Thursday, November 29, 2007

the corner of the room

The pile feels endless––an old pair of shorts, a bag of hotel shampoo, the August issue of Family Circle, faded jeans. A few treasures, but mostly junk, languish in this dusty corner of my bedroom. My Mother’s wedding dress lay buried at the bottom of it all.

I unzip the cover and feel the soft, white velvet. She had a Christmas wedding. I can still hear my Mother’s angry voice, “Nothing good ever came from that marriage.”

I want to answer, “Well, me. Maybe.” But I don’t. Like so many other things, this is not about me.

What to do with the dusty dress now? I can’t bring myself to toss it away, into the Salvation Army bag. And so it hangs, crowded into the corner of the guest room closet.

I think of my little neighbor friend, only eight, who endures this grief. Last year, she sat at my kitchen table and cried. “This divorce is even going to screw up Christmas,” she told me, incredulous. “I have to be with my Dad two days before Christmas, and then my Mom on the actual Christmas. But we’ll never be all together. Can you believe it?”

And so we made cookies together. And when she left, by some miracle, she was smiling again. Last week, her best friend moved away from our street, and when the van pulled away, I reached over to hug her. She had no tears then. “Well, at least we can write!” she chirped. “Oh,” she said, “by the way. Christmas is all messed up again this year.”

“Then lets make our cookies again,” I offered.
“Yes, I’d like that.”

Me too, dear one. Me too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

on cleaning up

It’s all coming back to me, this having a toddler thing. I feel like I’m on a treadmill all day long, moving, but never going anywhere.

And I’ve decided that cleaning up with a toddler in the house is like trying to vacuum in the middle of a hurricane.

I put baby b. in his high chair, and he eats breakfast while I unload the dishwasher. When he’s done, I clean up the high chair mess while he toddles off to the family room and dumps a box of tinker toys. Before I’m finished with the kitchen, he wanders back in with his broom to “help” me sweep. And on and on it goes, all day long.

Yesterday I gave up for a few hours and actually tripped on my way across the living room.

At least he has a healthy sense of curiosity.

Any illusion that I am able to keep all of these balls in the air AND keep a tidy house are officially shattered. Twin A. had a playdate a few weeks ago, and when the little boy’s Mom came to pick him up, I invited her in. I didn’t apologize for the mess; after all, four Kindergarten boys and a toddler had been happily playing for two hours.

And they were all alive.

She told me later, “I love your home. It’s lived in, like our house.” And the next week when Twin A. played at her house, she invited me in for the first time. We pushed the pile of mail on the counter to the side and had a cup of tea.

Maybe this toddler thing isn’t so bad after all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

assertiveness training

I’m probably the only Mother on the planet who purposely taught her two-year old to throw a fit. But that’s exactly what I did when the noisy boys were toddlers. I had noticed a disturbing trend at playgroups, mostly with Twin A. He was so easygoing that other kids would grab his toys, push him down, whatever, and he wouldn’t make a peep. While I was grateful for his sweet nature, I didn’t want to set him up to be bullied his entire life.

And so I taught him how to assert himself.

“I’m playing with this right now.”
“I’ll give you a turn in just a minute.”
“Don’t push me.”
“May I please have a turn?”

I was remembering these lessons this past Saturday. With Llama Papa busy on household projects and baby b. up early from his nap, I gathered up the three boys and headed to one of our favorite play spots--the children's museum. One of our favorite areas to play is the air / ball / boat section. The noisy boys can literally spend hours there.

And so they settled in while baby b. toddled around, squealing happily. Twin A. manned the cannon, stuffing fuzzy balls in and shooting them out into the wooden boat while Twin B. built air-ball shooters out of pvc pipe. Everyone was having a great time until Twin A. realized that the kid in the boat, a boy about seven years old, wasn’t throwing the balls back out. He was hoarding them under his jacket on the floor of the boat. At my prodding, Twin A. boldly asked him to throw the balls out. Please.

But the boy didn’t want to throw the balls out.

And so I asked him if we could please have a few of the balls. (There were over fifty fuzzy balls in the boat at this point.) He grudgingly obliged.

“Maybe if you explain the game to the boy, he’ll understand and want to play,” I offered, handing the confiscated balls to A.

“No,” he said. “I don’t think he wants to play. I’ll just move the cannon.”

And so he continued with his happy play. Other kids joined him and they simply shot the balls at other targets, away from the boat.

This was a good reminder to me. Sometimes we need to confront people. And sometimes we just need to move the cannon.

(By the way, for you local Moms reading: this is prime children's museum season. The closer we get to Christmas, the emptier the museum gets. I'm not kidding. The week before Christmas this place is empty! So take a tip from the Llama Momma: shop online and skip the mall. Go to the museum instead!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy unBirthday

six years ago

I woke up with a bachache––the same backache I’d had for two weeks. My belly was enormous. Pulling on my huge maternity pants, I realize this is the last week I can wear them. Unbelievable.

At Bible Study, I can hardly sit in my chair, my back hurts so much. “Don’t be a baby,” I tell myself. I didn’t want to be one of those whiny women, complaining all the time about aches and pains. After all, I want these babies more than anything. I wasn’t about to start complaining about the pregnancy.

My BSF leader pulls me aside after class. “Are you okay?” She asks. The tears come without warning.
“My back,” I explain.
She wraps her arms around me. “Call your doctor. Today. Right now.”
“But it’s normal,” I tell her. “Back pain is normal when your belly is this big.”
“It is normal, but there’s also a lot that can go wrong in a twin pregnancy.” She is a nurse in addition to being a BSF leader.
“I have an appointment this afternoon. I’ll mention the back pain.”

When I get home, I check on the turkey thawing in the fridge. I clean my bathroom. Something inside me knows there is something wrong.

“I’m sorry for the discomfort,” my doctor says, “I just need to make sure I’m feeling what I’m feeling.”

Minutes later, I’m in a wheelchair. My doctor tells a nurse to call labor and delivery. He pushes my wheelchair down a hall, to the elevator. Walking briskly, he explains, “You’re in active labor. We need to stop the labor. Now, we just saw the babies on the ultrasound. You're at 26 weeks. The babies are almost 2 pounds and they do have a chance. But we’re going to do everything we can to stop this.”

“But I need to go home,” I tell him, “I’m making the turkey tomorrow.”

My doctor pauses and comes around my chair to face me, kneeling down. “Sweetie, you’re not making any turkey tomorrow. You’re not leaving this hospital until these babies are born. Nobody will care about the turkey. They’ll get a pizza or something. It doesn’t matter.”

And so it was. Nobody cared about the turkey.

Once the drip of magnesium sulfate started, I didn’t care about much of anything. Between the hot flashes and extreme nausea, I just held on through that long night. Prayers bubbled up from my soul; prayers I couldn’t think to pray, but they came groaning out of me anyway. “Please, God.”

He was present during that first long night, and on that strange Thanksgiving day. He was present.

And He heard. He answered. And my babies did not come on this day, six years ago. And the noise I hear right now in the next room is a sweet reality.

Happy unBirthday, noisy boys. Today I celebrate God’s faithfulness to you both; to me. Surely He gave me the desire of my heart that day. And I am so grateful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

paying it forward

I didn’t know I was pregnant with twins. I just knew I was exhausted. Scheduled to move across the country in three days, my husband and I both had long lists of things to do and people to see. A few days before the move, my friend D. called. “What are you doing tonight?” She asked.
“Dinner with my family,” I told her.
“I’d like to come over and clean for you while you’re gone.”
“Oh, I can’t let you do that,” I stammered.
“‘I’d like to,” she said. And I believed her.

And so we went out for dinner, and my dear friend came over and cleaned our bathroom. When I came home and saw the white grout, I tried to forget what color it had been before. And I cried at this gift of pure friendship; I could not repay her.

The moving van pulled up to my neighbor’s house early this morning. The house hasn’t sold yet, but her husband has already moved. They’ve been living apart for 6 months now. To say it’s been a hard year is a gross understatement.

She drops her young son off right after the noisy boys leave for school. Baby b. is down for his nap.

And so I give her this gift that she cannot repay. I give it with joy; with tears.

What can you give today, with no expectation of repayment?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

funny little things

Baby b. is officially toddling all over the house. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it here before, he is so stinkin’ cute.

Lately, he’s taken to wearing a video sleeve on his arm. He just marches over to the videos, pulls a video out of the sleeve, and slides that sleeve right on, like a jacket. He’s very proud of this, and waves his arms up, smiling and shouting “Hi! Hi!” And he wears the sleeve around the house for hours, switching videos every once in awhile.

And the noisy boys are no longer interested in Sponge Bob or Cyberchase or Diego. Not since they found the Discovery channel. Now they want to watch Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs and Man vs Wild with all of their T.V. time. (Of course, Llama Papa is thrilled by this turn of events.)

At one point, we were watching someone clean raw sewage out of a basement, and the noisy boys were so taken with this, as was my husband, and it occurred to me: I am the only female in this house with four males.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. I’m just saying.

These shows have inspired an entirely new genre of play. Yesterday the noisy boys spent three hours building experimental robots out of boxes, caps, foam, and remote control cars.

Childhood is a wonder. Noisy? Yes. But also sacred. And oh so much fun!

Monday, November 12, 2007

being right

I woke up too early to sore muscles and three sick children. Halfway through my coffee, I glance at my calendar.


With no memory of what this might refer to, I ask my husband, who reminds me that we’re having blood tests today for our new life insurance policy, so I shouldn’t eat or drink anything. For the next four hours.


Oh, and I’m a classroom volunteer for Twin A.’s class. I rummage through my in-box looking for the volunteer schedule that tells me what to do when I can’t make it, but it has evaporated into the land of un-filed email that can never be found. And so I email the teacher and the schedule coordinator, explaining that Twin A. is sick and I’m not sure what to do about my volunteer shift.

His teacher emails me right back and tells me not to worry about it. She has extra help today. Just give A. lots of hugs.

And then I get an email from the coordinator. A very rude email detailing sick policy protocol, which I have clearly broken. And she sent it out to the entire class.

Have I mentioned that I’ve just had a very emotional two days of getting beat up and my body hurts all over? And I’m starving, but can’t eat anything? Oh, and I have three sick, needy children?

This is a good reminder to me to show grace. I have been that coordinator, sending out curt emails. Being right.

But right doesn’t matter sometimes. Sometimes kindness, courtesy and grace should be above “right.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

finding my voice

I’m taking a self defense class this weekend and next. I cannot begin to describe the intensity of this class.

The class is hands-on, meaning we practice the techniques we learn full-force with our adrenaline pumping. The “assailant” is a gentle man who shares a name with one of my boys, and I’m amazed at his commitment to end violence against women. So committed he’s willing to dress in a padded suit and receive our blows.

I expected the class to be intense. In fact, I slept little this past week and consumed more than my share of snickers bars in an effort to quell my anxiety.

The biggest surprise yesterday? How hard it was to yell. In fact, I found it easier to kick the tar out the pseudo attacker than to use my voice to yell, “Back off now!” or “Get out of here!”

The yelling feels unnatural. Wrong, even. In the midst of a simulated attack, I have a hard time finding my voice.

I need to find my voice. And as I learn this lesson myself, I’m aware that I’ve never given the noisy boys permission to be loud. “That’s inappropriate,” I tell them. “Use your inside voice.”

But they need to know that sometimes being loud IS appropriate. They need permission to use their voices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Do you want to get well?

Thirty-eight years. According to John 5, that’s how long the man had been an invalid. He was waiting by the pool of Bethesda, hoping to be healed. When Jesus saw this man, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Why would Jesus even ask?

Honestly. The guy has been lame for thirty-eight years. He’s lying by a “healing” pool, waiting.

Of course he wants to be healed.

But Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?”

And the man’s response? “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me” (John 5:7)

Right. It was a yes or no question, but instead of answering, he gives us a list of reasons why he hasn’t been healed. And is it just me, or is his tone kind of whiny?

It’s easy for me to judge this man for his response, and yet I know I do this. I claim to be waiting for Jesus to heal me. I even get upset that he’s kept me waiting too long. And then when He shows up, I hesitate.

I think Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed because he knows there is a cost involved. For thirty-eight years this man has been lame. Being healed would mean learning a new way of life; working; being productive. As difficult as it was living with his infirmities, for thirty-eight years, it is all this man had known.

Jesus healed the man.

How about you: do you want to get well?

Friday, November 2, 2007

flingshots and glitterbugs

In the spirit of the gloshers, let me tell you about our afternoon. On the way home from school, Twin B. announced that the glitterbugs have been busy. Twin A. agreed and decided we should pick up as much glitter as we could on our way home. I assumed this glitter was imaginary until I saw each of the boys with a handful of candy wrappers.

And I got a shipment of chairs from Target today. (Aren’t they cute?) The noisy boys had a blast with the packing supplies, which included jumbo-sized rubber bands. Perfect for making flingshots.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Don't forget to glosh

In honor of the three thousand tons of candy the noisy boys hauled in last night, here’s a recap of our recent trip to the dentist:

Me: Wow. You got a goody bag from the dentist?
Twin A: Yup. Look at all of this stuff! (Pulls out stickers, pencils, and a yo-yo)
Me: Cool. When I was a kid, we just got a new toothbrush.
Twin B: We got those too. And these! (Holding up his new toothbrush and flosser.)
Me: Look at those nice flossers!
Twin B: They’re not flossers, Mom, they’re GLOSHERS.
Me: No, they’re called FLOSSERS. They’re for flossing your teeth.
Twin B: No, Mom. The dentist said they’re GLOSHERS.
Twin A: Yeah. They ARE gloshers.

Whatever. No need to nit-pick on the details. As long as they’re actually gloshing their teach, I’m good with that.

Especially after last night. Holy cow. You’ve never seen such efficient trick-or-treaters! They literally RAN with their neighbor friends from house to house. I actually broke a sweat trying to keep up. Which is a good thing considering I must have eaten some thirty-eight small-sized snickers bars yesterday. My head is still buzzing.