Sunday, July 31, 2011

Adventures in Parenting

Adventures in Babysitting

Remember the movie, Adventures in Babysitting?  It's classic 80's although I think the version I first saw was some edited one as the last time I saw it, I was amazed at some of the content.  Anyway, the general jist is that a teenage girl ends up taking a babysitting job in the suburbs, gets a desperate phone call from her best friend who is stranded at some bus station in the inner city, packs up the kids in the station wagon and heads towards the city for a crazy night filled with a tire blow out, a scary truck driver with a hook for a hand, a car heist, a gang fight, and a 7 year old who is obsessed with the super hero, Thor.

Thus far, I have had no such craziness in my adventures in parenting.  No stitches, no ER visits, not even vomit.  (Plenty of parasite poop but no vomit.)

Tonight was an awfully close call though.

Our hundred year old house has a floor grate that is in the floor of our upstairs bathroom which means it is also on the ceiling of the room directly below it:  our kitchen.  The floor grate is the heavy metal kind, about 8 inches by 12 inches in size and is useful for helping to heat the upstairs or for two kid yelling back and forth while one of them is using the bathroom.

Hole in ceiling from where the grate used to be

As I was slicing oven fries, Conleigh was upstairs using the bathroom.  A penny flew through the grate.  I yelled upstairs to Conleigh about it, and she of course told me that the money was upstairs and needed to go downstairs with logic that only a 4 year old can manage.  (ie how else would I expect the money to get downstairs other than going through a grate?  Walking it downstairs is not a viable solution.)

A few second later I hear a loud thud, look and realize that my daughter is dangling from the grate.  She had taken off the grate from the bathroom upstairs and tried to stand on the second grate that covered the hole in the kitchen ceiling.  The 4 screws from grate cover from the kitchen ceiling could not support her weight and fell to the floor, hence the thud.  She caught herself with her arms as she fell so as I look up, I see two legs and two strong little arms holding onto the bathroom floor for dear life.

I told her to not move and ran towards the stairs trying to get through the dining room, entry, and up the stairs into the bathroom.  In doing so, while running across the tile in the entry, I hit a patch of water that the dog dribbled out of his bowl and slide across the floor, into the bottom stair.  At this point, I'm crying because I think I may have broken my toe and because I'm a little scared about Conleigh.

By the time I get to the bathroom, she has pulled herself out of the grate hole and is starting to stand up on the floor.  Kenson was in the kitchen and saw all of this and is now bawling at the top of his lungs.  I'm still crying crying and am now worried that I have not broken just one toe but instead three.  Conleigh is pretty shell shocked.

I sit Conleigh on the couch and decide that maybe a conversation with the panicked brother will be better than a conversation with me.  I calm Kenson down and have him share why he is crying.  He tells her he was very scared she was going to fall through that big deep hole.  I tell her that I am crying because I hurt my toe.  Then we cover the standard "don't you ever do that again!"

I head back to the kitchen to cut up the potatoes because if I don't get the oven fries going, we will have nothing to eat for supper.  As I'm cutting, Conleigh starts whimpering a little about her bottom hurting.  I check and she has a pretty good section of scrapes, nothing deep just scratches.  My foot is worse than her bottom so I tell her once I'm done with the potatoes, we'll get medicine.   After the potatoes get done and I find some ibufrofen for myself, I give her a bit of Neosporin and hope the thought of medicine makes it better.  As I'm doing so, Conleigh keeps looking up at our 9 foot ceilings with big eyes.  I could tell she was gauging how tall they were and how badly it might have hurt if she fell.  Her eyes keep filling up with tears and as I sat down to try to ice my toe, she crawled up with me and tells me how she hates that I got hurt and she hates that she fell.  My sweet Kenson passed on the monkey he was holding and tried to make her feel better.   (Probably the best part of the whole ordeal...seeing both of them show love for someone who was hurt.)

Now I know you are all enjoying this story and smiling while thinking "that's kind of funny."  However, I have probably not even shared the best part of this story, something only those of you with toddlers/preschoolers will understand.

Remember how I said that she was using the bathroom when all of this happened?

Here's the kicker:  this all happened with her underwear around her ankles and without the benefit of toilet paper.


Yes indeed-she had gone number two, stopped to admire the grate, and gotten distracted before she had a chance to wipe and pull up her pants.  Only a 4 year old could pull off that little gem, only a 4 year old.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Little Bit of Fun

In between all the hard stuff, we have managed to have some fun including a trip to my aunt and uncle's for the 4th of July.  My cousins who are currently working in India were back in the States so we met up with them, my grandma, my aunt and uncle, and more cousins.  My dad was still not feeling great so he and my mom stopped by just for a bit.

Lots of playing and lots of eating.  (A grilled out lunch plus my grandma brought gigantic marshmallows for making Smore.)  And in a tribute to my friend, Lisa, we had a watermelon smashing.  (ie blindfold your loved ones, spin them around, and have them try to smash a watermelon with a bat)  Oh and the kids also rode Taffy, one of the most mellow horses on the planet.  No hesitation on Kenson's part at all which is a major accomplishment.

After all of that, we headed to Gothenburg to watch a rodeo that my brother happened to be announcing.  (And as fate would have it, he had a friend visiting from out of state so we got to meet her which rarely happens because he likes to keep all of that stuff close to the vest.  She seemed very nice and perfectly sarcastic which means she fits in well with our family.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

There are no words...

May I go on and on for a bit?  Just indulge me.  This summer is kicking my tail.

Let's start the Monday after Mother's Day in May-

Drive two hours to take D's grandma to a doctor's appointment.  Find her in poor health and call the ambulance.  Spend around 5 days in Norfolk with her in the hospital.

Return 3-4 days later when they dismiss her to the nursing home to check in and stay overnight.

On day number 3 or 4 in nursing home care, D's grandma continues to have health concerns and they admit her back to the hospital.  Hospital staff do not feel that it is urgent, rather it is just for observation so we stay at home.  Next evening, receive a late night phone call saying she is doing poorly.   We leave our house around 11 p.m., arrive in Norfolk around 2, where D goes to the hospital and I take the kids to the hotel.  Make end of life decisions, dismiss her to the nursing home for hospice, and wait.  End up spending about a week total in Norfolk as we plan her funeral over Memorial Day weekend and also plan to sort through the house while D's brother is in town.

My dad begins feeling poorly about the time of Marie's funeral.  Goes in to see doctor about ten days after the funeral, has multiple tests that reveal mass in his colon.  Has mass removed and is determined to be cancer.  Visit him in hospital while D coaches special all state high school soccer game.  Dad is discharged and heads home but has problems with maintaining his body temperature and is admitted to the local hospital for observation while they monitor his fever.  Eventually determined the fever is not infection related and returns home.  The kids and I head west to provide some comedic relief and encouragement; D eventually joins us.  Return home for a few days then head the 3 hours west to my family for the 4th.   Actually a planned event as my cousin was visiting from India.  Enjoy a the 4th with family and a rodeo plus take a mini vacation in Kearney.  Dad continues to get better; he and Mom go to Colorado to see a natural healthcare specialist who can provide them with some alternative medical ideas to do while they wait to do chemo.  Oncology appointment on July 18; port for chemo put in the 19th.  Chemo scheduled for first week of August.

We head to Kansas for a mini vacation/meet up with some friends who adopted from Conleigh's orphanage.  Again an actual planned event.  Spend the night in Salina but while doing our mini vacation, my mom calls and says my dad is having heart issues.  He ends up in Kearney where they put in a stint.  We decided to drive the 3 hours home rather than the 3 1/2 hours to Kearney but will head there probably in the near future.

Add to all of this:
-my uncle (my dad's brother) had a horse roll over onto him and broke his foot pretty severely
-my brother in law moved from Boise to Norfolk and is looking for a job
-my father in law had blood clots in his lungs at the same time as D's grandma was first hospitalized
-my mom was scheduled to have hand surgery this summer due to pain in her hand but has been unable to do so because of all that has happened
-and on the same day as my dad's heart stuff, the high school kids who work for them were working on irrigation stuff and had a semi hit the pipe trailer they were hauling

I don't say all of that because I want people to feel sorry for me.  (Although having someone commiserate with you often feels so nice!)

I just say it it to share the degree to which life has piled up on us.  And the reality is there just aren't a lot of pretty words that make it all make sense or even make it feel better.  We like to wrap our words up into neat little packages that just make it all alright.  It's human nature and we've all done it.  We've all felt like we've offered some trite sentiment to someone who was really in the thick of it and realized that our words were not wise or comforting or even all that thoughtful.

We want to be encouraging and spiritually uplifting so we say things like "God doesn't give us more than we can handle."  (Um, reality check...God always gives us more than we can handle because otherwise we are simply attempting to do life on our own.  It is all more than we can handle.  Apart from God we are not wise, we are not strong, and we have no solutions.)

And so many people love the line "God has a reason for everything."   Which is potentially true.  To some degree.  But awfully cold when you are the one who has to consider that God has given you cancer or a death or a divorce simply because His reason is so great.  I guess it just leaves you stuck with the question of how a compassionate God who keeps our tears in a bottle would deliberately gift you a horrible gift simply so you could flesh out the reason behind the gift.

I suppose the flip side of that is the comment "This is not from God; only good things come from God."  Again partially true.  Every good and perfect thing does come from heaven.  But our God is not the God of the prosperity gospel.  People whom God loves suffer.  All the time.  And in our little corner of America, we often suffer a lot less than people who live in desperately poor places like the tent cities of Hait or the war torn countries of Africa.  Does God love those people less because they have less?  And really it's not even about material things.  Why would a God who loves to give us good things withhold peace and food and even the simple gift of a sturdy shelter from so many people?

I suppose this is mostly about me seeking that nicely wrapped package, where I understand exactly why God does what He does and where I can articulate it clearly so that others see my life and glorify Him.  But more than likely it's probably about hashing it out yet again, reminding myself of the things I have learned and heard.

Things that are more riddle like than absolute.

Things like "God's good is not my good." which requires sorting out how we define good in our lives.

And things like the voice of God saying "I love certain people more than you and I know exactly what is good for them even if that is painful for you."

But even those things sometimes seem a bit lacking.  There are always the bits and pieces that don't fit, that leave loose ends, that leave me wondering.  Often it feels like it's just about putting one foot in front of the other while being tired of all the junk life serves up.

And maybe that's one of the biggest lessons of the junk, that we can't sort it all out no matter how we try.  There are no perfect answers, no wonderful words that we can tell ourselves or others that make it all make sense.  The perfect package of words and Scripture just doesn't exist.  I cannot get rid of the loose ends.  I am only able to see in this dimension my hurt and frustration and tears that lay in the shadow of an almighty, all knowing God who somehow stoops down to cradle those things close to His heart, all while the active hand of God steps away from that shadow to interact with the real world.  Don't get it at all....

Cake Batter Rice Krispie Treats

Since there is apparently nothing of interest going on in our life right now, perhaps we'll continue on with the "it's too hot to cook/use your summer produce" recipe series?  (Completely not true but I just can't seem to get around to posting about it.  Some of it's cruddy stuff and some of it's fun but I just haven't made the time.)

I found this recipe on Pinterest, which is frankly my newest online obsession.  (Think a giant online board where people post their favorite crafts, recipes, quotes, etc..)

Anyway, while perusing the things others love, I saw the heading "Cake Batter Rice Krispie Treats" and was intrigued.  (Much more appetizing than some of the things people share like vinegar dipped, oven baked radish chips or guacamole spewing out of the mouth of a mini jack o lantern.  Both of those just kind of grossed me out.)  The basic jist is this:  take your regular ole Rice Krispie treat recipe and while the marshmallows are melting with the butter, add a bit of powdered yellow cake mix.  (I especially thought of my friend, Cari, while writing this because she loves Rice Krispies and also has a funfetti cookie recipe that she likes to make.)  D said he thought they tasted the same.  I thought they definitely had a cake flavor to them.  The kids just liked that they had sprinkles and Kenson was very excited that I actually let him measure and cut the butter.  I'd say they are worth a try if you're looking for a quick and easy dessert that won't heat up your kitchen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cukes and beans and zucchini! Oh my!

Can I tell you how excited I am about my garden this year?  I used a three sisters model which my friend, Rebekah, told me about and crammed a lot of stuff into my space.  Two kinds of tomatoes, sugar snap peas (which are more of a cold season veggie and are done for all practical purposes), sweet corn, green beans, zucchini, and cucumber.  I also have carrots, lettuce, and some herbs growing in pots.  Just in general, it all looks healthy and not like the usual half neglected garden I end up with.

This week marks the first of the summertime harvesting so the last few nights, we've gotten to enjoy product from our garden.   The other night, D was out of town and I wasn't feeling too hot so I opted to make zucchini patties for a light supper.  Shredded zucchini from the garden, mozerella and parmasen cheese, onion, salt and pepper combined with some eggs and flour to hold it all together, fried 'til crispy on both sides.  Kenson ate three of them all by himself.  Very easy and doesn't taste vegetabley which is high on D's list.  (Too bad he wasn't here to eat them.)

And two nights ago, we had cucumbers and green beans alongside our cavatini.  The cucumbers made into the old ranch dressing based salad but the green beans I grilled and actually got positive comments from D who is none to keen on green beans.  I kept the beans intact except for the ends, put them in a large ziplock bag, added olive oil along with seasonings (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and minced garlic), shook to coat them, and then used my tongs to grill them on my indoor grill.  In my husband's defense, he did tell me he only had three so if he actually ate four, it might have turned them into a negative experience.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fellowship of a Shared Burden Yet Again

This weekend, D and I got to take a weekend for ourselves.   In the middle of stress and craziness, we were refreshed and renewed through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Marriage Enrichment Weekend, just for coaches and their spouses.  We registered for the event months ago but then as all of the events of this summer unfolded, quickly realized that our original plans of leaving our kids with my parents for the weekend was not going to work.  So in order for us to go we were going to need to figure out a different plan, one that involved asking others for help.

I have no idea of why that is so hard.  Maybe because you don't want to be seen as the friend who sucks everyone dry.  Maybe because you feel some like even though you know your friends wouldn't do it unless they really wanted to, you still feel like you are taking advantage.  Maybe just because we find it really hard to let others take care of us if we are still somewhat capable of doing life on our own, waiting instead until we have completely hit rock bottom to ask others for help.

Two dear friends stepped up to the plate and said that they would take our kids so we could go.  One could only do it for part of the time while the other could do it for the entire weekend which worked better.  Today, D and I picked the kids up and headed to church and I was so reminded of the words "the fellowship of a shared burden" and a post I had written previously.  It is humbling to have a friend say "I will stand in the gap for you even if it costs me something.  It is humbling to have a friend say "I will stand in the gap for you and I expect nothing from you in return."  What a blessing to pick up my kids from my friend's house and find everyone smiling, everything calm and in control.  (Although my friend was on Facebook at midnight the night before asking how to get silly putty off of a pacifier and sippy cup.)

Then after church today, a couple from our church visited with us and asked a bit about what was going on with my dad's health.  And their next words left me smiling as well.   "We've been gone and as we were praying today, Paul said that we hadn't prayed for you guys lately."  It's that image of a husband and wife who regularly spend time together, praying for other.  It's knowing that they know us by name and pray for us regularly, to the point that they recognized that they hadn't prayed for us like they normally do.

I know there are lots of people who attend church all their lives and are not held up by those around them.  And I know there are lots of people who have only met Christians who are more about rules and regulations than about love and the fellowship of a shared burden.  Knowing that just makes me sad.  It just sinks down deep in my gut that others are missing Who God is because we a church are missing out on living how God desires us to live.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Musically Inclined

My kids are music kids.  I think part of it stems from their Haiti lives where music has a way of surrounding you. So many of the images I have of Haiti are actually connected to sound.  The steel drum band that you hear when you debark the plane and enter the airport.  The busy city noises that echo an American city, full of car horns and motorcycles zipping in and out of traffic, yet uniquely Haitian because of the cries of hens and roosters destined to become somebody's supper.  And for my kids, I believe they spent a lot of time being sang to or at very least, hearing the sounds of others singing.  Both of my kids came home knowing songs and music has always lit up their faces.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that they gravitate towards music.  Sometimes, it's songs we know and recognize.

And othertimes, it's something we've made up.  Kenson has a song with the lyrics "I love everything in the world.  I love tigers.  I love cows.  I love bears."  It's a bit of a neverending ditty as the objects of his affection often change.  However, Conleigh's song from last night probably takes the cake.  The lyrics were very simple and oft repeated.  "My bagina is full of pee."  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Let's hope she doesn't decide to use the Walmart checkout line as the perfect practice spot.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What I've Been Reading

Just got two new books in the mail today.  New books on my counter are like a bell and Pavlov's dog.

At the suggestion of my friend, Rebekah, I'm checking out yet another parenting book.  Perhaps this one will have the magic pill that makes it all easy...  And because I've heard good things about this book and truly think I've been in need of refocusing on gratitude, the second one is on my list for my quiet times.  

I've also been following a long with the Hendricks' blog and the series they have posted on poverty.  This week, they are tackling the topic of how our shopping habits influence the lives of others around the world.  I appreciate that they don't necessarily have the answers.  Oversimplifying complex problems results in ideological thinking that doesn't allow for exceptions or flexibility.  And it often doesn't examine every angle.

Would I love to buy products that are made by people who are paid a fair wage and treated respectfully?  Of course.  But would eliminating sweatshop type labor mean that those workers who now make a meager wage would trade that meager sweatshop wage for no wage?

Love the thoughts expressed including "I would like to say this post will wrap up with something nice and tidy to say.  The truth is, nothing has felt nice and tidy in our souls ever again when it comes to the topic of buying products from the store.  For many months, as we continued to read about the conditions in which a lot of laborers work, and the way they are treated, we were kind of in a daze.  We knew there were lots of things we did not "need" to be buying. How do we wean ourselves off of this world, and our constant desire for more, more, more?  How do we shop in a way that considers and honors the people behind our products?  Where should we shop when we do actually need something?  How often do we choose "cheap" and "convenient" even when we are pretty sure our need for "cheap" and "convenient" means someone...somewhere suffers for our decisions we are making?  We did not know where to start, but we did know...we don't want to be involved with oppressing the laborer.  We want to use the money God has given us to give to the poor like God commands, not cheat them of their hard-earned wages (something that God gives stern warnings about in the Bible)."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hard Things

Ever feel like you are in some not fun game that involves tail chasing and head banging?

At our house, we are currently there as we have a child who is not getting enough sleep, is keeping the other child up at night, and then is a complete wreck the next day.  I think a lot of it stems from this child's reaction to change ie she does not process change well.   (And we have had nothing in our lives be normal since the begining of May.)  For her, it especially seems to interrupt her normal sleep patterns.  thankfully, we are not back to the multiple nighttime wakings.  We are instead on to staying up until crazy hours.  So we stay up late, get up at our regular time, and then are a disaster the next day.  An over tired girl means a crazy disobedient girl.  And for her, part of the problem is that she is not easily motivated by external stimuli.  She will only change her behavior once she decides that the behavior is worth changing.  Whether we are talking about staying in bed and going to sleep or obeying during the daytime hours, once she gets in a behavior rut, it can be difficult to get her out of that rut.  You often feel like whatever consequence you give is insignificant and that it wouldn't matter how harsh the consequence was, no matter how much you heap on the consequences, there is little change in the behavior.  Positive reinforcement works well with her but when she is in the funk, it can be challenging to find positive things to praise her for.  

Ohhh, how she can push my buttons!  

And I would be the first to admit, I have not been dealing well with it.  Too much Angry Mama.  It is so easy to feel justified in your anger as a mom.  Too easy to think "If she would just do x, then I wouldn't be angry."  Too easy to think "I try so hard to be calm and patient but after three or four times, an angry response is okay."  I don't expect perfection from myself.  I just don't want to choose the easy way to love.  I was reminded of that when I read this blog post from A Holy Experience.  In a conversation with her father, the writer hears her father share about a friend and that conversation reminds her of just how important it is to do the hard things, to love in a way that is not necessarily easy.  

"Alan Strand called the other day. He was trying to figure out whether to spend the time he’s got left restoring another tractor, buying a new engine for it, or if he should try to track down his daughter. He hasn’t heard from her in ten years. Doesn’t even know where she is.”
Now this seems pretty obvious to me.
“And he decided?”
“The tractor.”
I grope for meaning and the words dribble out. “He intentionally considered the options, voiced them to you… and then decided the tractor?
“Yep. He knew how to do the tractor. Little risk. The daughter, she was all risk. And you know….”
I shake my head. None of this makes any sense. And yet it does.
Do we give up what makes us really happy — farming, restoring tractors, writing, study, whatever we are good at it— a lifetime of happiness—for a few days of happiness at the end?Do we sacrifice what makes us really happy day in and day out, for a few days of happiness with the people at the end? And there’s no guarantees with the people.”
I’m stirred. Before I can think, I rush along, finding what I’m looking for, my rock. I say the words more to myself than to him, words leaving my mouth before I can think.
The other end of the line is quiet. Tentatively, I step out a bit further. “Maybe making small sacrifices in personal pursuits – doing less of our own thing in our own spheres …. maybe taking the time to enter into the bubble of the other, in the end we will know a happiness we couldn’t have imagined.”
I circle back, wondering if he’s following.
“Maybe this is one way we live out what Jesus us calls us to.” I say the words again, deliberately, for they seem new to me, richer in ways I hadn’t considered. “He who loses his life will find it.”
Dad lets his voice expose where he is. “Yeah. Maybe….” I let him find his way…
“But maybe none of us can change really. Great artists, great actors, great politicians, its all the same. They do what makes them happy and that means they don’t have much time for people. Balance is a hard thing. Nearly impossible if we are going to do something well. And we’re wired the way we are. Maybe those around us just come to accept it.”
I hurt inside.
I am too old to change. I know farming.” He sounds just like Grandpa.
Then he’s talking about the price you can get for a bushel of corn, the weather forecast for the next few weeks.
I’m thinking about the times I’ve been in my own bubble with my own agendas of accomplishments, drifting away from people and the true happiness disguised.
I’m thinking about the time I’ve chosen to wash windows, tend a flowerbed, answer an email, instead of playing a game of bananagramswith a trio of loud boys, read an Eloise Wilken story to pleading eyes.
My pride was tangled up in the tasks.

Why didn’t it matter more to love well? Where did I think I really would find happiness?
Loving well, stepping over hurt, laying aside self and desires, draws on more of our interior resources than investing in a career, a skill, a personal pursuit. And yet, there are no promotions. No public status. No guarantees.

Relationships grow only in a hot house of of humility, selflessness, open-handedness. Hard things that are inherently risky: for all that, you can’t control the outcome."
Relationships are about hard things.  Being a mama to a 4 year old, stubborn yet fiercely resilient little girl requires hard things.  It requires I choose to live outside of what is comfortable and easy and instead die to self and choose to love God's way.