Fly like a bird


Fly Like a Bird (a clip of Helen and me singing at our benefit concert.)

Well, today was the day. The day we moved Helen to school. The moment the  soundtrack to our daily lives changed, forever.

This is the day, as parents, we look forward to. Not because our fledgling is gone, but because she can fly. I can’t feel sadness. How could I? She’s wonderful. But I can feel the pain of separation. And, that is what I think we all fear most and try to avoid. The pain of separation.

Flying high

I could give you a blow- by-blow of the events. From my avoidance (not going upstairs at all through most of this week), to the the tearful goodbyes of the younger sibs, or the sweet note she left for Henry, and the gut-punch sound when it finally hit my dear spouse. We both kept so busy focusing on the process to try to avoid the inevitable feelings of disbelief that we could even be at this stage in our lives. Our daughter could not possibly be leaving our safe little nest.

But she is. And it’s good. (We’re happy she’s not too far away.) It’s her turn to fly,  and our turn to sit back and wonder how high.

Fly like a bird to the Lord, my soul.
I want to soar like an eagle.
Though I may journey far away from home,
I know I’ll never be alone.

O God, you know who I am.
You know my hopes and my dreams.
In my pondering and fears,
in my joy and in my tears,
O God, your presence is real.

Where can I run from your love?
Where can I hide from my God?
From the dawn of morning’s light
to the darkness of the night,
O God, your presence is real.

–Ken Canedo

A sneeze in time

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Shouldn’t there be a quota for sneezing in a single day? Week or month? And I promise–if asked–I would be generous in assigning the quota. You know, if it were up to me.

I’d be okay with 20 or 30 sneezes in a single day. Not 20 or 30 in a 10 minute period. I’m very wearing of being a Benadryl Girl living in the Benadryl world.  My head is spinney, my nose is runny, and my throat is tickley. Not to leave out every other part of me.

I’m used to allergies. They are a life-long, year-round visitor for me. My mom told me that when I was a little tot I asked her what noses were for, because mine didn’t seem to work. I did shots and all for years and years. I manage my world and most of the time do okay, but inevitably my body every now and then says, “Sorry, I’m taking over, and you lose.” And today I am a BIG red-nosed loser.

Instead of just complaining, I can find some benefits to my frequently congested olfactory system . I can even sing praise for my allergies. (Literally.) I learned how to sing properly pretty quickly because of the snot rattling around in my head. My voice teacher was brilliant in helping me pinpoint resonance based on the buzz of the rattle. So, for that, I am grateful.

Also, when clear, I have an almost bionic sense of smell and taste. This nose knows. Which is as good as it is bad. (I can smell a stinky diaper a mile away. Good for changing. Bad for smelling.)

And, since I’m stuck taking Benadryl here and there, I’m  usually assured a decent night sleep once and awhile.

One final bright side to being the All-American Sneeze Queen is that I pretty much leave a trail of Kleenex wherever I go. I can always find my way home. (Which is good … cause that’s where the Benadryl is.)

Fighting temptation

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When Helen was a toddler, we instructed her that if she was tempted to touch something that might be off limits, she should just come and get one of us so we could help her through making the right choice.

Our big girl.

One day, while shopping in Ann Arbor, we were in a store full of breakable eye candy. I was busy admiring one thing, Richard another, when above the mellow harpsichord Muzak track, our two-and-a-half-year-old Helen stood beside her stroller, paralyzed, bouncing in place bellowing, “Help me! I’m tempted! I’m tempted!”

Now, soon off to school, we won’t be there to help her through all the trifling and tremendous moments of  temptation.  She surely will face many lures and promises of this world that we’ve tried so hard to balance through our faith and family life.

We’ve all been in the position of confusing a temptation with an opportunity. And the reality is, sometimes by giving in to those temptations we’re bound to make mistakes. But by the same token, we should never be bound to our mistakes, understanding that it is through our mistakes we discover more about ourselves and grow. There are many mistakes in my life for which I am grateful. It is through them that I’ve grown closer to the Lord, with the extra-added benefit of knowing myself better and gaining wisdom through the process. Wisdom that I hope I’ve shared with our daughter.

We can only hope that we’ve done what we can and given Helen the tools to sort things out. We can only hope and pray her decisions don’t paralyze her and that she will do her best to make the right choices. Although we won’t be there in person with her, we’ve taught her that God will.

Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations. — St. Augustine

Who do you say that I am?

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An acquaintance from church asked if we could babysit her youngest daughter in a pinch.

“Of course,” we say. She’s a spunky, strawberry-blond not-quite-three-year-old.

Said acquaintance drops off said child complete with baby-care paraphernalia. Good-bye acquaintance. Hello strawberry-blond toddler.

The big girls and Lil are going to take her downstairs to play dollhouse.  Then big girl number one asks, “What’s her name?”

Oh no.

It occurs to me. I have no idea. None. Can’t come up with a guess. I know I heard it when she was born. But since? Nope. I don’t have that kind of memory.

So, we ask the nameless child. She’s articulate. We know she wants to play. Her answer does not match the question. Again. And again. She’s cute. But nameless. So for little while, we call her a generic Sweetie. Which isn’t very effective. She doesn’t respond to “Sweetie, don’t throw the blocks.” It would be helpful to actually know her name.

Brainstorm. I remember my dear friend is her godmother. I laugh, because I realize it took this particular friend years to remember my name. This little child is only three. I’m not sure that’s been enough time for it to stick. Even though she’s godmother. (But I am confident she is doing her godmotherly duty and praying daily with all of her wonderful heart for the strawberry-blond nameless child.)

I make the call. No one is home. Call her cell. She answered AND remembered. And we are victorious.

And she is Victoria.

Hit me baby one more time

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No. Please. Don’t.

In addition to throwing things away, another of Cliff’s favorite pastimes is to hit Lillian.

Not just with his hands, but with objects. Anything he has a hot grip on.

She squeals. Screams actually. Carries on. He hits more. We pull him away, take away his weapon du jour. Hold him, move him to another room, you name it. He cries. Occasionally. But goes back for more. At least he did. For a while.

But now he doesn’t. He’s actually learned not to hit. (Until he unlearns it and the cycle begins again. And, I have faith, it will.)

I know I’m not alone in this belief, but some boys (maybe that’s sexist, but it hasn’t reared its head with my girls) are born with a harassment trait. I can see by the subtle expressions on my dear baby boy’s face that he enjoys the mayhem he creates when he tears through the house antagonizing Lillian and destroying all things in his path. He grabs toys and throws them in the trash. He reaches for everything and anything that may be on a table, or out of reach, just to watch it fall and (hopefully) crash. And we needn’t even talk about the obsession of chucking things in the toilet.

There is never an adequate lock for those corner circular cabinets, and at the quickest opportunity, that boy is in there pulling out cereal boxes and bags, dumping the contents on the floor and spreading it out with arms and legs. I stop him and quickly try to control the mess. As I attempt to sweep around him, he’s full-body grabbing at the pile as I try to push what I can into the dust pan. There he lie–on his cereal mountain–celebrating.

I remember around Christmas being with someone at a party discussing how we hadn’t really had to remove knick-knacks off of tables when our kids were babies. We just taught our children not to touch certain things. And they obliged. We couldn’t understand the need to clear the decks. Weren’t we just amazing mommies?

Well, um, excuse me. Can I take it all back? I get it now. And then some.

Here, I have a 16-month old brown-eyed wonder boy who began walking during his 10th month, says nothing (but maybe an occasional utterance of mama and dada) but busily wreaks havoc on anything movable or not, human, animal or inanimate. But he’s an angel. A sweet loving little curious darling. And I know we’ll instruct him how to behave. And he’ll learn, eventually, as he already has. (Remember? He stopped hitting … for now.)

In the mean time, I’m ready with the broom, the plunger, the disinfectant, the ice packs (for Lillian’s bruised head and ego) and the love.

Getting trashed

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Clifford is obsessed with throwing things away. And we’re pretty sure we realized this kind of late in the game. Who knows what has been set out at the curb at the hands our our little man.

Following a four-day vacation away from home, the very first thing that baby boy did after walking in the door was seek out things he could throw away. We all have our comforts of home, apparently this is his.

When I opened the lid of the trash can to put in a new bag, I found this. (Try not to get too distracted by my ultra cute shoes. )

Getting Trashed

If he’s not throwing things in this trash can, he’s pushing it over for the pleasing effect the loud thud initiates. (You’d scream, too.) Or he’s trying to reach in it to see what treasure he can fish out. All too often, the can is relegated out of practical use and perched towering over all of us on the counter top.

As much as analyzing the trash several times daily is a rather arduous process, I actually appreciate his interest.

Today he spent about five minutes trying with all his might to throw a mop away. He’d lift the heavy long stick high over his head, put the handle in, only to have it swing back up and out of the can. He tried again and again. Finally, he switched ends and got it to stay. You know, until, he pulled the whole can over and down, startling all of us. Again.

Clifford’s continued interest in the trash demonstrates that at16-months old, he does not lack perseverance. As I watch him hunting and seeking things to put in his beloved shiny can, or trying over again with the mop three times his height,  I can’t help but wonder how this will translate into the kind of little boy, then man,  he will become. (I like to imagine it means he will naturally gravitate toward cleanliness. I can dream, can’t I?)

Getting trashed, again.

It’s true he’s a boy a of few words. Okay, almost no words. But he certainly is a little man of action. During the day, he rarely sits. He just goes. And goes. And goes. I would love to strap a pedometer on him just to find out what kind of ground he covers running back and forth in this house all day.

I do get to sit down with him a few times during the day, since recently he has taken a liking to books. He will happily sit through a story or two. Oddly, he’s not interested in the point-and-name type of picture books (unless it has something to touch). He much prefers Curious George’s adventures and will sit still through that or (help me) a Berenstain Bear story or two before he’d let me name or count pictures of butterflies in a board book.

Admiring his work

Like his big brother, he’s interested in how things work. On his first ride on a carousel, we could barely get his attention to snap a photograph. He was so focused on the mechanics of the machine. Who cared about the horse and the music? He just wanted to see those gears turning. And as he watched, his gears were turning, too. Richard and I joked that we could see the smoke coming out of his ears. Cliff did acknowledge that the experience was fun with a short clap and a smile at the end of the ride. Reminding us, oh yes he is, after all, just a baby.

Another added joy is watching my husband so naturally respond to Cliff’s interests. Safely in his daddy’s arms, Clifford pushes the button to grind my coffee in the morning. He watches with interest as the dishwasher is loaded and unloaded, often with Richard’s direction, reaching in to spin the moving parts. The boy can’t get enough of the vacuum cleaner and its retractable cord, and there’s not enough time to explain his apparent fascination with electric tooth brushes. And Richard patiently demonstrates each item of interest to Clifford, all while wondering–like I–what goes on in that silent boy’s mind.

What this all means for this little baby boy is a mystery to me. I pray that we, as his parents, can nurture what truly interests him as he grows. In the mean time, I’m enjoying the discovery of yet another unique and miraculous gift from God, in the form of a little boy who I am blessed to call my son.

So, we’ll see what happens in the story of Cliff, still yet to be told, but one that is truly a joy to behold. (Oh no, too much Berenstain Bears!)

It’s drafty in here

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I have so many blog posts saved as drafts,  it’s getting on my nerves.

I can never find the time or energy to finish. But yet have so much to say. Just not sure who to say it to and how to say it.

I edit myself too much. I don’t want to be too candid, because that might not be inspiring. And I want to be inspiring.

Or mute. Apparently.

Things are changing around here, and I think that’s all more overwhelming than I’d like to admit. We’ve kept ourselves busy this summer. Planning vacation bible school, a trip to New York, a benefit concert, a vacation. All ticking down to two weeks from now when our oldest flies the coop and leaves for college. When I mentioned it to my dear spouse yesterday, he said, “If we don’t talk about it, I can ride this denial a little longer.”

And she’s not the only one leaving the nest.

After five years of homeschooling, we’re sending two of the kids to the school. And am totally conflicted about it.

This year’s homeschooling experience wasn’t the greatest. Yes we got through the basics and a little more, but in general, it was kind of a bust. Our enrichment was limited because of business activities and other obligations, the needs of the smaller children and all the preparing for college auditions, applications and scholarship seeking.  I only have so much energy and so much time, I was feeling completely tapped out in every aspect of my existence, and we decided that for my sanity something had to give.

I have enjoyed homeschooling. There’s no doubt about that. I have loved the time with the kids, and I have cherished every moment these past years recognizing it is time I will never get back.  I love that our faith has been at the center of our curriculum. I love that I have done my best to protect the innocence of our children during these fleeting childhood years. I just don’t love knowing that this year I’ve failed to offer them all that they need.

We’ve chosen schools we think are best for each. Different children, different schools, different reasons. I’m happy with our choices, on paper. Concerned about the real-life experience. Nervous about the whole endeavor. I’ve prayed about it. I continue to pray about it. I am trying to give it to God, but am not doing that too successfully. It’s all so unknown. Unfamiliar.

The good news is, all the school-bound kids are excited. I’m sure once all this takes place, I’ll be good to go, and it’ll all be for the better.