Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Honey, I Painted the Mini-Van Pink"

...and other things you just shouldn't inform your husband about.

The other night, I was outside playing with the kidlets.

The occasion was none other than playing ball in the front yard because A) supper was in the crock pot and not quite done, or B) Daddy wasn't home from work yet, or C) bedtime wasn't quite available yet or D) we just needed some playtime.

Now, this particular night hailed the occasion of A so you can imagine the hungry herd of kidlets they were.

Not to be outdone by their famished state of being, each kidlet excretioned incredible amounts of fun and energy, as young little people are apt to do.

Landon zoomed on his bike in an impressive manner. Janae rather careened her way around objects and would rustle the romper on her young brother, Alex, as she spled (blend of "fled" and "sped") past him. It was the same idea as the wind rustling leaves, if you know what I mean. Seriously, some kids should just get speeding tickets; they're such a threat to society when they're on bikes.

I'm seriously thinking of installing a braking system that allows me to use a remote control to slow her bicycle down from a distance. She has two speeds on that bike: faster and fastest. She knows no danger when it comes to being on her two-wheels-with-one-functioning-training-wheel bike.

One day, I watched Janae hit Alex's trike going west down the sidewalk. She pretty much just bumped merrily over the back part of his poor mode of transportation, turned around and 14 seconds later, hit the same Alex's bike going east down the sidewalk. This time, she didn't bump merrily. Rather, she toppled to the ground with a rather dramatic and dangerous thud (kids can get concussions, I've heard). She wailed gustily through tears of heart ache, pain and regret as she laid in pieces under her bruised and bashed up bike, "I don't like this house, or this driveway." (Yeah the house and driveway really have a lot to do with the fact you can't seem to avoid hitting things with your bike.)

Meanwhile, I was thinking, "Watch out." I really try to be plain and simple when it comes to giving pieces of advice to my children -- I really do -- but I've realized it tends to come too late or if it is on time, they can't hear me for some reason. This was one of those "too late" times.

Another time I remembered watching Janae hit our neighbor's yard rock. It's like this huge, massive thing that's been there ever since before Janae was born learned how to ride bike but it seemed to escape her memory as to it's general location on this particular day.

As Janae was sailing at top speed down the sidewalk, she veered off into the neighbor's yard (who knows; maybe there's an imaginary slope there that pulls her bike off the beaten path) and just like that, WHAM! she hit the thing so hard, it bounced her back 2 feet. She came to a very sudden but upright stop. (notice, I said UPRIGHT.)

She giggled with glee, turned the wheel and took off in the intended direction she should've been going.

(To all you PETR --People for the Ethical Treatment of Rocks-- no rocks were harmed in the making of this scenario.)

So. As I was saying, I was outside playing with the kids while we waited for supper to finish cooking

Landon and Janae were zooming up and down the sidewalk, dodging each other and other objects such as that younger brother, while I played catch with that younger brother.

As I threw Alex (the younger brother) the ball and attempted to catch his throws (my catch is poor; his throw is impressive), I stumbled in the yard (no surprise there) and twisted my ankle.


(If you don't know what I mean by "ouch," you have obviously never twisted your ankle.)

I continued to play, chalked up the twisted ankle to my klutziness, and attempted to throw/catch another ball. While performing an amazing circus act catching that particular child's ball, I suddenly did this impressive awkward move in a desperate lunge at the ball and began to notice an equal amount of pain in my left knee and right elbow at the same time.

Weird, I thought, a two wheeled truck must've just come out of no where and hit me.

Then it dawned on me that my elbow had actually made an unnatural contact with my knee and the impact of both coming together, caused an unnatural reaction. There's nothing like hitting yourself with yourself because then you have automatic pain in two locations.

Not to be outdone by my advancing klutziness nor to give in to my growing embarrassment as I made a spectacle of myself to all the neighbors, I showed the kids my amazing skill of throwing the ball up on the roof and then catching it as it rolls down. I can be pretty quick witted, you know.

You should've seen their faces: they were impressed. The look of pride in their eyes as they watched their sports-man-ship-like mom, was worth the effort it took to learn the skill of How To Throw A Ball On The Roof.

They were amazed. I was like this hero, or something, to them.

As I threw, rolled and caught the ball, I continued to get braver and braver. I'd throw harder. Faster. Less-like-a-girl Stronger. The entertainment level was at 5+stars and boy, were we all happy.

Just then, the unthinkable happened: the ball got lodged between a gable-end-eave and the porch roof. (If you don't know where that location is, you are obviously not married to a roofer.)

Not to be outdone by the little set-back in our performance for the day, I grabbed a wrangled stick and poked and prodded and stabbed and swung the stick at the lodged ball. I needed a couple more feet of height --among other things; like I'm sure a brain would've really come in handy right then-- and had to come up with another plan.

So I grabbed a garden rake.

The garden rake was a marvelous idea. Until it scratched the flashing. Oops. (If you're married to a roofer, you realize the danger of scratching the flashing.)

I marched back to the garage and found a gazillion-foot-long piece of quarter-round-trim (if you're married to a carpenter, you'll know what that is.)

I poked and prodded and stabbed and swung the trim at the lodged ball. I still needed a brain height and heard Janae say, "Nope, you're not gettin' it Mom."

Thanks, Janae. It's so kind of you to point out the obvious. (Her perception amazes me.)

3 blunders on the yard playing ball, confirmed my klutziness. 3 attempts at removing the ball from it's inconveniently lodged location, confirmed my inability to coordinate ball-rescue attempts. Plain and simple, I was a doomed failure.

As Janae continued to zoom dangerously up and down the sidewalk on her bike, I recognized the finality of supper's cooking and called the kids in. We sat down to eat, gave thanks and dug into our meal. Everything was perfect until I began to tell my husband, that dear darling man, my 3 acts of klutziness.

When I got to the part about the elbow-colliding-with-the-knee, it all seemed too outrageous to even be legal. He was too confused to understand how that could happen.

It makes me have to excuse my daughter for her inability to avoid bouncing her bike off of the neighbor's landscape rocks because seriously, with a mom like me, she comes by it naturally... the poor child.

And poor husband... me re-enacting at the supper table how my elbow-hit-the-knee, couldn't be any worse than if I were to paint the van pink.

Or could it?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Happy Birthday Zack-Man!

It's not that hard to smile. Really, it isn't. It's not that hard to show a little concern. Or care. Or kindness. Or interest into an other's life. Really, it isn't.

And whenever I think it is, I think of my brother Zack.

Zack turns 19 today. He's a nice fellow to have around, always chatting and keeping you company. He shows great interest in everything you're doing and asks a million-and-one questions about things related to your life. He pretty much always has a smile on his face and a song in his heart and begs his siblings to just sit down at the piano and play lively little tunes so he can beat his African drum to the music.

And he never misses a beat either. He's like a living metronome and keeps us all in line.

By today's standards, Zack has many reasons to be unhappy. He had a rough start in life and spent the first 2 years of his life in and out of Children's hospitals. He struggled developmentally for years and actually still does. He will never have a successful job nor will he marry and have kids. He can't talk very clearly nor can he carry a tune. But, he loves to do his chores. He loves kids. He loves to talk. And he sings every chance he gets.

Zack has Down Syndrome.

Zack smiles at everyone. He's always friendly and remembers people's names. He thrives on people. He's taught me the value of smiling and being cheerful and showing friendliness to everyone. Not just to people I know.

Like yesterday when I rode a Ferris Wheel for the first time in my life. We were at the state fair together and it was a special occasion. Not to mention that Toby really wanted me to ride the Ferris Wheel with him. Ever since I was a child, I had always wondered what it would be like to ride one so to have the man of my dreams invite me on one, was special indeed.

While we waited in line, I anticipated our ride. I knew it would be special. Toby and I would sit on one side, our arms around each other. The kids would sit around us, enjoying the scenery. I just knew it had to be a spectacular and romantic moment.

Meanwhile, an older man stood ready and waiting at the gate. He had his tickets in hand and he stood in line for a long time. I didn't notice him until right when we got up to the gate ourselves; he was a little guy and almost appeared to be a child from behind.

I noticed his toe nails were over grown and cracked. He was severely wall-eyed and you couldn't tell where he was looking exactly. He walked slow, almost in a shuffling manner. He had a quiet voice but he was excited about the ride ahead of him.

When it came time for him to go through the gate, he started walking through but the ticket man stopped him and asked if he had someone to go with him. The older man smiled and pointed to his chest and nodded. He was obviously alone, even if he said he wasn't. With sympathy, the ticket guy told him he couldn't let him on by himself; he had to have someone to go with. The lady and daughter next in line were motioned to step forward.

The older man stepped back, looked around and didn't really know what to do. He seemed confused but really wanted that ride. So he kept waiting in line. He was excited about his ride and held the tickets in his hand expectantly, waiting for his turn to get on. He obviously hadn't understood that he was disqualified because he kept his handful of tickets ready. The bright look on his face showed he was undaunted. He was clueless as to the let down of what this meant.

This man had Down Syndrome.

When it came time for us to get on the Ferris Wheel, I glanced up at Toby, asked if he'd care (which I knew the answer to already), and then told the ticket guy the older man was welcomed to ride with us.

The ticket guy warmly thanked us and he and another staff arranged our gondola for us. They seemed to be taken back by our willingness to let a stranger go with us and made a pointed effort to thank us.

We climbed in and our guest ungracefully clamored into his seat. He landed with a bit of a thud. He was unhurt but his balance was unacceptable for a swaying fair-ride contraption and we realized later, he really did need assistance going over uneven surfaces. But he was excited about his ride and kept motioning with his hands what the Ferris Wheel was doing.

The wheel started turning and we tried to have a conversation with our friend. It was hard to decipher most of the things he said but I tried to translate -- his speech was similar to Zack's only worse because his tongue was almost lazy about pronunciation. But he never gave up trying to talk. If we asked him to repeat it again, he'd take a deep breath, kind of look away and then say it again. He was very patient.

We asked what his name was. First he said his name was Todd. Then it sounded like Tom. Then it sounded like he said Ty. He mumbled and didn't make much sense in his speech But, he did talk about the Marines and pointed to his army-print shorts and saluted.

He asked us what our names were and held out a limp hand to shake our hands in greeting (just like Zack). He told us he was 55 and wanted to find "an old lady to marry" and with a funny grin on his face, pointed at me. We laughed and enjoyed the scenery and listened to "Ty" talk about Milwaukee and Las Vegas and his brother and how he got to the fair by bus.

When we got off our ride, a lady was waiting with a smile at the end of the exit ramp. She was "Ty's" caretaker and told us his name was actually "John." She laughed when we told her he said he was from Milwaukee and she thanked us profusely for letting him ride with us. She gave us 2 extra ride tickets that she wasn't going to use and then tenderly took John by the hand back to the group they had come with.

And so concluded my first ever Ferris Wheel ride. I have to admit, it was memorable indeed. Probably even more so than I ever thought a first Ferris Wheel ride could be. In a way, it felt like I spent it with Zack. The mannerisms that John had were identical to Zack and I loved how natural and comfortable he felt with us. It was just like Zack.

Every time I see a Ferris Wheel from now on, I'll remember the importance of a smile and the special experience it is when you do the least expected to "one of the least of these."

"And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me." Matthew 25:40

But really, if you ask me, people like Zack and John are almost pictures of what heaven will be like. They carry no grudges. No shame. No pretense. No guile. They don't worry about the stock market. Or their jobs. Or what they're going to do tomorrow. They just love unconditionally.

It's funny how we tend to look at "special" people and think they really miss out on life since they can't enjoy things "normal" people can. I have come to realize that people like Zack and John may not have the greatest physics. But their hearts are the biggest pumping muscle known to mankind. And it makes me wonder if really the ones missing out are maybe us "normal" people. Maybe in reality, those special folks are created so perfect that they have a perpetual tunnel of vision into heaven's glory which is proven in the the way they treat others. They understand us yet we at times never understand them.

And no matter how they're treated, they still smile. It's no wonder Landon's middle name is after my brother Zachary. Zack has always been my hero. His strength, his confidence, his happiness, his honesty and his unintimidated way of loving is absolutely phenomenal.

I hope he has the Happiest Birthday ever today because he deserves every bit of it.

Zack and my brothers Gabe (piano) and Levi (guitar) jamming it up for another round of "The Syndrome Brother's Band." Go here to listen... And then go here to hear another classic.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Do's and Dont's This Mother Learned the Hard Way

(The following outlines, are summaries of true stories that happened to our family. At our house. In our home. Around us. To us. etc. These are facts not based on imagination or fiction; these are real-to-life tales of innocent children parents with adventurous children.)

Never buy sheet sets for your child's bed. Never. Simply purchase a plush mattress pad, a plastic bed liner and make sure your child has a bed-bug-less pillow with a half decent pillowcase. You're then good to go. IF there should ever be an "accident" on the bed during the night while your child is sleeping, the amount of laundry you have to do will be minimal. And you won't have to dread changing sheets on the top bunk anymore.

Never buy shoes for your child. They'll just lose them and insist on going barefoot anyway.

Never discourage your child from talking to strangers. That way when they see their own grandfather for the first time in 6 months, they won't be afraid to sit on his lap.

Never treat the stains on clothing with stain remover. Before you have a chance to wash laundry, that clothing item will grow mold. Unless you wash laundry more often than every 2 weeks.

Never change your vacuum-cleaner-bag in front of your child. The child will think he has free access to the vacuum-cleaner-bag whenever he wants. If the said vacuum ever malfunctions, check the said bag for complete connection. The said child may have disconnected the said bag.

Never use a glass jar of any kind for your daughter to put her fireflies in. You will lose all rights to your canning jars during your child's entire childhood because each jar will be used (and broken) all for the sake of insects.

Never plant seeds in your garden in front of your child. They may be tempted to go back to the garden later and try to find all your seeds that you buried.

Never buy sidewalk chalk and expect your kids to use the side-walk chalk ON the sidewalk. Instead, they will use it in buckets of water to make paste, as bullets in their "guns" and will throw it up in the air just to see it shatter in a million pieces when it hits the cement sidewalk.

Never teach your kids how to ride bike. They will expect you to take them on a bike ride every evening before supper for the rest of their child hood.

Never tell your child they must stay in bed until 4pm for their nap. They will lay awake staring at the clock until 4pm.

Never allow your child to play with straws in the bathtub. That way, in the event they should poop in the tub.... well, it's just better if they don't have straws.

Never allow your child to play a game on your cell phone. They will remove any phone protectant cover you have on the phone.

Never allow your child to play a game on your cell phone. They will delete your entire chat history with all your IM friends.

Never allow your child to play a game on your cell phone. They will call the police with the phone instead.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Killing Dead Flies

Our house becomes quickly infested with flies this time of year if the kitchen door is left open for any period of time. You can simply turn the door knob, slip outside, close the door and have the whole thing over in 2 seconds. In just that amount of time, an entire population of flies will have infested the kitchen for their annual family reunion.

The above scene happened recently. A divine prompting came to my dear husband's heart and he went on a wild rampage of fly killing. The floor, cupboards and counter were littered with swarms of dead flies.

Landon wandered through the kitchen shortly after and noticed the flies. The DEAD flies. He began to stomp on them with his foot and smash them with his index finger. He seemed quite pleased.

Finally he remarked, "You know, it's really easy to kill dead flies."

Yeah, it is, I thought, trying to stifle a laugh.

In his mind, the flies were still available for the kill. The battle wasn't over until the flies were out-of-site-out-of-mind. Also known as: the garbage can. They still needed a crushing blow, even if they were laying limp and motion-less on the floor.

Maybe because of his humorous outlook at "killing dead flies" or maybe because in some ways, I can relate to that experience on a more adult level, I've been thinking a lot about my cute son's innocent remark on something so obvious. Because really, What is the point of killing something dead?

Not to wax eloquent or make this into a spiritual allegory but really, how often I find myself doing the same things. I strive and work to accomplish something that's already been done. I feel pleased when I achieve at finishing an already accomplished task and I move on to do other counterproductive things similar to "killing dead flies."

I become aware of weaknesses in my life and work hard to root them out of my heart. When in reality, Christ has already conquered those things; His grace is there to replace the things I struggle with and give me victory over them instead.

I become influenced by the fear of man and strive to impress others with my ability to make them happy. When in reality, I'm only called to please God. And that is accomplished when I take my place at the foot of the cross.

I become overwhelmed with the daunting tasks of motherhood and work harder to be more joyful. More gracious. More gentle. When in reality, that is already available to me in the person of Jesus Christ.

Why do I do things like "kill dead flies?" Why do I so easily forget that all I need is Christ? Why do I misplace the reality that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ?

It's probably because I'm too busy looking for dead flies to kill that I forget to look up and realize my Father has already gone ahead and accomplished the battlefield of life before me and made a river through the desert for me.

After I explained to Landon that the flies were already killed, thanks to his own father, he got a knowing smirk on his face and continued his battle with the dead flies. It amused me to see my son take deliberate and careful aim with his finger tip and plunge his finger tip into an already dead fly. He boasted in his victory and seemed impressed he could accomplish such impossible feats, even if it was his dad that made it possible for him to do it.

In the same way, God lays already conquered things in my life and joys in the pleasure I find in claiming them as my own.

To remember that because of Him, I can find victory in the struggles in life, the weaknesses of my flesh and the tendencies to fear that I have. And to remember to see each battle before me as a mere dead fly, that's already been killed.