Friday, August 31, 2012

Good Fences, Good Neighbors?

The old fellow steps out the back door.  The air is crisp and he smells a hint of smoke in the air.  He stretches a bit and gingerly treads down the steps to the yard.  He often feels achy in the morning and his right hip is especially tender today.  He stops to rest a moment.

He looks across the lawn and sees that it needs to be mowed again.  He peers around the yard and sees that the grass is wet with dew.  He looks down at his damp feet, but he doesn't mind.  This stroll around the yard is his favorite way to start the day.

He heads to the flower bed and sniffs the lavender.  He brushes against it and he's enveloped in the heady aroma of this old shrub.  He pauses by the coreopsis and admires the sweet, yellow flowers.  He gives them a sniff, but all he can smell is the lavender trailing behind him.

He walks over to the bird feeder hanging on the fence, which he notes, needs to be filled again.  He follows his familiar path along the fence, pausing to inspect the Virginia creeper and the pumpkin vine.  It is at this moment that he stops.

Something is different.  New.  He turns his head, trying to discern what it is that has caught his attention.  He takes a few steps back.  Ah-ha.  The new neighbors.

Yesterday he had noticed a buzz of activity next door and now he realizes that there is someone on the other side of the six-foot fence.  Someone else wandering around their yard, unseen.

Wanting to be neighborly, he calls out, "Good morning."

There is a pause and then a shuffling of feet nearing the fence.

"I said, 'Good morning'."

"Oh.  Good morning," a deep voice resonates over the fence.

"Welcome to the neighborhood."

"Thank you."  More shuffling and an extended silence.  A morning dove coos.

"Well then.  Good bye."

He continues his walk wondering about that soul on the other side of the fence.  He seems friendly enough, though a bit standoffish.  As he nears the corner of the yard, he pauses for a moment.  Curiosity suddenly gets the best of him.  Hoping that no one is watching, he peeks through the knot-hole.  Just a quick glance to put a face to that rumbling voice.

A few feet away sits a grey-haired Chihuahua.

"Whaddya lookin' at?" he grumbles.

"Uh.  Nothing.  Sorry."

Not quite what I was anticipating, he thinks as he heads back to his house.  Once through the dog door, he considers that perhaps this new neighbor is more of a night dog.

Linking up with The Red Dress Club.  This week's prompt:  "Face-to-Face".  This is how I imagine my Gimli to greet the day.  One sniff at a time.  That's also how he meets new furry friends.

"Hey, Amos Buddy ... hope you feel better."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

small things {thumbs}

small things #65 ... thumbs

"Please take your thumb out of your mouth."

"Thumb, please."

"Sissy ... is your thumb in your mouth?"

"Please don't just pop your other 
thumb in your mouth."

"Thumb out, please."

This is is the current mantra that I should have recorded and embedded into a little button to wear on my shirt to play on an as needed basis.  And right now it's needed.  A lot.

She's my last baby to quit sucking her thumb.  The trouble is that she's no longer a baby.  But she doesn't seem to care and that's the rub.

We've tried an seemingly endless list of tricks and tips to help her stop:  

the yucky tasting stuff - "No problem, Mom, I'll just lick it off."
band-aids on her thumbs - "That's okay.  I'll suck my pinkie instead."
mits to wear at night - "My fingers get sweaty so I take 'em off and tuck 'em under my pillow."

I've talked to her about how no other first graders suck their thumbs to which she responded with a shrug.  And a thumb in her mouth.  And if anyone else (a stranger, perhaps) points out her thumb in her mouth, she smiles past her thumb, slides her hand to her lap and waits for them to walk away.  She just doesn't give a hoot.

She doesn't care and I can't make her care.  It's just another addition to my long laundry list of things I can't make my kids do:

I can't make them eat.
I can't make them go to sleep.
I can't make them poop and pee.
I can't make them have a good attitude.
I can't make them want to do anything.

In my ten years of parenting, I've often thought about how brilliant it would be if my kids were more like robots.  Wouldn't that be easier?  A few little key-strokes and voilĂ ! ...

Tantrum resolved,
Peas eaten,
Bedroom spotless,
Diapers gone,
Attitude adjusted,
Chores finished,
Homework complete,
Thumb liberated.

But in reality they are their own little selves, not robots for me to program and de-bug. ...sigh... 

That brings me to the conclusion that there is something more to the day-in and day-out challenges of parenting than just getting our children to do what we want and act as we want.  We are not simply nipping bad habits and halting annoying quirks.  We are training, disciplining and teaching our little people with the purpose of developing mature and self-disciplined bigger people.

Bigger people who will be smiling, confident, happy, self-controled, non-thumb-sucking adults before we know it!

The key here is prayer - for them and for me.  Prayer for them to navigate this time of growing up and stay close to Jesus.  Prayer for me to love them where they're at and usher them along ... focusing more on their hearts than their habits.  And prayer for a good measure of patience in the middle of it all!

Thumbs ... just one of the many teachable moments in which my kids have taught me.


#1 - Share something your child taught YOU about parenting.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

small things {lucky}

small things #65 ... lucky

Sitting on the step I can feel the crisp air from the swamp cooler on the nape of my neck.  Norah sits between my knees on the bottom step.  I ask her to hold still while I comb out her hair.  Baby S is toddling around the living room:  a rattle in one hand and a Matchbox car in the other.  Both are equally delicious, it appears.  Beside me on the step, Lydia holds the hairbrush and the little cup of rubber bands.  Ashley sits behind me and plays with my hair.

Pinched between my left ear and shoulder I hold the phone and try to have a conversation.

I comb out a little rat's nest and Norah winces. 

"Hold still, please," I whisper, interrupting the caller on the line.  Gratefully my friend knows that this isn't the best time to call and she's prepared to be interrupted.  She continues with her train of thought.

I hold the comb between my teeth and wrestle with an unruly ponytail and a too-small rubber band.  The phone almost slips out of it's place in the crook of my neck, but I catch it with my hand.  "Sorry.  What was that last bit?"

I move on to the next ponytail and spot Baby S with a magazine in one hand.  One corner is a bit soggy.  I motion her to come to me and she smiles and sprints away.  I whisper to Lydia, "Can you get that from her?  Give her a board book instead."

I return my attention to the caller and the second ponytail.  The caller chats on and the pony tail is being difficult.  But there's more.  Ashley and Lydia have decided to do my hair, too.  Now I wince as Ashley tugs on the rubber band in my hair.  I try to hold my head still as they comb, brush and twist.  In the midst of my one-sided conversation I hear giggles and whispers as my hairdressers braid and band my hair.

I finish Norah's ponytails and give them each a quick brushing.  "You're done," I whisper, "get a quick snack before we leave for gymnastics."  The girls behind be continue to clip and comb my curls.  A brief fight breaks out over a butterfly barrette, but one silent and stern look from me nips it in the bud. 

My phone call is close to wrapping up and a good thing, too, as it's almost time for us to head to Kidzplex.  As my friend takes a breath, I take the opportunity to describe to my current situation ... doing hair, having hair done and wrangling a toddler all in a four foot radius.  She laughs and says, "My, aren't you lucky?"

"Well ... that wasn't the first word that came to my mind," I retort.  

As I hang up the phone, I turn to look at my girls behind me.  They are all smiles. 
Norah cartwheels into the living room with a granola bar in one hand and smiles.  
Baby S cruises past me, headed to the kitchen and the promise of a snack, smiling broadly.

Well ... I guess she's right after all.

Lucky ... it all depends on our perspective.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Am An Ant - the Bug Kind


A ten-minute challenge to write about the problem with significance.  Here goes!

It's two o'clock in the afternoon and the baby girls are napping.  My big kids are off being learners at school ... or kick-ball players or song singers or story writers ... whatever they do at two o'clock in the afternoon.  I am sitting.  The lazy-boy is cocked back and the foot rest is giving my tired tootsies some relief.  I just finished reading part of a Psalm and part of a Proverb in my attempts to read them all this year.  A few thoughts are popping around my head but they all seem to hinge on a verse:

Look at the ant, O sluggard, see how he labors.  He gets his work done and isn't in want.  (Or something like that ... I hope you'll accept my rough paraphrase).*

With a little introspection, I recognize myself as that little ant - pulling ten times my weight and never ceasing to tidy, cook and clean.  These few minutes seated in the recliner are just that - few, indeed.  I am happiest and most satisfied when I'm busy and productive.  A sluggard I am not.

But my little self-evaluation doesn't end here.  Yes, I am a laboring ant, but I also flirt with being prideful of that fact.  I am in danger of comparing myself to others and viewing how I measure up in light of the hours per day that I toil.  Not a good place to be.

But even worse, I am prone to worshipping my ant-like-ness ... my got-it-all-done attitude, my tackling-the-list perspective, my valued-by-my-work thinking.  If I've been busy, I'm good.  If I've been idle, I'm bad.  Another bad place to be.

I'm certain King Solomon intended this tale of an industrious ant to spur the reader on to productivity and against laziness, but my tendency to find significance in a job well done sets me off on a slippery slope.

I am not significant because my laundry is clean and folded, my dishes are washed and dried, my fridge is full of fruits and veggies, my floor is free of crumbs and Gimli-bits, my windows are spotless and sparkling (which they aren't), my bookcases are dust-free and shiny (not a chance!), my kids are washed and dressed, my plants are watered and blooming or my pillows are stuffed and fluffed.

I am significant because God made me.  Period.


*Proverbs 6:6-11
Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
    Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
    or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
    gathering food for the winter.
But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
    When will you wake up?
10 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
    scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.

Monday, August 27, 2012

small things {fleeting}

small things #64 ... fleeting

I open my eyes and I close my eyes and I open my eyes again to find that I'm awake.  And I'm alone.  Mommy said that she was going to nap with me, but I don't think she did.  I push back the comforter and swing my little chubby legs off the side of the bed.  I have to slide my bottom off the edge of the bed a little bit until my barefoot toes reach the carpet.  I rub my eyes a few times and stagger toward the stairs.  Why didn't Mommy nap with me?

I use my hands to help me navigate the steps - one, two, three, four, five, seven .... I push open the basement door and peer up the stairs to the living room.  I see my Mommy stretched out in the rocking chair, shoes off and eyes closed.

"Mom ... Mommy ... Mommeee," my words come out stuttered with my sleepiness.  "Why didn't you, why didn't you nap with me."

Her eyes open and she smiles.

"Hi, Sweetie.  I came downstairs, but you were already asleep and I didn't want to wake you up."

"You said.  You said you would sleep with me."

"I know.  Did you have a good nap?"

I blink a few times and try to focus my drooping eyes.  "I wasn't asleep.  I opened my eyes and I closed my eyes, but I didn't sleep."

My bottom lip starts to quiver and I feel hot tears press against my eyes.  "You said you'd sleep with me."

Mommy tilts her head to the side and holds her arms out to me.  She turns sideways in the rocking chair and I crawl up and fit into the hole she made for me, sprawled across her lap with one arm flung over her shoulder.  I sniff my nose and wipe it against her shirt.  She sighs and pats my back as I nestle into her arms.  It's warm and quickly I feel a bit sweaty and sticky squeezed in beside my Mommy but I don't want to move.  I enjoy the rise and fall of her own breathing and the way she gently tickles my arm.  She whispers, "I like you," and I smile into the crook of her neck.

I hope Mommy naps with me tomorrow.  Doesn't she know that these chances to snuggle and sleep together are short-lived?

Fleeting ... kids grow up too fast.  I'd better take advantage of snuggle sessions while I can.  Before Lydia declares, "I think I'll just read by myself."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Midnight Collision

Sitting on the floor in the dark, my right leg falls asleep.  The tingling prompts me to readjust my position.  I lean forward, rest my elbow on her bed and listen to her sorrowful heart.

Norah sits amid a jumble of sheets and talks in a voice too loud for this time of night.

"I just can't sleep.  I've been trying and trying for, like, three hours and I can't.  I'm so tired, but my mind won't let me."

"Shhh.  I know.  Lay down and I'll rub your back."  Again.

"I tried laying down.  Just like you told me.  I laid there and breathed and could feel my body start to melt and then my eyes popped open and it was like my brain said, 'Hey!  What time is it!?' and then I was awake again."

"I know.  Let's try it again."

"I did it and it didn't work.  It's been two hours!"

"Sweetie ... let's try once more."

Grudgingly she lays her head on the zebra pillow. Peeking at the clock, all I can see is the red glow against the wall.  She's turned those angry, accusing numbers away, attempting to dismiss the slow loneliness of her sleeplessness.

I attempt to encourage her ... you will fall asleep, you're okay, relax, Jesus is here, I'm with you.  Even in the dark those words shed no light on her restlessness.  Her frustration and anxiety are evidenced in her shaky voice and trembling hands.

"Lay back and let's count again."

"I counted back from 300 and it didn't work."

"Come on, Honey.  Lay down."

I stifle my own mocking yawn and lay my hand on her chest.  Her breathing rises and falls slowly and rhythmically.  I hear her whisper, "199 ... 198 ... 197 ...196"

There in the dark I come face-to-face with just how much Norah is like me and our mutual stubbornness challenges the quiet.  There on the floor I meet head-on the reality of my own selfish sleepiness as I long for the comfort of my bed.  There at Norah's side I collide with my limitations as a mom and I grieve the many challenges of life from which I will be powerless to protect my children.

Nestled between her numbers, "182 ... 181 ... 180 ..." I hide my own hopefulness.

"Jesus, be with Norah.  Bring peace and rest.  Quiet her heart and mind.  I trust her to you.  Again."


Linking up with The Red Dress Club.  This week's prompt was the word "Collision".  This painful episode is true ... yet another moment in my mothering in which I wish I had learned the Vulcan neck grip.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

small things {veggies}

small things #63 ... veggies

I hear the car door slam and I know that Daddy has come home.  From my spot at the kitchen sink, I hear the thump and thud as kids run to the front door.  Lydia grabs a leg and gives it a squeeze while Ashley grabs his attention with the latest news from school.  Being the good daddy that he is, he listens and squeezes back and then slowly disengages himself in an effort to get to the kitchen.

A quick smooch and a smile and he's landed back at home.  Ahhh....

The kids run back to whatever they were doing before they attacked Brett at the door and I return to stirring pasta and chopping tomatoes.  A few minutes later, Aaron sniffs his way into the kitchen.

"What's for dinner?"

"Spaghetti and a salad."

"Yum.  Where's Dad?"

"I'd check the garden."

The garden.  Brett's other baby.

(Three years ago, Brett had a dream to put in two garden boxes and we've been enjoying the fruits of his labor ever since!  We've had another bountiful year and it has been a pure delight to eat and enjoy vegetables from our own garden.)

In the morning, Brett can be found checking on his plants and making sure that all the sprinkler heads are working.  In the evenings, if Brett isn't in the house, you can bet that he's outside checking on the pepper plants, re-directing the pumpkin vine, hunting for cucumbers or harvesting tomatoes.

Upon returning to the kitchen, he's likely to deposit a pile of produce on the countertop.  Hardy green zucchini and lumpy squash abound.  Purple eggplants and chubby cucumbers spill out of the bowl.  Fire engine red cherry tomatoes and brilliant yellow pear tomatoes sit within reach to be nibbled and munched by my grazing children.  And me.

He also fills me in on the prolific abundance of pole beans, the voracious spreading habits of oregano and the curiously orange spaghetti squash that apparently experienced a little cross-pollination with the pumpkin plant nearby.  We mourn the demise of the Santa Fe pepper plant and Google recipes requiring an abundance of cucumber.

On our recent return from a visit with Gramps and Grammy, we discovered a rather barren kitchen.  The refrigerator light was blinding for lack of food and the pantry echoed.  Gratefully the garden was still overflowing with veggies.  In spite of being desperately in need of a grocery store run, we ate like kings and queens that night.  Veggie-loving kings and queens!

Grilled eggplant and zucchini, roasted spaghetti squash and homemade fresh tomato sauce with basil.

Veggies ... one of the most delicious aspects of summer.  Especially if we grew them ourselves!

Four other fruits we grew this summer ...
standing in front of our prolific garden.

#2 - You were supposed to have a garden this summer - share the fruits of your labor.  Or in our case, Brett's labor. 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

small things {tidbits)

small things #62 ... tidbits

Before Ashley's first day as a first grader, Aaron and Norah shared a few helpful tidbits with her.  Little nuggets of wisdom that they wish they'd know when started all-day school.

"Be prepared for other kids to ask you, 'What's your name again?', repeatedly." ~ Aaron

"Be sure to take your lunch with you when you leave for recess and you can put it agains the wall." ~ Norah

Listening to them share their pointers with their baby sister brought back to my mind an experience that Aaron had in the first grade.  An experience that was 100% avoidable and yet endured 100%.


During the first few days of Aaron's first grade year, he brought home his lunch bag and more often than not, it was filled with used napkins and half-eaten sandwiches.  Being a good mom, I carefully picked these yucky bits out and threw them in the trash, rinsed his lunch bag and set it aside for the next day.

The next afternoon rolled around and this time there was a crumpled napkin, a slimy baggie and a partially eaten apple.  Yuck.

"Hey, buddy.  Can you please throw your trash away?  You don't need to bring it home."

"Okay, Mom."


The next day I unzipped his lunch bag to find the same miserable mess complete with peanut butter smeared on the inside lid.  Ugh.

"Dude.  I need you to please throw your trash away.  When you are done eating, please throw out all the left-over food and the napkin.  Just bring home any silverware I send and plastic dishes.  Okay?"


The following day, I opened his bag and stepped back in horror!  Not only was there a wadded up napkin, but also a crust of sandwich floating in a sea of warm and slimy yogurt.  The foil lid was pinched over the top of the yogurt cup, but that had not stopped the flow of sour creaminess to coat the entire inside of the lunch bag.  Gag.

"Aaron!  Come here, please!"

I still remember the look on his face while I gruffly told him once more that I needed him to throw away his trash.  I used wonderful words like, "disgusting", "nasty", "rotten" and "awfulness."  I wrapped up this wonderful mothering moment with my jaw clenched as I growled, "Throw. Out. Your. Trash."

At this precise moment, my Aaron-Boy burst into tears and wailed, "I don't know where the trash can is!"



In light of this teachable moment gone wrong, I turned to my sweet Ashley at the kitchen table and added my two bits, "Please be sure to throw out your trash from your lunch and ask a teacher if you don't know where the trash cans are."

Tidbits ... little bits of instruction that seem so small but in reality they protect us from BIG problems!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

small things {less}

small things #61 ... less

Yesterday was a zip! bang! zoom! sort of day.  The first day of school hype, the hustle of grocery shopping, the bump and thump of laundry, the bustle of gymnastics and the screech of the brakes as we came in for a landing in the evening.

The kids were tired out.  I was worn out.  And the day was strung out.  A typical Monday, I suppose.

Today, however, we have less.

Less kids.
Less to do.
Less work.
Less demands.
Less stress.
Less errands.
Less.  Less.  Less.

And it's lovely.

This fall promises to have less of a lot of things.  Less responsibilities outside of the home.  Less days broken up with fragmented schedules.  Less trips to Kidzplex for gymnastics.  Less one kid to care for.  Less of my energies used up which means more of me to give to my family.

Less ... saying no to more doing and saying yes to more being.