Children Are People: Little, Whole People.

I’ve had the privilege (yeah, let’s call it that) of flying with my daughter six times in the first two years of her life. That’s six trips, twelve flights, more than twenty-four hours on an airplane. She was three months old the first time. I held her the whole flight in a window seat. When we stood up at the end, the guy on the aisle looked over and said, “Whoa! You’ve had a baby this whole time?!” Besides his lack of observational skills (and the odd insinuation that perhaps the baby had not actually been there the whole time), we thought this was a great compliment.

Fast-forward to toddler days. I don’t think anyone would make the same mistake now. It’s stressful to fly with a toddler on your lap, there’s no way around that. They’re loud, unpredictable, stubborn, active, and sometimes they move their limbs like those vintage mini-puppet toys where you push the bottom and their arms and legs collapse at awkward angles:

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So flying with these little people is always an adventure. But one I’m more than willing to take on so Abigail can see grandparents and cousins and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles. Because my little child is a person and I want her to experience as much life as possible, even when she is not yet two years old.

We recently flew home from five glorious days of vacation in Texas. There was lots of sun, swimming, sweets, and very little sleep. Michael went home a day early so it was just the two of us. We got on the plane and spotted a window seat on the third row. Yes! The worst part of the flight is always those last ten minutes it takes to unload after the plane has landed. Your kid knows the flight is over and you should be getting off, but you’re not. It’s airplane purgatory. So the third row was a win!

We squeezed by our new friend on the row (I’ll call her “Aisle Seat”. She was probably in her 60’s, so maybe a grandma? Cross our fingers . . .) and we settled into our tiny, cramped home for the next two hours.

One by one everyone boards and keeps walking to find another open seat, even as the flight attendant announces that this is a full flight. I get it. I really do. I know how relaxing a flight can be when you don’t have a bouncing, laughing, poking, kicking toddler on your lap. I don’t blame you for walking past us. Not even a little bit. But then the door closed and the middle seat on our row was still empty (win again!) and “Aisle Seat” turned and said this: “Well, looks like you lucked out. I guess nobody wants to spend the next two hours next to a screaming baby.”

Like I said, I get it. An airplane is obviously not an ideal place for a toddler, but it’s necessary to let people travel back and forth to see loved ones. But just a few thoughts:

1. At this point, my child has not made a sound and has been quietly sitting in my lap looking out the window at the luggage carts and other planes and clouds. No screaming.

2. An airplane is a public place. Any time you venture into public, you run the risk of being inconvenienced. I have a responsibility in public to help my child act as much like a civilized human being as possible. I recently abandoned a half-full shopping cart in Target and carried my screaming child outside to the car under my arm like a sack of potatoes. But there’s no outside on a plane. There is just this tiny seat.

3. I will do my best to make this experience as pleasant as possible, I promise, but my child isn’t an electronic device that I can turn off or put into airplane mode. She is a person. She has a personality and feelings and right now she’s sad because she just said goodbye to her grandparents in the parking lot. But we’ll do our best.

I wasn’t rattled, like I said, I get it. So in an attempt to disarm “Aisle Seat” a little and ease the tension, I responded, “Well, she’s awfully cute, so I guess they’re all missing out.” “Aisle Seat” didn’t laugh.

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Of the 130 minutes that we were in the air, Abigail cried for approximately 10 of them. Man, we tried so hard. We got out all the toys and all the books. We ate all the Cheerios, played all the games, and sang all the songs (quietly). There were a few minutes where I thought Abigail’s charms might win “Aisle Seat” over. But just when I thought we were gonna make it with a decent amount of dignity, “Aisle Seat” got up and walked to the front. And complained to the flight attendant.

I know this because the flight attendant (bless her) then came over and started banging cups in Abigail’s face to “entertain” her. Confused, Abigail took the cups, stacked them together, and put them down. The flight attendant cheerfully said, “Maybe that will help,” and walked away. Not to be deterred, “Aisle Seat” grabbed a cup and the bag of Cheerio’s (that I was holding), got a handful of Cheerio’s out of the bag, filled the cup, and started shaking it at Abigail. (At this point, I was just trying not to laugh.) “You’ve got to keep them distracted,” she said. Them? There’s only one of her. And she’s doing pretty good for a toddler on a plane, but she is having a rough day. Maybe you are too, since you’re now on your second Jack Daniels on a two-hour flight.

As the plane touched down, “Aisle Seat” said, “I hope you have someone coming to pick you up because I don’t think you can handle all that.” Oh, I think we’ll be ok. I will manage to gather all our belongings and we will go on to live our lives after this flight.

Just to be clear, I’m not bitter or mad at “Aisle Seat” and I’m recounting this experience mostly because it’s funny to me. I can’t say enough that I get it and I literally feel a burning wave of nausea every time we step on a plane because I don’t want to be a burden on anyone, ever. I feel eyes piercing into us as we walk down the aisle, but then I remember, hey, this is my little person that I get to travel with today and I like her, even on bad days. You might get to sit by her and get a few Cheerio’s in your lap or you might get to sit by the guy that busts out his Salmon Caesar Salad five minutes into the flight.

I told Abigail before we got on that flight that I was so glad she was with me. I always get sad leaving Texas and I was happy to have her company as we traveled home. And I meant it. I’ll put up with the awkward sorry-we-bumped-into-your-tray-table . . . again . . . because she’s a person and I enjoy being with her. An airplane with a toddler isn’t my ideal place to spend a Sunday afternoon either, but it’s still two hours that I get to spend with someone I love.

For all the things that children can be: loud, rude, unpredictable, annoying, selfish . . . oh wait, adults can be those things too . . . They are people. Feelings, emotions, good days, bad days, all of it. Little, whole people.

Are You Having Fun With Your Kids This Summer?

This summer has been very unique for me. Fourteen of my last sixteen summers were spent, in some capacity, traveling and working summer camps. Those summers were memorable and life-changing, but they were also hard work and busy!

This summer I had one goal and one goal only for all my “free time” now that I’m off the road: to have lots of fun with my family!

I told my husband just this week that if he ever thinks to himself, “I wonder if my wife and daughter would like to go to the pool today?” . . . The answer is YES! Always, yes!

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At the beach in June. Fun!

I know as parents, we can grow so weary. Trust me, I know. Most days, I’m up at 5:45, at work by 7:30, picking Abigail up at 4:45, then we’re home to help cook dinner (I say help because let’s face it, I do about 25% of the actual cooking in our house), clean, do laundry, give a bath and somewhere in there I’ve got to try to work in exercise, time with my husband, time with friends, time in the Word . . . Whew! We’re exhausted. When is the fun supposed to happen again?

I’ve taken on a new philosophy this summer. In non-summer mode, I think our house generally stays pretty clean. On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being Martha Stewart and 1 being Obama just called in FEMA) I think we usually land somewhere around a 6 or 7. Hey dust bunnies, I see you. But the things are picked up and in their places, the dishes are done, most laundry is put away, the kitchen counter is wiped down and the bed even gets made most days (Thanks husband!). Enter summer. I think this month our standard level of clean has dropped to about a 4. Why? Because I hate being in a messy house and my kid loves to be outside, so what do you think we choose to do? Since I work, my hours in the day with Abigail are already short. Too short. I could spend those hours cleaning. Or I could spend them running, swinging, chasing, swimming and eating ice cream with my daughter. I’ll clean my house again, for real, in September.

Listen, I know summer can be stressful. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Well, guess what? In the summer, the days are longer. Longer! There are already days in the dead of winter where bedtime can’t come fast enough. Now the days are longer! What if the days being long wasn’t a bad thing? What if instead of seeing this as more time to “fill”, we saw this as more time to have fun? To enjoy our kids. To play and do crazy things – things we wouldn’t normally do when the sun goes down at 4:30 (Seriously, what’s up with that Middle Tennessee?).

I felt like I had a choice to make. I could choose to stick with my normal routine of coming home, cooking, cleaning, bathing, and putting to bed by 8:15 sharp. Or I can choose to sweep the dust bunnies under the rug and take full advantage of this magical thing called summer with all it’s warmth and extra long days and sunshine.

We chose fun. We bought fresh peaches at the farmer’s market. We swam. And swam and swam. We stayed up way past our bedtime. To watch fireworks and eat ice cream.

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

On several occasions, I have rushed home from work and thrown a random assortment of food items in a bag to head to the park for a picnic. Our child has gone down a slide no less than three hundred times. We got very dirty and very sweaty. We brought a lot of that dirt into the house. It did not all get swept away promptly. We survived.

We’re doing more than surviving though. We are having fun! We are enjoying each other’s company and laughing and making lots of memories. (Oh hey, and bonus: all that running and swimming and playing has burned quite a few extra calories!) (One other side note: I certainly don’t think it is a parent’s responsibility to entertain their children all day, every day. I’m not talking about entertaining. I’m just talking about getting out of your routine and getting the most out of summer with your kids. Or friends, or other significant people in your life, if you’re not a parent.)

I think this is what a child's knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

I think this is what a child’s knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

What about you? Are you enjoying your summer? Are you occasionally forsaking normal household responsibilities to play outside in the sun or have a picnic or take a walk? Don’t just send your kids outside to play. You, parent; you need to have fun too! With your kids! It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. The possibilities are endless. The days are long. But they won’t stay that way. Cooler weather is just around the corner. Schedules and bedtimes and regular bath times will all fall into place again. (Okay, maybe not overnight, but they will.)

The days are long, but summer is short. Make time to enjoy the precious people God has placed in your life. Make memories. Have fun.

What My One-Year-Old Taught Me About Fear

My sweet child is young and is still learning so many things about this great, big world. Just this week she learned that if food is hot to the touch, it will also burn her mouth, so she should put it back down and wait before eating. This was a lesson learned by trial and error (and many looks that said, “Why did you let me eat that?”). Currently, she is learning just how much she can irritate the dog (i.e. pull his ears, legs, tail, poke his eyes, yell at him, etc…) before he loses patience. She’s also learning the delicate timing of how fast she can get away from him when he’s had enough.

But there are plenty of things she doesn’t know about. Like sharks. She doesn’t know about sharks. She has pictures of fish in many of her books. You can ask her to point at the fish and she will. But she doesn’t know that some of those “fish” grow to be very large and have very sharp teeth and can eat you.

We took our sweet girl to the beach this month. She had only been in water a handful of times so we were prepared for some natural fear of the water. We were also prepared for a downright paralyzing fear of the sand, due to her being OCD and never wanting any dirt on her hands. She will literally spend 30 minutes picking invisible specks of dirt off her hands and feet. She carries wipes with her at all times, just in case there’s dirt somewhere and it might get on her. We can’t explain this phenomenon but we do take full advantage of it.

So we were a little nervous about the sand and the fact that it would be completely covering her at all times. As kids often do, she surprised us and immediately loved digging in the sand. The ocean, on the other hand, took a little more time. We tried over and over to put her little feet in the water and she would pull her legs up as fast as she could and wrap them tightly around us.

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But I was determined. I wanted my baby girl to have fun at the beach and I wanted to show her that she didn’t have to be afraid. The problem is, the ocean is downright scary. She doesn’t know it, but there are plenty of things to be legitimately afraid of in the ocean. Like sharks. Ok, so obviously a shark is not going to attack in three inches of water, but the ocean is seriously a breeding ground for danger. Stingrays. Jellyfish. Crabs. Oil spills. Undertow and riptide. (And when you’re 2 1/2 feet tall, you can add plain old waves to the list of really scary things.) This stuff is real! I know when I was a kid, I would swim in with reckless abandon as kids do. But I can’t remember the last time I went further than knee deep in the water. Because, sharks.

So I had a major, pivotal, decision-making moment while holding my terrified one-year old in ankle deep ocean water. I’m afraid of what I can’t see in the water. And rightfully so. There are plenty of dangers lurking. I can choose to stand here, ankle deep, and let our experience with the ocean be shallow. And my daughter (eventually) will learn to let fear control her. That’s not what I want. I want her to be wise, discerning, informed, careful even…but not fearful.

So I nudged her along. I carried her along the shoreline and every three steps would dip her and sweep her legs through the water and tell her to kick the scary waves back into the ocean! She kicked and kicked and laughed and laughed. Mom’s arms and back got more and more sore. I would put her down for a second to stand on her own and she would reach back up for me. Then, finally, I put her down and without warning, she ran full speed into oncoming waves. They knocked her down, rolled over her head, she laughed, got up and did it again. And again. And again. And again.

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So Mom had another choice to make. I can let my one-year-old have more fun at the beach than me…or…

I broke a very long streak of basically never putting anything more than a kneecap in the ocean. And I have my daughter to thank for that. I wouldn’t say we overcame our fear. I would say we found joy in spite of it.

I know there are healthy and appropriate fears. It’s ok to be afraid of snakes and spiders, particularly poisonous ones. It’s not ok to never go outside because you’re afraid of snakes and spiders. Scripture tells us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and “Happy is the man who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 111:10a and 112:1a HCSB, respectively) To fear the Lord certainly doesn’t mean to avoid Him or to stay away from Him because He is big and terrifying. There are unknowns and plenty of danger lurking, but our fear should make us run straight into Him. Like the ocean, He is vast and mysterious, but He still offers us a chance to know and enjoy Him. We fear Him because if we are really following Him into unknown places, He won’t always be safe and comfortable. But there will be joy. So much joy.

 

What You Do When You’re a Compulsive Perfectionist

Compulsive: Someone who feels compelled to do certain things.

Perfectionist: A person who is displeased by anything that does not meet very high standards.

Here are two things you need to know about me. One, I’m not crafty. Two, I’m so not crafty that I recently attempted a project that required using super glue with toilet paper rolls, which are more or less paper, and I basically accomplished nothing but gluing my fingers together. Multiple times. So essentially, I’m so bad at crafts that I cannot super glue paper together. So knowing this, here’s what you do when you’re a compulsive perfectionist:

It starts with your only child and their quickly approaching first birthday, which of course, should be perfect. So balloons just won’t do. You need to make something. Those puff balls that people make out of tissue paper are so cute.

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How hard can that be? So you purchase the supplies and get to work.

Then you think maybe you got the wrong kind of paper.

Then you go back to The Dollar Tree (where all real crafters shop, obviously) and buy different paper.

Then you think maybe you still got the wrong kind of paper.

Then you cut the paper you have into varying sizes.

Then you think maybe you need something different to tie it with. And different paper.

Then you bravely decide to go to Hobby Lobby (on a Saturday afternoon with your almost one-year-old who has just had the time of her life at a birthday party but is now quickly growing louder in expressing her desire to go home).

Then you have the brilliant idea of taking one of her favorite toys into the store. It’s a precious little owl that her daddy picked out and it hooks onto the shopping cart so she can’t throw it on the ground over and over and over. And over. This will guarantee enough shopping time to identify why the puff ball experiment has gone so epically wrong so far.

Then you spend a good 10 minutes deliberating over colors and patterns on paper plates, cups and napkins only to decide to purchase them later at, yes, The Dollar Tree – because you hate to waste money.

Then you realize you’ve now lost 10 minutes of “happy baby shopping time”.

Then you make your way over and through aisles containing 1,372 kinds of thread and other tying devices, 64 colors of tissue paper, 589 styles of card stock, cake decorating tips, cake toppers, party favors, ribbon, balloons, streamers…wait, what did you come to Hobby Lobby for again? (This is the “compulsive” part.)

Then “happy baby shopping time” is definitely over.

Then you quickly make your selections and head to the front of the store. You are confident that this time the puff balls will be a success.

Then you load your purchases into the car and make your way back home with a relatively still happy baby and you debate whether or not that happiness will last long enough to go to the Dollar Tree and pick up those paper plates, cups, and napkins.

Then your relatively happy baby is increasingly less happy and you say, “Honey, play with your owl that you love.”

Then your heart sinks because the owl that she loves (that her daddy picked out and bought her) is most definitely still hanging out on the Hobby Lobby shopping cart. All cute and alone.

Then you call daddy frantically and tell him that you’ve left the cute little owl at Hobby Lobby, but you are already almost back home and is it worth it to go back and get it? And he is patient and explains that “it’s just a toy” and “she has other toys” and it is indeed not worth the trip back to Hobby Lobby. And you reluctantly accept this answer. It would take 30 minutes minimum to get to Hobby Lobby and back, dangerously cutting into baby dinner time and it would cost almost as much in gas as you paid for the owl in the first place and remember you don’t like to waste money. But isn’t it wasting money to leave the toy at Hobby Lobby? No, he’s right, it’s not worth it. He’s right. He’s right.

But the owl is so cute. And she loves it. And her daddy picked it out for her. And it’s so handy in shopping situations because, well, it hooks onto the shopping cart (the very trait that caused its demise). And it’s so cute. Nope, he’s right.

Then you try to forget about the owl but might lose a tiny bit of sleep over it that weekend.

Then you leave work on Monday afternoon and think, “Hobby Lobby is on my way home. Maybe the owl is still there.” And you call and it’s there and you are on your way to pick it up.

(Then you almost run out of gas because it’s 20 cents cheaper per gallon at the Rivergate exit versus downtown and, remember, you hate to waste money.)

Then you return to Hobby Lobby and are reunited with the owl. And while you’re there, you pick up balloons because you’ve finally accepted the reality that the puff balls are not going to happen. Which is a small victory in your compulsive perfectionist ways because you are accepting defeat.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Precious Moments (and we’re not talking little pastel colored figurines)

Well, I actually am going to talk about those little figurines for a minute. I’ll go ahead and admit that I own exactly one. It’s a nativity scene with a child kneeling beside the manger looking at baby Jesus. Maybe he’s giving a gift to baby Jesus? Anyway, it was a gift from Michael’s great-grandmother Alice who owns approximately 273 of the little figurines (give or take). I do faithfully take it out every year at Christmas and this year it looked pretty cute on the shelf in Abigail’s room, I must say.

If you’re not familiar with these little statues of smiling cherubs, here’s the deal. There are thousands of them to choose from. They are intended to commemorate special times in your life or the life of your child or perhaps represent some special interest or hobby. So you could find a little statue of a small boy fishing with his dad or a girl going off to school for the first time. You can choose from children building a snowman, skipping girls holding baskets or a boy throwing a football. And then you’ve got your major life events like graduation, marriage, first baby, anniversaries and so on. Since Abigail is coming up on her first birthday in just a few weeks, this particular one made me laugh out loud today:

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Why is this funny? Because this moment will never happen. There is no way that Abigail will ever sit that close to her cake without diving in with both hands unless mom and dad are literally holding her arms behind her back. And then she might just stick her face right in it. Yes, it’s sweet and cute. Just not realistic. This one is a little better although if you’ve seen Abigail eat this kid is still about ten times cleaner:

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Of course, there’s nothing at all wrong with these adorable little porcelain friends. They commemorate important moments in life that we want to remember! But when I think about what they represent, I can’t help but think that those types of “precious moments” can be few and far between. Birthdays are significant, but they happen once a year. Learning to ride a bike is a milestone but there’s a lot of life on either side of that day. Bringing home a baby from the hospital is one of the single most life-changing events there is – but it’s still just one day of thousands and it comes and goes surprisingly fast. You’ll have about 6,570 more of those days just by the time they turn 18.

I’ll admit, I’m often tempted to gauge life by what major milestone Abigail is accomplishing and then try to rush her on to the next one. You’re rolling over, great, now let’s start crawling. You’ve started eating finger foods and like peas and corn ok, let’s try steak! (This is real life.) Ok, you’ve been playing around with this walking thing for three weeks now, let’s take some serious steps! Hurry up and turn one year old so we can please stop buying expensive formula!

But then I have times like Sunday afternoon where it’s just us at the house and she’s eating black beans and corn (and, ok, maybe french fries too) and she’s loving every minute of it and waving her arms in the air after every bite. And we laugh and she throws corn at Amos the dog and then smiles at me because she knows she did something she’s not supposed to do. And that is a truly precious moment. And that is what makes up the bulk of our days. Eating, giving baths, reading books, picking up toys, playing with the dog, cleaning up after dinner, changing diapers…This is what we do day in and day out. It’s not glamorous. It probably doesn’t deserve a commemorative porcelain figurine. But it’s how we spend our days. And it’s precious.

So when I’m tempted to rush through to the next “big” thing, I’m choosing to slow down and enjoy each moment. Like changing the imminent diaper containing certified nuclear waste after the black bean and corn dinner. Maybe that’s a moment that Michael needs to enjoy…

In Sickness and In Health

If there’s one thing I hate more than anything, it’s the dreaded “24-hour stomach virus”. For one thing, it’s never really 24 hours. Yes, the sickness may go away, but it usually takes me a solid three days to recover and feel like I can actually rejoin the human race again without being mistaken for a zombie. The other thing I hate is that you have no idea it’s coming. No warning at all. Most sicknesses, you can feel them coming on – a light sniffle, a slight ache, a gradual fever – but not this. At 10:00 PM you go to bed mentally organizing your to-do list for the next day and at 3:00 AM you realize nothing on that to-do list is going to see the light of day…for several days. I actually woke up Monday morning around 2:00 AM and knew that the sickness was inevitable, but I’m stubborn. So I fought it for a solid hour. But by 3:00 AM, there was no more fighting. What happened next brought tears to my eyes for two reasons. One, I HATE throwing up. Hate it. But two, as I’m finally giving in to this inevitable sickness, even with my eyes closed, I realize that my dear husband is standing in the doorway, just a few feet away from me. Yes, at 3:00 AM, at clearly one of my finest moments, there he is. There was an overwhelming feeling of, “you’re going to be ok.” Some people may think that’s completely disgusting. And those people would be right. But in the moment, I was just struck by how much he cared. By how concerned he was that I was sick. I was impressed at how immediately he was by my side, taking care of me. At the exact moment I needed him, he was there.

It’s not like I’m just having this realization. I have the most amazing, caring, sympathetic husband alive. He completely embodies Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” On the spiritual gifts survey, he’s off the chart in the area of mercy (where I, on the other hand, score a 5 because you have to at least give yourself 1 point for each answer). So I know who he is and how much he loves. But what an outstanding reminder I had this week. I’m so very thankful to have a husband who rushes to my side to comfort me. In sickness and in health.

PS (Just so we don’t seem too sappy and romantic)…Our conversation at about 4:00 AM went something like this:

ME: So at what point can you just take me to the hospital? (only slightly sarcastically)

Michael: Well at least you’re still able to make jokes.

ME: I’m not joking. (still only somewhat sarcastic)

Michael: Get some sleep honey.