A Good Day After All

Several weeks ago someone at our church announced that they needed more families to sign up to deliver baskets to Le Bonheur Children’s hospital. Arleigh was all over it. She begged. All total I would be out a Monday afternoon. I thought it would be good for all of us to do so I told her to sign us up. That was several weeks ago. Monday was our day. When I said sure, I had no idea what Monday we would be assigned. When I got a note about the day, I never second guessed it. I also  never thought that Ray’s parents would be visiting from out of town necessitating two vehicles for every outing that included all of us. I assumed we would go as a family, I would deal with Bria and Jack and Ray could handle driving downtown and parking. He’s also a wonderful bodyguard if I’m in questionable areas of Memphis. Le Bonhuer’s neighborhood feels totally safe in the light of day. I wasn’t sure how I would feel at dusk.

Monday arrived. You are about to hear exactly how selfish I really am. I have visited with people at Le Bonheur before. I don’t like driving downtown. There isn’t much rush hour in Memphis but what little there is, I would be hitting. The girls and I would have to find a place to park and make our way over to the main entrance…that’s being worked on and not really open. I would have to cross a busy street with two children and three baskets filled with water and snacks for people waiting in the waiting rooms. At least it was the big two and they could help lug filled baskets. I am ashamed to say, all I could think about was the fact that we were supposed to be having family time before Ray left again and here I was splitting us up on an errand, ruining the plans we had.

It’s funny how God has bigger plans. The girls and I sailed downtown with little traffic. I was going against it. I missed a turn on the GPS and slipped into a free parking lot that I had parked in on a previous trip. If I listened to my little friend, Elfred I would have missed the free lot. The weather was perfect. There was no rain as we walked half a block to the entrance. I called ahead to let them know we were there and got a very friendly lady on the phone. The regular girl was out but our new friend, Penny would be happy to meet us. We waited patiently chatting up the guard in the lobby.

Our new friend was fabulous. She treated Arleigh and Hanan like adults. She gave us a tour all the way to each waiting room, slipping us in back doors so we could see just how much planning went into this new hospital. Each floor has two hallways, one for patients, typically in beds and one for the visitors. Art created for children’s eyes is displayed everywhere, some of it created by children. Penny explained carefully to the girls why people would be waiting in each room. This floor is heart surgery… this is the floor for intensive care. Then we hit the PICU. My healthy children weren’t allowed down to the waiting room. Instead, I was brought in a maze of hallways. Parents, some in tears over their newborn babies, were visible. I saw only a few of the babies. That was enough. I suddenly felt horrible. My children are healthy. I wanted to take them to play in their favorite pizza place as our family night instead of providing a brief bit of comfort to these parents in the grip of something awful. I felt horrible for them and awful about my thoughts and feelings on the half hour drive downtown. As I watched a mother pull her baby in a wagon on the cardiac unit with his iv splint, I had a difficult time holding back tears. We have been very, very blessed. I’m not sure if I felt like crying for the baby who looked so miserable, for the mother who looked even more miserable or for me and how awful I had been acting.

As we finished our delivery and collected empty baskets that would soon be returned by another family Penny asked if we had time to see her favorite piece of art. I said sure, no longer worried about getting back to go to dinner. We walked into the outpatient rehab unit. Penny was telling the girls that children, most with neurological disorders were there for therapy. We saw children in wheelchairs waiting for their names to be called. I thought of sweet little Abe and his big old smile that comforted me while we were waiting for Jack…even if he has never met me. I also thought about Jack and whispered prayers of thanks. Maybe it was fresh in my mind because we had our 6-month progress visit that morning. Maybe it was talking about how far he’s come since China and thinking about how much further we would like for him to go. I was reminded of just how blessed we are to have healthy kids. The piece of art… I already have plans to go back with baskets so Bria can see the art. It’s a wind garden with her “Peek-A-Bugs” everywhere doing the hippy hippy shake right outside a window. I also need to stop at the prayer wall to offer a prayer for all the parents facing long hard climbs and a prayer of thanks for my four.

By the time we left, Arleigh was considering public relations so that she could do what Penny does, show people the good that happens in awful situations. Hanan was talking about the baby in the wagon and the little girl at school who just got her new wheelchair, wondering if she goes to therapy there. Penny made sure to tell me that she wanted to show the girls as much as she could in our small timeframe so that if they ever needed a hospital that they wouldn’t be scared of it. She had no idea her tour opened my eyes to the blessings and the hope around me.

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The Talk…You Know The One

So, I feel like my girls have lives of their own. Between girl scouts, pom and piano I often feel like I spend a much higher percentage of time with Bria and especially Jack. I’m used to questions like, “Will we really get to meet Lilo and Stitch in Hawaii?” or “Why doesn’t Tucker have to wipe his butt when he potties?” Yes, that question was thrown at me just yesterday. If Arleigh and Hanan are home it’s more along the lines of, “Mama, what’s a detritivore?” during the homework hour. If you are wondering, I had to look it up. Imagine my surprise when some questions last night forced my hand and Arleigh, Hanan and I had THE TALK.

Let me set the scene… Arleigh has been beyond moody. Like, I’m starting to worry about periods moody. Then again, she’s only in fifth grade. Is that really possible? When I was in fifth grade I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what a period was. I was too busy plotting with Nathan Galloway how we were going to be in the summer Olympics one day hoping it would get us out of Sedalia. My mother was her mother’s daughter to the nth degree. At one point she handed me the book, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and said, “Good luck.” She did eventually tell me some of the very basic stuff. She had a wonderful story that I think she should turn into a book. It went something like this…you build a nest in your body to hold eggs. If you’re eggs aren’t fertilized your body loses that nest so another one can be built. That’s what your period is. Now I roll on the floor laughing every time my mom is mad at my brother and he says in his fakest sweet boy voice, “Mama, are you losing your nest?” I can tell other stories too, like how I taught myself how to shave. Nana Bonnie noticed some prickly knee hair when we were on vacation in Gatlinburg and totally ratted me out. I had been shaving at least a year before Mom figured it out.

Anyway, Arleigh’s mood had shifted from somber to something worse. If I ask what’s wrong she says nothing and proceeds directly to sulk mode. This drives me crazy because it’s something my dad did and I’m the only one allowed to sulk in this house. I am the professional, all amateurs should leave it to me. I pushed a little harder. Apparently the sour mood was all about not allowing her to watch certain television shows.

I need to back up again… we don’t have cable. We decided when we moved to Memphis that there are certainly better ways to spend our money and we hoped to create more family time. It’s been a success in some ways. We’re probably not doing as well as we hoped but television consumption is down. I asked exactly what it was she wanted to watch. Wouldn’t you know it, a commercial for Smash was just coming on. I told her I would watch it first but I’m pretty certain that anything that comes on a nine o’clock central was probably not appropriate for an eleven-year old. Plus, I record Castle and Hawaii 5-O in those time slots and I am unwilling to give either of those up!

Around this time, the real issue started to surface…Arleigh felt that my refusal to let her watch certain shows meant that I don’t trust her to make the right decisions. Arleigh is far more mature that I ever was and I’m fairly certain given the opportunity she would almost always make better decisions than I did. However… I explained that some things that you are exposed to might encourage her to make a bad decision by example. I was citing certain examples and explaining that some of her friends might be encouraged to do the wrong thing if television is their only example then they won’t know right from wrong. Oh my this stirred the pot. “What? Are you talking about Becky? It’s not Becky you should worry about. It’s Suzie! Do you know what she does at school?” (All names have been changed to protect the innocent guilty.) Arleigh went on to give several examples of the things little Suzie had done and said and descriptions that were at the very least lacking, sometimes incorrect. Well (insert cuss word of your choice here)! It is time to explain some things…after a prayer of God please help me have the right words and get through this without damaging anyone too terribly bad.

I’ve been reading a book about how to talk to your children about sex on and off for over a year. I’ve clearly been putting this off. It was clear that if they didn’t hear the correct information from me, the misinformation at school would be much, much worse. So I sat both Arleigh and Hanan down and explained the facts as scientifically as I could. Oh my word! I’m pretty sure Hanan has been traumatized for life. Questions like, “You actually do that?” “Where would you do that?” “Why?” and statements like “That sounds horrible and painful and I am never getting married!!!” would be the reason I can assume trauma. While I usually try not to announce it here, did I mention that Ray is out of town? I was left to fail miserably on my own. Oh the humanity! I’m not sure who it was worse for but I’m pretty sure it was me with Hanan running a close second. Her poor little innocent spirit. I hope it’s not crushed.

The greatest part of the event was Arleigh grabbing her iPod as I was going downstairs. I turned around, horrified. I had just said that this wasn’t a conversation to have with peers right now, some of their parents haven’t talked to them yet. I asked what on earth she was doing. “Don’t worry. I’m only texting Grandma and Nana Bonnie. They’re my best friends!” I know Grandma and Nana Bonnie love that! Considering the fact that I had to graphically explain innuendo on a television show to my mother recently as Nana Bonnie was laughing in a fetal position at her sister and Ray was turning 10 shades of red at what I was trying to explain to his mother-in-law with him in the room, I think Grandma is going to have to get a little better informed for this texting business. Prayers for all of us, especially the adults are encouraged.

 

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Exceptional

Arleigh had a project due this week. She was given a word. She had to plan a t-shirt design that would illustrate the definition of the word. She also had to write a sentence on the back of the shirt using the word. All of this was gearing up for TCAP writing assessments this week. I need to admit the project irked me a bit. I had to run out and buy a t-shirt and fabric markers. Now, the t-shirt wasn’t a big deal since I found one on clearance but the fabric markers were $10. Of course the markers were optional if she finished the project at school, which wasn’t likely. So I had a burr in my butt just thinking about it. I really hate to be given a chore like hunting things down last minute when I’ve already done the week’s shopping. I couldn’t get other parents out of my head either. What if they didn’t have the money at the end of the month to run out and get it all? So I wasn’t exactly encouraging.

On top of it all, one of her teachers was trying to help and told her maybe she should draw her class at their desks with a bunch of brains. Arleigh is in the class that moves a bit faster. I didn’t want her comparing herself to other students like that though. I think all of my kids are exceptional in many different ways. I told her to think about a group of things and what would make one of those things exceptional, like a dozen eggs. So it was decided that she would draw eggs on her shirt and we could use sequins and glitter to make one look different. Now I’m wondering if pretty should be exceptional but she chose to call it shimmering, so I guess we’re good. (I’m thinking I over think things… opinions?) She went to school armed with her outline and a drawing. She came home from school upset. Another teacher told her it should be in 3-D, her drawing didn’t look like eggs. Oh my word! I wanted to call the teacher and ask if she was an English teacher or an Art teacher. I refrained.

Arleigh wasn’t feeling well all weekend. I can see how bad she feels in that picture. I procrastinated. Then, Sunday she started running a fever. I kept running through my head how we would make her shirt in three dimensions. Then, I remembered some model magic. We cut a box, I used my handy dandy glue gun to get it stuck to the shirt. Arleigh wrote her sentence on the back and started making eggs out of the model magic. Then, the kids went nuts eating Valentine’s Hershey Kisses. I took the tin foil and hot glued it to the biggest last egg. It’s hard to see her rainbow of words but it turned out great. Arleigh did an “Exceptional” job especially considering how lousy she felt. I know the definition of at least one word that she won’t forget. I also know it’s exceptionally hard to buckle a seatbelt with a three dimensional shirt. I also know that I was not an exceptional example during this project. I need to work on that happy heart thing I’m always preaching to the kids.

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Another Misadventure In Parenting

Every morning things around here are a little bit nutty. Bria is throwing around orders like General Patton. I’m trying to get Jack going and generally hand feed him breakfast. There are lunches to make. While it should be suddenly clear that I could have the girls make their lunches, if I have to constantly remind them to brush their teeth, how are they going to get everything in the lunch box? The big girls are easily distracted by everything. Moving them upstairs means I’m not in their face giving them direction every two minutes. And… we need a better system. It’s often in the middle of this that I wonder why I’m going through the rush. Wouldn’t it be easier to home school? Then I realize that would mean we would be engaged in this dance ALL DAY LONG. No thank you.

Here’s another thing… never compare your children to you as a child. Even in a whisper, Karma will hear. I promise. Karma WILL HEAR. The night before last on the way home from church, the van was getting louder and louder. Big girls find that picking on the little girl is pretty entertaining until the little one gets all of them in trouble. Their evening reading time was taken away. Arleigh was ticked, seriously ticked. She was at a plot twist in a book and was looking forward to reading it. She was in a bit of a tween tizzy. Off to bed mad at me, Ray said something. I made the horrible mistake of saying, “Arleigh isn’t going to do anything to me that I haven’t already tried on Mom.” Never use those words ever, especially if you have more than one child. See, I have three other ones. I’m pretty sure that while I could say that about Arleigh… Hanan and Bria at least are a whole other story. Jack is still to be determined…

So there’s Hanan, my little fashionista. She is always trying new things with her style. Unfortunately right now she’s toying with a grunge bohemian look. She has a fabulous lunch box. It’s a zebra print with her name on it in last year’s favorite color, Blue. It looks like a Memphis Tiger bag which used to thrill her. This week, or today, blue is out and pink is in. She went down the street and for a quarter bought a lunch box for twenty five cents. The dirty pink camouflage lunch box used by another child for years, was apparently a steal. Hanan was so proud of her purchase. I dropped the lunch box in the wash and she used it for a while. Her thermos won’t fit in the lunchbox. Drives me crazy. The kid who forgets everything…like her mother…wants to hand carry her thermos. I let her use the prized possession for a while. I started throwing in juice boxes so things would fit. And let’s face it, throwing in three Capri Suns is a lot easier than filling three thermoses with ice and water. That would take a whole three minutes off my time. See where she gets it from?

Lately I’ve gone back to the thermos. Water is better. Saving money is better. It’s also impossible to get their little soup thermos and that other thermos in Hanan’s pink lunch box. I forced her to take another one. I thought she would see how easy it was and switch back. Carrying everything is one bag would seem easier right? Ummm no. She was switching back and forth. When I wasn’t paying attention, she put the other lunch box back. Yesterday I started making mac and cheese to put in everyone’s lunch. I couldn’t find her little container. I saw the lunchbox at the back of the pantry. Would she really? She knows the rule about emptying lunch boxes as soon as we’re home. She also knows the rule about brushing her teeth. See where this is going?

I opened the lunch box. Smell, not so great. Yep, it’s in there. Oh my word. Soup must have gotten in the seal. I could not unseal it. I was on the phone with a friend. She is telling me no worries. She has her own version of Hanan and she knows just what to do so I won’t have to throw away the $15 thermos. So much for saving money on water over Capri Sun…I can’t budge the seal. Well, maybe I’ve budged it. I sat it down and walked away to finish the conversation. Then I heard a pop, clank, clank, clank. I walked around the corner to see what Bria had done because she’s my go to for things like that. The thermos had exploded. Lid off. Tomato soup on every cabinet and counter top. It looked like a crime scene and smelled worse. Bria was sanding there, eyes big as saucers.

As I cleaned up the mess I remembered another very special thermos. It was new. I wanted to use it all the time. Mom folded and told it fine but do not put any Coke in it. That would be Western KY speak for soda. I did. It sprung a leak. She was ummm, ill. See, paybacks are awful. I do realize that it could have been worse. I make garlic oil. It’s stored in a clear container in the fridge. It has a shatterproof sticker on it that I had never noticed until a few nights ago when Hanan said, “That shatter proof sticker really makes me want to throw that jar and test it.” Oh my word. I’m in trouble.

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Sushi and Donuts

Yesterday we had our Focus Group over for dinner before church. I had to get all the Sunday school teachers (12) gifts ready because plans changed and we won’t be at our church for the next two Sundays. Today there are 3 Christmas parties, more teacher gifts, shopping and wrapping and getting ready for Arleigh’s party.
I still stopped to have our annual school birthday lunch with Arleigh a couple of days early. She requested sushi for lunch and donuts to share with her class instead of cupcakes. So that’s what I did…sushi and donuts. I took a picture because I quite certain it will be a while before I see that combo again!
More on Arleigh’s 11th birthday later. I’m trying really hard this morning to pretend she can just be 10 forever!

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