Saturday, December 22, 2012

Waiting for Santa: December 22, 2012

You better watch out
You better not frown
You better not push your sisters to the ground
Santa Claus is coming to town!

We don't have an Elf on the Shelf here, mainly because they're trendy and therefore overpriced.  We have mommy's way with words and sense of humor if Devon needs a reminder to be good.  If His Twoness happens to be struggling with something in particular, we make up a verse and sing it to help him remember.

We "do Santa" at our house.  Our cookie plate is ready for Christmas Eve and Devon enjoys watching the classic Rudolph movie.  We don't think it steals Baby Jesus's mojo.  He's God.  He won't be superseded.  Not a chance.

We're letting our kids delve fully into the world of imagination.  C.S. Lewis believed that fantasy stories prepared children's hearts for God because it helps them grasp the concept of there being more to life than what we can see.  Sooner or later they'll learn what is reality and what is made up, and it usually isn't a problem.  So for right now we're listening for reindeer on the roof AND pushing the step stool up to the manger scene so we can play with the pieces.

The kids met Santa at the Vero Beach Museum of Art a few weeks ago.  Melina struck a Good Little Girl pose, and Carrie pouted and tried to arch her back when placed in his arms.

We didn't think poor Santa could hold all three kids in his lap at once, a feat that only Mommy attempts on a regular basis.

Devon and Santa put their heads together, having a sweet whispered conversation that Mommy decided to keep private.  Devon said he asked Santa for "A Surprise!"

Now that's going to be a tall order.  They say there are no secrets in a house with small children, and Christmas is definitely no exception.

Three weeks ago a Little People Disney Princess Castle and a Lightning McQueen Wheelie Car Rampway arrived from Uncle Tim and Auntie Bojana.  Mommy opened it late at night when she was up with teething Melina, who forgot her sore gums and jumped out of Mommy's lap to throw her skinny arms around the box and hug it tenderly.  When Mommy finally put her down to sleep she was too tired to clean up.  The presents ended up in the pack-and-play in Mommy and Daddy's room.

The next morning's first ray of light found Devon stumbling into Mommy and Daddy's room, finding the new toys in the pack-and-play, and shrieking with delight.  He leapt over the side and held the box over his head, kissing Lightning and Mater Car and exclaiming "Oohh, it's so beautiful!"

I didn't see the point in faking him out or, worse, telling him the toys would have to go back to the store because he had spoiled the surprise.  I calmly told him that the toys were for Christmas and he would have to wait until then to have them.  He took it pretty well.  Ever since then he visits the toys once a day, kissing them and asking me when he will open the box. He's found nearly all his other presents in similar fashion.  While helping Mommy unpack the groceries he opened a bag to find Dumbo the stuffed elephant.  When Mommy told him not to chase the kitty, he chivalrously decided to "go tiptoe" and open a door so she could crawl under the bed.  The kitty was left to her own devices when he revealed a row of brand new engines waiting to be placed in his Christmas stocking.

Daddy painstakingly wrapped his presents and stocking stuffers this afternoon, placing them neatly at the bottom of his side of the closet.

These are Mommy's presents and stocking stuffers.  It's not just a personality difference, although that may be part of it.  Mommy had fifteen minutes today to wrap presents, if she did it while keeping track of two wiggly girls fresh from a nap.  Daddy had two hours to himself this afternoon while Mommy and Devon got their hair cut.

Devon is not a fan of haircuts, but he bravely endured one this afternoon for Grammy.

Or not so bravely.  Poor guy.  Not even one of the brand new engines from Mommy's stash could keep all the tears away.

Grammy and Grandpa flew in late Sunday night.  It was a strange reunion for the girls, who remembered seeing Grammy and Grandpa in North Dakota just five days prior, but the first time Devon had seen them in four months.  When they walked up to the car window he shrieked with recognition, waving his arms and rocking in his car seat.

We started celebrating right away.  We enjoyed Devon's TOTS Christmas Party.

We walked through the McKee Botanical Gardens at night.

Devon attended his last night of Awanas this fall with Grammy.  He's learned so much in just one semester.  One recent breakthrough is that he willingly stuck his hand in paint to make a handprint for a craft.  He's usually squeamish with non-food squishy things.  

Mommy and Daddy enjoyed attending a Christmas Party with only two kids to chase around.

Devon still needs reminders to be gentle with his sisters.  Carrie and Melina link hands and start running around the house.  Devon follows them making choo-choo noises.

"I'm making a train!" he shouts.

When they finish a lap and slow down, I'm pleased to see that he lets them instead of reaching out and grabbing them to make them hurry up.  Suddenly, Devon reaches into the open dishwasher, grabs a butter knife, and takes a step toward Carrie, laughing.  Horrified, I grab the knife out of his hand and we have a talk.

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not chase your sisters with knives
Santa Claus is coming to town!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ants in the Coffeemaker: December 18, 2012

I'm posting again.

I can explain my seven-week hiatus.  It wasn't just the obvious (three kids under three, need I say more?).

Things came up.  Lots of things. 

See those specks in the glowing display of our six-month-old coffeemaker?  Those are ants.  The tiny, nasty, Florida Sweet Ants that have been swarming my kitchen and making me scream this past year.

It started when they colonized the Jesse Tree.  When Thanksgiving came around and it was time to start our Advent devotional of the year, we brought our three foot tall, live Norfolk pine out of the spare room where it enjoys a sunny window most of the year.  This year we're covering major Bible stories from creation to the manger, one every night with a corresponding visual.  Our plan was to use it to put our devotional ornaments on the live tree.  When hundreds of ants swarmed out of the tree and onto my counters, we discovered that Sweet Ants are aggressive colony builders and figured our potted plant was a promising place.

Craig fogged the tree to kill the ants, but before they died a few escaped and colonized the two festive poinsettias I had brought home from Target.  I discovered those nests a few days later when Craig was at work, so I fogged them myself and enjoyed hundreds of dead ants falling out of our poinsettia plants and landing on the counter like a festive winter snow.  At that point, we thought they were eradicated, but they moved on to the next warm, dark place in our kitchen.

One night Craig decided to clean our coffeemaker to get rid of some white deposits that he thought were hard water stains.  They were the mashed remains of ant larvae that were getting scalded by the brewing cycle.

Why, yes, he DID throw it in the garbage right after taking this picture.

And, for once, I'm speechless.

Craig was sure to capture proof that ants really had turned the inner workings of one of our kitchen appliances into a nursery.  I received this texted picture in North Dakota, where the girls and I traveled to attend my Grandpa's funeral last week.  It was my first time flying with the girls.  We were putting off their first flight until they were a bit older and easier to travel with, but the trip ended up going well.

The girls adjusted to snowsuits and ten-degree weather, enjoying a five-minute first romp in the snow.

Craig and Devon enjoyed a staycation while we were gone, going to the beach and spending lots of time with trains.

It was a rough transition home.  Carrie picked up a tummy bug on the way home and shared it with the rest of us as soon as we were together again.

There are some advantages to procrastinating on our Christmas decorations because everyone is sick.  Our Christmas tree cost five dollars this year!

Happily, we are all well now, the tree is up, and Grammy and Grandpa are here to help the kids burn off some energy.  I was able to download my pictures, take a deep breath, and realize that I really missed posting.

Part of my problem lately is that I had been trying to do too much.  I really wanted the kids' Christmas stockings to be done by Christmas this year.  In early December I thought I was going to finish them on time.

The handmade part of Melina's stocking is done.

Devon's is coming along, especially the Christmas train pattern that I adapted from a similar pattern with a different medium, changing the colors so it will look a little like a Christmas Thomas train, his favorite right now.

This is Carrie's.  Yep, I know.

Today in Bible study we talked about how easy it is to take on unrealistic projects and make unwise choices about things that are really worth spending time on.  Right now, for me that would be handmade Christmas stockings that need to be finished in seven more days.

Not going to happen.

I was also wondering if my blog would end up on the large pile of things in my life that are "good things, but not for right now".  The girls are sixteen months old, exactly how old Devon was when they were born.  Everybody wants to play "I'm going to get you!".  All three kids can look me in the eye and say "No!", even if two of them do it more because they like to practice their new words.

I'm struggling to balance it all, and get some exercise and more than four hours sleep a night.  Speaking of which, I really should be in bed right now, so I'll end this.  Before I go, I'll say that I've decided that my blog stays on the list because it's important to me. 

I want to remember details about this time with my kids, and it's all going to dissolve into sleep-deprived oblivion if I don't write a few things down. 

Thankfully, Santa knew how hard it is to stay awake around here...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Family Remembrances for Orville Meth, December 7, 2012

Many of you know that my grandpa, Orville Meth, passed away on Monday night.  The girls and I travelled to Minot, North Dakota to attend the funeral, leaving Devon home with Daddy for a staycation.  We have been braving the -7 degree weather and learning the importance of wearing our hats and shoes, calling in every evening to hear about their days at the beach, the park, and the pool. 

A few family members have asked for a copy of the Personal Remembrances given at Grandpa's funeral on Saturday.  I thought posting it here would be the easiest way to let it get around to people.  Please feel free to print, share, and give away. 
Good morning.  I am Debby’s daughter Krista.  I am honored have this opportunity to talk about my Grandpa.  I have tried to listen in the past few days and record the kind words of others and add them to my own reflections.  I hope I got the details right, or at least am able to accurately represent who he was and what he meant to us. 

Grandpa had an infectious laugh.  It started with a gasp of surprised pleasure and ended with him tossing his head back.  “Ha..Haaa….HAAA!”.  I can’t imitate it, although I am startled to hear another version of it coming out of my uncle Dan, my brother Tim, and occasionally even my mom.  I would characterize him as a happy person, even though he had his moments of gloom like we all do.  His secret to happiness is found in Nehemiah 8:10: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  He knew the Lord, and his relationship with God gave him strength to overcome the hard things in his life: illness, death, separation, and hard work.

In recent years, Grandpa enjoyed the help and comfort of friends and family.  All of you who gave time and love so selflessly meant the world to him, and also to those of us who had to be far away.   First and foremost, his daughter Esther Redington and family cared unceasingly for Grandpa and Grandma these past 12 years after they moved to Minot.  It was a joy to them and a wonderful testimony to us how they lived out  2 Thess 3:13: “Do not grow weary of doing good.” It means so much that Grandpa enjoyed these things in these past few years: three big helpings of dinner this past thanksgiving, watching the birds outside his windows, looking at cards and pictures, using Skype to wave at his great-grandchildren, and going for short walks outside. Thank you.  Thank you so much. 

“Ah,” Grandpa said recently to a fellow pastor who visited him often, “you still make house calls!”   So many of you did just that.  You made house calls, whether you listened to him talk about his aches and pains, bought him a piece of pie, gave him a ride somewhere, read him a piece of mail, prayed with him, or drove him out to the country so he could spend an hour sitting with Grandma.  Thank you

Grandpa spent sixteen years as chaplain of The Baptist Home in Bismarck, ND.  There he visited the sick, prayed with the hurting, and held the hands of the confused.   These were all things he did to perfection.  In his early career he travelled many miles in rural farming communities, brightening people’s days and praying for them in the even, reverent voice he used to talk to God.  Out of all the memories about Grandpa that people have shared in the past few days, prayers come up most often.  He prayed at dinner, in front of his church, and at family gatherings before we went our separate ways.  I would like everyone here to raise your hand if you know Orville prayed for you.  Now please raise your hand if you remember him praying with you. 

After Grandpa retired, he didn’t stop working.  While I was growing up in California, he kept a set of work clothes at our house, a pair of blue jeans, an old yellow shirt, and a pair of brown leather boots.  When Grandpa and Grandma would come out to visit he’d put on his work clothes and see what needed to be done around the house and yard.  One time I remember him showing me how to remove the fabric softener dispenser in mom’s washing machine and clean the gunk off it with a toothbrush.  No job was too small or too humble.

He also kept busy with his rocks.  He was a member of the North Dakota Gem and Mineral Society.  He spent many hours cutting and polishing stones and making things with them, finding beauty in unexpected places.  If you look around as we are milling about you will see things he made.  The men in the family are wearing tie tacks and bolo ties, and the women are wearing necklaces. 

Most of all, Grandpa loved spending time with his family.  I could tell by the tender and respectful way he took care of his own parents, Gust and Elsie Meth, who both enjoyed long lives.  On a visit when I was in junior high, I watched my great-grandma lecture him about being an hour and a half late to pick her up for dinner.  This was inexcusable.  She let him know it.  He stood still and faced her, hanging his head slightly to meet her shorter gaze, his ears burning a little red with embarrassment.   Truth was, he wasn’t late at all.  She was confused.  He didn’t see the point in correcting her.  He just listened, his silence becoming the gentle answer that turns away wrath. 

               One word describes my Grandpa and Grandma with their grandchildren: tickled.  In their laundry room hung a red, heart-shaped pillow mounted on a stick.  “Grandma’s Paddle” it read.  I didn’t get the joke as a child.  Why would Grandma spank you with a pillow if you were bad?  “That’s okay,” said Grandpa, “I’ll show you Grandpa’s Paddle!” he said, playfully brandishing a ping pong paddle and chasing me around the room, giving me love pats on the behind as I shrieked with laughter.  He had a special smile that he reserved for all of us, while napping with Dorothy on his chest, showing Tim his rock collection, picking up the tab on a family lunch at Red Lobster, or finding the American flag that two-year-old me was pointing to way off in the distance.

These past few nights I have sung a bedtime song to my girls that I remember him singing to me as I fell asleep:

Go to sleepy little baby

Go to sleepy little baby

Go to sleepy little baby

That’s what the Sandman says.

The last time we saw Grandpa in person, I had the privilege of placing my then ten-week-old son into his arms.  He held Devon and they looked at each other while we took pictures, the flash from the camera glinting off their two bald heads.  I always knew we were loved, but I don’t think I grasped how fervently our lives were prayed over and how much we were cherished until I became a parent. 

               As you know, my Grandma preceded Grandpa in death just seven weeks ago.  It wasn’t the end of a 63-year love story, but more like the page at the end of the book where it says “and they lived happily ever after”.  Grandpa and Grandma complemented each other perfectly, her gifts of writing and hospitality helping him minister more effectively to others.  Most importantly, they enjoyed each other’s company.  I remember them sitting at the table after lunch, their heads bent toward each other, each eating a cracker smeared with margarine as they listened to Paul Harvey.  I remember him pinning a corsage on her blouse on what must have been an anniversary.  I can instantly call to mind the sound of Grandma’s alto voice harmonizing with Grandpa’s as they sang hymns.

I also remember Grandpa sitting next to Grandma when she was suffering from Alzheimer’s and couldn’t respond to him, taking her arm tenderly and whispering: “Wie Gietz, Mama, Wie Gietz.”  (How goes it, Mama, How goes it.)  He was by her side as often as he could be, ending each visit with the words “’till we meet again.”  It goes without saying that he always kept that promise, but this last reunion definitely outdid the other ones.  I don’t know what language we will speak in heaven, but I know if Grandma gets another Wie Gietz from her sweetheart she can answer in German “Wunderbar”, that is, (wonderful).

When family gathered together recently to celebrate Grandma’s life, Grandpa enjoyed sitting in the common room surrounded by his loved ones singing hymns together.  Daughter Debby accompanied them on the piano.   Then the phone rang.  2 ½ year old Devon and I joined the sing-a-long, our heads touching as he sat in my lap and insisted on holding the phone.  Devon asked to sing his favorite song: “Sing Jesuslovesmethisiknowforthebibletellsmeso.”  Grandpa was so happy that day, and so free of the confusion that occasionally marked these final weeks. 

As we prepared to hang up Grandpa wistfully remarked “I want to come to Florida and see you.  I want you to come see us.  I wish we all could live close and be together all the time.” 

If you ask me, that’s what heaven is.