One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Efulents and Whales: Chasing Water with My Son

My son has a friendship with water that started where else but in the bathtub. From the moment he could sit up on his own he became a slippery bundle of laughter and splashes. Sharks, turtles, and a rubber ducky taught him to squirt Mommy even though she scowled. The first time he wiggled on his tummy in the tub, shouts of "Daddy! I'm swimming!" echoed around the bathroom. When Daddy came in to see, the water sprite shrieked, “I got you!” and soaked Daddy's pants. The joy of staying wet means getting out of the bath after "two more minutes!" turns into five, and the shark and the boat have time to squirt the wall again. When the water starts to gurgle down the drain I hear, "Where it going?" and always wonder if I should say, "To the ocean."

Summer vacations at the coast gave him new water words: beach, crash, and wave. He liked to yell, “Throw it, Daddy!” and watch his daddy throw rocks and shells into the ocean to make them splunk and disappear. From his first summer visit at age one, to the latest at age three, he’s been fascinated with the ocean. I imagine he dreams of whales when we leave the window open at night to hear the aquatic lullaby. Sand in his diaper, wind, cloudy skies—nothing keeps him from crawling, tottering, and running in the sand to touch the water of the big, blue sea. At home when we are far from any ocean—landlocked, dusty, and dry—my son asks to “drive really fast” to get there.

Without an ocean we settle for dancing in occasional rainstorms, wading in the backyard pool, and playing Pooh Sticks with pinecones racing through the culvert under our favorite path. When summer storms flood our street, my son collects sticks, pinecones, acorns, and leaves—his mini gondolas to navigate the raindrop river. The moment he notices the water out the window he begs to march into it. The big kids slosh their galoshes up and down the curb and my son follows. His friend across the street comes to wade and chase and scream too. They don't mind the wet clothes and cold fingers. When it hasn’t rained for days and the sun screams heat on our heads, we set out the pool and have stick-boat races. Water cannot sit idle at our house.

During the winter, bath time becomes my son’s main way to keep wet. Sometimes it just isn’t enough. One night last winter my son, settled into bed, stretched an open hand up over his head in the dim light. He turned it back and forth, looking it over as if for the first time. He began to talk about the water-spraying elephant statues at the zoo. "I want to get my sweeve wet at efulents," my boy whispered. "Wait for summer," I told him. I pictured the fun he would have as a little efulent, trumpeting water over his back.

This summer I decided my son needed more water than could fill a tub or wading pool. My husband and I don’t swim, but we want our son to learn, so I signed him up for a two-week parent/child swimming class. I thought he’d take to it like a whale, diving and spouting water all over me. We visited the pool before lessons started, to let him explore. He loved it, bravely going in as deep as his waist, laughing and splashing just as I had guessed he would. But when lessons began a few weeks later, he showed me quite fiercely that they were not according to his terms. I feared I would scare the love of water out of him, and he would dry up. Each day we struggled into the swim clothes while I prepped him for swimming with little mantras of “I’m so proud of you for trying!” and “You are so brave!” My husband even bribed him with ice cream. Fortunately, he always smiled at some point in each lesson, always went in the water of his own free will, and always made progress. He stayed friends with water, and I think I see signs of a bold swimmer yet.

Just when I thought our water days were at an end for the season, I found myself saying yes to a family-floating adventure down the Boise River. My husband invited me to go along with some friends, thinking I’d want to get a sitter for our son. It was too last-minute to get someone to watch him, so I worriedly imagined us huddled in our raft in the middle of the river with our son screaming to go home. Would he get scared or would he love it? But how could I have doubted our water-obsessed child! Clad in a lifejacket, he clawed his way over the side of the raft time after time, wanting to dangle in the water while I held him by his armpits. And the only screams of the two-hour float were exuberant joy with many a “WHOA!” as we faced the few small rapids. Even when his friend showed fear, my son only wanted more water to fill the boat.

Lately, when we can’t get outside to dance in the rain, go to the river, or pull out the wading pool, my son delights in the water of the kitchen sink. He drags a chair, scraping across the floor, and parks it in front of the sink where he spends time filling and dumping cups and bowls of water. As I sit here writing he exclaims, “Mommy, there’s a lot of dishes to do!” He may not always want to do the dishes, but I have no doubt we’ll be chasing water for many years to come.

Monday, March 20, 2017

In Sickness and Sickness: A Story of Lava, Love, and the Silver Bowl

"Mommy, when it's morning, I want to go to WinCo or Fred Meyer and buy ALL the cookies!"

"No. No cookies. Mommy is sick. Go back to sleep. Wait, are you even awake?"

Our son snuggled up next to me in bed and said no more. Luke coughed and stirred in the guest bed downstairs. We were now all in various stages of illness, the first attack having started in the night not many nights earlier.

It began with a whimper from Geddy's room. My brain went into the normal do-I-go-check-on-him-or-do-I-wait conversation in my head before I rolled out of bed and into his dark room to hear him sobbing. Thinking he was having a bad dream, I reached out my hand to where I thought his back was and touched instead a sticky, glumpy goo. The dread had hardly time to sink in as he continued to vomit.

"Oh, baby, you're sick!" Nice of me to state the obvious. I turned on the light and started flinging blankets and animals out of the way and wiping up with his shirt as I pulled it over his head. Luke came running to hold a shivering boy and calm him while I took all the yuck to the laundry room and set up a bed on the floor in our room. Geddy had made it to almost four years old without having such sickness.

"Time to check off another milestone on your growth chart, buddy!" I thought as I settled him in the new bed and sent Luke back to his. But since Geddy had never experienced such trauma to his body before he naturally wanted to talk about it.

"Well there's a sick germ in you, hun, making you feel bad. But you have a strong body and it's fighting back."

"I think the germ has a knife. Or a sword."

"Yes, I'm sure it feels that way!"

"And I have lava in me!"

I smiled at his accurate description of the vile vomit erupting from his system. We soon settled back down for sleep, but the lava had other ideas. Two more eruptions followed. This was getting a bit much for me, so Geddy, ever concerned about his parents, said, "Don't worry; I'll get better."

"Oh yes you will, buddy, you are so right! I know you will be OK." Maybe I could give myself a pep talk too.

But when I tucked Lambie up next to Geddy his optimism wavered. "No, I don't want Lambie to get the lava." So we stuffed Lambie under the mattress.

Better Geddy did get. The following day I decided that he must have eaten something bad and didn't have a virus. Luke and I had hope. But after hours of running around, being hungry but only getting gentle foods for his tummy, and having a grand ol' day as his normal self, Geddy erupted again while sitting on the couch next to me. My slow-motion reflexes left me sitting there watching and waiting for the action to end. His tears this time were for his favorite shirt, and I soothed him with the promise that we could wash it and I wouldn't throw it away. The couch, however, to me was a total loss. If I'd had the strength I would have heaved it out the door and placed a "free" sign on it.

Geddy went to the tub and there he was when Luke got home. Somehow I made dinner that night—not for Geddy—and Luke and I took comfort in the fact that Sabbath was next and we didn't have to go anywhere or do any work except to keep cleaning up lava that might continue. Oh how we hoped it wouldn't.

My reflexes were starting to kick in once 24 hours of volcano silence had passed. In his sleep Geddy coughed and I lurched up and grabbed him, ready to put his face in the silver bowl.

"I'm not sick!" He hollered.

"Oh. Sorry."

But then the lava came for me. When I first started tossing cookies Saturday night I told my son I was sorry to wake him with all my noises.

"You didn't wake me. I was just listening. It's funny."

"Funny? Don't you remember how it felt when you were vomiting?"

"It's funny."

And here I thought he had been scared.

"I'll hold the bowl for you when you have the lava."

"Thanks, Geddy. You're a great helper."

"Yeah, I know. If Daddy gets the lava he won't think it's funny."

No, when the lava erupted from Daddy he did not have a smile on his face, but he was ready.

While I had been moaning in bed wondering how Geddy had all his energy and yet I was completely incapacitated, Luke had spent most of Sunday doing chores around the house and stocking up on sickness supplies. What I didn't know as he was making his favorite Jell-O, was that he knew the germ was coming for him.

Luke went down hard, just as I had, and Geddy remained the helper. On Monday I managed to drag myself out of the house for more supplies. Geddy wanted to help by buying jelly beans, cookies, and more Jell-O, but I firmly declined. Yet Jell-O dinners with a side of saltine crackers became a staple for the week.

Through it all the silver bowl was our constant companion. When Geddy was at his worst he carried the bowl around, from room to room, as I directed, just in case one of the eruptions could actually be contained in it. Then it lived on the floor by his bed for a time, getting a rinse once or twice. By the time Luke joined the party the bowl took up residence in bed beside him, moving to the couch when he was able to sit up for a period of time. Like another member of the family, the bowl was loyal and ready to carry our burdens.

When the wave of turmoil had passed, once and for all, I didn't put the bowl away immediately. Weakness and the inability to consume much food still left me skeptical that the danger was over. It was kind of like wanting one more day to stay home from school or one more reason to drink 7-Up through a straw: The bowl was a crutch to lean on.

Now the bowl is back on its shelf yet still ready to serve. If such an illness ravages our family again—you say "when," but I can't face that—we and the bowl will be prepared to care for each other. And if you find yourself in volcanic distress, just call on Geddy, because, as he said, he'll "help anyone who has the lava." He'll hold the bowl for you.

Monday, February 20, 2017

In Bed With Luke and Louis (L'Amour)

Insomnia strikes me infrequently—really never—though I sometimes argue in my brain instead of sleeping. Even in the months of little sleep during Geddy's babyhood falling asleep happened easily for me. I don't get enough sleep, I don't get the best sleep, but I sleep. I stare at my husband's sleeping form next to me in bed, grumble because he can fall asleep seconds after hitting the pillow, but still I do sleep. Luke, however, doesn't always. His instant sleep state offers no promises that he won't be awake at 3:00 a.m.

What causes Luke's wakefulness has a lot to do with me, but when I am not the cause of his sleeplessness it is usually his active mind. All the stations are turned on and turned up. He has to have something override them. Sometimes it just takes an episode of Star Trek. Or a few chapters in a good book. But when he just wants to close his eyes and get good rest he can count on the audiobooks of Louis L'Amour. The tricky part with any of his methods is that I prefer darkness and quiet while I sleep, so he usually has to go downstairs and create his atmosphere for rest in the guest room.

Recently I relented to letting Louis in our bedroom. I didn't want to banish Luke and he wanted to stay upstairs. I figured after he fell asleep I could just turn off the iPod and then I would sleep too, because I knew there was no way I could sleep with Louis' stories playing between the pillows. What a shocker, then when morning came and I had no recollection of the story or the night. We had both fallen asleep before the story was over and no one had needed to turn it off! In fact, I think I might have even fallen asleep first.

Years of sleeping alone gets a person comfortable with the whole situation, and one of the challenges of marriage can be having to share a bed, a blanket, a space with another body. I've mostly gotten used to Luke in my bed, but when Geddy comes crawling in I usually lose comfort, a pillow, sometimes an eye. With Louis, however, this new guest in our quarters, I surprise myself saying he just might be welcome to join us any time!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

God's House

Sometimes I remember to talk to God out loud so Geddy will know that I ask for guidance and express thankfulness. Modeling my relationship with God helps me to work on actually having a relationship.

The other day we were out driving and I told God how grateful I was that we were safe. We had been having car trouble before being rescued by my sister. Rather than breaking down on the freeway the car had died in my friend's driveway. It was the perfect place to hang out, happy and warm, and wait for my sister, whose house was right around the corner.

While I was thanking God for being with us, I heard Geddy ask from the back seat: "Is God in the clouds?"

"God is down here and up in the clouds and everywhere at once. Isn't that great about God?"

"But where's her house?"

(Geddy always refers to God with female pronouns. I pretty much adore this.)

"That is a good question. I don't know if God has a house. Maybe more like a bird, just flying around everywhere. But I guess birds do have houses."

"Yeah, birds have nests."

"Well maybe God has a nest too."

That night I tucked Geddy into bed and said prayers with him. Luke usually leads this, but he wasn't home yet, so I was going on like "Please be with this person and that person" when Geddy interrupted me.

"Tell God to be here with me because I don't want her going to somebody else."

"Well remember, God is here and everywhere, for everyone, but yes, please God watch over Geddy tonight. Amen."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

When Winter Goes too Far

Winter falls in beautiful snowflakes that dance to the rhythm of excited children. Snowmen and snow angels, sledding and skiing, holidays at Grandma's house, hot chocolate, fuzzy hats and new boots, snowshoes and snowballs—winter is enchanting and cozy by the fire and the best friend whose visit you never want to end.

Until this year. Now, winter for many on my slice of the planet has become an unwelcome guest. And it's only mid January. I smell the work of the White Witch, because, like that time in Narnia, it feels like "always winter but never Christmas."

Honestly, the cold hasn't gotten to me yet. Neither has the dark sky or the snow—or what's left of the snow here. What makes it a bit too much winter is the rain uglifying the snow and flooding our sidewalk and the ice building up in between the meltdowns. And my car trapped in the driveway. These are minor problems considering those of people dealing with leaking or caving in roofs and other ice and water damage.

For many days, Geddy and I relished the snow fun right in our neighborhood. We did all the snow cool events, from sledding and snowshoeing to just flopping in the powder and taking a bite of nature's ice cream. But now we mostly stay inside. It's not so bad, not like it is for the children and teachers whose snow day wishes came true, just in excess. But just as they want to go back to school, we are kind of ready to get outside again.

So yesterday we went out to shovel some water around. We tried to clear the path for the water to have a steady flow down the street. Geddy had fun, as he doesn't seem to notice that the weather is less than ideal. I slogged through the water cringing at the thought of it all freezing, which it did. I guess today I can get out my ice skates.

Perhaps that is bringing this winter full circle, because the thought of ice skating conjures up all the warm fuzzies of this season again. Concern has settled into a steady resignation that winter isn't going anywhere yet so we might as well make the best of it.

Geddy certainly has no complaints. He keeps asking to go camping. As we filled up jugs with water and got out the oil lamps—just in case—he reminded us to not forget the marshmallows. This morning he and I made a makeshift tent, packed it with stuffed animals and a flashlight, and told camping stories. We looked at colorful stars and talked about chipmunks following us for crumbs. Then Geddy said the chipmunk was running through the snow. I said What? No snow here; we're camping. He said Yes, there's snow! I said OK, some people do camp in the snow but Daddy and I are not those people. Somehow, I think Geddy will be one day.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Perfect Timing

We rolled into Portland at the perfect time. Perfect for stand-still traffic anyway. Christmas traveling is hectic at any time of day, but rush hour in the big city makes it even worse. Our Garmin map told us Grandma's house was fifteen minutes away, but the road signs warned it would take forty-seven minutes just to get to our next turn. Geddy was grumpy; I wanted to stand up and stretch. The rock station on the radio kept turning out disappointments for Luke and he sighed, "What we need right now is a Rush song." Three seconds later his wish came true. As he cranked it up and Geddy Lee started singing, our Geddy started bobbing his head. "Perfect timing!" Luke exclaimed, happier than he had been in miles. Thinking over our long day, he realized that we might have had perfect timing more than once.

Luke's Christmas shopping procrastination had caused us to be sitting in the car that morning, waiting for a store to open, when we should have already been out of Boise. When ten o'clock rolled around and the store still wasn't open, we were feeling out of luck. One last check at the door and Luke came back with a story. The employee had gotten locked out of the building and it would be half an hour before someone got there with a key. We went on to a different store, bought the present, and got on the road. A few hours later, while stopped in traffic on the freeway waiting for an accident up ahead to be cleared, we felt thankful we hadn't been involved. Leaving late might have been the perfect time after all.

Days later in our vacation adventure we probably did come close to being a traffic accident, or at least getting stuck in the snow. As the wind blew the powder in vicious waves across the road I thought we were definitely in the right place at the wrong time. We made it to the country road, ready to go visit Luke's father at his ranch. It didn't take long before we found ourselves backing up to get out of the drifts that quickly engulfed the previously plowed path. We paused, weighing our options. Should we continue? Maybe we would just make it in time before the road disappeared. But maybe we would get stuck, too far from the ranch to walk in that weather and too far from town and without cell service to get help. The deciding factor was when a much larger vehicle had to back down the road as well. With sighs we headed back to town. The drifts and whiteouts continued but we made it safely. It all worked out except we didn't get to visit family. (The good news is we heard today that roads got plowed and he got his groceries!)

The new year bursts to life in a matter of hours, ready to flip the calendar and give us no excuses for the perfect time to do everything better. Regardless of the year change, every moment we get choices. We can choose what we eat, what we buy, what we do with our time. But sometimes no matter what we choose life is just plain out of our control. Talk of God's timing often frustrates me because, what the heck, why can't he operate on my timeline? I don't see his perfect timing when I'm in the storm. I don't always give him credit for his perfect timing when all goes well.

I suppose what I want to say for this coming year is that it's the perfect time to be grateful and to focus on patience and faith. I don't have a magic wand to make things work out or a secret knowledge of what God might do each step of the way, but I have hope that loves shines bright on the horizon.

We had perfect timing to view a gorgeous sunset around Mount Hood.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Just Breathe, and Color Outside the Lines

Impatience and frustration rear their proverbial ugly heads in my psyche a little too often these days. Motherhood seems to have breathed life into these nasty twins. With other people's children I can handle a lot of trying situations without bother. When I taught little ones, I found them amusing, gifted, and pleasantly rebellious when they would, say, tell silly jokes instead of work math problems or color outside the lines. I didn't mind if they giggled loudly in the hallways. Even more serious offenses, like not getting their homework done, or lying to save face, didn't ruffle me. I was there to love them, teach them what I could, and model kindness and patience. (Notice I said little ones. My teenage students pushed my buttons!).

So I figured I could keep it up when I had a child of my own.

Well, now, you shake your head and smile.

What is the truth? I tell my son to "Hurry" so often that he has made a game out of making sure I don't quit saying it! "Mommy, say, 'Hurry' " he demands, as he moves like a snail when we should be out the door and in the car already. I get frustrated when he won't stop running around the kitchen long enough for me to wipe the food off of his hands and face. I growl when he splashes around in the sink instead of opening his mouth for me to brush his teeth. I even get a bit mad when he lies and says, "NO POOP!" and there is really quite a lot of it.


It certainly puts me to the test, shows my true colors, brings out the worst in me—any more hackneyed phrases?

But—and probably my husband should get all the credit—somehow, this tiny human I love like crazy who brings out my crazy, oozes a whole lot of empathy and love for his mommy.

Every other day he tells me, "Don't worry, Mommy." Every other day, and sometimes a couple of times a day, he leaps forward and hugs me tight after a particularly bad bout of mommy frustration. Every day he says, "It's OK, I don't mind about it," when I say phrases such as, "Don't get your shoes wet!" and "You'll be cold without your jacket!" and "You'll be hungry later if you don't eat something now."

I mean, this boy, he's up on reading my body language too. He knows when Mommy is stewing.

Recently we were supposed to all leave the house early for a trip. I wasn't quite ready on time, but when I finally was, Luke was upstairs singing and playing guitar. I knew we had to get on the road, especially because he had told me what time we should leave. Luke didn't get frustrated with me, when I missed the time, but boy was I at peak impatient-boiling-into-frustration when he wasn't ready. I didn't say a word, however, trying to be calm and kind, but Geddy sensed it. He looked up at me and said, "Don't worry, Mommy, I'll go get Daddy." He ran upstairs and told Luke we were all ready to go and then—get your Kleenex box—he came back downstairs and hugged me and said it would be OK.

Well. May I remember this daily and keep my priorities straight. It really is all going to be OK. Just breathe. And love. And let go of the little things, because really, wet shoes, skipped dinners, slowpoke little boys, are so not things to lose my cool over. It's all "coloring outside the lines," and we need more of that.

Creative Commons: flickr Sami Ben Gharbia