Be Kind to Everything and Don’t Say “Stupid”

Nap time. It is so restful when the time comes to settle down quietly after a strenuous morning of striving to be nice to  each other despite… everything. That includes the slow start in school, with a wrestling match that abruptly vanished without a trace as soon as my feet hit the staircase to go down to the schoolroom.  By the time I hit the bottom step, the boys were busily pulling out math books. It also includes juggling Learning to Read, spelling word lists, grammar quizzes, and laundry for a few hours, secure in the knowledge that the two smallest ones were sweetly playing babies in their room.  Later I discovered that in the course of the morning  they were also skinning a cucumber and feasting on it in the top bunk bed; they were peeling oranges in the living room; they were eating a lot of sliced lunchmeat and graham crackers. For some reason, they still ate salad like starved bunnies with a ranch dressing love affair at lunchtime. One would think there has been naught but bread and water for days if one didn’t distinctly recall feeding them quite often and well.

So yes, naptime: when all efforts of goodness and mischief are suspended for a while. It is my favorite time of day every day when I lie beside my two year old until she falls asleep. Much of the day I am too distracted to listen closely to the piping little voice that is Addy, but at naptime she unwinds by saying every thought that enters her little head until suddenly she conks, just like that. I get much amusement out of her chatter. There are only seconds between each of these bits of  confidences.

I like dogs, mama. Do you like dogs?”

Mmmhmm.

Little dogs. Not big dogs. Do you like big dogs?

Hhhmmm.

We just like little dogs, right, Mama?

I have lots of excuses, Mama.

I’m sorry.  I’m a little tired in the bed.

Mmmhmm. Me too.

Lollipops are sour, Mama.

But we don’t have any lollipops, do we, Mama?

Huhuh.

Maybe I could have some candy when I wake up?

That would be fun.

We don’t have any candy, do we, Mama?

Do you like candy?

You shouldn’t snip yourself. You might get hurt.

And then you would cry. You would cry for a bandaid.

Do you know where the bandaids are, Mama?

Mmmhmm.

When I have a bleeding owie, I cry for a bandaid.

And then I need a Mama.

If I eat too much toothpaste, I might get sick.

Then I would have to go to the doctor. And pump my belly out.

Yeah. Now shhhh.

(Quiet little whisper) I can talk, Mama.

No kidding.

The Bible says be kind to everything. And don’t hit.

And be kind and don’t say “stupid”.

We like little dogs. But we don’t have a dog.

We just have cats.

Mmmhmm.

And a rabbit at Jakes.

But no dogs, Mama.

Am I your baby, Mama?

Mmmhmm.

Be quiet now.

I love you, Mama.

I love you, too. But no more talking.

Okay, Mama.

ZZZZZZ.

Guest Post from my Son

Gregory wrote this during our deep freeze weather. This is a child who has been known to weep over a one-sentence journal entry, so I was a bit surprised at the rapidly scratching pencil. When I read his story, I remembered what he shared with me just a few days ago. “Mama, if I daydream all day long for about 3 weeks, do you know what happens?” Of course, I knew some things that happen, like a very exasperated mother trying to get his attention, but actually, I didn’t know. “Well, if I do enough daydreaming, I don’t dream at night! It’s like I used up all the dreams!” It does make sense, doesn’t it? I give you his story, titled:

The Polar Regoin

I knew it would be a very unusual day. When I woke up and felt how cold the floor was. I walked over and opened the door and saw before my astoinished eyes a……… penguin demolishing an icicle!!!

I heard a growl. And looked over and locked eyes with a polar bear! My first thought was (I knew my dad had got lost wen we moved!) fortunately I had a baseball bat at my side!

To bad he didn’t have time to tell his fellow bears about the strange thing on two legs with a stick that he swung on him nearly nocking his head off! (I did nock his head off!)

I guessed the bat was going 90 miles an hour.

Then I woke up! To bad.

December, as it Happens

This month I have been a pen out of ink. I scratched a few paragraphs now and then, deleted the whole works, or left them to moulder in the drafts folder. Even the annual Christmas letter was a chore. I like pens that glide along smoothly without sputters and skips. Anything else is insufferable! So I can only thank the Lord that blogging is for writing when you enjoy it and that I have never imposed deadlines on myself.

All this time I was out of Earl Grey, folks. Two weeks in a row I forgot to go to the tea aisle in the grocery store. I drank coffee, which is a satisfying experience all its own, but sometimes a girl wants. just. tea! I have a whole shelf of boxes of other teas. My husband likes variety, and so does Gregory, my little tea drinking buddy. On Monday morning I was reading in the quiet when I heard Greg stirring around in the kitchen. To my surprise he brought me the steaming mug he had been concocting according to his Greg Standard of Perfect Tea. It was so liberally adorned with cream and sugar as to hardly be recognizable as tea. Later I saw that he had served me detox tea, which struck me as extremely funny, taking into consideration all the “bad stuff” he dumped into it. I walked over to my grocery list and I wrote it down nice and bold: EARL GREY. This week I bought a ginormous box, inhaled deeply the intoxicating scent of Bergamot oil, and was happy.

It is such a joyful season, yet I found myself praying, yearning with my heart in my throat for days as I followed the story of a family who was keeping vigil around a gunshot victim in the hospital. Yesterday he died. As I was wrapping a few small gifts, I kept thinking about what a sad, sad Christmas this will be for that family and for his friends. It took me back five Decembers when a beloved friend of mine, the wife of my cousin, lay on life support in a hospital. Her transport to glory left me with the anguished question, “Why? There are six little children here, Lord! Couldn’t you see that?” I have never faced a more severe attack on my faith. As the questions poured out, I received the beautiful assurance of the solid fact that Jesus is Emmanuel: God with us. Here in our mess and our hurt and our confusion, He is Prince of Peace. He came to give life, if we can only see that the passing of His friends is the ultimate giving of LIFE. I have seen the triumph of those who embrace this truth, who refuse to let it go in the midst of the most painful times imaginable.

He is with us! “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) That is all we need to know, really. There is a sturdy quality to such faith that confounds even the staunchest unbelievers. I hear my little girl singing her version of a children’s song: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy… down in the guts of my heart!” Her siblings say, “Depths, not guts!” but she is sticking to her version. It reminds me that faith touches us in the visceral regions where logic and reason are no comfort at all. I see the impossible joy and peace blanket the soul and I say,

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  

Overheard at my House

The 4 year old: I feel deep down in my heart that I am a big girl.

Little A: But, Mama, I already went potty… last week!

G: I tell you, Alex, skunks are not related in any way to civets!

A: So why do they have musk glands?

G: I don’t know, but I read it in the encyclopedia! No matter what anybody says!

O. haltingly sounding out: The… bad… pig… sat… on… the… cat. Hahahaha.

R. out of the blue: You know what? I am gonna be true to the end!

Me: True to what?

R: To God, of course!

Two little girls looking at an American Girl doll catalog: We will probably never get dolls like this…But sometimes when little girls don’t beg and just be sweet, they get what they want for Christmas.

R. dreamily: There must be something inside us, like in our hearts, that makes us just love things.

G: If anybody ever says they want a female cat, we could just tell them our story.

Me: I love my life!

Are We There Yet?

The paved roads only brought us close, but the last 8 miles were graded tan Michigan dirt under a tunnel of golden yellow trees. It is off-peak season in the  Upper Peninsula, mostly deserted and calm around the lakes and waterways. We have been blessed with weather 20 degrees warmer than is typical for October. It feels like Utopia… With wifi. 🙂 Our cabin is 110 years old, furnished with a charming disregard to modern ways, lights all operated with pulls and strings tied to various parts of the walls. There is an indoor toilet and a tiny mention of a shower.

Currently the boys are out in a rowboat on the lake, fishing and mostly rowing around. The little girls cheered when they heard that they can wash the supper soup mugs in the teeny sink. So here I sit, soaking in the ambiance of a perfect autumn evening. There are trails, there are meandering mazes of roads through the state forest land, and there are no. other. people. I brought four books to read, and a duffel bag with children’s books, toys, and games, in the event that we should hit a rainy day. Three days of blissful quiet before we resume the journey to South Dakota.

We decided to split up the travel time a bit, seeing we haven’t road tripped any further than 4 hours in the last 3 years. Even so, we were hardly driving for an hour before Rita said, “I think I just wanna stay home. I didn’t know it was going to take so long.”

Favorite Things

Sometimes my children really surprise me. Most days they make me laugh a good belly laugh at least once. And occasionally the surprise and laugh are together, like the day I was reading Gregory’s writing assignment titled, “All About Me”. He began with the usual 3rd grade stats about size, age, and looks, then: “My favorite food is cellry.” This from the child who has only recently been able to eat salad without gagging. Who loves all things pale and pasta but struggles mightily with beans and broccoli… who mostly likes peanut butter in his celery. I don’t know if he was trying to impress the teacher or if it was just another of his little jokes, but I did enjoy the moment.

If I were to ask Rita which are her favorite clothes, she would probably give me a blank look, indicating that she has no time for such frivolous questions. She does, however, come up with some eye-bending combinations. You can see one of them in the previous post… the teal shirt and the light green skirt. She had another set that seemed to make her feel especially elegant. The skirt was rust colored with golden brown embroidery and trim. I thought it was kind of cute, but she consistently wore it with a purple plaid shirt. The effect was unbelievable. Her feelings were rather wounded when I just couldn’t stand it and made her go change. One day Gabe kindly informed me that he never really liked that skirt, so I dropped it into the trash can in a private moment. I don’t make a big deal out of mismatched stuff for play clothes, but I have decided that there is no point in hanging onto ugly stuff just because… 🙂

We finally found a suitable upgrade for the family Caravan. We prayed that it would keep running at least until Gabe was done with school, and it was still going strong, just rather rusty and repeatedly needing power steering fluid. Oh, yes, the AC hasn’t worked for years, one of the windows wouldn’t close, the cruise wasn’t dependable, and the exhaust system needed to be replaced. And it was due to be inspected in September. Last Saturday Gabe traded it in for a Suburban. I had made an appointment a month earlier to take the kittens to a pet shop in hopes that customers would want to adopt them, so I couldn’t go along on the vehicle swap down VA way. Instead, Greg and Livvy went along. As Gabe was filling out paperwork, he noticed that our tender hearted little girl was suddenly catching the drift that they were going to leave the van. They had to take a little walk and get ahold of the sobs. That tickled me and touched me both. There is no accounting for taste when it comes to favorites.

Addy has caught onto the thing of laying claim to certain toys or books and guarding them diligently from the clutches of any other child. I never can understand how a doll can lay unclothed and uncared for for days, and then suddenly it becomes the very most precious, sought after toy to fight about and defend and sob about at night when another child has it in their bed. She has a “peshial” book, blanket, doll, even “peshial” shoes and jacket. Don’t get me started on the rose fork and the pointy spoon and the pink bowl!

My own favorite thing right now is fresh tomatoes, sun warmed and mellow.  I like to imitate Gordon Ramsey and tell the children to go out to the garden to find me “one. stunning. organic. beeeautiful. tomato.” for my salad. 🙂

This next bit is more like unfavorite stuff, but I need to tell you the latest kitten story. We had that appointment at the pet shop. We got there early, but sorry, someone else already had a litter there and they only take one litter at a time and they don’t have my name anywhere despite the fact that one month earlier the girl on the phone clearly reserved this spot for me. So I didn’t ride along to VA with my husband on his day off… all for nothing? I guess the pet shop lady felt a little sorry for me, since she told me that I can bring the kittens again on Labor Day. Sigh. Okay. The good news is, one got adopted. If you wanted the pretty orange one, sorry, but you missed your chance.

I have now suffered the ultimate humiliation in finding homes for these kittens. On Labor Day afternoon we loaded up the crate at the pet shop with 6 kittens still very much homeless. Something desperate in me snapped. Why not try cold calling? Okay, kids, we are gonna stop at all the farms and see if we can find someone who has a spot for them. By the fifth farm I was so traumatized by rejection that I was going to drive right past, but Alex begged me to let him try. He started out by saying, “My mom is too embarrassed to ask you this, but we have some kitties…”

(I will never be unkind to the steak salesman again.)