Friday, September 26, 2008


This week we went to get a family picture taken for the church directory. Anaya reveled in the opportunity to spend a little while camped in the foyer of a church with a captive audience of virtual strangers, other people waiting for their pictures to be taken.

"Do you know what?" she announced the moment we walked through the doors. (No hi, how are you, my name is Anaya...) "Mommy is giving me CRANberries. That's because, the night before today, I had OWIES in my BOTTOM." She pranced past the line of giggling people. "Do you know, I am still wearing my pa-JA-mas?"

I ushered her pointedly into the bathroom to get dressed for her picture, and suggested a few things that it might be better not to tell everyone out there about. No problem! She dashed back out the door and continued unabated. "Want to see how fast I can run if I'm in a race?" She darted back and forth. "Want to see how fast I can run if someone is chasing me?" (Sethie obliged.) "NOW you can see how fast I can run--"

"Let's put on your shoes," I interrupted, looking for a way to halt the performance.

She flounced toward me. "Mommy," she responded proudly, "wasn't that a good presen-TA-tion?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Make a quick mental note...

It's a good idea to mention to kids that just because the name of something starts with "toy" doesn't mean it's a toy.

Like, for example, toiletpaper.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Let's have a potty

I searched Toys R Us in vain for a pint-sized chair for Anaya to sit in at her new school desk, with no cartoon characters. No luck. So I settled for a pink one with a mermaid on the back of it, reasoning that since she has never watched The Little Mermaid, it would have no significance to her and would escape much notice anyway.

Not so. Today she sat down beside me, looked at the mermaid picture, and asked, "Mommy, how does she go potty?"


Potty training is in full force now. (Seth had only two accidents today!) I guess that is what makes the potty topic so hot. Anaya also found it necessary to ask me today, "Mommy, does everything in the world go potty? Do trains go potty?"

(You may be able to guess my answer to that one. But for those who wonder how to answer the mermaid one, I told her she takes off that ridiculous costume and goes just like the rest of us.)

Where are we again?

Today while driving home, Seth startled me with an unusual announcement: "Mommy, we not here."

"Really, Sethie? Where are we?" I was puzzled.

He waited for a few moments until we turned the corner onto our street, then announced joyfully, "We here!"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hearts on fire

"Mommy, Mommy!" Anaya shrieked. "There is a pretend FIRE in the house! Help, help!"

"Alas! what should we do?" I gasped appropriately. "Quick, quick! Do something!"

"Don't worry, I'm a firefighter," she assured me. "I'll go spray the fire with water!" She sped to the playroom to make good on her promise, leaving just as Seth flew into the kitchen, shouting, "Fire, fire!"

"Oh dear! Should you run grab your toys?" I asked, wide-eyed in mock terror. "What should we save?"

Seth wrapped his arms around my leg. "I'll save YOU."


"Anaya, would you please open the door for me?" I implored, trying to maneuver the double stroller through the gym doors.

Anaya bounded ahead, leaned all of her slight body against the glass door and managed to open it and hold it open while I pushed the boys through.

"Wow, Mommy, it's a good thing you have me, isn't it?" she remarked as the door closed. "You wouldn't have had anyone to be a helper with all of these jobs if you didn't have me."

"Yes, of course," I responded. "Good thing I have you!"

She grinned. "I guess that's why God sent me to you."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Biblical reinterpretation

I want bwead wiv almon' butter," Seth requested at lunchtime today.

"Well, that's good. Bread and almond butter will make you healthy and strong," I encouraged, "like Daniel. Do you want to be like Daniel?"

I was surprised at his answer. "No way!"

"What do you mean?" I thought he must have misunderstood. "Why don't you want to be like Daniel?"

"I don't wan' be like Daniel," Seth repeated, stretching his arms up in the air like the picture of Daniel in the bottom of the lions' den in our Daniel storybook. "He couldn't get out!"

Bugging each other

Seth was enchanted with some little magnet bugs on my sister’s refrigerator in Loma Linda where we were visiting her. So much so that he borrowed them, and I only found them in our luggage when we arrived at home. So I am still needing to mail them back....

One day I caught him with two of them stuck to one another, apparently (from the sounds he was making) fighting. “No, Sethie, this is how you can play with them,” I explained. I zoomed one through the air and crashed it on the floor. “Ow! Owie!” I howled. The other bug came along and kissed the owies. “See, Sethie? Won’t it be fun to play with them that way?”

“No.” He reclaimed his bugs, stuck them back together and cheerfully started the fight again.

A sick mind

“Sethie, are you sick?” Anaya asked the other day.


“Are you VERY sick?”


“Then you can die! Here is how you die.” Anaya dashed a short distance and laid down on the carpet.

Sethie was not necessarily enchanted with the thought of pretending to die. But now that his sister was on the floor, he thought of something he WOULD enjoy. He grabbed a doll stroller and raced toward Anaya with a gleam in his eye.

“See, Sethie? This is how you die. Sethie! Hey, no!”

Beginning again...and again...

I remember a story that someone told me—I think it was one of Alan’s friends—about a very musical guy who had chosen to share a house with a very sociable roommate who, unfortunately, also had a sense of humor. The musical guy liked to go to bed early—not so with his roommate! The socialite frequently had friends over late. And one night the roommate and his friends thought it would be lots of fun to try something. At about eleven o’clock, just before going to bed, someone went to the piano and played a scale—almost. Dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum,... nothing. They left out the final note. Then everyone went to bed. About half an hour later, the musical guy thundered down the stairs from bed and pounded that last note.

Anaya has a favorite song that keeps cropping up lately. “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start, when we read we begin with ABC.”

But that’s where it ends. And begins again. At the beginning. “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start, when we read we begin with ABC. Let’s start at the very beginning…”

Let’s just say, I can relate to the guy who came pounding down the stairs.

Split personality

“I want to be a mother NOW,” Anaya informed me when I walked out of the bedroom. “Can I be a mother?” Seth stood expectantly beside her, apparently ready to have a new mother.

“Well, you’re not quite ready yet. You need to…” I paused to figure out what to cover, “know how to work and clean the house.”

“I know how to work! Please let me be a mother. You go back to bed.”

This was a bit of a laugh for us, but I let her pour cereal and milk for her brothers (and help wipe up the milk that spilled). Then I noticed a familiar smell. “Sethie, do you have a pee-yew diaper?”

A quick assessment showed I was correct. “So, do you still want to be a mother, Anaya?”

A new look crossed the face of our budding mother. “Uh…okay.”

I got everything ready, then handed Anaya a wipe and had another good laugh at the uncertain look on her face. She took one tentative swipe at his backside, then handed me the wipe with a new confidence on her face. “I think we will be two mothers,” she announced.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“YOU will be the mother who changes diapers.”

Okay, so I'm confused

Alan was gone all weekend. But Skyler was not daddy-less, since he cheerfully referred to me as as Daddy the entire time. "Doddy, want out! Doddy, I 'tuck! Doddy, want juice, peeze?"

But that doesn't mean he didn't miss Daddy. Last night when Alan arrived home, he was greeted with cries of joy all around. Skyler heard the melee and whizzed around the corner to see what it was about. His face lit up and he flung his arms around Alan's leg with a delighted cry.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Finally sharing happily

Everyone wanted to use someone else's toothbrush tonight. "Mommy, can I use the green one? Mommy, can I use the pink one tonight?"

"No," I answered over and over. "You have little germs in your mouths, and if you use each other's toothbrushes, you will get the germs from each other."

My budding lawyer found the ultimate good reason for trading toothbrushes. "But Mommy," she pointed out, "if we got each other's germs, that would be sharing."

Friday, September 5, 2008

The high cost of...Eden...or eatin'?

Sabbath preparation was not a popular idea this afternoon for Anaya. I told her to pick up all the books on her bedroom floor and reminded her that her bed still wasn't made. From the kitchen I could hear the resultant rumblings. "I hate working! I work so hard all the time. I work even more than you do! Why do I have to work so hard?" And then the clincher. "It's NOT a blessing!"

I decided it was time for another little talk. (As you can tell, this is not the first.) I went in her room and sat down on the floor with her. "Anaya," I began, "When Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden, who gave them work?"

She sighed. "Jesus."

"And why did He give them work to do?"

"So they could have money to buy food to eat."

(That, of course, was followed shortly by, "Mommy, don't laugh at me!")

After a little more discourse on the value of self-discipline, learning to use our time wisely, and how work helps us to learn to be like Jesus (you can tell I'm going to be the lecturing kind of parent), I warned, "Now, I'm still going to have to spank you for your attitude. First, though, let's pray. Are you ready to pray?"

Anaya nodded. "Dear Jesus," she began, "Please help Mommy to understand that when she spanks me, it hurts my feelings. It hurts me even more than when she says things loudly to me! Help her to know how MUCH it hurts my feelings..."

Have I mentioned lately how much fun I get out of parenting?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Random things I have heard myself say

"I'm sorry for your bad choice. Keela (pretend friend) is going to have to sleep outside now. Come on, Keela."

"Yay! Yay! Guckies! Yay!"

"Don't dance in the pee-pee, please."

A stay-at-home...

For reasons unknown to me, Skyler has taken to using a new name for me: Daddy. "Doddy, want more Chee-yos! Doddy, want out, peeze?"

Never mind that he knows I'm Mommy, and has called me that for months now. (I guess this is similar to when Anaya, after calling Alan "Daddy" for about a year, suddenly switched to calling him "Gacky.") "Doddy" I am, for the foreseeable future.

There's something else I never saw myself becoming. A stay-at-home dad.

Big boy

Yesterday the theme of the day seemed to be Sethie being a big boy. First, I got up the guts to give potty training another whirl. (Only moderate success.) Amid enthusiastic cries of, "You're such a big boy, Sethie! You don't need to wear baby diapers anymore!" he reluctantly agreed to try it (the bribe of bits of candy helped). Then Anaya's new bed arrived, which promoted Seth (finally!) from crib to toddler bed. "Wow, Sethie, you get to sleep in a big boy bed now!" He was very excited by this new development.

Then I gave him a haircut. At first he succumbed to the process with little protest, but after twenty minutes he wanted to get moving again. "But Sethie, you're such a big boy. You can sit still a little longer," I coaxed.

"I not big boy," he grumbled. "I yittle."

Monday, September 1, 2008


I wasn't cut out for this.

Don't get me wrong--I know this is God's calling for me right now. I am happy as a mom, and honestly, if I weren't at home with my kids, I would be wishing I could be. It's a great life, and I'm not complaining. I know I have it better than almost anybody else in the whole world.

I'm just saying, I wasn't cut out for this. Not like my friends who have spent their lives gushing about how they longed to be mommies, who were already picking their children's names in grade school. I mean, not that I DIDN'T want kids. Cherub-cheeked, laughing-eyed, hope-of-our-future, kids. They're wonderful little creatures, no doubt. And I had nothing against them. I even enjoyed them, sometimes. And I sort of figured that someday, if I ever got around to getting married, kids would probably come along naturally. If they didn't, no biggie. I hadn't really put much thought into it, honestly.

I just had so many things I wanted to do! Like Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, I knew "What I'm going to do today, and tomorrow, and for the rest of my life..." I was going to live on the edge. Work with the homeless, travel as a missionary to dangerous foreign lands where most people couldn't make it, live with nothing but a pack on my back and a song in my heart--those were the things that were right down my alley! I even slept without a pillow sometimes in college, because I couldn't bear thinking of all the people out there who didn't have all the comforts I did. I figured I probably wouldn't get married because I would likely die young, or at least, I wouldn't want to risk leaving a husband and possibly children alone, if something happened to me. You know, just knowing they were out there would hold me back from the challenges I knew I was called to face.

During my senior year of college, I found my "niche," the challenge that fit me exactly. Juan, Elias, Elisabeth, Gabriel, Moraima, Ruth, Raquel...the terrific kids in my Conquistadores group (I was their Pathfinder chaplain when I worked as a Bible worker for their church in St. Croix) took it all out of me, and filled me up again. Now I knew what I was going to do with my life--work with teenagers and young adults, kids like me. They had problems, but they wanted to follow God and let Him make whatever He could of their lives. Oh, it was a little bit disappointing, not having all the danger and adventure I had expected--but it was so fulfilling I got over it quickly. I knew this was my lifelong calling.

I launched into ministry by becoming a summer colporteur leader. Summers found me helping lead teams of students around neighborhoods selling Christian books. I loved the kids. I loved plunging into the day, pitting myself against whatever challenged me during the day (no sissy cell phones to call my program head in case anything went wrong in those days!). I loved how it was just God and me, full of holy boldness and the Spirit, saying and doing things I never dreamed I could do. I loved the exhilarating, exhausted end-of-the-day crash, feeling totally wrung out for God. Most of all, watching the students be transformed by sharing the Gospel with others was just addictive.

Soon I found myself working in a brand-new, experimental college called George King Institute. It was a college program built around involving students in personal evangelism, learning to think through what they believed, and sharing their faith with others. Right away I knew I was home. I had found the next level of my calling. We went through all kinds of challenges in our school--believe me, that could be a book all by itself!--but I was a woman possessed. I had found my fire, and I couldn't feed it enough. Educating, shaping young minds, drawing hearts close to my own and helping them become who they needed to be. What an awesome life!

For four wonderful years, I deaned in the college and learned with the students. The school became my home, and the students my family. Even on the worst days, I woke up feeling like I couldn't wait to start work. I remember the distinct, exhilarating sense that I was doing what I was born to do. This was life at its richest! I knew I was one of the ten happiest people in the world.

When I met Alan, honestly, I wasn't sure that I wanted to bother with getting involved. As I wrote in my journal, I wasn't sure if I wanted to "dare to disrupt my little paradise." In time, though, I found something that fit me just as surely as my school: my husband. But while on our honeymoon, I received an email shattering my dream world: my school no longer existed. I had grasped one lifelong dream, only to lose the other.

There were times I was pretty weepy that year. (Poor Alan!) Not because of marriage--it was a taste of heaven on earth. But I felt like I had been a foster parent, and suddenly my house burned down and all of my children were taken away and put in other homes. Actually, it was easier when we lived in Africa, and I simply had an alternate world. Once we returned to America, the full force of my loss hit me--I really, truly had no school. What would I do with my life now? I remember our first weekend back in America, when we sat down in a Sabbath School and everyone was going around the room introducing themselves and saying what they did. When it was my turn, I told them my name, and then paused. I was no one. What could I say? "I, um, used to be a teacher," I mumbled, and blinked back sudden, hot tears.

I started teaching at Weimar Academy, but my heart was still in an evangelistic college. Within a few months, we found out what was next. I was pregnant! I finished the year teaching and launched into my new career--motherhood. Hey, I figured, I loved facing whatever flew at me so far in life, and coming out the other side stronger and better. What can be so tough about parenting? I was a little troubled by the fact that I couldn't imagine myself as JUST a parent. Oh, I could imagine myself, baby pack on my back, doing all the things we did already. But how would my life change when the baby wasn't on my back anymore?

We added baby to life and tried to keep going just like we had before. Anaya flew on 40 airplanes her first year of life, 39 her second. And somewhere along there, about the time I had Seth, it struck me. All those people who warned me, "Your life will never be the same"--they were right.
As most of you know, Seth was only a few months old when we found out Skyler was also coming to further bless our house. (This is another mystery of life, how some people spend their lives longing for a baby but can't have one, while others, like me, get pregnant by walking past the diaper aisle in the grocery store. Okay, almost.) Suddenly I realized that this was not getting easier. Now I wasn't just going to have my hands full--I was going to have more kids than hands.
How hard could this be? Hey, I loved challenges! Sleep deprivation? Been there, done that--I used to suck ice during colporteur afternoons to keep myself alert at the wheel, I was so tired! And if I could keep 18 teenagers organized on a Friday cleanup, surely I could handle a couple of little kids whizzing around a house (and they had to nap, anyway, right?). I thought I could handle such simple things. I was the person who loved challenges.

I was wrong.

I was not cut out for this.

I could handle police chasing me out of towns, screaming, sobbing students, culture shock, sleeping on hard floors, being covered with mosquito bites, eating with my hands off of banana leaves. I could handle severe, debilitating pain, and working with controlling, manipulative co-leaders. Sullen teenagers? They intrigued me. I loved challenges.

I was not prepared for planning my life around naptimes.

I was not prepared for facing continual failure--working all day long toward a clean, organized house and obedient children, but at the end of the day, facing a disaster wherever my eyes rest, and disobedient children to boot.

I was not prepared for never being able to sit down and read--ANYTHING--without a continual stream of, "Mommy? Can you...? Mommy? Can I...?"

I was not prepared for wrestling with the hard questions I had never thought about. Like, if you think your kid has lied, but you're not sure, do you punish them, or risk launching them into a pattern of lying that will take you years to purge out of their system? Should I spank, then hug, or hug, then spank? What if my kid wants to hug me the whole time they are in time out--is that rewarding disobedience, or showing that punishment is loving?

I only thought I liked challenges. What I really liked was CONQUERING challenges. I loved reaching the top of the cliff and looking down on what I had climbed. I loved the thrill of pitting myself against a day and coming out victorious. But this continual, grinding facing of myself, my weaknesses, my insecurities? Not so much.

I was not cut out for this.

But the great thing is, God cut this out for me. He ordained that I face myself, find out who I am, and in the process, learn to love like I have never loved before.

This weekend, feeling a little suffocated, I took a little time out to go away for a walk and pray. Alan was playing with the kids in the yard, but they saw me walking away. "Mommy!" went up the unanimous squeal, and everyone dashed to me, to hang on my legs and make me feel like screaming. I hugged them all, disentangled myself and ordered them to go to Daddy. Relief mingled with wistfulness as I watched them bound up the hill toward him. I could hardly tear my eyes away from their sweet little figures! Such stifling responsibility. Such intoxicating love.

Why do I write all of this? (LOL...I'm not sure!) I guess I wonder what people think of me sometimes. I hang around with all of these awesome college students, and I hear about their dreams and goals. They feel so confident of what they want to do, who they want to marry, who they are. And I think, well, that's a good thing. I loved that feeling. "I know what I'm going to do today, and tomorrow, and for the rest of my life..." But life's road has bends that you can never imagine, and here I am, on a totally different page than I ever dreamed I'd be--a boring, stay-at-home, homeschooling mom (school starts tomorrow for Anaya), days plotted out carefully in order to get meals cooked, laundry done, groceries bought, bills paid, children disciplined, floors swept, and manners taught. I sit down in the doctor's office and choose Parenting magazine out of the stack--who could have imagined? It just wasn't me. But I can't say it isn't me now. I'm starting to settle into being a different person than I used to be. I don't want to climb mountains, sleep on the street with the homeless, or raft dangerous rivers, because my kids might think that that's a good idea, and it's not, because they could get hurt, or die...

My paradigm is just so different, sometimes I look in the mirror and can't believe I'm me.

But in some ways, maybe I like the new me better.

And what about the old, adventurous me? The one who has a vision and a passion for a school? The one who felt she would just die if she couldn't make it happen?

Well...let's just say that some things never change. And I'm learning that dreams shatter, but visions bend.