Sunday, September 28, 2014

Yuck!: September 20, 2014

We're coming off an endless season I call "laying low", despite being an English major and knowing how to use better grammar.  I'm pretty sure we brought it on ourselves by buying a carpet steamer.

Three weeks ago our vacuum cleaner broke.  I was about to chuck it all and pick out a new one, and Craig floored and amazed me by taking it apart, ordering the necessary belts off amazon, and getting it back in new working order for a grand total of $6.  Flush with the heady thrill of saving money, I i began to do what I do best: spend it mentally.  With white carpet, kids, and pets, I thought it time to acquire the ability to wet clean our own carpet messes.  Craig agreed.  After all, he reasoned, just one bad tummy bug could ruin a whole houseful of clean, white carpets, and we'd had a luckily well year.  It was only a matter of time.  We shuddered inwardly as first one of us, then the other uttered the dreaded V-WORD, taking time to contemplate the collateral damage to the house that would be done if three kids who don't excel at taking aim got sick.

Three days later the steamer was sitting in a box in our garage.  Ten days after that, Carrie got sick in the car on the way to Bible Study.  The result was even more bodily fluids, as Mommy's tears leaked out profusely as she dropped Devon off at preschool, drove away from the parking lot while watching all our friends file into church, and headed home for a long day of nursing sick children while cleaning a car that had to be functional again by 3pm. 
Carrie was on the mend by Thursday night, which was just in time for Melina to get spectacularly ill in her room at bedtime.  And midnight.  And 4am.

Holding a child while they are violently ill is such a spectacularly useless feeling!  I never know what to do.  Lacking a better plan, I stay still, rub their backs, and shout encouragement over the ugly sounds.

"Good job!  Good job!  Keep it up!  You're going to feel so much better in just a minute!" I exult in a concerningly cheerful voice.  It seems like the right thing to do at the time.  This time, though, I couldn't help but shed a few more tears because MOPS kickoff was set for the morning and I couldn't go.  Luckily, this time Craig telecommuted to give me a much-needed morning off after a very intense night.
Saturday and Sunday saw the whole cycle repeated again.  Carrie and Melina were each sick once.  We nursed them, cleaned the messes, and rejoiced when everyone seemed to be on the mend.

Monday I opened the box and broke out the carpet steamer.  Then I opened the pantry to make a list of the week's groceries, only to find that we didn't need to buy any.  Between Carrie and Melina eating very little, Devon eating very plainly because I was expecting him to get sick any minute, and Mommy and Daddy being put off food in general because of the sights and smells of our house, nobody ate last week's groceries.

So we had sparkly clean white carpets and food to cook without a shopping trip last week.  Bliss!!
It wasn't the only icky thing to happen last week.  "Look what I found!" crowed Melina, coming up to me during outside time.  I looked down, distractedly, to find her hot little fingers curled tightly around a dead bird.

I'm not sure what the protocol for this is, either.  Unless it's screaming AAAAAHHHHHHH! PUT IT DOWN PUT IT DOWN PUT IT DOWN ICKY ICKY ICKY ICKY ICKY!!!!  and then scooping it onto a piece of junk mail for a hasty burial in the trash can and a hand sanitizer bath for everyone involved in the incident.

To cap off a summary of icky subjects (sorry, but you were warned), I'll post something that Craig wrote for me to document an afternoon he spent with the girls while they were sick and Devon and I were away.....

It was 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon.  Carrie and Melina, 3 year old girls, were sitting at the kitchen table eating Ritz crackers with apple juice.  They wore matching pink tank tops that said “little lady” and featured a smiling lady bug.  Carrier wore blue jeans, but Melina wore a jeans skirt because she had dirtied up her pants that morning crawling on the blacktop, lunging forward on her knees, in the driveway pretending to be a kitty, so I had changed them after we got inside.
                Earlier the door to the mudroom had been left open while the kids were loaded into the van.  As it turned out, we had a flat tire, right rear, and Krista drove to Firestone with Devon and I watched the girls.  We played outside kicking the soccer ball.  I showed them the yucky toadstools not to touch in the shade of the pine trees.  We went to the black cherry tree, and they had protein bar snack outside.              
               I had finished a lunch of shepherd pie and had a cup of coffee ice cream (Turkey Hill).  In the morning I had noticed several flies around the house, so the fly swatter was ready perched on top of the hutch in the dining room. 
               I saw the fly land on the chair beside Melina.  I went for the swatter and came back and held it high, looking at the empty spot where the fly had been, hoping it was still there.  Melina looked up at me holding the fly swatter high, ready to swing.
               “You can’t swat us because we’re not a fly,” Melina said.  I lowered the fly swatter.
               The fly buzzed around the room.
               “There he is,” said Carrie, pointing.
               “Swat him,” said Melina.
               “Do you see the fly?” I asked, still not seeing it.
               “I don’t see him.  He might be somewhere.  Daddy can you give me some crackers and then I will go find the fly?” said Carrie.
               “The fly is way up there,” said Melina, pointing up toward the stairwell going up to the second floor. 
               “The fly is high up in the sky,” said Carrie.  “I saw the fly on the table.  It flew by.  It flew by again.
               I scanned the room, searching for the fly and raised the swatter ready again.
               “I saw it right there on the couch,” Carrie said, pointing behind her.
               I walked over to the couch and looked but did not see it.
               “Now it’s gone,” said Carrie.
               Then she suddenly said, “I see it,” and she was looking at the table in front of her.  I saw the fly resting on the table between Carrie and Melina. 
               “I see it,” I said and approached quickly and stealthily raised the pink fly swatter that had a little chunk missing from a previous swat.  “Watch out,” I said. 
               I swung the swatter hard. You have to want to kill the fly, I’ve always thought, so I swing as hard as I can.  No wimpy swings.  The swatter went smack and left the fly motionless on its back on the table.  “I got it!” I said.
               “Did you smash it?” Carrie asked.
               “You did smash it,” Melina said.  “I’ll look for another shoo fly and you can smash it.”
               I had been carrying around the cup of ice cream in my hand to protect it from a landing fly.  I relaxed and put down the swatter and had a few bites, leaving the dead fly to rest, feeling satisfied. 
               “Daddy, there’s another fly.  Swat it!” said Melina. 
               I looked around the room but saw nothing.
               “Excuse me, I saw another fly,” said Melina, looking up at me.
Melina got up from her seat and came over to look at the dead one.  She stared up close at the motionless fly, her head a foot away.

Carrie looked at the dead fly from across the table and pointed.  There’s a fly.
“No, that’s the dead one,” I said.
“Can we touch it?” said Melina, still staring at the dead fly.
“Can we touch it, daddy?” said Carrie.
“No, it’s dead,” I said.
“I like it dead,” said Carrie.
Melina went back to sit down.
I heard a buzz and looked and saw another fly.  “There’s another one,” I said.  I watched as the fly landed on the top back of the Windsor chair.  I raised the pink swatter.  I aimed and swung with all my strength at the top of the chair.  The swatter head went smack.  The head of the swatter flew up over the table and over Melina’s head where she sat and landed behind her on the floor.  The fly rebounded and fell to the floor where it lay motionless.  I held the wire handle in my hand.  Only a small chunk of pink plastic remained attached. 
“It’s broken,” said Melina.  “Maybe we can get another one for you.”
My cell phone rang, and I picked it up.
“Just wanted to give you an update,” Krista said.  She told me about fixing the flat tire.
“Where are you going next?” I asked.
“Wal-Mart.  Need anything?”
“As a matter of fact, I do.  I just shattered my last fly swatter.”
“You didn’t!” she said.  “Now,” she said laughing, “if you break things we will have no money for Chik-fil-A.”  That’s what we tell the kids when they break things.
“Can you buy another one?  Something sturdy?”
“I wonder if they sell disposable ones,” she said and hung up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sunscreen on the Cat: September 16, 2014

 Temperatures dipped below 70 for the first time in toddler memory, and the Florida babies are freezing!  Sunday was too cold to do anything but sit in the doll cradle with a blanket and play Leap Pad.
 This was our Saturday.

Mommy: Melina Mae, you do not put sunscreen on Ally Kitty!
Melina: Yes, I do.
Mommy: Yes, but you should not.  It makes her sad.
Melina: But she wanted to go outside.  She needs her sunscreen!

 Mommy bathed poor Ally while Devon sat on the edge of the tub playing Bible App to distract her.
 Buddy Boy and Mommy needed a little retail therapy when the whole ordeal was over.
 All our tomatoes end up picked green and floating in the kiddie pool, but we're hoping for a good crop of apples from the tree in the back yard.
 We're in the process of giving up naps.
 This makes things touchy in the early afternoons, but sometimes things are fine.
 The girlies have been enjoying "special Mommy outings".  A trip to the store usually means a trip to Chick-fil-A too. 
 Sometimes Mommy gets to take a "special Mommy outing" all by herself.  After the long summer, I've been trying to clear my backlog of little jobs to get done.  This can be frustrating, as things always seem to take much longer than I expect.  Case in point: a trip to the auto parts store to get screws to attach our front Maryland plates took an hour, an extra mounting bracket, and three different screwdrivers wielded slowly but competently by a patient employee who took pity on me. 
 With winter coming, it was absolutely time to put some warm window coverings on our huge guest room windows.  When guests leave and I remake the bed, I always reflect happily and then spend time praying for the next guests who will sleep there.  This time it's Nikki and Carl Hodsdon, missionaries and longtime friends who will visit next month. 
 My final DIY for last week was some new molding for around the fireplace.  Funny, I vividly remember noticing the missing molding and jagged sheetrock when we looked at the house, and feeling a sense of tender protectiveness for the sadness of the neglected details. 
 I'd occasionally take a stab at materials these past few months, buying something and then returning it later when it was found to be unsuitable.  I finally just went to home depot and bought every reasonable option, held it up at home, and took all the rejects back to the store.  The project gave me a very satisfying feeling of having some free time again.
Let's face it, it's hard to notice the little details of life when spending fifteen hours a day caring for small children.  Preschool has been a very welcome addition.  I like being a mom and want to do it for most of the day, but I want to do other things too!  Remember people's birthdays.  Talk on the phone.  Read a book.  Sit and enjoy silence.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

First Week of Preschool!: September 2, 2014

Guess what!
Devon started preschool this week!  Oh yes!  This is not the face of a little boy that shies from change.  This is the face of a little boy that is over the moon to take a special outing with Mommy to Target to pick out a school backpack.
We talk about the important stuff over his favorite one-on-one lunch, Panera.  I eat my soup and salad and he eats his bagel and special cookie, along with about three pats of straight butter that he's supposed to be spreading on his lunch.

Devon: Mommy, why are the Philistines so bad?
Mommy: Well, they didn't listen to God and do what he says.
Devon: And God was angry with them!
Mommy: Yes, Devon.
Devon: And I am angry with them, too!
Mommy: Yes, Devon, but that's not the most important thing.  The most important thing is that the Philistines didn't have Jesus.  God sent Jesus to us because we knew that we get angry and we would need someone special to work in our hearts and help us not to be angry.  God knows that we get angry with people who do bad things, like the Philistines, but he wants us to have love in our hearts instead of anger.  
Devon: Is Spiderman a good guy or a bad guy?
Devon: Well....
Target is easy.  Cars movie with a matching lunchbox.  Hands down the happiest face in the back-to-school aisle, and we picked a day when everybody and their Mommy came to get their school supplies.
This was Devon's last back to school picture!  I always like to say he attended the 2009-2010 school year with me at LCA in Lexington.  Whether he was visibly sticking his foot out the front of my stomach during reading group or making my students worry that I'd go into labor and they'd have to draw straws to deliver him, he was such a presence that marked my last year of classroom teaching.  And he seemed to love school.

Want to know something weeeeeeirrrd?  Devon's attending Landenberg Christian Academy this year.  We officially are getting the full tri-state area experience, as we live in Maryland, Craig works in Delaware, and our church and Devon's school are in Pennsylvania.  It's initials feature prominently in their web address, just like Lexington Christian Academy's did.  I fully remember accidentally stumbling onto their website a few times years ago when I was trying to get online to look up school stuff.  

We are so excited about his school.  I'm blessed that it's only fourteen minutes away and can take him every day.  It's a small, small school and I've never seen a group that is more intentional about making kids feel safe, loved, and happy.  Most of all, I'm so grateful that we can send Devon somewhere that supports and reinforces the Christian values we are trying to teach him at home and can preach the gospel to my child even when we are not around.

Praying friends and family, here are my hopes for Devon's learning this year:
1.  Personal growth.  Call his personality what you want: choleric, strong-willed, spirited, type-A, leader oriented, classic oldest child.  Devon delights in being in charge, calling the shots, and getting the job done.  It's a great way to be: the temperament of statesmen.  Great ones.  Mighty men who do things that need to be done, often ending up rich, famous, and very successful as well.

It's also a tough way to be when you're four.  You delight in control and yet you have very little.  You see no good reason to do things the way other people are constantly telling you to do them.  In fact, you tell them over and over the way they should be done and nobody listens!  It's very frustrating to have the desire to lead and yet not be ready.  A politician waiting to be handed a country, so to speak.  This can also mean that you struggle with respecting and protecting the feelings of others when being kind would conflict with your agenda. 

Please pray for my son's heart, that he would grow in obedience and kindness.  Not because we want him to be well behaved, but rather that we want love and not evil to take root firmly in his life and become a source of joy to him.  We want him to learn the delight of keeping God's rules because they make our lives better and help us learn the way the world works.  We want him to cherish and understand the lives of others more than his own plans.  Also pray that when he messes up he will understand that we all mess up and are incapable of keeping the law of God on our own.  May that realization introduce him to the gospel and the most important relationship he could ever have: Jesus.
2. Positive peer interactions.  We are so glad that Devon is friendly and outgoing and seems to have no trouble making friends.  Being new and isolated has not been easy for him these past few months.  We talk at breakfast about wearing our friendly faces so that people will want to approach us and play.  Devon's intensity can cause him to be aggressively nice, and then easily concerned when a friend is shy or hangs back.  'Hi, we're friends now, let's get some playing done!' he says, not understanding that others may be shy and need encouragement and personal space. 

I think more interaction with peers will be so good for him.  It's hard to be the not-twin in the family.  At preschool he is in good company in this respect, because in a class of fourteen two more kids have twin siblings and there is one set of boy twins in his class.  I'm excited to see him make friends and spend time with other kids, especially other boys!
3.  Accountability for his actions.  The pace of life with three under five is still pretty hectic.  What's more, the house has to be obsessively neat and organized so I don't waste time looking for things or cleaning up "collateral damage" messes from things that should've been put away.  What this has occasionally meant is that I've been focused on doing things quickly--out of necessity-- and missed some teachable moments.  

I work them in whenever I can.  Last week, Devon dumped his milk at dinner just because it was funny.  After dinner, he scrubbed the picnic table with a soap and a brush for a solid half hour.  I am so glad that he will be accountable at school for his behavior, and at home we can continue with his training in this area.
4.  Exercise.  I've never been around a child who needed to move his body more.  Optimal sleep after a minimum of four hours a day of hard physical activity.  I'm so glad he can run around and be active with other kids.
5. Motor skills.  A kindergarten teacher friend observed that Devon's as ambidextrous as they come.  He writes, eats, and cuts easily with both hands.  He clearly prefers his left hand, though, and I've held back on letter formation because I so badly want him to learn the correct way to hold a pencil.  Truth is, I'm feeling a little out of my depth.  I'm so glad to have the support of teachers who have done this lots of times before and can help him get off to a good start.
6.  Safety.  Devon is working on understanding the limitations of the physical world, the "why" behind "don't swing off the monkey bars into the path of that swing".  It's really amazing that we've had no ER visits for serious injuries with this one.  He's just recovered from his first significant injury, a nasty slice to the bottom of his foot that he got at home while climbing on a metal car.  May he grow in grace and good judgment at home and school!
7.  Sitting still (see #4).  He's a boy.  This is normal.  We've seen growth in this area, and there is more to be done.  He also needs to transition at church from the nursery to attending worship with Mommy and Daddy, which means for the first time ever he will have to sit relatively still and participate in a corporate setting for about a half hour without being too disruptive to others. 
8. Table manners.  We've eaten every possible meal outside this summer, taking advantage of the low stress environment and delighting in the easy cleanup as we've officially left sippies behind and all three have learned cup drinking skills.  Now Devon will eat a packed lunch with his class three days a week. 

Now I know what you're thinking.  The picture above shows three models of good taste and decorum.  The only thing missing is the white-gloved waiters offering caviar.  There is a reason for that.  The night before, all three took the offer of a healthy dinner of fish, mashed potatoes, and peas for granted.  They flung mashed potatoes.  They refused to eat their fish.  They spat peas everywhere.  They were NOT well behaved.  Dinner ended abruptly.  All three were made to clean up, and then cleaned up and put early to bed without the nightly ice pop.  And they were made to eat their dinner for breakfast, Mommy muttering "or I am NOT taking you to storytime and special lunch.  No sirree!" the whole time. 
Please just pray in general for Devon, his teachers, and the students in his class.  Fourteen precious little lives: ten boys and four girls.  They are all so excited about learning and growing this year.  I am so excited for him, too!
He'll also be learning soccer skills during the school day.  What a great opportunity for him to learn something he can teach the girls and do at home!
We celebrated the last weekend of summer with a trip to Martin's grocery for the best donuts ever.  Florida friends: Martin's donuts are better than Frostings cupcakes.  No joke!
And just like that, it was Tuesday.  The first day of school was here!
He seemed dwarfed by that huge lunch box, a bit nervous, but mostly very excited.  Craig stayed home with the girls while Devon and I drove by ourselves.
He delighted in finding the D for Devon and hanging his backpack on the hook.  He walked himself into the classroom.  Just like that, we had a school boy!  I walked out of the classroom alone, anticipating a day of spending time with the girls, an afternoon riding bikes with all three, and an evening with extra one-on-one time with a boy I missed in the daytime.  And early bedtime.  Oh! Sweet school week early bedtime!

I didn't shed a tear.