Thursday, May 27, 2010

Overcoming a Channel Surfing Attention Span

This face says it all--I'm bright-eyed, in your face, and loud. I demand your immediate attention as my flushed cheeks fly from one activity to another.

This is Amelia...she and her twin, Emerson, both remind me of my husband watching TV--remote in hand, rapidly clicking through one show after another, too fast for me to determine if I'd like to camp out there for awhile or not.

My first child, Wyatt, was the exact opposite--relatively quiet, still, and reserved. With no one or nothing to distract him, he would sit in my lap for at least half an hour at a time, pushing book after book up in my face. I didn't mind. In fact, reading to him was (and still is) the best part of my day.

Now, he is an avid "reader," going through stacks of books at a time. Probably out of necessity since the twins' births, he has transformed into one who also likes to "read" to himself by looking at the pictures and creating the storyline either from memory or from his imagination.

The twins? They're a different story. Since they started to crawl, I've really worried about passing along my love of reading to them. Like their brother, they love the feel, taste, and look of books. Yet, they have always lacked Wyatt's attention span.

If twin brother is doing something else, it's easy for Amelia to want to follow him. Or when twin sister comes and tries to steal half of mommy's lap, Emerson always starts a shoving match instead of finishing the book.

Like Wyatt, though, they can sit alone in their little chairs for a half hour, flipping through the pages of book after book, providing me with some glimmer of hope.

Just this week, though, they've started sitting for longer stretches, sometimes sitting in my lap and making me read the same book five times in a row before I say, "Enough. Go find another book."

As I prepared for bed the other night, I passed through the kitchen to find Emerson reading (upside down) one of his favorites: The 7 Days of Creation. As he reached the last page, he pointed and said, "Geee-ssssus."Short attention span or not--at least they're learning what is most important in life...Who is important.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another Mouth to Feed

I only think there are five people living in my house. Yet, I'm clearly mistaken.

There are seven. Just ask my three-year-old, and he'll tell you.

For the past month, he has entered the imaginary friend stage, not surprising since his mama had her own Samber James to keep her company at the same age. What is surprising is that Wyatt's friend isn't human.

"Birdie" showed up one day on Wyatt's shoulder and still hasn't managed to find her way back home. I've asked many questions to learn as much as I can about this creature so I can send her packing, but it's like seeing a piece of the Cheshire cat while the rest disappears.

I am failing miserably to pin down her species.

To start with, Birdie was red. But the last time I asked, she had turned brown and green, so she must have chameleon-like qualities.

Birdie also can't figure out which gender s/he wants to be. Wyatt usually refers to a "she." But then a few days ago, Birdie said she was going to get married to a girl named Martie. So, she obviously changed genders...or maybe not, since we haven't really had that conversation yet.

Birdie's age is suspect as well. She's always two fingers. But then those raised fingers are followed by the phrase "she's very old." (I told Birdie two year olds are too young to get married.)

The one thing I do know about Birdie is she likes to eat. She always shows up at dinner time, adding quite a lot to the conversation around the table.

In "her" most recent transformation, Birdie is now a scapegoat. Yesterday afternoon after a trip to the duck pond, she tore up Wyatt's duck feather "to pieces."

So, I did what any mother would do--I took up for poor Birdie. Brow furrowed, I seriously told Wyatt it wasn't nice to blame her for something he did. She didn't need to be punished for his bad behavior, did she?

Apparently, that was the right response. Seconds passed before he confessed to the crime.

I figure if I'm going to feed her, send her to her room when she's naughty, and nix her budding relationship with Martie, the least I can do is make sure she's treated fairly...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Taking a Day Off

Today actually started yesterday evening. Last night after Bible study, my husband and I made an 8 pm trip to Home Depot. I knew this was a bad idea because bath time starts at 8:15. But I really didn’t want to make a trip today.

So, Doug and I stood with our two buggies blocking the aisle, hurriedly trying to figure out the differences among a row-full of light bulbs. Less than a minute of standing still, the twins started growing louder in their fussing while the three-year-old exploded with persistent defiance that landed him a seat in the buggy, too.

By the time the customer service lady brought three balloons to place around small wrists, my husband and I were even grumbling at each other and at our capitalistic economy that gave us 50+ choices in light bulbs. Honestly!

On the ride home, the children did everything but pop the balloons. They screamed and cried when the latex globes floated beyond arm’s reach. They relished in making horrible blackboard-esque squeaks by squeezing the balloons too tightly. I seriously considered getting out my Swiss Army knife and putting an end to the misery. Then, I had a thought.

“Wyatt, do you want to send your balloons up to God? I bet He likes them as much as you do. We could send them up to heaven to tell Him thank you for today’s rain.”

I expected at least some disagreement, but no.

Wyatt happily released each one in turn. One, two, three red and blue ovals with white strings waving beneath them as they rose into the darkness and disappeared. With each balloon, he and I spoke aloud our thank you’s to God—for the rain, the stars, the moon, the leaves, the new house.

Then and there, I realized we needed some time off because I haven’t been feeling too thankful this past week. I’ve been burdened with too much of the unexpected, escalating my stress level and making my children seem intolerable most of the time.

Early this morning, we took off for a trip to the zoo. Once there, I couldn’t help but enjoy Wyatt’s excitement over seeing the elephants, alligators, ambling tortoises, baby golden monkeys, and (my favorite) the buffalo chasing the wild turkeys. I relished in watching the twins’ speechless awe over the parrots, monkeys, and tigers separated from them by a mere sheet of plexiglas—the animals from their story books come to life.

It was hot; we were sweaty; and all three were cranky by the time we left. But for a couple hours, we escaped the house-building-course-creating-software-training-endless-packing world…and it was good.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Worthless Act of Kindness

It was October of last year when my heart was broken over a woman begging at the corner...a woman whose name I knew.

After that moment, I took steps to fulfill Jesus' command to feed the hungry positioned on street corners. Instead of being well-intentioned, I would be ready for my next encounter with a cardboard sign.

A few weeks later, a dozen brown paper bags were stuffed with a New Testament, chocolate pudding cup, plastic spoon, pack of gum, peanut butter crackers, and box of apple juice.

That was six months ago. And I haven't met a person begging since.

It's like the needy were everywhere I turned and suddenly, they weren't. Vanished. Even still, each time I get behind the wheel, I catch a glimpse of the bag, reminding me.

On Monday, I got my chance.

I didn't see him until the light turned red and I stopped hard, first in line. Quickly, I rummaged between the front seats, rolled the window down and held out the bag--"Sir...". He thanked me, and then I watched as he tucked the package up high between a flat road sign and its metal post. I noted he had already placed a newspaper in the same niche.

As I drove to Target, I was thankful God gave me the chance to show someone His love.

A few hours later, we drove back across that same intersection.

The man was gone. The package was still there.

I must admit, I was more than a little disappointed. But one positive outcome is you can't feel too prideful when you realize you really didn't help the person.

Will I hand out another bag? Definitely. Even if the next person throws his bag away, too.

I know my God doesn't critique my actions based on whether or not they result in a successful outcome. He looks at my heart, my obedience to His word.

And, more importantly, I can rest certain that although that man did not read the Scripture I placed in his hands, God's word never returns to Him empty.

A worthless act of kindness? There is no such thing.

"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it
(Isaiah 55:10-11).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Heart Mender: A Review

Published in obscurity years ago, Andy Andrews' retitled The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances is definitely a worthwhile read, especially for anyone with an interest in the WWII era.

Although not my typical book selection, choosing Andrews' text to review was a conscious decision to try something lighter and less brain-bending. Instead, the pages left my brain so abuzz with curiosity that I found myself sucked into googling other historical information to confirm Andrews' text. In the end, I could only scratch my head: "Why was this left out of my high school history books!?"

Framing a fictional recreation of actual events is Andrews' account of digging up old WWII paraphernalia hidden by a German U-boat soldier in his own backyard and his subsequent search for truth concerning those items. The fictional story sandwiched in the middle is the result of what he discovered about the man and women who buried those items--a story of danger, intrigue, personal loss, and (most of all) forgiveness.

While I don't want to give away the plot, the historical description of German submarines in American waters (and their soldiers on American soil) during the war was definitely a different angle from which to view WWII. Also, the "Where Are They Now?" section at the end of the book is a worthwhile addition to the initial publication.

While Andrews' writing style is clean and easy to follow, if I have one criticism, it's that he seemed to dwell too much in the sections concerning forgiveness. I realize demonstrating the overwhelming power of forgiveness is the point of his book. However, there's making a point and then there's dragging out a point, leaving the reader to sigh, "just get on with it." Even still, this is definitely a book I will share with the military men and women in my family.

*I receive nothing for this review other than a complementary copy of the book.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When a Husband Forgets Mother's Day

This is not a sob story. This is one of those goose-bump creating convergences of events that could only be orchestrated by the Master planner. Wait for it.

Lately, I have been trying to live on yesterday's manna. I have become overwhelmingly preoccupied with making house construction decisions, building small cities of packed boxes, and grading exams and papers for the last two weeks of my teaching semester.

The result is I've caught myself sinking into a depression caused by over-busyness and lack of sleep. I should be used to the feeling by now, but six times a year during midterms and finals, my eyes drop to the waves beneath my feet, and I feel myself sinking.

Each time, I wonder why I can't hear God's voice. Without fail, the voice outside my head whispers, "God never speaks to you. He's only given the occasional answer over the years. It's normal to not hear from Him for weeks at a time."

But even though I don't feel I'm maturing, I must be moving forward because this past week, I've found myself replying to that annoying voice and reminding myself of God's faithfulness in the past. I've flipped through the Bible study I just completed and reviewed those clusters of asterisks; dark, excited underlines; and all-caps marginal notes where God did speak a word to me.

In the midst of all this God drama, Doug forgot Mother's Day. To his credit, he admitted as much Saturday afternoon, confessing he thought it was the next Sunday. Sadly, I understand the brain overload that caused this snafu.

But today I woke with a scratchy throat caused by yesterday's first cutting of the field behind my house. (If you've been around awhile, you might remember I live on a hay farm...and am allergic to grass.) Combine my feeling like a strangled chicken with a feeling that my husband and God were too occupied to remember me, and today was shaping up to be pretty bad.

So....I piled the children in the van and (what else) went to Wal-mart in a different town, one where I knew no one so I didn't feel required to fix my hair or put on make-up.

At the end of my twenty-minute drive, I was stopped by a red light. To the left, a small plywood sign by a deserted building caught my attention. Crudely painted white, the black letters read "Hab. 2:1."

Now, I've seen plenty of Bible verses on signs. John 3:16. Romans 3:23. Ephesians 2:8. But Habakkuk? My all-time favorite book? Seriously, what are the chances?

And the prophet Habakkuk said: "I will stand on my guard post And station myself on the rampart; And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, And how I may reply when I am reproved."

A reminder to keep waiting, to keep watching...and God will speak a word to me yet again.

I would have been amazed with just that message. But then God had to show off.

After an inglorious trip to Wal-mart, I grumpily steered my defiant buggy and yelling children towards the exit door. And what did I find?

The greeter had just wheeled out the "leftover" Mother's Day flowers that didn't sell. Arm extended, he handed me a bouquet.

What did I do? I dialed my husband and jokingly said, "God knows you forgot Mother's Day..."

Friday, May 7, 2010

First Night

Like assembling the menagerie aboard Noah's Ark, I packed two of everything--pairs of shoes, shirts, shorts, underwear. Then came the PJ's and Tigger toothbrush, all tucked in the pint-sized suitcase I've had to hide since all three of my children received them as gifts last fall.

Last Friday night with suitcase and giant blue-and-green sleeping bag in tow, Wyatt spent his first night away from home at Grandmama's house before taking an early ride to pick up Uncle Johnathan from the airport.

Wyatt has talked about a sleepover since Christmas when the fleece-lined sleeping bag came to live at our house. If I attached springs to the bottoms of his shoes, I don't think he would have bounced any more than he did as I assembled his bag and loaded everything in the van. (And according to the grandparents, the bouncing didn't stop until bedtime.)

Excited eyes. Never-ending grin. Not a hint of fear. Not a moment's hesitation as I dropped him off and drove to a much-deserved, quiet dinner with my husband.

There, my husband asked me if I were ok.

I was surprised by the question. I honestly didn't think that I might have the mommy-right to be sad over this milestone--my little boy not needing his mommy at night. But,

I have enough that I could blubber over--Wyatt preferring to "read" books by himself rather than have me read them. Wyatt no longer wanting to sit in my lap and snuggle after naptime. Wyatt no longer giving me spontaneous kisses.

But this?

This is good.

One more step toward independence, towards being the little man I hope he one day will be.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's Started...

June twenty-first. The date resounds in my head just like the warning bell at my elementary school used to ring for a fire drill. As a child, each time I heard that awful buzzing alert, my heart would sink in wide-eyed fear that there was real danger, that maybe this time the bomb threat was real.

Drop everything. Form a line. Follow the teacher. Don't get lost (as if ending up with another teacher's class would make me prone to more danger). Know the correct corner of the playground to report to in case you're in the bathroom when the bell sounds.

I remember practicing several times a year--the teachers drilled into us the concept that being prepared was the key to everything being ok.

The alarm in my head now, though, is no drill. It started blaring a couple weeks ago when our contractor sent me a calendar of what would happen when in our new house. My eyes scrolled past painting and flooring down the page to the final line: "June 21: Turn over keys."

Since then, I haven't slept without waking up to an immediate sense that I'm not going to make it. After five years of waiting, the building process has gone too miraculously, God-orchestratedly FAST!!

April 20 marked exactly two months from the date we poured our slab. I expected to move into the house in late August. In other words, there are not nearly enough boxes lining my walls...and for this woman who over prepares for tests, my teaching load, Bible studies, and everything else in life, that means I'm on overload.

The twins think mommy is playing a wonderful game of hide and seek with do-not-touch objects placed ever so temptingly in multiple-sized cubes Wyatt thinks the empty boxes are train cars, boats, and make-believe presents...all of which I ruin each time I determine they're better served as a temporary home for books or some other much more boring object than a child's imagination could fill them with.

Everybody keeps telling me I don't have to move in overnight, that I'm only moving 1/2 mile across a hay field, so it's not that big a deal.

Perhaps it's the memory of two other major moves I've boxed and unboxed, mostly without my working husband's help. Or perhaps it's the realization that I have three children to seriously inhibit (and undo) my progress whereas before, I had only one not-yet-crawling infant.

Whatever it is, I'm frantically trying to unbuild our life within these walls, to box up those little pieces that make a house feel like a home.
I know, I know...I'll make it. If I can just remember to breathe. To thank God for the unbelievable smoothness of the build that has created this problem in the first place. To laugh. And to pick up some more boxes tomorrow.

Photos: Kira (the snotty cat) hides from the twins, safe inside a fortress of boxes. Living room curtains gone, washed, and ready to move.