Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From the Backseat #10 Not Quite.....

I haven’t shared a “word” from the backseat in a while. Not to run this in the ground but when you have a 5 year old who thinks if his eyes are open, his mouth must be, you tend to forget the many words that escape- even if they are funny, clever or interesting. And “escape” is about all 90% of them do—no forethought, no afterthought, just purely escaped because there was a possibility of silence in the car. Brighton’s heaven forbid. If you’ve ever talked to me while my precious boy was sitting in my back seat, you have most likely heard his voice before I could hit “end” on my phone. He just erupts. He has learned to be fairly quiet while I am on the phone but he can hold back the tidal wave of thoughts that have been triggered by his brief gazes out the window for only so long. And Julia’s need for a book under her nose at all times does not help his need and desire for listening ears. Usually, sitting right beside him, she is in a completely different period of history. I am one who appears to be doing nothing at all, available to answer questions that have no concise answer, “Why is it sort of cloudy, sunny today?”, “Mom, do you pull for TCU or the Texas Rangers?”, “Why are people at Chuckee Cheese when it is dark?”, “What time is it?” (1 o'clock, I say) “How long is that?”, or “Does God have hands?”.

The questions born from this particular observation from our back seat window, to my relief, called for concrete answers. I could answer these and not have a hundred better ideas come to me over the next 24 hours. A while back, Brighton started noticing graveyards and cemeteries and of course, the questions took flight. “What is that place, Momma?”, “What are those big stones?”, “Why are the stones different shapes?”, “Why are some big and some small?”, “Who are all those flowers for?”, “Why is there a big tractor in there?”, “Why are there so many cars there today?” Just as you would, I explained the purpose of a graveyard reminding him of the small graveside service of his great grandfather. This was his response to all my perfectly good, concise explanations. I obviously left something pivotal out of my explanation. He said,
“You mean, they were just walking around in there and died?”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

16 X 16

It’s raining. Not just sprinkling but pouring. “Drops are plummeting” is what Julia said earlier in the evening. I love rain, but not necessarily rain at the lake. Not when we brought the boat. This was supposed to be our last weekend to take it out before parking it for the winter. The only water our boat has touched is the kind that is “plummeting” out of the sky. On our short lake trips, we stay in a 16x16 one room cabin at a church camp. One room. 16x16. It’s raining. Jeff and I knew the forecast but this is a big county, right? Scattered thunderstorms could be MILES away from us. Determined to have time together, we risked the weather. The weather certainly has scattered ALL over us and we certainly have had time together. Thanks to rain and a 16x16 one room cabin.
Unfortunately, this was the first trip I was determined to practice the minimalist’s method of packing and it turned out to be the trip I needed every good idea that ever passed through my head. I only brought a handful, not a bagful like I usually do, of books and we finished those before lunch. I brought no cards or games of any kind. I didn’t pack s’more ingredients because it felt like it was 100 degrees when I was packing and I could not imagine a fire being any fun at all and tonight we found ourselves sitting on the porch wrapped in blankets. Chocolate and hot marshmallows smushed between two graham crackers would have filled our empty sweet corners perfectly.
Since we couldn’t do anything about the boo-koodles of rain falling from the sky and the dimensions of our cabin, we decided to remedy a couple of things. We made a quick trip to the local Wal-Mart and purchased the game of LIFE, one small Lego kit for Brighton and a new book for Julia. So while the clouds emptied themselves continually, we sat in our 16x16 space and learned to play LIFE. I think Jeff and I found out we had never actually finished a game of LIFE before. The only things we remembered were how fun the spinner was to spin and how difficult it was to put those plastic kids in the back seat. As for the book Julia chose, I got completely sucked in. The Doll People. * Delightful. As we reluctantly put it down this afternoon, I noticed we had read over a hundred pages already. It’s a tale about a dollhouse family who comes to life when the owners are away or asleep. They were handcrafted in 1898 and have been handed down four generations. They have seen a lot over their one hundred years and yet they are all still the same age.......of course. It is wonderfully written and I have enjoyed every page, especially the ones when the youngest sister brings in the Rancher family for a visit. Jeff and Brighton mastered the Lego kit giving Julia and I time to read Doll family adventures. We were wishing Jeff had purchased a half a dozen Lego sets.

To pass the time before bedtime tonight, I decided to “interview” Julia and Brighton – you know, ask them all those typical questions like, what is your favorite color, what do you want to be when you grow up, what is your favorite thing to do etc. Some of their answers were funny, like when I asked B how old I was, he said 60. (Well, kind of funny.) When Jeff asked him how many children he wanted once he was married, he said ten. When I asked Julia what MY favorite thing to do was, she answered, “Spend time with us and take naps.” Hmmm…… She thought Jeff’s favorite thing to do was to go to Lowes and work on house projects. My favorite answers were when I asked Brighton where he would live when he got married, he said, “By you.” When I asked Julia what her favorite thing to do with Daddy was, she said, “Have hot chocolate with Daddy early in the morning.”

Most of their responses were what I had expected, but what I am still thinking about is that even after being “stuck” in our 16x16 cabin, a theme still ran through their answers. “Just being with you.” “Spending time with my family.” “Loving you.” “Being together as a big happy family.” (That last one has been a phrase of B’s since he was 3.) Needless to say, these answers are highlighted in bright yellow in my mind. This uninterrupted time and focused attention on them meets a need I sometimes forget about. Sure, I home school them. Sure, Jeff does fun things with them, but honestly, we normally have an agenda- something to accomplish, a time constraint of some kind. Do I dare say it is difficult to completely “unplug” and engage with a 7 and 5 year old? Well, it is, but after this weekend, I say the effort it takes to shift our mind set is well worth it and an easier groove to get into than I think. But it is definitely a choice to make. So, now that everyone is asleep and the only sounds I hear are the rain still pinging the roof of the cabin and a squirmy sleeper in the bunk above me, I am wishing I had gotten a little deeper in the groove. I promise not to wait until the next time I am in a 16x16 one room cabin at the lake on a completely soggy weekend!

B found my OLD stash of pull-ups in the "lake tote"--- the effects of rain in a small space

* If you check the link on the book, you will notice it is a series. I know nothing about all the other books, but we LOVED this first one.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In the Dark Room

I have often wondered if biological parents get this as often as I do. “Your kids look just like you.” “I can’t get over how much he looks like you.” “He has your eyes.” “You all look just alike.” I don’t exaggerate when I say, we average these comments once a week. It’s crazy and now that it happens so often, a bit comical. A LONG time ago I just started saying, “Yeah, well, I’ll say 'thanks' to that.” (Might be a compliment- might not) Before then, depending on the situation, I might have taken the time to give them a blurb of our God given story of how He put our family together through adoption. Some have laughed thinking I was kidding proceeding to “argue” with me, whereas others have just stared in disbelief, which, actually, I find myself doing several times a month. On a few occasions, some have ventured to ask, “I guess they have the same [birthmother]?” “No, but brother and sister because God wanted it that way.” There have been moments that the timing was right and the audience seemed captive enough that I was able to give God praise in that He didn’t have to give us similar physical features, but He chose to and it’s kind of fun.

The other day, the three of us literally ran into Target to grab something a clerk was holding for me and as we stood there waiting, she looked at my small crew of two, turned to me, smiled and said, “My, my. Aren’t they just a picture of you?” I hadn’t gotten that one before. While appreciating the words she used to say it, I stumbled around for words of my own. I think I wound up saying something like, “Crazy how that happens, isn’t it?” Not in my top ten responses to what I think were kind words from a stranger. In typical me fashion, I mulled over our exchange for the rest of my day hoping the nice lady who had helped me hadn’t taken me for a smart aleck. I had to let that go, but I could not let go of “a picture of you”.

Who knows what those two are going to look like one day? Who knows if we will get those comments when we walk into a store to which Brighton has just driven us? Or, say, when we all go for a tasting of reception food for Julia’s wedding? For those of you who know me really well, can say, "Sure, we know why Julia rolls her eyes too often, says “I’m sorry” incessantly, prefers dark chocolate over milk, talks with her hands when she is excited, and says a few words funny (or a few funny phrases). And sure, Brighton, has that same drawl on a handful of words, likes certain things “just so”, is unable to paraphrase anything, likes to be the one taking pictures, loves guacamole and can speak paragraphs with his just his eyebrows." But as I see them picking up these little habits and preferences of my own (some beneficial, some not), I see how naturally and silently they will take on things that will affect the eternal part of them, their relationship with their Creator. “My my. Aren’t they a picture of you?” God help them. Help me. For them to be a picture of me is NOT the goal, by any means, but I often think of that verse where Paul says to the church at Corinth, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1) It’s obviously an enormous statement and read without knowledge of Paul’s character could be taken as ego-centric. But it was a practical directive, one from which they would benefit greatly. In our home, I am realizing it is a directive I don’t HAVE to tell Julia and Brighton because they are going to follow me whether I am following Christ or not.

“A picture of you.” It makes me wonder, who WILL their picture look like? What’s going on in the dark room of this home? What kind of pictures are actually being developed here? Whose pictures? Did I not just yesterday hear my all too familiar “matter of fact”voice travel from Julia’s mouth to Brighton’s ears, squelching his excitement over his building idea for their puppet show? How many times have I noticed how concerned B is about whether I will like his Lincoln Log house or if he is hurting my feelings because he may not prefer what I prepared for dinner or some activity I planned to do? I hardly ever consider how using my “I am in task mode” voice, that I don't even like, affects their siblings or even their friends. I never knew my people-pleasing tendencies could be picked up by a 5 year old boy. I assure you, these pictures are many – some already developed, some still in the dark room. I won't let myself be so negative to think there isn't another set……. a better set, some already developed, some still coming into focus. I am most grateful for these.

The dark room is full. Opportunities are many. Lenses are always focusing in order to get the clearest picture, moving around to capture different angles, and zooming in to get a closer look. Clicking sounds are constant but I am usually too preoccupied to notice. So....which pictures will they keep and become part of who they are? Which ones will I love? Which ones will I want to send through the shredder? Will the colors be dull? Or vibrant? Will the picture be clear? Or fuzzy? Here’s the one I am most interested in…..what about that last picture of my children that is fully developed-- that last one to come from the dark room here in this house?

Father, as those last pictures emerge from the dark room of our home, may the picture be crisp, strong and lovely. I ask that the colors be like none our eyes have ever seen, saturated to the most beautiful hues You've created. I pray the clarity of the image be surprising. May we find it hard to remove our gaze because we are so spellbound by the likeness of You and then may we fall on our faces out of gratitude to You for being so strong in our many weaknesses. May Julia and Brighton be like trees planted by streams of water, yielding abundant fruit, not withering from lack of Your nourishment and prospering in whatever they do. May they be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of Your splendor. The display of YOUR splendor. A picture of me? Oh, what a disappointment that would be. A picture of You. Your glory. Your splendor. You.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pickin' Peas (it sounds more fun if you say it like that)

Earlier in the week, we met some friends at Gnismer Farms in Arlington to pick some peas. I hadn’t picked peas in years, but it was something I wanted the children to experience and fresh peas sounded yummy to me. (I also thought it sounded like a grown up thing to do.) As the lady showed us which peas were where, the rows looked familiar and the pods even more so. Out of nowhere, important information flooded in from my memory banks of shelling peas in Soperton. I remembered that the biggest pods were the easiest to shell and even easier if there was a little air in them. I had trouble communicating this to Julia and Brighton for their goal was not finding a certain kind of pod, but to find any pod to fill up our enormous basket. My worst fear was to pick more than I/we (??) could shell in a day or two. They envisioned an overflowing basket and I envisioned green thumbnails for days. Since creamer peas (the tiny green ones) are my favorite and actually, the trickiest to shell, I picked those while the kids picked the purple hull and black eyed peas. Thankfully, after about an hour, my friend and I noticed a game of sorts had broken out among them and the baskets were at a perfect stopping level. We paid for our bounty, discussed our seasonings for the peas and then anticipated an afternoon of shelling peas.

I was shocked by their enthusiasm regarding shelling the peas. Once we got started, no one wanted to stop until every pod was emptied! I completely enjoyed myself. I have no idea why. I don’t know if it was their excitement, the below 80 degree morning, how shelling peas lengthened Brighton’s reading attention span, or the memories that the “green” smell brought to mind. We didn’t shell peas every year I lived at home, but we did it enough for that smell on my hands to cause me to picture my Mom, maybe one of my grandmothers and me sitting in our sunroom with bowls in our laps and a big bag of pods in the middle of the floor. I had done it often enough that I remembered to store the raw peas in a bowl of water until I was ready to cook them which then reminded me of how I used to love to stick my hands in the water and swirl my fingers around the little peas. My Mom’s bowl or pot was much bigger, but mine was just as fun.

The kids were anxious to try the peas they had picked and shelled so we cooked two kinds of peas for dinner. As the creamers and black eyed peas simmered that afternoon, I took in the familiar smell. My house smelled like Momma’s house. I’d pick peas again for that.