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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Glimpses into our day…

Local farmers’ take on Santa, a combo of hay bales and spray paint on the side of the road.

One of the stores we purchased presents from, had this sign. Although this sign may well have been posted also at our local Victoria’s Secret, where they locked us out after opening time and otherwise shunned shoppers, quelle horreur!

Thank you, aunts and uncles, for sending us all manner of healthy Stuff! The cheeses are going into my unnoticed 14 cheese mac&cheese on Christmas.

This is what it looks like lining up Stuff for each of 4 kids’ stockings on Christmas Eve, lay it all out! Are your stockings too heavy to be hung by the fireplace with care?

Present-wrapping

One elder son will tickle the ivories on Christmas and regale us with his talent, another son who envied his older brother’s talent, will receive piano lessons for a Christmas present and will enhance his current musical talents.

Christmas Eve

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1.) (at 7:38 pm) “Hey, Mom, the band director said we needed a tuxedo for tomorrow’s competition in the city…”

2.) (from dear mother with advancing Alzheimer’s) “Well, I’ll just hitchhike if you can’t take off work to take me where I want to go tomorrow.”

3.)  (sequestered in the corner office with all windows and lots of top brass) “Nobody else can do what you do here…please don’t accept that promotion! We’ll adjust your schedule, whatever it takes!”

4.) (from a post-rehab mom in treatment) “How dare you tell me I’m showing too much cleavage with my breast tattoo!!! Now, what were you saying about my son’s sexually inappropriate behavior?”

5.) “Your four-year-old scored a zero on the assessment – he refused to initiate any effort.” (this, after warning the Pre-K assessor he has stranger anxiety and would not perform in a room alone with her – duh).

6.) “Please accept and wear this honorary pin commemorating your 25 years’ dedication to the profession…” (‘and in doing so, ‘fess up to everyone just how antique you are) (Therapisauras Rex, here!).

7.) (from 4-year-old recollecting in utero) “I don’t wanna go back in your tummy…I was ‘fraid of the big splinters.” (what big splinters?) “The big, black splinters – they were owchie. They were your poopy. They hurt me. I gonna stay out here now and make san’ castles.”

8.) (CPA conversation) “For some reason, the IRS hasn’t put out a refund calendar.” (“So, what, they’re trying not to be accountable now?”) “No, the IRS has never been accountable…”

9.) “Your (disabled) child won’t stop bolting toward the elevators and pressing the alarm button…”

10.) “The court date has been postponed until July. But we’ll need a deposition later this month. We want you to be there in case anybody lies.”

11.) “We’re out of wine.” (or was it ‘whine?’)

I swear, this all bubbled forth THIS WEEK.

Welcome to the merry-go-round of my life.

Even so and despite it all, here’s a pretty bunch of blooming azaleas against a field of soon-to-be-harvested winter wheat that I saw this Sunday whizzing past a neighbor’s farm:

2013-03-10_15-42-38_592

Spring rocks!!!

 

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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?

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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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In a land far away from our minds stands a lone angel tree today, seen by few, known by fewer. This tree is different from the rest.

You know of the others. Right now in stores across the United States stand hundreds of “angel trees,” decorated with carefully disguised identities of needy children in the community. These are children who through no fault of their own are in situations which render them financially less fortunate than other children on Christmas day. These children may live with their families or perhaps are foster children, but they still have the freedom to live with a family, attend school, and, although challenged, have a fairly typical daily routine in the daily world.

Allow me to introduce you to a similar, but rarely-seen angel tree.

This tree also has the names of carefully disguised identities of needy children, but these children are apart from the community. These children are the emotionally less fortunate who, through no fault of their own, have been subjected to and somehow survived unconscionable circumstances which have scarred their souls so badly, that they are unable to function in society as we know it. These children cannot live in a home, neither with family of origin nor foster home. These children cannot attend school due to their disintegrated hearts.

These children are locked away in an institution, both for their safety and for the safety of the community, or because they are the most emotionally fragile of children. They simply cannot handle life as we know it. They are there to mend their hearts and souls, and remain there until they are fit for society. This may take days or weeks for those in acute care; months, or even years in the long-term residential facilities…all of which are eternities, in a child’s eyes.

There they spend their days and nights, eating and sleeping, playing and fighting, wondering how they got there, and contemplating what they need to do to get out. There they try their hardest to get through each day with the shadows of their past following and haunting them, trying to do what schoolwork they can, trying to get along with others, with varying levels of success.

Some try their hardest because they have hope. Others do not try because they have given up hope, and need encouragement from one moment to the next. Still others try their hardest to show others their very worst, because if they can be disliked or violent enough, they can reject others before others have yet another chance to reject them…at least it is one thing in life they can control.

Their angel tree sits quietly in the corner of the small, empty lobby, the only unlocked room in the building. Other than the receptionist, it is only seen by the few still connected to these children who are able to visit: the state worker who must ask the child to choose between a voucher for clothing or a voucher for toys and who will be home with their family on Christmas; the ashamed, distant relative who is reluctant to be involved but wants to make a good show, the occasional lost driver who took the wrong turn down the end of the long road; the tireless staff and nurses doctors. Oh, and the UPS guy and mail carrier, neither of whom bring things addressed to specific children living there, except on rare occasions.

The requests for needs for these children seem somewhat unusual. The angels on this tree bear wishes for things like socks, because their roommate flushed their last good pair down the toilet during another one of his nightly rages, with enough bone-rattling shrieking to create a new nightmare for another child down the hall on the unit, unable to sleep…and not a shred of memory of the crisis, come sunup.

Like playing cards, since many of the games on the market, electronic or otherwise, further cause them to be unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, and may trigger violent flashbacks. Or reinforce their tendency to want to solve problems with disconnected sarcasm and indifferent violence.

Like soft, stuffed animals or dolls, since anything battery-operated requires batteries – and anyone who’s been behind those locked doors long enough knows that if you slam a battery in the door near the hinges just right, it will expose a very sharp object that can be found in the core of the battery, which can then be used as a weapon to hurt someone. Or, for the self-harmers, to cut on themselves and draw blood, and wind up wearing scrubs and on 24/7 observation for days as a result. It is unfathomable to think how a young child might learn such behavior, but there it is.

Hygiene products are also popular, since the hospital-issued products are not exactly kid-friendly, and it is much more fun by far to brush your teeth with sparkly bubble gum toothpaste, like most other children enjoy on a daily basis. A pretty ribbon for her hair. An emery board, since nail clippers are not allowed on the premises, and long nails can be used to gauge eyes in a sneak attack from behind. A SpongeBob blanket for a bed instead of the typical ho-hum hospital sheets. Warm Cinderella footie jammies. Or a visit from a volunteer big brother/big sister or mentor, an objective other who will play a game with them and listen to their story…a story most can’t bear to hear, a story which defies common sense and human rationality.

Food item requests are never found on this angel tree; some children are on strict diets due to side effects of medications. And besides, the child who roamed the streets for his next meal has been known to wheel deals with other children: “I’ll give you the coupon I earned for extra game room time, if you give me your snack.” Snacks are then discovered hoarded under mattresses, up in ceiling tiles or in the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom which the adults all assumed were locked and childproof.

Some children ask for earmuffs to block out the incessant noise, which may come from either side of their skull at any given moment.

How did they get there, anyway? It may be because their parents sold them for sex in exchange for drugs. Or left them for long periods of time to fend for themselves. Or perhaps they locked them in closets or entertainment cabinets for their convenience. Or molested them repeatedly over the course of years.

These are the children who don’t know where their parents are, and the parents are either dead from their misdeeds or are happily homeless, preferring drugs and alcohol over their child….or simply abandoned the child and left the state, never to be heard from again. Some children may know where their parents are, but their parents voluntarily turn them over to the state because they don’t want them anymore. These children may have been in 15 foster homes, with no stability or sense of permanency. These children may have been along for the ride and witnessed a drug deal gone bad, resulting in murder. Or witnessed murder in their very own living room. Or tried to murder their family during a psychotic episode.

The end result is a child who is unable to make sense out of the world, who relates to others as they have been related to, and who does not and may never know childhood, as it is supposed to be known.

These are the children we forget about because they are quietly locked away from the rest of us while they pick up the pieces of their bewildered, shattered lives. You will not see them in schools or on sports teams. You may spot them briefly at the store, at McDonald’s or on a playground closely monitored by staff, if they are deemed well enough to go out into public at the time and their medication and behavior are stable. If that is the case, you will likely not know it is them you are seeing, and it likely will not register in the moment you see them, just where it is they lay their head at night – a place where they must be to work out their raw feelings of depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis…their fear, their disappointment, their confusion, their rage

The angels on their tree represent a completely different type of need – a need that is real but often goes unknown and unheard by most.

Still needing and wanting to believe in something despite their inability to trust mankind, the younger ones hold fast to their belief in Santa. No, there is no chimney in this place, but they are assured that Santa has keys to the joint, nonetheless. Their lives may have taken an unthinkable course, but their anticipation and hope in being loved and cared for like any other human is entitled to, is no different from yours or mine.

I urge readers (and writers) to locate the nearest children’s psychiatric hospital in your area (and they are there, somewhere…I cannot point you in the direction of the children I know due to privacy and confidentiality issues). Please consider dropping off a small gift  for one of these children who will wake up Christmas morning behind locked doors…on the inside looking out, never sure when they will be ready, if ever, to be the one on the outside looking in.

This gift needn’t be material…write them an anonymous letter and tell them how brave they are, how proud you are of them for enduring all they have. Tell these children that they can do it, that they are loved, admired and respected. That they are believed, that their feelings are real and important. Tell them that they matter. Color them a rainbow with your words, that they might be assured that their world will hopefully not flood like that again.

Such a small gesture has incredibly meaningful ramifications.

For what is small to us, is huge to them, bigger than we might ever guess…whether or not we remember about their angel tree now and in years to come. Like a standout, cherished childhood memory, they will remember, and it may just be the one memory of hope and love that will help heal them on their horrific journey. It may be the one thing they have, hold, hang on to and refer back to as the biggest spark of light that brought them through their darkness.

God, help us all help the sequestered and forgotten children of the world, the ones least seen in our communities – the ones who most need miracles and a reason to believe again.

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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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How is it that some things that are right on schedule, still manage to take us by surprise?

It was a precursor, to be sure, the new teenager in the house asking a Very Good Question last night which required a Very Good Answer. The Answer came thoughtfully, passionately and chock full of wisdom he was supposed to absorb and carry into the next generation. He sat there at the table, pausing from eating his supper to feed on this Very Good Answer. He even appeared interested, smiled at appropriate times and exuded all the love of one of those shiny-faced children in the Children’s Bible where they sit and eagerly listen at Jesus’ feet while He gives Very Good Answers.

Then, when I reached the end of the Very Good Answer, his fork still paralyzed in mid-air with what I perceived as rapt attention, he quietly asked, “Mom, why does there have to be a lecture every night?” My bursting into laughter eased his sweet sensitive disposition into laughing, too, and I told him it was because he asks such great questions. Point taken, I assured him, awareness noted and filed away.

In one meek question he managed to inform me that he had reached the age of not really wanting or needing Very Good Answers, simultaneous with still needing to ask Very Good Questions. Hmmm. These years are going to be tricky. It was all well and fine working with Teenagers Who Know It All at the hospital – they let you know in no uncertain terms when they’re finished listening, even before you open your mouth. But my own son was so gentle about it, it took me off guard.

Kind of like how hot and humid yesterday was. I had grown so accustomed to it, my favorite season, lasting for so many months here. They had warned of the winds of change approaching, and so I milked the day for all it was worth, as though it was the last day of the world…holding therapy sessions outdoors, making that extra trip up the hill on a whim at the end of my run, windows down flying across the water with music full blast. No, I wasn’t going to let my favorite season go without a fight. I clung to it and all its memories, fiercely.

Quick as an email delivering hard truth into the inbox that you knew was coming but didn’t want to read (but your eyes draw you to reread and again), the wind picked up its punch during the night, rendering me sleepless. The things which awoke me were all expected when wind blows. But when you’re in that sleepy state of denial, it comes as a mix of startled surprise and anxiety, with no wherewithal to get up and address the problem. Easier just to close my eyes and let the wind blow as it may.

With each breath of the wind, my bedroom door sighed open and shut, the latch brushing against the door jamb gently. I never did decide in my half-sleep state if it was annoying or comforting, like the rhythm of a rocking cradle. Open, closed, open, closed. It was kind of like the tide at the beach, its rhythm dictated by the wind. Then came the dog barking at imagined threats, probably in the form of tree limb shadows lunging at him. There were the unexplained rattles and creaks imposed on various appendages of house parts. I noticed I went from way too hot to burrowed under the bedding. In my quasi-dream state, I remembered commenting to the children on the way home through the cotton fields yesterday, when we spotted a visitor’s license plate from up north, “Look, the Snowbirds have arrived already!”

The wind had gotten stronger, faster, colder, and I could not deny what it was bringing. And what it was taking.

Then, with great force, the bedroom door slammed, waking me early for the day, the wind announcing it was time to drag myself out of bed and face the now-cold, dark morning. I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t like these changes. I don’t want to leave that Season behind, it was so much fun and so happy and so full of interesting things. I don’t want to bundle up. This to me is symbolic of being a prisoner, and I am now under arrest. No attorney can get me out of this pickle, having to march forth into a cool season with I-don’t-know-what’s-ahead-but-surely-it-can’t-match-what-was.

Resistant, stubborn girl.

So I will get up today and face that wind head on. I will pull out the necessary clothes and put on my October game face. I will learn to tame my lectures to my son and keep them brief but powerful. I will put my seasonal mourning away, and focus on what is in front of me. I will face this season with courage and productiveness. Besides, I heard the weather dude say we’d be back up into the 80s in a matter of days. Okay, I can deal with this.

God, help me to do just that. You know how I hate letting go of favorite things, but I know how You give us new tethers to hold and follow just in the nick of time. I can’t see it or feel it yet, but I know You will make it okay. Help me to have forward vision by hastening the mourning of my losing the vision of looking behind. Be with me, Lord, through the bluster and the cold and the grief of loss and the season of change, through the slamming of doors and the sun rising again anyway. God, bless my friends who are also feeling stuck, and bless those who are forging ahead too fast. Let us all have the necessary perspective from either position, to be able to see Your will…and to follow the tether You provide out of the cold, dark wind, back toward a season of warmth and good times.

Lord, hold me up and rock my cradle. Don’t let me fall.

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Lead Balloons

A wee collection of conversational clunkers from the week:

He swallowed what?! Two of them? Well, he won’t start glowing…just watch for them on the other end.

“I need to tell you something serious…are you ready? I’ve been diagnosed with early onset dementia.”    “Umm, I know…”  “Oh, no, did I forget that I already told you? Hahahahahaha!”

“Who dumped liquid soap in my water glass?!?”

(at company picnic of sorts, by high-ranking administrator to wife) “Look, honey…that’s the girl I told you about who runs every day in the 105 degree heat!”

“Hey, Mom, check out these stalactites in the microwave!”

“4 kids? It’s like having maxi-pad expenditures wrapped around a thong budget.”

“What did he flood now?”

Sign outside the biscuit joint in the middle of nearby cotton field: G   OD FOOD

“So…what do you think about moving to Brazil?”

I almost hate to write over the last post…the traffic has not yet stopped. Must have hit a tender spot in the blogosphere with the minimalist vs. pack rat issue!

In the meantime, join me in relishing the afternoon today, seeing the dolphins play while chasing a shrimp boat on the sparkly water, toes in the warm sand, while the bbq slowly cooked at home. It’s been a long week. I wish you all could live here with me, my friends.

Hey, God…thank you for bringing me here. May my friends reading this be blessed with rest and relaxation. May they find the same peace amidst the storms of life. Thank you for neighbors rocking in our chairs on the front porch in the light of the waxing moon, sharing their trials and victories. Thank you for blog friends virtually doing the same. Thank you for reconciliations and renewals. Thank you for a rich life, for richer dreams, and richest eternities.

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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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The utterance out of the innocent mouth of the three-year old babe back in the booster seat was clear as day, as we whizzed (no pun intended) south through the fields along the country roads toward home in the hazy, humid afternoon.

“Penis, mama, penis.”

(uncontrollable giggles from three older siblings)

“That’s not nice, baby, don’t talk like that.”

(nervous glance in rear view mirror)

“Yes, ma’am.”

(Kings of Leon, “Back Down South,” permeating the airwaves for the next mile or two, interspersed with how-was-your-day-chat)

“Penis!!!”

(more poorly subdued tittering)

“All right, y’all knock it off…y’all are encouraging him. Quit laughing. Just ignore it, okay? Teach him to count instead, or something, k?”

“Yes, ma’am,” came the respectful chorus, quieting back down.

“Wuuun, shoo, fwee, foh, fahv, say-ben, nahn, yay-yen!!!”

“Very good!!!”

“COTn,” said the child with Down syndrome.

“That’s right, baby, there’s a field of cotton! See the pretty cotton?”

Thus was the daily commuting conversation, every day for the past two months. Until today.

Today, as the town disappeared behind us on our trek home south, the little one suddenly acquired a new letter in his communicative repertoire. That letter happened to be a ‘T.’

Through the fields we went, as usual. His counting has improved a bit now.

“One, twooo, treee, fo’, fahv, see-ix, sebun, ahhight, nahhhn, tay-en. Yay!!!”

“That’s right, baby, you’re counting’! Good counting.”

(general applause and loving adoration from his older brothers)

“COTn,” said the Downs child. “Yes, cotton!” we confirmed, pointing to the robust plants, nearly ready for harvest.

Shortly down the road, the little one piped up, “Peanuts!” Look, peanuts!”

There, past the COTn, were fields of peanuTs, also robust and nearly ready for harvest.

Sho’ ’nuff, baby!

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