The Oxpecker and the Giraffe

Tonight on our walk, Chica asked me plainly, “Mom, do you know what a symbiotic relationship is?”

I had a pretty good guess, but I wanted to see what she thought it meant.  I knew right away this is something she had picked up from Wild Kratts.  (Thank you GOD we are occasionally hearing about something other than My Little Ponies these days.)  Anyway, her definition wasn’t quite correct (“when one animal picks something else off another animal”), but her example was spot on.  She told me about the oxpecker that picks bugs off of a rhinoceros.  I had to check it out, but she’s exactly right.  Still not quite five, but already smarter than me.  Sheesh.

All day I’ve been intending to write about collapsible baby legs and the moment in which I really lost it this morning.  Now I’m thinking that symbiotic relationships are somehow related to my mini major meltdown, so let’s see if I can work my way back around there by the time I’m done.

There’s a parenting rule that I forget over and over:  Don’t ever start to think you may be early for any occasion, because this will invariably cause something to happen that will make you late.  Maybe you’ll have to send out a search party for the left shoe of the kid that only owns one pair of shoes.  Or maybe after four passes by the mirror, you’ll admit that the snot on your shoulder (not your own, of course) is, in fact visible, and you’ll have to change shirts.  Or, like today, maybe one kid will decide that the best time to have a dirty diaper of epic proportions is the moment you are putting on coats to head out the door.  Don’t ever think you’re going to be early.

So I admit I was already angry while changing his diaper.  We were going to leave after our goal of 7:30…again.  But then he just Wouldn’t. Stay. Down.  All my usual tricks (a toy, a book, a song, dirty looks, brute force) weren’t working, and as he cried more and fought harder, my frustration just grew.  I somehow managed to wrangle the clean diaper on him, and decided to go ahead and let him stand while I finished with his pants and shoes.

collapseGrowing up, my grandma had a giraffe toy with a button on the bottom.  When you pushed the button, the giraffe would collapse in a limp pile.  Right then and there, after probably three minutes of fighting to stand up, Bubba did a perfect imitation of the collapsed giraffe.  “You want me to stand up?  Nah.  I think I’ll lay down now, thankyouverymuch.”

So the next few minutes are a blur.  Chica, get your shoes on.  No, for the millionth time, you cannot take a doll in the car because you’ll forget it like the other 17 toys that are already there.  Chica, find your coat.  Where did I put my phone?  Chica, find your coat.  No, Bubba, we cannot read a book right now.  Don’t take your hat off.  Chica, PUT.  ON.  YOUR.  COAT.

All I know for sure is that I was standing at the top of the steps, holding everyone’s bags, trying to take down the baby gate, and Bubba did the giraffe imitation again.  I tried to pick him up, and he was still the giraffe.  And crying.  And I still don’t think Chica had her coat on.  (Sorry….way too many ands in a row, I know.)

Three inches from his face I yell scream, “STOP IT!”

Yeah.  So I totally know that screaming at a crying, flailing sixteen month old is only going to make him cry and flail even more.  Pretty much the only thing it did accomplish was scaring the helloutta Chica and make her get in the car quickly.  With her coat on.

But here’s the thing…  Often when I get angry at my kids, I take deep breaths, speak (mostly) calmly, and seem pretty composed on the outside.  But on the inside I’m screaming mean, ugly, curse word laden rants that I think would fix the problem fast.  And make me feel better.

Today when I let that stuff fly, it only fixed half of the problem—Chica and her coat.  I still had to carry a flailing, screaming giraffe to the car under my arm like a sack of potatoes.  But me?  I felt worse.  Way worse.  And Bubba?  He never cries when I drop him off at school.  Really never.  Today he did.  You know it’s connected.

So maybe we’re back to the oxpecker and rhino and symbiotic relationships.  I know they need me.  They need me to remind them not to run down our sloping sidewalk, or explain what adoption means, or navigate how to make friends and keep them.

But Chica’s crazy, random question has reminded me that I need them too.  Today I needed them to help point out an area in my life where I still have a wholelotta room to grow towards Christ-likeness.

Gracious.  Compassionate.  Slow to anger.  Rich in love.   I need that.

They need that from me too.

How about you?  Any oxpecking happening at your house lately?

 

 

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Changing Sheets

Sometimes God speaks in a still, small voice.  Other times he uses trash that’s fallen down between the bed and the wall.  Whatever works.

It’s Sunday morning.  Bubba and I are stuck home together because he puked three times in the early morning hours….once in his bed and twice in ours.  I’m attempting that delicate dance of baby watching and housework at the same time.  I’m sure moms who work at home get really good at cleaning while playing, but I usually do just one or the other.  But with the sheets on all three beds needing to be washed, I didn’t really have time for that.  (Chica’s sheets were in need of cleaning from a different bodily function earlier in the week.  You can only make a kid sleep on the floor in the sleeping bag for so many days in a row before sucking it up and just doing the wash.  Bad Mommy.)

Anyway, after stopping for the 17th time to read some dumb book about a parrot running away from a tiger, I finally got back to making Bubba’s bed.  Like I always do, I pulled the bed away from the wall a bit, both to rescue fallen books and help get the sheets tucked down.  I found the usual lost sock and board book, but I also found this:

IMG_0324

That is for sure my handwriting, but I have no memembery of writing it down nor what motivated me to want to remember it.  I have a good guess, though.  I’m betting I wrote it in a sleep-deprived haze when my “work” and “lot in life” consisted of not much more than a milking cow.  I can’t lie….those days were hard, girls.

So I can’t go back and change the amount of joy I had then, but you can bet I had a quick attitude check with the sheets in hand.  Was I enjoying this work?  Well…to be honest…no. I was (slightly) aggravated that I had to be home, annoyed that we have only one good set of sheets per bed, and contemplating how much faster I could work if I didn’t have to keep stopping to read about the parrot.

But I want God’s gift of enjoying my work, and I want to look back on my life without sorrow, so I guess I might as well start with the sheets.  Fake it ’til you make it, right?

I have so many reasons for joy, and I’ve decided to try to count work as one of them.  Work in all its forms:  housework, school work, and mommy work.  I didn’t do a very good job of that today.  (I’m thinking in particular of the moment when I was cleaning up 3/4 of Bubba’s dinner off the floor and got pelted, on purpose, by his “wa-wa” cup.  Still looking for the joy there.)  But if I tell you I’m trying to be joyful, then maybe I’ll find even the tiniest bit of joy tomorrow.  Sounds like a plan.

How about you?  How do you take joy in your work?

Singing in the Bathroom

I’ve come to a point where almost nothing that either of my kids says surprises me.  Saturday on the way home from the school carnival was no exception.

The PTO moms (and dads!) at our school know how to organize one heck of a carnival.  It’s big time.  The past two years I’ve signed up to help in the silent auction, but this year I decided to branch out a bit and face paint for my two hour shift.  After that, the rest of the fam joined me, and we enjoyed the carnival through the eyes of an easily pleased, almost five year lo

IMG_0318Face Painting–A monarch butterfly, per her request (“Because monarch butterflies travel 3,000 miles to Mexico, you know?”  Thank you, Wild Kratts.)
Pony Ride–Obvious first choice
Petting Zoo–It’s imperative to name each and every animal
Tattoos & Nail Painting–I sprang for the 25 cent manicure, too
Cotton Candy–You can’t follow the 5 second rule with this food, FYI
IMG_0314Pizza & Bake Sale–“I can eat this too??!  Now?”  (Translation:  What happened to my mommy?)
Bingo–We obviously need a little practice on what to do when you don’t win.  It wasn’t pretty.
Treasure Hunt–So much pleasure in digging through a bucket of bird seed.  Who knew?
Bobsledding–Definitely saw a third grader clothesline a tiny kid.  We got out of there fast.

There were a few other games, but you get the idea….a day full of a whole bunch of “yes” and not much “no”.  Those kinds of days are usually reserved for Grandmas, but mommies and daddies need them every once in a while too.  Fun.

So on the way home I was reflecting on all of the yes stuff, and I wondered what her best memory of the day might be.  “What was your favorite part of the carnival, Chica?”

I can’t say I was expecting the answer she gave, but I certainly wasn’t surprised…

“Hmmm…..let me think for a moment….Oh, I know!  It was looking in the bathroom mirror at my butterfly face while singing a song.”

Well, of course.

IMG_0316

Don’t Look Down (Or Around, Or Up, Or Anywhere, Really)

Tomorrow during stations I’ll give my kids 15 minutes to write about the overnight field trip we enjoyed this week.  I thought I’d give it a try myself.  I have way more than 15 minutes worth of stuff to say, but I’m hitting “publish” at 9:40.  Go!

…and I’ve already wasted five of my 15 minutes looking for just the perfect way to start.  Of course.

So let’s just skip straight to the best part.  The Alpine Tower.  It’s this crazy cross between a climbing tower and an obstacle course.  I watched probably 20 kids go ahead of me, and a few determined ones made it to the top.  It was time to go to lunch, but one of the super-cool counselors said I could still climb.  I guess that’s one of the perks of being a teacher….like skipping ahead of students in the lunch line.

I climbed the first stair section with no problem, and then came to the point where I had watched more than one student lose their confidence.  This was going to be much harder than it looked from the ground.

Since I have only two more minutes until my self-inflicted deadline, I’ll spare you the details and get to the point.  It was hard.  I don’t usually get too scared on these types of things, but today I did.  My students would repeatedly give each other the routine advice, “Don’t look down,” but I decided that’s not enough.  It seemed to me that if I looked up or down or out or anywhere other than right in front of me, I started to doubt that I had it in me to reach the top.

And thanks to many, many years of debriefing training at camp, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to the everyday.  Sometimes the task or path in front of you (or above, in this case) is way too overwhelming to see all at once.  And that’s why it’s so perfect that in those times, only tiny next steps get revealed, one at a time….

Put your right foot on that cable.

Spend this next 30 minutes reading a book to your kid.

Now reach for the rope ladder.

Write that e-mail you’ve been thinking about all day.

Sit down on the edge.

Don’t worry about that, and just go to bed.

————————————————————

So I made it to the top.  Myself and a rather spindly little girl in my class actually made it at the exact same moment.  We air high-fived each other on the platform, and felt oh-so-full of ourselves all the way to lunch.

To end, I must make one correction that I have figured out only now:  You have to look down.  You have to look down because the guy with the rope and the directions and the view of the whole big tower is down there.  You have to make eye contact and listen to hear that next tiny step.

I know I’m not ready for the whole big plan, but I’m feeling a renewed sense of need to look more often in the direction of the One who’s got the rope and the view.  Time to start making some eye contact and listening.

Oh, and an hour and 15 minutes later, I think I figured out that 15 minutes won’t be enough time for my students to write about our trip either.  It was that good.

Everything But Nap

Chica’s class has an end-of-the-day routine that involves the kids telling the best part of their day.  Based on what she tells me, it sounds like Chica has a routine answer that she gives most days that she’s asked:

“Everything but nap.”

Well, in case you’re wondering about the best part of my day today, I’d say, “Everything but nap.”  And that’s only because I didn’t get a nap.  Had I gotten a nap, that would have been one of my best parts too.  For sure.

Thanks to the early morning rain, we were all set up to have a slow day at home.  I was expecting lots of My Little Pony and at least 20 readings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  But thanks to some very effective Facebook marketing, we found ourselves rolling out of the house around 9:00 a.m. headed to the City Market.  As always, we ran into multiple friends, sampled chocolate we are way too cheap to buy, bought one apple for Chica to munch on while we browsed, and just enjoyed our stroll.

Since Bubba hadn’t yet reached his squealing point, and we had already seen everything there was to see at the Market, we decided to continue our stroll down Main Street.  With Bubba on my shoulders and Chica on Jay’s, we walked nearly from one end to the other.  Bubba has a small sampling of words that he uses now (that aren’t animal noises), and one of them is wok (translation:  walk).  “Wok?  Wok?” he asked over and over.  I was hesitant at first to let him get down because he usually refuses to hold anyone’s hand, but somehow today was different.  With his tiny little hand around my pointer, we walked most of the way back to the car.  My shoulders were thankful.

As often happens when Jay is driving, we then found ourselves touring old neighborhoods while he filled our brains with local, historical trivia.  I love that guy.  Bubba, however, was not quite so enthralled, and he went right to sleep.  Instead of risk waking him by bringing him into the house, we decided that Chica and I would kill time in the library while the dudes napped in the car.  Win-win.  We were pleasantly surprised when our library buddy, Mrs. Ann, had a tableful of St. Patty’s Day craft materials set out.  Books, computer time, AND a paper plate leprechaun mask….what more could a girl ask for?

After lunch at home, Chica went off to pretend she was napping, Jay hibernated in the basement, and Bubba and I went for a walk.  And we walked, and walked, and walked.  We stopped to pet a pack of puppies up for adoption, meandered down a side street trying to find the house of one of my students, strolled through Randolph College to see what all the commotion was about, and took a potty break at Riverside Runners.  (Let me just stop right there and say, have you been in that place lately?  It’s just plain awesome.   Water outside for two and four-legged runners, showers inside, friendly people, oh…and a fully stocked stash of any kind of toiletry you might need in the bathroom.  The good kind…not the cheap stuff.  Ok, I digressed.  Just visit them.)

When I got home, Bubba and I explored the back yard for a while, then Jay took both kiddies on an errand so I could grade a few math quizzes.  After dinner, I suggested we do something fun as a family.  (You know, anything that doesn’t involve My Little Ponies.)  And do you know what Chica actually suggested?   A walk.  Miracles.  So we walked again, and it was grand.  There was ice cream for dessert, the bedtime stories of choice were short, Bubba fell asleep quickly, and most of the dishes were already done.  This day ended just about as well as it started.

So what was your best part of the day?

Magic Pebble

There are just some moments as a parent when you have absolutely no idea what to do. You just stare at your kid, mouth gaping, thinking, “Who the heck thought I was prepared to handle this?” This week that moment happened exactly 2.4 seconds after Chica figured out her pebble wasn’t actually magic.

So let’s back up about 10 steps…

At some point during the beginning of the week, we began hearing about a magic pebble that Chica was making and/or pretending in her class. At four there is such a confusing blur between reality and pretend, so I’ve learned not to ask too many of those kinds of questions. Just go with it.

Much of our conversation driving home that day centered around brainstorming our best ideas for wishes when she had the magic pebble ready. She didn’t have to think too hard to determine her top two choices: #1 For it to automatically be her birthday. #2 For a real Rainbow Dash. I’ve never actually watched an episode of My Little Ponies, but I’ve heard her talk about it enough to know that this must be the main character. When she asked me what my wish with the magic pebble would be, I hesitated for a moment. Before I could get out an answer, she offered, “I know, Mom. You’d wish to get all your work done.” Exactly, Chica. Exactly.

We didn’t hear anything else about the magic pebble until dinner later. Unprompted, she begins a captivating retelling of the book her class has read, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. I know I am biased, but she is truly a good storyteller! I’m sure I have read or heard this story multiple times….actually, I think I may have even acted it out before….but she had me on the edge of my seat as Mr. and Mrs. Donkey finished their picnic on Sylvester the Rock. Jay, Bubba, and I all cheered when Sylvester had the surprise reunion with his parents.

Well yesterday Chica came prancing up to my classroom after school just dying to show me her magic pebble. It was about the size of a peanut shell and coated in a healthy layer of gold and red glitter. As if any clarification was needed, the Ziplock bag that held it was definitively labeled with her name and “Magic Pebble.”

She let me touch it, showed it off to a few of my students that were waiting for the bus, and then got busy with her wishing. I got busy with e-mails or planning or whatever it is that I do every day after school, and I forgot all about the magic pebble. Until…

Until she came back to me, still clutching the pebble that now had a few glitterless spots showing through. “It doesn’t work,” she choked out before bursting into tears…big, fast tears. “I wished (sob) for Rainbow Dash (sob), and the magic pebble (sob) didn’t work (sob).”

So that’s the moment. The moment where I have no idea. I can’t very well say, “Oh, Chica, your teacher was just playing with you….you know it’s not really a magic pebble.” That’s the magical thing about being four…you still believe every-last-thing your teacher tells you. No need to rush out of that. So my next thought is to tell her to keep on wishin’, but I quickly realize that I’m only setting myself up for even louder sobs and faster tears later. So I do the only thing a deer-in-the-headlights momma knows to do…hold her, let her cry, and keep thinking.

That’s when I thought of Bridge to Terabithia. I wish I could say I have read the book, but I’ll admit I’ve just seen the movie. Which was great, by the way….only movie during which I’ve stayed awake until the end in a loooong time. Anyway, I told her about that movie and how the kids in it pretended they had this whole other world to visit. After awhile, they got so good at pretending, that it actually seemed real. “So why don’t you pretend that your wishes came true, and after a while, maybe it will seem real.”

Yeah, so, that’s good in movies and all, but it didn’t work for Chica the Puddle. I totally thought she would buy it. So wrong.

So after a few more tears, she just got mad, decided to put it back in its Ziplock bag, hide it somewhere where she didn’t have to look at it, and move on to Wild Kratts (yeah, I don’t get this show yet, either). I let out a sigh of relief, got back to e-mails, and forgot about it too. Phew.

Today as I cleaned up my computer counter, I snagged the pebble and stashed it in my lunchbox. I’m not quite sure what to do with it yet, but you can bet it’s not going to appear for her to find anytime soon.

I guess maybe I should hold on to it just in case I ever find myself transformed into a rock trying to get away from a lion. You never know.

Quick…Write! It’s Nap Time!

I’ve bought myself a few moments for writing.

After a slow morning of pancakes, reading, and Play-doh, it’s my turn to retreat.  When the big kid finally went off to nap and the little one snuggled in next to Daddy to watch TV, I contemplated how I might spend a few stolen moments alone.  It would be easiest to veg away my time browsing Facebook or conquering more levels on an iPad game I’m ashamed to admit I’m crazy about.  And my Achiever self says I should probably spend these minutes grading papers or planning lessons.  But I’m choosing this instead.  It’s probably only because I’m finally headed toward well rested that I am thinking clearly enough to realize that this will leave me feeling better than vegging or grading.  So here I am.

I have no plan, other than to fill in some of the gaps between my sporadic posts lately.  Just filling in a few pages of the Memembery Book so that the mememberies don’t vanish. Prepare for random…

  • I’ve been living it up the last two weekends thanks to the cash I won in the video contest.  Last weekend Ruth and I spent Friday night at a swanky girls-only fundraiser.  We both admitted ahead of time that we were a bit nervous that we were going to be way out of our league at this event.  But we breathed a collective sigh of relief when we pulled into the parking lot and agreed we were at least as cool as the car of ladies getting out beside us.  So we got over ourselves and made a big ol’ night of it….facials, massages, up-do’s, manicures, pictures, caricatures, and (unashamedly) four plates at dinner.  Sure, all the pampering was fun, but the best part was conversation with a friend uninterrupted by little people.  Thankful.
    friends!
  • Last night Ruth and her daughter watched those little people so that Jay and I could go out and spend the rest of the contest money.  We thoroughly enjoyed a most relaxing dinner at the Melting Pot.
    dinner
    Again the best part?  Getting to that point in the conversation when we had to think about what to talk about next.  We never get there these days because conversations we try to have are interrupted by discourses on My Little Pony, moo-ing (Bubba’s latest trick), or just pure exhaustion.  After dinner, despite our less than ideal footwear, we strolled down the mall, holding hands…both to keep warm and to remind ourselves that it is just as good as nine years ago.  No…it’s better.
  • My body has made a very clear statement in the last few weeks that I am not getting any younger.  (Oh…that reminds me of a funny story to tell you next.  Don’t let me forget.)  For two or three weeks I was waking up with a terrible headache every morning.  My first suspect was the glass of cheap wine I was enjoying the night before, so I begrudgingly gave that up.  No difference.  More than one friend and half-way trustworthy internet source suggested dehydration, so I now have nearly a half-dozen empty water bottles lying beside my bed.  When that didn’t work either, I decided I had to try more sleep.  Whadaya know…it worked.   I’ve always needed more sleep than Jay, but I’m finally coming to the point of admitting to myself that there is nearly nothing worth sacrificing for feeling well rested in the morning.  No blog posts, no lesson plans, and certainly no Facebook updates, or iPad games.  Sheesh.
  • This week on the way to school Chica asked me how many days it was until her birthday.  I did the quick math and told her she had 31 days.  She replied, “31?!  If you put all those days together, that’s how big Daddy is!”  And before my brain could figure out just what she meant, she continued, “Daddy is 31.  No way!  What a coincidence!”  I love that kid.
  • Thanks to a very gentle push from Bubba’s teacher this week, we are done with bottles.  I had been reluctant to try to get rid of them because I feared bedtime without them.  True to his stubborn self, he is basically refusing the sippy cup at all costs, but he’s still going to sleep.  I’ll take it.  He’ll come around.
  • One of my most favorite things these days is reading to Chica.  We’re about halfway through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Banks of Plum Creek.  I’m repeatedly amazed at how 75 years later, the important themes of childhood haven’t changed any…obedience, stretching the truth, comparison, mean girls, discovery, play, just to name a few.  I love hearing Chica interpret Laura’s actions through her own little 2013 brain.
  • I’m a little nervous to even write about this last memembery, but one of my friends took a bold step in the same direction this week, so I will too.  Earlier this school year I was invited to take part in two writing projects.  I turned one in this week, ahead of the deadline.  Miracles.  I have plans to finish the second during Spring Break.  Of course I’m looking forward to that week for days of not having to pack lunches and wearing sweatpants all day, but I also can’t wait for time to write without the nagging feeling that I should be getting something ready for school.  I’m so thankful for discovering a new passion in writing over this past year.  I’m not sure I have the confidence yet to just bust out and call myself a writer, but I might be getting there.

Ok….so JK on that being the last memembery.  This is really the last one.  I usually let Jay read my posts before hitting publish.  When I went into the den to bring him the computer, I found a memembery that needs no extra words:

sleeping

Thanks for the time to write, Jay.  I know it was hard work.  : )