Friday, November 29, 2013

A Reflection of Thanks

ChAoS in MOtiOn
A Reflection of Thanks

            In this week of Thanksgiving, I’ve taken the time to reflect on some experiences that I am hugely grateful for, and that have helped shaped the person I have become.  At first you may think I’m referring to the glamorous life as a stay at home mom, with my days filled with taping and texturing sheetrock, finding the dog and the toddler splitting a box of Lucky Charms in the middle of the living room floor or investigating if there are teeth on the eldest’s toes, since no one should humanly burn through socks that quickly.  No, while grateful for all of that chaos, there are certain things I’ve experienced that forever changed me.
            The Good Doctor and I waited for 5 years to have children.  It was a conscious choice.  There really is never the perfect time to have a baby, but we were aiming for the least worst time, which hopefully would entail some financial stability that would allow us to care for another human being.  For this I will always, bitter sweetly, be grateful.  The bitter part being losing my mother two weeks after finding out I was expecting our first child, the sweet part was how it solidified our marriage. You see, I really like my husband.  I like being with and around him.  I’ve always had fun being his wife. We got to be a couple for 5 years. We got to be spontaneous and head out the door in an instant to a destination decided on 3 seconds before. Very unlike the strategic planning, act of Congress, 2 stuffed bears, one blanket and an iPod it takes to get out the door these days.  When we moved to a 5 square mile island in the middle of the Caribbean ocean for almost 2 years, we had only each other… and when you have only 5 square miles of terrain with only two ways off the island, you had no choice but to work things out.  I am so grateful we had this time to be a couple, before being thrust into the great upheaval that is parenthood.  Parenting isn’t for sissies, and I am forever grateful we had that base to build upon. I love being a mother, but I’ve tried to not sacrifice the role of wife in the process.  I have always tried to keep in mind that someday the three kids with be gone (and hopefully not move back in) and I want to be able to look at him and say “Hey… you!” and not “Who are you?”
            In our time together, my hubby and I have participated in a couple mission trips.  There is no way to participate in a mission trip and not come back home unchanged.  Early on in our marriage we spent two weeks in India, and witnessed life and health care in that amazing, overwhelming, sensory- overloading country and during our time living in Iowa, the church we attended participated in a project called Mission Jamaica.  Mission Jamaica had several different projects, but the one we participated in was helping at a children’s’ orphanage in the hills of Jamaica.  My visions of these sweet children at this isolated place still linger in my mind.  These were not just orphaned children; they were all disabled orphaned children.  Many had Multiple Sclerosis, and if in the US, these kids would function, with help, along side their classmates, as MS strikes the body, not the mind.  In this orphanage, these crumpled bodies had been discarded with their minds intact.  The one cabin shared one toothbrush amongst 9 kids.  This is mainly because poverty is so rampant and the large quantity of supplies given by missionaries are either pilfered by employees or hoarded for fear the donations may cease to continue.
            The joy on the children’s faces at our presence was beyond words.  They knew what the missionaries did, and that was touch them, hold them, talk to them… They knew that, if only for a few days, we would be present to their alert mind trapped in a tangled mess of limbs.  There was no way to not let my experiences there affect they way I interacted with my own children. 
            I definitely have moments that I wonder if that day was the day that would require a dozen counseling sessions for one of my kids.  We all have those days.  But what I am so grateful for, in regards to my mission trips, is learning what kids crave, and what they want is not so much stuff, but presence, and time and touch.  And I am as guilty as anyone to be caught up with “Just a minute!” and cave at the $1 bins at Target, but then the memory of child without a toothbrush to call his own will slip in from the edges of my mind and we will have a “Staff meeting” with the kids.  We will talk about stuff, and how we have a lot of stuff, and how some kids have no stuff, and how picking up the stuff is making Mommy crazy.  Yet the crazy thing is, the kids get it. They understand. And given a choice between Legos or going to a museum together, they want the togetherness.  One of them may prefer togetherness at the mall, but the understanding is there.  I am so thankful for some of the things I have had the chance to see and do.  One can’t know, what they don’t know.  I would not have known how fortunate I am without seeing first hand the poverty and destitution I have seen.  It is my goal that in gentle ways, I can pass on to my children what I have learned and they will embrace gratitude.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The weight of things

            Earlier last week, I discovered the equation to making a grown man cry.  “Lice and nits?” You may ask? Heavens no! The Great Lice and Nit invasion of 2013 conveniently coincided with North Dakota Deer opener, and those sporting orange barely noticed the constant washing, drying, cleaning and literal nit picking. 
A couple days before the start of the nit invasion, I came to learn that if you take numerous vintage old toy tractors, (most still in the box), a craft scissors, and a 3 year old with an considerable amount of determination, the end result is a grown man in (almost) tears.  As we stood surveying the damage, looking down at our son with disappointment painted on our faces, he slowly turned his eyes upward to us, and said, “…What?”
After I stopped laughing, I started to help my dear husband literally pick up the pieces of his childhood.  As we were putting them back in their newly redesigned boxes, I was amazed at how heavy they were. These were real toys. Toys that lasted for years. In fact, some of them had been his dad’s toys.  They were metal and not the plastic junk made today.  These tractors had survived almost 40 years. Our son’s John Deere tractor lasted exactly 2 days after last Christmas before the axle broke.  They don’t make stuff like they used to, and I think I’ve stumbled upon an unexplored reason of childhood obesity!
If I take the dog out to do her business at night and were to walk into a modern day pedal tractor, it would skitter across the garage floor and stop.  Now if I were to run my foot into my husband’s John Deere pedal tractor, after my tears and expletives stopped flowing, the next stop would probably be X-Rays and/or stitches.  Stuff was HEAVY when we were kids! It takes a lot of energy for my three year old to pedal that beast around. Think of all the calories we burned if we wanted to move our field of tractors from the living room to the dining room! You could only carry one at a time.  Girls were not immune from the weight of things.  Whatever latex/probably-now-carcinogenic/rubber that our baby dolls were made of gave them weight! If you were one of the lucky girls to get a Baby Alive, with her strange squishy vinyl limbs, you really burned your calories.  Feed her a bottle of water, and she even became heavier, and then you really amped your calorie burn when she filled her diaper.  We didn’t have to watch what we ate because we had toys!
Everything now is made for speed and aerodynamics.  Bikes are made of space age materials and are light enough to lift with one hand.  My pink Huffy bike, with its flowered basket (that no animal would EVER stay in, despite my attempts) had two speeds: slow and standing up.  There were no gears to ease up the hills.  There were playing cards in the spokes however that mimicked the sound of gears.  I’m pretty sure our softball bats were lined with lead, and concrete shoes would have been lighter than wet moon boots.  Though the roller racers we used in gym class didn’t take much energy to operate, the sheer anxiety we put ourselves in, anticipating running over our fingers at any moment, surely amped up our metabolism. 
My theory doesn’t just end in childhood however.  Once we got our drivers license, I can guarantee it took many more friends to push a 1979 Pontiac Grand Safari Station Wagon out of the snow than it does a Kia.  And when your older brother is bequeathed that vehicle, it took even more friends to budge a 1964 Cadillac Sedan Deville.  As teens, just wearing our clothes took more energy. I have no research that backs up the weight of material now versus then, but there was more volume to our clothes.  Pirate shirts, high waisted jeans, brocade vests, and any prom dress from 1970-1990 are perfect examples of heftier clothing.  And then there was our hair….. it took a lot of neck muscles to carry around the coifs of the 1980’s and 90’s… a lot of muscle and a lot of Aqua Net.  My own personal experience that backs this notion is that I cut my hair into a very short style in 9th grade. I subsequently gained 20 pounds before 10th grade.  It wasn’t puberty. It was the hair.
As I watch my 3 year old grunt and pedal the vintage pedal tractor, I think, besides his 85 pound brother sitting in the tractor trailer, there has to be something to this theory of mine.  Maybe I’m way off, but I don’t think so.  Things then had mass.  Steal was our unknown diet aide.   Toys were made to last for years… that is until a three year old comes along. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A little less motion, a lot more chaos

A little less motion, a lot more chaos.

So many of my columns are about motion, but some of them will be about chaos. This one epitomizes the latter.  I was all set to write about something else, but then life happened. You know life, the unpredictable beast that t-bones you out of the blue?  Yup, hit me like a freight train.
            This afternoon we, the parents of kids at Jefferson Elementary, got a phone call from the principal advising us that lice had been found at the school, and we should check our kids when they got home.  “Lice?!” I thought… “I know a funny blog about lice!” So I promptly posted a link to this funny blog about lice on my Facebook page, enjoying reading it once again. This, my friends, is called foreshadowing. 
            I get my little angels home and tell them we are checking for bugs. My oldest, thanks to the haircut I had given him last night, was easy peasy to check and was clear. I then had my daughter sit down.  As I went through her hair practically strand by strand, I noticed that she sure had a lot of glitter left from Halloween and maybe we need to work on washing her hair better. Then I saw it. Or did I? No, I didn’t see anything. Did I? Tiny. Microscopic. Smaller than a grain of rice, and brown. Can they be brown? No! They are white, right?? The bargaining ensues, “Please God, no! Please! I’ll tithe more! I’ll be more patient with the kids! Please don’t let that be a nit!” But there it was… and a friend a couple strands over.  I tried to pull them off. “Please pull off! Then you aren’t a nit.” They stayed fastened like they were crazy glued on.  As my gut sank, I may have internally expressed a few unpleasant words in my head. 
I pinned down the youngest momentarily. Three year olds aren’t too keen on sitting still and they are even less fond of having their hair looked at, strand by strand.  As I pinned him down between my legs, in an almost half Nelson, I managed to get a glimpse of a few hairs on his neck. That was enough to make me about cry. Yup, more critters. 
I promptly bagged them, like they were critical CSI evidence and texted my City County public health nurse friend.  “Can you come identify something for me?”  She obliged my request and unfortunately confirmed my fear.  Ugh.
            The Good Doctor happened to be in Fargo this night so I emailed him to bring Nix or Rid, and wine.  Sadly he didn’t even think I was joking and said, “So we have lice?”  I typed up a shopping list a mile long of things we may need and hit send.  I look around the house and wonder where do I start my combat against things I can’t even see.  The bedroom. I’ll start there… or collapse in tears there… and scratch my head. When did my head start itching so much?
            The kids all sleep in a pile every night. They each have their own bedrooms, but the littlest wants to be like his big brother, his big brother doesn’t like to be alone, and my daughter cleans her room immaculately, and then hermetically seals the door on the room, only to break the seal to change her clothes.  I’ll let you guess who is the mastermind in our household.  They all pile into the eldest’s room each night, and he has bunk beds.  As I look around at all the bedding, and all the clothes strewn around (guess who is our artistic and Type B child?), I’m sure I can hear faint snickering from the lice and their unborn babies.  As I scratch my head, I’m pretty convinced torching the whole joint will be easier at this point. 
            I relinquish to the fact it would be too much work to answer questions about a mysterious house fire and start stripping the bedding.  Into the wash it goes, and I consider cranking the water heater to fry the little beasts, but with my luck I’ll make the water heater explode, so I just choose the hottest setting.  In hindsight, I should tell Maytag they should add a “fry like bacon” setting to their washers strictly for lice infestations. I bag up the pillows and anything else I can’t wash. The North Dakota cold is good for one thing I guess: freezing nits and their egg-laying mothers.
            I convinced the youngest to come with me to the basement where I promised him chocolate if he could sit still for a couple minutes.  5 minutes, a pile of blonde curls, and a shattered heart in my chest later, he shimmied off the chair with his buzz cut.  He looked like a new resident of Leith, ND.  I love his curls. I mean I really love his curls. He is the only one of the children who has them, and because of that, I will grow his hair much longer than I know is acceptable.  But he is my baby, and they are his curls.  At this moment, I really really hated lice and nits.  He ran upstairs oblivious to the infestation that was partying like it was 1999 on his scalp.
            My daughter has been most upset about a birthday party she will miss tomorrow. “I PROMISE I WON’T TOUCH ANYONE!!” she keeps exclaiming. What she doesn’t realize is she may as well have leprosy at this point, because that is how welcome she will be for a few days.  I foresee the next couple days to be craft-project filled sprinkled with some nail polishing and a lot of hair washing and combing with her.  Any jerks living on the youngest boy’s head should now be amply visible, due to his new ‘do, and it should only require a couple Hulk Hogan moves to pin him down to wash his hair.
            I sit here, and write this and wait for my Knight with shining Nix to arrive.  And this is life.  And it is chaotic, and crazy and oh, did I mention we ripped out our bathtub earlier this week, and the youngest hates his hair washed? Soon my Hubby will walk through the door and say something funny, because really, what else is there to do besides laugh? We will sip some wine and spend a romantic evening of him running his fingers through my hair…  as he inspects my locks for nits.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Superman's first race

ChAoS in MOtiOn
Super Man’s first Race

            This past Saturday I had the pleasure of joining my 9 year old in his first 5k race.  When the Sheyenne Shuffle was announced I asked my son if he would like to run a 5k with me. “How far is that?” I told him it was 3.1 miles and he was excited to do so.  A friend asked me if he was training for the 5k, which caused me to pause for a moment and think, “Should he be?” but I just responded using the only rationale that seemed logical to me, “No. He’s 9.”
            The second children can ambulate, they move. They run. I watch my 3 year old run to his room to get a tractor, run back to the living room to get it’s trailer. He runs to the car. He runs in the opposite direction from me down the church aisle. He runs and he runs. Children know no better than to move.  As they age, they slow a bit, and I wonder why that is.  But, they still move, always, and especially at the least opportune times… like when you’re paying a photographer.  I knew given my son’s activity level, and enthusiasm, he would be able to handle 3 miles.
            I have been know to run in a Wonder Woman getup for races, and since it was Halloween season, I asked him if he would like to be Super Man. He was more than willing to don his cape and Super Man tank to run. He was instructed that flying was not permitted on the route, and using only his feet not super powers were allowed.  We all gathered at Lokken field at VCSU, huddling under the stands to stay warm. The United Way did a wonderful job of taking over this event and the turn out was great for such a chilly morning.  It was still dark out when we arrived and as we lined up at the start in the street the sun was just starting to peek out to warm us.
            The air horn blared to announce our start and my son blazed out ahead of me, like I suspected he would.  He ran a great half-mile at a full sprint and then started to walk. I caught up to him and we talked.  “Easy does it honey” I told him as he caught his breath and we more slowly started to run again.  At times I thought I was running with a T-Rex… the child already has a size 9 (men’s ) shoe and sometimes the coordination as a black lab puppy. But my pride in his determination overwhelmed me.  “Can we take a short cut Mom?” “No Bud, it’s a race, we need to stay on the route.” “Oh, OK!” and he would break into a few skips before running again.  We walked when we needed to and then I’d give him a point in the not to far distance we needed to get to and he would do it every time.  I worried the cold air and wind that morning may irritate his asthma, but he did great.  Eventually, in true mother fashion, I was running as his personal Sherpa, carrying the hat, gloves and jacket he had shed along the way.
            In the last half mile, I noticed he was struggling a little bit. I had a light bulb moment and said, “How many pickaxes are there in Minecraft?” This lead to the next 5 minutes of being told how many, which were the best, what they were used for and which ones he liked the best. He forgot he was running and when he was done telling me about the pickaxes were in front of Lokken field.  We just had to round the field from the west and come in on the track, finishing in front of the stands. I’ve done this enough to know that physiologically, we were at the point it was going to start to feel easy for him. That’s the funny thing about running. The first two miles stink… FOR EVERYONE. That was the best piece of advice I got from a couple experienced runners years ago.  It physiologically takes about that long for your body to figure out what it is doing. Unfortunately, it is in this first time period that it is the easiest to quit.
            As we entered the track, amongst the smashed pumpkins, my son kicked ‘er down, so to speak.  I said, “Just like on track nights, it’s just like at track,” referring to the rec track he had participated in this past summer.  I watched with pride as he inched away from me, giving it more and more as he rounded the last corner.  He crossed the finish line with his arms up in joy, to collapse in relief on the turf.  I finished behind him, overwhelmed with pride and happiness. 
            Part of why I run is so my kids grow up thinking being active is a normal part of everyone’s life, not just something done in youth.  I look forward to being active with them, and not being able to keep up with them.  The simple fact is that children model their parent’s behavior. So, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise when I asked him to do something that afternoon, and his reply was, “Uh Mom, I already ran a 3.1 marathon this morning. “