Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spelling love her way: J-U-I-C-E

9 AM this morning:


What Rachel?

"Abby (sob) won't put (sob) her twin in the stroller (sob) with mine (sob)."

It's OK honey, she can do what she wants with her twin. Do you want a hug from mama?

"No, (sob) I want some juice. (Sob) Can I (sob) have some juice in a (sob) cup please?"

OK Rach, I'll get you some. Immediate end of sobbing.

She's a cuddler, but since the time this girl was born, she has more often than not also found incredible solace in a cup filled with juice or milk.

[Full disclosure: I'm not that different. For me it's more like, "No, I don't want a hug, please just talk to me!" OR "No, I don't want to talk, please just hug me!"]

Might as well just listen to what they're saying and love them like they want to be loved!

(Below: the quickest pic I could find of Rachel with a cup - age one and a half)

25 weeks.

All that eating is paying off. It's starting to look like a basketball in there. I never even got this big with Rachel, and just a bit more with Abby. The fun is just beginning. :) Photos by Abby, who is 6 today and starts 1st grade tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Enjoying the kids, at 3 or 20.

Once upon a time, I was 21, and John was 25. We got married. We lived in a house made of badgers and cheese in Wisconsin. Our church was tiny, so we chose between friends who were 10 years younger or 10 years older (with the one exception - love you Sue!!). We often chose in favor of the younger, and headed up a little junior high youth group for a couple of years. John had actually lived with some of them since they were tiny. The boys were still pretty young, young enough that I could hold my own in frisbee golf, football, tag, and even threw one in the snow. It was great fun.

Now upon a time, I'm 29 and John is 33. Our new friends are around our age and we all have kids 6 and under. I've lost touch with middle and high school and young college kids. I think it will be great when my kids can actually take bike rides and play sports with me.

We visited those same kids (and their parents of course!) last week. They're all around 20, six feet tall men that would now scoff at a sporting competition with puny ME! Their kid brothers and sisters now played with my own kids, like doting older cousins.

Hanging out around all those grown up kids and their (smart!) parents was absolutely awesome, a total change of pace for us. The people made the vacation.

I was reminded that behind the cool, or gruff, or punk, or whatever exterior, these "kids" are really fun to hang out with, interesting to talk to. Hours of investment in their young lives has kept them surprisingly easy to reconnect with now.

It was exciting to think about our own four kids growing into such fascinating young adults. A glimpse of the craziness of the house in 10 or so years!

People always tell me that the harder parenting issues come up later. These parents and kids have to discuss parties, college, military, boyfriends, media time, cars, it's some crazy big stuff! Definitely bigger than the bedtimes and vegetable fights we wage now, I almost had to laugh at how worked up I get over this little stuff.

And what to do together as a family? It's easy now - zoo, park, pool, they all get unanimous cheers. Sitting down for dinner together with _everyone_ is downright simple now. The agreement, never mind the regular time, shrinks when they are around 20! Never mind dragging an 11-year-old along to the playground with the younger siblings.

I've come back home with a huge new appreciation for our young kids. A renewed enjoyment of the older kids, a realism and excitement about where mine are headed. And a new admiration for their parents, especially those in the trenches of helping their kids out the door to the big, wide world.

Figured I'd better write my thoughts down quickly, before I take yet another playground trip for granted or forget to value the college kids, friends, parents, and grandparents who I have in my life. Wouldn't you know, I don't have a single picture from the entire week of a kid anywhere near 20!

Love them now, love them when they grow up!

Four generations of my family.

Can you tell who is already getting too old for the zoo?

Hanging out with the little brothers of the "grown up" kids.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cutting my dreams down to size

I often dream big. My dreams by turns motivate me, over-inflate my ego (as if I could really single-handedly hope to save the world!), or overwhelm me by their enormity.

I got a lesson in the practicality of dreams in my own backyard this summer.

Remember, I was all excited about the big garden plot we'd rented from the park district? Never mind my puny little tomato/bean/herbs in the backyard, been there, done that. I had big dreams this summer for the pumpkins, cantaloupe, zucchini, 13 tomato plants, and rows and rows of beans. It was to be a grand, successful experiment by two city kids.

Well, this is what the (tenderly cared for?) plot 77 turned into this summer. Have you ever seen such skill at growing weeds and lettuce gone to seed?!! I confess, I have not, not even among the other 120 garden plots nearly touching ours. It's turned into a prairie restoration oasis, I think, providing refuge to several species of grasshoppers and frogs displaced by the neatly tilled rows on the other three sides.

It's not that we didn't try. It was a rainy summer that kept plants and weeds alike watered. We had a bumper lettuce crop, which unfortunately turned bitter. We had some marathon weeding sessions, but lacked a rototiller to turn things up properly.

Ultimately, we lacked both the skill and time that large-scale gardening required. Two things got in the way. Work took more time and energy than I expected. But you know what, our bank account stayed black and got even a bit blacker because of it. Growing babies also took more time and energy than I expected. Two little boys growing from 1.5 ounces to nearly 1.5 pounds apiece literally seemed to suck the life out of me some days. It wasn't that we weren't meant to garden, because our tiny backyard is doing great. The recipe for success just turned out to be doing less, not more.

I guess what I've learned this summer is that sometimes my dreams need to be cut back down to size. It's OK to branch out big (although 20x bigger all at once is a little much!), but most likely I'm not going to succeed the first time. There was plenty to keep me busy in my own family, job, backyard; plenty of people and plants for me to practice my tending on.

Big causes like orphans in Kenya, health care in America, education, even just community causes that I'd love to contribute to have flitted through my mind this summer. But if I can't farm the big garden, in spite of my best efforts, I might as well work at what must be done and what can be done - in my own backyard.

Even God, as Jesus, gave his followers a challenge that was limited to the neighborhood. Is it really possible that three meals, a body, and a neighborhood is really all there is to life? Maybe?

Jesus sent his twelve [friends] out with this charge:

"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day." Matthew 10:5-10

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My history channel summer

The bio(s) of the summer for me have been those of our past American presidents. In the glamorous form of a DVR'd show from History Channel, the American Presidents (can't find a good link).

Uncertain times overseas, with debatable involvement in the issues of other nations.

Families unable to make ends meet, with no safety net. Starving in the streets.

Presidents elected by big money interests. 78% of the wealth controlled by 2% of the population.

Government growing (or shrinking) too fast.

Strong moral debates on rights for minorities, children, women.

Presidents known for their infidelity and/or manipulative wives.

A country on the verge of splitting forever.

And we haven't even gotten to the 20th century guys yet! Every president thus far has intrigued me, each with their own personality, many changing for the worse or coming into their own once they became our country's leader. And it seems like at least every other president faced issues that parallel something of recent history, but worse! We seemed to be a country destined to fail over and over, destined to fall apart within the next 20 years since before 1776!

And yet we haven't yet. Seeing all the messes (much worse than today!) that we have faced and worked through leaves me oddly inspired at the end of each presidential snapshot.

To me, it speaks hope for our economy, our partisan divides, our health care, our economic disparity, our international issues, our energy crisis, our overseas competition, and whatever else is irking you. Sometimes, a look backward is more encouraging than one forward!