making a wide berth around us, as we steer crazily down the aisles. Grayson and Addison are both keeping up a constant stream of sock-and-shoe flinging, with me and Caiden attempting to push cart and stroller while alternately hunching down and picking up somebody's footwear. Addison is blowing bubbles and raspberries as she grins wickedly at me, while I cram the sock on for the 18th time, continuing my steady stream of aggravated muttering.

We finally--finally--vacate the premises, $200 poorer (How did that happen?), and I feel like someone should announce our departure over the sound system. After freezing and muttering and reminding Caiden for the 59th time to STOP COMPLAINING! and BE PATIENT! I realize that I am, in fact, Losing It. And I am helpless to do anything but stand by and watch.

Prescriptions have been picked up, movies dropped off, and we're heading down the last street before heading home. A school zone. I'm jabbering away on my cellphone, talking to my mother, when I see a sight I've never seen before. The cop in the middle of the turn lane does a U-turn, following me. Me! I squeak into the phone, "Mom, I'm actually being pulled over! Pulled over! I'll call you back." I drop the phone into my bag and pull into the high school parking lot. It's quittin' time, and kids are streaming out of the doors. Yes, kids, I'm a good example of why abstinence works in high school. Unless you want to look like me, you should be good. Very good.

While I wait for the police officer, I wade through the diaper bag chaos to find my wallet. Drivers license. Insurance card--expired months ago. Great.

He arrives at my door, smiling. "Ma'am? I'm Officer Somebody for the City of Somewhere, and I've pulled you over because your registration expired. In January 2006." He blinks at me. I'm flustered. "Um, here's my license. Expired? Really? I bought it in June. That's strange. And my insurance? Well, I'm sure it's here. It's always here. But that seems to be expired, too." (Dear Lord, please don't let him think I'm am idiot.) My glance falls down to the floorboard, where a bowl of frozen hummus and a rotten banana peel rest. I glance back at him, near frantic. "I'm not usually this disorganized. Really." I find the current insurance, and ask him how my registration could possibly be expired, if we'd just bought the car in June. Wouldn't they have given us a sticker? Then I ramble on. "Well, not that this matters at all, but I had a baby in May who had open-heart surgery this summer, and my husband bought me this van, and I wasn't there for the signing, and I really don't have any idea where the sticker is, and I know that doesn't matter at all." I'm drowning here, Mr. Police Officer, please save me. Please just make me shut up now.

He grinned at me then, realizing that I have Lost It. Not just the sticker, folks, but my mind. "I can find out for you if a new sticker has been issued." He walks back to his car, and the boys come alive. Grayson shrieks, "Police MAN! Police MAN! Police MAN!" and Caiden asks 9467 questions, all in the space of one minute.

He's back. "Ma'am, it doesn't expire until May 2007. You can call TXDOT and ask for a new one. The dealership probably forgot to give it to you." I smile at his graciousness, knowing he and I both see the current state of things and realize that's not likely. He finishes, "You have a nice day, and drive careful" before waving at the boys. Grayson calls out a cheerful "GOODBYE! GOODBYE! GOODBYE!" through the open window until the officer waves and calls back, "Goodbye!" and I pull out of the lot.

As I sit here, I'm trying to find the moral of the story, or something I can turn into a devotional, or anything at all that redeems my morning. But I can't. And folks, that's just how life is sometimes. Especially mine. But since it's the only one I've got, I'm keeping it. Not like you wanted it, or anything, but I'm keeping it, all the same.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

URGENT prayer need

*UPDATED: Ashley made it through surgery; a large blood clot was removed. She is still seriously ill. Her parents need a tremendous covering of prayer. Thank you for your prayers for Ashely and her family; please don't forget about them!

Friends, today is Kelli's Day, and I don't want to take away from that at all.

But Ashley, the sweet baby trying to recover from her triple organ transplant, went into cardiac arrest last night and is fighting for her life right now as she undergoes a heart procedure.
It is critical right now, and her mama is alone at the hospital, 700 miles away from her husband and family, waiting alone, hoping desperately that her daughter makes it alive out of surgery. Could you please be there for her, praying and interceding and lifting her up? I don't know of a more lonely place than she is in right now. And if you could please leave her a comment at their site, letting her know you're praying, I know that encouragement would really help her.

I'll keep you updated.

A Better Place to Send Your Vending Machine Money Today!



I haven't worked in an office in a while, but the last vending machine I saw (in a hospital, of course!) charged $1.50 for a 20 ounce diet Coke.

Here's a better place to send today's $1.50. This is one of the few times I can think of where my $1.50 really, truly can save somebody's life. And not just somebody, but Kelli.

I don't know many people who can't afford $1.50. I also don't personally know many people whose life might be saved with my $1.50. And today, I can't think of a better way to spend my money. Not even on a diet Coke. So please, take the few minutes, give up your Coke or peanut M & Ms today, and help her out. And if you're able, send more.

After all, we're blessed to be a blessing.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I Think My Dog Just Got Ogled (aka I Am Not as Humble as I Thought)

I took our dog, Scout, for a run jog this morning. We started out walking, him with his golden retriever head and tail held high, straining forward at the prospect of getting to run. Up ahead I noticed two men digging a hole in our neighbor's yard.

Let me break into this story to recount my experience at a well-known outdoors superstore last week. It's relevant, I promise. I was meeting a friend there to pick out my husband's birthday presents, and as I attempted to hoist the shopping cart with the baby carrier in it over the curb, a man asked if I needed help.

"No, thanks, I'm fine," I said, as I hefted the cart up.

"Oh, I can see that you're fine. I just thought you might need a little help."

I turned and eyed the man, sizing up his fifty-something self and wondering what, exactly, he meant by that. I decided there were two possible meanings to the phrase, "I can see that you're fine." :

A. "Oh, baby, you are one hot mama! I am fiercely attracted to those childbearing hips of yours as you jiggle juggle your three kids, cart, stroller, diaper bag, and baby carrier. In fact, those nursing-mother-lovehandles of yours are what attracts me the most!" Fine, as in Fine.

B. "Yes, young lady, I can see that you are capable of handling your three kids, cart, stroller, diaper bag, and baby carrier." Fine, as in capable.

I replayed the scene in my head all afternoon, trying to read nuances and body language and all of that, only to remain mystified.

Back to this morning. As I sized up the men ahead, I turned to Scout and talked to him, raised my head briefly to utter a neutral "Good morning," to the men, and kept walking. The beefier of the two stared us down, and I instinctively crossed my arms over my chest and tried to become invisible.

"Hey, lady, that's a good-lookin' dawg you got there!"

What a pitiful pick-up line, I thought to myself.

"Where'd you get him? Or is it a her?"

I turned around and reluctantly answered, "It's a he."

He stopped digging. "So where'd you get 'im?"

"Um, I think we got him from a breeder in Longview."

"It wasn't one of those trailer places with cages of dawgs, was it?"

And then it dawned on me. He was not, in fact, hitting on me. He was interested in my dog. I was just the dog handler, as it were, not one hot mama out for a walk.

"Well, no, I think they lived on some acreage, and they only raised one litter of pups at a time."

He looked relieved. "Oh, good, they were decent folk, then."

This time I looked him in the eye. "Decent folks, yes."

We both smiled, and I turned to go. He hollered after me, "I got two retrievers myself, and they sure ain't half as good-looking as yours is!"

I called back a "Thanks!" and walked on. Scout, oblivious to all the compliments and praise, sniffed some poop on the sidewalk. I snickered at my own foolish self-flattery and picked up the pace.

Oh, to be as humble as my dog.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Dreaded Big Boy Bed

It was inevitable. After all, a child can't sleep in a crib until he's seven. (Right, Dad??) What I don't understand is exactly how it happened. With Caiden, the decision was a no-brainer. I was asleep one morning and heard, "HI! MAMA! I! OUT! OF! BED!" at the foot of my bed. I clenched my eyelids shut, hoping that when I opened them he wouldn't still be there, that it was a nightmare, but there he was, very real, clad in footie pajamas. He was only 20 months old.

So began the endless cycle of putting Caiden to bed, standing outside his door, and waiting the 13 seconds it took for him to sneak out before putting him back to bed. Again, and again, and again. Sometimes he'd creep out 20 times before he'd finally give up. For many, many months he'd fall asleep at the door, wedged up against the crack with all of his necessary sleeping paraphernalia: blanket, monkey, pillow, quilt. When I checked on him each night, I'd have to heave the door open against his sleeping frame, pick him and all his stuff up, and put him back in bed, only to find him there, against the door, the next morning. It was a BATTLE.

Grayson is a child of a different nature. (Thereby proving that God is loving, kind, and merciful.) I've already described the boys this way: Caiden is the confetti at a party, and Grayson is the quiet when everyone has left. He is laid-back, obedient, and calm. So I guess that's what I was focusing on when I decided to vacuum the baseboards in his bedroom. Somehow that led to moving his furniture to get to the corners, which led to rearranging his entire room. Two hours later, I found myself disassembling his crib and converting it into a toddler bed. It was only when I uttered the words, "Big Boy Bed," that I realized what I had done. In that one act, I had turned Grayson from a baby into a Boy.

I sat in his rocking chair and rocked away that night, wondering if I was ready. Thoughts competed in my head: He is two, after all. But he's still my baby! I have another baby; it's not like he's the last one. But now I'll have to discipline him! But he's Grayson. There's no way he'll sneak out of his bed like Caiden did. Haven't you ever heard of the sin nature, you stupid girl? By that time, it was too late. Grayson was snuggled under his covers, with a grin on his face, pretending to snore, alternating with cheers of "I a big boy! I a big boy!"

Overall, he has done pretty well. Each morning he wakes up, again realizes I put a child safety knob on the door and he can't escape, and then he commences to his ritual of rocking himself in his chair. Hard. Against the wall he and Caiden share. I hear it from my bed, Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Most mornings I have to intercept Caiden from letting Grayson out. And other mornings I have to keep Caiden from growling at Grayson through the wall, "Knock it off! Stop. Hitting. My. WALL!" When I do go in to get him, he grins ear-to-ear, "I outta bed! I outta bed!" with such pride in his big boy-ness. It makes my heart hurt just a little.

But each time I find Gray sleeping, clutching his blanket and with thumb firmly planted in his mouth, I remember that sleeping in a "big boy bed" doesn't make him a Big Boy. Moving out does, and that's a long way off. Until then, I'll continue to fight the urge to sneak into the attic, find the crib railing, and convert his bed back into a crib.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Chance to Make a Change

Please go here, to read about her, and then think about how you can help. If there's anything I learned last year, it's that there are only two things that will remain in the end: Jesus, and people. Here is one way you can glorify Him by helping one of them.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

*The Daniel Fast

In Matthew 6, Jesus was talking to His followers and said this, "When you fast . . ." Not if you fast, but when you fast. He, in the same chapter, talks about "when you give" and "when you pray." All three topics--fasting, giving, and praying--are spoken of as "givens." It was a given, if someone was a follower of God, that he or she would do all three.

This was the beginning of the sermon our pastor preached this weekend, and although I had already known that the Daniel Fast was coming, and my husband had given me the breakdown of why we, as a church, were being called to do it, this was the very first sermon I have ever heard on the subject of fasting. It's funny; I've read about the topic before, and I've known people who've done it, but I had never even considered fasting, myself. (Three years straight of pregnancy or breastfeeding probably didn't help!)

Our pastor continued, mentioning people who fasted: Moses, Esther, Daniel, David, John, Paul, Peter, and of course Jesus. And he spoke of how each person fasted and then received a spiritual breakthrough of some sort. And besides the fact that my husband is on staff and we are all encouraged to participate, I caught the vision this weekend and began to be genuinely excited about the fast. I have several things I've been praying through, with no seeming resolution, that I'm hoping will be answered in some way through this fast. I also know that I like Diet Coke a little bit too much--addicted?--and this is a good way to make sure no food or substance takes too holy a place in my life. (My aching head right now testifies to that very fact.)

So on Sunday we embarked on the Daniel Fast. Now there are two fasts mentioned in the book of Daniel--the first was a 10-day fast, which was to prove to the king that Daniel and his three Hebrew friends wouldn't need the royal (junk) food to be healthy, and the second, which was a three-week fast. This fast was to bring the spiritual breakthrough needed to get an angel of the Lord past the devil, to get a message to Daniel. Both fasts included water and vegetables. (Praise the Lord, because if I had to live on just water for three weeks, I'd die of grumpiness.)

I was excited Sunday night--I'm always up for something new, and I like challenges, and I honestly thought it wouldn't be that hard. We eat pretty healthy around here, other than the aforementioned caffeine addiction, and I'm not a vegetable-hater.

Then came Monday. After eating my all-natural oatmeal with pecans and raisins, grape juice and banana, I thought, Hey, this isn't bad! I can do this without ever complaining! But by 2 p.m., the headache settled in. And when I say settled in, I mean embedded itself in every groove of my brain and hasn't let up since. What's puzzling me is how my husband, who consumes more caffeine than I do, doesn't have a headache at all. Must be the favor of God, or something. Either way, my splitting head is the perfect vehicle for Satan. He keeps telling me, "This is stupid! You don't have to do this. What's the harm of sneaking a little Diet Coke? You're breastfeeding; your baby NEEDS a hamburger!" Followed by the Spirit, reminding me, "Extreme obedience brings extreme blessing. You can't do this, but I can through you! Trust me."

What didn't help is that I have a friend who's also doing the fast, but pretty reluctantly. At lunch yesterday I almost felt attacked for supporting it. After all, she reasoned, it never said that Daniel didn't eat bread! (Well, no, but it also didn't say that he didn't eat dairy or coffee or chocolate, either, but our pastor said not to, and he's my spiritual authority, so I'm following his lead.)

I'm great at starting things. I have so many unfinished projects, from kitchen chairs with only one coat of paint to half-crocheted hats to scrapbook supplies that have been sitting unused for two years. I began homeschooling Caiden but have run out of steam and am questioning myself daily. My nightstand is filled with partially-read books (all non-fiction; a fiction book gets devoured!). What I'm not good at is finishing what I've started. I get bored and move on to something else. Or it gets challenging, and I quit. (Like motherhood! Can I quit? Probably not. Guess I'll have to dig in and keep plugging away.) So by breakfast this morning (tasteless oatmeal again), I was wanting to quit. This isn't as easy as I thought it would be. Cooking without sugar or butter or sauces is not only not fun, it's not easy. I'm already trying to figure out how we're going to live on salad (no cheese, no fun dressings) for three more weeks.

But then I remember why I'm doing this--my pastor asked me to. My husband asked me to. And deep down, I hear the voice of God asking me to. It's not supposed to be easy; I could give up cocaine or skydiving or a hundred other things I don't actually do. This is designed to be extreme! Extreme obedience brings extreme blessing, even if I "only" realize what it means to feel true hunger. In this society, we're not hungry for much. Everything is easily accessible, which makes our need for God a little distilled. So I'm going to participate fully, knowing that not only will my body thank me heartily for it, but my spirit will, too. Even if God doesn't show me a clear answer to the five things I'm praying through, I know that my rebellious nature, which tends to balk at being told what to do, will be broken down some. And that is a good thing.

Remarkably, as I've been writing this, my headache has waned. My resolve to obey has strengthened, and my thankfulness for a pastor and a church who are passionate about following God has increased. If this is how I feel on Day 2, I can't wait to see what happens on Day 21. Until then, I'm off to go drink some water.

* If you would like more details about the Daniel Fast, you can go here and click on the Fasting button.
**I debated hard with myself about writing this; Matthew 6 clearly says not to showboat about fasting. If I were doing a personal, individual fast, I wouldn't mention it. But this is being done by an entire church body, some of whom read this blog and have asked me about it. I am a member of the church, married to a pastor on staff, so it's pretty obvious I'm participating. I hope that answering the whys and hows that have been asked doesn't qualify as showboating.
:)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Can You Just Do the Work for Me?

I should've started blogging a long time ago--y'all are tangible proof that I am loved! (Well, so are my husband, children, and people I actually know in real life, but that's beside the point.) Thank you for your comments assuring me that brain freezes are common, and that you'll still be here when it thaws.

And do you know what I really love? That several of you came up with topics for me to write about. That's a group project at its best. (Didn't you HATE group projects in school? I was an overachiever academically [because I was good at nothing athletically] and hated it when I got stuck with the druggie/flunkie who skated off my efforts.) In this case, I'm skating off your efforts :)

So here's what I'm going to do: I want you to vote on what you think I should write about. Here are the possible topics:

1. How Chris and I met--wait, that won't work; I've already written about that here.
1. How Chris proposed. That's a great story. I realize some people have good proposals, but mine is better. Okay, so I'm a bit biased, but it's the only proposal I've gotten, so I'm keeping it. (And if I write about it, I'll also include the worst proposal I've ever personally heard of.)
2. What it's like going to a church larger than many American cities
3. My New Year's Resolutions
4. The Daniel Fast that we are embarking on after lunch today. Normally I'd not write about something personal like a fast, but our entire church is doing it together, and seeing as how it's also my first fast--AND 21 DAYS LONG--I'm feeling like a post is in there somewhere.
5. Any topics I can't think of, since clearly the brain is still a little cold. (*Meg, can you think of anything?)

I realize I'm taking a risk in assuming that you even want me to write about anything, but reading what I write is voluntary, after all.
Vote away, ladies!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Checking In

I have two problems.

First, I'm in a blogging funk. A brain freeze. Writer's block. Whatever you want to call it, I can't think of a single thing to write about! Even this post is pushing it. I've tried to write about my resolutions several times, since I'm an avid fan of making them, but each post I've attempted is boring even to me. This is the longest I've gone without writing something, even if it's a green bean casserole recipe, but I'm hoping that's a good sign--the last time I thought I had nothing to write about, Blitz got impaled. So maybe it's true that 2007 is going to be less chaotic than 2006?

My second problem is that I'm barely treading water! It's not that I'm particularly busy with super-important things, or even with fun things; it's that I'm still at the beck and call of a tonsillectomy patient who is starving every 32 minutes but whose throat is also hurting every 32 minutes. Between giving him medicine, taking his temperature, reading to him, and feeding him, I'm beat. Not to mention the other two needy people I live with :-) On top of that I'm actively trying to work on my resolutions, and then I need to eat and sleep, oh, and bathe. And it's almost my husband's birthday, so I have shopping to do. See? I'm not finding a whole lot of time to play. Or even go to the potty, some days, but you moms know all about that. And tonight, while my husband is having a guys' movie night out, I would love to get caught up on everybody's posts, but I'm so tired I'm going to bed. At 8:45. And I'm so tired that I could almost cry for the sheer joy of how great it's going to feel going to sleep that early!

So please bear with me. Anybody who knows our family personally knows there's no way we'll go an entire two weeks without a crisis, so I'm sure I'll be back soon:)

In the meantime, please go check out my sister-in-law, Meg's website. She and her husband are missionaries with YWAM in Australia and have posted amazing pictures of Sydney's New Year's fireworks, as well as all sorts of stuff about their life as missionaries, not to mention pictures of the cutest niece ever. Chris and I love them dearly and miss them like crazy. Meg's blog is new, so please hop on over and tell her hi!

Have a happy weekend!!