Saturday, August 21, 2010

Captain Carnivore

My sweet little man has a soft spot for animals. Case in point: He thinks tigers eat grass, because he refuses to believe that they'd eat zebra. You see my point.

The other day we were reading an alphabet book. He said to me, "Mommy - what do owls eat?"

Always one for honesty, I decided to bite the bullet. "Daniel, sweetie, owls eat mice."

He thought for a minute and decided against in. "No Mommy, that's yucky. They eat grass."

After another minute of thinking, he turned to me again. "Mommy, what ELSE do owls eat?"

I said, "Daniel, owls eat bunnies."

D: "Like big rabbits?"

M: "No honey... owls like to eat little, tiny, soft bunnies." (I was hoping for shock value to send him back to the "owls eat grass" line of logic. No such luck...)

D: "Okay. I will be the mommy owl and you'll be the baby owl. I'll bring you a bunny to eat."

What?! This had totally backfired on me. He ran across the room, scooped up an imaginary baby bunny, and laid it in front of me to eat. Not entirely sure what to do, I leaned forward and took an imaginary bite.

Daniel completely freaked out. "Mommy!! No!!! Stop!!!! Spit it out!!!!!" I was so relieved that his sensitivity was still in tact. I gratefully spit out my imaginary bite. (After all, I prefer a vegetarian diet even in imagination world.)

Daniel calmed down, still telling me to "Spit it out, Mommy." Then he shocked me with his next line: "I have to CUT IT FIRST." He proceeded to cut the baby bunny into imaginary bites and spoon feed me.

I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry or vomit... but I think I did a little of all three. Hilarious. And tragic. My little carnivore is growing up.

Two days later we were making french toast for breakfast. As Daniel helped me mix the batter, he peered into the mixing bowl and sweetly said, "Little chickies - are we mixing you?!" Lord help us.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bad Frank

Farm time again! We had a wonderful week on the Farm, playing with cows/dirt/cousins/golf carts and anything else Daniel and Violet could get their hands on. It truly was a great week.

My Grampa (Daniel's great-grampa) can no longer drive his car, so he very kindly sold it to us (at such a low price it was practically GIVING it to us). It passed all the tests at the mechanics, so we flew to Texas one way with the intent of roadtripping back to Arizona in the Dodge - which we decided to name "Frank". (Grampa's name is Franklin.)

So. We loaded up snacks, toys, kids and car seats and headed West.

All went well for the first leg of the trip - overnight. Mid-morning found us an hour out of El Paso and needing a rest stop. We loaded back up and realized... the car wouldn't start. We called AAA (who couldn't find our card number in the system) and then our mechanically-inclined brother-in-law who offered a possible solution. Thankfully, the car started again after about 30 minutes.

We kept trucking across Texas... then New Mexico... then pulled into a gas stop in Tucson, Arizona. We filled up, piled back in and... nothing. Frank decided he wasn't ready to go anywhere.

We shared a chocolate shake and fries at the burger joint across the street (not a bad way to pass another half an hour) and tried that thing again. Success.

Holding our breath, we headed in for the final stretch. Realizing that Frank didn't like coming to a complete stop, we chose an "out of the way'' route to get back home to avoid the stop and go of rush hour in Phoenix. We vowed NOT to turn off the engine and just keep on going no matter what.

Thirty minutes later... in the middle of NO WHERE... Daniel's little voice piped up. "Mommy... I need to go pee-pee." Contemplating our options, we pulled over but kept the motor running. I ran around to his door, helping him... go... on the side of the road. We all hopped back in and... nothing. The motor died. Bad Frank.

This time it was serious. A swarm of flies filled the car as the motor died, crawling all over us - especially the kids. The heat was pushing 110 degrees, and the surrounding desert was barren and hostile. The motorists sped by, not even bothering to stop or even slow down. Best of all... we had no cell phone reception.
We opened the trunk so we'd have shade, and sat in a huddle behind the car (on five layers of clothing to keep our backsides from burning). I beat the kids with clothing to keep the flies off, and attempted to change a really nasty diaper (thanks, Violet) in the middle of sweat, flies and dirt. Fernando paced, looking for reception to make a call.

Panic started to set in as the minutes ticked away. We sang worship songs to Jesus, and thanked Him for the answer we trusted was coming. Daniel called out a prayer - "Jesus - please take the flies away!" And kept telling me that God was going to help us. There is a certain kind of desperation about sitting on the side of a desert highway holding your two babies that just puts things into perspective: You suddenly know exactly who you are and what really matters to you.

That sun was setting fast, and no one was stopping to help us.

I'm not sure how much time passed, but Fernando found a 6 inch square of reception and was able to make a call letting someone know where we were in case we weren't home in a few hours. At the same time, Daniel turned to me and said, "Mommy - the car works now - it's time to go home." I dismissed it the first time as wishful thinking. But then more insistently, Daniel said, "Mommy - the car works. We need to go home."

I flagged Fernando down, who hopped in and sure enough - the car started. We have NEVER moved so fast, flinging kids into the backseat as fast as possible. We took off and didn't look back.

The short version is that we made it home without stopping. But those final 90 minutes of roadtrip were the 90 most stressful minutes we have ever spent together. There was no AC and it was over 110 by this point. All the water was left in the trunk in our hurry, so we had half a bottle to share. All four of us were drenched in sweat and still covered in flies (who didn't leave the car until we got home). I tried to give them snacks, but it only made the flies even more interested in my babies' faces. The kids cried out of discomfort and over-heating and we did everything possible to keep them distracted and entertained. I think I remember something about a boogar-song we made up to keep them laughing.

We prayed like maniacs, outloud and boldly. Daniel, too. For whatever reason, God kept using him to speak to the family. He was the calm voice of reason letting us know the car was working again. He kept telling us Bible stories about Jesus fixing problems - and would recite Jesus' parts: "Be still!!" ... to the storm that would have killed the disciples. We managed to avoid every red light all the way home and coasted into the driveway. As we stopped the car, the tears finally hit and we tried to pull it together long enough to get everyone inside. We stripped the kids out of drenched and filthy clothing, soaked them in the tub, and kept giving them a salt/sugar/water mixture to rehydrate.

Frank is working fine now. Turns out he had never made a long trip and can't handle the pressure on the engine. He's fine as a city car... but he won't be taken past state lines again.

As dramatic and awful as that evening was, it brought us closer together. I will never forget the desperation, but also the peace. God's hand was on us - our identity as a family is in Him. Even when it feels scary, He is in control and knows what we need.

And together as a family, we will praise Him!

Even in the midst of flies, sweat and dirt. ESPECIALLY in the midst of flies, sweat and dirt.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The B-I-B-L-E

For Christian parents, there are few things as sweet as watching your child learn about God. Daniel has been memorizing verses at church for a while and learning to understand the basic concepts – Jesus is with me when I’m scared… God made me… Jesus loves me… etc.

But we have turned a new literal and metaphorical page in Daniel’s walk with God: He has developed a passion for the Bible. After graduating to a cool toddler Bible (with awesome illustrations involving crazy hair and big muscles) he simply can’t get enough.

For at least a few weeks, he has refused all other books at bedtime – he just wants the Bible. (And when it’s “lights out” time he gets upset – “But Mommy, I just want to read the Bible!” Talk about hard to say no to!) He wants to act out stories constantly and he assigns us roles. Daddy makes an excellent Goliath and wall of Jericho, and I particularly like being the angel that saves Daniel in the lion’s den. Violet is occasionally cast as a lion, which is somewhat fitting given the biting.

His sensitivity to the content is impressive. His eyes flooded with tears the first time we read “The Good Samaritan” and he couldn’t understand why people would hurt someone for no reason.

Today at naptime, I read him the story of Jesus’ death for the first time. He has been asking for it for weeks, but I was too afraid of causing nightmares. Plus, he doesn’t really grasp the concept of death yet. But I gave in, and today we read it. He listened with wide eyes, and careful attention to the painful expressions on Jesus face. He just kept asking me, “Why?” and it was all I could do to not lose it. My heart soared as I read the words of the gospel message to my son – that stone was rolled away. After we were done, I laid with him in his bed for naptime. I asked him if he remembered the story we read today. He said yes. I asked him to tell me about it to see what he retained.

Me: “What happened in the story?”

Daniel: “Jesus prayed to God.”

Me: “Then what?”

Daniel: “Mean guys.”

Me: “Then what?”

Daniel: “Ouchies.”

Me: “Then what?”

Daniel: “They go away.”

Me: “Then what?”

Dnaiel: “Cave.”

Me: “Then what?”

Daniel: Big rock.

Me: “Then what?”

Daniel: Another big rock.

Me: “Then what?”

Daniel “Umm… I dunno.”

Me: Do you remember the angel?

Daniel: “Yes.”

Me: “What happened next?”

Daniel: “Jesus body is gone.”

Me: “That’s right, Daniel.”

Daniel: “He came back alive!”

It was one of the most precious and tender moments we have shared. That feeling of sharing the most important thing in the world with your child, and watching him start to understand.

THIS is the whole point of parenting. Forget teaching manners and hygiene – if we can teach him this, we’ll have done our jobs. My heart has never been happier.

SAHM Wannabe

Daniel has been in full-time preschool from the time he was 7-weeks old. Both Fernando and I had to work to make ends meet, and the preschool at our church (and place of employment) was and is a wonderful environment. Christian teachers and curriculum, bright colors, structured days, creative outlets, online video monitoring, and so much more. And honestly, with a few exceptions, I didn’t have a strong desire for life to be any other way. Daniel loved his teachers, formed true friendships that are still intact, and Fernando and I were able to be a part of a fun ministry team doing jobs that have been challenging and fulfilling. It was the right thing for our family.

But something new has surfaced in me: A desire to be at home, all the time. It started when Violet came home. And at first I thought it had to do with her, and wanting to be home more for her during her attachment period. But the more I dug, the more I realized it actually had to do with me.

Like he tends to do, God has been changing me. Softening my preconceptions of what the gender roles in my marriage and my home would be like. Yes, I still think husbands and wives are equal and shouldn’t be bound to what our culture tells them their roles should be. I believe this with all my heart.

But I cannot ignore the piece of me that desires (more strongly than I ever imagined) a new role in my family. One that I had previous looked down on.

So here’s my confession of the “I wants” of right now.

At some point in my life, I want to stay home with my kids. I want to be their primary nurturer. I want to be in charge of forming their character and minds. I want to be selfish with every minute of their days – with each memory. I want to be in charge of our meals, lovingly and creatively feeding our bodies exactly what I know they need. I want to run our home. I want to elevate it to a level of cleanliness and organization that just hasn’t been possible so far. I want to greet my husband at the door each evening with a smile, a hug, two clean and happy kiddos, and dinner cooking on the stove.

But that’s not all. I still want to work – but in a different way. I want to grow my photography business. Take on more sessions than I have been able to with a full-time job. Expand my equipment collection and try new things. I want to contribute to the family income through this avenue in a very real way.

So this is my "someday" dream. Can we do it now? No. The numbers don’t add up, financially. And honestly, I'm not ready to leave my full-time job. But do I believe that it’s something God has for my family in the future? Yes. Absolutely. So, we’ll make a plan. We’ll work hard and dedicate ourselves to being the best stewards of our resources that we can be.

And maybe in a few years, I will be there with Daniel comes home from Kindergarten or first grade, full of playground stories and a backpack full of homework. I will be there, ready to greet him with a hug, his favorite snack and my undivided attention. Because that’s the most important role of all.

End of Swimming Classes

Daniel’s swimming lessons finally ended, after six weeks of daily trips to see Ms. Tammy.

He “tested out” during the last week. During the test week, the instructor flips the student over into the water in a series of different ways designed to simulate the disorientation a kid would feel if they fell into a pool. In each situation, Daniel entered the water, calmly floated motionless while looking around for a solution, then made his way to an exit or a person. It was amazing (and so encouraging) to watch.

Test day one was in regular swimwear. Test day two was in summer clothes – T-shirt, shorts and sandals. Test day three was in pajamas. Test day four was in full winter clothing – Jeans, T-shirt, socks, sneakers, and a sweatshirt. Test day five was one more “parents in the pool” day and we were taught a few more tips on how to keep him learning throughout the rest of the swim season.

If I haven’t said it enough already, I LOVE this swimming technique for young kids. I recommend it to every parent. It has escalated Daniel’s confidence in and out of the water and allowed me to (finally) relax when we’re near a pool. He jumps in at the deep end and swims to an exit. If he is suddenly in too deep, he rolls to his back and rests for a minute to get his bearings. It’s ridiculously cool.

The past few days we have spent lots of time swimming at friends’ pools and have enjoyed every minute. No stress or fear – for him or us.

In a lot of ways, Daniel grew up over these past six weeks. It’s been fun and bittersweet to watch his body change and lengthen, his muscles achieve more definition, and his face continue to thin out. The confidence and pride in his accomplishments only makes him seem even older.

Way to go, little man. We’re proud of you!

As a side note... nearly a month later... we went swimming at Daniel's Mema & Papa's pool. To see how well he had retained the technique, we pushed him in the deep end. He fell in head over heels and upside down. Once in, he paused underwater... checked his surroundings... then swam like a machine across the pool to the nearest exit. He was calm and poised... his technique was PERFECT and we have NEVER seen him swim that efficiently. WHOO HOO!