These Small Hours

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.

–Rob Thomas, "These Small Hours"

The five-year-old curled up in her bed, her hair still a little damp from her shower a few minutes before, her mind racing through her options for the best way to delay bedtime.

"What if there's a fire? I don't like to jump out of windows," she told me.

"If there's a fire, I'll come for you," I said.

"But what if I get lost in the deep, deep forest?" she asked.

"You won't ever be in the deep, deep forest," I told her. She shot me a look that made it clear this answer was far too practical to satisfy her need for drama.

I amended my response. "If you get lost in the deep, deep forest, I'll come and find you," I said, and she nodded, satisfied. Her heavy eyelids started to droop. The 11-year-old wandered in, carrying his guitar.

"Could I play her a lullaby?" he asked quietly. I nodded, and he sat down and strummed "Jesus Loves Me" while his little sister held tightly to my hand.

Then the 8-year-old wandered in, playing his drum, because we all know that "Jesus Loves Me" is much more effective as a lullaby with a loud and driving drum beat.

The 12-year-old heard the ruckus and popped in, playing along on his harmonica. This would've been significantly more impressive if he actually knew how to play a harmonica. His playing messed up the 11-year-old, who stopped right at the "little ones to Him belong part" to whack his brother. The five-year-old was so excited by this exchange that she jumped to her feet and began to sing/shriek along while jumping up and down on her bed. The two big boys stopped their fighting, suddenly distracted by the fact that "Jesus" sounds a lot like "Cheez-Its".

The five-year-old continued to jump. The 8-year-old continued to pound. The older ones continued to shriek their hymn to the little orange crackers.

I laughed, and I wondered exactly where I lost my sweet moment.

I laughed harder, and I realized I didn't lose it at all.

A.M.

5:07   The five-year-old climbs into my bed, wraps every one of her limbs around every one of my limbs, and kicks off all the covers.

5:08   I pull the covers back up.

5:11   She kicks them back down.

5:11   I pull them back up, and in a spirit of tenderness (or maybe it was grouchiness, I can't really remember) I suggest she stop it RIGHT NOW.

6:30   The alarm goes off–NPR, on my clock radio. Waking up to NPR basically causes me to move from nighttime sleep straight into a good nap. Probably not a good plan, now that I think of it.

6:41   I get out of bed, stepping on at least four chunks of dried plaster en route to the shower.

6:42   Shower time.

7:15   I head downstairs to find that my 12-year-old son is dressed, fed, clean, and cheerful, and he's sitting at the table reading.  I scratch my head.

7:16   I let out the dog and pour a Diet Coke (for me, not the dog).

7:25   The five-year-old sleepily wanders in. The 12-year-old immediately hops up and offers to fix breakfast for her. I walk over to him, embrace him with both arms, and I gently ask him if aliens invaded his body overnight.

7:32   In wet hair and a bathrobe, I drive my son to the bus stop, while remembering all the times I swore I'd never drive my kids to the bus stop in wet hair and a bathrobe. 

7:34   He makes me belly laugh, no small feat before 9 a.m. I love that boy.

7:40   Back home to find Hubs eating breakfast with our five-year-old daughter, the only member of this family who is chatty and energetic in the morning.  She is debating, aloud, the merits of pigtails versus ponytails.

7:45   Wake up the other boys and fix them breakfast. Think to myself that I don't know who invented Pancakes On a Stick, but I'd like to shake his hand.

7:51   Kiss Hubs goodbye.

7:56   The five-year-old shrieks in horror at a fly that is buzzing around our kitchen table, and she runs to get the water squirt bottle in self defense.

8:03   The eleven-year-old got a new haircut the night before, so I help him figure out the best way to fix it.

8:04   It evolves into a discussion about hair product and proper blow-drying technique.

8:07   It evolves further into a talk about some of the changes your body goes through during puberty.

8:08   I realize I might need some more caffeine.

8:11   The five-year-old has now coated every surface in my kitchen with water, while singing "I'm In the Lord's Army".

8:17   Attack the eight-year-old with a ferocious hug, because when his face is still sleep-puffy, he looks just like my baby, and a hug attack is the only logical response.

8:29   Out the door with the boys and a still-pajama'd girl.

8:38   Pull up to the school. "I-love-you-Be-good-Did-you-get-your-lunch-money?-Don't-forget-to-turn-in-that-yellow-permission-slip-Where's-your-coat?-I'll-see-you-after-school-May-the-Lord-bless-you-and-keep-you-may-He-make-His-face-to-shine-upon-you…."

8:39   Sit and breathe, and listen to my daughter sing a song she is making up about a fairy named Crystal Rainbow who wanted to be on American Idol but then a big fly came up and ate her.

8:40   Realize that I am profoundly blessed. Sleepy, but blessed.

Romance

It's Valentine's Day. This afternoon Hubs and I climbed the stairs, closed our bedroom door and…

…finished scraping the popcorn off our master bathroom ceiling.

Who needs roses when you can have soggy chunks of plaster in your hair?

We're generally not impulsive remodelers–when we've tackled projects in the past, we've usually thought them through very carefully, with a budget and a plan in place. Early last week we began to wonder how hard it would be to strip our old wallpaper, which led to a wondering about how much bathtub refinishing costs, which led to a wondering about whether we could remove a doorway. Ten days later, my bathroom looks like this:

100_4980

So, it would appear we're remodeling the bathroom.

I am learning many things in this little adventure, chief among them that plumbers are expensive, sledgehammers are surprisingly therapeutic, and wallpaper glue is forever. And I am reminded, with much thankfulness, that I'd rather spend an afternoon inhaling sheetrock dust with him than sitting at a candlelit table with anybody else. Come to think of it, maybe we should've written that into our wedding vows.

Happy Valentine's Day, Hubs. Thanks for the drywall and the babies and the sanity and for looking so dang good in a tool belt.

Cheeky.

Hanging in my laundry room, next to the door that is the traffic center of the universe our house, there hangs a white board for writing notes to each other.

Adam–take lunch money.

Change oil.

Sometimes entire conversations take place.

Hubs u r hot. I like u.

(Babe, so r u.)

(Mom and dad u r gross.)

Occasionally I use the space to write a pithy little quote I've found, one that will, I'm sure, plant gentle seeds of truth and wisdom in the hearts of my children and grow forever and ever, amen. (Do not disdain the use of pithy little quotes as an important
parenting tool. After all, not a single one of us ever jumped off a
cliff when our friend did, nor did we count our chickens before they
were hatched, so there you go.)

I posted this one a few days ago:

 100_4965

The twelve-year-old, (he of the endless eating of protein), had a response:

 100_4966

(Yes, it's changing the subject and it's cheeky, but a boy can get away with a lot when he has the good sense to employ parallel sentence structure.)

Kind Of Like the Griswolds, Except With Snow

There's plenty that's unpleasant about being a grown up. Income taxes and colonoscopies come to mind.

But adulthood has its benefits, too. Chief among them being no more recess and PE. I spent the first 17 years of my life trying to figure out creative ways to avoid showing my peers that I have the coordination of a drunk hippo on stilts. If it involves climbing, I will fall. If it involves water, I will sink. If it involves a ball, I will not only miss it, but I will position myself perfectly so that it smacks me in the forehead.

It's okay. I know this about myself. I faked it when I had to as a kid–just ask my dad about the Great Basketball Experiment of 1983. I still run into doorways and trip over grocery carts more than the average bear, but as a grown up, I've managed to tuck away my former humiliation quite neatly, thanks.

Until my athletic husband decided to plan a ski trip for the holidays. He's been talking about it for years–he loved to ski in college, and he had such a nice vision of our entire family shooshing happily down the slopes, eyes bright and faces flushed with joy. My vision of a ski trip involves ambulances, but I decided to be a good sport. 

We left Christmas morning, in the aftermath of a blizzard (the universe was trying to give me a hint). We made it safely to a small resort about an hour from Denver, checked in, unpacked, and began organizing a dizzying assortment of ski gear and supplies. (Including, by the way, the stuff you smear inside your goggles to keep them from fogging–it's called, to the  great joy of my sons, Cat Crap.)

The next morning, after my breakfast of oatmeal sprinkled with Aleve, we dropped off our happy, agile children at the kids' ski school. Hubs shooshed and I lumbered out to the place where our class would begin.  

A friendly older man with silver hair shooshed up and introduced himself as our instructor. He lined up our class and asked us to introduce ourselves by explaining what kind of athletic experience we have.

(Great.)

When it was my turn, I mumbled a response that had something to do with stairs and laundry baskets.

(Somebody get me out of here, please.)

When the introductions of all my fellow (athletic) classmates were over, the instructor went on to explain that he's a retired high school principal, so if we don't do what he says, we're going to detention.

(No, I'm serious, somebody get me out of here right now.)

He began by explaining the basics, and he said the key not to falling is knowing how to turn.

(Really? Because I think the key to not falling is staying in the lodge, but what do I know?)

It's simple, he said, just lean here and push there and tilt this but don't tilt that and keep your chin up and put your arms out there and then lean here again. 

Alrighty.

We got started on a hill with the incline of a pimple. Our whole class gently coasted where they were supposed to coast. Well, almost the whole class. I made my first run down the pimple, and I stayed vertical for a solid seven seconds. Aaaaand then I fell. So I tried a second time. Aaaaand then I fell. Same with efforts number three and four. And five and six.

Fighting back tears of utter humiliation, I kept at it. The instructor explained that I probably wasn't cut out for this particular turning technique, so he was just going to advance me on to the next one, because he just knew it was perfect for me.

(Oh, don't you try your high-school-principal-self-esteem-inducing mind games with me, fella.)

Not surprisingly, the new and improved trick didn't work for me. The only stopping/turning technique that did work was the one I believe they call Hurling Your Body To The Ground. After two hours of falling every time I tried, I stopped to catch my breath at the bottom of the pimple. I thought about giving up. I looked over to where the kids were in ski school, and I could see my children actually beginning to shoosh with confidence and grace. I was so proud of them, and I thought some very lofty thoughts about perseverance and humility. I climbed back up for one last try.

Aaaaand then I fell–spectacularly, this time, with a flying ski pole involved. I muttered something under my breath that may or may not have been worse than "Cat Crap".

I told the instructor that some people just weren't meant to ski, and his mouth said "No, you can do it, just keep trying," but his eyes said, "Yes ma'am, you're more sit-by-the-fireplace material."

So I headed inside and I did sit by the fireplace, all week long. I had a giant stack of books and a huge bag of crochet supplies. I was a happy pack mule for the endless pile of ski gear (Colorado families, how do you do that all winter long?). I baked cookies and made cheese dip, and we played games and watched movies by the fireplace all evening, every night. It was our best vacation ever, in fact–I don't know when we've laughed together so much. 

The moral of the story? If at first you don't succeed, be sure you've packed a good book and some comfortable shoes, and once you've worked through your adolescent insecurities it'll all work out beautifully in the end.

Especially if there's cheese dip.

The end.

If I Don’t Write It Down I’ll Forget

I'm trying to grease up these rusty brain cells of mine and get back to writing the occasional blog post–not a bad thing to do when one has, you know, a blog. I've been working on a post documenting the vacation we took over the holidays, but as the story involves abject humiliation, I've been understandably reluctant. (More on that later. Maybe.) Instead, here's a few random questions, comments, and general wondering-ments.

1. My daughter got a Puff the Magic Dragon book for Christmas, including a sing-along CD. And never mind that I am 37 years old with a mortgage and four children and a PTA membership card–I am unable to listen to that song without blubbering over my lost childhood and bereft dragons. But what in the heck is sealing wax? (Also, please do not tell me that song is actually about drugs. I-have-my-fingers-in-my-ears-and-I-can't-hear-you-la-la-la.)

2. Thanks to my patient and crafty sister-in-law, I'm learning how to crochet. I can't get enough of it! I'm not exactly good at it yet, but I can stitch the heck out of a rectangle. If you know me in real life, congratulations–you're probably getting a scarf this year. Please act happy.

3. Over the holidays I've been plowing through my reading list. This and this were both outstanding, and this was really good, too. This was a fascinating concept, but I thought it came up short at the very end–it's so disappointing when that happens. I'm reading this now, and this is next on the list. What's on yours?

4. American Idol is back underway, and can I just tell you how much I love the "Pants On the Ground" guy from the Atlanta auditions? Here's a great post about him, including his history marching with Dr. King in the '60's. (On the occasion that A Particular Son Of Mine Who Shall Remain Unnamed thinks it might be funny to try the whole droopy-pants thing, I remind him that I have a staple gun in the garage and I'm not afraid to use it.)

5. Does anyone reading this know anything about chronic headaches (possibly migraines) in children? One of my kiddos is struggling with this, but I'm not finding a ton of resources online.

6. Please remember to consider Compassion when you plan your giving for the Haiti crisis. Follow their Twitter feed for helpful updates. While you're at it, see Ree's great giveaway to help raise some more Haiti funds. Another great effort to raise funds is underway here.  Whatever you do, please give.

Have a good weekend, and remember to keep praying for our friends in Haiti.

Oink.

My two youngest children have the swine flu. They're doing alright, though, hanging in there with the help of ibuprofen, DVR'd episodes of the Duggars, and lots of fluids.

(This momma is hanging in there with the help of all the Halloween candy I bought earlier in the week and then attempted to hide–from myself–in the garage. I rationalize by telling myself that when the flu finally hits me–as it surely will–I'll be so hopped up on the sugar I won't care.)

(Speaking of sugar-induced irrationality, can I just tell you that I crack up everytime I hear someone mispronounce Tamiflu? I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be TAM-uh-flu, but around here, I hear a lot of TAM-ee-flu. Tammy Flue. It sounds like a character on the Andy Griffith Show.)

My oldest patient, eight-year-old Joseph, has asthma, so I'm watching him especially closely. It occurred to me today how this is just like the old days, back when he was a newborn. Last night he slept in my room, and I concentrated on his breathing, certain that if I stopped concentrating, he would stop breathing–just like the baby days.

Just like the baby days, I stumbled through the kitchen in the middle of the night, when he needed a drink.

And just like the baby days, I cuddled him back to sleep, except these days his 72 pounds of boyishness fill up my arms a lot more substantially than the eight pounds of baby once did.

It occurred to me this morning that I'll probably never lose that sense of protective worry. When I'm in my 90's, and he's in 70's, I think a part me will still be tempted to place my hand on his back, to make sure he's still breathing as he sleeps. 

We'd surely appreciate your prayers for rest and healing.