Wednesday, April 30, 2008
When I was about 14 years old, I met a boy who was three years older than I. He was tall, skinny, had brown hair, and big glasses. His name was Gordon Ooms. Gordon and I hit it off. Not in a romantic way, just the way between some people when age or gender or location doesn’t seem to matter. A true friendship. In all my life, I’ve never met anyone funnier. I’m guessing I never will. He could just look at you, completely straight-faced, and make you burst out laughing.
We were both from Illinois, but we worked at the same summer camp in Michigan each year. We spent our days (in between work of course) goofing off, writing notes during chapel when we were supposed to be listening, sitting on the glider swing and detailing all the food we were going to eat when we got home from camp (the food there was pretty bad), and laughing. Once, he and another boy took me out on the lake in a canoe. All of a sudden, they both jumped overboard, with the paddles, and swam to shore—leaving me sitting there in the canoe.
We each were assigned particular jobs at camp, and one year Gordon was assigned the job of Wrangler. That meant babysitting two decrepit ponies named Pat and Daisy, whom even the glue factory had rejected, and walking little kids around on them. Both Pat and Daisy kind of sagged in the middle, so a kid had to be really short in order to ride them, otherwise their feet dragged on the ground. It was not his favorite job. At the end of the summer, each person was required to write a testimonial of how camp was meaningful to them. Then the best testimonies were printed in the camp paper. Here was Gordon’s, in its entirety: “I like camp. I hate horses.” His didn’t get printed that summer.
After high school, Gordon attended Cedarville College (now Cedarville University) in Ohio. He was a talented artist, a cartoonist—he drew a strip for the Cedarville college paper. His main character was Vance the Viper. I guess he didn’t miss a thing on campus with Vance the Viper. Somewhere I have a number of letters from Gordon (before the days of email—we used to write letters!) with little drawings of Vance and some of his other cartoons. He never used to put his real return address on the letters either; it was always something like: Gordon Ooms, The Marsha J. Nelson School of Posture, Beirut, Lebanon. Not only was he funny and smart, he was kind. He cared about people and what happened to them. He was a dedicated Christian; he wanted to use his talents to serve God. He was the real deal.
On Wednesday, April 30, 1986, a group of Cedarville students were in a car accident. Several of them were seriously injured. Two of them were killed. One of those killed was a young woman named Deb Henry. The other was Gordon Ooms.
At the college memorial service, Dr. Dixon, then president of Cedarville, spoke about Gordon, his life and his sense of humor. Once he did a Vance the Viper strip, gently poking fun of President Dixon’s ubiquitous pocket handkerchiefs. Dr. Dixon enjoyed the strip so much that he put one of his handkerchiefs in an envelope, along with a note, and mailed it to him. Gordon mailed him back the pen and ink original of the strip with a note that said: “Dear President Dixon, thank you for your pocket silk. It really made my day. What do I get if I write a strip about your car?”
Then President Dixon spoke on the text I have printed at the top of this post, Romans 8:28–32. He spoke on the “all things” of life. That good or bad, joyful or sorrowful, God uses all things for His glory. Even the death of a 19-year-old college student, who everyone thought had all his life before him—a glorious talented future.
Before this time, I had wandered away from my faith. I was brought up in a Christian home. But by the time I was a teenager, God, Christianity, and faith—well, those things were boring at best and embarrassing at worst. It was all right for my parents, they were old. What else did they have going on except to talk about the Lord? I was young; there was fun to be had. I lived this way quite nicely for quite awhile. Then Gordon was killed.
It’s almost a cliché that teenagers think they’re immortal, but it’s true. For the first time, I realized death was real. There was more than just me and my selfish concerns in the world. I could spend a lot of time detailing how angry I was at God for allowing someone as good as Gordon to die. I woke up every morning thinking, like a punch in the stomach, “Gordon’s dead.” Dead. I knew God must certainly not care about someone like me if He let someone who really did love Him just die so carelessly like that. I spent months and months in misery, fighting with God and that He could let such a thing happen. Finally, I went to the church I had grown up in, sat down in one of the pews, and prayed, “God, if you actually exist, show me. Because I can’t go on any longer like this.”
About a week later, I was at work. They had just hired a new guy, but I stayed far away from him because I knew him from school. He was notorious. A really bad kid. Coincidentally, this particular day we were assigned to work on the same project. I ignored him, but he started talking to me right away. In fact, he couldn’t stop talking. He was talking about Jesus and how He had changed his life. Then he said, “Hey, I go to this great Bible study; you wanna come with me?” I opened my mouth to say, “NO, thanks” and instead I heard “Sure, when is it?” come out instead.
I guess the rest is history, as they say. That Bible study is where I came back to Christ; where, as an angry, frightened, rebellious teenager, I finally stopped fighting God’s relentless grace and love for me. I found His peace that passes all understanding. God used the death of one His saints, a skinny guy with big glasses and a great sense of humor, just like He used the storm for Jonah, to draw me back to Himself. I came home.
I have friends now who were like me then. Raised in Christian homes, but they have turned away to a different life. Like the prodigal son, like me, they have squandered the inheritance of faith from their parents. Maybe now they’re too prideful to come home. I wonder if, like I did, they think God has forgotten them or doesn’t care if they come back or doesn’t even exist. I can say emphatically, He hasn’t forgotten; He does care; He does exist. And He’s not angry either. He’s waiting and watching down the road, longing for your return. You can run back to Him immediately with your bad self, and He’s got the ring and robe all ready. He wants to throw His arms around you and get the welcome-home party started; just see if He doesn’t! How loving is He?! All things for His glory!
Gordon died 22 years ago today. I have seen and felt many painful, devastating things since that time. And many joyful, happy things too. As a child of God, I have learned that I must claim each of them as part of the “all things” He has planned for my life. Next to Romans 8:28 in my Bible, I have written in simply, “April 30, 1986.” God has taken the sting out of Gordon’s death for me now. Instead I feel so filled with gratitude that for a brief moment in time on this Earth, my path crossed with his; I knew him; I called him my friend.
Today though, and each April 30th, I feel homesick for heaven. I can’t wait to see Gordon again. I can’t wait to hear a voice say, “Heeeyyyy, Alex!” I’ll know for sure it’s him—he’s the only one who ever called me that. I want to tell him thank you. I want to ask him—if to God a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day, in heaven how long will one of his jokes be THAT HAS NO PUNCHLINE? I want to celebrate all things. I know as always, we will laugh. And laugh.
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
“His loved ones are very precious to Him, and He does not lightly let them die.” Psalm 116:15
In memory of Gordon Gregory Ooms, 1966–1986
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Lucy and Rabbie went on an adventure safari in the jungle.
The first animal they met was a cheetah named Freckles Daniels. She said to them, "Let's go camping in the jungle."
After the party, Lucy, Rabbie, Freckles, and all their friends got in sleeping bags. Before they went to sleep, they looked up at the moon and stars and said, "I think we'd better wish." They wished they could have a party like that every year.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Another morning when we woke up, she wanted us to go on a treasure hunt she had created. She had a treasure map, and our eventual destination was her inner closet (the girls have a closet within a closet) where she had hidden some of Darren's theological books. Later on, we were enjoying the beautiful spring weather, and she found some magnolia petals on the sidewalk. "I've got a great idea," she said excitedly. "When we go home, I want to get an envelope and you help me glue these to them. Then I'm going to color on it. Then I'm going to write: (and she began to sing) 'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I seeeeeeee!'"
The day before yesterday, she and Elaine had taken Rabbie and Bittie outside to go down the slide with them. (Anyone who knows Lucy or this blog knows Rabbie too. Bittie is Rabbie's identical twin sister. She now belongs to Elaine. For anyone who doesn't know, these are stuffed rabbits.) Elaine (because her mothering skills still need some fine tuning) left Bittie lying outside on the grass by the slide. At lunch, Lucy saw her. "Ohhhhhhh!" she cried. "Bittie is out there all alone by the slide! I can hear her sobbing. I'm going to get her." She brought her in and announced, "She's crying because she was stung by a bee. And now I need to take her temperature." (Darren heard "...she was stung by a bee" and said, "Elaine was stung by a bee?" "No, Bittie," I answered. He just looked at me.)
Later on, I found Bittie on the couch. The girls had taken all the afghans off various couches and covered her with them. When I lifted up the afghans, I saw that Bittie was packed in ice as well, ice that was rapidly melting all over my furniture.
Yesterday I heard Lucy put on a Strawberry Shortcake CD in their room--her favorite song, "The Festival of the Fillies." I heard both girls dancing around and talking excitedly. Then Lucy burst into the bathroom where I was brushing my teeth. "MOM!" she said dramatically. "Dobbin has won the festival of the fillies. (Dobbin is their rocking horse. He's a boy. I'm not sure how he was allowed to compete in a festival of fillies, but we'll let it go. I'm not ready to have that conversation yet.) He won twenty prizes and got Best Filly in Show! I brushed him, and he looks so beautiful; you have to come see!"
Later on, she came up to me again. "I had the greatest idea, Mom!" Then I interrupted her and said, "Lucy, wow. Your hair looks great! We haven't even combed it or anything, and it looks so nice!" She thanked me but was eager to get back to her ideas. "First of all, I tucked Maisy into Elaine's bed for her nap. She looks so cute. Then I brought Dobbin in the closet for his nap. He's so tired after winning all those prizes. Please come take a picture of them!" (She had turned on lullaby music for them as well.)
I went and took pictures and then she said, "I want to send these pictures to Pastor A. and Mrs. A" (our associate pastor and his wife--she loves them). "I'm writing a note with the pictures. Here's what I want it to say: 'Dear Pastor A: You are a great teacher at Kids4Truth. Dear Mrs. A: You are great at playing the piano. Love, Lucy." Then she looked in the mirror and added, "Who has great hair."
Dobbin napping (after his amazing award sweep at the festival)
The girl with the great ideas. And great hair.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
See the beautiful blue and white teacup? That's Shelley fine bone china, the Dainty Blue pattern. And here is something the currently resides in my dining room. Look familiar?! (It was my grandma's.)
I'm thinking this tea set may have to find a new home in the blue and white bedroom. They're made for each other. Victoria says so.
As Darren and I engaged in a (friendly) argument, er, discussion over paint chips last night, I said, "I really really wish the latest Victoria would come in the mail tomorrow. It'll be the blue and white issue, and we can get more ideas." He said, "How do you know they'll have a blue and white issue?" (Oh, silly, silly man. Do not question my woman's intuition and the great spirit of Victoria.) I said, "Because it will be the May/June issue, and they always do blue and white for June." Lo and behold, when I went to my mailbox today, look what was there:
I love it when I'm right. So, Lucy is at school, Elaine is taking a nap. I'm thinking it's time for a cup of tea and some more decorating inspiration right about now.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Of course my brother, being the perfect older child he was, never had any problems eating his food. Whatever, he would just wolf it down and run out to shoot baskets or play guitar. Not me. For some reason it sticks in my memory that we had coleslaw almost every night. Now if there's anything in this world I hate (besides onions and tunafish) it's coleslaw. But my dad liked it, and it was inexpensive to make so we had it. I would sit at the dining room table long after everyone else was gone, stirring the coleslaw around, stuffing a strand or two in my cheeks, and gagging softly (I'm making myself sort of sick even now). My mom would be in the kitchen, rattling the pots and pans around, and my dad would appear every so often in the doorway of the sunroom and roar, "You'll sit there 'til midnight, but you WILL eat your dinner!" Good times.
At our house we don't insist that the girls clean their plates. We do insist that they try something of everything. If we're serving something they don't like and they've made a reasonable attempt at trying it, then they're allowed to leave the table without finishing. However, they may not have anything else to eat until the next meal. There are only so many battles you can fight, and while I don't want them to be picky eaters, this is just one hill I'm not prepared to die on.
However, between you and me, sometimes they make me so mad. Last night I prepared chicken spaghetti from the Pioneer Woman Cooks. I took out all the things from the recipe my family does not like, such as green peppers and onions. I substituted what they love: black olives. So basically we had a casserole consisting of all their favorite things: spaghetti, parmesan cheese, black olives, rotisserie chicken, and the coup de grace, Stovetop stuffing mix (uncooked) on top. How could I go wrong?
I put it in front of them. Lucy said, "I'm not sure I'm really hungry, Mom." Me: "Yes you are. If I put a big piece of cake up there, you'd eat it in 10 seconds." Elaine: "I want cake!" Me: "Both of you get up there and eat this delicious chicken spaghetti I made you." Then I left them to eat in the kitchen by themselves and went and sat in the rocking chair by Darren in the living room. Please don't judge me, internets. There was a whole long incident involving a granola bar earlier that I won't go into here and frankly, they were on my nerves.
Shortly after I heard a (plastic) crash and the sound of splashing water. I said to Darren, "Three two one...someone will be in here right....NOW." Lucy: "Mommy? I'm really really sorry. I spilled my water, and it's all over. I didn't mean to; it was an accident." Elaine followed her in "An accident, Mom!"
Me: "And how did you spill your water; were you goofing around?" "No, Mom, I promise. I was doing this (makes swooping arm motions) to eat my food, and I bumped my cup." (Because you know how you need to make large, swooping arm motions to eat your food, right?) I said, "I know. It was an accident. No big deal. Now both of you go back and eat your supper. Don't make me have to come in and set the timer." (The timer apparently puts the fear of the Lord in them like nothing else.)
Approximately one minute later. This time Elaine comes in (big grin). "Mom. I trew my chick-a-naghetti on da floor. It's an accident." Darren said, "Go back to the kitchen immediately." When she did, we both just burst into laughter (simultaneously burying head in hands). What can you do? I finally did have to set the timer, and at least Lucy finished her food and Elaine picked hers up off the floor and threw it away.
My prayer for them that night? That God calls both of them to be missionaries.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Here is the view from the doorway. The books on the shelf: Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Anne of Green Gables, and Emily need to find a better home within our house (they don't fit on the shelf in the girls' room). The stereo, which played lullaby music to Elaine every night, needs a better home as well.
So there it is. My dad said he's ready with the wallpaper steamer, and Darren said as soon as I pick paint colors he'll start on the trim.
Lastly, and having nothing to do with the remodel at all, today at school is Treasure Hunt (aka X Marks the Spot) Day. I found this fierce pirate loitering about in the front hall.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Saturday afternoon I took both girls to a birthday party. It was for one of Lucy's friends, Rylee, but she has a cousin who is Elaine's age (and friend) so Elaine was invited too. That was great because usually we're having to hide the fact that Lucy's going to some sort of party. They were both very excited about it, but of course when we got there, Elaine was so shy and hid her face. There was a trampoline and also a bouncy house--after much, much coaxing (and Lucy getting in it first) she got in and bounced around. She would only play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey if I held her and spun around with her. She sat on my lap to eat and later timidly sat on a swing for a little bit. But they both had a fun time, and Lucy won at bingo.
Yesterday morning they both woke up, and we heard them reciting "Animal Orchestra" (all of our favorite book) together and giggling. Then they came in our room. Lucy climbed up first and looked me, huddled under the covers with my arms over my head. "Get your face out, Mom" she said. I uncovered it a fraction, and she leaned down and kissed me. Then Elaine scrambled up and said, "Get out of your face, Mom," then leaned down and bellowed right into my ear, "HI MOM!" It's strange to me how she is painfully shy around people, but at home she's so noisy and boisterous. She's kind of like a friendly dragon who just wants to say hi but ends up setting your braids on fire. [Disclaimer: I so wish I could claim originality for that metaphor, but I can't. However, I didn't invent the English language either, so I consider everything pretty much fair game.]
While we were all getting ready for church and Sunday School, Lucy saw me and burst out dramatically, "Mom, you look brilliant!" (She's been watching Kipper, the little British dog.) "You look unique! Ms. Michele has a shirt just like you; maybe she'll wear it today too!" (We're going to have to work on what "unique" means I guess...)
In the afternoon, we went on a walk. It was gorgeous out--emerald green grass, bright yellow daffodils everywhere, the magnolias in bloom--finally! We strolled along, and I chatted with them but my mind was halfway somewhere else until Lucy burst out, "Mom, you're just the funnest little lady ever!" In all the world, that's the best compliment I've ever gotten.
Then as we went along, whatever Lucy would say, Elaine would repeat after her. "Mooooommm (I'm doomed to hear this for years now, I know) she's copying me! Tell her to stop." "Lucy, she's copying you because she loves you and thinks you're the coollest person ever." "But it's booooottthering meeeeee!" Inside I'm secretly laughing because that is the classic youngest sibling annoyance tactic. Ah, I know it well. I told them both how I would always copy Tio. Then he would say, "Cut it out, Al!" and I would say, "Cut it out, Al!" "I mean it!" "I mean it!" They thought that was hilarious. "Did Manga and Packa get so mad at you for copying? Did you get in trouble?" Lucy asked. "Oh, probably!" I answered. (I mostly remember the fun of annoying him.)
We went home, and they ate grilled cheese sandwiches and bananas out on the patio together. Then they took their baths and sat on my lap to read Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Two Bad Mice" and of course, "Animal Orchestra." Elaine must have a little diaper rash because after her bath, she was complaining that she hurt and would I put some medicine on it. When it came time for prayer requests, she said (as always) "I pray for my Clayleb" (Caleb, her betrothed. He's 15 months old.) and Lucy prayed, "Dear Jesus, please help Elaine's booty to stop hurting and feel better." She wasn't being silly at all, and I know He understands.
Then I tucked them in, turned on "Betsy-Tacy," kissed them goodnight, and with a minimum amount of threats about getting up, left the room. Earlier that day, Lucy had asked me, "Mom, do you like being a mom?" Now I have my horrible days (and I'm sure one is coming up soon, especially after I write a nice post like this), but I told her in all honesty that it's my favorite thing.
Here are some pictures of the new room:
One final thing: Last night on PBS, Darren and I watched this. It was the best two hours of television I've seen in years. If you didn't catch it, check your PBS listings to see if they're re-airing it (WTTW Chicago is running it again at 2:30 a.m. this Tuesday--we're taping it.) If not, definitely check it out from Netflix. Or even purchase it. It's that good. Don't miss it!
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
When we put Lucy in a big girl bed for the first time (she was the same age Elaine is now), we set her in it (she couldn't climb up on it herself), she laid down and said, "I go night-night now," and that was it. Up until last year, I would hear her call every morning, "Mom? Can I get out of my bed now?" Somehow we're not expecting a repeat of this experience with this one, fondly known as Pistol-Packin' Polly.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I've never done that before. I seem to make numerous Target runs per week, and each time I drive into the parking lot that big red bulls-eye makes my heart beat a little faster. Then I get in the door and smell the delicious Target smell--a combination of fresh popcorn and merchandise made in China--and I fall into that wonderful Target-induced fugue state in which I just meant to buy a birthday card and maybe some wrapping paper, and I end up spending $89.54.
Because....look! Or even, behold!! There are things like this. And this. And this! And there's also this, which I have my eye on for when we redo the guestroom. There is also the $1 spot, where I've probably spent more money than in any other department. Make no mistake--Target's dollar section is earning them big bucks. At least once a year, it is filled with Asian-themed merchandise, which I am compelled to buy by the bagful. And don't even get me started on their house brand of food products, Archer Farm. If anyone is wondering, the vanilla scones are out of this world. My dad, who makes scones from scratch, wanted my recipe when he tasted them.
Before Elaine was even two, whenever we would even drive by our local one, she would look out the window and say, "Tawget." It made this mother's heart so proud. When I eventually finalize (read: pay for) my will that's sitting out there at Legal Zoom, I plan on adding a codicil that states: if I die while grocery shopping, my family and friends must first move my body to the nearest Target because I do not want the ignominy of dying at Super Wal-Mart.
I don't know what went wrong yesterday. The whole store was bursting with spring merchandise. And all I could come up with was a package of baby wipes. It's never happened before, so I hope I haven't truly lost my lovin' feelings or anything like that. It had to just have been an off day.
After work I picked Elaine up from daycare. She was sitting in a circle with the other kids and her teacher, Ms. Sylvia, in the back of the room. She never saw me come in, so I sat down and watched her for awhile. She had a Baby Bop book of colors and shapes and was reading it to the rest of the class.
It is a long drive home for us, but she usually doesn't start complaining about it until around 3/4 of the way there. She had a Frog and Toad book (that's her new thing) and was reading that in her carseat most of the way.
She is also a backseat driver. This must be inherent in some people, because none of the rest of us are this way. She would read her book, then look up and comment, "Be careful, Mom," and then, "Both hands." (I hate driving with both hands.) I would surreptitiously slip one hand off after a little while and hear again, "Both hands, Mom." I haven't gotten this much feedback on my driving since Coach Fenton in Drivers' Ed. when I was in 10th grade.
We also love to listen to music of course, but Elaine will say, "It's too loud, Mom." Now, if she didn't look so much like us, I would think there was some mix-up at the hospital because what child of mine would EVER think the music was too loud? Possibly she has some inner ear disorder. I should look into that.
I checked to see if the moon was full last night--maybe that could explain the bizarre Target experience and my daughter who prefers soft music. But it wasn't. So I dunno. Any ideas?
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Darren went a very long way in helping with that. On Friday night when I left to make cookies and favors for the tea, the three of them were busily making pizza. Later he told me that he let them climb up in one of the wing chairs in the living room, eat pizza and ice cream sandwiches, and watch "The Waltons" on DVD. I think they went to bed about 2 1/2 hours after their regular bedtime. I'm surprised they don't want me to go out every night!
Saturday was the tea party. The food and tea were delicious. We had some cold drinks too--someone brought homemade lemonade (very good), and I said I would bring raspberry cordial (like Anne and Diana Barry had in "Anne of Green Gables." I also threatened to "accidentally" bring current wine like Anne served and Diana got drunk on). There was a special table for just the little girls--there were three of them--they had pigs-in-a-blanket, peanut butter and honey tea sandwiches, and their own tea set.
On the center of each of the "grown-up" tables was a straw hat, some ribbons, and rose petals. Our assignment as a table during the tea was to decorate the hat with whatever was on the table or in our purses. Then the little girls would model the hats and choose their favorite. After that we had a speaker, Janet Pauley, who spoke on the Lord's Prayer.
Lucy and I went to the tea and had a great time together. Elaine loves tea (and food) but is still a little young for that kind of event. So, Darren came through again. He and she had a Daddy-Daughter day: they had lunch at McDonald's (her favorite) and went over to Farm-n-Fleet to ride on the tractors (also her favorite). (She's a big-time Daddy's girl!)
So...a full weekend for all of us! Here are some pictures...
A portion of the main tea table...
An individual table with the famous Kathi "Mrs. Pope"--Lucy's beloved Sunday School teacher and babysitter (in blue)
The little girls' table...
Modelling the hats...
Conferring among the judges...
Mama and her girls...
P.S. A big thank-you to Becky (the lady in red who was the arbiter of the hat judging) who planned and organized the tea. It was beautiful!
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
It's very similar with my girls but more intense. It is so much fun to watch all the love between them. Each day when Lucy gets up, I hear Elaine yell from her crib, "Luuuuuuucccy! Luuuucccy [insert our last name here]!!" like there was some other Lucy in the house and she wanted to make sure she gets the right one. Then Lucy will run in her room, and she climbs in the crib with her, and they jump up and down, pretending it is a bouncy castle. (This is the only bed I'll allow them to jump on, so they make the most of it.) Then I get them dressed for the day, and Lucy tells Elaine, "You look just darling, Elaine!" and Elaine says, "You're cute, Luce!" We go down to breakfast and I usually have to referee who gets to pray first, but then they hold hands and sing, "God Our Father" and each say a prayer (like Elaine's yesterday, "Dear Jesus, thank you for this apple bread, Amen" to which Lucy adds, sotto voce, "Even though it's banana bread, Amen."
When I pick Elaine up from daycare, the first thing she usually says is, "Wanna go see Lucy. Where's Dad?" She loves to ride along when I take Lucy to school. As for Lucy, she's been learning the verse, "My dear children, love one another not in word or in tongue, but in truth and in deed" (which is actually kind of hard to learn!), but I've been trying to catch her in the act of doing loving things for Elaine and making a big deal of it, telling her she's loving in truth and in deed, so she's catching on and wanting to live that way more and more. The other day when Elaine melted down about something, Lucy ran and got her (very cool) homemade alphabet flashcards and showed them all to her, even letting her touch them (very sacred).
But the older-younger sister dynamic is still there. This week in particular, since we've been indoors so much, all the antagonistic behavior has been basically festering in the Petrii dish of our house. No matter how many times I try to go over the ideal of, if someone's toy or doll is lying there innocently, it's still courteous to ask the owner, "Do you mind if I take a turn with this? Then I'll give it back" before just picking it up (such as the Hello Kitty phone that I recently found down between the seats in our car. Since its rediscovery, it is a precious, sought-after item). Lucy is really only fair to middling at this, and Elaine is frankly terrible. She's sort of your essential two-year-old and lives by the Teddy-Roosevelt-walk-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick philosophy of sharing. As Lucy said to her yesterday, "Elaine, I try and try to be kind to you. But sometimes you're just wicked. And rude." (Which...wouldn't you totally love to be able to say that to some people in your life? I know I would.)
The whole bickering-sharp scream-crying-running feet-"Mom, Elaine hit me!" "Lucy did it!"-lather, rinse, repeat cycle we've been on this week has really been wearing on me. And the funny thing is, their worst fear and punishment is to be away from each other. All I have to say is, "Do you two need to be separated?" and they straighten up immediately (for a few moments).
I know this is absolutely nothing unusual. And actually, their love for each other outweighs their fighting by far. But I would say they have a typical sister relationship. I read in a book on creative discipline about a mom who, when her two pre-teen daughters were fighting yet again, finally said, "All this fighting is definitely NOT music to my ears. I want both of you to go in the bathroom and don't come out again until you've put your fight to music. Then come and sing it to me."
That is absolutely brilliant. I (almost) can't wait to try it when the girls get older. I can't wait to see what they would come up with. I'm guessing some sort of symphony with several movements and at least one intermission.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
I came downstairs to check the paper online (usually the news is so depressing to me that I just skip to the 7-day weather forecast. Which is also depressing right now.) Then I checked some of my favorite blogs and came across this post from Alysa at Little Things in Life. I laughed and laughed--definitely one of those "It's funny because it's true" things.
Sometimes I read this parenting guy, John Rosemond, and I certainly don't agree with all he says, but he's got some good advice. But one thing he said made me almost throw his book in the garbage and it was that today's parents are such whiners about how parenthood is hard. It's not hard at all! Yeah, I'm guessing he didn't let his wife proof that copy before it went to the publisher.
Parenthood is hard. Not only is it hard labor physically, it tests every single area of your life. You thought you were patient? (Well, I never did, but some people might have.) Not anymore. Alysa wrote about the frustration of her daughter insisting on tying her shoes even though they were late for school, and I felt like screaming out loud with impatience just reading it. Hypothetically, of course I want my children to learn all their skills and be independent. But every time I hear "My do it MYSELF!" or "Mom, I can do it, I promise I can" I just feel like groaning because I know we're going to be here for ages. It's like, not only are they putting on their shoes and socks, they're doing it underwater. Using chopsticks. While I shift from one foot to the other thinking, HURRY UP. GET IT DONE.
In addition to taking care of the children, there are all the mundane tasks around our house. Cleaning the bathroom. Changing the sheets. Sweeping the kitchen floor 782 times a day. My personal nemesis, laundry. It is NEVER done.
I was a missions major at Moody Bible Institute. Specifically, urban ministries. I served as a voluntary staff member at an inner city church. Several days a week I went into one of the worst ghettos in Chicago and served--co-running a tutoring program, teaching Sunday School and children's clubs, mentoring high school students--even though it could get very discouraging there, it was a fantastic, challenging, life-changing experience. I have a heart for stuff like that. Right now, I'd love to go to South Africa and work at God's Golden Acre. I'd love to go to Russia and Ukraine, working with adoption agencies. I'd love to go to China and do...whatever. Sign me up.
What I would not like to do is go fold my laundry and referee bickering. Yet oddly enough, right now that is what I am called to do. Sometimes I think, "Where's my ministry? How am I going to get that 'Well done, good and faithful servant' if I'm not really doing anything important?" Then I am brought up short by a quote I have memorized from this: "Look around the breakfast table. There's your ministry."
There is a book I go to again and again for help and encouragement. It's called "Stepping Heavenward" by Elizabeth Prentiss. It's a journal that was written in the 1800s and covers the life of a woman from her 16th birthday until she is near death in her 40s. I can hardly believe it was written that long ago because each time I read it, I think I wrote it myself this morning. She writes of the grueling work of being a wife and mother and keeper of a house, all while "stepping heavenward." One of my favorite parts is near the end, where she makes an astonishing discovery.
"Instead of fancying that our ordinary daily work was one thing and our religion quite another thing, we would transform our acts of drudgery into acts of worship...'I only wish I had understood this years ago,' I said, 'I have made prayer too much of a luxury and have often inwardly chafed and fretted when the care of my children made it utterly impossible to leave them for private devotion. I have reasoned this way: Here is a special demand on my patience, and I am naturally impatient. I must have time to go away and entreat the Lord to equip me for this conflict. But I see now that the simple act of cheerful acceptance of the duty imposed and the solace and support withdrawn would have united me more fully to Christ than the highest enjoyment of His presence in prayer could."
More than anything, I want to put this into practice. It is hard. I want to do exciting things for Jesus, not some of the cruddy junk He's given me to do. But I have to take a look at myself and wonder why I want to do those exciting things. For me? So I feel good? So I get some glory? So I feel I have accomplished something?
Here's my earnest desire: when I am frustrated with my children, I pray for the grace to speak loving words to them and show them the right way to act. When I am faced with all the chores and responsibilities that are unappealing to me, I want the grace to think, "As much as I love these people around me, my family, I'm not living for them. I'm living for You. If washing this floor brings You glory, then that's how I'm going to wash it!"
So yeah, this is a rainy day. We're stuck indoors. In fact, I've got to stop writing soon because I hear some screaming upstairs. Then I need to clean my kitchen. And I think 3/4 of our clothes are lying on the laundry room floor, waiting to be folded. But I've been listening to this great song, and I think I'll sing it while I'm working:
Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days when this life gives me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You:
Jesus, bring the rain
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
That being said, I spent most of yesterday thinking about and praying for the Smith family and the delivery of their baby, Audrey Caroline. She was born at 4:30 in the afternoon, was loved on by her parents and family, and died at 6:45 p.m.
Two things really stood out to me yesterday. One was that even though I read a story in the Tribune about yet another Christian acting the fool and the accompanying bad press it brought, and the posturing and arrogance on the theological blogs I read sometimes were still alive and well, there was a little corner of the world where total strangers gathered around via the Internet and cried and prayed for a family and a baby who got to spend only 2 hours and 15 minutes in this world. I read all of the Smith's blog updates throughout the day, and I got chills reading all the comments: "Praying in MD" "Praying in England" "On my knees in Indiana" "Crying and praying in TN" "Praying for you all the way in Iraq" and on and on, hundreds of them. Then when Audrey was born--oh, the bittersweet joy and all the comments praising God for her loveliness and the few moments God allowed her parents to love on her. I just kept thinking, "THIS is how Christians should be."
The other thing that stood out to me (and here's the part where it might get touchy) is that some people say things they probably shouldn't when someone dies. Believe me, I'm sympathetic to it because it's the rare person who really knows what to say. But it seems when death occurs, sometimes people have some very erroneous theology they use for comfort. Many, many people commented on Audrey's total healing (which we praise God for). Many, many people commented that Audrey is now with Jesus (a praise that is so great it almost cannot be articulated--though I often hesitate to voice it to a grieving mother since frankly I think the mother would much prefer her baby to be safe with her). But many people also said things like, "God needed a little red-haired angel tonight" or "God wanted another angel in heaven." That is unbearably sad to me (and also biblically inconsistent with the personage and work of angels). The thought that our loving Heavenly Father would somehow take some mother and father's child because He "needed" a new angel (to add to the myriads of myriads at His disposal)...well, that just breaks my heart.
The truth is that suffering is a constant in this world, and sometimes it is a mystery. Some suffering we'll never understand until heaven. I certainly can't understand the death of a dearly loved little child. I can't make sense of it, can't wrap my head or heart around a reason for that kind of pain and agony.
One of Selah's signature songs is the hymn "It is Well." It's on three of their albums, and they sing it in each of their concerts. If you're not familiar with the hymn or the story behind it, it was written by a lawyer named Horatio Spafford. He and his wife, Anna, lived in Chicago in the mid-1800s. Their 4-year-old son died from scarlet fever. Then many of Spafford's business interests were burned in the Chicago Fire. Deciding that the family needed rest and vacation, Spafford sent his wife and four daughters, ages 18 months to 12 years, to England. He would follow them later. During the voyage, the ship Anna Spafford and her daughters were on collided with another. It sunk in 12 minutes, killing 226 people. Horatio received a telegram from Anna with two words: "Saved alone."
Horatio sailed from America to England to be with his wife. During the voyage, the captain came and got him, telling him that they were then passing over the area where the ship had sunk and his precious daughters' lives were claimed. Horatio Spafford went to his cabin and wrote the words to a hymn that has comforted untold thousands of grieving people since: "When peace like a river attendeth my way / when sorrow like sea billows roll / whatever my lot / Thou hast taught me to say / It is well with my soul."
The great mystery of suffering is that God can redeem suffering and use it for His glory and our good. We will still bear the scars of it, but in our greatest pain and darkest night, we can still praise Him for who He is.
While I was driving home from work yesterday, Angie Smith was delivering Audrey. As a fellow mother and sojourner on Earth, I was crying and praying for her, suffering alongside her. I felt an overwhelming need to not just be silent but to actually vocalize something to God. At that time, I was listening to Selah's "Hiding Place" album, and the song "All My Praise" came on. I lifted up my voice and sang through the tears. You can go to Audrey's site, Bring the Rain, scroll down to the music section on the lefthand side, double-click on "All My Praise," and hear Audrey's daddy sing it for yourself. This pretty much says it all.
All My Praise
I will follow You through green pastures
and sing hallelujah to Your name
I will follow you through dark disaster
and sing hallelujah through the pain
Even in the shadow of death,
I will praise You
Even in the valley I will say:
Holy, my God,
You are worthy of all my praise
You are seated on your throne in heaven
And You see all of us down here
You have promised You will not abandon
So I shall not fear
Even in the shadow of death
I will praise You
Even in the valley I will say:
Holy, my God,
You are worthy of all my praise
You made every star
And You taught it how to shine
You knew my name before there was time
Oh, this is just part of Your glorious design!
Holy, my God
You are worthy of all my praise
Friday, April 04, 2008
Not any more.
The other night, Lucy got out of bed for some reason (very rare). She came downstairs to the living room where Darren and I were eating dinner and watching NCIS. (Which, in my humble opinion and even surpassing House, is the greatest show on TV. It fulfills almost all of my personal TV needs. It is funny and has quick dialog. There's a murder every week. There's no character I really dislike. And it adheres to my #1 TV rule: it has Mark Harmon in it.) So Lucy saw us sprawled there and demanded disapprovingly, "WHAT are you guys watching? And WHY does it have guns in it?"
Then the other day on the way to church she piped up from the backseat, "Uh, Mom? I can smell that you have jellybeans in your mouth up there. Can we have some too?"
You can't really get anything past Elaine either. When Darren went out of town a few weeks ago, he brought the girls back a big sugar cookie decorated like an Easter egg for each of them. He got home on Sunday night right as they were getting into bed, so he let them look at the cookies but explained that they couldn't eat them until tomorrow. That went over OK with Lucy, but not Elaine. She cried herself to sleep that night. In the morning I got her up at 5:15 since that's the day she goes to daycare. Usually she greets me or asks where Lucy is or talks about seeing her teacher at school. But that day the first thing out of her mouth was, "I want my cookie now."
Even the classic parent-kid diversion tactic is waning on her. You know the one I'm talking about--where they're just not taking no for an answer and you're too tired for a fight but you're still not giving in so you say, "Hey, look! There's a squirrel in the backyard!" just to get them to forget about it. I do this in the car too when they're holding one of the many things they've brought along (sidenote: this drives me CRAZY. Apparently the 51st Airborne Division can jump out of a plane and land in a field with a backpack and a gun, but our family needs two Strawberry Shortcake DVDs, some crayons, a baggie of Cheerios, 14 Polly Pockets and their clothes and shoes, Rabbie, and a sippy cup just to go to Logli). Anyway, they invariably drop or lose one of their precious items on the way and start wailing about it, and I just say "Listen to this great song! Let's sing!" or "Hey, maybe you can ride in that green car when you get to the store!"
Now that I think about it, it is sort of insulting. Like, if I lost something really important to me in the car such as my contact or a peanut M&M or something and I tried to get Darren to help me and all he said was, "Oh! Look at all the balloons at the Ford dealer!" But...you gotta do what you gotta do.
He and I are planning our first no-kid vacation since October 2002 (not that I'm keeping a record or anything). Nothing super adventurous, just Door County, our favorite vacation spot, with or without kids. Before Lucy was born, we always stayed at this beautiful place (which has a No Children policy). I highly recommend it. This time though, we're planning to stay here. We've been debating back and forth, do we want to go in April or May? May because the weather will be nicer and it's our anniversary, April because it costs less and it's NOW.
Last night Darren was upstairs, and I left the girls eating their supper and sneaked up to talk to him. And rest. I curled up in a ball on the bed and said, "Maybe they just won't find me." A few minutes later I heard footsteps thumping up the stairs, the door creaking open, and "Mom? What are you doing up here? Why are you sleeping? Wake up!" and "Mom. Mommy. Up." Darren got them organized to take their bath and get ready for bed after that and through the din I heard him call down the hall, "Get Churchill Inn on the phone. Tell them we'll take both April and May."
Edited to add: I read over this blog entry a little bit later. And you know what's pathetic? That last paragraph is EXACTLY how I treat my mom. Still. I go over to her house and hunt her down until she stops whatever she's doing and pays attention to me. So I guess the moral of this little story is: Payback's a trip.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
I tried to get her to play a (nice) trick on Mrs. Hogan, but she told me, "I don't think I should do that. That would be disrespectful to my teacher." I guess I'll just have to wait until Elaine gets to pre-school. I know she'd be up for it. I'm guessing there'd be Palmolive involved too.
(Please ignore the disaster on the counter behind her.)
(A caterpillar with a bite out of it...)
Me: Whose turn is it to pray first?
Both: Me, me!
Me: I heard Elaine's voice first. OK, Elaine, you pray.
Elaine: Dear Jesus...Lucy, don't eat your stuff.
Lucy: I'm not eating anything!
Elaine: Dear Jesus...Lucy's eating yogurt, Mom.
Lucy: Mom, I promise, I'm not.
Me: Elaine, just go ahead and pray.
Elaine: Dear Jesus, thank you for my stuff. Thank you for my yogurt. Amen.
The setup: Getting Lucy all dressed up for a party. When she's all done, I like to say, "Ohhhh! You look so lovely!"
Lucy: Mom, when I'm all done, could you please not gasp? I like when you say I look nice, but I don't like the part where you gasp. It really concerns me when you do that.
The setup: The breakfast table. Elaine is a grouch, as she usually is on Tuesday mornings.
Elaine: Want more. (She says "want" like "mont." Now Darren and I do it all the time too.)
(ignoring silence from the rest of us)
Elaine: More. More cereal. This (pointing at box of cereal).
My mom: You need to put a little pizzazz and manners into that request, Lady Jane. (I love my mom.)
Elaine: Mont more! (That wasn't really the pizzazz we were looking for.)
My mom: How about "More honey Chex, please?"
Elaine: (stony silence)
My mom: I think you can do it! I think you can say, "More honey Chex, please!"
Elaine (continued stony silence)
My mom: Can you say just one word--'please'?
Elaine (in soft little voice): Just one word, please.