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Posts Tagged ‘Children’

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday !

Scenes from my beach world this week-

Unexpected gifts continually wash up on our shores…

Baby Jesus hasn’t quite arrived yet in this scene, the fourth Sunday of Advent

Silent night ahead

Children playing outside in the courtyard, as seen through the church’s “eyes to the world”

A play on the term “Christmas Tag!”

Thank You, God, for gifts that don’t come in boxes…

…and for gifts that do. Merry Christmas, y’all!

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In the last installment, Subtropical storm Alberto was about to impose on my world. Perhaps the main twisted part had to do with the media coverage elsewhere (for ratings’ sake) than what actually was the case here.

The good news was it provided some great surf for the local surfer fanatics who don’t have the luxury of living in Australia or Hawaii. And that my kid’s skull wasn’t impacted. The bad news came home this morning:

No worries, we were able to save the ankle tether and this was just a backup surf board.

Now we’re just waiting for a “real” storm.

I don’t think I’ve introduced you to Donut the therapy dog yet….Santa brought him at Christmas to our house from a very special place across the country, for our special needs kids:

(when in my lap, he doubles as Toonces the Driving Dog)

He is decked out for Memorial Day.

God bless all who sacrificed their lives for ouR freedom….

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Who can resist a well-earned Special Olympics smile from a kid who wasn’t supposed to live past age 4?

David turns 18 in 22 days!

Thank You, God, for defying all odds, for playing the ultimate April Fool’s joke on death – showing the universe for once and for all that where death seems inevitable, life rocks on!

That there is no such thing as finality, that You are the only Omega…and Your gift is eternal life. May we always recognize that those things seeming to a close = opportunity for new beginnings in ways we haven’t yet fathomed.

And therein lies faith…and trust. Faith and trust that there is always more in store than we can possibly know or deserve in our finite wisdom. Thanks, God, for perpetual resurrection and preciousness in all things. SMILE!!

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To rise at 5:30 or 6?

Stockings before (like usual) or after (why not?) presents?

Should we make the kids call everybody and wake them up and thank them early while they’re full of zeal for each item, or wait till the day has worn on and we’re more prone to deep conversations like, “Um, thanks grandma, for the, um…that, er, thing you got me.”

How many sweets to allow before church?

Did the baby’s face get scratched in the nursery of his own doing, or was he really mauled by a ferocious bear like he insisted?

If the matron in the nursery thought Daddy was his grandpa, who in blazes did she think I was?

Kid darting in way of scalding water being poured down sink during meal prep: pour it on me instead?

How much will Christmas dinner menu shrink when Daddy and the boys have to cook it themselves while Mommy soaks her melted fingers?

Will they think it’s a ploy that got me out of both cooking AND dishes? (Scored!!!)

Are the new pet cockatiels always going to act this neurotic, or are they just mimicking the children who are jacked up on all manner of sugar?

Is feeling full after one helping a sign of good health or old age?

Pier or beach?

Crabbing or casting?

How could we forget to ask the man in the wooden canoe before he paddled away again, how long it was taking him to get from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Fort Myers, Florida? And what did he have in his two little backpacks for that long trip, anyway?

Is it my imagination or does it already seem to be starting to stay lighter, later?

How long before they notice all the loud toys have gradually and mysteriously wound up in the loud toy time out twilight zone?

Should we send out terribly late Christmas cards, or make a slide show and distribute it electronically tonight?

Will all four of them ever stand still long enough within 2 feet of each other so we can take a picture? A picture without motion blurs and bunny ears behind the heads of the unsuspecting?

What’s more relaxing to listen to at dusk on Christmas, the comforting creak of the porch swing, or the winter-faint chorus of crickets?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Enough gluttony (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, electronic) to crave fasting…

Enough slothfulness to look forward to exertion…

Enough mayhem to search for peace…

Enough noise to worship silence…

Enough diversion to seek and appreciate routine…

…no wonder New Year’s resolutions are so popular.

God, help us to keep our focus on You…You are peace. Help us return to this after all our busy-ness in this season which is supposed to honor Your Son, but has somehow turned into a worldly diversion from You. Help us be quiet, be still, be disciplined, and at peace…with You. Help us choose to slow down before You slow us down. Thank You for giving us things to consider, and choices to make…let us choose You.

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~Playing Tooth Fairy for a child who will likely always remain in locked, secure facilities.

~Explaining to a child why and how their mother found Jesus in jail…for the twelfth time…after yet another round of trafficking.

~Trying to reason with a nine-year old that they can, and should, use their coping skills instead of demanding an injection every day.

~Helping a belligerent autistic child understand that an outing restriction for making racist remarks is less consequence and more protection, because folks in town might not take too well to such statements.

~Having to tell a seven-year old they can’t go out and play…for a month…because they are a flight risk for trying to run away from their last placement eighteen times.

~French braiding a child’s hair while gently explaining what hope looks like, feels like, and why one should never give up.

~Saying goodbye to a child after two years, knowing they’re at their best, and their best still isn’t good enough for the rest of the world.

~Welcoming a new child who inherited both parents’ severe mental illnesses, and is already on several medications not approved by the FDA for children under 18…and trying to figure out what might be done instead.

~Tucking in a child who is haunted by the voices that won’t leave him alone inside his head, all night long, the intermittent wailing depriving others of their sleep.

~Helping a tiny child who refuses to speak, to find other ways to express themselves besides self-harming, drawing blood to release the pain from the inside out.

~Discerning whether the sock tied around the neck was a reactive gesture of anger, or a genuine intent to end their young life.

~Allowing a child to repeatedly cheat at cards in endless rounds of War, so they can understand that they are a winner, no matter how the game goes, no matter how many risks of losing they face, and no matter how many aces and jokers one’s opponent may hold in their hand.

~Teaching a child not to be sexually inappropriate when the man waxing the floors goes by.

~Building a fort with chairs and blankets, then going inside and hearing stories that no child should ever know to tell.

~Asking a child to create at least five works of art to replace the bare spot on the wall where they tore off the entire six-foot bulletin board in a three-second rampage of rage.

~Trying to help a child figure out if the man they saw under the bridge might have been their homeless father, or not.

~Offering a warm hug five minutes after being called every vulgar name in the book.

~Helping a child write an angry letter to their molester, tearing up the letter into tiny pieces, and drowning the pieces in a lake, together.

~Teaching a child how their compulsive lying hurts others as much as they were hurt by their parents’ perpetual broken promises.

~Watching and waiting until a child is finished tipping over fourteen chairs which are not designed to be able to be tipped over, to help them verbalize their anger at the world, instead.

~Finding excuses for parents who make excuses as to why they never call or visit their child in the hospital.

~Wiping the searing tears and stroking the wild hair of a bewildered, rageful child who is being physically prevented from harming themselves or others.

~Promising a child a trip to McDonald’s after they were unable to go out for weeks due to dangerous behavior…and seeing their joy when the promise was fulfilled. Those Happy Meals are the happiest of all!

~Helping the state word a court report to properly reflect a parent’s chronic neglect.

~Seeing a child gain victory over their demons, and finally, after months or years, be able to be turned back out to society. And passing the tissue to the staff who helped raise the child and taught the child to function again, as they unlock the door and show the child their new freedom.

~Finding solutions for a teacher who is trying to teach a disruptive child who will never be allowed in a typical school setting.

~Lying on the grass with a child, watching the clouds change form, and teaching them to have the courage to dream and hope again.

~Vandalizing (when no one was looking) a spot of wall where an angry child peeled the paint, by using crayon to draw in the lines because the bare spot looked vaguely like a dinosaur, giving it a smile and bright eyes, with comment bubbles over his head encouraging the children to be nice.

~Reading a story about a flower that got stuck in a crack and couldn’t grow very well, until a gardener replanted it and fertilized it and watered it, allowing it to blossom and see the sun again.

~After a year, figuring out that the misbehavior at bedtime once served a legitimate function, since going to sleep represents the terror of knowing that the sexual abuse would start on the night shift after mom left for work.

~Talking a child out of crawling into the trash can, because that is where they feel like putting themselves, because that is the message they consistently got about their worth and value from those previously caring for them. Clarifying what belongs in the trash, and what is worthy of Saving.

~Explaining why smuggling in burned CDs of gangsta rap is not helpful toward reaching one’s treatment goals.

~Coaching a child to maintain self-control when another child is provoking them…don’t lose your points, stay focused on your goal to get out of here, think of your people, shoot for that special outing, walk away, it’s not worth it, one of y’all has to man up and stay in control, might as well be you. Etc. Etc.

~Trying to teach morals around shoot-in-the-foot laws, such as why a remorseful child can’t help patch the hole they punched in the wall (child labor), use their allowance when they offer to pay for their roommate’s toy they flushed down the toilet (child allowance regulations), or donate outgrown clothes to the child down the hall (unlawful transfer of state property).

~Seeing who can go higher on the playground swings.

~Explaining to a child why their grandparent is dying, and holding their hand after the death.

~Having to confiscate a child’s security blanket for a night because they tried to hang themselves with it.

~Having a child tape a piece of art to the office door that says, “Thank you for helping me…”

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Helluva Monday, it was. I did nothing but explain stuff:

2:38 am: To two young children, why it was not time to get out of bed and plug in a Three Stooges DVD.

4:45 am: To my body, why I was ignoring the alarm and snoozing another 1/2 hour, when I hate snoozing.

6:19 am: To algebra teacher via email, why child is not living up to potential, and what we will do to rectify situation.

8:06 am: To supervisor, how I was able to heed her advice to not think about “this place” over the weekend, by hitting the beach.

10:32 am: To irate grandparent, to their face and with authorities present, why I was recommending their rights to child be terminated.

12:14 pm: To coworkers, why they ought not kidnap and take me on 3 mile run on lunch tomorrow, because I’m still weak from illness.

1:20 pm: To myself, why I’m missing my dad when he’s long gone.

2:03pm: To several children swarming me, why each of them could not have my undivided attention immediately and simultaneously.

2:46 pm: To coworker, why I will never ever ever reveal the location of this blog, over my dead body, etc.

3:14 pm: To child, why an unavoidable obstacle preventing her expectations from being met, feels like being lied to.

4:09 pm: To administrator with a windowed office, how and why another one of my good intentions paved yet another road to hell with my staff.

4:43 pm: To myself, why I just now “got” something somebody told me months ago, while dreaming and flying over the bridge over water.

5:01 pm: To my car, why I switched to the left lane because the right was too slow, only to have the left lane slow down thanks to the guy 3 cars ahead slowing down to turn left. Then switching back to the right, only to have the right lane slow down thanks to the guy another few cars ahead hold us up to turn right. Repeat left and right, two more times.

5:14 pm: To husband, why I am late. Again. Aaargh.

5:49 pm: To inquisitive eight year old, why God won’t rain manna right now, why we can’t have “smart marshmallows” rain down instead that we can eat and instantly get smart, and to sage twelve-year-old, why God doesn’t just rain down wisdom. And what the heck manna is anyway.

6:35 pm: To laptop, how the month got away in rare form for me, and why I was paying a bill online instead the usual way.

7:52 pm: To three-year old, why mommy doesn’t have the same equipment that all the other guys in the house do. And what it’s called instead.

8:31 pm: To my keyboard, why I should restrain myself from responding to the missions outfit that sent a plea in the mail today for us to support their unemployed missionaries while they hang here in the States until “God provides,” listing the identical financial obligations I also am faced with.

9:02 pm: To my disabled child, why he should not be afraid to go to sleep even though he will probably “see dreams.”

9:52: To God, crying out why life is so hard, then feeling guilty for crying out because others have it harder… hungry but not able to eat, weary yet not able to rest, grateful but too downtrodden to show it, joyful but too grieved to celebrate, surrounded and loved, but lonely.

Hey, God…do your stuff. That’s all I know to pray right now. This was one crazy day!! Your will, not mine. I’ve plain run out of ways to explain myself. You do the rest, please. Thank you, Lord!

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“You fi’n t’go back to the crazy hospital you done broke out of?” the graying, acutely psychotic man inquired, as I concluded the Sunday afternoon group therapy session.

“Yes, sir, I most certainly am,” I replied, with surly sincerity (knowing that the mentally ill tend to be more prophetic than most perceive).

I could say this and mean it. My last post was filled with cozy intentions about how time would be spent during the tropical storm. But, like all good intentions, they certainly paved the road to Hell. I think I caught a glimpse of the ghost of Erma Bombeck, smirking and waving at me as I went screaming and careening down that road this weekend.

Like a good blogger, I hit “publish,” closed the laptop and awoke from my online reverie. Except mine was a rude awakening, a tumultuous transition into what existed here with you and me in the beach chairs, to what lay before me.

I was deeply regretting the terrifying amounts of refined sugar and Red Dye #40 with a long holiday weekend in a storm, more than you can ever know, dear friend. The cutesy design drawn in the dust mocked me each time I whizzed by on my way between the front door and the linen closet to secure the assistance of yet another towel. Every Key to the Unknown buried in the no-longer-a-tool-drawer drawer, chuckled at me as I searched for the next necessary piece of hardware required to put out yet another home un-improvement fire. I believe ninety percent of the debris from the storm managed to find its way into our home, brought, blown or tracked in by sixteen busy little hands and feet, not counting the help from all the neighbor-kids.

And the collective sugar rush electrified the home better than any of the lightning bolts overhead.

Within moments of the last post, the doorbell rang. It was our smiling UPS man holding a package with the Amazon arrow emblazoned across the big, brown box. The children’s excitement mounted with suspense…it most certainly had to be for the birthday boy! They “helped” him rip into it, and within seconds of strewing the bubble cushions and wrap everywhere, their suspenseful chirping went silent. “What’s this?” puzzled the eldest.  “I don’t think that’s for him,” number three analyzed. “A present for mama!” number two surmised, as the birthday boy was blissfully busy off in the corner, amusing himself with the box and packing materials, completely satisfied with the delivery.

No, it had to arrive at the start of the weekend, eh? All the exam study materials I’d ordered and forgotten about a week ago. Kinda like how annoying things you can’t deal with until the next business day, always seem to darken the doorstep on a Saturday. Curses anyway, I took the dang test precisely twenty years ago…and now they want this old dog to learn new tricks. No mercy for the mommy-track. Okay, so be it. But did it have to come now? I’d had such great plans this weekend which did not include anything academic. You cannot hold your head high and walk past an opened box of interesting books which beg to be opened and thumbed through. That’s the lure of literature, n’est-ce pas?

The bands of rain intermittently pelted our world, and I managed to get a little studying accomplished in between tornado warnings, which is when we sent the young charges out to play in the deluge. This was joyful to behold, children dancing and playing and laughing as children ought, gleefully experiencing the wet wonder of nature. Splashing, cavorting, whirling outdoors.

Then muddy, dripping, shivering indoors.

After a round of warm baths and dryer-heated towels, it was time for a tour to see how the rest of the neighborhood was faring. Out at the point where tributary meets estuary, they just had to jump out of the van and experience the weather again. Here, the rain blew sideways, and just a few moments in this sent them scurrying back in with shrieks of pain, as the sand and water had slapped and stung them with the full fury of the storm. With wincing children cupping hands to cheeks, we hydroplaned home again to coop back up and ride it out some more.

A young person who shall remain Nameless, in his mad dash for the front door upon return, neglected to close the door on the vehicle in the driveway. This remained yawned open until it was discovered approximately twelve hours later, with a pool of water suitable for marine life in the pocket compartment of the door, drowned McToys begging for CPR and bloated Cheerios notwithstanding. So the shop-vac was enlisted to assist with this crisis. While Nameless One was asking how much longer he’d have to vacuum, another one led us to a room with a leaky window, where a lovely body of water had materialized, damaging all manner of wood, wall, wallpaper and everything else in the path of its pooling.

While this was being attended to, another Nameless one proudly announced he was in the process of mastering the art of cooking pasta. “Make sure you stir it,” I called after him. Five minutes later: “Mommy, something smells like it’s burning, and it doesn’t smell like pasta.”  Shortly thereafter, we were wondering whether the missing plastic tooth of the pasta-stirrer had become one with the pasta or with the stove. I was certain the EPA would come knocking any moment. We pondered this over the vigorous squirting of scouring gel on the bottom of the smoking, blackened pot. However, I was impressed with the beautiful design the pasta made on the bottom. Almost hated to scrub it away, the gracefully curved ebony imprints of the swirled mess. I just may leave it be and nail it to the wall in the kitchen as an impromptu work of art. You can get away with something like that in our town. It would be a memento of a child’s learning process on a stormy weekend. At least until he is of the age of dating and prone to visual reminders which might embarrass.

With the madhouse at home (prophetic indeed!), it might have been a godsend to be called in to work, except the trip was fraught with hazard. Entire lanes were covered in sheets of water, road and ramp closures abounded, stranded vehicles here and there. Somehow I made it, and set about helping to restore calm and order in a world of people unavoidably affected by the plummeting barometric pressure. Monitoring the radar on computer, the charge nurse graciously sent me packing early, before the next band was to hit. You just can’t get there fast enough when the National Weather Service robo-dude is mentioning streets in your neighborhood in the same sentences with phrases like “rotational movement” and “take cover in interior hallways or, if no shelter, lie down in a ditch.” Back down the road of good intentions…

Fire ants are a necessary part of life in the South, and, returning home, I made the mistake of pausing too long in the driveway to rearrange some of the debris in the yard. During storms, fire ants like to rearrange themselves as well, and our yard was no exception. Mountains of ant hills where they had not previously existed, now dotted the landscape like miniature towers of Babel. I happened to be standing atop a hill-in-the-making, which evidently had just begun to be claimed by the fierce insects. My presence on their claimed territory was most unwelcome. These little six-legged Donald Trumps were going to ensure that they cornered the market on their esteemed piece of real estate.

Having minored in dance in college, I was suddenly reminded of some long-forgotten dance steps, as the enemies swarmed my thong-sandaled feet. A one-woman Cirque-Du-Soleil, I acrobatically leaped and spun my way toward the front porch, throwing in a few curious upper body movements as I swiped at the stronger-jawed holdouts dining on my ankles. No worries about what the Mrs. Kravatzes of the neighborhood would think were they to peer out from behind their living room curtains and see my animated display; the Dance of the Fire Ant-Afflicted is a universal language south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Meanwhile, even feeding the outdoor pets became a contest of timing and judgment, and had to be coordinated with the latest weather reports and radars. This morning, the poor dog’s untouched bowl of food had become pathetically waterlogged, so after a thorough washing and drying and refilling between bands of storm, his bowl was restored. An hour later as the skies again darkened with great gusts of wind, I noticed he had again not touched it. I saw fit to bring in the bowl before the rain hit, placing it on the floor of the laundry room. Another round of towels was then due to the rain-romping youngsters on their way in for breakfast. While performing my now-regulation towel-dispensing routine at the front door, the baby shrieked and cried, “Ants, mama, ants!!!” His now-red, swollen feet had walked into the laundry room, exposing the reason the dog had not eaten – fire ants had overtaken his bowl within minutes outside, and my goodwill effort to protect his food had resulted in unwittingly inviting the creatures into our home. Way to go!

(Nineteen hours until school resumes)

Thus, the homey aroma of birthday cake for this long, stormy weekend has yielded to the likes of burnt plastic and Raid. The road is now littered with leaves and limbs. The mud-splattered walls testify to hasty and frequent changes of storm-soaked clothing and hardcore play. The fire ants are trying to take over the universe. The portable heater is about to set the car interior on fire. We’ll need a Bobcat instead of a broom to clear the back deck. All the things I was going to make a point not to do this weekend are not only still not done, but now we have myriad more on the list. And we’re down to the last piece of birthday cake that no one wants to be the last one to claim, because we have taught our children as such.

(I will wait till they are in bed…yes, baby, the bad ol’ ants probably got to it…No, wait, I will sneak it in to the psychotic man tomorrow, yes!)

On second thought, these good intentions did not pave the road to Hell, this was a storm of love. Our little tornadoes made the most of the circumstances and lived:  lived fully and lived well.

Thank you, God, for children and storms and ants and burnt pasta. Thank you for mud and mayhem and the unexpected. For it is the storms of life which bond us together, teach us love and endurance, give us meaning and purpose, and help us appreciate life’s journey. Best of all, they draw us nearer to You.

I think I see the Sun trying to come out. I am squinting with joy! Oh, blue sky at last! And thank you, dear friend, for sharing this storm with me, here by the sea.

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Really, it WAS a dark and stormy night, all purple prose aside.

The day had been punctuated by startling moments of sensory surprises, like standing at the copier in the office under a skylight and being suddenly overcome by a perception that something is amiss in my brain’s sense of Normal Daytime Expectations. I looked up and beheld a completely black sky overhead, prompting me to seek the nearest vertical window and exclaim to anyone within earshot, “Oooooh, look!” Looking, we all saw an impressive gust of wind busy itself with pruning a few dead leaves and small branches, barely visible through the thick blankets of rain.

Commuting home, the forward march of one of Lee’s outer bands ominously loomed in the distance, casting a mirror image of his fury across the water below, the water precisely matching his darkest parts and a couple of sparse hints of shimmer on the water, showcasing Lee’s best efforts to conceal the sun, which he had effectively snuffed out ’round about noon on Thursday.

Then came night, indistinguishable from many parts of the day. That last band had graciously passed at the time designated as local sunset (the clock was all we had to go by, as the dark clouds made the night darker….likely what Mr. Edward Bulwer-Lytton was trying to convey by describing a dark night with the word “storm” in the same sentence). Darker than night, how ’bout that?

Sitting quietly before bedtime, an other-worldly sound pierced my peace with its ghostly strains, demanding that I engage in the process of attempting to decipher its meaning and purpose. I was too tired to play another head game with Lee, so I took the best shortcut to make someone else figure it out: “What the hell was that?” It could have been the approach of the headhunters on Gilligan’s Island, for all I knew.

I don’t believe a definitive conclusion was ever reached, so we chalked it up to a wallop of wind, since the noise was immediately followed by an intense tropical downpour. The wind bullied the thunder, restraining its commanding voice by carrying its crash aloft in waves, making it sound like a strange symphony of muted tympani and belittled brass. This, combined with the tinny thud of each heavy raindrop landing on the chimney cover, lulled me to sleep, the backdrop sounds yielding to the strangest of dreams….

….dreams which were interrupted at some point by a poltergeist-like indoor event, the miniature Dirt Devil toy vacuum turning on by itself, its glaring light at the base illuminating the room and the sickly groan of a toy with drained batteries trying to revive itself back to life. Who left this out last night, anyway? As if we didn’t have enough entertainment going on outside our walls.

After surviving some of the most destructive hurricanes this beach has known, a little ditty like Tropical Storm Lee is most welcome. We need the rain this year. It waters the garden of journalism for the long weekend, encourages bonding among the affected, and forces those of us with growing lists of Ignored and Mundane Indoor Tasks, to finally face the music. You know, stuff like sewing the button back on the forgotten shirt that’s been patiently waiting, folded on the shelf in the laundry room for a semi-eternity (does it even fit anyone, anymore?) Studying for that nagging exam. Purging the accumulating crap off the (name any and all surfaces throughout the house). Fixing the leaky faucet. Carving a path through the dust on the uncluttered surfaces. Reclaiming the tool drawer as a right and true tool drawer, instead of the tools being crowded out by things like the spare part to the thingamabob which we no longer have, the broken piece off of Buzz Lightyear’s space pack which would never survive being glued back on anyway, and the massive collection of Keys to the Unknown, which go to nothing anybody in this current generation of home occupants can recall.

On the other hand, Lee is an even better excuse to relax and have fun. Every tropical storm has a silver lining! Instead, I think I will stay in my jammies a little longer today, with an extra cup of coffee fueling the posting of this blog, to the beat of another band of downpour drumming overhead.

I will continue to ignore the buttonless shirt in the laundry room and instead spend a little extra time studying the Scrabble board so I can beat all my online opponents, instead of my usual, thoughtless, hurried plays on the fly which inevitably cause me to pay attention and wonder why my average has tanked.

I will walk briskly past the tool drawer on the way to the freezer, where I will get out the ice cream to go with the cake to go with the presents which go with the young man in our house who turns three today. We will sing “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs, the surreal thunder that’s not quite thunder accompanying our rendition. We will be wearing our conical SpongeBob party hats and plying the children with terrifying amounts of refined sugar and Red Dye # 40. I will take said young man on my lap and marvel at how quickly time passes, and attempt to hold on to him tightly (little wiggle-worm!) and hope that he doesn’t repeat what he did last night when I attempted the same (he did what any pre-gentleman would be tempted to do as a practical joke on someone’s lap – ’nuff said).

Speaking of which, we will bypass the leaky faucet and nosh all day on the Boston Butt our good friend talked us into buying, all proceeds going to a child’s gymnastics travel fund (eating for a good cause is standard in the South).

The exam material will be ceremoniously bypassed as we stampede out the door in between rain bands, to pile into the van and go looky-looing – you know, go see what roads flooded, take pictures of the angry surf, run barefoot in the puddles-turned-streams…maybe hang around for a beach concert moved indoors and see a fairly popular musician.

We will go beach combing for leftover tarballs Lee may stir up. (“No-no, baby, don’t touch that shell…that’s not a shell.”)

I will hold my head high as I walk past the piles of accumulating stuff, and pause at one of the dusty surfaces, and use my index finger to draw a pretty design in the dust. I may delegate a more thorough, less creative dusting to the Child Labor Department another day, but for today, we will take advantage of the circumstances.

Thanks, God, for circumstances. I see it is getting dark again in the middle of the already-dampered daylight – we’d better go make a run for the van now, while the running is good.

Whoops, too late – that was fast! Another downpour. We’ll just serve up the cake and ice cream for breakfast, instead….

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No, not I…the 2, about-to-be 3 year old. He graciously reminded me tonight of the importance of unwinding. Really unwinding. He reminds me that we must perpetually turn to children, the older we get, for advice on how to live. Really live. With the first child, scolding was the parenting du jour should he have attempted such a feat…with child #4…..well…I learned to take heed. You know, step back and contemplate….hmmm…well, isn’t kind of, er, funny? Go ahead, break into the chase, let him go squealing with delight, buck naked, round and round, catching him with laughter and direction to get into jammies….silly boy. I love you.

But I really wish you hadn’t have put four toothbrushes and one Mardi Gras cup in the toilet today. Luv ya anyway. Say, what happened when you tried to flush? Sorry I wasn’t there to find out with you. Bless Daddy.

Sometimes it takes a child to hold our hand and lead us precisely where we need to be. Children know freedom.

It was what our very country was founded upon.

We must constantly question and examine our beliefs, as the development of beliefs can be a fluid process throughout each life phase. A good, hard look at why we believe what we believe is good for the soul, and keeps us fresh. We become stagnant if we can no longer embrace the merits of our beliefs. Yet we cling so tightly sometimes to things that no longer make sense…

A conversation with “Common Sense:”

“He should not be allowed to run naked through the house. This is wrong.”

“And what could happen?

“Why, it’s not proper. It might make others want to run naked through the house.”

“And then what?”

“Well, then things would be out of control. They’d get the wrong message. One thing leads to another”

“What’s the wrong message?”

“That you can’t think that you can run naked through the house and it’s okay. There must be consequences.”

“And then what,? if not?”

“Ummmm… I dunno. It’s just wrong.”

“With whom? How?”

“Ummmmm..I dunno.”‘

“What harm does it do? I mean, does it serve a purpose for the runner? Do they get some benefit from it, something out of their system, sow their wild oats, then want to conform, or what? What’s going to happen if a little off-kilter happens? Doesn’t off-kilter behavior serve an ultimate purpose?”

“Well, I never thought about it.”

“Well, think about it. Is it so bad? You ever been off-kilter? What did you need to do to get right?”

‘Nuff said.

Sometimes, in all our adult wisdom, we completely miss the point of living.

When was the last time you ran naked through the house? Would the sky fall? Is it so bad?

Thanks, God, for freedom and laughter and children. It figures only the serpent could have made it so we had to wear fig leaves and toil, instead of having the childlike freedom of running naked through the house.

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Hey, God…

That a child brought me to You this morning was humbling. He had asked with such hope, as best as his broken speech could muster, to go to church. The squeaky creaks of the kneelers echoed in the old nineteenth century chapel. Departing from our usual place of attendance, he did not know what to do with the kneeler until he saw the rest of us kneel and pray. He eventually decided the long padded rail at our feet made for a far better place to sit down than in the pew, as this afforded him a more advantageous perspective of the stained glass windows and of the sensible shoes of the elderly lady kneeling in the pew in front of ours.

He did not mind that he could not take communion because he cannot digest solids; he was grateful to receive a special blessing at the railing instead. He was not disappointed to miss out on the regulation tea and crumpets later in the reception hall; he rather basked in the attention of the new people we met. It was always I who had to be the one to manage my sympathetic disappointments felt on his behalf, and in the end I realized that they were entirely mine, not his – he did not know disappointment of any sort very well. Once disappointments were properly attributed, owned and subsequently discarded on my behalf, it became so much easier to join him in his joy.

I remember the first time I felt the two, distinct and simultaneously contradicting anguishes, felt as a mother of a child with Down syndrome. He was only four days old, but already society by me was damned if they did, damned if they didn’t.

If people offered awkward pity, the urge was to blurt out, “Can’t you see we are the proud, happy parents of a healthy baby? He’s no different…he eats, sleeps and poops right on schedule with the rest of them! Why can’t you congratulate us and be joyful with us?”

If people offered standard congratulations and completely avoided acknowledging his diagnosis, the temptation was to say, “Do you have any idea what we’re going through? Our child is different! Why can’t you offer condolences and join us in our grief?”

It would be years later that I realized people were dealing with it in the various ways they knew best. And so was I, as I began to digest what it meant to be raising a child with special needs.

So it was through life, times when we tried in vain to squeeze the square peg into the round hole…it just never quite fit. And yet it was well worth trying, because we all learned things along the way, and it enriched him in ways he would not have experienced, had we not tried.

There were heartaches and joys in trying, but it was the trying that sharpened us all. There are no baseball pants that quite work for his build, but we got creative and he played…for part of a season, until he decided the outfield was meant for chasing his teammates to steal their ball caps to try to get them to chase him. I wept when we had to make the decision to bench him because he just didn’t get it.

The basketball hoop was a bit too high and he had to play on his little brother’s team with second graders, but the week before the end of the season, he sank his first hoop, unassisted. And I wept when the entire crowd erupted into cheers and gave him a standing ovation.

But the look of joy in his eyes was exactly the same whether he was bench-warming or ovation-bowing. He was happy just to be included, even though he knew he was different and couldn’t quite master it like his peers did. He took joy in the process, not in the outcome. Perhaps it is us who, at times, just don’t get it.

He knows how to smell the roses along the way. Those joyful eyes see things differently.

So when society wonders if a challenged person should be treated differently or the same, the answer is, some of each…the same, as much as they are capable of; differently, to accommodate and adapt as much as needed to allow them to experience at least part of the process. It doesn’t take much to make them happy, and they understand more than we think. They have learned to be flexible and patient with others, out of necessity.

What kind of world would this be if we all saw life through those joyful eyes?

God, why do they say that 90% of all babies who test positive for Down syndrome in that new, first blood test, are aborted?

Let us not fear the salty tears of anguish which lead to the sweetest tears of joy!

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