Thursday, May 30, 2013

cookies, cosmic explosions, and lots of clean laundry

Sometimes I'm really good at seizing the moment. And other things, like cookies. I'm really good at seizing the cookies. Sometimes other stuff seizes me, like punctuation marks. I'll throw my hands up all in your face and all of the sudden like a bunch of exclamation points - like SHUT-UP-NO-WAY-YOU'VE-GOT-TO-JUST-HEAR-THIS. That's one of my classier versions of punctuation mark usage.

We've been doing a lot of moment-seizing lately, though. And watermelon eating, and strawberry picking. They've been good moments to seize. Obvious ones. The ones that are easy to seize because you have a balmy day in front of you, all the socks are folded, and dinner is in the crock pot.

* * * * *
Adjusting to a third baby was not the easiest thing that ever happened to me. Basically I felt like all the wheels fell off the wagon. Aside from brushing my teeth, I completely forgot how to function in any capacity. I was numb to basic everyday habits other than insane amounts of vacuuming. I rarely tweezed my eyebrows. I usually blame Lumberjack when that happens because I'm not looking that frequently in a mirror. I need someone to tell me when my eyebrows are taking over my face. Eyebrow coup is the worst. He lets me down frequently all the time in this regard. He says my eyebrows aren't what he's looking at. Geeze. Men.

What am I talking about, anyway? I've totally lost track. I've got too many tabs open in my brain. Okay, so back on track. Hard adjustment after Half-Pint. Right. Then I had this one day where I baked too much and loved too little. Really. I literally baked nine loaves of bread and two dozen muffins - all starting out as whole grains that went through the grain mill - and I was in such an angry state by the end of the day. I accomplished twice as much on my to-do list as I'd hoped and yet by bedtime I just was in a foul mood - angry, impatient, and intolerant with my girls. I realized, in that moment, what had made my adjustment-to-three hard. It wasn't the housework and meals. They didn't skip a beat. If the continual vacuum stripes on my carpet were testimony, you wouldn't have known I'd even had a baby. But it was how I was viewing my children.
By way of words from a friend, I realized I was viewing my girl cubs as tasks and projects to be managed instead of hearts to be nurtured. Logistics, on the whole, were a quick adjustment. This is what you do with another baby. The end. You can't grow a third hand so you just make do with what you've got and still get everywhere on time. But heart matters are never about the logistics, or third hands.

* * * * *

Yesterday there was some sort of cosmic explosion in my house. This really does tie all together. I promise. All of this will come full circle. Even the part about seizing cookies. I'm entirely way too fussy about the quantity of household content we have. Literally, I hate toys. I hate toys so much. I don't know why in the world any of my family members continue giving toys to my children because they know I will just give them away. I mean, just go play in the dirt and throw mulch at each other already.

So: cosmic explosion. You should know that typically, laundry is my best chore. I'm awesome at it. My middle name is Clean-Folded-and-Put-Away. But yesterday? This is what my laundry room looked like:

The laundry room is also our bathroom. Have you ever had to close your eyes when you pee so you can't see the chaos around you? Peeing should.not. be that traumatic.

And secondly, if my kitchen is cluttered, my mind is cluttered. Period. So guess what was happening between my ears because of this madness:

And the table looked like this. I'm hoping that was lunch (and breakfast) from yesterday, and not a week ago:

Lastly. I don't know who took all of my kids' toys, crammed them in a leaf blower, and deposited it evenly all over the floor of their bedroom, but if you're reading this and responsible for this mayhem, you're on my blacklist:

While I absolutely love to clean as much as the next Disney Princess, and that's no joke, even unexpected cosmic explosions can fry my nerves. Just as my blood pressure was rising to a boiling 100/65 (believe it or not, I have surprisingly low blood pressure. It's a wonder I'm even alive, really.) and I was calculating my plan of attack, Freckles walked up to me and said, "Mom? Can we read books?"

Sigh. No. I don't want to read books. I want to put the house on the market and move somewhere else that's already clean. That's what I want to do right now. 

I want to tell you what I did. Not because I'm proud of it. But because hopefully, if I write it down, I'll remember to do it more frequently. My dad would say I chose the Important over the Urgent. Lots of important stuff gets back-burnered a lot because the urgent stuff is always swooping in and shoving it aside. But - somehow - a heart to nurture won against project managing. So we read.

And, of course, she picked a book with five zillion words. So we read, and we read, and we read.


Then Lumberjack packed her and Whirligig up for some errands. Half-Pint was asleep, and in some miracle from the heavens Scout fell asleep unexpectedly, too, and in the oddest of positions:

 And then, in a few quiet jet-propelled moments, I picked some wildflowers in our backyard -

and did a little tidying up. Because all of my Importants were asleep, and the Urgents somehow magically become "Hey-let's-do-this-because-we-have-nothing-better-to-do" when they're not competing for attention.

yes, the floor is still torn up. who even cares anymore.
sunglasses, a cowgirl hat, and a football. yep, that's about right.
 Then more than half of my Gigantic Family came over for supper and I gave a swing at mimicking one dish I like at a restaurant in Cincinnati and the reviews from aforementioned Gigantic Family were wild.


And I sat there thinking how thankful I was for my dad who is heading out of town tomorrow and, no doubt, has eight-hundred Urgent things to do before he leaves...but kept company with the Important instead. It's a good habit. Hopefully one of these days I'll be as good as he is at keeping it.

And then we seized cookies. Lots of them. See? I told you it'd come full circle. Sorry, no picture of the cookies. I ate them before I thought to take a picture.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

more than good enough

Freckles plays Team Ball. It's T-Ball, really, but she calls it Team Ball and she calls the dugout the Dig-Out. At a game earlier this week, she "hit" the ball (if you can call it that), and it fell right there at her ankles. She was cheered on to run to first base. Last night, she circled the bases twice at the end of the inning instead of running back to the Dig-Out, and while she played First Baseman, she advanced at least twice to second base when the opposing team hit the ball. To be fair, they were wearing the same color jersey, and I think she just got caught up in the excitement.

She can and does hit a pitched ball, but I love her anyway. She's the best at a great attitude, and she's the best at still smiling even when she doesn't hit the ball from a pitch but uses the T instead. She may actually come to the games primarily to give out hugs at the end.

I sat and watched one particular Team Ball game recently and it left me angry, dismayed, and sad. While we've experienced, for the most part, a general sense of fun and good sportsmanship, I'm of the persuasion that this league, for 5 and 6 year olds, really isn't always for the kids. It's really just for the coaches and super-competitive parents. We've been grateful that Freckles, playing just because she wants to play, has been placed on the team a friend of ours coaches. I get the feeling it's okay with him that she doesn't always remember which way to run around the bases, or that she comes for the hugs.

But the coaches on the other team a few nights back didn't cheer their kids on to first base when the ball fell at their ankles. In fact, fair balls were re-pitched in a few instances when the child didn't hit it as far or as strongly as expected, even if it was hit several feet in front of them.  And when "Big Hitter," as announced by the coach each time he was at the plate, stepped up for his last at bat and skidded it into the pitcher's glove instead of knocking it out of the park, a distinct look of disappointment crossed the coach's face. "Go ahead and run to first," he said, disapproval evident. "I guess that's good enough, and it's getting dark."

Good enough?

Really? That's the message you want to send these 5 year olds? That they're just barely good enough? Or even worse, not quite good enough, even if they've done all they can just to hit a ball off a T?

* * * * *

This is B. He came home from China about 3 years ago. He was born with hand, hip, and feet deformities. Some corrective surgeries have been successful and helpful. Some - before he was adopted - left him with damaging scar tissue. He won't ever be an athlete. But he's good at connecting wires and pushing buttons and will make a great engineer when he grows up.

This is K. She was born with Moebius Syndrome. It's a neurological disorder and affects her ability to blink, smile, and frown. She was born with only one hand and one foot. She has a cool prosthetic leg tattooed with butterflies. But even cooler than that? This one-handed little girl plays the violin.

This is N. She's 5 years old, and is one of Freckles' dearest friends. She has an inoperable benign tumor on her spinal cord that's left her missing outer-halves of 14 vertebrae. She gets around in a stander - like a wheelchair except it promotes weight-bearing leg strength. She's gentle and sweet with those smaller than she and will carry this quality with her long into adulthood. Couple that trait with the fact that she's smart as a whip and you've got an educator parents will be beating down the door just to get their kids into her classroom.

My friends and their children? They've shown me how to embrace my own tiny babe whose legs aren't even the same length. Maybe she'll walk. Maybe she'll hobble. Maybe she won't be able to do either. Time will tell. But one thing is certain: it is my responsibility and my privilege to make sure she knows to the core that she is valuable and priceless regardless of what she can or can't do. And if I could get just a single chance with all those kids on the other team that night...

* * * * *

For the child who swings slowly and're more than good enough. You're going to be a great counselor and therapist, able to focus and listen to the ache in people's hearts and able to think before you speak. You're going to tell them that they are valuable, that they are acceptable and cherished and loved. Maybe you will do research, scouring for details other people missed and maybe your findings will change lives.

For the child doing cartwheels in the're more than good enough. You're going to have a full life, bursting at the seams with opportunities seized, no rock left unturned, and no dull moment left unpolished. You will rarely be bored, and you will inspire those around you who have forgotten how to make the most of just standing around.

For the child who doesn't run as fast as all the other're more than good enough. Life isn't a race. And there's enough of it that moves too quickly, anyway. Be the person sitting at the Grand Canyon during the sunrise, savoring the moment, and painting. And give those paintings away - to the homeless, to sick children, to elderly shut-ins. Some people will never see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. You can bring it to them because you took the time to sit there. And then sit with them. They're not running as fast as anyone else, either.

For the child who won't hit a coach-pitched ball all season but can knock it off the T every're more than good enough. Maybe you don't work well with fast, moving objects coming at your face, and that's okay. I believe you can be the surgeon working with skilled, calm, confident hands to save a life as it lays still and motionless on an operating table. If your hands are steady and certain, no one will care that you never connected a bat with a fast-moving ball.

For the child who couldn't catch a ball in their glove to save their're more than good enough. A lot of stuff doesn't get caught in time. We all drop the ball. We all need someone to help us pick it up and pick up the pieces and put it back where it needs to be. You're going to be the faithful friend who hangs around and is loyal to the core. You're going to be the friend others know they can call at 3 AM when their heart is broken and their world is in shreds.

For the child who walks up to the plate gnawing the life out of a piece of gum and smacks the plate aggressively with the bat and growls a little bit, and oh, did I mention this was a little're more than good enough. You're going to be a fighter and I hope you fight for all the right things and stand up for those who can't speak up or stand up for themselves. Learn to fight the fights that need fighting so you don't exhaust yourself on the molehills. This world needs courageous people. You're one of them. Stay fearless.

And for the child who cracks the ball with the bat every time and sends it long into the're more than good enough. And one of these days there will be a young whippersnapper better than you. But I believe your value and self-worth aren't wrapped up in how many Grand Slams you have to your name. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. You're terrific just the way you are. Use your confidence to build confidence in others.

And for those coaches that night... I don't know who ever told you as a child that you weren't good enough. Maybe it was your dad. Maybe it wasn't your dad because he wasn't there and you just wanted his approval and maybe it seemed if you were just good enough he would've stuck around. As angry as I felt that night, I also kept picturing how you must've looked as a little boy and I wondered when the first time you ever got the message that you weren't quite measuring up, that you were inadequate. And maybe the hardest part is that you've lived with those scars your whole life and all you can do is repeat the message to the kids on your team because hurting someone else somehow justifies the pain you've sustained yourself. And as much as I wanted to punch the adult-you in the nose, I wanted to hug the hurt, inadequate little-boy-you inside and get right down on his level and look deep in his eyes and say  
Precious you. 
You are valuable as-is. 
You are loved as you are.

And really: that's the message for you, too. For all of us? 

You have worth because you were made intentionally, not accidentally.
And there's One who knows your name and desperately wants you to know His.
You are acceptable simply because of Who He is and what He's already completed.
It counts for you because we can't ever be good enough on our own and He's already fulfilled the only standard worth measuring up to.
You are fully loved,
fully valuable,
and in Him and because of Him, fully accepted.

But - Coach? Please. It's not about the Team Ball game. It's not even about this moment. It's about these life-changers stampeding around at your feet who wear their fragile, tender, larger-than-life hearts on their sleeves and how what we say to them today shapes their tomorrow. It's about their worth, and it's about yours.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

when Grandma burned the neighbor's house down

It has occurred to me that whereas my delightful children provide a veritable landslide of writing material for me, they're also the primary reason I don't find myself blogging regularly. Children require a great deal of maintenance and attention. If I turn my back for 40 seconds, my three year old might disappear into the next room and come back out just as she's finishing up a tasty snack of blue Crayons, AND THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TWO WEEKS AGO. See? I'd love to write about it, but if I pause to do so, the house might get burned down. Catch-22.

And don't think that's an entirely unrealistic possibility. I want to tell you about my husband's feisty grandmother burning down the neighbor's house about a month ago. I would have told you about it a month ago, but Lumberjack didn't even find out until two days ago. Communication about Big Life Events is kind of weird sometimes. ANYWAY. I'll start off by clarifying that it wasn't actually the neighbor's house, but it might as well have been because there may have been less damage that way. This is the same grandmother who pushed me in the pool at one family gathering just because FOR WHATEVER REASON she didn't like me too much very early on and decided our relationship might be improved upon if only she could drown me. And she's also the kind of lady who wouldn't hesitate to spank someone else's kid. So in all honesty? I was just the tiniest bit surprised to learn the following story happened entirely by accident.

His 75-year-old grandmother set out to burn some leaves one afternoon awhile back. And then the wind picked up and the fire got quite a bit carried away. It started blazing up the hillside behind her house, where it caught a storage shed on fire. Well, that's kind of crummy, no doubt. But, true as you live, there were propane tanks stored in it and they exploded. The explosion caused another neighbor's garage to burn down, and all the vinyl siding on all the houses within a 50-yard radius melted. Fire & Rescue took a whole hour to get there, probably because they stopped for donuts or something, and Grandma had a third-degree burn on her arm. But she's doing just fine now, though no doubt extremely indignant that the fire had the audacity to get out of control.

In other news, here's a picture of Teddy Roosevelt riding a moose.

We just don't have Administrations like this anymore. And what a shame, because I really want to vote for someone like this.