Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today Will Be Beautiful

Not because of bright blue skies or drenching sunshine (-- the forecast calls for clouds and rain).  Not because of exciting plans (-- we're staying put all day, hoping to find a few things to keep us busy).  And not because our city is cleaned up from the devastation (-- thousands of volunteers are still working towards that, though).

Only because we say so, today will be beautiful. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weekly Column: Delicate Honesty in the Midst of Horror

We took shelter in the closet, but only at my husband’s insistence.  If I’d have been left to my own devices, I would have been pacing the windows or the porch to watch the beauty of the storm despite the siren’s wail. 
To be honest, I’ve heard the sirens hundreds of times in my life – all of which has been spent in this Southwest Missouri town – and never seen an actual tornado in my vicinity.  Damaging winds, sure.  Heavy hail, yes.  Deadly tornadoes, never.  It’s not that I didn’t take the sirens seriously, but that I didn’t think we, personally, had much to fret about.  Somewhere half a county away, perhaps; those people should take cover.
But since I have more to worry about now than my own safety, I corralled the kids into the closet with our flashlights and cell phones, and we waited.  We talked about why we were there, and how it was just a precaution.  We made shadow shapes on the wall as the hail peppered our roof.  We raised our eyebrows as the rafters groaned above us. 
And then we came out to a whole, safe house.  I rolled my eyes at my husband’s paranoia, but allowed that his ‘you never know’ had some merit. 
We sat down to finish our dinner by candlelight.  We had no idea what had happened half a mile north of our home. 
Now, it’s several hours of radio coverage and news stories later; it’s several trips across town to check on relatives; it’s several sleepless nights of worrying about lost homes and lost friends, and we know the truth of the tornado.  Our kids know.  Their schools, their routines, their worlds are different, and it’s unable to be glossed over. 
Still, I hate to present our little ones –they of such tender hearts – with stark reality in its purest form.  We tell the truth so far as we are able, and carefully: your school is no longer there.  We can’t go get groceries as usual because the building is gone.  We won’t be going to church because it’s been torn away. 
We answer their questions with delicacy and attention – now is not the time to blow off their curiosity, if ever there was such a time. 
What we don’t say – what we haven’t said because it hurts too badly – is that people have been torn away, too.  We talk about the pain of the tornado in terms of houses and places, but it’s too hard to let the children know right away about the deadly aspect.  At least, it’s too hard for me. 
And the fortunate part is that they don’t have to know just yet because nobody they know has been lost.  I will continue to hope that remains true over the coming days of search and rescue, but not just in the way that it will shield my children from horror – I will hope for the other, obvious reasons: so that our dear city won’t be this tornado’s burial ground for any more lives. 
So my daughters paint pictures in the meantime.  They sing and play around our worry.  They see the news coverage, and question it.  They demand more attention, more hugs, more love.
And they get it.  Because the act of giving it calmly keeps me from falling apart at the seams.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

After The Storm

Fact: When a tornado rips up a giant swath of your hometown, even if your home in particular was untouched, your routines will be changed. 

Our bedtimes are nonexistent.  Our days are fully unstructured.  There is no place to go, except on the horseshoe-bend road that wraps itself under our city like a fishing net.  This is the road to my parents' house, and it allows safe passage beyond all signs of tornado damage.  (Unless it becomes flooded, which tends to happen with days upon days of rain.)

But once there, what do we do?  We speculate and read the news and watch press releases.  We hear stories from family who rode out the screaming winds as they flattened themselves beside a bed -- there was no time to crawl all the way under -- and looked up to find the roof missing.  We talk about all the things we wish we could do to help, but have no way to accomplish.  We laugh sometimes.  We make large meals with our flowing electricity, inviting those who have none to come partake.  We shush the kids as the new death tolls are being released.  (And then we doubt the honesty of those numbers.)  The doors open and close all day long, family and friends passing through for minutes or hours at a time.  We clean up our bitty messes on kitchen counters and den floors, all the while wondering how the gargantuan, multi-legged, horrendous mess of our city will be repaired.  We become a shrunken-extended family: together under one, whole roof.

When it rains, which it has done for far too long, we stand at windows and shake our heads.  Haven't they had enough?  The adults come and go, finding ways to help their neighbors or digging for salvageable items from their used-to-be-homes.  The kids watch too many movies, become too argumentative, too tired, and too bored.  But there is nowhere else to go. 

I won't take them into town. 

Any route would be circuitous and lengthy, but without exception, all roads bisect the path of damage.  There is nowhere I can take them, short of a highway voyage, that would shelter them from seeing firsthand what's become of our world. 

It doesn't have to be forever; they see news coverage when they're not running, screaming, with their cousins and friends, through the packed house.  They hear us all discussing the particulars.  They question the tornado's power.  But to drive past it?  To look at the nasty result of its carelessness?  Even I can't speak in its presence.  Driving by the rubble is painful, and just plain difficult: traffic won't allow for distractions on the newly cleared, but still congested and unmarked roads. 

So we keep on playing, and when the sun finally comes out -- on the fourth day post-tornado -- we soak it up like a lover's gaze. 

We play in the puddles and squish in the mud

and capture the caterpillars

and remember why it's good to have fun.

Even if we have to re-learn how.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Don't Really Know What To Say

This is my home -- the streets I drive on every day to go to the places we inhabit.

Both of the churches we belong to and worship in are damaged -- one completely destroyed, the other being flooded with unstoppable rain through a roof that's been torn away. 

My daughters' preschool and the church it belongs to -- there is only open air between crushed walls.  Between walls that saw Mia's preschool graduation last Thursday evening.  Walls that held happy parents and proud children.

Streets full of homes that were landmarks as we made our way through our days -- crumbled.  We don't even know where we are sometimes.

Trees are naked.  Bare bones reaching to a sky that's been filled with lightning for the past 30 hours.

The hospital where my daughters were born into a beautiful, terrifying world -- directly hit...unspeakably harmed.  Irreparably harmed?  It's a beacon over our city, standing defenseless, once hidden by neighborhoods and view-blocking trees, now starkly visible.

My aunt Sherry, my aunt Susie, my cousin Julie, my dear friends Annie and Jason -- have lost their homes and possessions.  The tornado ripped through a heavily populated part of our city, and those four homes were in a place that wasn't completely leveled.  Merely ruined.  There are so many more.  Friends of family, church family, friends I only hear from through Facebook...homeless and scared.

But all of this -- terrifying and devastating enough -- is small when I consider: there are lives lost here, where I've grown up, blocks away from where we sat hiding in our closet during the storm.  While we hid and made shadow shapes on the wall with our flashlight, lives were being ripped apart. 

Our home is unharmed and we are safe.  We emerged to the dinner table before we realized how badly our city was hurt.

People are still being uncovered, but the storms and rain and lightning won't cease.  It seems our hometown will be flooded soon. 

Maybe with tears.

If you'd like to help Joplin recover, my dear friends at Bigger Picture Blogs are organizing a fundraiser.  If you feel so compelled, your help would be greatly appreciated.  And your prayers -- continuing prayers as we dig out of this disaster -- would be greatly coveted. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekly Column: On Using Timeouts

In the beginning, there were no time-outs.  Time-outs were for misbehavior, and we certainly didn’t have any of that happening in our household. 
Until suddenly, we did. 
When those undesirable actions – hitting, throwing – seemed likely to stick around for awhile in our rambunctious toddler, we had to come up with a plan.  And when mere redirection didn’t work, we hung all our rosy hopes upon the venerable time-out.   
We put a bright blue, round placemat in the corner and plopped our little miscreant on top of it for the requisite few minutes of time her repentance would take.  A big, blue dot worthy of being avoided, we thought.  But that placemat was too much fun to hold apologetic feelings.  Floppy and plastic, the placemat was molded by our daughter into a telescope.  It was flipped across the room as a Frisbee.  It was spun around upon as a Sit-n-spin.  And eventually, it was abandoned. 
As the months and years stacked up, we’ve learned some truths about time-outs, and how to use them effectively.  Mostly, we’ve learned not to overdo it; many situations can be addressed with natural consequences or loss of privileges, which will make stronger impressions on little minds in the long run.  But when necessary, or when you just can’t think fast enough to come up with other alternatives, here are some tips for making time-outs work for little ones. 
·         Place the child away from stimulating action, but close enough to be easily monitored.  A boring, central location works well; our favorite spot is the middle of the hallway.
·         Don’t assume they’ll sit still at first.  Stay close and aware of their actions, replacing them as often as it takes for them to remain seated.
·         Don’t heap additional punishment (yelling, spanking, etc.)on top of the time-out.  Let it stand alone or it won’t be effective as a tool over the long run.
·         An immediate, calm follow-up is a must.  Explain why their actions were wrong, answer any questions, hear their apology, and reassure them that you trust them to make a better decision next time.
·         Institute partnered ‘breaks’ in special situations.  Kids often just need some time to calm down or regroup, but not while surrounded by a sense of punishment.  Remove them from the action to someplace cozy, and take a few minutes to chat.  Help them work through big feelings.  Anger and frustration and sadness are hard to process in ways that feel acceptable to adults and children alike.  They need our guidance to work through it all, and a calm, assisted ‘break’ can help do that.  Don’t even call it a time-out if that will be associated with punishment.
The point of a time-out isn’t to force our children into a miserable apology, it’s just to give them a chance to understand and choose better actions next time.  Use time-outs wisely, and your kids will eventually learn the cause and effect relationship of negative behavior.
And never underestimate the benefit of taking a time-out as a parent; sometimes, we are the ones who need that moment to regroup!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Oh, Snap!

I have all these things I want to tell you about, but no time to do the telling!  We've been graduating preschool and visiting the stables and having picnics and growing babies and planting flowers and running through rainshowers and skipping naps and petting puppies and lounging at the library....

We've been having fun!  But is it still fun if there's no blogged record? 

Duh.  It is.  But only for us!  We'll be back soon to regale you with the history of now...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bigger Picture Moments: Things That Grow

I'm clinging to a small fixation right now: the speed of growth despite my lack of granted permission.  I've been clinging here before, during certain phases of life, yes.  But it hides dormant for whole swaths of time.  Days and months go by before I remember what I don't want to think about.

There is some impetus, as usual, that prompts its return.  This time...

Knowing that I'm carrying a tiny baby boy under my heart is making me both jubilant and reflective.  I realize, all of a sudden, that the girls I have before me are no longer babies.  No more are they wrapped in candy-colored blankets, nor do they wear ruffles on their diapered behinds.  They might as well be grown, says my mother-of-baby-girls mentality.

But they are not grown.  They are just different than they were before, with lengthier sizes and new personalities.  Soon, they'll have new job titles: big sisters to a little brother.  Or something more streamlined, perhaps -- something that actually attaches a boy's name to that title. 

The thing is, I don't know them as such.  It's easy to believe that it will all fit just fine when the day comes. (After all, I am a person who jumps in before learning how to swim; I expect things to be new-normal if imperfect.)  But until then, I allow myself plenty of wallowing. 

They are growing, as they should.  And it makes me long for a pause.  A stretching of time, so I can gather them in well enough that I may never forget how perfect everything is right now

The swing of tangled, dark brown hair, as the head and body it belongs to races away down a grassy hill. 

The glow of rosy cheek and pucker of rose-bud lips in a face that still boasts of innocence. 

The twinkle of laughter that bubbles over and around the simplest of silly moments. 

The ease of comfort -- a blankie; a hug; a quiet talk; a kiss -- when emotions run over or pain is inflicted.

The wrap of arms around neck, legs around torso, bottom on hip, that feels perfectly comfortable despite the thirty-pound heft.

It's all so good and lovely and right, and I feel like it's slipping through my fingers.  Just...if I can remember what will fill my palms when the wisps of childhood are all sifted through.  But these are things I can't yet know.  Futures will fill my palms.  Hazy, shifting, tempting -- the world will be different because of the people my children are becoming.  I cannot see it. 

But I can imagine it, by appreciating the way things grow.  Tall, ancient things --

Colorful, skillful things --

Delicate, bursting things --

They grow.  They change.  They shelter or intensify or adorn, and they are gifts, surely. 

So here I am, loving the things that grow.  And trying to love the caress as they slip through my fingers, filling my palms with memories.

We're seeing the Bigger Picture through simple moments -- moments that force us to stop and take notice of the ways our worlds are important, meaningful, and beautiful. Please join us today at Hyacynth's place! Grab the button, link up and then go forth and encourage the two people before you while they are walking this journey of intentional living.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reactions From This Heavenly Surprise

Justin: quietly in the dark bedroom --  Today's the day!  You ready for this?!
Me: rolling over in the warm bed --  Mmmhmm.  Ready.
Justin: Only a few more hours!  Woohoo!


Me: So Mia, what kind of baby do you think is in mama's belly?
Mia:  I don't know!  But I want it to be a girl baby.  If it's a girl baby, I'll just love it SOOOO much!  *sigh*  But...if it's a baby boy, I'll still love it a little bit. 


Me:  Lauren, are you excited to go to mommy's Doctor appointment?
Lauren: Yeah!  And we will see pictures of that baby in your belly and I will say Hi little baby girl!
Me:  But what if it's a baby brother?
Lauren:  NO!  It's just a girl!


Ultrasound Tech: Observing the girl-filled room.  So we're hoping for a boy this time?
Me:  Maybe!  We just want to see!
Ultrasound Tech:  Let me just take some measurements and things first, then we'll play around a bit...


Ultrasound Tech:  Okay, I've got all I need, now...let's just move...
Me: Gasping; unbelieving.  WHAT...IS....THAT?!?
Ultrasound Tech: Laughing.  That is your baby BOY!
Me:  Aaaaaaaah!  Tears dripping into ears.
Justin: YES!!  That's my BOY!!
Mia:  Smiling; giggling.
Lauren:  Force-frowning; sweetly.  I don't like boys.




Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Place Your Bets

Just when we think we cannot possibly wait any longer....there is still one day left before the ultrasound. 

Oh, the agony.  Something about this third pregnancy is making both Justin and I more needy for gender-confirmation than ever.  We go over and over the likelihoods and the myths and the symptoms and the differences between this pregnancy and the first two.  Over and over.  Of course, we get nowhere. 

Much of our family tells us that we're going to have another girl -- statistically, they say, the third child is more likely to be the same as the first two if those were the same gender.  So a third child after two girls has a higher chance of being another girl.  But I know so many families with two girls, then a boy!  Or two boys, then a girl!  Our predictions are a mighty jumble.

Maybe you can help us?

Here are the supporting confusions:

Differences in Pregnancies
  • With both girls, I was incredibly sick for the first several months, especially in the mornings.  With Lauren, I even went on anti-nausea medicine because I was actually losing weight from so much vomiting.  This time, I'm completely fine.  No vomiting whatsoever, and barely a smidge of evening nausea in the beginning.
  • I've had several quasi-fainting spells this time around.  Each time, I managed to stay upright and regain composure after several minutes, but just barely.  In contrast, I had not the slightest faintness with either girl.
  • While it may be just a trick of my memory, I seem to be quite a bit more...uhm...well-endowed this time around.  Seriously don't remember this much of a magical transformation happening in the past, and with such accompanying, prolonged tenderness.
  • And those aren't the only things growing: my feet have grown half a size in the past 4 months alone.  They stayed constant through previous pregnancies.
  • I've never had breakouts like these before.  Well, at least not since adolescence.  My skin was glowing and clear with both girls.
  • I'd rather have salty, and even somewhat spicy foods these days.  Yes, I still like sweets, but they're not all-consuming like they were with the first two pregnancies.  The other day, I refused donuts.  I know.

Other Thoughts
  • I feel fairly certain -- having charted my cycles for the past few years -- that we conceived on the day of or the day after ovulation.  I can't cite it, but if my memory is correct, when conception occurs within a day or two of ovulation, there's a higher likelihood that the baby will be male.  If conception occurs several days before ovulation, the baby is more likely to be female. 
  • The Chinese gender predictor chart says we're having a boy. It predicted girls with the first two and was correct, however coincidental those guesses may have been.
  • The gold ring test suggests that if a ring, when tied at the end of a long string and dangled over the pregnant belly, swings back and forth in a line, the baby is a boy.  If the ring swings in circles, it's a girl.  We didn't do this test with either girl, or if we did, my memory didn't latch on to it.  This time, our ring swung in straight lines, time and time again.  Boy.
  • Within days of conception, before anybody could be certain I was pregnant, I knew I was.  I felt it in my soul.  Likewise, from the very first days of pregnancy, I've felt certain that this baby is a boy.  Which has made me doubt my feelings; who can actually know these things?!  Isn't it always just coincidence if the feelings happen to match the outcome?  Still, I had no inklings either way with the first two pregnancies.  And I can't really say that I'm hoping for a boy...in fact, I'm more and more nostalgic for the days of baby girls.  I know girls; I love girls; I understand girls -- I'm a mother of girls.  A boy would be...just...different.  But despite these doubts over whether or not I want a boy (like it matters), I still feel like this is a boy.  And I feel quite adamant about it. 

Now, armed with this knowledge, what say you?  Have your suspicions about gender come true in the past?  Have the old wives' tales of prediction been correct for you?  Did your wildly different pregnancies signify anything in particular? 

And most importantly, (step right up! step right up!) what do you think we'll find out tomorrow morning?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekly Column: Little Lessons Take Big Effort

There are a million requirements of being a parent that never crossed my mind before having children.  Lessons kids have to learn, taught by parents who have no idea how to teach them.
 I don’t mean the big things; I always anticipated that as a mother, I’d be responsible for teaching my children manners and kindness and responsibility.  No, I mean tiny things.
How to wipe your own backside.  How to blow your nose, instead of sniffing until your head is entirely clogged.  When to stop eating a slice of watermelon.  What to do if you get stuck between the couch and the end table.
All the opportunities for teachable lessons provided by a normal day are both hilarious and frustrating.   Hilarious because you never know what golden phrases you might utter in the name of hygiene.  Frustrating because sometimes it’s just impossible to explain the logistics of a completely simple concept. 
One area we’re having considerable difficulty with – an area I’d never have given half a moment’s thought to before becoming a mom – happens daily: teeth brushing.  We’re okay with the cleaning part, it’s what needs to happen next that trips us up.  Spitting.
Go on; think about it.  Try to describe the way to move your mouth, tongue, and lips, in order to spit out a mouthful of foamy toothpaste.  And do it so that it makes sense to a three-year-old. 
Possible?  Not so much.
 “Okay, now just lean over and say pbbbbblllffffftttt into the sink,” we might say.  In response, our daughter carefully swallows the mouthful of toothpaste foam, and blows giant raspberries into thin air with her lips.  Of course, nothing comes out.  We try again next time, with similar results. 
We use as many ways as we can imagine to make this everyday task become common practice.  We model correct spitting technique while she watches, giggling.  We let her big sister (to whom we can’t remember teaching this in the first place) demonstrate proper procedure.  We tell her to spit it out like when she gets a yucky bite of food. 
At last, we stumble across a winner.  Having her look directly down into the sink, we brush her teeth while her mouth hangs open, letting the foam ooze out messily.  She feels it falling, and suddenly she gets it.  She lets half of the rest fall out of its own gravitational will, and spits out the other half.  Her chin is covered in dribble, but her eyes are filled with pride.
And this, we realize, is how we get by.  This is how we navigate the dozens of odd lessons that need teaching each day.  We try a few things, learn some necessary bits of information ourselves, tweak our approaches, and try again.  Almost none of the myriad, immemorial things we teach our kids are lessons that need to be drilled home in a single episode.  Not these tiny things, anyway. 
Much like our children, the lessons themselves are tiny but important.  So we keep on plugging away, teaching ways for our kids to be independent.  Ways for them to take care of themselves.  Whether that comes from learning how to spit out toothpaste or how to choose a weather-appropriate outfit, it comes with much trial and error.
And it comes with satisfyingly simple payoffs, no matter how small the lesson may be.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Melodramatics and Histrionics of Ear Tube Surgery

She went to bed quickly the night before -- only one small, common enough attempt at prolonging the moment.  As I gave her a last hug and kiss, she locked her tiny arms around my neck and begged me to stay here for a longlonglonglonglong LOOOONG time! 

And all the tension in my shoulders that had been building for the last several days broke; my eyes filled with tears.  I laid my head against her cheek and traced her forehead with my fingertips.  I stayed as long as I could before her big sister needed my help, but I wanted to stay forever.

With the surgery in the morning, it was too hard to let her go.  Because what if something went wrong?  Or what if everything went fine, but didn't ultimately help her hearing?  What if they discovered unforeseen complications?

I wanted nothing more than to stay here for a longlonglonglonglong LOOOONG time.  Holding my perfect child as she fell asleep.


And okay.  It doesn't have to be this melodramatic -- we're talking about ear tubes here.  It's neither a risky nor unknown procedure, and nothing about the condition requiring it suggests life-threatening.  Still, it is my three-year-old child, and it did involve both anaesthesia for her and much prolonged worry on my part.  Every mother's entitled to a little melodrama, right?


I'd prepared her for the day in the loosest way possible. 

"Lauren, tomorrow you're going to a special doctor's appointment!" I chirped.  Her eyebrows rose at the tone of my voice, but fell again as she started doubting that tone's honesty.  "We'll go early, early in the morning, while Mia's still asleep -- before breakfast, even! -- and when we get there, the nurse will give you a special nightgown to wear."

She did perk up at this development; we've never had a doctor's-office nightgown before! "Will it be a DORA nightgown?!"  Her breath caught at the magical possibility, despite her not having actually seen a Dora episode in the past 18 months or better.

Unsure about how to deflate this optimism gently, I plugged forward.  "Hmmm...I don't think so, but we'll just have to wait and see, okay?  And then you'll drink some special medicine before going with the nurses and doctors to another room whilemommyanddaddywaitoutside.  And guess what?!  You get to take a little NAP there!  Isn't that silly?  You get to sleep at the doctor's office!"  My smile was gigantic.

Lauren's fear of people is staggering at times.  I imagined scenes in my daydreams that went like this:

In the stark light of the surgery-center's hallway, a silent nurse peels a screaming Lauren from her mother's breast, where she can't restrain her own tears from falling.  The child's eyes are filled with abandonment and betrayal, but most of all, terror.  Where are these strangers taking her?!  Why is her mother allowing them to be separated?! 

As they round a corner, the nurse sighs in resignation -- another difficult case -- and shifts the desperate child to another hip.  The hallway becomes quieter and quieter as the sweet little girl's screams become less penetrating.  The weeping, bereft mother is left alone to contemplate the additional fear and agony her daughter will experience as the doctors strap her to a table and lower a mask over her nose and mouth, effectively silencing the lamb.


And okay.  Although I did imagine this scene, I didn't actually think it would become reality.  Sweet friends had tried to help prepare me for the truth: that it might not go perfectly smoothly, but that the doctors and nurses are very skilled at their jobs, and they try their best to make it as easy on mother and child as possible.  But a melodramatic mind will wander, won't it?


Lauren smiled mischievously.  "I'm going to sleep at the Doctor's?!"  She threw her hands out wonderingly, bobbing her head with the upturn of her voice. 

Happy that this was going smoothly, I continued.  "Yes!  It's so silly!  And after you wake up from your nap, you'll be all done.  And you'll get a present!"  Oh, the perfection.  The gleam and joy in her eye.  The....suspecting of ulterior motives.

Squinting at me sideways, Lauren clarified: "But...will there be pokes?  I don't want any pokes."  Pokes -- shots -- being the only thing she could imagine that would warrant a present at the appointment's end.

No pokes, I promised.  Just a nap, then a present. 

When the morning came, she was joyful as always, so that checking in with the registration desk, Lauren charmed the employees with her laughter and early-morning sweetness.  Isn't it always true that a child's voice seems louder and more piercing in a hospital setting?  I tried to shush her enthusiasm while not squashing her happiness.

It was that enthusiasm that made me feel worse than anything.  She's so innocent and hopeful that she would never suspect there could be anything worrisome behind curtain number one.  All of our hype about going with nice nurses sounded fine from the safe confines of mommy and daddy's arms, but once it actually starts to happen, I could envision Lauren's face falling with fear. 

One worry after another was trespassed without much incident.  I doubted she'd be willing to wear the hospital gown in question, but:

I doubted she'd be willing to drink the oral woozy-maker in pre-op, but she did.

I doubted the oral woozy-maker would actually make her woozy, but it did.

I doubted she'd be willing to go with the nurses when the time came to traverse the long hallway, but she did.


And okay.  'Willing' might be a stretch of the vocabulary.  The nurse, who was very kind, asked Lauren if she'd rather ride down the hall on the bed, or be carried by one of the staff.  Lauren, being Lauren, didn't answer.  She stared at her hands, refusing to be part of the conversation.  Not aggressively, just from trepidation; she didn't want to answer because an answer leads to action.  (Or maybe she just didn't hear the whole question?  We were there to treat a hearing issue.)  Justin tried placing her on the bed, and that elicited the morning's single yelp of denial.  Instead, he placed her in the nurse's warm arms.  My darling girl was brave: she held herself stiffly away -- no cuddling this stranger -- but clung to her blankie and went


Thank heaven for blankies being allowed as a matter of policy. 

Lauren never cried.  Not once.  Not while being carried down the hallway, not while being laid on the table (or bed?  I don't really know what it was...), not while having the mask placed on her face. 

I don't doubt that she was actually afraid, but either the previous medication calmed her down enough to merely confuse the issue, or she wouldn't allow herself to cry with strangers, I don't know.

The first time I heard her voice again -- a mere 12 minutes later -- was from a curtained cubicle in post-op.  She lay on a big, white bed, covered in a big, white blanket, with tears streaming from her closed, red eyes.  She couldn't lift her head like she wanted to -- the anaesthesia was still retreating -- and her cries were wearily slow.  I pulled her into my arms, and the world was closer to being right again.

Still, she cried.  For at least twenty minutes, she cried, waggling her head to either get away from the confusion or simply find comfort that was elusive.  My ears hurt, she moaned when her mind could once again formulate a sentence.  My ears!


And okay.  All kids cry, I'm told, upon waking up from anaesthesia.  It's so disorienting for them that all they can do is wail for a bit in mama's arms.  And before the Tylenol had a chance to blessedly soothe her newly-operated-upon ears, of course her ears were sore.  Still.  I was almost frantic watching her discomfort.  Her lolling head shifted her weight across my body time and again -- this wasn't right.  And yet, it was alright.


She didn't really stop her intermittent crying until we got home.  We snuggled into a rocking chair: me rubbing big, slow circles on her back and resting my head on her hair; Lauren letting herself be relaxed after a confusing morning. 

Thirty minutes after I laid her in her bed and tiptoed out the door, she was awake again.  A completely normal awake.  Nothing hurt, she said, and I could tell it was true.  She was exactly herself. 

This has to be the quickest recovery time in medical history, folks.  My baby is a rockstar.

Plus, and even better, she can hear now.  Yes, she could hear before, but not fully, not crisply, not confidently.  Now, she can hear a whisper from afar.  Now, I don't have to cross the room to look into her face before speaking, just to be sure she hears me.

No.  Now I just cross the room to look into her face so I can see her smile when I whisper I love you, Lauren Jade.


And okay.  The smile is still the same as it was pre-tubes.  Gorgeous and lively and perfect in every way.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Some Updatey Things

I never realized how frustrated I would be if a post I spent time and heart and energy on -- a post I really liked -- were suddenly to be deleted.  Did this happen to anybody else yesterday?  With the Blogger interruption?  My Bigger Picture Moment is just gone.  Disappeared forever.  (If you happen to remember it word-for-word so I can re-post it, I'll initiate you into my BFF club.  The perks are really great here: daily access to unlimited whining!)  Plus, I feel sad that your thoughtful comments are gone now, too. 

I'm all adither about it.

(Is 'adither' a word?  Or a form of a word?  Do you know what I mean, in any case?)


Lauren's surgery went so well this week!  I'm working on a more complete post to re-cap it in case somebody ever searches for ear tubes to help toddler's hearing or something, but I needed to let you all know that it's over, and it was good.  Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!  I kept thinking all during my incessant worry that I don't know how people do this when their child is facing something truly serious or frightening.  And then I felt your kind thoughts calming and loving us from afar -- and I know they helped, just as they would in bigger scenarios.  I'm rambling.  But thank you!


Remember this adorable puppy?

I do -- I see him several times a week. And not in my own home, thank goodness! He is too cute to deny, but I think all of our collective puppy-dog-eyes convinced my dad (in whose yard the puppy magically appeared a few days ago) to keep the durn thing. His granddaughters are delighted, Justin's mollified, and I'm relieved. I don't know how long I could have withstood the puppy-pressure.


Here's something exciting: on Wednesday, we'll know the gender of this tiny baby.  Already!  I'm quite adither about that, too. 


I hope you have a wonderful weekend, no matter what it brings your way, be that sweet puppies or lost posts (grrr...)!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bigger Picture Moment: Only Tomorrows

The saying goes: every child is born into a different family. 
And I believe it's true.

The first was surrounded by my own self-doubt.
The desire for perfection in the scheduling of hours.  Minutes.
Not out of any well-thought plan,
hers was a world more ordered by her mother's confusion.
Confusion needed to be remedied by order.
The watching of cues and over-analyzation of approaches.
But she was adored.  Never left alone willingly.
Fretted over.

And loved so much that we weren't sure
how another child would fit.
(Perfectly, that's how.
Like a pinkie being grasped for the first time
by tiny new fingers, that's how.)

The second was -- had to be -- less structured in her days. 
We were more calm than we'd been before.
(Although still over-wired by many standards, I'm sure.)
She reaped the benefit of our first mistakes,
and the drawbacks of our carelessness around dangerous objects.

She is still fretted over, though.
Certainly adored.

Hers is a world that's neither known loneliness
nor over-bearing attention.
But being the baby, she remains more attached.
She's less venturesome, because nobody has transplanted her yet.
Her independence is untested.

We pay attention to them now not out of worry
or the need to do things just right,
(although that does creep in at times)
but because we can't take our eyes off of them.

They are bright and shiny,
like bundles of jewels floating on
sun-touched waves.
(Or resting in overgrown grasses, as the case may be.)

If each new addition to a family is loved in new and different ways,
it must follow that each new day
is filled with chances
to love
in new and different ways.

Only tomorrows lay between us and
another new family member.
Only tomorrows.
Tomorrows that will shape the world our next child will enter.

Tomorrow will be beautiful.
Bright and shining and different,
no matter the shadows on overgrown grasses.

We're seeing the Bigger Picture through simple moments -- moments that force us to stop and take notice of the ways our worlds are important, meaningful, and beautiful. Please join us today at Alita's place! Grab the button, link up and then go forth and encourage the two people before you while they are walking this journey of intentional living.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Very Definition of Undecided Stubbornality*

I do not want a dog. 

We do not need a dog.

I do not want a dog.

 He cannot have a dog.

I do not want a dog.

But I kind of want this puppy....

*Since I made up this word, I can totally claim ownership of its definition, right?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Using Prince Phillip as Justification for Surgery

Sitting with both girls on my lap was uncomfortably snug. 

It was storytime before bed, and we were reading Sleeping Beauty, the Disney version, in the light of the closet bulb.  Lauren seemed to be following along mostly well, as usual. 

Even though she's had some trouble hearing for the past several months, it's not severe.  It only manifests itself in some situations, of which I can never be certain.  Something in the atmosphere or her nasal congestion or the surrounding noise makes her squint and question.  She'll say, "What d'jou say, mama?  Say it louder."  And then as I do, she'll watch my mouth to see what I'm saying. 

Nobody else seemed to notice, but I followed my hunch anyway.  I scheduled a hearing test, which confirmed my worries: she's having some hearing loss.  Follow-up appointments happened, and now we're preparing for tubes this week, which will hopefully cure the problem.  (I mentioned the tubes several days ago...yes, I'm still dwelling.)

As we read about Prince Phillip meeting the singing princess in the forest, Lauren stopped me. 

"Why is his name Prince Pull-up?"  Being three, she often mispronounces things -- sometimes I correct her, and sometimes I let it be, just to soak up her cuteness. 

This time, I smiled and answered with his correct name: Phillip.  Again, she wasn't sure.  "Prince Full-up?" 

I bent down and kissed her head before giggling out a response.  "Never mind, sweetie, it doesn't matter."

But Mia caught my eye, and she was laughing like we do when Lauren is being silly on purpose.  When she does something completely toddlerish and hilarious, we laugh, and this seemed similar at first.  We laughed together for a second or two before I noticed Lauren's face again.

She didn't get the joke.  She looked back and forth between us, not upset, just confused.  "Mia, why are you laughing at me?" she asked. 

I don't know if this was another cute mispronunciation, or a manifestation of the hearing difficulties, but it felt like the latter.  I snuffed out the laughter, reassured Lauren (partly by redirecting her attention...), and went on with the story.  Later, I told Mia that we need to be more careful with our laughter -- pay attention to how it might make somebody feel about themselves -- but I still felt awful.

My darling Lauren has been going through quite some time in her life without hearing the world as it really is around her.  Is her world muffled?  Garbled?  Just confusing?  Is this part of her shyness?  Not being able to understand the words someone speaks to her would definitely make her feel uncertain...

I want her world to be clear and simple in so many ways, and at least in this one way -- the hearing way -- we might be able to make that happen.  It's worth a little bit of worrisome (yet relatively common and safe) surgery if it means my sweet girl will be able to hear.

I'm all hopeful expectation.  Or, mostly hopeful expectation.  There's still a measure of worry in there, because it's surgery on my baby with anaesthesia.  She's three, and she'll know that she's in a weird place, with strange people, and no mother to hold her hand before she goes under.  (So maybe my measure of worry, here, is quite large.  Prayers, if you have any to spare, would be appreciated.)

But if it means she'll be able to tell the difference between a Pull-up and a Phillip, I'm on board.

I wonder what her world will sound like in a few days....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weekly Column: A Little Less Conversation

Happy Mothers Day to all the super-talking mamas out there!  Today, feel free to speak as abundantly as you wish :)  You deserve it!

I’m a talker.  A long-winded, over-analyzing, in-depth talker.  It’s not so much that I love the sound of my own voice as it is that I worry I’m not being clear, so I repeat myself until I’ve beaten a point to death.  All in the interest of clarity, I’m sure.
But my rambling approach doesn’t work on boundary-pushing toddlers.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet my ‘helpful’ explanations only irritate and confuse an already frustrating situation.  In the middle of a paragraph full of reasoning, my bored toddler probably only catches a few bold words, and forgets the rest.  Or worse, she acts out while I’m still trying to make my interminable point. 
So what’s a talkative parent to do?  There are ways to talk to little ones without making steam come out of their ears – simple habits to implement effective communication – but it all starts with listening. 
Instead of dashing headlong into an analysis of why it’s not okay to hit another child’s head with a magic wand, it could be easier to start by asking a question.  "Why did you do that?"  If it’s because she wanted to see what her friend would turn into, that might require a different (shorter) response than if she’d been mad that the other child was ignoring her. 
The end result will be the same – your child needs to know that hitting is hurtful and wrong – but it can be reached with a simple instruction that makes sense to the child’s circumstances.
Listening before talking teaches our kids that we’re as willing to hear them as we are to lay down our own expectations.  And about those expectations…
It’s best, with toddlers and even young preschoolers, to be clear and concise.  To quickly reach a point.  As you might easily believe, I’m having a terrible time learning this lesson.  Identifying the common areas of instruction and condensing them into easily-remembered one-liners, has become more and more helpful as we learn how to speak so our kids will listen. 
For example, if our children are currently prone to whining, we could become frustrated and angry at every turn, trying to talk them out of whining.  We could punish them.  Or, we could repeat a memorable mantra, and move peacefully away from conflict; we might say, simply, “When you can speak without whining, I’ll be glad to listen.”  Quickly and easily conveyed, this one-liner makes way for actual progress.
Or if our 3-year-old loves dancing on her chair, instead of begging or yelling or explaining propriety, we could say, “Chairs are for sitting, the floor is for dancing,” and help her get seated again.  Over and over if need be, but at least the words we use are more likely to be internalized. 
A few more simple statements in our rotation are “keep your hands to yourself,” “rude voices hurt feelings; please speak kindly,” and the ever-present “please do it the first time you’re asked.”  Can you imagine how many paragraphs I would have otherwise expended on such simple instructions?
There are appropriate times for deeper conversations, but it’s usually not in the heat of the moment – it’s later.  Perhaps even much later, when the child is old enough to explain and question and comprehend reasons. 
By then, after such a history of clipped reminders, I only hope my ponderous verbosity will remain intact.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Random, Dripping, Colorful; A Peek Into This Hormonal Life

I don't know what's weirder about life lately: that I would rather stare out the window at the abundance of color splashed on the world this spring, or that I never noticed the abundance before.  Was it muted?  Was I rushing by too quickly?  I'm sure I was.

Or how about this for weird?  I would rather scrape all the white cream from the middle of a Double-Stuf Oreo and feed it to the trash can, than put up with its syrupy-smooth squish in the middle of my crunchy, black cookie.  But for the entirety of my life, the cream was my favorite part.  I whined and moaned that my mother somehow never understood, and continued to bring home regular-Stuf Oreos when she even bought them at all. 

And why do I suddenly cry at the drop of a hat?  I misunderstand or am misunderstood: tears and staring-off into the distance (probably at the blue, blue sky) for days at a time, worrying.  There is a change in plans: tears and self-pity and probably boredom, which leads to more tears.  My daughter's shoulders are so perfectly narrow and innocent, but her legs are forcing her up, up, up into a crazy world: tears.  I forget to thaw meat for dinner: tears.  I overcook dinner: tears.  I don't want dinner: tears.  I'm hungry, with nothing satisfying in the house: tears.

(There are only Double-Stuf Oreos in the house: tears.)

And if there are tears, the only thing I want to do -- the only thing I seem capable of doing both passionately and correctly lately -- is thrown off balance.  Because how can I simply stare out at the gorgeous, blooming (lime and forest and azure and cerulean and fuchsia and cotton and cream and hazel and lilac and rust and bubble-gum and golden) world, if it's all running together in my hormonally-weeping eyes?

In summary, my life looks like a drippy rainbow right now.  And there's nothing good to eat.

Friday, May 6, 2011

7 Quick, Startling Discoveries

1.  Searching for Roly-Polies earlier this week accidentally unearthed a red and black snake, which my three-year-old gleefully described in minute detail before admitting that she lost it among the rocks.  She did wish, however, to try and find it one more time, making my eyebrows both rise and shiver simultaneously.

2.  Letting my responsible, crafty five-year-old keep a pair of scissors in her bedroom for quiet-time art projects led to an unfortunately shortened window-blind drawstring.  And an unfortunately lost temper.  And a new rule about where the scissors must be stored.

3.  The idea to take a few photos of the bubbles flying around us on a windy day only led to terrible frustration as those glorious spheres scattered away -- into bad light, before ugly backdrops, out of the focal point -- into the blue sky.  But a bubble is still cool when held stationary on the tip of the wand.

4.  Oh, but when that one bubble floats directly into focus, it might be worth the frustration of 30-minutes of attempted captures.  Even despite the dead-end signs in the background.  (Which somehow make the picture more interesting, I think; I tried cropping them out, but the effect was a little boring.)

5.  No matter how much I worried that this was inappropriate, I wasn't quite able to deny Mia her time amongst the mannequins.  I blame Old Navy. 

6.  It would appear that weeds, when tugged from the earth so carefully as to keep their roots intact, will last nearly forever in a water-filled vase.  It makes sense.  But something about those dangling roots in the bottom of the vase seems either heartless or cruel.  It was a good thing the flowers on top were sweetly distracting with their purple petals.

7.  The return of the pregnancy-induced afternoon nap is back, folks.  It took a long vacation from weeks 8 to 15, but now, in week 17 (holy moly), it's back with a vengeance.  So off I go with it....I really have to choice....to fight against it would be futile....


(I hope your weekend is lovely!)

(See?  I talk in my sleep sometimes.)

More Quick Takes are at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bigger Picture Moment: I Danced

In a crowd of mothers and children, Mia and I stood together.  She alternately clung to me and pushed away from me, needing to have her own space.  We were dancing, you see.

Her preschool hosted a special Mother's Day Chapel this week, inviting moms to come spend a few minutes in celebration with their children.  There were milk and cookies, hand-made cards and gifts, and singing.  Dancing.

These are songs the kids know from preschool -- loud, foot-stomping, energy-boosting, God-loving songs.  They dance to these rhythms and sing these syllables weekly, and they love it. 

I didn't know the words.  I didn't know the actions.  I didn't know who was watching.  I didn't want to look like an idiot, mouthing the wrong lyrics and bouncing to the wrong beat. 

But I did it anyway.  Not well, mind you, and not with perfect enthusiasm...but just enough.  Just enough to hopefully show my daughter that it's okay to look silly and it's okay to dance, no matter who sees and no matter how little you know of the song. 

She's only just now -- this year -- broken out of the shyness that made her sit still and quiet in music class, not participating.  Her little sister is still mired in that doubt.  And I do believe there will come another day, in the years to come, that Mia will stop dancing again.  She'll look around and worry about who's watching and how perfect her technique is (or isn't).  I hope not, but I'm prepared for that eventuality because I did it, too.  And I still do.

I hate to think of who's watching, evaluating my lack of talent, when really, they're probably too busy having fun to even notice my movement.  What they would notice was a person standing stark still in the middle of a room full of motion.  But that's not why I danced. 

I sang the wrong words and bounced at the wrong times.... 

I waved my arms and laughed when I did it backwards.... 

I held Mia's dancing hands and clapped with her in joy....

Because it was all beautiful anyway.  And for that moment, on that day, in this season, both of us hid our fears.  We're teaching each other, it would seem:  I want her to always dance, and I want to always dance, too.  Especially when we can do it side-by-side, oblivious to the world around us.

We're seeing the Bigger Picture through simple moments -- moments that force us to stop and take notice of the ways our worlds are important, meaningful, and beautiful. Please join us today! Grab the button, link up and then go forth and encourage the two people before you while they are walking this journey of intentional living.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Color-Splashed Downpour

Alright, enough already with the seriousness. 

(But I do want to say thank you for all the comments on Monday's post -- your thoughts and opinions were so kind-hearted and helpful.  I really have appreciated the feedback.)

To lighten my mood, here's a glimpse of spring: in which spring equals sudden downpours on an otherwise sunny day.

When the girls realized the rain was going to stick around for a few minutes, they decided rainboots and cardigans were the perfect protection against such weather.

I think Lauren realized that headgear might have been more helpful.  She became quite adorably drenched.

But at least these girls have a stunning sense of style, right?  They're all about color...

And hugs.  Which, luckily for them, go perfectly with any attire or weather combination.

Hugs (and color! and joy!) to you, my friends!