Sunday, May 18, 2014

Boys Will Be...

...forever a mystery to me.

(Note: This post was written several months ago, but I just found it unpublished in my draft folder.  Since it remains very much the story of our daily lives, I'm just going to post it now!)

As I sit at my dining room table, I have a view through three windows overlooking my front yard.  It's a great perch from which to watch the activity of my neighborhood.  As the twilight sets in, I've counted a dozen couples strolling by, walking dogs, pushing strollers.  A typical occurrence most evenings around here.

Another typical sight (just a little less idyllic) is happening even as I type these words.  The background noise is a symphony of semi-automatic air soft weapons being unloaded and the sight of ninja-like long-legged boys belly-crawling through my azaleas.

Nestled in a three-house triangle, we are the neighbors responsible for 7 boys ranging in ages from 8 to 15 years old.  It is loud, smelly, dangerous and delightfully entertaining around here.  As parents, we all agree that we are grateful these young men are far more interested in outdoor games than gaming systems, but there IS a trade-off when you unleash this herd on our suburban streets.

For instance, I question my personal safety more often when I'm, say, going out to check the mail.  I usually call out some sort of "CEASE FIRE" warning when I leaved the covered safety of my front porch overhang.  The rustling of the hedges indicates that I've been heard and am safe to retrieve my mail.  Lately, Miss M has apparently been questioning her personal safety and has taken matters into her own hands.

Safety Goggles?  Check!
I also have learned to stop questioning the logic behind their decisions.  After all, just because I don't think it would be fun to be chased down the sidewalk by a motorized dirt bike doesn't mean these guys don't think it's a THRILL!
Outta the way, Miss M!  Those safety glasses won't save you now!

My role to keep my son safe from himself is diminishing as my husband's role of pushing him to the limits of his fears and reservations increases.  I can certainly suggest that he shouldn't ride his bike down the street "with no arms and no legs, Mom!", but it's way more fun for him to watch YouTube videos with Dad about what amazing things you can do on your bike when your arms and legs are free from the burdens of steering and pedaling.

The day after they watched one of these videos, I received the following text from my husband:

"So I got run off the trail.  
Now know what it feels like 
to flip over handlebars!  
I'm ok though - a little sore."

Yes, boys will be forever a mystery to me.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Boy Tree

The tree stands modestly in our front yard.  It's not very tall.  Not terribly wide.  It doesn't produce flowers in the spring or lose leaves in the winter.  It always appears exactly the way I see it right now as I peer at it through my front windows.

But it is a marvelous and magical tree, this modest-ish, short-ish, thinnish green thing.

Surrounded by a low hedge of azaleas and draped like an umbrella by it's own bowing branches, this tree is a fortress of solitude for a boy who needs some space to breathe.

It's a proving ground of courage for a boy who needs to face some fears, to climb higher up or jump farther down from it's curving, gnarled branches.

This tree is a resting place for stuck things; various rubber balls and soccer balls and lacrosse sticks and frisbees are all held tightly by hungry, thick coverings of leaves. All waiting for a boy who needs the victory of being the rescuer of stuck things for a change.

Sometimes the boy just needs for life to not be quite so serious.  Where the only thing that's hard is the grip he has on that low-dipping branch.  Where that firm grip serves to shake the branches so hard that the laughter comes showering down along with the toys.

And there's levity.  Literally there is levity when that low-dipping branch yanks that child's small body up hard and he just dangles 2 feet off the ground feeling weightless for much longer than you'd ever imagine he could manage.

The callouses on his hands and the scrapes on his shins might worry a mama if she didn't know better.

If she hadn't learned that sometimes the twisted ankles, the blisters, callouses, scrapes and bruises really aren't signs of injury in an eight year old boy.

The "boy tree" will tell you that they're much more likely marks of healing.

The Boy Tree

Monday, July 1, 2013

Creator God

This particular summer has lent me the opportunity to wonder at the exquisite creativity of God in His creation.  And "from the mountains to the valleys to the oceans white with foam", I have seen with my own eyes how God has truly bestowed a bounty of natural blessings upon our country.

At the beginning of June, I was able to travel for the first time to see the desert beauty of Arizona.  Though we were there for business, my friends and I snuck away just long enough to travel the scenic stretch of land that leads the big city of Phoenix through winding mountain roads toward the Grand Canyon.

Before we arrived at the Canyon, I found a devotional written by John Piper about God the Creator.  I was (and still am) so deeply grateful for reading it before I viewed the splendor of that natural wonder.

Several weeks later, I found myself nestled into a hammock while the salty breezes of the Gulf of Mexico curled around my little spot of paradise.  The beach is by far my favorite place on earth.  Only moments need pass before the white powder sand buffs away the stress and chaos I allow into my head.  I live just minutes away from this experience, so I often wonder aloud why I am not always wandering a shoreline.

The beach reminds me of my Creator God, too.  And this past weekend of swim and sun reminded me again of that devotional.  Because I haven't posted in a while and therefore probably need a little more time to build back my writing muscles, I just want to use this platform to share pictures of what has been precious to me these last few weeks alongside the eloquent and challenging words of Mr. Piper.

from "God's Pleasure in Creation" by John Piper

"God rejoices in the works of creation because they point us beyond themselves to God himself.

God means for us to be stunned and awed by his work of creation.  But not for its own sake. He means for us to look at his creation and say:  If the mere work of his fingers (just his fingers! Psalm 8:3) is so full of wisdom and power and grandeur and majesty and beauty, what must this God be like in himself!

These are but the backside of his glory, as it were, darkly seen through a glass.  What will it be to see the Creator himself!  Not his works! A billion galaxies will not satisfy the human soul.  God and God alone is the soul's end.  Jonathan Edwards expressed it like this:

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness 
with which our souls can be satisfied.  
To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, 
is infinitely better than the most pleasant accomodations here.  

These are but shadows; but God is the substance.  

These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun.  
These are but streams; but God is the ocean.

This is why Psalm 104 (vs. 31-34) comes to a close like this, with a focus on God himself.  In the end it will not be the seas or the mountains or the canyons or the water spiders or the clouds or the great galaxies that fill our hearts to breaking with wonder and fill our mouths with eternal praise.  It will be God."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

10 minutes on the timer...

Insanity is being held at bay right now by the power of the microwave timer.

I use the microwave timer to tick off the minutes of time-outs whenever we need them.  Whoever needs them.  And when we got home from a full and fun day out in the hot sun just now, it took me only a few moments and 3 separate meltdowns (yes, I had one of them) to surmise that we all were in need of a time out.

No one is in trouble (try convincing the tender-hearted, dramatic, sobbing three year old of that).  It's just sometimes a good idea for everyone to have personal space.

My kids apparently don't believe in personal space AT ALL.  I am the quintessential mother of young children, which means no quiet time.  If I take a bath, I'd better have a bathing suit on for privacy's sake.  If I need to use the restroom, I only close the door these days because I probably should stay in the habit for when I'm out in public.  Because it takes my children 0.3 seconds to figure out I've left the room, and they find me.  They ALWAYS FIND ME.


So... The clock ticks down these precious remaining moments, and I've already sent Drew back to his room twice.  "Until the timer goes off, bud.  Don't come out until the timer goes off."  This last time, he slammed the door behind him hard enough for the walls to shudder.  I'll go remedy that response in about 4 1/2 more minutes.  But I WILL enjoy the waning moments of my quiet time.

(And by "quiet", I now mean TWO tender-hearted, dramatic, sobbing children in their bedrooms thinking they're in trouble).

**NOTE:  It should be made known that the 10 minutes set on that microwave timer allowed me barely enough time to write the above post.  It took another two weeks to hit "publish".  Please keep reminding me that someday I will cherish these days... Last night the microwave timer was set for 60 minutes - ha!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Good Medicine

A cheerful heart is good medicine.  It's Biblical AND practical advice.  And, apparently, it works.

Ever since I ran the Disney race, I have been sick, sick, sick.  First it was the flu - seven days of fevers, lethargy and coughing up everything except my internal organs.  I think I still may have those.

I briefly recovered for about 3 days before my son brought home a snotty, cough-y, fever-y virus from school and we both crashed again.  The lack of general wellness in our house has been ridiculous and I am over it.  I grew very impatient toward the end of last week, as I was preparing to leave town for a very fun business trip opportunity with some friends in New York City.  I prayed and prayed and prayed for God to heal me completely before I got on that big-city-bound plane.  I wanted so badly to be better.  I felt pretty good on Friday when we set out on our trip, but the cough lingered and the congestion hung heavy in my head as our trip began.

For the next few days, though, I spent every waking (and sleeping) moment with two amazing ladies.  We worked really hard.  We ate good food.  We shared funny stories.  We saw amazing sights.  We laughed.  And laughed.  And laughed some more.  We cried (a trip to the 9/11 memorial is a sure fire bet for tears if you're looking for one).  And we laughed.  We survived hairy, scary cab rides.  We saw performances from the best (Broadway show) and worst (the aftermath of a Times Square crowd of people who had done a little too much partying at the St. Patrick's Day Parade) that New York City has to offer.  And did I mention that we laughed?

So I sit here this Monday morning with almost zero congestion, no more cough, and an energy level that I haven't experienced in nearly a month.  I feel like "ME" again, and I'm grateful that God saw fit to take a very special and funny pair of friends to cheer my heart.  It was such good medicine all around.

(And, should all that contagious coughing I did get either of them sick, might I prescribe a "business trip" to the beach!?)

(For photos, click on the thumbnail pictures shown on the right hand side of my blog under "daily life")

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

"Are you thinking about what I'm thinking about?" my little one asks me, her voice sincere and hopeful.

"I don't know, Miss M" I respond.  "What are you thinking about?"

Without a moment's hesitation her answer comes.  "Princesses and Unicorns!" she responds, dreamily.

I'm caught a little off-guard.  Let's be honest, the real world of laundry and homework and dishes and bills and bathroom toilets that need scrubbing don't send me to a place of fantasy and imagination very often.  I am currently not thinking about princesses and unicorns.

But I lie.  Because it feels right to in the moment.  "Me, too Miss M.  Me, too..."

Over the course of the next few days, she asks me the same question over and over.  And because this little one of mine is a package of routine and consistency and order, I know now how to respond.  "Unicorns and Princesses!"  I say, much to her delight.

This morning, we are driving to preschool and she announces that when she grows up, she is going to be a mermaid.  "How beautiful..." I say.   Not all announcements are as easy for me to go along with.  For instance, she has recently declared that she wanted her 4th birthday party to be at a "fancy hotel".


At three years old, she is completely enveloped in a world of beautiful daydreams.  I can only guess that she has a starring role in these imaginations, and I would love just a momentary glimpse into her little mind.

When she says something, it's more like a proclamation to her loyal subjects.  I have nearly come to expect trumpet fanfares before she speaks.  Whether she's officially changing her favorite color, "My new favorite color is now (drum roll.....) PURPLE!" or renaming all her dolls and animals (for a time, everything was named Casey.  Recently, the order has gone out proclaiming all boy dolls to be Joey and all girl dolls to be Kara) she presents her thoughts with confidence and gusto!

She already has a more natural inclination toward mothering than I do, reading stories to her baby dolls and tucking them snugly into bed for naps.  And perhaps that's what all this imaginative play is for anyway.

She's living the life of her daydreams right now.  And I pray that translates into the life of her dreams as she gets older.  One where she grows up to be a woman who knows her royal status as a daughter of the King of Kings.  One where she relishes all the beautiful colors and moods and moments of her life. One where she is able to pour her creative energy into the lives of her own little "Joey" or "Kara" someday.

And as I watch her grow, I'll be thanking God for the privilege of raising a daughter who has opened my eyes to the world of unicorns and princesses.  It's certainly more fun than the world of scrubbing toilets.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Once Upon a Run

There is a small portion of cartilage in my left ear that is throbbing in pain.  I wish I could say that was the worse of my maladies.  It's not.

On Sunday morning, I made it across the finish line of the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  Sure, the moment was filled with elation and pride and tear-filled eyes, but it was also filled with pain.  Lots and lots of pain.

At that time, it was only my feet, ankles, knees and hips that were screaming in agony, but two days later, I have spent the day wondering why my EAR cartilage needed to join in on the pain party??  I'm also sporting a fever, so in addition to the throbs of overdone muscles, I'm experiencing the shuddering depth of bone pain that sickness brings.  Good times.

I'm keeping myself busy today by lying in bed and thinking about the truly amazing time I had for the most part this weekend in Orlando.  You know, before all the pain.

I arrived to my destination around 2pm on Saturday, and my friends had already scoped out the best of what Disney had to offer us runners.  We jumped on a bus and made our way to the expo hall where I picked up my racing bib, my t-shirt, and a cool hydration belt for race day.  I hadn't even considered wearing a belt with water bottles for the simple fact that I figured even a few ounces of extra weight on my body would be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.  Instead?  Best. Purchase. Ever.   (More on that later).

We left the expo hall and headed back to the hotel for an early dinner of pasta, then turned in early for the night.  With a 2:15 a.m. alarm set and a thousand thoughts running through my head, I was concerned I wouldn't get ANY sleep that night, but God is good and my sleep was sound.

I crawled out of bed into the thick blackness of the middle of a Florida night.  The forecast called for 100% humidity and heat advisories for the race.  My buddies and I said a few quick prayers to hold off the rain and began to suit up.

Here's my outfit for the run:

I would say that 95% of the racers wore costumes.  How fun!!
We boarded a bus packed with sleepy beauties, while the smells of bananas and peanut butter wafted through the aisles.  By 4:00 am, we had made our way to the starting corrals.  One of my biggest concerns was what to do for the 2 hour wait (our particular corral didn't "go off" until 6:24 am!).  I mean, there's only so much stretching one can do:

My awesome princess running buddies, Princess "Green" and Princess "Purple"

It was one of the most pleasantly surprising parts of the day, though - how quickly the time went by.  We met and chatted with lots of new friends, exchanging pictures and email addresses and tips for how to survive the next several hours.  We were inspired by princesses who were running for the first time, those running for the fifth time, and those who had completed the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in California just one month ago!  (Those ladies received special medals for what Disney calls the "Coast to Coast" challenge.)

Before I knew it, our group had made it's way to the starting line, where we were sent off with a fireworks display.  Because, as the "Green Princess" said it, "That's how Disney rolls".

I won't bore you with the tedious details of what the next 13.1 miles held for fear that you'd feel like you'd run your own half marathon just reading this post.

But I will say that the first 8 miles were like a dream.  The first EIGHT miles!!  There was so much to look at, so much excitement in the air!  We ran past a dozen Disney characters who were available for photo ops along the way (we didn't stop for pictures, though.  We were all business).  My favorite part of the entire race was running up Main Street at the Magic Kingdom.  Hundreds of spectators were cheering us on as we snaked a path through Tomorrow Land and curved back around through Cinderella's Castle before we made our way out of the park through Frontier Land (Is that what it's called?).  

A little bottleneck at the castle made it impossible to run, which was a bummer, but the experience was still pretty darn cool, even if I was sauntering through like a regular tourist.

By miles 9-10 I was starting to feel like I anticipated I should feel at that point in the race.  The scenery became a little less exciting, the miles seeming to spread out a little farther in distance.  And while Disney was so good about providing water stations, I was so so glad to have a hydration belt on.  One of my biggest problems during my training runs was that I never carried water on me.  Therefore, when I passed by a water fountain, I had no choice but to gulp down huge amounts of cold water.  It's a miserable feeling to run with water sloshing around in your belly, so "wearing" my red Powerade gave me the opportunity to slowly hydrate throughout the race and not depend on gulping down drinks at someone else's set intervals.  

Miles 11-13 were hard.  It was a truly mental game by that point in the race.  Every body part began hollering that I should really STOP and find a bed or something.  As we walked, one set of muscles hurt, then as we ran, another set screamed out.   The last mile of the race was both humorous and kind of evil all at once.  Bystanders and employees tried to encourage us by shouting "You're almost there!  Less than a mile to go!"   Hahahahaha....  at every single turn I hoped and prayed for the finish line.  That's the point where the course became one of those scenes from a bad dream where you never gain any ground even though you're running and running.  It took every ounce of determination and grit and prayer I could muster to not give up.

But then we turned a corner and I saw a sign that said 13 miles.  And right after that, I finally saw it - the FINISH LINE!  The Purple and Green Princesses and I grabbed hands and ran across the finish line in just a little over 3 hours.  And while I know that most good runners could probably do a full marathon in that amount of time, we were on-top-of-the-Disney-World with our accomplishment.

I actually teared up as the race volunteer placed my medal around my neck.

Too bad I wasn't very excited, huh?
The next hour or so was a blur of sitting and stretching and riding buses and showering and applying or taking various medications.  After recovering for a little while, we made our way to the hotel's cafeteria for a bite of food and a recap of the morning.  Probably a little too tired to even take it all in, my friends and I at least could begin to process that we had just experienced one of those amazing life moments.  Oh, and did I mention?  It never did rain one drop!  Just a perfectly misty morning.  While some of our Michigan and Ohio friends were lamenting the heat, we Floridians couldn't have dreamed up better running weather.

Two days later, my ankles and knees and hips are still reminding me of the pavement I pounded on Sunday morning.  The ear pain thing?  I guess it's just reminding me that an aging body can be pretty quirky and annoying.

And the fever?  Well, I guess it's just a pesky bully that didn't get the memo that I am NOT to be MESSED WITH.  

After all, I just ran a HALF MARATHON!