Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wanted: Two Tiger Cages

My household has hit the terrible twos again. Well, I'm not sure we ever left it, but if we did, those days are definitely over. At 21 months, the twins have entered "that phase" of development where I want to lock them in cages way more than I want to kiss their sweet cheeks.

The "No" back talk, the refusing to obey; the fall-out boo-hooing tantrums over anything and everything that doesn't please them, the meddling mischief--we're there.

Thankfully, Wyatt normally tattles when the twins are misbehaving. But not yesterday.

Once mommy was out of sight, they crept to my sewing box (a well-established "no no"), removed the box of 16 thread-filled bobbins, and proceeded to unroll them. When I came down, Emerson's legs were wrapped in a tangle of red, blue, and yellow so that he couldn't free himself on his own.

Exhausted from three long-nights of grading final exams and a week of naughty children, this was the final straw. I swatted hineys and angrily yelled at them to go to their rooms.

Mr. Melodramatic was the only one who fled the scene in tears, wailing in the fake angst I hear each day enough to ignore. As he stomped up the stairs, Ms. Amelia obviously realized she deserved to be punished, so she didn't even bother to purse up her lips in angry defiance before obeying.

I sat on the rug, upset over the incessant disobedience, the waste of thread that's not that cheap anymore, and the time it would take to fix the mess. Wyatt sat down with me as I started to pull a string of navy from the multicolored mat.

After a few minutes of untangling, I gave up and just decided to save as much as I could, not worry about the rest. By then, there was happy laughter from above as the twins played together. Suddenly, there was a loud "plunk" and more crying.

Sprinting upstairs, I discovered they had pulled the drawers out from beneath Emerson's bed (something else I've repeatedly told them not to do) and had tumbled off the mattress and into them.

The blatant disobedience just got to me, and I yelled that their actions were "naughty" and that "Mommy said No. No. No!" Still fuming, I turned on my heel and marched downstairs to find the door stops, having one of those sudden brainstorms that one of those shoved under the casters might keep them from disobeying me again.

Wyatt, though, couldn't believe I was leaving while the twins were still "hurt" from their fall.

"But mommy, they're still crying," he noted.

I knew that cry wasn't real pain. So, I kept walking, and he kept following me.

"But mommy, you have to forgive them!"

Wow. Talk about stop me in my tracks--I guess one of my children is at least listening to some things I'm trying to teach. As I walked, I explained that yes, I had to forgive them, but not now. Right now, there were consequences for their actions.

Since then, I've been thinking about the concept of forgiveness and my children--Wyatt regularly asks me to forgive him, or I offer him my forgiveness when he's been especially naughty. Yet, he's 3 1/2. The twins aren't quite 2 and don't understand that concept yet.

But I do. And from what I see, forgiveness affects me as much as (if not more) than the person or persons I forgive.

I'm wondering if I could just forgive and move forward one incident at a time throughout the day, starting afresh each day-- would that help me deal better with those days when intentional disobedience permeates each hour? Would it help me see them differently?

I don't know the answer. But I'm going to have to figure out something, because I have a long path ahead of me before the twins start disobeying less than 80% of the time...and because I don't know anyone who's giving away tiger cages.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A New Respect for Cardboard

Late yesterday afternoon, I stepped onto my front porch to watch an eighteen wheeler kick up dust as he bumped across a hay field of tall grass just waiting to be cut. Inside was a nine foot by four foot crate carrying two months' worth of research and waiting.

Knowing my sons will likely be over 6 foot tall like their daddy, I wanted to get them beds that (1) could bunk if the boys wanted that down the road and (2) were as long as a full bed without the width, which wouldn't fit too well in the room they share.

Although I thought this would be an easy task, I quickly learned there are very few companies that make XL twin bunk beds--three total, one of which charged more than all the beds in my house combined, a second which "might" still be making the bed in a color other than white--but they wouldn't know for sure until mid August, and the third in Ohio that makes custom beds for a reasonable price. You can guess which one I chose.

My sons' mattresses arrived two weeks ago. Out went the toddler beds and in came two new trampolines. Since then, Wyatt and Emerson have slept eight inches from the floor on lime green sheets as they waited.

And yesterday, the beds finally arrived to be welcomed by a crowd of grinning youngsters.

Armed with a fully charged power drill, it still took me an hour to remove a double handful of mega screws, dismantle the crate, and place each piece indoors before the threatening thunder to the north descended on my doorstep.

Thankfully, my daddy then arrived to help me haul the pieces upstairs and assemble them. We work well together. Me on one end, him on the other, we struggled to heft the 50-75 pound solid wood under-bed drawers and 3/4 inch bunkie board sheets of particle board up the narrow stairwell without dropping them, denting a wall, or destroying the new paint job.

In the end, two boys climbed up in two pretty awesome, very sturdy beds. And the price for my labor was two scrapes on my hands...caused not by the jagged edges of the packing crate or a screw that jumped away from my drill but by the crate's cardboard lid.

Cardboard. In other words, just a big paper cut, which I could have avoided. The problem was I was careful with the big stuff. I took the time to ensure I had a good grip on a piece of wood before I took each step, to ensure that I wasn't in danger of tripping over a child or hitting a light fixture.

But I didn't respect something as flimsy as cardboard. I never considered it a potential danger, so I simply yanked it off the crate's top and sliced open a top layer of skin that's still sore today.

Yes, it's not the big stuff in life that gets to me, breaks me, cuts my heart to the quick. It's the weak, small, seemingly insignificant things I never cardboard.

When the Lights Go Down

Little girl in flowing peach night gown stomps down the hall, sticks her head in the monkey bathroom to yell, "Nite Nite!!" at her daddy. She moves quickly, with purpose, climbs into bed with one of her favorite books and plops it in the middle of her pillow. She doesn't want to read it, just sleep with it--and the rest of her stuffed menagerie all huddled beneath the blanket.

"Noise," she says, reminding me to turn on the white noise maker. I half expect her to say "light," too, as I might need that reminder, too.

Little boy is different, padding to bed, then quietly waiting for me to lift him up. No other stuffed critters needed--just his bedraggled-looking lovey, which he instantly grabs and shoves it into his mouth before curling into a ball, not waiting to see if I'll turn on his white noisemaker or turn off the light. He knows the routine simply "is," with or without his input.

And the oldest boy fights bedtime with every wily maneuver he can muster--giggling, bouncing, questioning, playing--all in an attempt to stretch the minutes from bath time to the last book to running downstairs to kiss mommy goodnight to prayer time.

Unlike the other two, he has learned that there's life after dark...and the good life, too.

When those three warm, clean-smelling bodies snuggle under blankets behind closed doors, the house changes.

The unbalanced fan's click, click, click returns. (Was it really gone all day?) Shoes no longer magically appear on the floor to trip me, and whatever I pick up stays organized more than just a few minutes.

With three gone, two magically rematerialize. Mia and Kira unfold four furry legs from their hiding places and come to purr or wave their tails in my face as I complete schoolwork on my computer, contemplate the day's Bible study, or delve into another crochet project.

Sweet smells sometimes even waft from the late-night oven. Spoons clink in bowls of ice cream. The television remembers it can tun into other stations besides PBS.

But the best change isn't in the house, but in its occupants.

It's the muted conversation over a wifey foot rub in exchange for a hubby toenail clipping. The unrestrained husband and wife laughter at private jokes, not to be (for once) interrupted by screaming, crying, or a demand that a diaper is "It wet!" The two becoming one again in mind, body, and spirit.

It's the time spent together because we know that the best way to take care of those three sleeping children is to water, fertilize, prune, and hold tight to a marriage that God has created.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our Daily Light Show

Like it or not, I've taken up the sport of stair climbing. Although I haven't counted the steps yet, in just four weeks, I can feel the difference in my leg muscles. It's impressive how much exercise a bigger house adds to my days.

Amelia drags down her blanket and puppy each morning for breakfast; I cart it right back up, knowing nap time won't happen if I don't. Then, as I do the laundry, my ears hear the sounds of Emerson repeatedly screaming "Wy-att!!!" before crying in that "I'm hurt" pitch--another trip upwards.

Time after time, I make the short trip upstairs, quickly moving towards my destination and starting my descent...that is, until the late afternoon sun streams through the crescent window at just the right angle, piercing the crystal sphere that hangs from the chandelier and scattering small, refracted rainbows of hope throughout the stairwell and atop the vaulted ceiling.

Then, I slow down, sometimes stop.

6 pm. Supper time. But, I call Wyatt anyway to come see God's rainbows and watch as he delights in them, too. Up the steps he bounces, playing in the flashes of color, putting his face on the wall where one, then another shines.

"Is it on me, mommy?" he giggles.

I smile, too, placing my head next to his, asking him the same question. "Yes!!!" he exclaims and excitedly moves to the next splash of color his short arms can reach.

Each afternoon, the light shines through this sphere for hours, but only for a few minutes do I enjoy this perfect meeting of light and crystal to form a multitude of slender rainbows.

The past week, I've been hearing the voice of God again, listening and hearing (although not always understanding). Oh, how it's been wonderful to exit the desert, to feel that close communion again.

And as I enjoyed the rainbows this afternoon, I couldn't help but think of how this was a picture of my relationship with God. He shines the light of His grace and mercy on me all the time. But it's only in those all-too-short instances that my human mind connects with the divine and I can truly see what was there all along--a Savior who loves me, who cares for me, and who speaks to me of a hope, love, joy, and peace to be found only in Him.

To hear that voice of hope, I just may need to reposition myself in relation to the Light.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Through the Rainbow Tunnel

It rained again this evening. I was more than a little disappointed, wishing for that quarter-machine God my son is learning doesn't exist. Two times in one day that God decided to open the heavenly floodgates and soak the newly laid dirt surrounding our house.

Last week, my father-in-law spent several days dumping dirt from a 6 foot dump truck, five loads per hour. I never heard how many total, but I saw the results. Small children-tempting mountains surrounded our new home and dotted the quarter-mile "road" that leads out to the main road.

Saturday, he and my husband ran two John Deere tractors to finish spreading the dirt and lay down the black fabric to keep the rocks from sinking into red Louisiana clay. Monday was supposed to be the day when they spread rocks on top like buttercream frosting atop a moist chocolate cake, finishing the project so I would no longer need to mud-ride in a minivan across the hayfield to reach the house.

But, Sunday evening, despite my prayers, God sent a shower anyway, delaying the rock hauling until this evening...when He delayed the project yet again by a deluge of water.

Just not enough time between the rains. Not enough.

It's a lesson God has been hitting me very hard with this past weekend and not just because of a silly driveway.

Last week, my mother told me hospice had been called in, that a man I always knew as "Mr. Dell" had been given one month to live.

He was a member of my extended family. A neighbor who lived right across the road from me until I married and moved away. A man I always considered one of God's finest as I watched him devote a life in service to God and to my childhood church as its handyman and manager of the food pantry.

At the end of last week, my heart told me to go visit him once more this side of eternity. I knew it was God's prompting. But I had to attend another wake for another of God's finest, and so, I decided I would go this week, not understanding God meant "now" instead of "sometime over the next month."

Sunday evening as I put the van in reverse to drive to evening worship, my husband got the call--Mr. Dell had gone to be with Jesus.

All the way through service, I mentally kicked myself for not understanding God's prompting and acting immediately. I knew He told me to go. And like my children do to me, I said, "Ok Lord...but after I do this."

Why hadn't I heard the immediacy in His voice saying, "No, now"? Was it not there? Had I missed it? And why had I trusted in man's assurance of "one month" anyway versus God's assurance that we're not promised a tomorrow?

By the time I strapped the three children back in the van, I was in a bad place, wondering if I would ever learn to listen and obey God properly and why He would even bother to speak to someone with such bad hearing.

As I pulled onto the highway, in the eastern sky was a flash of color--a rainbow. And seven minutes later when I turned right onto our road, it was no longer a misty-colored play of cloud and light. Instead, the arch was spectacularly bright and complete, stretching wide and seeming to almost center over the road I was driving on before coming down to rest on both sides.

For an instant, it felt like I was driving through a rainbow tunnel, a miracle sent just for me--God's reminder that He's not giving up on me, that He's still speaking even though I'm still learning how to use my spiritual hearing aid.

Tonight, the rainbow was back again, this time arching over our new home, a comforting reminder on the eve before tomorrow's funeral.

Thank you God for your mercy lavished on one such as me. And thank you for men like Mr. Dell and Mr. Huey who demonstrated to everyone who met them the true meaning of service and love for you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'll Show You Mine If.....

She steps atop a shipping box to get a better view of herself. Head tilts upward, chin juts out, all for a better look at the ragged band aid and peeling butterfly strips.

"Bo bo," she says matter of factly, pointing at the girl in the glass.

Sunday evening after church, Amelia somehow fell and broke open her chin on the side of the tub. Gripper mats just aren't enough for a girl who thinks she can fly, set new world speed records, and do everything else her big brother does.

A trip with daddy to the after hours clinic, a nurse named Jennifer who knew Boo Boo Bunny by name, a drop or two of glue, and instructions to not let her sweat for three days...and we had survived Amelia's second bloody accident in the past year.

On Tuesday, she tipped forward 6 inches while playing with a truck, and the unhealed would cracked open again, blood drops falling on my new concrete porch.

It's genetic. Like mother, like daughter, both of us with scars on our chins. Mine, an almost invisible white line even my husband didn't know about until this past Sunday. Hers, an angry red gash covered by thin, tender skin.

What has been so surprising this week, though, is the number of people who have told me of similar scars on their chins from some childhood mishap.

My mother in law's was caused by a ketchup bottle. My best friend and her husband's matching chin scars? A meeting with an unyielding tub. Mine? Contact with a wooden floor while playing with a plastic choo choo train. My mom, a lady at church...the list goes on and on.

Under the chin is really a hidden spot. But many of these people I know more than just on a first name basis...I've sat close enough to see the individual pores on their faces. I've hugged their necks and kissed their cheeks. And still, the scars were invisible to me.

It makes me wonder if I could have seen them if I had looked hard enough. Or are they just truly invisible?

And that leads me to thoughts of ministering to others in the name of Jesus--a topic we dealt with this past Wednesday night at church. How can I adequately minister, meet their needs when the scars are invisible even when I really look?

I know "show them the love of Jesus" is the pat answer. But I also know that each of us bears different kinds of scars...and that each of us needs different expressions of love to heal.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Forecast: Snow Tomorrow in Louisiana

"Mommy, I want it to snow."

As I sweated in an 84 degree room with an upstairs air conditioner not working, the thought sounded good, but insane. I can think of few things crazier than waking up to a lawn full of snow in Louisiana in July. (This past Saturday, the heat index was 109.)

But try explaining the weather to a hard-headed three-year-old. I tried the "Yes, maybe this winter" tactic, but Wyatt's response was, "No. I want it to snow now."

I kept explaining, but he had already tuned out logical-mom, saying, "Well, I'll ask God."

Obviously, if mommy says "no," you should get a second opinion from a higher authority.

Seconds later, Wyatt burst forth in a very matter of fact prayer, "God, please make it snow tomorrow. Please God. Amen."

His father and I have taught him to pray about everything--for daddy's back when it hurts, for the rain to stop so we can put in a driveway, for Amelia's cut chin to heal, for cool breezes when we're outside. And God has always answered those prayers.

He has yet to see God say "no" or "wait" to one of his prayers. In his mind, I guess he's developed a concept of God as a machine where you stick in a quarter and pull out a prize every time.

But God isn't like that.

So, as I pinned glow-in-the-dark stars on the cobalt blue curtains hanging in his room, I told Wyatt the story of the baby in mommy's tummy before God gave him to her--the baby who lived and grew, the baby whose sustained life mommy and daddy prayed to God for, and the baby who God allowed to die anyway.

Perhaps I chose a bad example because he instantly forgot about snow and became highly upset, "But I don't want the baby to die!!!"

I tried valiantly to explain that sometimes God does things differently from what we ask because He knows what's best for us.

Wyatt's continued protestations proved that his little mind just didn't understand, that I was fighting a losing battle of logic versus emotion.

But I can't really shake my head in frustration at his lack of understanding--I'm 33 instead of 3 years old, and still I don't fully understand God's answers of "no" to many of my own prayers.

The intangible nature of faith, of leaping off a cliff into the invisible arms of God who you know is there even though there's no physical evidence to prove it--how do you teach these things to such a young mind?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thirty-Seven Ties and One Angry Cat

We are cat people. Well, I'm at least from cat people. My husband could happily live without the furry felines leaving long hairs on his black office chair, filling up the litter boxes on our back porch, or meowing wake-up calls each morning when they want to be fed.

But cats were my comfort, my loving foster kitties during the many years my husband and I spent childless. So, even though they've now taken a back seat to the three human children God has blessed us with, they still hold a special place in my heart (and lap).

Then we moved into our new home with our three indoor cats...and an anonymous kitty started leaving angry messages each night. Anything plush left on the floor was a target--rugs, bluejeans, blankets,stray rags, a paper box filled with the kids' shoes.

Six nights of messages from the disgruntled. Six mornings of cleaning, soaking, spraying on Simple Solution, and trying to anticipate her next move. Six was more than enough.

I figured I knew who the culprit was--the one who refused to come out for breakfast, supper, catnip rollings or any lovin's. So, last Saturday, Doug brought down the cat cage to take her down to the old house for an extended stay while we determined if she really was the real troublemaker. But in our exhaustion, we were just too tired to find and dig her out from whatever piece of furniture she had barricaded herself beneath.

As if she knew her time was up, the messages suddenly stopped.

By this point, I had pulled up the new rugs proudly placed at each entrance door, diligently made sure nothing plush was left on the floor at nights, and placed any partially filled boxes high up on the shelves. I hoped that meant there was nothing left to leave messages on...and that everybody was finally adjusting to life in a bigger home.

Then came yesterday.

My mother and I returned home overheated, drenched, and drained from a morning plant-run. Assorted cacti, three huge hanging pots of donkey tail, and an unwieldy pot of firesticks (my favorite) were transplanted to their new home.

And we? We got the angriest message yet.

During our absence, the anonymous kitty climbed atop a settee that was piled high, loaded from one end to the other with "stuff" I had yet to put up, including my husband's two rotating tie racks...and she unleashed the fury of Niagara falls.

Thirty seven ties were soaked.

T-h-i-r-t-y s-e-v-e-n.

As tired as I was, I easily could have just sunk down on the floor and started bawling.

Thankfully, my mother was there. She loaded down the washroom sink with a tie bath of vinegar solution, mounted a rod the full length of the bathroom tub, and hung each tie on hangers to drip and dry.

Within minutes of my almost-meltdown, the accused was banished to the outdoor realms of our farm (several hundred acres).

And there were no messages this morning.

Tabby is less than happy with the arrangement. Granted, she's scared, terrified, confused. And I feel bad, really bad that she can't be inside with our family, but I can't live with my new home being turned into a litter box every night.

Today, I ironed all thirty-seven of those ties. Except for a slight vinegar smell that will dissipate, it appears they're fine. This afternoon, the children even tried to get Tabby to come out of her hiding place on the back porch, but she wasn't having any of it. She's currently on day 2 of her hunger strike. And I'm feeling like a miserable cat-mother.I've prayed about this, but over the past two weeks, God hasn't given me any words about cats. I know I've done the right thing for my family's well-being. Now, we can only wait and hope she was the guilty cat. And if not, then I have more difficult decisions to make.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I feel like a less-elegant Dorothy in smelly, soggy t-shirts and well-worn red garden clogs instead of that pressed gingham dress and fabulous ruby slippers. One minute we're dealing with the everyday problems of living out of boxes, the next we're in the surreal world of Oz where everything magically unfolds and fits perfectly together.

But unlike Dorothy, I have done a lot more over the past week and a half than merely close my eyes and click my heels together three times.

Instead, it's taken a village to get us moved into our new home: An aunt, a cousin, a mother-in-law as the babysitting help. A daddy, father-in-law, and husband as the muscle and handymen. And a best friend and mother as the unpackers and interior decorators.

Last Friday morning made one week living here. With a lot of help, the transformation is nothing short of amazing.

Yes, there is a lot more work to do before I can settle into a non-moving routine around here, but I've found homes for most everything I boxed up before the move, and I'm steadily sorting through the rest.

Here's a couple pics of the most important rooms of the house (if your names are Emerson, Amelia, and Wyatt). I promise other pics will follow in later posts...once I get the laundry off my dining room table and the stack of boxes out of my bedroom.

Originally, this was to be my office, now converted into a toy room. I do believe it's the most used room in the house, as you can tell by the books strewn on the floor. This is the kitchen--the second favorite room. It's also the room where everything gets dumped on the counters until later. I love the space in here--just wish my brain would remember more rapidly what drawer I put what in.

And if you had any doubts about how happy the children were about the new house, this picture pretty much says it all. They love it. In fact, Wyatt said he liked moving. He doesn't get that from my side of the family.But seriously, on the day we moved in, the guy who laid our floor congratulated us on the new home and said, "You deserve it." I've turned that phrase over in my mind ever since and have finally determined why it bothers me so much. It's because no, I don't.

I don't deserve to live in central air conditioning. I don't deserve to live here any more than the next person.

But I am thankful, oh so thankful, for this blessing that God built for us, for your kind emails of support during this move, and for your prayers.

Five years of us trying to build a house didn't amount to two bricks stacked on top of one another. Yet, when God decided it was time to build a house? He proved His word: "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. (Ps. 127:1).