Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Point, Click, Purchase

Black Friday was rather unconventional for me this year. Normally, I’m hopping out of bed at 4:00, putting on my Christmas sweater and heading to Cutters Point for my first 24 oz. quad shot rice milk peppermint white mocha of the season. Why? Because I’m headed to Fred Meyer, Kohl’s and (if I’m feeling especially brave) Wal-Mart, of course! My mommy, sisters and I head out and shop till we drop, hoping to have all our Christmas presents (plus our families’ holiday clothes, winter jammies, socks and underthings for the year) purchased at rock-bottom prices by lunch time. This year, however, was fairly unconventional.

First of all, I wasn’t in my neck of the woods—I was chillin’ with my parents in Ocean Shores! I had intended to possibly drive thirty minutes to Aberdeen (the closest chain-shopping area), but that didn’t happen. After a full day of cooking, I was exhausted. At seven weeks post-surgery, my energy level, while leaps and bounds higher than it was in the hospital, is still not at 100%. I woke up a good four hours later than I usually do on Black Friday and only purchased 7 gifts. My money may not have all been spent—but I sure was! The rest of my shopping was done in my parents’ living room online. Point, click and purchase.

This year, I needed the simplicity that online shopping offers, and I’m glad I did it. However, I’ll be happy when next year rolls around and I’m in ship-(shopping) shape! I don’t mind grabbing the odd specialty item on amazon.com, but doing the majority of my purchasing in front of a screen left me feeling hollow. After a few days of reflecting, I understand why …

Even if I’m sitting next to my sisters on “Laptop Island” (otherwise known as my parents’ living room couch), I’m looking at a blaring monitor, not them. Having someone send you a link from four feet away doesn’t feel the same as Laura holding up an article of clothing and squealing, “Sissy, look at this!”

I missed the greeters at Fred Meyer, who offer a smile, hot cider, coffee and doughnuts to all the shoppers. I missed talking to strangers in the sock aisle. Even the simple act of being handed a receipt feels better to this extrovert than a confirmation email— clearly, I NEED face time!

Purchasing the gifts themselves felt less like shopping and more like paying a bill. My transaction doesn’t feel “real,” because I don’t have anything in my hands. When I leave a store, I have presents in my pretty holiday bags. Online gifts, however, arrive a week later in ugly cardboard boxes. It feels cold and impersonal.

Even if I know precisely what I’m looking for, there’s something about going down the aisle and choosing the gift myself. Even if there are dozens of identical items, the object I hold in my hand is exclusively for someone I love. How do I know that someone in a warehouse isn’t going to grab a scratched, dented box? I don’t. Even if inspector #29 really cares about his/her job, I know they don’t care like I do. After four thousand dolls cross their conveyer belt, will they notice that this particular specimen is having a really bad hair day? Probably not—after all, they only see a toy. As an auntie, however, I see a precious playmate for my niece, which I would prefer not to look as though she has had an unfortunate episode with a light socket.

So much of the communication in our lives today feels terribly impersonal. Facebook with my family is a blast, but it doesn’t compare with our genuine time together. There is no emoticon that adequately captures Janet’s “snerd face.” LOL does not truly express Laura’s infectious, doubled-over laughter. “*Hug*” cannot possibly encourage, comfort or express my mother’s love. While technology has its place in my life, it will never replace my need to be with family and friends.

As I say this, my list of things to do is already reeling in my head. This time of year, when my schedule becomes crazier than usual, it’s so easy to miss out on time with people in the name of preparing their gifts, food and cards. Perhaps I’ll put a sticky note on my monitor to remind me of the importance of scheduling genuine “face time.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Keepin’ It Real

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

My niece Heidi was Christmas-crazy, as most kids are. Even into her young adult life, she was passionate about my Mother-In-Law’s sugar cookies (they are LIFE-CHANGING), festive hair accessories and Christmas music. However, NOTHING outshone her seasonal soapbox: the necessity of a real, cut from the tree farm, pine-smelling, needle-dropping, water-requiring Christmas tree. Oh, how she threw a fit when my in-laws joined the artificial bandwagon!

“It’s not a Christmas tree if it’s not real! I will never have a fake tree in my house!” she quipped, as her blond ponytail bobbed up and down with conviction. As Grandma Munson playfully shoved a sugar cookie in her mouth, she wrinkled her nose and bit down. As the molecules of carbohydrate and fat nirvana entered her blood stream, she seemed to subdue a bit. However, the fiery glimmer in her eyes warned, “I will continue this discussion after the sugar coma wears off!”

I don’t suppose you would see a melancholy turn to this story, unless you knew Heidi’s story. Be forewarned, it’s about to go there …

We lost Heidi before she ever had her own “house.” On April 9, 2002-- just before her twentieth birthday, she was killed in an accident. I had expected that Easter to be a struggle, but Christmas hit me like a ton of bricks that year.

There were so many reasons to find joy that Christmas; little Alan was nearly three, and genuinely understood what was going on for the first time. We had four stockings beneath our tree (we didn’t have a mantle) for the first time; the smallest of which would have baby food and board books for little Wyatt. Our little nuclear family felt complete for the first time, but the gaping hole in our extended family was painfully evident.

It came to me in waves, splashing cold reality on my face. The present she’d asked for last year was on the cover of a catalog. I couldn’t look at candy without thinking of my little sugar fiend. The tree sales … well, I’m sure that don’t have to tell you that it’s awkward to explain why you’re crying about cub scouts selling fresh trees. But I was fine—I had my little family, lots of friends and by golly, I was going to make this a fantastic year!

Embracing the season with all that I could muster, I over-spent on presents, baked more cookies than usual, drank enough peppermint mochas and eggnog fraps to sustain a coffee franchise and blared Christmas music. It seemed to be working … until Christmas day, when I was greeted by my brother-in-law, Eric. As he hugged me, his hollow eyes expressed what made this year different. There would no tiny-framed blondie sticking her head in the door, explaining why she was late. The floral couch in my in-law’s living room would not have Heidi sprawled across it, taking a nap. (Heidi was always either bouncing off the walls or tired—there was no in between!) There would be one less grandchild checking for Hershey kisses tucked into Grandma Munson’s Santa ornaments. There was no hiding how Christmas morning had gone for their family.

While we were opening presents, Eric mentioned that Heidi’s Christmas music box had gone around just one time that morning—as if she was sending a little “hello” on her favorite holiday. That bittersweet moment seemed to weave in and out of Christmas day, signifying the dreams to come that night …

I dreamt that Heidi was in the family room, talking to me. When I reached out to hug her, she disappeared. I awakened with hot tears stinging my cheeks, clinging to my husband’s arm for comfort. It made me feel less alone, but it didn’t make me feel better. For the next few days, feelings of anger, sadness and betrayal stewed inside me, until the dam broke.

While hanging up my festive red sweater in my closet, I started yelling, screaming and crying out to God about how betrayed, robbed and empty I had felt that year. For the first time, I chose to shed the artificiality of filling the season with “stuff” and got “real” about our first Christmas without Heidi. My soapbox moment was simply between myself and God, in the awkward, yet private solitude of my walk-in closet. Yes, she was in a better place, but we were still here. And that, for lack of a better word, completely sucked. When I admitted the true confines of my heart, God was not surprised. Surprisingly, after I’d blamed, demanded and shouted at the Ruler of the Universe, I felt Him comforting me. I wasn’t “better,” but I was honest.

On this, my seventh holiday season without her, I don’t have to “force” the Christmas spirit. I genuinely enjoy this season, but Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday, like it used to be. Christmas makes me miss my Heidi. It also reminds me that between now and Easter, I’m going to have another anniversary of that terrible day. I think it’s okay to be real about that. You can love Christmas and still struggle with depression this time of year. I also know that some of you have lost someone so close to you that it causes you to dread the entire season. (Read my friend Elizabeth Grant’s blog post on this subject— she inspired me to write this post: http://www.lifeinpencil.com/wp/) While well-meaning people may want you to “move on,” it’s okay to respectfully, but unapologetically say that you’re not ready.

In her short life, Heidi unintentionally caused me contemplate the importance of a genuine life. Just as real trees drop needles, dry out, cause allergies to flare up and make cleaning up Christmas more complicated, honesty can complicate things. While the truth is not always easy to admit to ourselves (or accept from others), there is nothing more freeing. When extending honesty, The Father will guide our words, providing both clarity and sensitivity, if only we ask Him.

Whether you embrace fresh trees or the artificial variety, a light-up nativity scene on the front lawn or a simple ceramic table display this season, my hope and prayer is that we would “keep it real” where it really counts—within the confines of our hearts.

*Thanks to kokoloveguam on flicker for the non-commercial use of this lovely tree photo :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lord, change my life-- but make it familiar and easy ...

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
Prov. 12:15

I want to try new things … but I want them to come with all the knowledge and experience of someone who’s been doing it all their lives, so I don’t look like an idiot. Isn’t that what we all want? A change that feels completely comfortable and familiar? That would be fantastic, but sadly, it’s not the world we live in.

I have been upheld by some as a gluten-free magician who touches rice flour and it turns to ambrosia. First of all, there are a lot of failures that continue to take place in my kitchen. (One of the perks of having dogs and chickens is disposing of the evidence without guilt!) While I can rattle all my allergens off my tongue with the greatest of ease (and cook accordingly) now, there was a time when the grocery store was the most frightening place on earth …

Even in the health food stores, I was terrified to shop alone. I simply could not avoid all of the allergens on my list without an extra pair of eyes. Besides, I needed emotional support for the frequent letdowns I experienced. I’d find a cereal that looked safe, when suddenly; I would see one of THOSE words in teensy letters on the ingredient list: cornstarch, nonfat milk powder, soy, coconut flour, quinoa… There I was, in the “gluten-free” aisle, and I still couldn’t find a thing to eat. I have literally cried in every local grocery store within a fifteen mile radius—in fact, I actually threw a full-blown tantrum in Fred Meyer!

No, I don’t mean I read the manager the riot act, stormed off in a huff or shouted that I’d never shop there again, I mean I stomped my feet, put my head in my hands and let out a primal scream in the natural foods section! I had been going up and down every aisle of the store for an hour, and I had almonds, lettuce and raspberries in my cart. That was it. I was so hungry, so exhausted and so afraid to embark on changing every recipe that I knew and loved, that I desperately wanted to find something in a box, bag or frozen container to eat. I couldn’t bake from scratch; I didn’t know how to bake! That required measuring, and I always lost count of how many cups of flour I’d dumped into a bowl. Now, I had been told that I had to use all these combined flours, which were expensive, confusing and hard to pronounce! No gluten. No peanuts. No dairy. No soy. No corn. No cranberries! It just wasn’t fair! And I decided in that moment, that Fred. G. Meyer (May he rest in peace) was to blame.

I called my husband and told him that I just couldn’t shop that day. He understood, and told me to come home. I fell apart into his arms the moment I walked in the door, and all over groceries! This was insanity!

That night, I decided that I was done attempting to live out of a box, bag or frozen container for the rest of my life. There had to be food that would be good for me, not too complicated, and maybe—just maybe, the whole family could eat, so I wouldn’t have to make multiple meals every night. The more I googled, the more I found hope for a delicious future! I called all my gluten-free friends and asked them what they ate, where they got it and how much it cost. Because my friends are amazing, my friend Karyl invited me to her house, virtually emptied an entire shelf of her pantry and urged me to take it all home. Knowledgeable staff at Nature’s Market looked at my loooooong list of allergies (unphased) and showed me where “safe” brands were on their shelves. I bonded with strangers in the frozen food aisle, as we marveled at gluten-free bagels and Hemp ice cream.
Through this adventure, my family really stood by me. My children cheered when I found cereal that was “mommy friendly.” When my husband and I saw a commercial for food that I could eat, we instantly high-fived one another. I continued to grumble about corn starch and hydrogenated soybean oil (we may or may not use them as faux-curse words in our home) under my breath, but the toddleresque display of shopping visits past no longer haunted me.

Over a year and a half later, I LOVE to grocery shop! I thoroughly enjoy baking (by weight—something I never would have learned, had it not been for my new life!) and I now look for people in PCC with that “deer in the headlights” look and a piece of paper with allergen levels on it. I tell them it’s going to be okay—not because I’ve always been a GF rock star, but because I have gone through the struggles of family gatherings, parties and restaurants with no gluten-free menu, and learned from them. If I had skated through this ordeal, what would I have to offer them? How would I know which cookies to feed my son—whom we discovered also has food allergies?

It’s truly amazing what we learn when we realize how little we know …

Father, thank you for the moments of uncertainty, frailty and yes, even insanity! Though I’d love to bury my past at times, allow me to remember it, that I might help others and not forget from whence I came and who brought me here!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Releasing The White-Knuckled Mama Grip (and other challenges of parenting)

"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."
John 17:25

Ask any mother in any culture worldwide; the desire to protect your children from pain is universal. It doesn't matter how you childproof your home, how many parenting books you read or how exclusive your child's educational environment is, pain will happen to your child.

Forget about how scary the outside world is, your front yard becomes a "danger zone" when the training wheels come off your little one's bike. You can protect their head with a helmet, put on elbow and knee pads and dress them in long sleeved, durable clothing, but the moment you let go of the seat, a crash will take place; causing scratches and bruises in obscure little spots you hadn't even thought about. Your little one will probably cry, and you may feel inclined to do the same! You begin to question whether or not your baby was ready for two-wheeled cruising. Suddenly, the bush you've always loved is seen as a scratch-inducing menace, which should be dug up (and possibly burned) as penance for the two-inch abrasion on your child's neck. This continues for a while, until you realize the three choices in front of you:

1.) Humiliate your child by forcing him to continue using training wheels until college

2.) Surround every square inch of your child's body with bubble wrap, fuse a catcher's mask to their bike helmet and insist that winter snow gloves be worn (even in July)


3.) Pick your little one up, brush off the dust and leave particles from their clothing, kiss their owies and encourage them to try again, under your watchful eye.

Bike boo-boos, though monumental at the time, are small potatoes compared to the adventures that come during the school years. Some little delinquent on the bus will make fun of how your child talks, or call him a "baby" for crying. Reckless bands of hooligans will steal your pride and joy's favorite eraser, and have the nerve to lie about it (your child will do such things to other children as well, but that will be irrelevant at the time). Punks in pigtails will taunt your offspring, saying their pictures are dumb (you know better, an art gallery should be so lucky as to posses such a treasure!). Clubs will exclude, best friends will become worst enemies, then best friends again-- and with such flippant frequency, you won't even be able to keep track! That pleasant looking elementary school may look like a place of learning, play and childhood memories, but you know better; it's more like the set of a kiddie soap opera!

All the mothers whose children attend private school or homeschool will inform you that even their children are not immune to this reality. There are meanies at McDonald's, little cretins at co-op, and heaven knows that siblings can be less-than-lovable sometimes!

When the many little bumps of childhood come, we have a Father to whom we can trust with all our worries, cares and concerns. While you hold your little gymnast's trembling hand, God is already at work, healing her broken leg. While you dry your child's tears, God is at work, mending his broken heart. We were given these children to parent, but we as humans were never meant to parent them alone.

We know in our minds that we cannot protect our children 24/7. Even if we keep their immunities strong and monitor their friends closely, trials will come. You can't love away a learning disability, parent away childhood depression or raise a child so confident that abusive stings from a bully don't hurt. What we can do, however, is go to the same God who heals the "small stuff." We can't protect them from pain, but we can pray, as Jesus did for his disciples, that our children would be guarded from the evil one. Equipping them with God's Word can chip away at the lies the world will hurl at them; reminding them of how The Father sees them. Though there are certainly times as parents to intervene, do not have to sit helplessly, wishing that we could shield our children from the world. As they grow, we can continually equip and train them; that they might make a difference here!

Father, as I typed that last sentence, you know how queasy my stomach just got. Give me wisdom, LORD, that I might know when to protect my children and when to equip them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moving On-- What a Difference a Decade Makes.

While getting dressed for church this morning, I turned on the news to check the weather forecast. As usual, I somehow missed the weather portion of Northwest Cable News, and now I got to hear about what to do with your excess berries. It was casually mentioned that as it was September 11th, it would be a good day to have red and blue berries amidst creamy-white batter, to commemorate the day. "Really?" I thought, "We're honoring 9/11/11 with berries and ice cream?" I really wasn't sure how I felt about that. For those of us who remember 9/11/01, I'm sure our emotions will always be a little complicated! Naturally, I chose to blog about it ...

Oh, how vividly I remember September 11th, 2001. My husband arose from our bed uncharacteristically early to watch the news. He said he heard something on the radio about a plane hitting a building. As soon as the unforgettable images materialized on the screen, he urged me to come quickly. We watched in horror, unable to move. Ever my protector, Alan had one arm around my shoulders and the other cradling my pregnant belly. The instant the first twin tower fell, all color drained from his face. "You realize, don't you, that all those fire fighters below just died ..."

While that was upsetting to me as well, I knew the volunteer fire fighter who stood solemnly in my living room had just experienced a loss I couldn't comprehend. It was all so much to take in, and we had precious little time to do so. How on earth were we supposed to go to work on a day like today?

But go we did; Alan attempted to tend to warehouse details, while I struggled to teach a classroom full of confused, frightened preschoolers. I don't remember what I taught, he doesn't remember what he stocked. We plodded through the work day and got home as soon as possible.

For days, we couldn't tear our eyes away from the news. We ate in front of the T.V., kept the radio on all night ... it consumed our every thought. We spent the following weekend at the ocean with my family. We needed to be together, and we needed a break from our new reality. Unfortunately, when we left the calm, rhythmic waves in our rear view mirror, the stark reminders of that disastrous day were there once more. On every channel, twenty-four hours a day, it rang in our ears, brought tears to our eyes and troubled our hearts. When we went outside for a breath of fresh air, the quiet was eerie. Not only were there fewer cars, there were no planes in the sky. We struggled with living a normal life again. Could we laugh? Was it appropriate? Did it mean we didn't care? And yet, if our existence had no joy, didn't that mean the terrorists who tried to destroy our great nation had succeeded? Where was the line between righteous anger and blind, blanketed hatred? It was all so confusing.

As his mommy worried, my little boy fluttered and kicked in my belly. Though our pregnancy was usually a blessed distraction, there were also times when his daddy and I wondered just what kind of a world we were going to bring our first child into. And yet, either we trusted God, or we didn't. Either He was who He said He was, or the entire foundation of our lives was a lie. We weren't sure how everything was going to work out, but we pressed on.

The first anniversary of 9/11 was such a mixture of emotions. While many of our national pain was still quite raw, people were flying in airplanes (though airport security was now a very different experience), getting married and beginning to live again. We were all somewhat nervous of an anniversary attack, but we refused to go into hiding or stay glued to our televisions anymore. As "God bless America" was somberly played during memorials on television, our post- 9/11 baby was crawling all over the house, blissfully unaware of why mommy held him just a little longer that night. We were now a country at war. We were all still grieving as a nation. And yet, as I held my son in my arms that night, I knew that I was unbelievably blessed.

The early morning hours of September 12, 2001 were wrought with horrifying sounds and sights that simply would not leave my head. Just a year later, I was awakened by the hungry cries of my baby. Even in my foggy 3:00 a.m. state, I was aware of how much my world had changed, and I was thankful. We were moving on.


Ten years later, so much has changed. Some of the changes were needed, some of them break my heart. I was not afraid today. I laughed today. My children played outside as planes flew overhead. For ten years, we have avoided any further terrorist attacks on American soil. For that, I am indeed thankful.

That being said, I am struck by how the same country who shamelessly sang "God Bless America" on 9/11/01 doesn't have a national day of prayer anymore, because "prayer is a private matter." Funny, it wasn't private when we all had red, swollen eyes from sobbing in front of our televisions. Apparently, God is only needed in America when we are grief ridden and scared.

I will fight for freedom of religion in this great nation, and would certainly never insist that everyone believe, practice or pray as I do. I will, however, also fight for the right to respectfully, and un-apologetically embrace the faith-filled heritage of our forefathers.

I am also glad that today has become one of national pride, as well as remembrance. We need to honor our fallen heroes (as well as our brave men and women in uniform) by choosing to see the victory that came from that dark day. Though many lives were lost, we did not crumble as a nation. We rose up from the ashes and are rebuilding! By all means, fly your flags proudly, decorate in red, white & blue and yes, eat red, white and blue-themed desserts. But as we celebrate, let us also take the time to stop, think back, and remember. Let us hold our children close and tell them of the brave man who said, "Let's roll!" My children don't remember September 11th (since Alan was in utero, and Wyatt wasn't even a thought yet), but we talk about it as a family. We don't want to scare our children, but we want to plant seeds of understanding where the price of freedom is concerned.

With each passing year, the sting of September 11th seems to lessen a little. The image of crumbing towers, though still disturbing, does not warrant the collective gasp it did when we watched it live. It's good to heal; no one wants to emotionally "bleed" forever. As this dark day drifts farther into our history books, may we remember to whom our nation turned on 9/11/01. May we not assume invincibility, lest we risk greater injury.

God Bless America!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When Dreams Can’t Hatch

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Friday evening had been rather uneventful—a welcome change from the wild and wooly week we’d had. When it was brought to my attention that the chickens were still up, I groaned. There were many excuses for staying inside; I was tired, it was dark, the welcoming glow of my facebook page called to me … In spite of my burning desire to avoid the chore altogether, I recruited li’l Alan (since he was still up, anyway) to tuck our little feathered friends in with me.

While Alan put up the feed and pushed in the chicken door, I went in to check for eggs and count beaks. One measly little egg lay in the nesting box, making a total of two for the entire day. I was disappointed, but not surprised; egg production had been down for nearly two weeks. I blamed it on summer finally coming and mindlessly began to count the girls. Expecting the typical number of five, I was surprised when I stopped at four—twice. Where was Crabby Patty?

I alerted Alan and we went on a hunt for our fugitive hen. This wasn’t her first time flying the coop at bedtime; I’d found our free spirited-fowl in many a bush when she was younger. I’d even rescued that crazy chicken when she was stuck in a tree (you know that whole, “chickens can’t fly” theory? TOTAL MYTH)! We had noticed her out and about a few mornings this week (while her sisters were still cooped up), so I figured she was just too hot to stay in the barn. When we didn’t find her in the usual places, we called in for reinforcements (and a bigger flashlight).

After a bit more searching, hubby found her. She was quite far from the barn, surrounded by bushes and thorns of all sorts. I expected her to follow me, as she usually does. No dice—this girl was not moving. Li’l Alan reached down to pet her, and she began to peck furiously. I chalked it up to night time and being scared, but it was still very odd. Crabby Patty had never pecked anyone—including when I got her out of the tree! As she puffed up her feathers, I discovered why she wasn’t in the barn—and where all our eggs had gone! This wasn’t just a fleeting rendez vous; she’d been stock piling her eggs in a nest for quite some time now. Crabby Patty thought she was a mother!

For those of you who aren’t aware, we don’t have a rooster. Having a flock with only hens has given us the luxuries of delicious fresh eggs and no crowing in the morning, as well as the downside of NO BABY CHICKS. Poor Patty, however, has not taken a single health class. She didn’t know she was incubating stink bombs—she thought there were babies in there. She had made a beautiful nest for them, carefully lined with her own feathers. It broke my heart; I knew she didn’t understand why we wanted her off those eggs and into the barn.

As we tried to get her to leave the nest, she defended her eggs with all she had. I’m no meany; had it been an issue of stinky eggs alone, we would have left the poor dear to live in her mother hen fantasy. Leaving a young hen out alone at night to sit on thirteen eggs, however, would put her on the snack list for the raccoons, neighborhood dogs, coyotes, bobcats and bears who occasionally visit us here in the country. Though she fought it all the way, we eventually guided her back to the barn, gently nudging her with the scoop of the barn shovel. It was no easy task; if we stopped for a minute, she made a beeline for her nest again. Add to that the fact that it was dark, and we were all winded when we locked the barn door.

The fretful hen paced back and forth in the coop, telling us all what she thought of tonight’s ordeal. She allowed me to pet her once she rejoined her sisters, but she never stopped clucking incessantly at me. It was as though she wanted to be comforted, but she also wanted to tell me off!

Two days later, Crabby patty has calmed down quite a bit, but she’s still clucking my ear off when she sees me. I’m sure she’ll forget soon (that’s the benefit of having a brain the size of your eye), but I certainly won’t. Once again, God has used my feathered friends to remind me of a few lessons I need to review …

I’ve never sat on rotting eggs before, but I must admit, I’ve done my own brooding! Oh, how I remember taking multiple pregnancy tests when I’d already received a negative one – just because I had thought I was pregnant, and wanted so desperately to believe I was. I’ve clung to friendships that have run their course, stubbornly insisted keeping a business that wasn’t a good fit for our family, tried to love people “enough” to change them, plugged my fingers firmly in my ears when obvious signs of autism in Wyatt were trumpeting all around me … and so much more.

Emotions are tricky little numbers aren’t they? There are times when you feel a burning desire in your heart for something that appears to be so perfect. Like poor Crabby Patty, we assume we have all we need to bring our dreams into a reality. Our Father, however, looks down and sees how we, in our limited thinking, cannot understand why it’s not a good fit. If we’ve done our part and we’re faithful in every way, doesn’t that mean we should achieve our dreams? If we had a God who did not want to protect us from greater harm, I would say yes; but there are times when The Father has to scoop us up and carry us far from our dreams. Confused, we cry out that He is unkind, out of touch or simply apathetic. Even when we come to Him for comfort, we demand to have our say. We don’t see the lurking predators, nor can we smell the stench of a dream that is simply not meant to be. All we know is that our hearts are broken, our plans have been ripped away and we don’t know what comes next.

Even as Patty pecked the living daylights out of my boots, I was not angry at my vexed little hen. I knew she was confused, frightened, and yes, probably even a little sad. Our Father undoubtedly has more insight regarding our broken hearts than we can possibly fathom. I know there are some who fear letting God know how they feel about what’s going on in our world. I used to assume that God only wanted to hear about my happy feelings-- even though He already knew what I was thinking. When my sister suffered three miscarriages, I showed him my sorrow and confusion. When I lost my niece Heidi in a DUI-related accident, I sent sorrow, pain, frustration, anger and questioning His way. While attempting to parent a child with autism (as well as a highly-sensitive, emotionally demanding neurotypical child and my own health and allergy stuff), he gets generous a generous buffet of raw emotions, questions and the odd sobbing session in my bathroom. I go so far beyond pecking at His feet that it isn’t even funny … yet He never stops protecting, comforting and loving me.

I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in knowing that A.) I am no surprise to God and B.) I don’t have to understand or even like all of His plans. When my dreams take flight, I know He will rejoice with me. When my plans fall to pieces, I know He will be there to comfort and love me. What a God we serve!

Monday, July 18, 2011

When The Bough Breaks ...

I’m sure there is some deep meaning to the lullaby “Rock-a-Bye, Baby,” but it always disturbed me, especially when I was little. While I didn’t claim to be the most responsible parent of my plastic pseudo-children (one cannot make that claim after ruining a doll by leaving it out in the rain), I knew that putting a live baby in a TREE was a terrible idea! And if those dopey parents insisted on keeping the little darling up there, shouldn’t there have been a net to prevent the inevitable fall of “baby—cradle, and all?” I shook my little four-year-old noggin disapprovingly whenever I heard that awful song. Little did I know, my life as Wyatt’s mommy would relate more to that song than any other …

Having a child with autism is definitely a balancing act-- not unlike trying to parent in a tree! My little guy has a plan, and as long as his plan is in motion, he really prefers to keep me at arms’ length. Oh sure, he comes for snuggles in the morning and occasionally at night, but he doesn’t “need” me like his brother Alan does. He prefers to spend much of his time in his own little world. Things seem to make more sense to him there, I suppose. He loves his family, I have no doubt; but he finds his security in routine and regiments. He’s happiest in his tree, being gently rocked by the winds of predictability.

Change, however, throws his rhythm completely out of whack. Be it daylight savings time, haircut day, early release from school or a new pair of shoes, the routine he so desperately craves has ceased. The “wind” is no longer swaying Wyatt’s tree, and he cannot make sense of it. His world becomes too loud, too hard and too bright for his senses to take in. As his mother, I have to try to “sway the branches” myself. I attempt to guess the proper tension of the limbs and speed of my movement; hoping I will soothe my son. Sometimes, it works. In other instances, my efforts are not enough or too much. I become frustrated, and as much as I’d hate to admit it, I lose my patience from time to time. I go into lengthy explanations when I know he’s stimming and can’t process it, because I want to feel better. I cave and give him too much of what he wants, simply because I’m exhausted. I take it personally that I can’t fix my son and I raise my voice or speak too harshly.

That is when the bough breaks.

Cradle and all, in this sense, includes me. When I fail as a parent, I hit the ground first, but we all feel the impact. Wyatt seems to heal from it all so much faster than I do; for an autistic child, he is very forgiving. For that, I am very grateful! While I tend to my bumps and bruises, my Heavenly Father comforts me. He gives me grace I don’t deserve time and time again—Even though I often forget to bother asking Him how to comfort Wyatt. In the midst of my struggle, I forget that I have twenty-four hour access to The One who made my son and loves him even more than I do. I don’t have to know it all, I cannot fix it all and I cannot possibly carry this burden alone. In the back of my mind, I know all this. I am never left in a pile of twigs and leaves wondering how I got there. Regardless of all that, my Father loves, heals, strengthens and renews our entire family. He gives me the courage I need to return to the base of Wyatt’s tree, tirelessly watching over us.

I’m not going to lie; parenting a child who lives “outside of the box” is not easy. Conventional parenting and teaching techniques simply do not work. I have had to do and say some things as Wyatt’s mommy that make that crazy lullaby seem completely logical! That being said, there are many parts of my life with him that are so incredible, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Many parents will probably have a “safer” time parenting on the ground, but they’ll miss out on the beautiful view from Wyatt’s tree.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hands and Feet

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12

At forty-one weeks (and three days) pregnant, my demeanor was nothing remotely resembling the mothers-to-be on the covers of my pregnancy books. There was no chapter explaining how to politely respond to the phrase, “You’re STILL pregnant?” I found no helpful online guides for enduring the shame of being sent home from the hospital (twice). The Food Network did not call me when my first labor induction was cancelled—which was a shame, because the amount of ice cream I ingested with my beloved “soul sister,” Frances that day was worthy of media attention!

Though I found several reasons to be an irritable, uncomfortable and highly emotional preggo, one of my greatest pity parties revolved around the fact that my thoughtful hubby had bought me several adorable maternity outfits for my birthday; most of which were a pipe dream at this stage of the pregnancy. I could only squeeze my watermelon-esque belly into two outfits. One consisted of a pair of super-stretchy pants (of which the elastic was crying out, “I beg of you, NO MORE!”) and a button down shirt (which, in spite of its “hunter green” hue, did not camouflage the fact that the last four button holes resembled two toddlers fighting over a cookie). When that chic ensemble was in the wash, I lumbered about our little home in a blue gingham plaid dress-- which we affectionately called, “The tent.” (I’m fairly certain this particular garment needs no explanation!) Both of these charming get-ups were accented with a pair of fashion forward slippers (to accommodate my cankles and sausage toes). Feeling certain that I would most likely remain a human incubator for the rest of my days; I flopped on the couch to have [yet another] good cry.

Startled by my abrupt change in position, little Alan kicked and flailed about in his ever-shrinking internal accommodations. As I gently patted my belly, I told my little boy all about my frustrations, and how desperately I wanted to be done with this “magical journey” known as the tenth month. While kvetching incessantly to my unborn child, I saw the outline of a teensy little foot beneath my shirt. Now it was my turn to be startled! I moved my shirt up to see the little footprint better. While I stroked his little foot with one hand, I felt something pushing on my other. When I moved a few fingers out of the way, a precious little handprint came into view! As our hands “almost touched,” I forgot how uncomfortable I was, how huge I was, how tired I was … all I could do is stare in wonder as my little boy and I shared that moment.

When “big” Alan came back into the house, he was alarmed by the site of his expectant wife sobbing. Once I could find the words, I told him how our little boy had been reaching out to connect with me; to remind me of the purpose behind the pain. What a gift!

I loved the little kicks and flutters from my sons from the inside, but it couldn’t compare with seeing those precious little faces, hearing them say “Mama” for the first time or feeling their arms wrapped around me in a voluntary hug. This was, and is, worth waiting for!

The world in which we live can be unsettlingly dark and lonely at times, especially when one has no hope. When our Savior ascended into heaven, we were given the incredible and daunting privilege of being the “Hands and Feet of Jesus.” We can’t answer every question, ease every pain or dry every tear, but when we reach out to others—yes, even in our limited, imperfect capacities, we share a glimpse of someone’s purpose. When we take the time to listen, because God does, we show them that we love them, because God does. Never underestimate your ability to be used by God; the tiniest of hands and feet can change a life. :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wyatt's Song

In honor of my little guy's seventh birthday, I planned to share his birth story. However, God seemed to have other plans, because this is what came out of my little noggin instead. How fitting, since Wyatt always seems to change the course of my plans! :)

I had a plan for when you’d come
To complete our family
I’d returned to work
We’d just bought a new house
It didn’t seem like the right time to me!

While your brother called me from his crib
I held a test with two dark lines
They sure showed up quick
I didn’t even feel sick
When we learned of our little “surprise”

Sure, the timing was crazy
And our house seemed too small
But maybe I’d learn how to manage it all
I knew you were a blessing
I just had to tweak my plans
And I carried on, as if I held my life in my hands

I was certain I was having a girl
Ultrasounds proved I’d spoken too soon
I expected a 6 lb. baby mid-May
You arrived (nearly 9 lbs.) in June

We found leaks from the water tank
On our way out the door
We forgot Alan’s shoes
It was chaos galore!
But the chaos was hushed
By the cries of my little man
And I fell in love with the baby they placed in my hands

You ate all day, and you slept all night
And you wouldn’t look at me
But your mother saw you as brilliant and “quirky”
As you lined up your toys constantly

There was fear in your eyes
That kept you from walking
And though you had words
You struggled with talking
I was grieved and confused
So unsure of how to plan
I released my grip and I placed your life in God’s hands.

You may have “quirks,” but they’re part of you
And you’re charming, sweet and smart
Much of your thoughts and actions confuse me
But my son, I know what’s in your heart

Through your struggles and trials
I’ve loved watching you grow
I see how far you’ve come
And though you’ve so far to go
I know you’ll find your way
I’m not sure what God has planned
But I rest assured that your life is safe in His hands.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Perfect Storm

(Written Jan 23, 2011)

Winter storms (especially here in the Pacific Northwest) are notoriously difficult to predict. Sure, the meteorologist has a general idea of what will happen and when, but it’s all a guessing game. After being sent home twice from the hospital with “false labor” (how contractions that hurt and show up on the monitor can be called false is beyond me!) and having my induction rescheduled (no room at the inn, apparently), I decided that obstetricians were meteorologists with medical degrees! I had begun to think that my dear little boy would attend college in utero! When a woman is just over five feet tall and 42 weeks pregnant, the two words that best describe her are enormous and desperate! I longed for this little guy with more sincerity than a child praying for snow at Christmas.

I’d wanted to be a mother from the time I was old enough to stick a dolly on my hip while I cooked “Lincoln Log casserole” in my little play kitchen. I don’t remember a single present I received for Christmas in 2001, because nothing in a box could hold a candle to the gift waiting inside of me. Christmas and New Years’ had come and gone, as had my husband’s birthday, my due date, and 2 Costco packs of antacids. I would dream of holding my baby (and wake up still pregnant) night after night. With each day that passed, my bulging belly was like a heavy snow cloud, hovering over my future. I knew he was coming, but when?

High blood pressure, while surely not something one usually hopes for, was AWESOME in my eyes. The hospital had to let me in to have this baby! As I reached for the very last antacid at the bottom of the bottle, the phone rang. The hospital wanted me to come! I threw on my only fitting shirt and pants, gripped my husband’s hand excitedly and we headed out into the freezing morning. We were going to the hospital (again), and this time, we were coming back with the baby on the outside!

Like early flurries that fall and stop, so was my labor progression for several hours. Getting ready to push seemed to take a lifetime, but once it was time, he came out quicker than even the doctor expected! My baby came to me like the snow falling outside, quietly and quickly! I expected a big, long wail to fill the halls that night, but he squawked one loud cry, then furrowed his brow and looked around, as if to say, “Alright, who’s in charge here? I hear there is a nice lady who makes milk. I’d like to see her, please.” I spent most of the night just watching him; afraid to close my eyes. I didn’t want this to be a dream. Oblivious to the white blanket covering the world beyond my recovery room, I ran my fingers gently across the flannel that enveloped my son.

After a few little bumps in an otherwise worry-free recovery, my Alans and I were ready to go home. His father drove down the icy streets as if he were transporting the president. He was extremely careful and understandably proud. While it was all sunshine and rainbows in the driver’s seat, reality was hitting me on the head like Kansas hail. This baby was coming home to live with US. Like, ALL THE TIME! I wasn’t waiting for this child’s mother to sign him out, I was his mother! For weeks I fumbled through, adoring my baby, yet secretly hoping that his real mother (who clearly had more of a clue than I did) would come and get him. I didn’t deserve this privilege. He needed somebody who knew what all his cries meant. Someone who didn’t keep the lactation consultant’s phone ringing off the hook. Someone who knew how to avoid getting peed on. Someone who wouldn’t screw this poor kid up! I wondered if the rain of inadequacy would cease-- so I could be more like June Cleaver and less like Lucy. There are days when I still wait …

Nine years later, Alan is still a snow baby. He puts on his snow shoes at the sight of 3 snow flakes and waits expectantly on the porch. He is still a gentle little guy with a plan. All those little thoughts and expressions I once struggled to interpret now come out in run-on sentences. (Hmmm, wonder where he got that?) I know I had a life before children, but I honestly cannot remember it. I’ve grown along side him; gaining experience, confidence and understanding with each passing year, but I still have so much to learn about how to be Alan’s mom. He still sometimes makes me feel like a clueless amateur who has no business raising chickens, much less children. There are days when I feel as though my heart will burst, I love him so much. There are days when I lock myself in the bathroom and scream into my bath towel; afraid I will burst from exasperation. There are days when he has hurts that I can’t fix and cry; wishing with all my might that I could take them for him. But no matter what the day has brought us, as I check on my boy one last time before bed, I am overwhelmed with the reality of how much I love my little boy. I kiss his forehead and remember the night when the perfect storm blew into my life-- changing it forever.

Happy Birthday, Alan Walter!

Open Your Hand

(Written February 9, 2011)

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

Matthew 12:12-14

My first-born prepared me for parenting in practical ways, such as how to nurse a baby, when to worry about fevers, diaper bag essentials and which pharmacies are open 24 hours. Aside from that, my two little boys could not have been more different. Alan wanted to be swaddled, snuggled, cuddled and rocked at all times. Wyatt wanted to hang out in his diaper and be left alone until it was time to eat. Alan lived in the swing. Wyatt hated it. Alan always wanted to have mommy nearby. Wyatt was happy to entertain himself between meals and naps with very little maternal intervention. After having a child who wanted to be in my arms, craving constant attention at all times, Wyatt seemed like such an easy baby! I was certain he was going to be the child who gave me no drama whatsoever. That theory could not have been more incorrect!

I learned in his second year of life that my “serious” baby wasn’t just serious. He experienced emotional and sensory deficits (and overloads), due to PDD-NOS, a form of Autism. His high pain tolerance, which had made those rounds of shots during the first year a breeze, was not always an asset. I’m not sure a mother can be prepared for the sound of a single whimper alluding to not just a bump on the head, but a trip to urgent care. There is no “gearing up” for a toddler who runs towards moving cars. Silence can mean your child is playing quietly, or your child is in danger.

On the flip side to the silent dangers he craved were boisterous outbursts which seemed to come with very little reasoning. Car seats, high chairs, changing tables, people wanting to hold him, several foods, changes in scheduling, face washing … all of these would send my child into a screaming, flailing tirade. He began talking at six months old, but from age one to two he scarcely progressed at all, usually only repeating the last words we spoke to him. Unable to express his desires and needs, he grew more and more frustrated. Thank God for the patient, loving and knowledgeable therapists, who walked with us through that difficult time. They taught us how to reach him, how to help him, and how to begin to understand him. Though he still spoke to us in memorized phrases, we were breaking through many barriers. He was learning to be safer. He was transitioning easier. We were planning a move to a beautiful home in the country, where the boys would have plenty of room to safely run and the schools were known for their special education staff. Ironically, this move brought us to the scariest point in Wyatt’s life thus far …

Wyatt’s room had been put in the same arrangement, in an attempt to make him feel more at ease with the move. I was expecting sleepless nights, speech regression and tantrums. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. A week after we moved, Auntie Laura moved as well. Not only was our beloved “Auntie L” my sister, she was also Wyatt’s first preschool teacher. The two safest places Wyatt knew had changed. Again, I was expecting meltdowns, but they didn’t seem to happen. What happened instead was the clenching of his left hand. At first, he opened and closed it frequently. As the days passed, it was closed more and more. Before we knew it, he was using his left hand like a “club” appendage. His hand remained clenched in a fist when he ate, when he took a bath, when he played, even when he slept. Deeply concerned, we called his neurologist.

As we waited for his MRI appointment, the clenching continued. He wouldn’t even open his hand to push away the nurse as she checked his blood pressure and put an I.V. in his right arm. As my baby slipped into his medicated slumber, his hand slowly began to open. Our hearts sank as the fist returned before he fully regained consciousness.

The doctor told us there was no medical reason why this was happening, but his body didn’t know that. Though stress was causing his clenched hand, his body got used to it. We were informed that if he didn’t start using his hand again, he could remain this way for life. We had to get him to start opening his hand again, and when he was ready, the fist would be gone for good.

We were given strict instructions to exercise his hand once every hour when he was awake. We would tell Wyatt to open his hand, and then tell him what a good boy he was and give him ten high-fives. At first, we had to pry his little hand open. After a few days, he would open it voluntarily, give us “fives” and then the fist returned. Every day, I begged my son, “Please, baby-- open your hand!” Every night, I pleaded with God to show me how I could ease his mind, thereby healing his body.

Auntie Laura called me one morning, asking if we would like to come over. She had set up the new classroom in her new house, and hoped it might help Wyatt to see that his favorite toys and learning tools were still there. When I asked Wyatt if he wanted to go, he thought for a moment, said, “Yeah …” and began opening and closing his hand! Little Alan pointed, noticing at the same time I did. We knew what to do. We drove straight to Auntie Laura’s house!

He opened and closed his hand intermittently during the twenty-five minute drive. I called his daddy on the way, telling him I would keep him posted. He told me he would be waiting by his phone. As we parked in an unfamiliar driveway, Wyatt’s fist clenched tightly. This wasn’t Auntie Laura’s house. His entire body stiffened as we walked up the stairs. When the front door opened, my sister’s gentle smile and compassionate eyes met Wyatt’s. His rigid frame seemed to melt into the arms of his beloved Auntie, as she carried him into the classroom. As she gingerly placed his feet on the floor, she asked him if he could see his beloved wooden numbers. He beamed, pointing at the bountiful basket of numerals. As he slowly walked around the shelves, he found his favorite toys; the wooden cylinders, the sand paper letters, the love-worn copy of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” they were all there! His left hand continuously opened and closed, while his right hand touched each item. It was going to be okay. School was still school. Just like at home, it was different, but the important pieces were still there. I called my husband to share the good news. He said he couldn’t wait to get home and hug his brave boy!

When we returned home, Wyatt’s demeanor was more tranquil than it had been in nearly a month. It took him a few days to remember that he could use his left hand again, but it slowly returned to its original capabilities. When he would feel a bit uneasy, the fist would return from time to time. When those moments came, all it took was a gentle rubbing of his arm and the words, “Wyatt, open your hand,” to relax his little fingers once more. When I think about how fear almost paralyzed my son’s hand, I am so thankful for the intervention of doctors, earnestly praying family and friends and the compassion of my sister, Laura. Fear could have stolen a precious gift from Wyatt.

I am amazed every day how much I learn from my children. Thinking back on this season of Wyatt’s life, I can’t help but see parallels in my own. There are times when God brings wonderful changes into my life, such as new opportunities, friendships or medical advancements. I know they come from a loving God who has proven time and time again that he can be depended upon. Regardless of how good He has always been to me, the proof of His amazing love through Christ’s sacrifice and the plethora of scriptures affirming that God always keeps His promises, I allow fear to paralyze me. I close myself off from all that God wants me to become, because it’s new. It’s different. It’s scary. I stumble through life, struggling in ways God would never want me to; all because I will not listen to His pleading, “Open your hand.”

For What it's Worth

I wrote this back in March on facebook, but I wanted to make sure I was "saving" it somewhere else. :)

“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

I really do lead an atypical life. For starters, I love my boss. No, I'm not being sarcastic. I don't just love love her little boy, I genuinely love Katie! And no, it's not just for the lattes she brings on tough days, the "staff meetings" she schedules at Cutters Point or the fact that she's growing another little boy for me to love. She's a blast to hang out with! She's crazy smart, has a quirky little sense of humor and she genuinely sees my heart and not the pile of dishes I didn't get to while playing tickle tag with her son. Every payday, Katie usually gets home late. I put Kaelin in his car seat with a snack, Katie writes my check and we spend the next thirty-plus minutes just chatting. I always learn something new from our time together; today I was blessed by the story of a special ring.

Her grandmother had given her the ring; I've never seen one quite like it. The setting was what made it so unique; as prongs were arranged differently during the WWII era. As Katie told me the story of of the gift's origin (the center stone was from her grandmother's engagement ring), she spoke with a genuine fondness-- which had nothing to do with its contents. The ring was a visible sign of love, tying generations together.

While in high school, a fellow classmate (and aspiring jeweler) looked at Katie's precious heirloom with much different eyes. He informed her that the prongs were set all wrong, the coloring of the stones meant they were probably fake and her ring was worthless. While his haughty, unsolicited commentary did not change the value in Katie's heart, it certainly piqued her curiosity. Because of this encounter, she took her ring to an actual jeweler. He marveled at the rarity of the setting, the quality of the stones and the unique choice of rose-gold. He urged Katie to protect her ring with insurance.

Naturally, I was struck by the contrast in the two appraisals. The ring had certainly not changed; the differing opinions were the result of two very different people. While the student obviously took a great interest in jewelry, his expertise and experience was limited. The jeweler had training, much more experience and a greater understanding of what he held in his hands. Again, it did not change the ring's value in Katie's heart, but it always feels good to be validated!

Later that day, while talking with a friend, she mentioned feeling "superfluous." Saddened by her self-appraisal, I vehemently disagreed. While I would be upset by anyone who saw themselves as lacking in value, I am known for sharing some "unsolicited commentary" of my own when a loved one does. I knew my friend had recently been "poorly appraised" by someone close to her, and a long, trial-ridden day had caused her to question her worth. I told her about Katie's ring, and told her that just because someone couldn't see her value; it didn't change how precious she was.

I know we all do this from time to time. We don't even need someone close to us to tell us where we fall short; perfect strangers do it! We have billboards, commercials, music videos and reality TV telling us we're "junk." We're not rich enough, we don't look good enough, we're not smart enough, we're not getting enough done ... I think our "lack of value" is one of Satan's favorite lies. After all, the less we value ourselves, the less we care about the choices we make. When we have no value, we can abuse, mutilate and destroy the bodies God gave us. We can harden our hearts towards the needs of others, since; after all, we couldn't do anything about it. We can callous the protective conscience He placed inside of us, Bringing hardship, abuse and pain into our lives. This truly must grieve our Heavenly Father, who sees us so differently.

Almighty God, the Creator and giver of all life, places upon each of us a certificate of priceless value. He has deemed that we are worth the life of His Son. He sees every quirk of your personality, every mole on your back, every time you kick your shin against the open dishwasher door ... and He adores you. He knows the innermost corners of your heart, the secrets you plan to take to your grave and the number of hairs (or lack thereof) on your head. You can't ask for a more thorough appraisal than that! He loves us unconditionally, so much so that he provided redemption for our sin, lest it separate us from Him. He covered all of our filth with the pure, perfect and priceless blood of Jesus. In that single act, The Righteous Judge has appraised you as priceless.

As your week comes to a close, hold tight to your appraisal! My prayer is that you all might know that you are precious, irreplaceable, priceless and loved beyond measure! <3

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Holy Toledo, I am going to lose my mind. Laryngitis could not have fallen upon someone with a bigger quota of WORDS to get out! Yes, I realize that Barbara Streisand nearly lost her voice, blah blah, millions of dollars, yadda, yadda. Does she clean her house better on the phone, because she NEEDS adults in her life? I don't think so! Does she have two little boys to drown out with the announcement that SOMEONE did not flush the toilet after using it? I would say that's a big, fat, opera-singin' NO! I'm going to also go out on a limb and say that she has not had to shoo chickens off her front porch or call in her twenty-six pound neurotic Mini-Aussie (who is CONVINCED that my neighbors come to the mailboxes in front of our pasture, scheming to KILL US ALL; thus I must be alerted-- repeatedly). I understand that Babs "wants" her voice, but I need mine!

I could go on and on about that (OOPS-- already did), but since I always tell my kids that "whining has never provided a solid case for anything," I suppose it's time to hoist up my big-girl knickers and cope. The question is, of course, how does one attract (and keep) the attention of her children, animals and husband without effectively working vocal chords? (Yes, I know I lumped everyone together. There is a reason for that-- they all seem to be vastly gifted with selective hearing!) I've tried a few methods. Seeing as how many of them made me look ridiculous, I thought I'd share them in a public forum ...

Method #1: The "Seal"
This is where you run around your house, clapping. All I wanted to do was tell Wyatt to go brush his teeth. In need of his attention, I followed him from room to room, applauding relentlessly. You'd have thought Tinkerbell was on life support!

Method #2: The ASL/Interpretive Dance Combo
This method is used with great hopes of helping reach the husband. Since his ASL is rusty (what with there being no toddlers in the house on a daily basis), you feel the need to "assist the signs" in your portrayal. The result: Your husband says "no, thank you," to what he thinks is a pineapple. Sadly, you were offering pie a la mode. On the bright side, mocking your emphatic movement is fun for the whole family! Well ... except you. Sure, it would usually be funny, but acknowledging the humor in this situation would nullify your pity party, after all!

Method #3: The "By Jove, I've Got A Swell Idea!" Table/Wall Slam
This only seems to be effectively used in films that were made before 1962. (Preferably, a musical!) In real life, everyone gets confused. The dogs begin barking, assuming someone has knocked on the door. Alan assumes it is Wyatt, Wyatt assumes it is Alan. Due to their assumptions, they both ignore me. Husband, however, comes running into the room, assuming I have fallen; thereby rendering myself unconscious. Upon the discovery that his wife had merely hoped to relay some information (and doesn't have so much as a paper cut), annoyance ensues from the man of the house.

When all of that didn't work, I pulled up a blank Word document and started typing my requests, declarations and commentary. The boys loved it, especially when I added smileys or silly fonts. Hubby, however, didn't seem to enjoy being pulled to the computer by "Vanna," while I pointed at the screen every five minutes.

There was something I had overlooked. It was something that my voice usually portrayed to my husband; love. I could play charades or type requests to him, but I treated my conversation like a "honey do" list. I'd even forgotten to say "Please" and "Thank You," much less, "I love you." So I stopped typing. I stopped signing. I stopped trying to relay my needs for just a moment. I remembered to do something I usually did while talking; I affectionately touched my loved ones. Simple acts like gently rubbing a shoulder, a hug or a peck on top of the head seemed to make it very easy for my sweetie to intently study my mouthed words. All because I took the time to gently approach him, instead of demanding his attention. I'd love to think that it all left with my voice, but I'm sure that's not entirely accurate ...

I think simple little acts of affection are easy to remember to do with my kids. They're little, they're cute, they call me Queen Mommy-- it doesn't really matter why ... it just is. I'm afraid that it's easier for the grown-ups to speak (and act)more lovingly towards the wee ones, and treat the "other grown-up" in the house like a co-worker or a room mate, instead of the special person they are. We both do it. With a wave of the hand (and the arrival of two children), flowery complements and flirting disappear. Suddenly, we say really romantic statements like, "We need milk," or "I have a dental appointment tomorrow." (Wow, grocery lists and tartar scraping. Is it getting HOT in here?) We're tired. We're cranky. We're out of good snacks ... it happens.

I hope my voice comes back. I REALLY do! The phone looks so LONELY! I'm going to get "texter's thumb!" And most importantly, I want to be able to use my words! Here's hoping that when my voice returns, I retain some of the gentleness I'm trying to use. :)


About Me

I'm not your average housewife; but then, neither is any other housewife I've met! My life is a constant blur of kids, animals, hunting down and testing allergy-friendly recipes, shopping, LOTS of coffee, yarn crafting, nannying, singing and writing. I married my highschool sweetheart (the introvert who is a type-A, shy, organized, loves hunting, hiking and mountain climbing. He lives for pizza, burgers and cookies and doesn't like coffee). We are polar opposites, but Love, grace and a whole lotta Jesus can overcome anything! :) We have two boys who fill this house with lots of excitement, love, laughter and lunacy! Alan (9) is a happy-go-lucky, inventive, dramatic, eager-to-please kid who loves being dad's shadow and mom's shopping companion. He's the snuggliest kid I've ever met! Wyatt is extremely bright, inquisitive, entertaining and endearing. He lives for routine, Wii games, pixar films and writing stories. Alan is typically-developing, Wyatt has high-functioning autism. We live on an acre in the Pacific Northwest with our two aussies and 5 chickens. It's not the Waltons, but it works! :)