Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A dear friend of ours just lost his father.  From the sounds of it, the circumstances are so much like my own father's passing that I have been feeling heavy and sad.  Both for him and for me, I suppose.  Often times, the journey to another's sorrow is through our own worn paths of old pain.  What I know is that one is never ready to lose a good parent. 

It's nearing a decade that I've lived without Dad, and I still miss him, every day.  I was 29 when it happened and nowhere ready to lose my protector.  The man would have slayed dragons for me; this I know for sure, and there were some big ones waiting down my path.  When he died, we were just beginning our maiden voyage to the land of infertility, that savage, undiscovered country that stole our dreams one at a time and broke our hearts before giving us our life back.  How I needed his wisdom.  His assurance.  His humor.

And then, when we finally became parents, I missed him all over again.  I want my children to know him.  To hear his voice tell stories only the way he can.  To hear him say, "Are you going to be a straight arrow?"  To get wrapped up in one of his giant bear hugs and hear him whisper fiercely in their ears that he loves them with all his heart.  I want them to experience his faith, his mirth, his perspective, his loyalty, and his joy; knowing that their lives are poorer because he is not here breaks my heart.

I have had a difficult time talking about the death of my father.  I can tell stories about my dad, but I can not communicate the loss.  It was nearly a year before I could simply write it in my journal, and even then, my description was brief.  I do not have the words.  Not to describe the searing pain across my soul that is the missing of him.

It is with this understanding that I stand near my friend, unable to heal what hurts.  I can not take his pain, but I can share it.  Sometimes that is enough. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Being "The" Mom

I would have a good post for today about pride and marriage, but alas our internet was down all morning.  (Stupid Cox Communications.  And I'm not supposed to say stupid.)  Anyhow, so the thoughts that have been roaming around my head will have to stay there.  They are taking up space, which, as we all know, is limited; it would have been nice to move them onto paper.  Monday perhaps.

The other thing that is taking up the rest of the space in my brain is the mortification of being "the" mother of "the" child in a teacher's kindergarten class.  You know.  "The" child that needs a whole lot of extra attention and intervention and motivation because he can't seem to behave.  I'm "the" mom of that child.  I know I'm that mom because his teacher called me yesterday afternoon to discuss her new approach to Griffin's...uh...should we say...spiritedness?  (That's a kind way of saying he has a hard time following the rules.)

I soooo appreciate this teacher and her willingness to go the extra mile.  She sees all the good things that little Griff has going for him, but we all agree that listening and obeying may not be his strong suit right now.  No.  He would rather color gigantic circles on his pants with marker, like yesterday. 

His explanation? "Somebody spilled marker on me." 

"Really?  How does one do that in perfectly concentric circles on both thighs?"

For that manuever, he lost one of the six red sticks Miss Bruce gives him at the beginning of the day, which is part of the new program for "Kids Who Just Can't Seem to Remember."  If he has at least one stick left at the end of the day, we're calling that a success.  Oh...the mortification.

And then I remember that this is not about me.  I need to repeat that often:  This is not about me.  This is not about me.  But it sometimes feels like it is.  I don't want to be "the" mom. 

But being "the" mom also has its benefits.  It means that I get the pleasure of mothering this funny, charming little person with a very big spirit stuffed into that body that is sometimes too curious and too social for his own good.  I wouldn't trade him for anything, even for the Mom of the Year Award.

...which is good, 'cause it looks like I'm not in the running this year. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tiny Miracles

My baby crawled today.  Well...not actually crawled, maybe, but he certainly did get from point A to point B, and not without difficulty. 

We were supposed to be getting him dressed, but he was more interested in the bright red air hockey paddle that his brother had left lying in the middle of the floor.  And as he rolled away onto his tummy, lifted his thick little self onto his hand and pulled his knees under him, I watched, fascinated.  Like every one of my babies he is a miracle to me, but perhaps it is my age.  I'm ready to slow down and enjoy these little wonders.  So I watched.

With his eyes locked on the prize, he began to rock back and forth on his knees, and then he suddenly lurched forward, pinning his little hands beneath him and landing squarely on his face.  It didn't seem to faze him.  Quickly he pulled his hands forward and propped himself up again.  More rocking and another lurch, but this time he kept his head raised and fell onto his chest.  Then, while remaining on his belly, his little arm reached out, stretching its full length, his little fingers straining toward the object still outside of his grasp.  With all this effort he had covered only inches of ground.

I expected any moment to hear a cry of frustration, but it did not come, so I watched.  His tiny feet kicked and kicked in a desperate attempt to bring the object closer.  Instead, his little body scooted forward mere millimeters.  This seemed to inspire him to renew his efforts, and once again he was back on his knees, rocking and lurching.  I watched it all, and as I watched my eyes filled with tears.

I cried not only over my baby's first attempts at independence, though I was witnessing a little miracle.  I think I cried over something bigger.  I think those tears were for the miracle of our human ability to try.  To grow.  To fail.  And to try again.  The human struggle begins at birth, does it not?  And for a moment, I think I glimpsed God's mercy.  How I loved my little baby.  How I wanted him to succeed.  How I understood his necessary struggle.  Do I judge God to be any different in His perfect love? 

I don't think He is as impatient with me as I sometimes believe Him to be.  No.  I think He expects me to struggle.  He knows it is necessary for my growth.  As I crawl to Him, I think He celebrates all the rocking and lurching, the inches of ground I cover, and the efforts I make to get back up when I fall.  He is my Father.  He loves me.  Those were tears of gratitude, both for me as a mother and for me as a child, all at once witnessing a little miracle.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Unanswered Prayer

A couple of years ago, I was deep in prayer about Mr. Wicke's employment situation. Working for yourself is hard and stressful, and before the economy plummeted the grass looked greener everywhere else. Mr. Wicke had been looking for another job, and nothing--I mean nothing--was happening for him. It is heart wrenching to watch someone you love struggle. Especially when that someone is good and decent to their core. And so I prayed...a lot. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, wept, and even sometimes complained. That kind of prayer. And still...nothing.

"Dear God, are you listening?" was at last the prayer of my heart. "Where can I find you?"

And then He was there in little things. Orders came in to Mr. Wicke's work out of nowhere. They did not make us rich, but they paid the bills. Mr. Wicke's heart became lighter. He slept. We loved each other more. Our children were happy and healthy. None of these were the big miracles I was looking for. Instead they were little answers to prayer, evidence that God indeed was aware of us. He was listening.

And then Mr. Wicke got a couple of interviews. They went well. It seemed a perfect fit. Everything looked so promising. Maybe this was the answer we have praying for? But no. They "went a different direction." He was "overqualified." He "wasn't quite right." "They hired in-house."

"Dear God, why? Are you still listening?" my heart quietly asked again. But I knew enough to trust and look for the little things. He was still there, and we could wait.

In the meantime, the economy crashed, and we watched as friends and neighbors lost jobs--good jobs, jobs they had had for a long time. Companies that seemed so vital cut back, cut costs, and cut personnel to stop their financial hemorrhage. It was frightening. Still, in our little corner of the world, orders came in, one drip in the bucket at a time, and we were okay. Not rich. Still careful, but okay.

"You know what's great about my job," Mr. Wicke asked one day. "I'll never fire myself." We laughed but with a sense of relief.

And those jobs that he had been so right for? Gone. Eliminated six months later. I shudder to think where we would have been if we had received the answer I was hoping for.

Looking in the rearview mirror at our life, I can almost catch God's eye in the back seat. He seems to be smiling knowingly. "See?" I hear him say. "I heard every word. I was right here the whole time."

Monday, September 21, 2009

An Answered Prayer

I'm going to say something that in all likelihood would make a good percentage of our nation roll their eyes; but for me it is truth. It is simply this: I know prayers are answered. I do.

Not all of my prayers are answered. At least not right away. And sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes I'm required to figure things out on my own, and sometimes I'm required to be patient. But sometimes, like a few nights ago, I am surprised with the rapidity of an answer.

Griffin has been a little pill lately. My boy, who has always been malleable and sweet, has suddenly developed a mind of his own. Just ask his teacher. 10 yellow cards in the first 5 weeks of school may be a record, but she isn't dealing with anything we aren't experiencing at home. When one asks Mr. Griff why he didn't listen, he often replies, "I had other things I wanted to do." Honest, yes, but also infuriating, especially day after day after day after's enough to make a momma crazy! Obviously, whatever I've tried isn't working. And so, as in all things that seem beyond the reach of my own measly knowledge, I made it a matter of prayer.

As I began to pray, my thoughts centered most on what God could do for Griffin. Could He soften his heart? Could He help him listen and obey? And then for good measure I asked if he could help me know how to reach him, and just like that a thought sprung, full-grown, into my brain. It was two simple sentences: "You are too focused on the punishment. You need to focus on the reward." It actually caught me be surprise. It did! It was an absolute about face from where my mind had begun.

My prayer came to a sudden, screeching halt. "What?!" I asked myself. "Am I really doing that?" And as I considered the problem and my responses to it, I had to concur. My frustration had gotten in the way of the obvious answer. The way I had set it up was: obedience = avoidance of punishment, and what God suggested was obedience = reward. When I thought about it more, it made perfect sense for this child. I knew it was exactly the answer I was looking for.

Some people refer to it as "mother's intuition," but the one thing that mothering has taught me for sure is that insights come from Heaven all the time. These children belong to Him. He cares about what happens to them. I will be accountable to Him for the job I do. The good news? He will help me every step of the way.

He answers my prayers.

I'd like to know: When have you known God has answered your prayer?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Change of Address

Dear Friendly Readers,

Please note the change of my url address. It is now:

Easier to remember, I think. Well, at least once the initial confusion is over. Thanks for reading!

Tea Party Headmistress

Slip Slidin' Away

My brain is slippery right now. Really, really slippery. Like a plate too full at a buffet, important things slide off without notice. Things I would really like to delve into and enjoy. Things that are important to me. Things that are important to other people, too.

It's embarrassing.

If you can't reach me on my home phone, it's because I can't find it. And if I can't find it long enough it runs out of battery and I really can't find it. If you can't reach me on my cell phone it's because I turned it to vibrate two weeks ago in either a movie or church (the only two places of quiet in my life) and I've forgotten to turn it back on. Without it ringing I can't find it either. If I forget to show up at a meeting, it's because I forgot. It slipped right out of this slippery brain; I'd find it, but I've forgotten to look.

Truth be told, I'm still adjusting to this tiny world of babyhood. My entire life has shrunk to fit inside these four walls where baby reigns supreme. The clock and calendar no longer rule my life. No, it is all about nap times and feeding times. Everything else must fit into the two hours between because brother and sister come home after that, and then the real fun begins. One day blends into the next, and sometimes I am surprised when the weekend comes.

Time has never been my strong suit, admittedly. My brain doesn't function in those strict parameters where activities must fit between the hands of the clock. Not an advantage in our culture, by the way. I have learned coping mechanisms, but those disappear during major life changes. My brain gets slippery.

For me, babyhood is all encompassing. Nothing is mine. Not my time, my body, my energy, my will. He needs it all. It doesn't last long. Already he is beginning to sleep. Oh, blessed sleep. His schedule is becoming consistent, and I am beginning to catch up. Beginning to find my way in this new life.

But only beginning...because I am still slipping every now and again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Praise to the Ben

On our inter-mountain west family vacation this summer, I found one item that was indispensable. One item that every family with young kids MUST have on a long car ride. Everyone needs an Uncle Ben.

Poor Uncle Ben may not have known what he was getting himself into when he asked if he could hitch a ride to the family reunion. But then again, maybe he did. He is a favorite of my kids', and deservedly so. Uncle Ben has taken them camping and to Disney on Ice. He is the best at tossing them in the pool and tossing them in the air. He plays baseball, football, and badminton with them. He's also the owner of dogs and fish, all of which he lets them torture--I mean play with. It's no wonder I love Uncle Ben, too.

But as much as I appreciated Uncle Ben before, I am eternally indebted to him after our trip. He was, after all, the lucky fella' who got to ride in the back with Griffin. It didn't take long before Uncle Ben decided Griff's new nickname should be Pigpen or for him to understand the true blessing of wet wipes. "Griff, there is a right way to eat a churro. You can't just eat the inside. Sugar is everywhere!" Or "Can I get the wipes back here? We've got a big spill."

"I didn't spill that much," Griffin argued.

"When it takes three wipes to clean it up, that is a big spill."

The great thing is that because Uncle Ben has invested in my kids so much and because they love him so much, he is able to say things like that. Then I don't have to.

It was the best trip ever.

Inexplicably, he could not continue with us past Utah despite my efforts to bribe him. I guess he had important things to do, like drive back to Arizona in peace and quiet or something like that.

Anyway, these are hot little items, even if they only last half of the trip. The Uncle Ben. Get yours while they last.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Logan's Growing Up

...and this is how I know:

She used air quotes yesterday. And she used them correctly. I was helping with her homework which she was rushing through. "Hey. Can you use your best handwriting? C'mon, babe, that's just sloppy."

She sighed impatiently and began to erase. "Now I have to do it again because some-body wants it (airquotes here) 'per-fect'."

"Where did you learn that?" I inquired, but...ahem...I think I know. Sometimes it's like I'm looking in the mirror...

I was fascinated the other day listening to her and a friend in the backseat. "Oooh, you like him don't you?"

"Okay, I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to tell ANYBODY." And then they began to whisper, and giggle, a lot. It made me smile. I remember so well a thousand conversations just like that with my own childhood friends. Just like looking in a mirror...

...until it's not. Like when she asked me if she could start wearing a bra. A bra?! Why are we already talking about bras? Unlike her I was in no hurry to grow up. She, on the other hand, can not wait. "No! Those are not for kids," I replied.

"No. I don't mean a real bra. I mean, like, a kid's bra." Which left me wondering what does she know about kid's bras anyway?

...but then again, where does she get any of this stuff. Like the idea that she is going to get a car when she turns sixteen?

"I can't wait to turn sixteen 'cause that's when I can drive and I'll get a car," she mentioned on the drive to her soccor game.

Interested, I played along. "Oh, really? And just what kind of car are you going to get?"

"Oh...probably one like Nancy Drew's. You know, where the top comes down?"

"A convertible?"

"Yeah. One of those probably."

"Uh, honey. I hate to tell you this, but you're not getting a car when you turn sixteen."

"What????" The shock of it raised her voice at least one octave.

"Yeah. We're not buying you a car."

"But, but--That's when I can drive."

"Right. You can drive my car once in a while."

"Your car??" Her voice was heavy with disgust. "I don't want to drive your car..."

Most of the time I can't believe we are already having these conversations. Will I always feel like that? Will I ever be ready for her to wear a bra? Will it surprise me when she is ready to date or ready to leave for college? Will I ever be ready for her to get married or have babies of her own? I doubt it, because I'm understanding what my mother used to say: It's like I just turned around and she is grown.

Maybe I'll feel better if I use airquotes around that..."grown"...yeah, that's better. "Grown" is a lot easier to swallow than grown, because we aren't done just yet, whether she would agree or not.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mr. Beige and the Bouquet

He stood out in Costco like a sore thumb. Surrounded by lines of shoppers with carts overflowing, he held only a bouquet of flowers in his hand. No one buys one item in Costco. If he hadn't been such an aberration, I may not have noticed him at all.

He was the original Mr. Beige: A conservative intent on blending in. Brown, casual lace-ups, beige Dockers, brown belt, a beige shirt interrupted only by an innocuous, retreating plaid. Even his hair was brown with small patches of grey near the ears and male pattern balding in the back. He was not old, but his posture aged him. Sloped shoulders and a bit of a stoop is not the walk of a strong, young man. Mr. Beige did not appear to be a man to make an imprint on the world.

But there he was carrying a wildly colorful bouquet of eye-popping red sunflowers, purple lupine, and bright yellow achillea. The contrast between his flower selection and his indistinct appearance held my attention. Apparently he wasn't beige to his bones. Mr. Beige possessed a heart of sunflowers and lupine, the heart of a romantic. The thought made me smile.

Was it possible Mr. Beige was wooing someone? One look at his left hand told me he was a married man. Most married men don't bring home flowers often. What was the special occasion? Or was it an attempt to smooth something over. To fill the too large space that sometimes lives inside a marriage. Was it an apology for some inconsiderate remark? Or could it be a celebration? A milestone to share together? Or just maybe it was for no special reason at all, except to say that she was special, just the way she was. Whatever the reason, there he stood with his heart in his hands, that flamboyantly hopeful heart which he would give to someone important.

I hoped she would appreciate it. That she wouldn't be too busy to give it the moment it deserved. That she wouldn't be intent on holding a grudge or winning the battle or lengthening that empty space, but that she would take his heart, hold it, admire it, water it, and cherish it. That she would kiss him hard and mean it.

As I watched him pay and walk away toward the big open doors and the rest of his life, I hoped someone out there saw Mr. Beige in technicolor. Perhaps he had made his mark on someone's world after all. As those brilliantly red sunflowers disappeared from sight, I truly hoped so.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Weather Related Conditions

The rain inspired Logan with all kinds of benevolence. Having been a bit under the weather with a minor cold, I retired to take a little nap on Sunday afternoon. When I awoke, I found this card on my bedside table:

I don't know if it the change in weather or the love of my sweet girl, but I'm feeling much better.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shower the People

The rain pelted the window at a loud slant, blown sideways by the howling wind. As I laid the baby in his crib a flash of lightening lit up the room spotlighting his chubby legs and his thick hands tightly gripping his bottle. Gratefully his eyes remained closed as his little body jerked with the accompanying roar of thunder. I nestled him in under his warm, fleece blanket, kissed his forehead, and started down the hallway toward Logan's room. Knowing how both she and Griffin hate these evening storms that only seem to begin as they are trying to fall asleep, I was sure that they were wide awake and in need of comfort.

As I stepped inside the dark room, I found both of them sitting up in bed caucusing. "Hey, guys. You should be going to sleep. What's going on?"

"He's scared," Logan stated matter-of-factly. Griffin didn't deny it. I noticed he wasn't about to lie down either.

"Well. You two are safe and--"

"I was going to tell him he could sleep with me in my bed." Only the intimate circle of our little family understands the true generosity of this offer. Logan's good will has already been stretched by the trespasses of her younger brother who has a designated room of his own; he just refuses to sleep there. Instead, he prefers her company and the extra twin bed her room offers. It's been going on for almost four years now, and Logan's patience is thinning. Nearly eight, she is ready for her own space--something she reminds her brother of often.

Her offer caught me off guard. "Really?" The question was punctuated by another sharp thunderclap.

"Sure. If he's scared he can come sleep in my bed."

Knowing he was not about to weather the storm alone and that he was either my bedfellow or hers, I was hoping he'd take her up on the offer.

"What do you think, Griffin? Do you want to do that?"

Carrying his blanket clutched tightly to his chest, he quietly slipped off the side of his bed and crawled in beside his sister. She moved over to make room for him, a tight squeeze in a small twin bed, but as she did so she gallantly said, "You can stay here until you feel safe."

My heart melted a little. There is nothing I want more than for my kiddos to stick together for always and forever. I know they'll need each other in all kinds of storms from here on out. Then I said, "You have nothing to be afraid of. Mommy and Daddy are here..."

"Yeah," she interrupted again. "And you've always got me."

I tucked the blankets up under their chins, kissed their cheeks and, before walking out of the room, turned for one last look at the two of them huddled close together. Silently I thanked the rain. Thanked it for watering the roots of the grass and roots of the trees, the roots of the flowers and the roots of this little family. Deep roots and broad branches. All showered and made strong with love.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Math

one cut finger
3 hours
multiples messes
one very sore thumbnail
7 quarts of canned peaches x slight discouragement

I can't believe that math is correct, but I've double checked it a few times and yes, indeed, I do only have seven quarts. I think Grandma Doty must have been faster at this. She must have been or she would have quit. goal today? Get faster.

And to get rid of the discouragement, I'm going to remember this as I work:

"Actions do speak louder than words...there is the reminder that love is not simply a noun and not simply a sentimental feeling. The proof of love is what one is willing to do for the loved one. The proof of love is how one behaves." --Richard L. Evans

Today, as I provide a home for my family and all the drudgery that sometimes requires, I'm going to remember that my efforts are proof of my love. My work and sacrifices are a living testiment to my love for my husband and children.

...even if it's only seven quarts. (Argh.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What am I Thinking?

Remember last year when I tried to channel my Grandma Doty? Well, I'm at it again, except this time I'm canning peaches and raspberry jam. I've never done either before...but how hard can it be? Right? Never mind that I already had a to-do list longer than I could possibly accomplish; that and the fact that canning makes an incredible mess should make for a very busy day. At least this time my ankles won't swell to three times their normal size.

Here's the proof. See? I wasn't kidding around when I was talking about my baby expecting troll feet. And there really are no ankles there at all. But at least I had cute red toenails.