Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween and Horses

Our train jack-o-lantern. Littles was thrilled.
At 7.33, I closed down shop.

If you didn't make it to our house before then, tough luck. At that point, Tiny was crawling after me to the door for every trick-or-treater, sobbing desperately. It could be because he wanted to nurse and go to bed OR because in my distraction, I'd allowed him to chew on a bite sized Butterfinger that he'd managed to rip open with his extremely pointy teeth. Guess we can now rule out a peanut allergy. I kept Littles from being terrorized by the creepy children coming to our door by allowing him to watch all the way through The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, which will probably terrorize him in a whole different way (cheese curls?!?!). I think he thought the kids at the door were bringing us candy as I kept coming back to the couch with the bowl full again (topping off in between, you know). Anyway, another Halloween come and gone. Hurray...? Worst. Holiday. Ever.

But if you want to see some cute kids in costumes, I did semi-dress up the boys for the fall festival on Sunday.
Lumberjack Tiny. His beard was a bit sparse,
but his pimple could've had its own zip code.
Prepster by day.
Superhero by night.

There is one last thing I want to say, in regards to the below picture. Really, there's enough for its own post, but I'm not going there, at least right now. Do you see my beautiful little son? All he wanted to do at the fall festival was sit and watch the horses. Bouncy house? No. Take a picture with the person dressed up as a dog? No. Go around and see the trunks at Trunk or Treat? No. Ride the horses? No. Touch the horses? No. Just sit and watch them. I did get him to throw some "mean"bags, but only if I held his hand. 

Initially, I felt a little frustrated for him. Frustrated is probably the wrong word. I just know how much fun he could have if he would let himself. Bouncy houses used to be his favourite thing in the world; now he just wants Mommy. But I am learning to be grateful for the son I have right now. Not just the son I used to have and not the son I may want to have, but the son I have right now. This goes for Tired Tiny (who sleeps in two hour blocks) as well. And for my husband who is frequently the undeserved brunt of my "fixing" spirit (that's a nice way to say "critical"). Every time I look at this picture of Littles, at his perfect smile and his happy eyes, I'm going to try to remember that. Because if I can just chose to enjoy who and what I have in that moment, if I can just say thank you, if I can just sit down on the grass and watch the stinking horses for a change, I might find myself with a memory that transforms everything.

And may I say, he didn't get the horse thing from me.
They kind of creep me out.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fire and Trains

If there's one thing people know about Littles it's that he loves trains. Specifically Thomas, but any train will do in a pinch. If he could, he would wear Thomas shirts every day and Thomas pajamas every night, and on the rare occasion that Tiny has worn clothing with trains, said clothing was in danger of being ripped off of him. He has three different toys trains that he prefers not to ever share, and if he could, he would spend all day looking at Aunt A's train pictures online. Consequently, the highlight of his visit with Neni and Aki was the trains, because while we may have planes galore on base, the town they live in has a regular train route just three blocks from where my parents are staying. Every morning at breakfast he would hear the train and every night at dinner and several times in between, and it never failed to illicit thrills of joy. Aki was roped into drawing train after train after train, and even loving Aunt J sent over a train set for Littles to play with while we were there.

So taking him to the train station to see a real live train was a no brainer. Best. Day. Ever. Right? Little's excitement was unparalleled. The train came rumbling into the station, rattling and roaring as it slowed to a stop and then it sounded its horn, long and loud. And there was Littles with his hands over his ears, crying.

I thought to myself, in retrospect, isn't that just how we are about God? We love the idea of Him. We love to think that we know everything there is to know about Him. We read books about Him; we talk about Him; we diagram and debate and decipher Him. We think that we are on the inside track (no pun intended, but you're welcome to laugh if you like puns) when it comes to God. But then He comes rumbling into our lives, rattling and roaring and making perhaps a brief stop, and He doesn't have to stay long or be loud because we find ourselves shaken to the core. That is the only response to His presence.

Our God is a consuming fire.

Think of Moses in Exodus 33. All he saw was God's back, and his face shone so brightly that the people of Israel couldn't look at it. Or Isaiah in Isaiah 6 whose response to seeing the Lord was to say, "Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips!" Yes, there are times when He speaks to us in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19), but how often do I come into His presence expecting gentleness, a pat on the back, a cup of tea and some tissues when there is just as good a chance that He will respond with fire?

As Lewis so poignantly says at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, "He's not a tame lion." He's not a toy train. And it is presumptuous of me to not expect to be just a little terrified in His presence.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Discovering Home

Home again, home again, jiggety jig. And getting back into the swing of things. The Man helped me clean the house when I got back, and we have groceries in the fridge, and our three (count them, three) autumn decorations are up. It's a new day. Incidentally, when I went in the boy's bedroom this morning to get them out of Tiny's crib (Littles likes to join him for some pre-dawn playtime), I discovered every single stuffed animal and blanket from both their beds thrown into the middle of the floor. Littles gestured to them proudly and said, "Look at our decorations, Mommy!" I like the way this kid thinks.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get life straightened up and organized again and have that mean regular writing through the month of November (along with other things). We'll see how that goes. Regardless, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be faithful in the little things and I think one of my challenges with that is my entertainment addiction--I'm trying to be honest here. I love to be entertained. And sometimes when the boys are finally asleep (finally...wait, did I mention finally?) I like to just sit on the couch and shut off. It's hard for me to remember that allowing myself to be entertained is not the same as allowing myself to rest. Sometimes doing "nothing" is more exhausting than doing something purposefully and well, whether that be writing or finishing up a project or even just that last load of laundry for the day. I say all this and I just finished off Season 4 of Parks and Recreation with the Man and loved every minute of it. Especially the minutes that were accompanied by ice cream and cookies.

I'm including a couple pictures from our trip just for your viewing pleasure and for my own enjoyment. Even though there are no fall trees here in Altus and our house is consistently covered in pet hair and cobwebs, I am so glad to be home. I like putting my boys to sleep in their own beds. I like cooking in my own kitchen (even though some of the dishes had been lovingly reorganized by the Man while I was gone). I'm even enjoying rubbing the pets between their very furry ears. And it should go without saying that I'm happy to be back with the Man because, well, he makes my life happy and does things like carving a train jack-o-lantern and hanging a picture for me without being asked and reading the boys books in very silly voices. That's home for me, more than the leaky windows or the falling off closet doors. And I want to make that the truth I live out because I realize that in some way I am home for them too. I want to make sure that means something worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seasonal Waiting

The expiration dates on the cartons of milk in my parents' fridge read November.

The leaves in the trees outside their house have turned gorgeous shades of crimson and gold and ochre and are falling now, spinning through the air until they land crisply on the cold ground.

My suitcase stares at me from beneath the window, and my son asks me nightly when we are going home.

I have the flu. And so we wait. But it's more than that. This is a season of waiting for me. It's not a passive waiting--I am learning to be faithful in the small things; I am learning to pray--but it is a waiting none-the-less. The Lord has asked me to close my mouth and open my hands and...wait.

It is frustrating for me. I am good at being lazy but I discover that I am not good at waiting. This round of the flu has confirmed that in me. Littles tucked me back in bed this morning with Rolly and Blue Blanket, telling me "good night" and "get better", and I laid in bed and tried to sleep (I really did) but I was mentally twiddling my thumbs and thinking about packing the car or doing a load of laundry or, try not to laugh, mopping my own kitchen floor. Finally, I turned on the lamp, propped myself up in bed, and tried to pray, and I heard again: wait.

I have lists of things that I want to do (some that I've convinced myself I need to do): dreams I want to accomplish, art I want to create, projects I want to set in motion. It's hard for me to remember that these things aren't going anywhere and that, even if they are good things, doing them at the wrong time means I'm doing them for the wrong reasons and doing them for the wrong reasons makes them worthless.

This is where I am right now. This is where I am because when things start happening I want them to be because He is making them happen not because I am. It's time for me to stop striving to fix and to straighten and to perfect. There might be a time for that later, but right now: It's time for me to wait.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! 
Psalm 27:14

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I stole my mother's camera...

...and these are some of my favourites.

The fact that his hand is a blur is not an accident. Child is into everything.

I found out that my hatred of chalk was come by honestly: this was a sacrifice of love on my dad's part. It just feels so scummy on your fingers. I desensitized myself while I was taking art classes in college, but the desensitization unfortunately wore off before I got a sidewalk chalk obsessed toddler. 

Littles loves locomotives.

My two little guys adore their Aki, and I adore those autumn leaves. If you're wondering where I am while the rest of the family is sidewalk chalking, I'm probably curled up on the couch with a book and a cup of something warm. Autumn makes my life so happy.

Tiny is almost the same size as my mom. Obviously he got his genes from me, not Neni. And I love how Littles is hugging her from the back. She's like a miniature grandmother.

I have a bit of a blog about trains and the fear of the Lord waiting in the wings (try to contain your excitement), so check back in the next few days. I also have a little blog about memory and the sense of smell that's writing itself in my mind late at night when I can't sleep. So don't let me forget or flake out! And in the meantime, revel in the sight of my adorable children and those gorgeous leaves.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our Heart Went Home

We have been family vacationing, but yesterday we sent the Man home so he could get back to work (and clean the house before I get home--this was my ulterior motive). In the last 24 hours though, Littles has been a little weepy, missing his dad and expressing, for the first time since we left two weeks ago, that he wants to go home. We will be, I promise, in just a few more days, but I thought it was interesting that the Man leaving was such a trigger for him, and it made me realize that we must be doing something right if he recognizes that home may not be a place or a specific set of things but wherever we are together. Since the Man is no longer with us, Littles realizes that we are not at home.

With that said, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the Man. This week I've been challenged by Proverbs 31 to make my husband "known in the gates". I don't want to sound cheesy or cliche, but I am so grateful to be married to the kind of man who is missed when he's not with us. He makes life more fun; he makes our children feel secure; he is someone I respect and whose respect is worth having. Sometimes I hesitate to brag on him in a public forum because I don't want to be that wife, but the truth is that part of being a good wife in the Biblical sense is bringing blessing to our husbands. I want to build his reputation so that others can look at him and see Jesus working through him.

I also saw Little Man's response as a fantastic parallel to how we should be with our heavenly Father. It isn't that He hasn't given us a beautiful world to live in with wonderful friends and family who we can enjoy and love, but that being without Him means that we are not at Home. Or, as Littles would say, we're not at Home yet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You Want To Gift This

This year for the Little Man's birthmas present (Christmas or birthday, I'm not sure which) his godmother gave him The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago. Somehow I have neglected to blog about this, and personally, I am extremely disappointed in myself. I'd fire myself as book blogger except then I couldn't publicly berate myself for my own inadequacies, and what fun would that be?

Anyway, this book: fabulous. I'm normally a little wary of children's storybook Bibles because I've found them to have bland illustrations and watered down theology. This was not the case with the Storybook Bible. If you have a kid and want him (or her) to understand how the entire Bible points to Jesus, get this book. The illustrations are gorgeous--for once Jesus doesn't look like a wimpy white guy--and the writing is beautiful. While there are a few longer words that are not traditionally in a young child's vocabulary, it's not written in "church" language, and my two year old was more than willing to listen to two or three "chapters" of it at a time. We read all the way through it together at the beginning of this year and are now going back through and repeating his favourites (Noah, of course, and David and Goliath, but also the Prodigal Son, because Little Man likes the piggies). The best thing for me, though, is that on the days when I haven't gotten the jump on the boys and managed to squeeze in a quiet time before they wake up, I've found my own faith encouraged by reading The Jesus Storybook Bible with Littles.

This is my reading suggestion for the month of October. If you don't have it and have kids, get it. If you don't have kids but know someone who does, get it for them. I've already passed on two copies and suggested it to a few more people. Christmas is coming up; why not give something that is beautiful, useful, and encouraging instead of just another toy for the toybox?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Feasting, not Famine

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
-Melody Beattie

These last few days I have been feasting.

You see, we've been with family since the beginning of October (how is it now the middle?), which not only explains my recent lack of writing but also explains the feasting. In my book, family is synonymous with good food. We've had Mama Jewell's pot roast that tastes like home, my childhood favourite beef and green peppers, early morning pancakes, whole pots of stove top coffee, four-layer chocolate pudding loveliness, perfectly popped kettle corn and lemonade, rich spoonfuls of tortilla soup... And family aside, it's been nice to get a few things that are harder to access in our neck of the woods, like fat Vietnamese summer rolls with luscious peanut sauce or pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks or vegetable laden lo mein and sweet honey chicken. My stomach is in its happy place.

But the feasting didn't just stop there. I've been feasting my eyes on the autumn trees, watching as leaf by leaf they bring in the season. I forgot how many trees there are here; sometimes it's hard to tell where one starts and another one ends. I've loved watching the deer in my parents' back yard with their slender legs ready to jump at any moment. I've relished the sight of young faces in the fire lit dark as the Man's siblings wrapped fingers around mugs of homemade cocoa and played flashlight cops and robbers. Mostly I've enjoyed the smiles on my little men's faces as they've loved and been loved on.

These are sights and sounds and tastes, but mostly they are memories. My heart is being fed. So while long hours in the car and a teething baby in a pack and play may not always be restful, I am feasting my heart on the wonderful gifts that have been given us.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nerds of Happiness

The Man says that writing makes me happy, so you would think that I would write more. But on the weeks when Tiny has been up at all hours of the night until I bang my head on the wall and want to cry, I convince myself that what would really make me happy would be to sit on the couch and eat mini marshmallows straight from the bag while watching something inane. It's not my best plan. Because even if I'm exhausted and can't put together complete sentences, the very least I can do is get on this blog and type in words until that little bubble of happiness rises in me and breaks, bathing me in joy. So for tonight, since I should be going to bed, I will just leave you with a few happy words:

foam (sea or coffee)
and (a perennial favourite) whimsical

Words that will NOT be used in my current state of bliss:

or whining

And now I need a couple more happy ones to revive my soul:

and exuberant!

And may your vocabulary live long and prosper too!