Saturday, June 30, 2012

7 Months: A New Perspective

What a doll you are, Grace Noelle!  Seven months old and full of joy.  You are sweet and patient, content to just be with your family, even if that means you are stuck in your little chair as we all whiz around you.  When we look your way and connect with your gaze, your entire face lights up in a beautiful dimpled grin with raised eyebrows, and sparkling eyes that just radiate happiness.  If you aren't smiling fully, your face is a picture of amusement, as your eyes twinkle merrily...barely holding back the smile.  I can hardly put into words the feeling of joy that washes over me when I look at you.

You don't cry often, but when you do, your eyebrows knit together above big sad eyes accompanied first by a panicked squeal.  It's hard to ignore you then.

Absolutely everything is going in your mouth for chewing....your fists, dolly arms and legs, and most frequently your rubber giraffe Sofie.  Pretty much anything nearby is fair game! Yesterday, you were laying next to a 3 month old baby, rolled over and started chewing on his head!  Poor little guy couldn't even roll away.  Thankfully, you don't have any teeth yet!  But, I would imagine.....they're coming!

This month has had you rolling over with ease, nursing less, and eating larger and larger amounts of solid foods.  (And, I mean LARGE amounts.)  I've never had a baby that started out eating more than one of the 4oz baby food containers, but you can polish one off and still have your mouth open and ready for the next bite!

Feeding you is fun.  So far, we have mostly still fed you in your Bumbo chair, but now that you are sitting up, we'll be putting up the hanging high chair.  You lean forward and open your mouth....time and time again.  Every now and then, you get a wild hair and bounce back and forth in your chair.  Feeding you then becomes a game of timing and accuracy.  When fed by a big brother, only about half of the food ends up in your mouth!  And if you blow while eating, they laugh and laugh....and then you blow some more.  I actually had to say "No" to you the other day for the first time. And so it begins....

Speaking of your siblings, you couldn't be more loved by anyone.  You are treasured! I can't even count the number of times in each day they each ask to hold you, or I catch them lost in smiles and joy talking in their high pitched sing-song voices to you, singing to you, or playing peek-a-boo.  Anna Ruth just loves that you are now officially sharing a room, and she is so good about quietly sneaking into her bed when you are asleep already.  And, when you are downstairs in your little swing or bouncer, she likes to pile you high with dollies and teddy bears. You are surely a patient one!

The big news for the month is that you are now able to sit up alone!  We've seen this both times at a friends' house who has carpeted floors.  Since we have hard floors, we don't often just plop you down to sit, but just yesterday, on your seventh month birthday, you sat up for probably a minute.  Your typical let down is no longer simply jerking backwards and bonking your head (though I imagine that is still a possibility), but rather you lean farther and farther forward until you end up back on your tummy, where you wiggle and roll until you reach whatever object is of interest to you.

From your tummy, you high center yourself, kicking your strong legs and flapping your arms.  Soon, very soon, your little knees will be coming up underneath you, and you will begin to crawl.  I hope to be a few steps ahead of you and really baby proof the house!  It's funny how as a first time parent, these things are done long before baby arrives.  By the fourth child, these things are done one step ahead....barely!

While the bouncer and the swing are still around, time spent in them is less and less.  Often, when placed in either reclining position, you immediately strain forward as if doing a sit up, or arch your back and rock to the side as to roll out and away.  Occasionally, you even escape from your Bumbo seat!  But you still do love to bounce!  Therefore, if the mood is right, and you are placed in your bouncer, you will bounce like never before.  It is as if you are completely amused by it!  The jumping swing is another fun place for you to be, though Emet recently cut the strap with not sure how long that one will be around.

You are moving into twelve month clothing.  How can that be?! You are so tall and beautiful.  Your hair is starting to lose the duck-fluffiness, and resemble real hair...though still very short and baby like.

Your voice is louder than ever before full of "boo", "aah", and "Hnnnn"..."Hmmm".  And your favorite thing to do is blow air through slightly parted lips.  You love it when we blow at you too.

You now have a new perspective from which to view and challenge the world.  No longer will you be reaching up to bat at things, but you will instead be reaching out, grabbing, pointing, and looking towards the horizon.  I guess this might be the first stage as a child that you begin to look away from the heavens.....and towards the horizon in front of you.  And, from where you are now, to where you will end, there are so many chances to get lost.  Be brave, little strong.  Keep your eye on the goal.  Don't wander from your path, getting lost and snared in the brush.
And, we will be right beside you the whole way....holding your hand, praying for you, and cheering you on.  Be blessed, little one.  Move forward, and be blessed.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Anna Ruth: Witnessing a transformation

Ah, Anna Ruth.  I started to write this back in mid-January, because shortly after I wrote of the big transformation you were undergoing after hitting the two year old mark, you began to blossom yet again.  It's a very interesting time frame, this year from age 2 to 3. The changes seem to come in spurts.  One day, your vocabulary and communication is at one level....and the very next, it has taken a leap to yet another level.  Anything at this stage is rarely gradual.  I do remember this also with your brothers.

So, back when I meant to blog....but didn't....(because that is just how life goes as a Mama of four little ones), you had within two weeks of your first big verbal breakthrough....experienced yet another verbal breakthrough.  And, you have been chatting away ever since!

Here we are in late June, and several more leaps forward.  The most recent stage transformation we've noticed is in how you interact with your "Babies" (Dollies) and your stuffed friends.  No longer are you dragging them about by their ear or leg, but you are now nurturing them.....setting them up in the baby swing or bumbo (whichever is not being used by your baby sister Grace), and buckling them in. Just this last week, you began favoring your " 'Pecial 'Panies" (Special Bunnies), which include "Bunny" and " 'Nah er One Bunny" (The other bunny).  This week, for the first time, you wanted your Babies to get dressed and brought them to me one by one to find their clothes and dress them for you.  Then you immediately went to get the little dolly quilt Grandma Marion made for you to snuggle one of your babies, and plopped yourself down on the door step holding your baby and her blanket.....a proud look of self satisfaction on your face.  In your car seat, you held her tight in your arms with her little blanket tucked in around her.  Sleep eventually found you both! Tonight, as I nursed your baby sister Grace, you sat down on the couch right next to me and nursed your dolly. There is definitely a favored baby doll at this point, as the other ones are presently laying face down on the floor.   Oh the beautiful pictures in my mind of these precious times!

You are fully potty trained, except for wearing Pull-Ups at night, which you really don't need.  And, you are not one to be left behind.  You follow after your brothers everywhere they go.  As I peeked out the window to check on you yesterday, I saw you pass by, Dolly and her blanket tucked under your arm, calling out "Need you, boys!"  "Need you, boys!"  Your brothers had apparently gone off to another adventure, leaving you trailing behind.  Oh how that tugged at Mama's heart strings!

Here is a snapshot of some of your special phrases from the last six months:

  • Nuggle Me!!!
  • Jesus la me no no no (Your first attempts at singing your favorite song, "Jesus Loves Me"...which you can now sing along with me.)
  • Weenoh Down Peas! (What you say when you want us to roll your window down.)
  • Go Potty in Beeg Guhl, or Fwoggy Potty (Big Girl...or Froggy Potty...though now you are completely potty trained excepting your Pull-Ups at night, and you say "Knee Go Potty!" as you run by)
  • "ie" added to anything... milky, socky, snacky
  • Pushing back of hair on both sides, stick chin out confidently
  • Proud little sparkle in your eyes with her cheeks every so slightly pulled up as if enjoying a smile on the inside 
  • My Laty Bogs (Your room is like a Lady Bug house.  They collect there more than any other room of the house.  In order for you to not be afraid of them, we talked about them as friends.  You would look up at the ceiling and see them, saying "My Laty Bogs")
  • We call you our little "Angry Bird" because when you get angry, you knit your brows together just like the birds in the currently popular game Angry Birds.
  • Your R's sound more like W's.....thus, your little sister is Gwacie to you.  
  • The alphabet, whether seen or sung, in addition to any stand alone letters, you refer to as "My ABCD"
  • "My Baby git dwessed..." and you draw out the last cute!
  • You always follow crying or anxious words followed by quick little breathes.  Adorable. :-)
  • I want to do it my own self!
  • I don't like it dough (Though)
  • Me do it!
  • And me?
  • No, I!
  • Gwacie Nohewl
  • Your little sing-song voice as you laugh and talk to baby Gwacie
I know there are a hundred things more I could write, but if I wait...the months will pass and I will not have captured these special memories.  

We love you Ru Bear!  Grow on....we'll be here enjoying the journey right alongside you!  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

House of Perspectives: Livin' the Dream

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Housing prices were skyrocketing, and we were moving.  I was not planning to work anymore so that I could stay at home with the kids.....something we had been planning on since we made the decision to have children.  We wanted to move from our first home in a neighborhood to the country.  Considering we were cutting our income by more than half, we didn't exactly want the mortgage to go up either.  Finally, we found it.....a little 1940s, 1100 sq ft farmhouse on almost two acres.  It was the first, close to town, stick built home on land we had seen in our price range.  And, believe it or not....we were first in line on it's first hour back on the market after the initial offer fell through.  

Granted, the place was no gem.  It had a shoddy remodel sometime in the 60s and patch work construction throughout.  Many of the twelve other rooftops on the property were in shambles....some decent enough to keep and repair....others we simply tore down.  Much of the house we had to take back to the bones, ripping up floors, supporting beams underneath where carpenter ants and time had destroyed the framework.  The electrical needed to be upgraded, heating system changed, the chimney lined, walls rearranged, and bathrooms plumbed and installed.

The fact was, despite absorbing a great majority of our sizable profit from the sale of our home, the house (let alone the surrounding outbuildings) could have easily absorbed twice what we had put into it already.  Jason was working long, exhausting days at work, and I was pregnant with our second child...while chasing around an 18 month old.  In fact, for the first few months, Caleb and I lived elsewhere thanks to the generosity of my distant cousin.  Not having a kitchen, bathroom, or floors somehow didn't seem acceptable for a pregnant Mama and a little one.

So, night by night, over the course of several months, Jason, and sometimes one of our visiting dads, would frantically chip away at the basics...cutting corners and taking the "good enough" approach....accomplishing the "must haves" and leaving the rest for later....losing much sleep in the process.  That was the way it had to be done in order for us to come close to having our family living back together and be settled into our home before baby Emet arrived.  Once we finally did move in, Emet arrived, cash reserves were low, and work on the house slowed to a drip.

Livin' the Dream

Fast forward to now, six years and two more children we are.  Still in this house.  We've been able to finish a few projects: carpeting the crazy patched linoleum floors upstairs, installing a wood stove, putting up drywall over decades of peeling wall paper layers and gaping holes, finishing trimwork, adding a back splash in the kitchen, and most recently, finally being able to use our full size bath/shower downstairs.

Still, when it rains hard, the roof leaks in the laundry room, onto the crib in the girls room, and onto my feet in our bedroom.  Several rooms still have light bulbs operated by pull strings.  Our water is orange.  ORANGE!  So, despite having a new water softener system, it appears the best our laundry will ever look is dingy.  On a bad week....bright orange....which then matches our sinks, bathtubs and toilets.  For, try as I might, I cannot stay on top of the orange.  Cleaning anything in our house is like trying to take sips from a fire hose.  When you walk through the living room or kitchen, a loud thud pops under your feet, likely from the beams supporting (or not supporting) the house.  More carpenter ants? Perhaps. The windows are the silver metal framed kind.  You know, the ones with four panes whose primary form of insulation comes from the dirt, grime, and spiders trapped within the permanent panes.   Jason has the privilege of having to turn sideways to fit between his side of the bed and the wall.  And, I have a furry friend that lives within the wall behind my bed....apparently one that doesn't succumb to mouse traps.  It might even be the Mouse King from the Nutcracker.   And this is just the house.  I won't even begin with the outbuildings.  They're worse.

Like anyone, we too want to improve our property, and feel good about the place we call add in mowing the lawn once a week (which isn't really enough), trying to pull key patches of weeds, and throwing down some bark from time to time.  We did paint one summer - a tremendous improvement on our collection of patchwork but mostly turquoise green buildings.....though considering issues with our old siding and fascia boards, both Jason and I often had to paint as we looked the other way to not be overwhelmed by the enormity of the project before us.

Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning here.

In the Meantime

In addition to all of the home maintenance, repair, and remodel projects looming over our head, we have been parents of a growing family of little ones!  We are a family of six now, with four children age six and under.  Life is busy, messy, and sticky. We are frequently swimming in laundry and dishes....scrambling to keep up with the basics.....just like everyone else in this stage of life.

Between the wood stove, living in a drafty old country house, our dog, and our little boys, I believe there may actually be no hope of having a clean, tidy, dirt/dust free home.  Ever.
I will admit though, we do try.  We vacuum, sweep, mop, dust and do laundry.  It's just that the odds of you ever seeing it freshly done, or all at once, are slim to none.

I feel like I live in my car, and oftentimes, my car looks that way too, even if I clean it out every couple of days.  The goal is to clean it out each time we go in our out, but someone always has to go potty, or we only have a ten minute transition before we have to get back in the car again...and that needs to include getting drinks and snacks and ???

To top it off, and I say this with a chuckle, but it is with all seriousness, Jason and I feel very strongly that our God given calling is to people, relationships and hospitality.....continually opening our home to others, and putting other people first.  Yes, that means helping someone move on the one free day we have that week (or month).  It means going to a wedding to celebrate alongside a friend....and actually staying there, not just dropping in for appearances.  It means modifying our plans when a friend drops in, starting up the fire pit, kicking back, and making them feel welcome. It means showing up to a friends' house when it sounds like no one else is going to go.  It means keeping our word and not skipping out because it sounds better to stay at home.  It means giving money to someone in need that we had set aside for something else.  Most importantly, it means putting all of these things aside (cleaning, housework, plans) to make sure that when our kids ask...."Can we play tag today?"....the answer is often "Yes."  

Oftentimes, these choices are rewarding, and we feel good about the decision afterwards.  But, they are sometimes hard, when in the balance lies the fact that the home repairs don't move forward, and the house is never as tidy as I would hope for.

Livin' the Dream

Wait....same title right?  Yep.

I remember that time long ago and deep in new love that I told Jason I would be happy with him anywhere, even if we lived in a cardboard box.  I remember the day Jason broke his back and how the neurosurgeon said it was a miracle he wasn't paralyzed...that he was even alive.  I remember the day each of our children were born, healthy and strong.  In those moments, I didn't care about a single one of the things that can get under my skin.

We live in one of the most beautiful places I could imagine.  Beautiful by adult standards, but a child's dream. From our two acres, we can look out onto a hundred flat acres of open fields framed by tree covered hills, with snowy mountain foothills in the backdrop.

From the house, our land gently slopes down to a winding creek accessed by secret passageways through the brush.  A steep roofed playhouse, a family project, sits nestled in the tree line atop the small hill leading down to the creek.

The woodshed is full of wood, much of which we have received for free with a little hard work thrown in.  And the children have begun to learn the value of hard work, as it is their responsibility to bring wood up to the house in the winter time for the wood stove.

We have ATVs, a children's motorcycle, our bicycles, and a swingset....all old, to be sure, but still providing hours of joy.  And, our property on the other side of the creek has been slowly built into a racing track with jumps and fun from many buckets of materials brought home from Jason's work.  In the center is our bonfire pit, from which we host our annual Christmas Tree Roast.

The children love to run and race around the yard "hunting" bunnies with their bow and arrows and telling tales of cayotes.

The small barn has nooks and cranny's galore, with little doors leading to passageways...and the smell of hay remains, despite no longer having animals.

We have space for a garden, and through this have an ability to teach our children life lessons of preparation, new life, and care for living things. And oh the lessons of the weeds!

There are four more outbuildings, used as storage, a pantry, a wood shop, and for me - a little craft cottage, filled with crafting whimsy.

Our house has secret doors....leading to secret attic rooms, which we hope to make full use of here in the near future.  The tiny bedrooms with sloped ceilings provide for cozy spaces in which we rock our children at night as we tuck them into bed and hold the Ordway Family Prayer Council. The squeaky old floors and small spaces let us hear all of the thuds and giggles as the children laugh and play upstairs....or allow us to sneak half way up the stairs to hear their heartfelt prayers, made up songs, and brotherly discussions or dolly play.

And, I simply cannot fail to mention that my remodeled kitchen is amazing!!!  A cook's delight with double ovens, a warming drawer, a six burner gas stove, and gorgeous cabinetry.

I can't count the number of times people have said how much they love coming to our home.  These walls have shaken with laughter, and despite our tiny space, we've had over sixty people here at once (thankfully it was a nice day outside!). We've hosted countless birthday parties for family and friends; held dinners, bbqs and showers; hosted Bible study Sunday nights, and have had many overnight guests on our living room couch or camping in our yard.

Often, as I walk around the yard, I think, "I can't believe I'm so blessed.  I'm not sure where we'll move next, or when that will be....but it better be good, because I'm not going to give this place up for just anything!"

As Jason and the children were waiting for me to get in the car the other day, Caleb told Jason:  "Papa, we are so blessed. We live in a big house.  We have five outbuildings, and a big yard to play in.  We have quads to ride... and a motorcycle.  We are just so blessed."

"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."  
Matthew 11:25

Livin' the Dream....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Left Behind

She came to our church shortly after we did, this vibrant blossom of a children's pastor with a large personality and a passion for the hearts of children.  Within a few weeks, she knew all of the parents and kids by name and was well plugged into the scene at large.  She was stretched thin, going in all directions at once, but never would you see her not stop to chat with a calm demeanor and friendly smile, or bend down to meet face to face with a child.  In fact, frequently, she would have a shy or autistic child following along with her as her special helper.  Courtney was a bright light.  Bold and courageous.  Passionate with purpose.  A good leader.....easy to follow.

Our much beloved Children's Pastor finished her last day with us today.  Off to Chicago she goes where a new and exciting phase of life awaits her family.  Admittedly, they've had their share of doubts and uncertainties throughout the decision process.  But at each step in the road, God showed up in very evident ways.  It was as if they were being pushed along from behind.   Anyone who's heard their story of how the Chicago move came to be could hardly deny God's hand in it all....starting and ending with a rare and dramatic thunder and lightening storm.  And, we're all excited for them!!....for the path God so clearly laid before them! It's a bit as if we're watching as Buzz Lightyear confidently proclaims...."To infinity and beyond!" And zoom!!!.....away he goes.

And.....then there are all of us left behind.  A big something will be missing next Sunday.  A hole.  Sure, there are those that will be stepping in to hold things together while we search out someone new.  Six people and countless other volunteers to fill a hole left by one.  As many times as you tell someone...."Oh, surely you'll visit"....or... "Let's all meet up for vacation!", the reality of every day life with work and small children leads you to believe otherwise.  There are limited pools of desired resources...namely, time and money.  And, as life continues to progress, she and her family will become an intricate part of their new community just as life will continue on for each of us.  It is what it is.  And, as much as we can all be thankful for social networking....allowing us to "see" and "stay in touch" with their lives each and every day, it's just not going to be the same as it is now.  Life has once again changed.

Really, then, what we are all processing through is simply loss.  Change.  Saying goodbye. A new phase of life, forced upon us, even if in the end good things will come for everyone.  And when doesn't change and loss look like this?  Many of us have experienced a great loss due to death. Or, a once deep friendship has faded away. Or, perhaps, like in this circumstance, someone has moved away.  We might have envisioned these people into the future as part of our ongoing story.  Sometimes life, as it is today, seems like it will go on forever.  And then it doesn't.  They are experiencing something new.  We are experiencing the same....without them.

So what do we who are "left behind" do with all of this?  How do we move beyond the tears and feeling of loss?  How do we move from the panicked state of......"one last goodbye before they leave' finding new joys, new friendships, and new purpose?

There is a family who I admire who has experienced a loss far more significant than the moving on of a friend.  They lost their elementary aged son Luke to cancer.  Month after month, I followed their journey via the online journal they kept.  The second Christmas following their son's passing, Luke's dad, Steve, wrote the following.  And, while I don't in any way wish to convey that the sadness we feel from the moving on of a dear friend is in any way comparable to the loss of a child or loved one.....there is great wisdom in Steve's words:

"Years ago, when I was still a teenager, I adopted a life motto: “Never satisfied, always content”.  The idea was that I should always be pushing forward with purpose, working toward a goal (Never satisfied -- Philippians 3:12-14).  At the same time, I am to be ever-thankful for where the Lord has me, with the peace and confidence that the Lord is in control of my circumstances (Always content -- Philippians 4:11-13).  Now, twenty years later, I see that there’s a catch.  How can we be fully content in a life that has suffering?  Am I supposed to be numb to pain, in denial of my loss?  

This is where hope comes in.  Not just hope for the sake of hope, and not just wishful thinking.  We have hope in Christ, that He has given us new life through the power of his resurrection.  It is a hope for my future -- that one day I will be face-to-face with my Creator, the very one who has carried me each day. That there will be no more tears, sickness, or heartache, and that we will see our son again.  This hope serves to close the distance between “what is” and “what will be”, which means I can be content in the midst of the pain.  It is a hope for my future, but also for today.  It means that I can put my eyes on today, on the life in front of me, and live with joy and purpose.  

As I’ve said, many of you can relate to this.  Those of us who have experienced significant loss (grief, divorce, abuse... we all have known some form of loss) understand the unending thirst to feel wholeness, comfort, peace.  How do you quench this thirst?  What do you place your hope in?

I don’t know what lies ahead in 2012 and beyond.  I do know that it will bring some crazy mixture of highs and lows.  I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to what God has in store for the year ahead, and I’m confident He will be faithful every day.  It’s for that reason that I can say: Happy New Year"  

One thing's for sure, our lives will always be richer for the knowing these loved ones.  Memories cannot be taken away, nor can their place in our hearts.  The fact that they are not physically present does not mean they do not exist in our lives.  They are now a part of who we are, and we are a part of them.

And so, as I ponder the sadness in my heart....and my future, which will undeniably contain sadness alongside more joy from many different circumstances in life, I can rest in the fact that God will be faithful in all circumstances.  Always has been.  Always will be.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Up up and away.....

You graduated from Kindergarten today.  Wow.  I can quickly reel back in my mind to a time when we had a few years to figure out where you would be going to school, and now you've already completed your first year.....taller, stronger, more mature. You're growing up before my very eyes.

Your Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Prince, sent a letter home today.  It said: "Ten years from now if we meet on the street, your child and I, a light will shine to our eyes, a smile to our lips, and we shall feel the bond of understanding once more, this bond we feel today."  As I read this, it dawned on are on your own life's journey, just as I have been on mine all of these years.  You are collecting experiences all your own that will become your future memories. You will think back to your Kindergarten year, just as I think back to mine.

As the four Kindergarten classes gathered on stage to proudly sing their long practiced program for us, it was sweet to see each child with their own little sparkle.....their own way of looking for approval.  Their little countenances called out...."Someone is watching me.  Just me.  I feel special, and perhaps a bit shy."  Of course, this was acted out in all sorts of ways, from the exuberant to the poker faced.  

You were mostly straight faced. It may only have been Mama and Papa that could see the delighted smile cross your lips at some of the silly parts.....or the eyes that searched about to find us and to check for approval from time to time.  "Are you watching?  Do you see me?" they would say.  And, when your eyes connected with ours, it was almost as if you relaxed a bit.  

Afterwards, we all gathered for cookies and goodbyes in the gymnasium.  Pictures were taken...mostly with little girls who wanted their pictures taken with you (oh it starts).  Children clung to their parents instead of their friends.....a sign of your age and stage, but one that secretly makes me happy. 

We celebrated at IHOP, your choice, with Papa, your siblings, and Grandpa and Grandma B.  You actually read the card from Grandpa and Grandma, albeit slow and haltingly, but you read it!....a sign of the first grader you have become!  The whole way home, you and Emet excitedly chatted about what you would play when you got home.  I remember that feeling of complete freedom as a child....the day school was out for the summer.  FREEDOM. And what will you and your brother and sisters get into this summer? I can only imagine!  

Yet....part of you is so much like me.  It wasn't long we were home before tears welled up and you were racked with sobs crying, "I will never see Mrs. Prince again!"  Despite the reassurances, you are realizing at a deeper level that indeed - things will never be the same again.  She will likely never again be your teacher. You will never again be in that class, with those kids.....doing the routine that you have done day in and day out for the better part of a year.  Those are all simply memories now. As Mrs. Prince's letter read, "I give them back reluctantly, for having spent these months together in the narrow confines of a crowded classroom, we have all grown close, have become a part of each other, and we shall always retain a little of each other."  I so know this feeling, son.  That continual letting go.  Embracing change without weeping for the past is hard......allowing it to become a part of who you are, and knowing there will always be imprints on your heart from each experience.

As for me.....all of this is magnified as a parent.  Especially since you are my first baby.  You are the one with whom I am experiencing all of my own firsts as a parent.  With you I learn and grow.  Forgive me if I sometimes stare at you blankly when you ask me questions...."Can I do this....or that?"  "May I watch this or that?" .....or when you say something, and I'm processing if it's ok or not. The truth is....I don't know!  I'm figuring it out on the fly....often not anticipating or expecting the next move. 

But, one thing I can say, this.  I am proud to be your Mama.  And, as you shed tears while you move along the process....I'll be shedding them right alongside you.  Your goodbyes will be mine as well.  No matter how strong and independent you become, I will always be a part of you....and you of me.  I am your Mama, and there is no graduation from that.  I love you, my Sweet Boy.  

Happy Kindergarten Graduation! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Made in China

Just to keep my perspective on what it's like to have a six year old:

 "Mama...if you promise to not tell Papa what it is, I can tell you about the Father's Day gift I made for him.  Well, on one side there is a picture of me, and on the other side I wrote Father's Day 2012.  Mama, and guess what?  This is very special glass from China."

"How do you know it is from China, Caleb?" I asked.

"There is a sticker on it.  It says 'Made in China'. This is how I know it's special glass from China."   :-)

Oh, and a few miles later...

"Mama...when I grow up, I'm not going to buy a new house.  I'm just going to live in the same house we live in now.  I don't want a different house.  I want to always live at home with Mama and Papa."

And, as I sat smiling, straight from my heart, I was ok with that thought.  But.....I do reserve the right to change my mind later.  :-)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tiny clothes and a mother's love

I've always had a hard time letting go.....of anything, really.  Considering I am now holding the baby girl we plan to be our last, each and every moment becomes all the more poignant. Each baby item used for the last time, each article of clothing I have seen both of my girls wear.  The little sage green bed that all four of my babies have slept in as newborns...with the little soft white bears that have enchanted them all. Sweet memories come to mind as I think of them.

As the months have passed, my pile of "now too small" baby girl clothes has continued to grow in the bin beneath our bed. A couple of times, I have thought to offer the clothes to someone, but I just couldn't bring myself to part with them. It's the fact that each thing brings memories flooding back to my heart. Sure, some of the extra special outfits, I'll set aside. Who knows, maybe I'll keep them forever.  But most of the other clothes....well...I know it's not practical to keep them all.  Some might not have even been my favorites.  I just haven't been able to let go.

This weekend, I came to a turning point. One of the amazing teenage girls in our church is headed to Guatamala  to spend her summer volunteering in an orphanage.  She asked if anyone has any new or gently used clothes for children under age five.  Hmmm.  Yep.  I might have a few.  I figured I could share a few things, so I brought out the bin of clothes and began to sort through them.  One at a time, I brought out the tiny pieces of clothing, and I began to experience a peace about letting go.....a freedom of sorts.  These precious and beloved clothes would go to clothe babies who have no mother.  The snuggles and loves given to these clothes due to their wearers could be transferred to another little child.  The blessings and the mother's prayers would now embrace another child who God loves no less than my own babies.

More rapidly now, I was pulling the tiny clothes out of the box and passing them to the pile for Guatemala.  Each item received a momentary pause as I would reflect upon the memories of my own precious babies wearing it.....some longer than others. Yet, the hesitation was gone.  I smiled as I laid each aside.

These little clothes would be a blessing to someone who has nothing.  They would become a cloak of love, snuggles, and prayer on the abandoned and unloved.  Yes, these tiny clothes will have new purpose.  And, since they are a part of my own family's past, I will see them in pictures, and I will pray.  I will pray for not only for their former occupants.....but for all the wearers of these little clothes. And maybe in this way, they too, will experience a Mother's love......through me and through the beautiful people such as McKenna who give their time and hearts to love on these little ones.

"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." Mark 9:37

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bella Notte

The back doors swung open and the families began to enter....perhaps one every few minutes until all nine had arrived, the parents dressed for a date night.  Their faces a mix of shy anticipation and uncertainty, they were guided down the long hall to the check in table.  Children were assigned to special buddies for the evening, and the kids were led away for a night filled with some cases experiencing separation from their parents for the very first time.  The parents were tense as the children walked away, but amazingly the kids all seemed excited to explore with their new found friend.

Down the hall, jazz music and soft laughter met the ears of the parents as they entered the atrium.  Beautiful picture windows looked out upon lush greenery.  Lanterns of soft white light hung from vaulted wooden beams soaring above the brick arches.  Linens shimmered in the glow of candle light, showcasing the grapevines and  flowers centering each tabletop.

Now separated by several rooms from their children, the couples began to relax and mingle, enjoying an array of appetizers and Italian sodas.  As people found their seats for dinner, a lovely string quartet began to play.  Chatting and laughter filled the air as the meal was served: Green salad, followed by bow tie pasta, drizzled with a devine alfredo sauce topped with smoked chicken. Those with special dietary needs were accommodated as well.  Creamy tiramisu and coffee capped off the delicious meal.  Throughout the evening, couples were brought outside to have their picture taken by a professional photographer, an unexpected treat that delighted them.

Amid this group of adults, there seemed to be none of the usual awkwardness among people who do not know each other.  In fact, each table seemed fully immersed in conversation....including moments of both serious discussion and laughter. There was a genuine connection no doubt existing from a deep understanding and respect of one another's circumstance in life.

Back in the gym and classrooms, colorful parachutes and balls were flung time and again into the air as children raced in and out with glee. Rice was sifted, thrown, and stuffed down sink drains. Shaving cream was spread; ribbons twirled; chases had.

You see, these were parents of Special Needs children.  Perhaps another way to describe them is through a picture of their reality:  Couples who do not have the chance to go on date night....People who are looked upon strangely....Families who are not invited anywhere.....ever.  An under-served group of people.

To meet these people outside of their family environment, you would never know the challenges they face on a daily basis: Social, emotional, mental, and physical challenges.  Day in. Day out. No end in sight. And this is, of course, in addition to the life challenges that the rest of us face. They are people just like you and I with a much larger load to bear.  And, they often bear this load alone in a world that does not understand or include them.

So there we were, a group of volunteers brought together by a common desire to reach out and meet a need.  Other than some planning conversations, donation solicitations, a few trips to the store by various individuals and some prep work.....all we had to give up was one day of our time.

As a first time event, we had little idea of how the night would flow. Some volunteers were buddies to children.  Some of us prepped food.  Some decorated.  Some served. Some cleaned. Mostly, everyone did a bit of everything as the day progressed from a pile of unprepared food and decorations to the elegant event it became.

In this atrium, once off limits to food and drink, people ate and drank merrily, perhaps in illustration of the  best possible use of the church building.

We were by no means experienced at any of this, but God showed up and filled in the gaps.  And that was more than a little humbling.

...Seeing two non-verbal autistic children coincidentally paired with a high school special education teacher by an intricate, yet unplanned, weaving of time and place.

...Hearing a mom who almost didn't come say she had been praying she could meet other parents of autistic children who could understand her life, and she randomly chose a table that ended up being only parents of autistic children who lived in her school district and participate in programs of which she was unaware.

...Hearing a couple say this was the first time they had ever been away from their child since birth.  10 years.

...Hearing, "Date night is not something we get to do."  Ever.

...Hearing, "You mean, we could come to church and someone would actually watch our children?" Yes.

You always hear about how good it feels to bless someone else. I was reminded of that last night in a big way.  It more than "feels good".  Sometimes serving someone else is astonishing.  Eye opening.  Humbling beyond words.  We soon realized that what was only a few hours of time and effort on our part provides a drink of water and a meal for a starving man.  Life giving.

Let us not forget these lessons. This is what being the hands and feet of Jesus is all about.  And we should plan to do this again.....and again.....and again.

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:3-5

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Mighty Little Dump Trucks Roll On

Sometimes it seems a smell or sound can evoke a memory from times past.  In an instant, you are transported back in time to the past.  I heard a familiar sound this morning, one that I hadn't heard for a year or so, and instantly my heart felt happy.  I grabbed my camera and ran outside to see what I already two little boys racing their yellow dump trucks up and down the gravel driveway.  I used to hear this every day, often for hours at a time....especially during the summer.  However, as the boys began riding bikes and playing swords....the little yellow dump trucks spent more and more time parked under the giant holly bush...untouched.

You can imagine the joy of that moment!....a chance to revisit the past, even if only for a few minutes.  No, in the big scheme of things, it hasn't been that long since the dump trucks were their favorite toys....perhaps a couple of years.  However, being a Mama has taught me just how very brief and precious each and every stage of childhood is.  These stages move from one to the next, bit by bit, until they are a thing of the past.  Sometimes the days seem endless and the hours drag on. Yet, in what also seems to be a moment - the years fly bye.

I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to see this again.  If I do, I can say for certain the times of the grinding of the plastic tires on gravel for hours on end has passed.  Nonetheless, this morning was a gift, like the brief visit of a beautiful butterfly in your garden....there one minute, gone the next....but a moment that leaves a lasting impression in your mind's eye.

Roll on, little dump trucks.  Roll on.  You'll always be a favored friend in this Mama's heart.

Here's the beginning of their story:

Season of Two Little Yellow Dump Trucks
Ode to Two Mighty Little Yellow Dumptrucks

Friday, June 1, 2012

No! God is in MY tummy!

There's a short space between happiness and rage these days!  In the hopes that Anna Ruth can someday laugh at herself (though I don't imagine that to be anytime soon)....for the past few days, our breakfast conversation has been this:  (so predictable even that I was able to coordinate pictures this morning!)

Me: Kids...what do we have to be thankful for this morning?
Anna Ruth: God in my tummy!
Me: OK
Emet: Anna Ruth, God is in my tummy too!
Anna Ruth: No he's not!
Caleb:  Yes, Anna Ruth, God is everywhere, so he is in everyone's tummy.  
Anna Ruth: NO!!!  God is in MY tummy! MY tummy!

Me: Uh...anything else we can be thankful for?
Anna Ruth: NO!

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No' " Matthew 5:37  Anna Ruth seems to have this one down!! Happy parenting!! :-)