Lessons From a Violin Concert

Dear Chica,

I underestimated you.  Forgive me.

Tonight was the night of your first Suzuki Marathon Festival.  Despite the struggle it was to help you and Bubba quietly endure many, many minutes of sitting and listening, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I hope it was the first of many.

As the songs got shorter and so did the players, we all were anticipating when they’d flash that Lightly Row poster.  Even Bubba.  The moment finally came, and up you waltzed behind that red curtain, violin tucked under your arm just like you’ve learned.

Only problem was, you kept on waltzing in your signature Chica way.  Right onto the stage.  Two songs too soon.

Yikes.

Your daddy and I panicked a bit for you.  We were absolutely sure that you would lose it as soon as you realized everyone else was playing a song you didn’t know.  We both pictured you running off the stage and melting into a puddle of tears.  I tried hard to catch your gaze, ready to wave you back off if you looked my way.

But you never did.  Girl friend, you faked it.  Beautifully.

You faked it so well that for a minute I thought, “Maybe she knows that song after all. Maybe this is the one they’ve just started, and she knows more than we all think she does.”

But no.  You had no clue, but nobody could tell.  You just rolled with it.  We underestimated you big time.


Afterwards, as we got in the car, I told you again how proud I was of how you had handled yourself.  Can I just remind you your priceless response?

“Well…what was I supposed to do?  I would have looked like a fool if I had run off the stage.”

Sometimes you are so wise.

So, Chica, let me just go ahead and fill you in on the fact that this certainly won’t be the last time that you may want to run, but it will often be best to just fake it:

Your first real soccer game.
Tryouts for the school play.
That job interview you thought you’d never land.
Your first day of your first job.
Your entire first year (or 5?) of being Mrs. Somebody.

Oh…and without a doubt…that day they wrap a pink little baby up in a blanket and tell you you’re actually allowed to take her home.  That day I can guarantee you won’t know the song.  Don’t run.  You’ll look a fool.  Instead, just copy those around you that are doing it well.

Nobody will know.  Well…maybe I’ll know because I’ve been there.  But you’ll fool the rest of them.  I’m sure of it.

I love you,
Mommy

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Albert the Mowse, Hurry, & Anger

The offers:
Sweet Frog with Daddy.
Rides at the mall with brother.
Rivermont Pizza with the whole fam.

The choice:
Late night writing and reading with Mom.

I love that kid.

Chica had a good week at school.  After the fourth positive note home in her agenda, I told her we would celebrate with a treat of her choice if she brought home a fifth.  Her snaggle-tooth grin coming off the bus Friday afternoon told me she had made it.  On the way home we brainstormed ideas.

“Maybe…..maybe…..” she hesitated, never quite hearing the offer that was, to her, worth five long days of self-control and focus.  I thought for sure I had her at Rivermont Pizza.  Or at least I hoped I had her at Rivermont Pizza.  (I’m thinking I’m picking that as my reward next weekend if I can keep my own self together for five good days in a row.)

So tonight on the way home from Nana’s neighborhood picnic I reminded her that she hadn’t yet chosen a reward.  “Time’s up…you need to pick.”

“Ok.  I want to stay up as late as I want.  Can I write another story?”

Be still my little teacher heart.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for Bubba to fall asleep, we finally got busy.  She didn’t have a story idea ready to go like the last one, so I helped her find a little inspiration here.  It took possibly 37 spins, but she finally decided to go with a mouse named Albert that liked to dig holes.  She also decided this second novel of hers would be typed on Mommy’s computer.  We would then print it and illustrate each page.  Whoa.  Big time.  Let’s do it.  Except…

FYI:  A first grader typing anything is slow.  Painfully slow.

“E.  I need an e.  Where’s the e?  Eeeeeeee?  Oh. Here it is!  E.  Got it.  Ok, now…”

Times 90 for the first page.  Yes, I did check.  Bless her.

I almost said it.  90 times, even.  You know, those two words that rhyme with “blurry cup” and flow off my lips like they are her middle and last name.  But there was absolutely nowhere to hurry to.  She didn’t have to go to bed yet.  I didn’t have to do school work.  Jay had given me from 7am to 5pm of uninterrupted time to work, and finished or not, that’s enough.  I wasn’t going to do house work either.  I’m saving that for tomorrow.

Instead I just let it go slowly.  We tried about five different spellings of said before landing on the right one.  We learned about how backspace goes one way and delete goes the other.  We right-clicked the squiggly red line to find better ways to spell mowse and backyorad.  Once Chica moved from typing to dictating, we discussed quotation marks and synonyms for said.  Daddy even came up to hear our story and made us talk about verb tenses.  After she had had enough of her mowse story for the night, we moved to reading a little Junie B.  While we read our two chapters, instead of our nightly normal of one, we discussed the finer details of good sportsmanship and why Junie B.’s antics made Chica want to hide her eyes.

Slowly we wrote.  Slowly we read.  Slowly we talked.  Until exactly 10:47 when she rubbed her tired eyes and agreed it was time.  What a great choice of a reward, Chica.  Better than pizza, even.  Thank you.

I just keep coming back to something I heard recently in a sermon about pressure:

There is always anger in hurry.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize this is so true.

Hurry up, Chica!  Read:  I’m mad that we aren’t out of the house yet.  I still have seven more things I need to do, so find your shoes on your own already!

Hurry up, Bubba!  Read:  I’m angry that you’re taking so freaking long to get out of the car.  I should have gotten up five minutes earlier, but I’m going to blame our tardiness on you.

Hurry up, kid in my class that is always the last one to finish!  Read:  I’m angry that I planned more for this day than we can actually accomplish.  I’m really angry that I’m expected to teach you more in this year that anyone can actually accomplish.

So tomorrow I plan to not hurry the finish of the story of Albert the mouse.  I have no need to be angry.

And this week?  As contradictory as it seems, I’m going to try to fight the inevitable pressure by slowing down.  No need to be angry.

Don’t Send Your Kindergartener to School in Ivory Tights

But she really looked cute this morning.

A hand-me-down pink ribbed shirt with tiny matching rhinestones at the collar that I’m not sure she’s ever worn.  A brown and pink flowered corduroy skirt with an extra ruffle at the bottom.  And the ivory tights.  It was a whole outfit of things that matched.  And it was really my only option since she had (literally) not a single pair of clean pants.

So we went for it, and she was cute.  Cold, but cute.

Then 3:45 rolls around and she appears out of nowhere in my classroom just like she does every afternoon.  “Hi, mom.”

Woah.

Shoes untied.  Hair staticky and everywhere from her fuzzy hood.  A stain mingled with the rhinestones.  The ivory tights are now mostly brown, and one knee cap is completely poking through.

Not so cute anymore.  Looks like she’s going more for the Mom-Doesn’t-Take-Care-of-Me look.  And it only got worse.

I had made plans to work with a friend in her classroom on one of those ridiculous paperwork things that make teachers want to poke their eyeballs out and/or just retire early.  Chica, armed with a few markers, scissors, construction paper, and her creative genius, had her mind set on creating a whole flock of turkeys.  And if you have a kid or teach kids or have just ever been a kid, then you know that pretty much the only way to draw a turkey is to trace your hand.

So perhaps 45 minutes later we discover her….left hand completely black, black marker smears on the brown tights, and black marker all over her face.  She is truly talented…at making messes I mean.  The turkeys were pretty good too.

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Tonight we had planned to have dinner at Bubba’s school, but there was no time to take this piece of work home and clean her up.  Her daddy could barely look at her he was so embarrassed.  I just tried to keep reminding myself that it was all a sign that she had had a good day.  A really good day.

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On the way home I knew that the image of Chica and her holy tights had to be my thankful picture for the day.  Sure, I’m thankful for her creative spirit that will not be squelched by dirt or lack of materials or a grouchy mom.  But I think even more, today, I’m thankful that tomorrow is a new day.  The tights will go in the trashcan, the clothes will go in the washer, and the girl has already been in the bath.  Tomorrow she’ll skip to the bus a new kid, ready for a new day.

Tomorrow will be a new day.  As I turned on the bathwater, I thought of all the things I wanted to wash down the drain from my day.  The shortness I had with a friend that just wanted help.  The hurried and grouchy words with my kids.  The even more grouchy words with my classroom full of big kids who just four years ago were turkey-making little kids.  That yucky feeling of not doing what you know you need to do.

I’m thankful for forgiveness and that I get to try again tomorrow.  It’s a new day.

Oh…and I guess I’m also thankful that I now know never to send a kindergartener to school in ivory tights.  Shouldn’t I have known that already?

Eighteen Gifts Before Nap Time

70.  Accidentally sleeping in.
71.  Nana, who was keeping the kids, so that I could accidentally sleep in.
72.  Leftover pizza for breakfast, washed down with buttered tomato biscuits.
73.  My Saturday morning running group.  So. Fun.
74.  A new friend who slowed down to run with me while I (slowly) pushed my clunky stroller.
75.  Chica’s sweet spirit as we walked from the Depot to the Market.  “Mom…It’s just like we are on a play date.  I like being with you.”
76.  The zigs and the zags.  As we walked the new Lower Bluff Walk up from 9th Street to Commerce, Chica said, “Now we’re on the zig!”  And then we’d make a turn, and call, “And now this is the zag!”  Thanks to the zigs and the zags, we got up a really steep hill very quickly!
77.  The Community Market.  I can’t say enough how much I love that pace on a summer Saturday morning.
78.  The two tiny little kids eating some great big peaches on the back of a farm truck while their momma worked.  The older of the two was double fisting it, and the little girl had juice just pouring down her bib.  What I wouldn’t have done for my camera in that moment.  It was so perfect.
79.  The guy with the goat cheese.  Man, he is one friendly dude, even when I sample his stuff every week and only seem to buy it every thirteenth visit or so.  I’m thinking next week’s the week.  I’m might go for the spicy pimento flavor…it’s a winner.
80.  That extra $20 I found stashed in a pocket of the diaper bag.  The $4 I found in my wallet wasn’t going to make it very far.  My kitchen table is still loaded with tomatoes, new potatoes, green beans, zucchini, squash, an onion, Gala apples, and cucumbers.  This summer is going out with a bang.
81.  The lady who piled my bucket of apples til overflowing.  We had already devoured three of them before we were even home.
82.  A calm moment to just sit at the fountain and watch Bubba gnaw on an apple core while Chica hunted for pebbles.  The music, the little kids dancing, the bigger kids rolling down the hill…grabbing my kairos moment for the day right there.
83.  Living room picnics.
84.  Bubba’s giggles and giddiness when I finally convinced him to swing with me.
85.  Free hotdogs at Miller Park.  And that orange paste that can only be a result of kids eating Cheetos.
86.  Pre-K teachers that are (and always will be) magical.
87.  Nap time.  I’m certain I’ve probably already listed this somewhere in my list of 87, but I’m also certain it’s just that good of a gift to mention multiple times.  I know this won’t be the last.

The Night Chica Did My Work For Me

I believe I’ve hit a new high in the adventures of parenthood.  I’m camped out in the hallway, drinking a glass of wine, eating ice cream, and listening to someone else put Bubba to bed:

It’s Chica.

Yep.  She’s been asking for a few days to try to put him to bed one night.  Each evening I have had some reason why it was a bad idea (he’s too grumpy, it’s too late, Mommy’s too grumpy, etc.), but tonight I could think of none.  So I gave her a few basic instructions: get him in bed, read him 3 or 4 books, say a prayer, turn the light out, and sit next to him until he’s asleep.  Then creep out of the room, and you’re done!  Oh, and when if it doesn’t work, don’t get upset, just come get me.  Half of the time it doesn’t even work for Mommy.

The first five minutes was brutal as he wailed over and over, asking for me.  I was sure she hadn’t bargained for the screaming and that she was going to throw in the towel after a minute or two.  But much to my surprise, she stuck it out.  And gradually I could hear less of his protests and more of her reading.

The sound of her working her way slowly through familiar books and the image I had of him sitting on the bed, waiting patiently for her to figure out the tough parts was just too perfect.  So though the dishes need to be done and the laundry needs to be folded, here I sit, listening and waiting:

Ok, Bubba.  Time to get in bed.  Here, I’ll help you.

Hand, hand, fingers, thumb.  Dum ditty, dum ditty, dum, dum, dum.

Are you having fun, Bubba?  Ok, I’ll keep reading to you.

Boom boom boom, Mr. Brown is a wonder.  Boom boom boom, Mr. Brown makes thunder.

Lay down, Bubba.

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?

Don’t worry, Bubba.  I’m just going over here to get some more books.

**********************

At roughly the 30 minute mark, she crept out of the room with the most surprised look on her face.  “I did it!  He’s asleep!”  I celebrated with her, and then sent her downstairs to tell Daddy.  She hadn’t made it past the first three steps before the wailing kicked back in.  But this time he was calling her name.  Be still, little heart.

So, as we often do, she went in for round two, rereading each of the books, this time with more confidence.  Soon she was out again, and this time he was really down for the count.  “It was like magic!” she exclaimed.  Yes, Chica, you are magic.

After we had read her two stories and said our own prayers (“God, thank you for letting me get Bubba to sleep so good.”), she asked me an interesting question.  She asked me if I was more proud of her brave jump off the diving board today or of her putting Bubba to sleep.  It was a tough call, but I went with bedtime.  I told her that I thought she was very determined and that I could tell that she really loved Bubba.

And finally (because I have no other ideas for ending this post??), I leave you with a limerick:

There was a young girl who read
Three books to get Brother to bed
She turned out the light
And called it a night
“You’re hired forever!” Mom said.

Things Above

I’ve made it to verse 13 in my challenge to memorize Colossians 3.  There are lots of people words in verse 13…each other, one another, any of you, someone…so it’s taking a little longer to stick than the last few.

Apparently Chica’s been listening as I’ve been practicing out loud.  Today on our ride to a friend’s house, she asked out of nowhere (because isn’t that how the best conversations always start)…

“What does ‘set your minds on things up above’ mean?”

There’s nothing quite like having to explain truth to a five year old to let you know whether you’ve got it or not.

I think I said something like, “We should spend our time thinking about God instead of worrying about things that are less important in our everyday lives.”  Since that explanation was met with silence, I knew I was going to need to do better than that.  Chica is certainly a verbal processor, and she starts explaining things back to you (always with her own twist) if she thinks she’s got it.  That wasn’t happening yet.

Just like me, I knew she needed an example.  I had a pretty concrete example from last week at the library…

That day I made the mistake of attempting the library without Bubba’s stroller.  Chica was way into an Elephant and Piggie book, but Bubba was much more into pulling one book after another off the shelf.  My chaos quotient had long been passed, and I needed to get out of there fast.  But Chica wasn’t budging….only whining.  So I got down in her ear and whispered a very mean sounding threat.  Meanwhile Bubba is sprinting across the library and has made it clear across the building by the time I’m done with Chica.  I run to catch him, and then she runs to catch us.  I gave her a few more ugly words, this time with her chin in my hands (the I’m Really Serious signal in our house), and then marched my grumpy little family out of that place.

In the car I was just fuming…rolling everyone’s bad choices over and over in my head.  But it didn’t take too long before something else rolled on in there…set your hearts on things above.  Certainly my crappy attitude wasn’t above.  A few verses later it says to rid yourselves of anger….the verse I had been working on that day.  Though I admit it wasn’t immediate, I tried to use these two verses as reason to cool off and just let it go.  First…get rid of the anger.  Second…think bigger picture about what might be happening here.  The best I could come up with on my ten minute ride home is that I was being given an opportunity to model for them an appropriate (or inappropriate…ugh!) way to handle frustration.  If I want them to have a Christ-like attitude in difficult situations, I better start trying to model that myself…and admitting when I don’t get it right.

Sooo….back to today’s question in the car.  The whole library example was so concrete and real for me, but way too much to give Chica today.  So I stalled with my fair share of ummmms and welllllls, and finally attempted a few five year old “for examples”:

  • If it’s your first day of kindergarten and you start to worry about having the best clothes, the coolest backpack, sitting next to your favorite friend, and knowing all the right things to say, then this is thinking about the earthly stuff.  But if you set your mind on things above, then instead you’ll be thinking more about God’s promises to protect you and provide for you in a new situation.
  • If you and a friend are playing, and you both want to play with the same toy, you have two choices.  Earthly choice:  “I want to play with that toy because it’s the coolest, I don’t have one of those at home, and you’ve already played with it for too long.”  Things above:  “I’ll let my friend have it because this is what Jesus would do.  Maybe by sharing I can show my friend what it means to be like Jesus.”
  • If you are at Nana’s house watching TV, and Nana says it’s time to go see Mema,  you could tell her, “I don’t want to go…I just want to watch this show.”  That would be focusing on the earthly stuff.  But you could also think, “Ok…I’ll go because I know that going to see her makes her feel good and loved.”  This is thinking about things above.

Her feedback after each of the examples made me think she was getting the idea, but I know from my own life that this is definitely an easier-said-than-done kind of lesson.

Well apparently it’s more accurately an easier-done-when-five-than-thirty kind of lesson.  My friend called me tonight to tell me about what had happened when we weren’t listening.  We were gabbing about teacher stuff while her teenage daughter entertained four little kids in her room. They were each picking a piece of paper for a project, and Chica wanted the same piece as one of the other girls.  It sounds like there was a short protest, then something like, “I’m going to let you have that one because I’m thinking about things above.    The paper is an earthly thing.”

Bam.  I have so much to learn from her.

But just in case you are tempted to think that she’s an angel (Grandma!) and always goes around quoting scripture, I leave you with one other conversation that happened today.  Again, out of nowhere in the car:

Chica:  There are just so many ways to do it.
Me:  Do what, Chica?  You mean think about things above?
Chica:  No, Mom.  I mean when I burp I can make so many different sounds.
Me:  Oh.  Yeah, that too.

Member That Sunday?

Dear Chica,

Member that nearly perfect summer Sunday when you were five?

Member how Bubba didn’t sleep at church or on the way home so it worked out for ALL of us to nap after lunch?  In our own beds.  At the same time.

And member our full-family wrestling match in Mommy and Daddy’s bed when everybody woke up?  I liked the part when Daddy cracked up because Bubba did his “Ahhhhhhh Bubbaaaaa” battle cry.

Member how you and me and Bubba went berry picking in the neighbor’s yard?  I think you decided you liked berries that day just to prove me wrong.  You were good at finding the dark ones.  Bubba was good at repeating the words dark and light, but I don’t think he really knew what that meant, do you?  Member how he insisted on us giving him berries, and then he just licked them and threw them down?  That Bubba.  I fell for it every time.

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splashin'Member how we got so hot we decided we had to go cool off at the splash park?  Well after a while, nobody could get the water to turn back on, so we decided to leave.  We were pretty lucky that those other fountains downtown were going, don’t ya think?  I had fun watching you and Bubba weave in and out of them together.  It actually looked like you were having more fun there than at the real splash park.

Member how Bubba ate more of my dinner than his own?  Never mind, that’s every night.

Member how we drove all the way to the mall for our after dinner walk, only to remember once we got there that it was Sunday and the mall closes early?  I think our plan B turned out more fun anyway, though.  We took our mall walking to Target and zoomed in and out of the aisles.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget how we each walked down different aisles at the same time, racing each other to the end.  You giggled good and loud every time you ran into Daddy.  Daddy doesn’t usually let us be so loud when we are at the store, but I guess it was okay tonight because you were laughing at him.

I member that the night ended perfectly with you helping me fold a basket of laundry and (mostly) reading me two Elephant and Piggie books.

Pretty much the only imperfect part that Sunday was what Bubba had to do in the morning to get me out of bed.  After trying to drag me out and begging, “Mommy, eat!” he resorted to another, more creative, plan.  Member how he took his diaper right off and peed a great big puddle at the foot of my bed?  It worked.  I got up.

Nope.  I don’t think I’ll be forgetting that.