How are the kids?

28 04 2008

When people call up and ask, “And how are the children?” I never know what to say.  I am too close to them, I think.  Watching them nearly every moment of nearly every day, I lose my perspective.  Behavior problems swell until they seem like Rocky-Mountain-sized obstacles.  Or I develop sudden onset parental amnesia.  When this condition strikes, I cannot remember anything we have done in the past month, although I know we must have been doing something.  I feel tired, at least!  You’d think that would indicate something.

The truth is I don’t know how the children are doing.  It’s like trying a recipe out of a new cook book and having someone walk in while you’re still adding ingredients and ask, “So, how is it?”  Well, I don’t know.  It’s nowhere near finished yet.  Ask me in eight years.

The best I can do is tell anecdotes.  Today I dressed Patrick in his red striped long-sleeved rugby shirt.  The back of his hair stood up in little curls around his ears, and I found him irresistible.  He climbed up on the bed with me after his nap and flopped on  top of me.  One of his tricks is to lift his chin near my face, which means he wants his creamy, soft little baby neck kissed.  He likes me to rain soft kisses on his dimples sometimes, too.  This time he laid his head on my chest.  I breathed in a deep breath of his fresh hair and sighed.  The sigh must have rumbled under his ear, because he copied it.  He hummed a sigh.  So I sighed again, and he giggled and sighed.  I have no idea how long we kept this up.  It was utter bliss.

Two nights ago, we were at the new house painting.  Neal finished the second roller coat on Brenna’s room and began painting Mike & Pat’s room.  I really like the blue I picked for their room- it’s quite blue, rather intense, without being a glare-your-eyes-out blue.   Michael wanted to help me paint the trim, and to put him off, I promised he could help Neal with the roller.  It has been my experience that although small children are fascinated with the roller, they give it up quickly when it tires their arms.  Michael loved rollering.  He kept up a constant flow of chat while he painted.  “I am doing a good job,” he announced, “I have very strong arms.  I’m a good painter.”   When he handed the brush to his dad for the high parts, he looked at his feet very seriously and said, “No, no, no!  Don’t step in the paint!”  He stuck in there and nearly finished the whole room.

Neal was working on the computer one evening while I was fixing supper.  The children were out in the yard.  I took advantage of their temporary absence to flirt with my husband a little bit.  He wheeled the desk chair over and I sat in his lap and kissed him.  I suppose it was a little more than a “welcome home honey” kiss, because when I looked up my daughter’s head was tipped over to one side, her eyes were goggling out of her head, and her mouth was open with an expression of total disbelief.  Bren is quite dramatic.  I hopped out of Neal’s lap and tried to look nonchalant.   “WHAT were you doing?” she asked.
“Kissing your dad.”
“Yeah, but you were all like,” and she pantomimed me draping my body all over him and smooching like a soap opera star.
“Well,” I said, trying to be matter-of-fact about it, “Your daddy’s the only person big enough that I can sit in his lap now.”
Fortunately she seemed to accept this explanation.  I can remember feeling weird and tingly when I caught my parents kissing.  I could feel the electricity between them, and it was disturbing to me as a child.  Then, when I got older, I remember feeling outraged that they would joke about it.  I had a definite feeling that intimacy should not be a laughing matter!  I mean, do you ever see the hero and heroine in a romantic movie GIGGLING when they kiss?  Not hardly!  I think I eventually decided they were just old and sort of beyond all that now.
Now I guess I’m old and beyond it, because Neal and I laugh, too.  We laughed at the look on Brenna’s face.  She might as well have held up a sign that said, “Gross!  Old people kissing!”

An anecdote about Donal will have to wait, because I have to go change a diaper and finish dinner.  Scouts tonight.


A vision of the REAL last supper

26 04 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a vision (I suppose you would call it a vision- I wasn’t asleep, so it certainly wasn’t a dream!) I had a few years ago.  Well- a few?  Mike and Pat hadn’t been born yet.

This vision was shown to me the last day I was really tempted to commit suicide (a story in itself).  But after I had been released from the spirits of suicide that were tempting me (I really think there were more than one because I actually heard them talking to each other at one point!) I saw a picture of something that is mentioned in the bible as the marriage supper of the lamb.

Apparently after Judgement Day is over, there’s going to be a feast.  Rather like a reception in heaven, I guess.  A terrifically gifted teacher at The Rock, Eric Flore, said this gathering was going to be a time when a lot of the first were going to be last, the last first, and a number of people surprised to find out where they fall in the ranking!

So in this vision, I was standing near a huge table.  It stretched on nearly as far as I could see to my left and as far as I could see to my right.  There was something of an argument going on way up at the head of the table on the left.  A number of people were arguing about where they were going to sit.  Popes and such, I think.  Important people.  And they all wanted to sit near enough to the head of the table that they could talk to Jesus.  I was rather disappointed at this, because I could see that all the people in the seats to my left were really people who had given greatly for God’s kingdom.  There were martyrs there, and saints.  I expect Mother Teresa was around somewhere, but I didn’t see her.  I knew I hadn’t a chance of getting close enough to the head of the table to see Himself.

Down the table to my right, the seats had less and less honor, until you got to the foot of the table.  The people down there were fairly happy.  Each one of them could have qualified for a T-shirt that said, “Lord, I’m just glad I GOT here!”  They were not going to kick up a fuss about where they had been seated!  And there were some seats saved among them for some of the people in the argument at the head of the table.

I was standing there wondering where on the scale of honor to dishonor I was going to have to sit, when the maitre’d came up to me.  He was a very ordinary sort of bloke- not angelic at all.  I was kind of disappointed, because I wanted to see an angel.  He had a sheaf of papers under one arm that was apparently some sort of seating chart, though he didn’t have to refer to them to seat me.  He recognized me, and led me to a seat near the middle of the table.  The woman to my left had apparently been martyred, because she was still bearing her scars.  I didn’t recognize any of them, and I was really shy about sitting down with them.  I was afraid to be left with these strangers, and the argument was getting kind of loud at the top of the table.

I turned to tell the man that I was really disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to see Jesus, and he grinned at me.  When he grinned, it was like my eyes were opened and I saw who he really was.  It knocked me out, because I had expected him to be taller and better looking, with a beard and stuff.  But he had short dark hair and was clean-shaven and very ordinary looking.  He looked sort of like an Italian waiter to me.  And I laughed out loud, because the people at the top of the table were still arguing over who was going to get to see him, and he was going around seating everyone!

I still didn’t want to sit down with all those strangers, and having found him, all I wanted to do was be with him, so I asked him “Can’t I come around and help you?”  (This vision has really helped me see why, if we want to be close to Christ, we have to serve others- because that is what he’s doing all the time!)  In retrospect, it was a stupid question because obviously he had to seat everyone himself.  I expect the sheaf of papers under his arm was the Lamb’s Book of Life, though it looked more like an unstapled term paper.  And he said No, I want you to sit here.  And he showed my my chair, and he was so excited about it.  It was like he was bursting with some secret about this place he had chosen for me.  He was so worked up about it, I couldn’t say no.  I had to sit down in the place he had prepared for me so carefully.  Even in the middle of the vision, I knew that my chair was a metaphor for my purpose in life.  It wasn’t particularly debased or exalted, but it was very specially chosen and prepared for me.  What could I do but accept it?  I wouldn’t have hurt him for the world.  I mean, I know in life I must grieve him a lot, but face to face with him, I just liked him so much, I wouldn’t have hurt him for anything.
So that was my vision, and it has stuck with me for several years.  So get what you can out of that- it meant a lot to me.

May be temporarily off the air

24 04 2008

I know I haven’t been posting as often since we moved.  This small house takes a LOT more work to maintain than my old house did.  I have never done so much housework in my life.

Now things are only going to get worse for a while.  We’re trying to paint & wall-paper the new house every spare evening.  In the mornings I have finally bitten the bullet and added pre-school to my school routine.  And in order to try to keep order during this chaotic time of transition, I have started doing Flylady again.  I hate routines, but at this point, only routine is going to save us.

I love you all, and after we are moved and established, I hope I will have time to get back to writing again.  (I mean like real writing!)  In the meantime I will try to post when I get five minutes to myself.  But right now my baby’s diaper is dragging and I’m 30 minutes late starting school and we have Spanish right after lunch and Brenna’s sewing show tonight and….  Well, you get the picture.  Oh, Shoot!  I haven’t done my homework for the class this weekend!  Oh, well.

Pre-teen boys

21 04 2008

What is more unpromising-looking than an eleven-year-old boy? I suppose that seems a cruel statement, but I was pondering this last night while I was folding laundry. The Phillip’s came with their ministry “Miracle Parenting” to our church a few years ago, and they commented on twelve-year-old boys. “These movies where a twelve-year-old boy saves the world really get to me,” he said. “We HAVE a twelve-year-old boy, and I want to tell you, he can hardly use silverware! He can’t put on matching socks! Save the world. Yeah, right.”

I love my pre-teen boy. I see a lot of potential in him, and I see a lot of growth from last year. But I’d have to agree with the Philip’s. The only reason he can put on matching socks is because I bought him a bunch of new ones and threw out all the old unmatched ones. He was quite often seen with one long and one short sock. He walks in the door and throws everything down on the floor. He will walk right over breaking toys and tearing books in his giant, size eleven hiking boots. He can’t keep his pants up or his shirt down. He doesn’t brush his teeth. He eats too much candy and gets too little exercise. He has NO idea where his homework is, where his scout shirt is, where his shoes are, or what I asked him to do five minutes ago. He doesn’t know WHY he sprayed his father’s shaving gel all down in the toilet, he just did.

At the moment, when I look at him, I wonder if he will ever be able to care for himself enough to leave home. Will he be able to do laundry, or will he just pull clothes out of the heap on the floor? What on earth will he eat? Will he ever brush his teeth or flush the toilet without being reminded? Will he ever stop scratching mosquito bites until they bleed on all the furniture? What will he do if he goes away to college and can’t find his shoes, because right now he is practically incapable of finding anything.

Yesterday the teen dance & drama team performed at our church. There are nearly as many boys as girls, ranging in age from fifteen to nearly twenty. I was watching those boys. They show such power, such grace, such passion… my heart was broken and I found myself praying that my daughter would be blessed with a man like that. Then I looked at my eleven-year-old son and I asked myself, in five years, will Donal be like that? Will there be some transformation that will give him confidence, cause him to stand up straight and start washing his face?

I have seen the boys in Donal’s scout troop and they are all more or less like him. So there must be something that happens that turns them from scatter-brained boys to the men that I see around me building, protecting, judging, establishing, creating and ruling. The seeds of greatness lie within them. They lie within Donal. I can see them when he talks about things he’s passionate about. He’s preparing a speech on bioluminesence. He follows me around telling me that they now use the glowing chemicals from fire fleas to help diagnose heart defects and all sorts of marvelous things I never knew. Sometimes it touches my heart to hear him pray. He’s reading Romans for the first time right now, and each new thing he learns is a great AHA! discovery to him. The world is opening up before him, and he is so excited about everything he learns.

In there, somewhere, is a great man trying to get out. If I can just be patient. If I can be diligent, awaiting the day. If I can avoid clobbering him and crushing his spirit over all the silly things he forgets to do, someday Donal is going to be amazing.

We bought a house today!

18 04 2008

We closed on the house today.  Between Neal and our very competent realtors, this purchase was practically painless for me.  Brenna fed the little ones candy and Kix cereal at one end of the big, shiny, glossy lawyerly table while Neal and I signed stacks and stacks of papers that we only cursorily glanced over.  I suppose this is typical for a closing, but please, Lord, let this sale turn out better than the last one!

Our cats caught a rat in the back yard and have been toying with it through the long afternoon.  Though I know my loyalties should rest with the home team, the rat is small, brown, furry and cute, and I’m afraid I’m rooting for it to escape.  I mentioned my subversive sympathies to my husband, and he offered to go out and call off the cats.   But they are, after all, just doing their job.  Isn’t that why we have cats?  We lived by a swamp for nearly five years, and I only saw two snakes in the entire time we were there, and one of them had already had it’s head ripped off.  Meg and Tutter make an efficient team.

My daughter is reading this post over my shoulder and added a comment about the cats.  They’re efficient “except when they growl at each other,” she says.  I suppose all teams have occasional infighting.  Hopefully most teams manage to avoid ripping large chunks out of other team-members’ backs, though.  Meg did that to Tutter the last time we left them for the weekend.  I think this did show a lack of esprit d’corps on her part.  Perhaps this is the reason why Tutter seems to be hogging the rat.

My thanks to my mother, who has offered to have her very good mechanic-of-several-years, Paul, look for a van for us, and even more thanks to Richard, who has undertaken the search in Camden.  Bless you, my loved ones.

Must go purchase paint and wall paper for darling new house!

One honest man

15 04 2008

Neal just called from work- the truck was in the shop with low oil pressure.  A cylinder died, and the shop said the only sensible way to fix it was to replace the engine.  The man who sold me the truck swore (and offered some proofs that I obviously didn’t check thoroughly enough) that the truck had already had its engine and transmission replaced.  He lied.  His father, who was a very kind and reliable looking man, backed up his lie.

I could have taken a blood oath that they were telling the truth!  I feel like the world’s largest idiot now, and I wonder when my bad decisions will ever stop harming my family.  We paid $3000 for a truck that wasn’t worth $500, then paid $1500 to replace the brakes, $900 when the deer hit it…  We pray about these decisions, and we really try to follow the Lord’s guidance.  We certainly have prayed about this house.  Are we just sticking a foot into another swamp?  And do people ever think of the terrible feeling of betrayal that their lies produce in other people’s lives?

What will we do?  We have two vehicles that need to be immediately replaced.  My van’s engine is running well, but the body of the vehicle is (and has been) falling apart.  One of the large side windows simply fell out in the middle of traffic last Friday.  Our computer monitor died, the mouse died, medical bills, vet bills…

I think the worst part of it is that I feel totally inadequate to pick out a new vehicle.  We have enough money to purchase one & make payments, but I am afraid to try and find what we need.  I’ve been betrayed by dealers more than once, and now I’ve been betrayed by a private owner.  In the past, the only safety I could find in buying a car was to really try to discern the character of the person I was buying from.   I’ve known too many car dealers to trust any of them.   And how are we ever going to find an honest one in this town where we know no one?

I don’t have a kingdom, but I can really sympathize with the guy who said he would give his kingdom to find one honest man.

Missoula, bio-luminescence, and going to the Doc

15 04 2008

I went to the doctor yesterday & the woman did not apparently believe that I have been running a fever for nearly three weeks because the goofy little ear thermometer said I only had a temperature of 97 degrees.  I have NEVER taken my temperature and come up with 97 degrees.  I went home & checked and it was 99.4.  They drew blood and gave me a slip to have my lungs x-rayed to “see if you actually have an infection.  Come back in a week.”

So I am condemned to at least one more week of running a fever every night (unless God sovereignly heals me- I fell asleep last night praying.)  I’m tired, and I’ve been leaning on Neal too much.  I MUST buy groceries, clean out the fridge and fold laundry today.  The children’s 4-H sewing projects are due next Monday & Brenna’s fabric and pattern accidentally got packed away in the garage & has not been found yet.  Donal’s is barely started.

Oh- cool news!  After going to the doctors (they were running a whole hour behind in their appointments & the PA was callously slow) I rushed the children to their theater auditions.  We arrived in the nick of time, and D & B trooped upstairs with the other kids for an hour and 45 minutes of auditioning.  Apparently Brenna froze when they asked her to say lines & delivered them in a monotone, but Donal (who knows no shyness) got a part!  He will be one of the Lords in Cinderella, performing on Friday and Saturday of this week.  (It’s a one week touring children’s theater experience called Missoula).  Bren was very disappointed, but had us all in stitches last night doing pantomime impressions of Donal as a Lord and Donal as a peasant.  I have never seen anyone be so funny just by scratching themselves!  She has a gift, and one of these days she will press beyond stage fright and show it to someone else.

Donal is pacing around the kitchen behind me waiting to use the computer to look up photos of bio-luminescent animals for his 4-H presentation project.  He now knows more disgusting facts about critters that glow in the dark than I ever wanted to know in my life.  I think his brain is like a magnet- it attracts knowledge the way most of us collect cat hair and lint.