Friday, February 27, 2009

Holding Up My Arms

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17:8-13

The ironic thing about me writing a blog is that I am a very private person. I started this whole thing just to keep a record of what the girls were doing. I was going to write in a journal, but my friend Jacquie said, "Just write a blog! No one will read it!" And that's how Guilford Road: IloveyouI'mcrying happened.

I didn't really think ahead that I might be writing about hard times we would go through. But through this experience with my mom, I see it as imperative that I act as a recorder of events so that Lucy and Elaine will have it all written down for them when they're old enough to read through it. I want them to know who their family is, who their mom is, and my heart for them--our history together.

Living through these last two weeks has been some of the hardest living I've had to do. Writing the last two posts completely drained me. There was one point where I sat in a dark corner in the basement and cried and said, "God, I'm too tired and broken to get up and do anything anymore. You've got to help me."

Somehow, I was able to get up and keep working, taking care of the girls, making supper, waiting in the carpool lane, folding the laundry. I know how I was able to do that...because of all of those who have been praying for me, for my mom, for our family.

I've gotten notes, such as this one from my friend Katie, who is also my parents' pastor's wife: "I want so badly to ask God to spare Lois any suffering. But, in my heart, I know that that is not how he operates. So I want you to know that while every human ounce in me wants her to not feel any pain, I am asking our Father to help her to stand firm to the very end, whenever it may be. Your mother has been a mighty warrior, even in her little frame. I'm also praying for you and Chuck and your families to hope in God through this. His ways may be mysterious, but he is good. Please let me know if there is anything else specific I can be praying for. Alice, I'm writing through tears. I love your dear mother. I think the only possible way she could be dearer to me is if she were my own. What a blessing it is to know her and Charlie. I just wanted you to know that while there is no way that I or anyone else outside your family can feel your exact pain right now, I am standing with you.With love, Katie."

I know I've had Kirsten in California, Melanie in Minnesota, Laura in London, Becky in South Carolina (sorry, Becky, you ruined the alliteration pattern there!), Mae in Canada, Jill in Michigan, Juliet and Ann-Marie here in my area, and more (I'm sorry if I'm forgetting anyone), gathering around to stand with us and pray.

I've had my dear friends, Jack and Alysa, praying together. They know the pain of losing a beloved mom and grandma. Alysa's been with me each step of the way on this. I read this on her blog yesterday and just cried. No words. Thank you, guys.

As my managing editor and friend, Peg, wrote to me, "Now, I reflect that I’m rejoicing, but we still have miles to go. Your mom may wonder why all the joy. But I feel God has given us a precious gift: Hope. So we will pray for tomorrow and take each precious day as He gives it to us."

So to all of you, my friends, those I've met and those I haven't, thank you too--for all your kind words, most of all your prayers, for joining with me on this little blog that no one was going to see, and for holding up my arms.

"Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD." Exodus 17:15-16

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Little More Time

I feel like I have been carrying a thousand-pound weight of grief around with me for over a week. It is actually a physical pain inside. My dad called last night to tell me the time of their appointment with the oncologist today. He said that my mom has been in such pain that she hasn't been able to sleep in their bed anymore--she has slept in a recliner instead.

He said that they might stop by after the appointment if they were up to it, and he had been wondering and praying about the girls. Had I told them yet? I said that I would do it that night, so before bedtime I called Lucy to me, dressed in her little nightgown that my mom made her, and drew her up onto my lap.

“I have to tell you something that is hard for me, Lucy, and I might cry a little bit, OK?” Then I went on to tell her that her Manga is sick, very sick, and she is not going to get well as far as we know, at least not here on Earth. Jesus is going to take her to heaven.

“We don’t know how much time we have left with her; only God knows that. But whatever time we have left, we need to love her and enjoy her and be thankful that we can be with her.”

She started to cry. Hard.

We sat in the dark, and I rocked her, and we cried together. As we sat, as has happened so often lately, images stream through my mind. June 7, 2003, the day we had kept a secret from everyone until a baby girl arrived at 5:20 p.m. We couldn’t get ahold of my parents to tell them, so we left a message on my brother’s cell phone. Fortunately, he and they were at the same (large) dinner party. He had walked out to his car and was checking his messages on the way. He ran back in and told them, “You are grandparents!” From what I hear, that brought the house down. People were cheering and crying and hugging…and of course rushing them out the door to get to the hospital.

I see my mom, sitting in the hospital rocker, holding Lucy Nan for the first time—only two hours old.

I see the myriad days, weeks, months, and years after—all Lucy’s and my mom’s little jokes together, tea parties, dressing up, rocking in the chair together and listening to stories, doing art projects, and making cookies. “Manga LoLo!” Lucy would cry as soon as she saw my mom. “Lucy LuLu!” my mom would cry back, and they would throw their arms around each other. My mom doesn't play favorites in any way with the girls, but she and Lucy have a unique bond together.

I am back to the present and holding a little girl, not yet 6, who is just beginning to grieve. “Does Manga know about this, Mom?” she cried. “Yes, sweetheart, she knows. She’s not afraid to die. Ever since she was a little girl, as little as you, Manga has loved Jesus with all her heart. She knows she’s going straight to Him."

“Does Jesus live in a castle, like in Cair Paravel?” she asked, looking at the Narnia quilt above her bed that my mom made for her.

“I’m not exactly sure what it looks like, but it’s more beautiful than we could ever even think of. Do you know what the Bible says? It says, ‘Eye has not seen, neither has entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him.’ Do you know what that means?” She shook her head.

“It means that we can’t even imagine how wonderful and beautiful and lovely it is. That’s why you and I love that song so much, ‘I Can Only Imagine.’ It’s all about heaven and just sitting and thinking about what it will be like there.”

She began to cry again. “I hope Manga will still call me her Sugar Plum when she gets to heaven,” she said.

“Of course she will. I bet the first thing she says when she sees you there is, ‘Hello, Sugar Plum! I’ve been waiting for you!’”

I held her while she continued to cry, and I told her, “It’s OK to be sad. I’m sad too. Jesus never wanted it this way. He hates death and having us all separated. That’s why He died for us—so we don’t have to. Like Pastor James says, ‘It might look like dying, but it’s not. It’s eternal life; abundant life.’ If we love Him and believe Him and live for Him, He’ll bring us all together again to live in heaven. And we won’t ever be separated again.”

“I can’t wait for that day, Mama,” she said and then she sobbed, “I hope Jesus has cookie dough ready for Manga when she gets to heaven because she makes the best cookies in the world.” Normally, the thought of Jesus getting cookie dough ready would make me smile, but this time I could almost feel my heart breaking under the weight of a child’s pain.

And then she asked softly, “Mom, can we listen to ‘I Can Only Imagine’ now?” So we did, and then I tucked her in bed. Later on when I went to check on her, I saw that she had Rabbie up close by her face and, after all her hard work to stop, her plump little thumb was firmly in her mouth. I just left it there.

In the morning, I wondered if she would say anything, but she didn’t. She got up, got dressed and made her bed, and played with Elaine.

After breakfast though she said to me, "Come up with me to the secret sitting room Elaine and I made; I have to tell you something,” she said. We went up together to the "secret sitting room," which was their closet with some chairs and a tea set all together in there.

“You come and sit here, and I’ll pour you some tea, Mama.” Then she looked at me with her enormous brown eyes and whispered, “Will you pray in here, Mommy? I know Jesus is giving us some time with Manga, but will you ask Him if He’ll give us a little bit more? I already came in here while you were still sleeping and prayed that by myself, but I want you to pray it too.”

So we huddled together in her secret closet and prayed to Jesus that He’ll give us a little more time.

And in my mind’s eye, I envisioned this precious little girl, slipping her shoes off and standing with all of us who are praying to see God's glory.

This afternoon, I laid down on the bed to rest because sorrow is literally making me sick. I can understand now what the Psalms mean when they talking about physically wasting away.

The back door opened, and my mom and dad came in from the appointment with the oncologist. The girls went crazy as they always do, and Lucy burst out, "Manga, we've been praying and praying for you!" My mom smiled at her and said, "Are you ready to have me for just a little bit longer?"

It turns out her oncologist does not believe it is rapidly fatal and possibly not even myeloma, which they had been told. It's some sort of bone cancer, aggressive, but he doesn't know what yet. He thinks he can try and treat it though and give her a chance at a little more time. He is ordering lots and lots and LOTS of tests, and as always, we don't know what the future will hold. But there is some cautious optimism.

As my mom said, "I'm still quite a sick lady, but we can probably put my funeral plans on hold for a little bit," and as an aside to me snickered, "I feel quite embarrassed to go around telling people I'm not going to die in the next couple of weeks."

"Yeah, Mom," I replied. "I'm sure everyone will be so cross with you!" Then she said to Lucy, "We still have some more walks to take together, I think!" After that she held both girls on her lap and read them one of the Frances stories, the one that has my favorite line of all, "A family is everybody, all together."

So for just a little more time it seems, that is what we will be.

He is just as good as ever.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Standing With My Shoes Off

I was at the swim club the other day, thinking if there was anything, anything at all I could write on the blog. We are at that worst part of winter where it seems as if the whole world has phased into black and white. Nothing interesting happens; we’re just in an endless cycle, of waking and sleeping, waiting in the drop-off lane at school, going to the grocery store, putting on coats, taking off coats, around and around on our little human wheel.

It’s not that it’s altogether unpleasant (though of course at times it is), it just seems that the whole world is just gritting its collective teeth and waiting for spring. I’ve been trying to keep a log of the funny things the girls say so I’ll have something to post, but when I look at them, they’re all sort of “guess you had to be there” moments.

Elaine has had some sort of virus or infection that has gone on and on relentlessly, a low grade fever and a cough and sleepless nights. Then during the day she alternates between clinginess (literally hanging onto my leg), whininess, and bitter weeping at the injustice in her world, such as Lucy having the particular Polly Pocket doll that she wanted, even though they’ve got at least 20 of them. Oh, the humanity.

One night I just could not handle her anymore, so I took her upstairs and we sat on my bed with my laptop open, and I searched for a song that we used to listen to at our house when I was a little girl. I have no idea what made me pick that particular song, but I just wanted to see if it was on youtube, and it was. Elaine climbed up on my lap and we sat in the dark, listening over and over to the song. Lucy came in, uncharacteristically insensitive, bouncing around and demanding to know when they were going to take a bath, until Elaine said, “Lucy, GO AWAY. We are listening to this song.”

The next evening, the day had finally ended and it happened to be a Tuesday, so I was just settling down in my favorite chair to eat some chicken salad and watch my shows. I actually love Tuesdays because Darren gives the girls their bath and puts them to bed so I don’t have to miss a nanosecond of NCIS, which leads into The Mentalist, which leads into Without a Trace. It’s a glamorous life I know, someone has to live it.

All of a sudden, I heard the back door open and then my dad’s voice saying, “Hello?” This isn’t that unusual because he’s often in our town, to go to the doctor or Home Depot or Barnes & Noble, whatever little piece of civilization that isn’t available to him in the country. I met him at the door and was about to tell him that he should pop upstairs and surprise the girls because they had just gone down and weren’t asleep yet, but then I saw his face and stopped.

He came into the living room, sat down, and, amidst a roaring in my ears, told us that my mom is dying.

She has terminal cancer, all over, in her lung and in her bones, in her rib cage and in her spine.

He talked and cried and talked and cried, and I couldn’t say anything. He hugged me, my tall dad, and I felt his sobs and I know that coming to tell me was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do. He said through his tears, “God is good to us, He is so good to us. I used to think people just said that to prop themselves up, but now that we’re going through this, I can see it, and it’s true. I wish I could just hold you through all of this, but I can’t. God can though, and He’s hurting for you and with you, sweetie.”

Before he left he said through sobs, “Your little girls…well, they’re at an age where they won’t remember her being sick so much as they remember her being well.”

And I could only think, “Elaine won’t really remember her at all.”

He and Darren talked a bit more, but not much, and I still couldn’t say anything, and he left. I could see the sorrow and exhaustion in his face, and I knew it had drained his very spirit to come and tell me. After he had gone, Darren put his arms around me, but the words were still absent. I walked to the bookshelf and pulled down my precious book from my mom, Stepping Heavenward, where she wrote on the flyleaf “To Alice, With love from Mom,” and turned to exactly what I was looking for. I know this book so well I have portions of it memorized, and there…there were the words.

"I saw that she [my mother] was failing but flattered myself that her own serenity and our care would prolong her life still for many years. I longed to have my children become old enough to fully appreciate her sanctified character; and I thought she would gradually fade away and be set free. But God's thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor His ways as our ways.

Her feeble body began to suffer from the rudest assaults of pain; day and night, night and day, and she lived through a martyrdom in which what might have been a lifetime of suffering was concentrated into a few months. To witness these sufferings was like the sundering of joints and marrow; and once, only once, thank God! my faith in Him staggered and reeled to and fro. 'How can He look down on such agonies!' I cried in my secret soul. 'Is this work of a God of love, of mercy?'

Mother seemed to suspect my thoughts, for she took my hand tenderly in hers and said with great difficulty: 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. He is just as good as ever.' And she smiled.

I ran away to my husband, her doctor, crying 'Oh, is there nothing you can do for her?'

'What should a poor mortal do where Christ has done so much?" he said, taking me in his arms. 'Let us stand aside and see the glory of God with our shoes from off our feet."

I can’t say the words out loud, but how can I go on without her? I’m maybe only halfway done with my life. I can't face the future. The thought of a life without my mother is untenable. I am not able to bear it. And all around me people are saying that God is good, and I think, is He? How is He good?

In my mind flashes that beautiful day last August, my mom surrounded by all her dearest friends, singing to her, on her birthday. Sitting together in my living room, everyone saying what my mom has meant to them.

And I think, with tears streaming, of God’s unbelievable, loving goodness in removing me from my job so that I have all my time at my disposal to spend with my mom. What appeared unloving was indeed His greatness kindness.

I think of only the night before, holding my fractious little girl on my lap in the dark, listening to just a random song from the past, ten times in a row, that this is what it was.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory.” I Corinthians 15:51-54

And so I am here: standing, with my shoes off, waiting to see His glory. He is just as good as ever.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day

I just found out from a friend's blog, that in Britain, they think that children celebrating Valentine's Day is a little creepy. I guess it's just an adult/romantic holiday there. Huh. Who knew? Personally, it's never been one of my favorite holidays, but probably because it falls during winter.

However, the best part about it, for me anyway, is the children's aspect. Lucy has been busy with Valentine activities--writing Valentines for her classmates and eagerly anticipating the fact that she was going to go to school ALL day on Friday, the day of the party. As well, it was a no-uniform day, so the kids could all wear red. She set off with her decorated box and her chocolate hearts and cards for her friends. She came back, high as a kite from all the sugar and all-day fun, with her Valentine box filled with cards and treats, which, being the wonderful sister she is, she shared generously with Elaine.

Friday night my parents came to watch the girls while Darren and I went to the Valentines banquet at church. Beforehand, we and 7 other couples had been asked to share funny stories about when we were dating or first married but make them anonymous so the rest of the group could guess who they were. Our story was from the first time Darren came to my house for the weekend to meet my parents. Everything had gone well, and he was getting ready to leave. When my mom said goodbye to him, she added, "You're welcome to come again! Just not too soon."

Saturday morning, Darren made the girls pink, heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast (possible suspension of his Man-card for that). Elaine is still sick, and Lucy spent the day eating Valentine candy. She and Darren surprised me (really surprised me) with a beautiful necklace and earrings. At night when I was tucking her in bed, she said, "Mom, I think I have a pimple on my tongue." A-ha. Her first sugar sore.

I know I should have pictures of all this, but alas. I was very busy doing nothing all day, so I don't. And that was our love holiday! Stay tuned for St. Patrick's Day, which we celebrate in a much bigger way around here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Hazy Shade of Winter

I know full well that if I write about us having a peaceful, calm, happy week, next week will be an absolutely horrible one. goes anyway.

Elaine has been sick this week with a persistent fever and a cough. She's been miserable, yet so sweet, calmly lying on the sofa or the wing chair, alternately watching "The Rescuers" and "101 Dalmatians" (or as she calls them "The Rescue-Mes" and "Roger and All the Puppies") and sleeping. Lucy has been very solicitous of her as well. Here are they are yesterday in the little house they made. (For some reason, Elaine looks like she has the hugest beer belly, when really she's hardly eaten a thing all week.)

Maybe it's because we've had a little more time to slow down lately, but both girls have been unusually introspective this week as well. When Lucy was about 2, I picked up this book at a used book sale.

She has long since moved on from it, but I dug it out again for Elaine. She is much more active than Lucy and has a harder time sitting still and listening for longer periods of time. But these little stories are perfect for her. Each one is about a little brother and sister named Jeff and Julie. While Lucy is at school in the morning, Elaine and I read this book together. She runs to the shelf and calls, "I'm getting my book, Mom, so we can do my dee-botions!" Then we read, and she flips back through ones we've read previously, tells me each little story, and then prays for Jeff and Julie about whatever situation they found themselves in that particular time: lost at the grocery store, afraid of the dark, nervous about going to daycare, etc.

Lucy, ever since she could talk, has engaged us in deep conversations about God, heaven, death, angels, Satan, you name it. Elaine just does not do that, at least not yet. However, this week, she has come to me numerous times--while I'm working around the house or at the computer or rocking her before bed--and asked, "Does God love me?"

I will tell you one thing about that little girl though: she is a pray-er. We'll be in the car, and she'll call out, "Wait! We forgot to pray!" And even if we're just heading to the store or the swim club, we'll take the time to pray. One of Darren's co-workers had some health difficulties with one of his sons. We all prayed for him, but that was several weeks ago and Elaine is still praying for him every day. At meals she'll say, "Dear Jesus, thank you for this lovely food. Thank you for Lucy and me. I pray for that little boy who had to go to the doctor and the hospital and the dentist. Amen." (I guess she's covering all the bases.)

Before Lucy goes to school each day, she and I sit in the rocking chair and pray that she'll have a good day, obey her teacher, be kind to the other kids; and then we pray for her teachers as well. Elaine doesn't want to be left out, so she climbs up and prays for Lucy too. Throughout the day, no matter where we are, there's a good chance I'll hear that gravelly little voice call out, "Wait! We forgot to pray!" At 3 years old, she doesn't have all the vocabulary, but she's got the heart and the desire.

As for Lucy, it's been hard to find a good devotional book so I had been using a classic from my childhood, actually the second in a 2-parter: "More Little Visits with God." It is an excellent tool, though it was somewhat dated in language and scenarios. We were working around that, but then I happened to check on amazon and found this updated version, so I ordered it right away:

We are absolutely loving this, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's set out with a verse for each day, a devotional, some questions to ask, then a prayer. As well, there is a more extensive Bible passage for older children to read.

Though we normally do devotions at bedtime, Lucy came to me the other day, holding the book and said earnestly, "Mommy, will you read one of these devotions to me right now? I just love the Lord so much, and I want to know more about Him from this book." As you can imagine, I dropped everything I was doing, and we read.

Another book we've been reading over the last two weeks is Patricia St. John's The Tanglewoods Secret. I have vivid memories of my dad reading her books to me as a child, Treasures of the Snow, Star of Light, and of course Rainbow Garden--from which we got Elaine's name. Each of her novels is told, in first person, from the point of view of a child. Each is filled with adventure and nature as well as some of the most beautiful prose I've read in any children's books.

Last night we finished the book, and Lucy had to go get me some Kleenex. If you can read the book and then get to this portion without losing it, you are stronger than I am:

"It was a framed picture of a meadow of clean white sheep all walking one way and nibbling the grass as they went. In front of them walked the Shepherd, and in His arms lay a little lamb peacefully asleep.[Note: we have this picture hanging in the girls' room. I bought it when I was expecting Lucy, in honor of this book.] It was Terry who broke the silence.

"'Where's 'e carryin' 'im to?' he asked suddenly in his freful voice.

'Home, Terry,' answered Mr. Robinson, with a look on his face that I did not then understand. 'Safely through each day until they get home. Home is where the Shepherd lives and where we see Him face to face. Shall I read you something about Home, Terry?...and he read in his clear voice, 'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.'

There was another long silence, broken again by Terry. 'So!' he whispered. 'No more pain!'...

There were many footsteps up and down in the house that night while we lay asleep, for my aunt and Terry's mother did not go to bed at all, and the doctor arrived just before midnight. No one heard the feet of the Good Shepherd when He drew near and picked Terry up in His arms.

So Philip's prayer was answered in a way we had never dreamed. Before the sun had risen again, while the stars were still high in the sky, Terry had left his twisted, suffering body, and all his pain behind him forever. The Shepherd had carried him Home.

In this introspective mood we've all been in this last week or so, I have thought of the myriad responsibilities of a mother. Each week, Lucy comes home with some sort of project "she" aka ME needs to get done, and those responsibilities will only increase with each year of school. Is Lucy on target with her reading? I think about both girls' academic progress, the future of their education. I think about the best activities for them to be involved in. How are both of them doing with their manners--are they kind and polite to others? Are they sleeping enough? Am I taking care of their dry skin? When is the last time I clipped their nails? Does Lucy have clean uniforms for this week? Are they eating right? (Just pick up a copy of the book Eat This, Not That and see how horribly you've been feeding your kids even if you think you've been trying to help them make healthy choices.) Are we having enough fun?

It is overwhelming sometimes, raising these little people to be healthy and happy. So many times I am so tired, too tired to get it all done, and I'm sure I've blown it once again this week. There are too many things I simply fall down in. I can't get it all done, let alone done well.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know my deep love for the book Stepping Heavenward. In it, there is a quote that Katy says of her mother and that I certainly say of my own dear mother: "It is to her I owe my early love for the Lord Jesus, which seems to have no beginning or end, though it has had its fluctuations."

Though I may drop the ball in any other section of life, amidst all my responsibilities and priorities as a mother, that is what I pray for above all else.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Best Medicine

Ever since I was a little girl, I've hated to see my mom upset about anything. She laughs and tells me now, "You were always my little encourager. One time I was having a dinner party and trying to make a rhubarb pie. The whole thing fell apart not too long before the guests were to arrive. I was near tears, and you came to me and said, 'Don't cry, Mom. Just mix it all up, put ice cream on it, and call it "Rhubarb Mess!'" Another time she was making a dress and cut the front down too low. I guess (so the story goes) that I told her to put a small piece of material in the front (you know, with all my sewing expertise at age 10...or actually, EVER) and that I had seen Princess Diana wear a dress very similar.

It seems Lucy is much the same way. She goes out of her way at all times to tell me things such as, "Mom! You're the best apple bread maker in the whole world!" or "Mom, I just love those earrings you have on!" or, right after I came home from having my hair cut and highlighted, "Mom, your hair looks SO great! Much better than when you left the house!"

It's wonderful to have an encourager in your life. These last couple of months have been somewhat of a roller coaster at our house, as you could probably guess. Sometimes Darren and I say to each other, "It's OK. We know we're not in heaven yet."

When I had to turn in my work laptop, we knew it was inevitable that we would now need to buy one. Our current one, though nice, was quite a few years old and very slow. If I was going to work as a freelancer, I had to have an updated, reliable one. Darren spent weeks doing his research and trying to get us the best laptop for the best price. We bought a beautiful one, a Mack Daddy of a laptop, only to have it succumb to the blue screen of death at least four times in its first week of life.

Then there's our car. Oh, cars. You are so much more trouble than you are worth. I know that the key word here is perspective. Only 2% of the world's population even owns one car. We own two. And fortunately, with both of us working at home, we can probably get along with one. But seeing as we do have two, it would be nice if they both worked. Of course, my favorite car, my silver Maxima that I've had since I was pregnant with Lucy, died a couple weeks ago.

I have a question to throw out into the cosmos: Why does any sort of car repair, no matter what it is, start at $1,700? Just once, I'd love for the car repair guy to say, "Yeah, that'll cost you fifty bucks." I know, I'm not holding my breath for that.

This past Saturday, Lucy came into our room. She started talking about the kids' party at church we were going to later that day. I said to Darren, "Oh yeah, I forgot--I need to be there an hour early to set up. Can you drop me off?" Lucy asked, "Why can't you take the silver car, and then Daddy will take us later in the black car?"

I sighed. "Because our silver car is broken. It doesn't work right now. So, we all need to share the black car and ride together."

She must have sensed my discouragement because she looked up at me with her sweet, big, brown eyes. "That's OK, Mom. We can keep the silver car as a decoration."

I laughed so hard I almost cried. She wasn't sure what had made me laugh so much, but she was happy she was the cause of it. She took my face in her hands and said, "The more you think about it? The funnier it is!"

The moral of this tale is that humor can be found in many unexpected places and never to take for granted a little encourager in your life.

And Lucy is right. It really is funnier the more I think about it. We don't have a dead car--we now have a two thousand-pound paperweight, sponsored by Nissan, decorating our driveway.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

More from the Bag of Tricks

When I was a little girl, I was always leaving my slippers downstairs at night and forgetting to wear them to bed. Every night, one of my parents would bring them back upstairs and leave them outside my door. One night, my dad left a note in one. That began a tradition that went on for a long time: I would leave my slipper outside my door at night, and in the morning I would race out to see if my dad had left me a note (he always did). Sometimes they would just say, "I love you! Love, Daddy," but other times he would write a rhyme or draw a funny face or tell me he was praying for me if I had a test that day or whatever. There's just something about sending and receiving mail, in whatever form, that I have always loved.

Therefore, for our most recent long winter afternoon activity, the girls and I made mailboxes. I covered them with paper, Darren cut the slot in each, and then they each decorated theirs with markers and stickers.

Here is Elaine's:

And here is Lucy's:

The mailboxes currently stay in the corner of our kitchen counter. Alongside them is a pile of note-sized paper and a pen. Every time either one of them does something good or kind, the person who observed it needs to write them a note. Of course, you can always write someone a note just to say hi. I figure this activity has lots of positive aspects: it causes you to look for good in someone else; it causes you to be kind because you never know who is watching; and it has the practical upside of helping Lucy with her writing. Also, it's just fun.

They were both thrilled and couldn't wait to try them out. Here's is Lucy's first note to Elaine:

Here is the note Elaine had me dictate to Lucy:

They will also each find notes in their mailbox this afternoon. One says, "Dear Lucy, You didn't dawdle this morning. You made your bed right away. Good job! Love, Mommy" and the other says, "Dear Elaine, When I asked you to pick up your stamps you said, 'OK, I'll obey, and I won't scream.' Good job! Love, Mommy."

I was thinking of just keeping this home post office open in February, but we'll have to see how successful it is. This may be a good long-term activity!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Stupid Groundhog

As we all know, groundhogs everywhere saw their shadow yesterday. Not that it makes a particle of difference--particularly where we live--since I've seen it snow heavily on Tax Day and have even seen flakes as late as mid-May.

There's something about February that really sets in the winter blues though, and it's when I really have to start digging around in my super-secret mom's bag of tricks. Now, I'm a firm believer in letting kids use their imagination and entertaining themselves. I am not their 24-hour clown. But realistically, they are still 5 and 3 and need a little help from time to time with activities on these long, cold days.

Yesterday I found in my freezer a tube of gingerbread dough left over from Christmas. The date stamp on it said use by Feb 09 and we have heart cookie cutters, so voila! Ready-made afternoon activity.

Lucy and Elaine each got a portion of dough, their own cookie sheet, and heart cookie cutter. Copious amounts of dough also disappeared into their mouths. And yes, I neglected to have Lucy change out of her uniform before baking. We like to live on the edge like that.

After the cookies baked, I frosted them and the girls sprinkled sugar on them. Again, copious amounts of sugar went into their mouths as well. And "sprinkled" might be too refined a term. "Dumped" is a little more accurate for Lucy, and "Stood on a chair and threw handfuls into the stratosphere" is a little more accurate for Elaine. is our finished project. Very cheery. (Also, shout-out to Jennie; this is still my favorite tray!)

Of course we each enjoyed the fruit of our labour.

Only six weeks (supposedly) of winter days left!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Come; help me to figure this out.

When I walk into our powder room, this is the sight that normally greets me. Please make a special note of my birdbath soapdish with egg-shaped soaps that I have had for going on a year now and have successfully deterred anyone--from my soap-happy children to many assorted guests--from using, simply by the powers of my mind.

(Actually, that statement is not completely true: it's only the guests on whom I have used this mental force because it would feel too rude to tell people to open up their eyes and use the prominent container of hand soap to their left rather than ruining the visual effect of my darling little pink bird eggs. My family? I tell them straight up, touch my soap and prepare for the consequences. And let's not even get started on decorative towels or "stunt towels" as they are known at our house.)

Anyway, here it is:

However, the other day I walked into the powder room, expecting the usual, and this is what I saw.

It's been awhile since someone has popped up unexpectedly, so it was startling. And...look closely.

The doll is suspended in a glass of water. Is she supposed to be a new decorative element? Is she swimming? Is she bathing? Is she being tortured? (Her hair might indicate the latter.)

And then shortly after...she was mysteriously gone.

Any ideas?