"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

27 March 2015

Excitement before Eight O'Clock

Yesterday afternoon, we picked up Little Man from preschool, and on the ride home, he informed me that while some of his classmates sat down, he got to stand up, because "I'm veh-wy tall for my age." It took me a second to register what he was talking about, and then I remembered that it had been class picture day.

He did look rather dapper yesterday.
Little Lady was dressed up, too, for a morning playing with the other babies at MOMS Connection.
After I had tucked B in for his nap, A had her afternoon snack by the kitchen window. It is probably her favorite lookout spot in the entire house, because quite often, there are squirrels, bunnies, and all manner of birds out there (doves, bluejays, cardinals, and robins are the most frequent visitors). We also catch frequent glimpses of our dear neighbors, because they have a friendly, low iron fence around their yard, and they enjoy gardening and have beautiful blooms throughout the warmer season.
Yesterday, she watched with great fascination as a couple men mowed our neighbors' yard. In fact, she was so enthralled with the proceedings next door that, when she got thirsty, she signed for water and took her cup without taking her eyes off of the lawn mower. Those guys have no idea what a captivated audience they had!
After snack time, we went outside for some swinging and saw that a few of our irises had opened up. I had noticed the buds a few days ago, and I have been anticipating the first blooms for some cut flowers.

So this morning, while B was having his breakfast, I grabbed some scissors and popped out back to gather some flowers for our dining room table.

Soon thereafter, I heard B come outside, the dog trotting after him. He was holding a picture he had been working on during breakfast, some rubber bands, electrical tape and scissors.

"What are you up to, bud?" I called.

"I'm putting up a sign to remind our neighbors to slow down and be careful," he replied.

I smiled while gathering up my things. Then, upon turning the handle to the patio door, I realized we were locked out. Again.

And that, my friends, is why we have a lock box now.

Except our code didn't work. So I tried every combination I could think of, on the possibility that N may have changed it and forgotten to tell me. Nothing worked.

I weighed my options. I could keep trying to figure out the combination and risk Little Lady waking up in the meantime, with me being out of earshot, or I could swallow my pride and walk over to the neighbors' and ask to use their phone to call my husband.

Because not only did I look like a raccoon because I had not yet taken off the make up residue that always appears in the morning, no matter how well I wash my face at night, but I was wearing these:

Yep. My husband's men's size 12 flip flops were oh-so-gracefully adorning my size 5 feet. I mean, I had thought I would only be outside for maybe two minutes!

Never have I been more thankful that I had gotten showered and dressed before breakfast!

I decided that our neighbors were kind enough and had a good enough sense of humor that they would laugh with me about this. After all, they had raised their own kids and they have a good number of grandsons to their name. So after telling B to stay put and not leave the backyard under any circumstances, I ran over to the neighbors'. And of course they were gracious, even though I had interrupted their breakfast and had shown up looking all sorts of ridiculous.

N agreed to come home right away to let us in, so I went back to our house to wait. And I decided to try the code one more time.



Friends, sometimes, I'm pretty sure some things happen just so we will remember to take a chill pill.

I ran inside to call N and let him know he didn't have to come home after all.

And I took a deep breath and smiled at my worried little boy. Because he hadn't meant to lock us out. In fact, he was doing the right thing, because we are forever reminding him to close the door because once it gets warm enough to hang out in the back yard for extended periods of time, the mosquitoes appear in droves.

Plus, this is the same little boy who, when he was still sick, was so concerned that I had poked my finger while making dinner, that he ran to bring me one of his own special band aids, bought with his own earned money, without a second thought. The same little boy who plays quietly and creatively on his own while his sister takes her morning nap, who, when crayons get broken, takes the initiative to repair them with tape so he doesn't interrupt me.

I will end this with pictures of those pretty blooms and B's thoughtful sign. I never took notice of irises until we discovered that we had an abundance of them in our backyard the first spring after we moved in here. And now, although I probably wouldn't ever choose them to purchase, I think they are a lovely addition to our flora. And B's sign reminds me that it is good to look out for one another.

25 March 2015

Old Concept, New Lesson

Once in a while, I feel like I'm presented with a pop quiz in life, one that challenges me to review past lessons learned, to see if I remember the right strategies to use and how to use them to get the A on the test.

One of the unexpected -- and greatest -- challenges I've had since becoming a parent is the absence of involved grandparents in our children's lives. I kid you not, I have cried many tears over feeling like they're getting the short end of the stick, that they're missing out. Having grown up on the other side of the world from my grandparents, I didn't have that either. But because we lived in an area where none of my friends had grandparents nearby, I didn't know what I was missing.

When we had Little B, I began realizing that we really were missing something. We didn't have grandparents and other family members swooping into town to take care of him and us. We didn't have anyone fighting over who was going to hold him next and thinking every little bit of him was perfect. We didn't have anyone taking a million photos of him and us.

But we did have church family, and that really was my saving grace and balm to my heart.

Other than leaving behind the mountains and four gorgeous seasons, that was the one thing that I was so sad to leave behind when we moved to Texas.

When I got pregnant with Little Lady, I was so overwhelmed. It had been hard enough feeling like we were sort of on our own with B, but now, with a new baby on the way, I wondered who was going to celebrate with us? Who was going to adore our kids when we were exasperated? Who would spoil them? My own mother (who is truly wonderful and admirable in many, many ways) had flat out told me that she wasn't going to make the trip to be here for us when I had the baby.

And as much as I've been grateful for the sweet friends who planned baby showers, told me all about how wonderful it was to have girls, and brought us meals, part of my heart broke at the thought of my little girl growing up without grandparents. Because as perceptive as B is, I know that just by being a girl, A will notice. She will notice that when other kids talk about their grandparents taking them places, treating them to things "just because," going on holidays together, being present for birthdays and Christmases, she will notice that we don't have that.

I have strategically avoided pages, websites, and blogs -- yes, even from friends who I love dearly -- because I know that right now, seeing those things isn't good for my heart. It takes me places that aren't healthy. I just smile and keep my mouth shut when acquaintances feel they have the right to indirectly express opinions about how many gifts my kids get at celebrations or how much I get at consignment sales, saying self-righteously, "Oh, we don't get the kids anything. The grandparents send so much STUFF!"

These are things I felt I couldn't tell anyone. I cried silent tears into my pillow many nights, because I didn't want to burden my sweet husband with it, because I didn't want him to feel any responsibility for my emotions. And I didn't want to share with friends because I didn't want them to feel like they couldn't talk about their wonderful parents and how they doted on their kids.

But today, FB was a minefield of post after post of grandparents with their grandchildren. Older friends with their grandkids, friends' parents with their little ones, couples going on trips because Grandma and Grandpa were more than happy to spoil the babies for a few days. And the memes! One right after another, things like this popped up in my newsfeed.

And this.

It felt a little like a cruel joke.

But then I wondered.

We can't be the ONLY ones in this place, right? We can't be the only ones who go months, and even years, without going on a date because money is tight and we don't have free babysitting. We can't be the only ones who look around on our kids' birthdays and feel like something (someone) is missing. We can't be the only ones who feel like we always have to be the brave ones to ask if we need help because no one is just offering to do it out of sheer familial love.

For all of you out there who are in the same boat as we are ...  Sometimes, I just need someone to validate my feelings and tell me it's okay to feel that way. So I just want to say, I get it. And it sucks.

And for those of you who DO have parents and grandparents and in-laws up the wazoo who show up in droves when the babies are born and want to be at all the birthday parties and argue over why you're not going to be at their house for Christmas ... please know how blessed you are. Yes, families are messy and full of "junk."

But there is such a gift in the fact that they want to be present for your kids' lives, that they don't want to miss out on the hugs and kisses, the stories and the play, the giggles and the wrestling. And that should not be taken for granted.

As for me, as I sit here, wrestling with that old concept of contentment in all circumstances, I'm repeating old lessons and trying hard to apply them to today's challenge.  I'm reminding myself about gratitude. Because being thankful for what I have is a much better place to be than lamenting over what I don't ... even if it is something that feels so monumental.

23 March 2015

To Remember for Little Lady

“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” – Clementine Paddleford

For My Daughter

Never play the princess when you can
be the queen:
rule the kingdom, swing a scepter,
wear a crown of gold.

Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes --
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.

Never wear only pink
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.

Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women --
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.

Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.

For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.

Tramp muddy through the house in
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.

Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress --
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.

Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear --
know that you are free.

And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.   

~ Sarah McMane