Friday, October 7, 2011

The Splinter

She's semi-limping around the house.

"What's wrong with your foot?" I ask.

"It hurts a little."

"Can I look at it?"

"Yes, but don't touch it Mommy."

"Okay...It looks like you have a splinter. See how there's a little black line there--"

"DON'T TOUCH IT!!! It will hurt SO much if you touch it."

"Do you want me to get it out so it will feel better?"

"No. I can just walk like this." She demonstrates, walking with her foot turned sideways so the part with the splinter doesn't touch the ground.

It's awkward to see. Kind of painful actually. I sit, watching her normally carefree stride become this unnatural, foot turned sideways, clumsy gait.

"Can we get a band-aid to put on it? That will make it feel better," she says, with hope in her four-year-old face.

"You can have a band-aid, but I don't think it will feel better until we get the splinter out."

"I think it will," she says with confidence.

It doesn't. So later in the day, I'm sitting, holding her foot as she cries, removing the splinter with tweezers, and as soon as we're done she wants me to hold her and help dry her tears. Of course I do. We put a little antibiotic ointment on the wound, and a Dora the Explorer band-aid and all is well (or at least a whole lot better). The next day she grins as she dances and says, "Mommy, isn't my foot SO much better, now?"

I can't help but think how much like my wounded little girl I can be sometimes. Maybe it's not physical, but spiritual, emotional. There's something like a splinter just beneath the surface. It's uncomfortable, often even painful. I may let someone close enough to see that it's there, but I'd really rather they not touch it. I make excuses for why I don't just deal with it and get it out, but it alters my "walk". I might keep it for so long that I forget that it's really not a part of how I was intended to be, until it's removed.

Then, like my little girl, I notice how much better everything can be without the splinters, and I dance.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crying baby

You're a baby and you cry. It's no surprise.

But there are so many things about hearing each of you cry as infants--moving me through the first moments, days, weeks, and months of life with a baby.

I held my breath as you were delivered, waiting for that first cry, then exhaled relief and overwhelming gratitude when I heard it.

Your hunger cries came into my dreams and woke me, with a warm rush, for our late night meetings.

The cries of discomfort, when not quickly calmed, became loud and shrill, ear-piercing, heartwrenching, spirit-shattering wails that sometimes left me in tears, questioning whether I was really going to be able to handle being a mother (of a child, or two, three, or four children).

Eventually these cries all give way to cries of delight, squeals, and laughter. Jabbering, sounds, and words will replace what was once just a lot of crying. I know that when your first birthday comes, most of this crying we do in the early days will be a vague and distant memory for me and you will have no recollection of it at all.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

So soft

"She's so soft," he says as he gently strokes her cheek, and hair, and hands. "Why is she so soft? I'm not so soft. Annie is still soft and Mackenzie is a little soft, but I'm not very soft."

"She's still very new. Her skin is new and hasn't been changed or damaged by the sun or swimming pool or other stuff in the environment."

"I like how soft she is," he says, his six-year-old voice almost a whisper.

Me, too. I know that it won't last, this softness, this tenderness, this sensitivity to every sort of stimulation.

It is the nature of our world; the nature of life; the nature of experience.

Over time we lose our "softness". We lose our sensitivity. We become more rough, more hardened, and it changes us.

I silently pray again to be a little more like my view the world with simplicity, to hear and receive God's word without doubt, to love with abandon, to laugh uncontrollably, to dance any time and any place just for pure joy, to hug with all my might, and to forgive quickly without long-term recall of wrongs committed against me.

I want to regain, or maintain, some of the softness.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Surrounded by servants

We aren't financially wealthy enough to pay servants to tend to our every need. There's no personal chef in our home, no nanny to take care of the children, no cleaning lady that stops by leaving our house sparkling and smelling fresh. And yet, when a new baby arrives, I am blessed to have all his and more.

My mom comes before each baby is born and stays a while after to help with the kids and the regular duties of our household, like laundry, sweeping, dishes, and meals. My mother-in-law begins making miyeok guk the day I go to the hospital so I'll have what is thought to be one of the best foods for new moms just after the baby is born. Then there are the friends and neighbors who will be bringing dinner by every other evening for the next two weeks. This time around I've also been blessed with a friend that said, "Please just let me come over and clean sometime. I'm good at it and I really enjoy it, so let me come by and run a vaccuum cleaner, or dust, or something one day."

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many loving servants. I am humbled and accept their gifts with gratitude.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A full house

I remember when we first started looking for homes in the area where we live now. I remember looking at floor plans and thinking, "Even as our family grows, we won't need this much house." At the time, we were a couple with one child and one on the way.

Now we're days away from bringing home baby #4 and as I type, there will be 13 people sleeping under our roof tonight (most nights we average 8).

I honestly can't imagine it any other way. When we started building and Eric's parents were facing a recent and catastrophic injury we were able to finish the basement to accommodate them and I was grateful that they would be able to have daily interactions with our kids. When my dad was able to get a job on "our side of town" after being out of work for more than a year, then out of the state, I was glad that we could offer our guest room during the week and the kids would have a little more "Grandpa" time.

This weekend we have cousins from California stopping in on a cross-country drive (family of 5). Two weekends ago it was my sister, her 3 kids, and my mom. In early October it will be another cousin and her family visiting for a few weeks from the Netherlands.

Sure we rush frantically to try to clean up and de-clutter a little before the "not-so-regular" guests arrive.

Sure we have to adjust our normal routines and schedules a bit to keep everyone comfortable.

It can add stress, but it can also add excitement and enrichment to our days.

I do need time and space to be alone sometimes, but that doesn't mean I can't create time and space for others, too.

I'm grateful for the roof over my head.

I'm also grateful for all those who spend time under this roof with me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Do you have to brush teeth in heaven?"


Tonight at bedtime you cried uncontrollably...really, you sobbed so much I think you were close to hyperventilating (you said, "My tummy hurts and my head feels dizzy.").

When you calmed down enough to talk, I asked why you were so sad and you replied, "I don't want Halmoni and Halabeoji [Korean words for grandparents] to die." (between sobs)

"What made you think of that? Halmoni and Halabeoji are downstairs. You know that when your body stops working is when you die? Their bodies are working fine. Why did you think about when they die?"

"I was just in my bed and I thought about it and it made me SO sad. I would miss them SO MUCH." (still crying, and snubbing, trying to get it all under control)

"It is sad to think about people dying." (teary-eyed, trying to maintain composure) "I think it makes us so sad because we miss people when they're gone and it hurts us deep inside. Did you know that when God made the first people, Adam and Eve, that he didn't want them to die? The Bible says that God wrote eternity on our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3). Do you know what eternity means?"

Shakes head, "No."

"Eternity means forever. We were made for eternity, for forever, but we can't live forever in these bodies on earth. That's why God made a plan for us to get to heaven, and why our bodies will be different then (2 Corinthians 5)."

"Can people die then?"

"Now our bodies can get hurt or sick and we get hungry and when someone's body stops working on earth they die. But the Bible says that in heaven there won't be anymore death or crying or pain."

"Mommy, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, buddy. You can ask me anything."

"Did you feel so sad when Memaw died?"

(Now I'm crying) "Yes, I did. Because I knew I would miss her a lot. I also felt glad though, because Memaw had been so sick--not like a cold or stomach ache--but sick with cancer. She had to take a lot of medicines and so her body got weaker and hurt a lot. When she died, I knew she went to heaven and got a new body and she wouldn't hurt anymore, so even though I felt really sad, I also felt glad."

"Do we get to eat in heaven?"

"I'm not sure if our new bodies will need food like we eat here."

"But in that song we sing about a 'big, big table, with lotsa, lotsa food'."

"You're right. Jesus talked about banquets and feasts in his stories."

"Do you think there will be bubble gum and ice cream at the banquets?"

"That would be yummy, wouldn't it?"

"Do you have to brush teeth in heaven? After you eat all that sugar?"

"I don't know. Maybe Daddy does, since he knows a lot about teeth. I don't remember reading anything about toothbrushes in the Bible, so maybe not."

(Giggling) "Mommy, I'm glad we talked about this stuff. Can we pray for Halmoni and Halabeoji now?"


Friday, August 5, 2011

I Love You More...

I love you more than a kitchen floor without crumbs.

I love you more than clean clothes folded and put away.

I love you more than straight pillows on the couch.

I love you more than a dry floor around the bathtub.

I love you more than dinner on the table at six.

I love you more than an uninterrupted phone conversation (or any conversation for that matter).

I love you more than getting somewhere on time.

I love you more than I can often describe and maybe more often than my actions show.

I pray that when you look back at our days together, you'll look back with grace. I pray that as you remember your childhood and me trying to keep our household running somewhat smoothly, you'll remember the love...not just the sweeping, cleaning, doing laundry, making appointments, rushing to avoid being late, kinds of things. I pray that you'll remember the way you make me laugh and smile and years from now when you think of the way my voice sounded, it won't be accompanied by a sigh of exasperation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

When I'm Tired

When I'm tired, I just don't do anything very well. I lose my patience...quickly. I speak more harshly. I become frustrated and exasperated by almost any little nuisance and I overreact, usually ending up in tears by the time all is said and done.

I know that being tired is a natural part of life. Our bodies need rest to function properly. I also know that I should respond immediately when my body is saying, "GO TO BED!" but I usually don't. I think of "just a few more things to do" while there aren't interruptions and then I've deprived myself of an hour or more of much needed sleep.

Right now, I'd like to be napping, but I can hear little footsteps upstairs that tell me that the small people in my house are not, so I shouldn't either (if I don't want to awaken to some sort of mess).

And so I sit, tapping keys on a computer to offer a little solace, helping me to feel semi-productive while I wait for another opportunity to get some rest.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The difficult moments

We're at a "jumpy" place with friends. It's a down time in the day for such a place and my three kids and their friend are enjoying jumping in one bounce house with no other children. Then suddenly the doors burst open and a group of 10-12 older elementary aged students come running in and about half the group heads to the spot where my kids are jumping.

I sit back, with the other mom, waiting to see what will happen next. Nicholas, my oldest, who has just a few weeks experience as a six-year-old, sees the small mob of bigger, more boisterous, kids coming their way and immediately starts calling to the girls to, "Come on...I'll help you out!" His petite, 5-year-old, ethnically Korean, friend is the first to make it out. As the bigger kids start climbing in and jumping around he manages to get his 4-year-old sister to safety. The only one remaining, as he sits near the opening in the net, is his 2-year-old sister. She's clinging to the netting on the side and trying to remain standing as the older kids bounce. She's slowly making her way to her big brother and following his encouragement until he gets her to safety.

As they walk over to me, I tell Nicholas how proud I am of the way he helped Mackenzie and Annie get out of the bouncy safely. I assume the older kids weren't intentionally trying to make it difficult for them, but simply were so excited about jumping and having fun that they were unaware of how their actions would impact much smaller children.

Then Nicholas says, "Mommy, they were teasing us."
"Teasing you? How?"
"Well, that big boy in the green shirt said, 'Hey, Chinese people,' but with an unkind voice."
I wanted to knock the kid down.
"Did you say, 'We're not Chinese. We're all Korean.'?"
"I'll watch closely and if he tries to tease you or the girls anymore, I'll help you."

For the rest of the time at the jumpy place, our little pack was watching to see what the bigger kids, specifically the boy in the green shirt, would do next and if they came "our" way, our kids would find another place to play.

I waited and wondered if I had done the right thing. I resolved that I will continue to teach my children that every person is valuable and differences are necessary and wonderful parts of who we are even though we live among people that in their words and actions will disagree. At times it will be painful, heart-wrenching, I'm sure, but we will not accept the words of others as truth, nor will we wear their labels as our own.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On an anniversary

Nine years ago, today, I said, "I do" and "I will" to a tender present and an unknown future.

Here we are today, riding the current of the predictable and the unexpected, up and down, in the ocean that is "us".

I'm here, with words bubbling over, sometimes filling air that should be left empty, and you're there, beside me.

A relationship that started out with simple words scribbled on scraps of paper tacked to a bulletin board or tucked under a windshield wiper in a familiar parking lot, now so many words spoken and unspoken between us.

Once upon a time there were love letters and songs, long phone conversations and e-mails that told me that you loved me. Now there are the late night responses to a crying child, the offer to pick up dinner or meet at a restaurant, the help at bath time and bedtime, and the willingness to make breakfast for the "littles" so I can sleep in for just a bit longer.

Thank you for not just loving me with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Friday, July 8, 2011

For now we see only a reflection...

I stood knee-deep in the water with waves crashing rhythmically behind me, my belly swollen with a child that I'll meet within weeks.

My other three stood, still for a moment after outrunning sea foam "lava". They were in a semicircle, looking down at some object in the sand, and as the wave that had chased them moved back out to sea I saw the lovely glimmer of a reflection that met their toes in the sand.

It was brief. So brief that I almost missed the sight completely. Then it was gone.

They came running back toward me, the water that was near my knees retreating closer to my ankles, and instead of a fuzzy reflection on wet sand, I had three elated children--laughing, talking, squealing, smelling of sunscreen and tasting like saltwater kisses. Cool wet hands grabbing for mine and telling me to "get ready! Another one is coming!"

And I thought of the words of the Apostle Paul:
"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

There, on the edge of a continent with toes in the Atlantic, feeling awkward in my maternity swimsuit, I had a holy moment. There is goodness in this life and these experiences, but they don't compare to what has been promised for the future.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Memory

It's hard to explain exactly what I've been feeling the last few days. I found out that a classmate of mine, from middle & high school, died unexpectedly.

As I began writing, in her memory, I tried to think of specific memories I have of her. They are few and scattered. In middle school, when we met, she was the support necessary to get to the top of cheerleading pyramid and laughter as we tried to learn new dance routines. In high school she was a timid, but friendly smile in the hallway between classes. In recent years the memories consisted of facebook status updates and changes of profile pictures.

But I get it. While my interactions with this woman were limited and just a small piece of the picture of who she was and who she became, to some she was everything.

For the little girl that will sit across from an empty seat at mealtimes, she was everything.

For the man that now sleeps in his marriage bed alone, she was everything.

For the sister that no longer has someone that understands every part of her past, present, and hopes for the future, she was everything.

For the parents that were there for her first breaths, and tomorrow will be there to place a lifeless body in the ground, she was everything.

Everyone is everything to someone.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mended fences & swinging gates

Many of my childhood memories of my dad and his dad have to do with farming and fields, cows and crops.

The memories come at different times and in different ways...

Driving paved neighborhood streets in suburbia with the windows down is somehow deeply connected to the feeling of bumping across a field in the back of a pick-up truck with wind blowing loose braided pigtails.

The first sight of fireflies in summer will always remind me of sitting beneath pecan trees shucking corn until after the sun set.

The quart bags of blueberries and pecans in my freezer and a couple of dozen small jelly jars of homemade blackberry jam seem paltry in comparison to the freezers full of okra, beans, corn and beef, or the pantry filled with canned goods from my grandparents' gardens that I remember so clearly.

My dad spent hours, days, and probably years of his life in a field, on a tractor, mending fences, counting and caring for livestock and I'm certain the habits he developed in his younger years continue to guide his behavior today.

Just as he helped break loose soil to plant seeds, then watched to keep weeds at bay, he tended three children to adulthood. I'm certain that he recognized, that once a seed is planted there is only so much you can do, then you just have to wait for it to grow on its own and bear fruit of its own kind. Maybe this is why, at times, he seemed to step back, but he was always nearby, waiting and watching as his seeds grew.

Just as my dad and his dad would repair broken fences while the cows were in another part of the pasture, I'm certain that he created boundaries, without us even realizing it, to keep us safe.

Just as he held the key to unlock the gate, then let us "ride" it as it would swing open, I know that his hard work and dedication opened many doors of opportunity that have since brought me as much joy as the swinging gates of my childhood.

Daddy is not a perfect man. I am far from a perfect child. Yet still I'm glad he is mine and I am his.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Mommy Cries at a Parade

To my children,

It has become a tradition each year to return to the small town where I grew up and attend the Memorial Day Parade.

You are always excited to see "princesses" (pageant winners), "karate heroes" (local martial arts classes), soldiers and "the horses that come at the end and poop all in the road." The highlight for you is probably the extraordinary loot of candy that you always bring home, tossed from classic cars, trailers full of sports teams being pulled behind trucks, and tractors.

There comes a time in the parade each year when a hush falls over the crowd and no candy is thrown. Somehow, even though you are all still young, you know to wait quietly while this group in the parade passes. You can't read well enough to understand yet what this group represents. If you looked behind you during the moments, when the only sound is shuffling feet on asphalt, you would see me wiping tears from my cheeks and you might ask, "Mommy, why are you crying?"

If you turned and ask me that, my loves, I would answer:
The signs that they hold as they go quietly by are the names of the recently fallen from our state. They are names of soldiers, warriors, mommies, daddies, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and friends who have given everything in the name of freedom.

Some were boys recently graduated from high school, going to see the world and make a difference.

Some were fathers and grandfathers who devoted their adulthood to serving our country.

Some were sisters keeping a commitment they made to help pay for school.

I'm sure each one had a different reason for joining the fight to ensure freedom, but they all had the same commitment to give whatever was required.

These tears come for many reasons.

They come for the families and friends left behind.

They come for the soldiers who fought alongside these in their final moments.

They come because there is still a need to fight.

But most of all, my love, they come because you and I have been protected by these.

You fall asleep at night without fear of attack.

You don't know the sound of mortar fire or machine gun.

We worship when and where and how we please.

We come and go, buy and sell, speak and think, learn and grow in freedom because of those who are willing to fight on our behalf.

So the tears are tears of gratitude; a quiet offering of thanks to those who are willing and able to do what I cannot.
These are the reasons that Mommy cries at a parade.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Wonder About You

Sometimes I wonder just who you are, bumping around inside of me.

I feel like I know you, and yet, we've never met.

You are mine and I am yours and we'll always somehow be a part of each other.

There are others, here on the outside, that belong to you, and you to them.

There is your Daddy. I'm pretty sure you know him already, because each evening as we lie in bed and he reads or we talk, you seem to do a little dance, or at least a series of calisthenics.

There are your siblings. They may be rather indistinguishable right now, but theirs are the voices you hear, muffled by my belly, calling greetings, "Hey, baby. It's Nicholas/Mackenzie/Annie. I love you." They ask me often what you might be doing "in there" and they regularly rub, poke, and push my belly to see if you'll reciprocate from within. Sometimes you startle them, when they're sitting close and we're reading a story, then suddenly you stretch or begin rhythmic hiccups. They giggle and wait for more, begging me to "get the baby to do it again".

I hope that you know just how much we look forward to seeing your face, hearing your voice, feeling your grasp. You are already ours, and we are already yours, but what we've shared so far is only a tiny part of what our stories will be together.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


"You are a unique person, just like everyone else." -Warren Miller

I value what makes you different.
I appreciate it.
I'm amazed by it.
I wouldn't have you any other way.

You are not me.
You should not be me.
You are you and that is the way it was always intended.

The way you talk, the way you look, the experiences you've had and will have, the way the world looks through your eyes, those things are all yours and part of you.

If I try to make you me it won't work. If I try to be more like you, it won't work.

We are us, here together... learning from and with each other, sharing strengths and weaknesses, struggling, working, toiling, and grasping for victory--the ability to overcome.

We are different, you and I. Different isn't better or worse. Different is often exactly what we need to fill in the gaps and make the rough spots smooth.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Early May

I love Georgia in early May when the sweet smell of honeysuckle and magnolia in bloom finds its way into windows left open to let cool evening air move through the house.

I like sitting out under a starry sky and hearing what my grandmother would have described as the "lonesome sound of a whippoorwill" calling out into the darkness.

I treasure the excitement in my children's eyes as they come into the kitchen with dirty hands full of clover and dandelions, begging for a glass of water for "the flowers we picked for you".

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Weight of Motherhood

It is mother's day and I've been thinking about how being a mother changes things.

During my first pregnancy, I remember being overcome at times with a variety of new feelings and the extraordinary weight of motherhood. Of course I gained pounds and inches as my body became the primary residence for someone besides me, but that's not the kind of weight I'm referring to.

I'm talking about the weight of knowing that another being was completely and utterly dependent on me. Every choice I made had a direct impact on someone's health and survival. And this was all before my baby breathed his first breath.

Once he was born, there were more questions, more choices, and more decisions. Is he getting enough to eat? Is he crying too much? Is he not crying enough? Should I let him sleep until he wakes up? Should I wake him to feed him again? Does that cry mean "I'm in pain? I'm hungry? I need a diaper change?" Does he need more stimulation when he's awake or less? And they go on and on.

I survived the newborn stages, gaining confidence and comfort with each child, but there's always something new to navigate and there are always more questions and doubts.

I listen to my own mom, having done this "job" for more than 35 years, and she still voices questions about whether or not she did the right thing at the right time. I think of my grandmothers during their final weeks of life and how I heard each of them express, in her own way, concerns about if she had done well and "been a blessing" to those she held most dear.

And today, on mother's day, I sat in church and watched a video of a mother who contracted HIV when she became pregnant. She didn't know that her husband had the illness and once her baby was born, she learned that both she and the child were HIV positive.

I sat, in tears, and thought, "Lord, this is too much to bear. The weight of all these things is much too heavy a burden for me."

The video continued. The mother began to smile as she described how she went to the local church and "by God's grace" they helped. She and her daughter have been provided with medicine, proper nutrition, the assistance they need, not just to survive, but to reinvest what has been invested in them.

And that's when it hit me. This weight of motherhood that we bear was never intended for us alone. "By God's grace" we have the help we need.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Saying "goodbye" to comfort

Sweet Annie,

Today your pacifier "broke" and you placed it into the trash can before nap time and reminded me that Daddy promised you a new baby doll from the store to mark this milestone.

I then helped you get cozy in your crib with your favorite blanket, walked out of the room, and listened to you cry and call, "OOOOHHHHH, DADDY.....Oooooohhhhh, Daddy..." for the next hour and a half. I came in periodically to offer a little hug, dry your tears, and help you get cozy again. Then I would walk away, still close enough to hear your discomfort, but far enough that you managed to calm yourself until you could sleep.

This wasn't easy for me, but I know it's what is best for you in the long run. I've done this before, many times, with you and your older siblings, and I'm certain that I'll do it many more times before you are all grown. I make a conscious choice to put aside temporary comfort for long term gain. I weigh the "opportunity cost" and I decide.

Today it's the loss of the pacifier and the instant comfort that comes along with it. With your big brother it's removing the training wheels from his bike, watching him swerve and fall in frustration several times, before he finally masters riding a 2-wheeler independently. With your older sister it's working through the uncomfortable and sometimes awkward silence while I wait for her to respond to someone's question or greeting.

I know it would often be easier, for the moment, to just get a new pacifier and let you drift to sleep quickly, put the training wheels back on the bike to avoid skinned knees and frustration, or answer the question while someone looks timidly from behind my leg.

For you, I don't just want what seems easiest. I want what is best. I want you to learn to deal appropriately with discomfort when it leads to growth. I don't want to intentionally cause you to suffer, but I won't protect you from suffering when I know there is a greater benefit just over the horizon.

Like today, when you are uncomfortable and suffering, I will be close.

I will experience your discomfort as only a parent can. I will wait, as you work through it. I was there today when you finally lay still, except for the occasional shudder, with your eyes closed over tear-streaked cheeks.

I will celebrate when you reap the benefit of persevering.

This was not easy. This was not pleasant. This was not fun. But, this was good.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's most definitely NOT like putting your sons on the baseball field

I recently read an article in a regional parents' magazine about little girls in beauty pageants. The article describes the different types of pageants ("natural" and "glitz"), typical costs of each kind and potential prizes in each.

I'm not anti-pageant, but here is where I have a problem. The article has quotes from interviews with some parents that encourage their little girls to compete in these pageants. There are also pictures accompanying the article.

On the first page of the article there is a picture of a girl with hair and make-up done, lips in a bit of a pout, and eyes looking into the camera with a "come hither" expression. The entire look could easily go onto the cover of Vogue or Cosmo along with headlines of "How to Make a Man Happy in Bed" and "Secrets Every Woman Should Know." The girl in the picture I describe is a preschooler.

I know that some people would argue that little girls love to dress up and dance around. I have little girls. I know they like to dress up and dance around. My girls are very expressive and some of their facial expressions are priceless. I've been around a lot of preschoolers in my life. However, I have never seen a preschooler make "bedroom eyes" and a sultry pout without the coaching of an adult. It simply is not in a young child's background knowledge and doesn't come naturally to them.

In this article, the mom of the 3-year-old pictured (whose family is scheduled to appear on Toddlers & Tiaras) says (my paraphrase), that having a little girl in "glitz" pageants is really no different that having her sons on the baseball field.


According to "The Pageant Expert", glitz pageant contestants typically have fake hair, use heavy make-up, spray tans, fake eyelashes and teeth, and sometimes colored contacts. The "Expert" also says, "facial expressions tend to be exaggerated with lots of eyelash batting, tilting of the head from side to side, and blowing kisses...[These pageants] are very popular and easy to find for children under the age of 5."

How is that like little league baseball? When was the last time you went to the local ball field and saw a bunch of little boys completely altering their appearance before the game? When was the last time a coach and all the parents in the stands were encouraging the team to shake their hips, wave, blow kisses, or flirt with the umpires? When team and individual pictures were made, did the photographer touch up the photos as if for a magazine? Have you ever heard a coach say, "Just go out there and look good."?

I'm sorry, mom from the article, glitz pageants and little league baseball are not the same. The messages your children receive, directly or indirectly, are not the same.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Battle with "Stuff"

I sometimes get so tired of stuff.

I get overwhelmed with stuff.

None of it is inherently bad, but this stuff still manages to make me feel a bit neurotic at times.

I want to get rid of some of this stuff.

I want to simplify all this stuff.

If it were just me, I like to think I wouldn't have all this stuff, but it's not just me. It's US and WE have a lot of STUFF.

Right now I'm cleaning out a lot of boy stuff because rumor has it that baby #4 is a girl. We do, however, still have a lot of baby girl stuff and some gender neutral baby stuff.

Then there are the toys, and games, and puzzles, and books and all the stuff that comes with kids. Not to mention the socks, and shoes, and clothes, and hair bows, and sports stuff.

Let's not even look at my side of the closet, because there's stuff that I can wear when I'm not pregnant, then all the stuff that I'm wearing at various stages of pregnancy, and the stuff that I'll need after the baby is born (if you've never had a baby in your house, you wouldn't believe some of it if I told you).

The love of my life might like to say that he doesn't keep stuff unless he uses it, and that is why he still occasionally wears a t-shirt that he got in 1988 (yes, he was in elementary school then).

There are days that I feel like backing a large truck in front of my house, tossing all the stuff into the back of it, and starting over with nothing.

I've been making somewhat frequent trips to Goodwill. I consign and give away stuff at regular times during the year.

Do you need some stuff? I may start selling it off by the pound in the near future.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Problem or Person?

I was listening to a lecture recently and the speaker asked a simple question, but it is one that has continued to work its way into my thoughts often.

"When your child is not doing what you want or expect him to do, do you see him as a problem or a person?"

If I'm honest, when accomplishing my agenda on my timeline is the goal, I'll most likely view anyone that interferes with or delays my plan as "the problem".

However, when I can loosen the hold on my ideas of how and when things should happen, then I typically get to enjoy the people that are involved in my plans a whole lot more.

I'm praying to change my perspective. I do want to enjoy the little girl that goes to her room after breakfast to get dressed, make her bed, and brush her teeth, but somehow "forgets" to do at least two of the three things that are part of her morning responsibilities every day. I want to treasure the little boy with a stubborn streak (we really have no idea where that came from) who sometimes decides that he doesn't want to do school or go with the rest of the family to an event or put away his clothes. I want my face to "light up" when I see the little girl with one dimple, even when she pulled out her hair bow for the fourteenth time this hour or I'm getting her out of the carseat and her shoes and socks are off...AGAIN.

I can offer my children correction and discipline while seeing them as the image-bearing individuals that they are, not an obstacle in my path or a problem to be solved.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Growing up and remaining "like a child"

I struggle.




Moment by moment.

I'm seeking the delicate balance between maturing and staying childlike.

I'm not one of those 30-somethings that's trying to relive my high school and college years, acting childish in a more mature body. That's not what I'm talking about at all.

I'm talking about my faith and spirit. I want to "grow up" and mature, but also maintain the belief, hope, and wonder of a child that hasn't known disappointment and disillusionment.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"That's a project we could do."

I have a confession.

I'm often a bit unrealistic when it comes to projects.

I'm not one of those people that thinks I can re-tile the entire bathroom, because let's face it, I have no experience in laying tile.

The projects that I'm more likely to attempt are the things that professionals make "look easy".

For example, early in our marriage Rachel Ray convinced me that I could actually create a "30 minute meal" in 30 minutes. This was before I had children and there were very few distractions in our lives, but it somehow managed to take me 2.5 hours to complete this quick meal. Thanks, Ray-Ray.

Before Nicholas was born, I thought, instead of spending more than $100 for a 4.5 foot crown molding shelf to hang in his room, we could easily build one for a lot less. They did it on HGTV and it was simple. Eric says this is one of those projects that I sometimes choose to test strengthen our marriage. Needless to say, trying to cut crown at the proper angle, using a miter box and handsaw, wasn't quite as quick and easy as the guy on HGTV with his miter saw made it look. We did get a GREAT shelf out of it, but during the process I thought we may be using the money we saved on the shelf to pay for some couples' counseling.

There was also the really ugly dresser and mirror combo that I found on Craigslist and decided we could sand and refinish for an inexpensive entry table. After removing the fixtures, repairing a drawer, sanding, priming, and painting with 2 coats of paint, buying wire cable and attaching it to the back of the mirror, then finding a stud and appropriate screws to hold the crazy-heavy mirror on the wall, it was finally finished. There weren't any tears with that one, but definitely some mutterings and questions about "Why is this a good idea?" (In case you're wondering, we both agreed that it turned out really well.)

Thankfully, I've become more realistic about what we're capable of and I've also found the Rethunk Junk lady that's not too far away, for the things that I have ideas for, but can't execute on my own.

Friday, April 1, 2011 much to love

Nicholas and I started reading the Chronicles of Narnia last summer, just before he turned five. While the girls were napping we would sit together on the bed and read a chapter a day to begin his "quiet time".

At some point in the series, "The Chronicles" became bedtime reading for Nicholas and Mackenzie. Playing Narnia became a regular activity around our house, complete with costumes and weaponry.

Then, last night, when I returned from teaching English class, I walked into a dark bedroom and two little people greeted me with, "'re not going to believe this."
"Yeah, Mommy."
"It is SO exciting! We finished The Last Battle!! And you know what? Everyone is in Aslan's country!"
"Yeah! EVERYONE! From all the stories!"
"Polly and Digory and Peter and Edmund and Lucy and Eustace and Jill and even Reepicheep! Isn't that SO exciting?!"
"And Mommy, Susan isn't there because she doesn't believe about Narnia anymore, but everyone else is there."
"And they looked in a window and waved to their mom and dad 'cause they're at England, but not the old England a new England. And Aslan's country is like Narnia, but everything is BETTER than at Narnia!"
"Yeah, like food is better and the grass and sky and everything is BETTER!"
"So now we're all done and we don't have anything else to read so I guess tomorrow night we'll just have to start all over with The Magician's Nephew. Right, Mommy?"

The stories are THAT good. I must admit that when we started reading I thought it was way more than they could comprehend and without illustrations it wouldn't keep their attention.

I was wrong.

They didn't experience the books the way that their Daddy or I did as we were reading them.

They don't care about the various literary parallels and references so we didn't dream of ruining their enjoyment by "dissecting" it all.

They heard a good story.

They met characters that they can relate to.

They saw "real" examples of honesty, loyalty, and courage.

They found siblings and friends working together to overcome evil and encourage each other in goodness.

And so, together, we were able to enjoy the love of words well written. Now we all live a little better because of the lessons we learned in Narnia.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why we homeschool, for now...

I must begin by saying that 10 years ago, with a degree in education, I never would have thought that I would become a homeschooling mom. Even 5 years ago, after our first child was born, I really didn't consider it. Now, here we are, nearing the end of our first full year of "at home school", as my children call it.

Some people are curious when they find out we homeschool. Some just think it's odd. Some are very excited and encouraging.

There are several reasons we've decided that it's what is best for our family right now. Here are a few (in no particular order):

VALUES-We want our children to know their own value and how to value others. We want them to love God and love others. We want them to act with kindness and honesty. I'm not saying that these things are not taught in schools (public or private), but I know that we can hold our children more accountable to these things when they have more one on one time with an adult that encourages these attitudes and actions.

RELATIONSHIPS-I know that many critics are concerned about a "lack of socialization" for homeschoolers. I also know that family, especially sibling, relationships are some of the longest lasting relationships a person can have. I want these relationships to be healthy. I like that all three of my children play well together. I'm glad that our schedule allows my children to spend time with their grandparents, because they are a wealth of information that simply isn't available in a traditional classroom setting. A walk through the woods with Grandpa pointing out various birds and trees, morning stretches with Halabeoji, Korean children's songs and dances with Halmoni, and stories from Nana are all priceless. These are teachable moments with some of life's best teachers. I don't want the kids to miss out on this time and these people.

ACADEMICS-I've taught in a traditional classroom setting. Ideally, I wanted to provide every student with the opportunity to reach his or her potential. Realistically, it didn't happen. If I knew a student was struggling with a concept, I couldn't slow everyone down to help that student "get it" before we moved on. If I knew a student had mastered a concept, I couldn't move on and leave the rest of the class behind to keep the student engaged and challenged. The reality is, in a class of 20+ students, you have to teach to the middle, and with curriculum "standards" in place, teachers are pressured to cover a certain amount of content within the school year. At home, with one-on-one instruction, when I see that my child is struggling, we can take more time. When he "gets it" quickly, we can move on. The curriculum works for him instead of against him.

TIME-There are plenty of things that demand our time and I want to be more intentional about how we spend our days. If we were sending our kindergartner to the local public school, he'd be getting on a bus at 6:55am. This is my child that requires 12 good hours of sleep each night. If I wanted to put him on the bus fully dressed, fed, and having brushed teeth/washed face, I'd need to wake him around 6:15am. With his sleep needs, that means bedtime would be 6:15pm. This would mean that most days of the week he wouldn't spend any time with Daddy, not even a bedtime story, and we're not okay with that right now. He's a little boy and time with Daddy is more valuable to us than time spent with 18 other 5-6 year old kids.

Another note about time, a lot of the traditional school day is spent in "transition". I taught in a junior high school where the students' school day was from 8am-3pm. This was an academically strong school in a high-ranking system. There were seven, one-hour periods a day. Ten minutes of first period was for homeroom (attendance, announcements, morning news, etc.) There was a 5 minute break between each class for class change/locker break (30 minutes total). One hour a day was for lunch and study hall. Consider that each teacher probably spent 3-5 minutes at the beginning and end of class with an opening and closing transition, maybe attendance, collecting homework, giving homework, etc..(We'll say 5 minutes per class if everyone was concise and efficient=30 minutes for the day.) Also consider that each class may have had one disruption or interruption that required the teacher to stop academic instruction (let's say 2 minutes or less x 6 classes=12 minutes total). At the end of the day there were additional announcements that took about 5 minutes before the final bell. Now if you add all the "transition" time up, it's about 2.5 hours. The kids are at school for 7 hours. About 4.5 hours could be considered academic instructional time. This is why some homeschoolers are finished with school by lunch.

I'm not saying that everyone should homeschool. I'm also not saying that I'm devoted to homeschooling exclusively until my children go to college. I am saying that this is what works for our family now. I think it is what is best for MY children now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Birth Videos

No we don't have videos that show all the graphic details of each child's birth and even if we did there's no way I'd post them for public consumption. We do, however, have footage of each child just moments after birth and this week I've been watching them.


Since our three know that another baby is on the way they've become curious about when they were "in mommy's tummy" and "when I first got out of your tummy". There have recently been many requests for the "Baby Annie" story, or the "Baby Mackenzie" story, or the "Baby Oppa" (Korean word for big brother) story. So this week, with the telling of the stories, we've added evening video clips.

Monday night was Nicholas, with his labored breathing and tiny cries after being delivered at 36 weeks via a C-section. There were expressions of concern at the IV taped to the back of his hand and the sensor on his tummy to monitor his heart rate while in the NICU. The girls furrowed brows during diaper changes and his first bath. There were a lot of questions about why he was crying.

Tuesday night it was Mackenzie, delivered by VBAC just days before her due date. A MUCH louder cry and much more responsive arms and legs moving about during diaper changes and bath. There were still furrowed brows and many of the same questions about why she cried so much. With the second video, there was also the fun of trying to understand what 22-month-old Nicholas was trying to say, which left all three kids laughing.

Tonight was Annie's night. I think she was most excited about seeing her own movie, but quickly became most concerned at her own baby cries. She was glad when all the crying was over and Daddy had her cozy on his chest. Then "little Oppa" and "little Unni" (I know that's an oxymoron for any Korean readers out there) came in and lightened the mood, so all was well again.

As I sit with them they watch with attentive eyes, waiting to see what's next. I watch with memories of what those days and hours and moments were like then and amazement at where we all are now.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pregnant Again

My belly is swollen and I've felt the first few bumps and flutters of another little person growing in my womb. Again I can't help but ask, "How is it that I am so blessed?"

Sure I'm exhausted most of the time. Certainly there are random aches as things stretch out again. Yes, I know I'll endure a crazy hot and humid Atlanta summer with an August due date.

I'm not complaining. I'm truly grateful for all of it (most of the time).

I know ladies that have been sick throughout their entire pregnancies, gaining only a few pounds because they simply couldn't eat much or when they did, it was almost immediately expelled. I know girls that spent weeks or months on bed rest, trying give their children a little more time to develop before entering this world. I know too many people that have tried for years to conceive and continue to be unsuccessful. I know too many women that had a due date, but never a birth date. I know others that delivered a baby that never breathed, or only lived a few hours, or days, or weeks.

Those are experiences I've never had personally. Experiences that hurt me to my core to think about. I don't want to rub salt into the wounds of those that know well the pains of a difficult pregnancy, delivery, or inability to conceive and carry a child to full term.

I am not gloating about my "easy" pregnancies.

I am amazed by the miracle that it is and humbled that I get to experience it again.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dining choices

When I was a kid, restaurants had "smoking" and "non-smoking" sections. When you were seated, the hostess would ask which section you wanted.

Now, most public places are "smoke-free" with small designated smoking areas, usually outside.

Here's my pet peeve.

Why don't restaurants now have "TV" or "non-TV" dining?

Haven't there been studies that show that eating while watching TV leads to a slower metabolic rate and a tendency to overeat?

Why do "family friendly" or "kid friendly" restaurants insist on having televisions with Cartoon Network surrounding the dining area? What is so friendly about mesmerizing my 5-year-old to the point that he can't complete a sentence or finish his pizza while it's warm?

Or how about the places that have the news on so you can stay current on what's going on in the world? At bedtime, when my 3-year-old asks, "Why were those men throwing rocks?" and I'm racking my brain to figure out where she saw men throwing rocks, then realize there was footage of the Israeli conflict playing while we ate lunch, how do I answer her question in a way that can still encourage her to "have sweet dreams" when I walk out of the room and turn out the light?

Maybe other people don't have this problem. Maybe their kids don't even notice what's playing over Mommy's & Daddy's shoulders. Which makes me wonder, by limiting my kids' "screen time" at home, have I made them more susceptible to tuning in to screens in other settings?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Hapa"ly Ever After

Many good stories have "happily ever after" endings.

I don't know how your stories will end, loves, but they all begin "hapa"ly ever after.

Hapa is a Hawaiian word that means half or part. It is most often used to describe someone with a combination of Asian or Pacific Islander and other nationalities in their ancestry. This is why it's a part of where your story begins.

Genetically, you are East meets West. Second generation American-born Korean on Daddy's side and tenth generation from the hills of north Georgia on Mommy's side. There's Korean, Scotch, Irish, German, and Cherokee blood making it's way through your veins.

As you grow people may have questions about your background and the people you come from. They may have guesses about who you are based on what they see, but even their perceptions of what they see will be a little distorted by their own experiences, or lack thereof.

You will be the product of your raising, and then some. You'll carry pieces of your past and plans for your future. You will have dreams realized and dreams deferred.

Wherever you go and whatever you do I pray that you will know that you were created, just the way you are, for a purpose. You don't need to be any more or any less than who you are.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Judge not...

Sometimes we all like to look at a situation and think we know exactly what is going on...

Judgment #1: She drives a BMW and lives in "that" neighborhood. There's no way she needs financial help.

Judgment #2: Driving a Lexus and carrying a Prada purse to a W.I.C. appointment? She needs Medicaid for this pregnancy? Some people really abuse the system.

Judgment #3: Just pitiful. Standin' in the Wal-mart bathroom, trying to nurse a tiny baby, holding a toddler's hand, lookin' a mess. It's just sad, really.

Judgment #4: She buys whatever she wants for herself and her kids. Their family often goes on trips and in the photos they're always having such a great time. Her home is always "together" and looks like it could be in a magazine.

These are just a few real situations that I know about from personal experience or the experience of good friends. Do you want the story behind each judgment?

Situation #1: Her dad was in a deep state of depression, contemplating suicide and wanted to make sure she would have a "good" car before he died because he knew she wouldn't be able to get any money from his life insurance policy. It has been a few years since then. Her dad did not cause his own death, but she still drives the reminder of some of the darkest days she has known. She and her husband struggle to make their mortgage each month since he worked in flooring installation for new construction and no one is building or buying right now.

Situation #2: The purse was a gift. She knows it was expensive, so she feels like she should use it. She started driving the Lexus when she was 5 months pregnant and her father-in-law suffered a catastrophic injury and her parents-in-law had to buy a wheel-chair-accessible vehicle. She and her husband have a combined annual income of less than $5,000.

Situation #3: She's in the process of moving to a new state. They've been in the car for hours. Both children needed diaper changes and it was time for another feeding. She has been packing for the last two weeks and the baby is eight weeks old. Last night was the first night she got more than six hours of consecutive sleep. Her husband was finishing the final packing and driving a few hours later.

Situation #4: Her husband is verbally, emotionally and physically abusive. He is unfaithful. Their debt is becoming overwhelming. Their home may photograph well, but a reality show from their house would tell a completely different story. She is a wounded and vulnerable woman.

You never know what someone else is going through, whether they look like they have it all together or they look like it's all falling apart. Be kind, no matter what you think you know.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

For My Girls

Sweet Mackenzie, you stand in front of the mirror, wearing a pink flannel nightgown, combing your hair in every direction. As I step behind you, you smile at your reflection and at me, then say, "I look SO beautiful! Don't I, Mommy?" I smile back and say, "Yes you do! You are wonderfully made!"

My Annie brings me hair bows, waits patiently for me to put them in her hair, then steps back and grins her one-dimpled grin and says, "I pretty." And I have to agree.

You are both adorable, but what makes you so much sweeter is your comfort with who you are, right now. Looking into mirrors and seeing all the things that you love about yourself.

I stand, admiring your lack of self-consciousness, and I pray for you. Experience has shown me that soon enough someone will make you feel like your body is merely an object for their pleasure or criticism. Soon enough you'll learn to stand in front of a mirror and look for the "flaws". But still, I pray.

I pray that you will always know that you were created with a mind, body, and spirit. You'll want to do your best to keep all three healthy, since they work together, but please, don't let your mind dwell on thoughts about your body that will crush your spirit.

I pray that you will realize early on that your body will change many times as it carries your mind and spirit through life. Those changes are inevitable and I hope you won't begrudge them. You'll grow taller, eventually you'll go through all the physical changes that will transport you from the world of little girls to the world of young women. One day you may experience the pleasures and pains of pregnancy, watching your body become unrecognizable and yet admirable, as it becomes a temporary home for someone else. You will age. Wrinkles, freckles, moles, sun spots and gray hair will come. You'll have aches and pains. Eventually your body will fail to do the things that you've become so accustomed to it doing.

Through each of these transitions, my loves, I pray that your mind will continue to grow sharper and your spirit more steadfast in what is TRUE. I pray that you will know that you can look "pretty" anytime, but being beautiful is extremely rare. May your outward appearance reflect the beauty of your inner spirit.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Meltdown

Last night, all seemed to be going smoothly, until "The MELTDOWN" hit. I really didn't see it coming, and usually I do, but last night, I didn't.

We had finished dinner. We were going to do baths before bedtime. There was a basket of folded laundry right outside the kids' rooms and they were going to help put their things away before we started baths.

Annie, now two-years-old, took her things a piece at a time to her room and put them into the drawers. (We keep all their clothes in drawers, for this reason. If it's on a hanger higher then their heads, guess who has to put it away? ME. If it's at a level they can reach, it becomes their responsibility.)

Mackenzie, soon to be four, was working with "piles" to put hers away. "Mommy, just pile my panties and socks on my arms so I can dump them in the top drawer. I already opened it...Next pile my shirts on my arms 'cause the middle drawer is open now...Pile on my pants 'cause the bottom drawer looks kind of empty since you haven't washed my pants for a long time, right?"

Then there was Nicholas, five-and-a-half, normally very compliant, and quick when it comes to putting things away because almost everything is a race. I placed his stacks of folded clothes in the floor of his room. Three pairs of pajamas, two pairs of pants, two shirts, some underwear and socks. The underwear and socks made it quickly into their rightful place. Then, I'm not sure what happened. The drawer was open for the next set of clothes, but suddenly, the clothes were being tossed into the floor, not even close to the open drawer! WHAT?! I picked up the clothes (pants & shirts) that were now unfolded near the door, walked into the hall, pulled down the attic door, and put the clothes up inside, then closed the door. He saw what happened. I simply said, "If you don't want to put away your clothes, then we'll keep them up in the attic so they won't be in the way. If you would like to keep your pajamas in your room, you should put them away now." This was infuriating to him. So what did he do?


I picked them up, and in the same way, walked into the hallway, opened the attic, put the pj's inside, closed the attic door. He screamed. He cried. He sulked.

I got the girls ready for their bath.

"I'm not taking a bath!!!" he shouted.

"Okay. Then get ready for bed. I'll help you brush your teeth."

The drama continued to unfold as he didn't want to put on pajamas, because the ones he wanted to wear were now in the attic. "You can sleep in undies."

Not the answer he was hoping for.

He didn't want to brush teeth.

Not an option when your dad's an orthodontist.

For half an hour he screamed & cried as though I were an expert in various forms of torture and cruelty. He did receive two spankings (literally 1 swat, then a little later another, lest anyone think that I beat my children) one for throwing something at me when he was angry, the other for being intentionally defiant when he was asked to do something reasonable within his ability level. Needless to say, it wasn't fun for either of us.

After the "storm" had passed, we talked about what went wrong. "Buddy, why did you choose to throw your clothes instead of putting them away? Why did you choose to throw something at Mommy when you felt angry? It's okay to be angry with me and tell me what made you feel angry, but you are not allowed to throw things or try to hurt me when you are angry."

"Well, Mommy," he says, with a few tears still dampening his cheeks, "I think what we had for dinner made me do all that."

"How's that? You liked dinner tonight and said it was one of your 'most favorite things Mommy cooks' and you ate a lot of mango & pineapple at the end. How did your dinner do that?"

"Well, maybe it wasn't dinner then. Maybe it was just some bad choices."

If I sound like I have confidence or certainty about how the night turned out, I hope you'll know that I don't. I sat wondering, after the kids were asleep, "What will they take from this? How will Nicholas remember this event? How about the girls, who heard their big brother, but didn't see everything that was going on? And what if a neighbor picks up a distorted signal from one of our baby monitors? They'll certainly think the child was near death. Of course, he was the only one screaming and shouting. My husband and I both managed to keep our voices at a normal level. Did I do what needed to be done for his best or did I do what was best for me?" And with these thoughts we continue to put money into a savings account that will one day help pay for college or counseling, whichever seems appropriate at the time.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Granny Mitchell's House

When my children are my age, they may have vague memories of one of their great-grandparents. I, on the other hand, have vivid memories of 3. Yesterday, as I watched my husband climb the stairs to the back porch of my Granny Mitchell's house, my mind was flooded with memories of the times I spent there.

There were memories of the way that porch (or actually the one that was there before) was wrapped in black tarpaper, or at least heavy duty garbage bags, that blocked out all light. My four-year-old self, climbing those stairs with trepidation, holding tightly to my mom's hand, while the sound of my pounding heart was greeted by the slow jingle of Bouncy's dog chain. I'm not certain how many encounters that old dog and I had, but I never knew what color he was or how big he was, because our only meetings were there in the darkness, with the sound of his movements and the smell of his dog-ness, just before Granny would open the screen door. With the opening of the door, there was an invitation into another world.

In Granny's house there was a record player which often produced the sounds of The Chuck Wagon Gang singing songs like "I'd Rather Have Jesus" or "I'll Fly Away" and Granny would always let you know when you should sing along and when you should just sit quietly and "listen at how good that sounds."

In Granny's front room the furniture was wrapped in plastic that your legs would stick to in summer and there was the most marvelous pump organ with a stool that twisted so you could go up and down. One of the great benefits of beginning piano lessons in second grade was that Granny would invite my sister and me to play for her. At the time it was a team effort. One of us would sit in the floor to "pump" while the other would play and then we'd trade positions. Granny would saddle up to that organ and sing tunes like "Humpback Mule" as her feet would pump and her fingers would move easily from key to key. She would smile and cackle and the Topps snuff would trickle down the creases at the corner of her mouth, but we weren't disgusted, we were entertained. After a few songs Granny might invite you to the kitchen for a little snack.

In Granny's kitchen you could expect to get a glass of cold, almost sweet, well water in a little jelly jar or other "fancy" cup. She'd also offer you something warm from the stove if it was close to lunch or dinner time. It might be green beans and potatoes with "just a little bit of pork" (about half her pinky finger's length, to be exact), or Spanish rice. But if you were there between meals, she might just bring out the Nutter Butter cookies wrapped in tin/aluminum foil (one of my cousins was convinced for years that "Granny made those little peanut shaped cookies" since she never got them out of a package, only out of the foil).

In spring Granny would walk around the yard with you, stopping by the wild strawberry patch to pick some of the tiniest and tastiest berries I've ever had. If the flowers were in bloom, she'd help make a bouquet of hydrangeas, forsythia, Cherokee roses, and whatever else grew in her yard. Then she'd wrap the stems in wet paper towels and a layer of tin foil around that to "keep 'em fresh." She might sit with you for awhile on the front porch, rocking in the green chairs that bumped forward and back since the rockers weren't quite a smooth curve. That's when she would tell tales of the wampus cat, the ghost on Poole mountain, or slunks that were "lookin' for little girls your age just to snatch up quick as lightnin' and ne'er been seen again." It was on Granny's front porch that I first remember hearing the word "rape", but as a five-year-old, I had no idea what that could possibly mean. I just knew it was awful from the way Granny said it. My best understanding was that it had something to do with a rake and it made me fearful of any men that ever came to collect pine straw from the acres of loblolly pines that surrounded our home.

On rare occasions, Granny might let you come into the front bedroom. I don't think she ever actually slept there. If she walked with you to the front bedroom, it meant she might pull some dresses out of the closet or let you try on jewelry from her jewelry box. I don't remember ever seeing her in any of those dresses or wearing any of that jewelry, but there are pictures that show that she did. I remember her wearing house dresses with a flannel shirt over top.

My Granny Mitchell was quite a character. She was an excellent story teller. She "fear(ed) the Good Lord" but I think she feared life more. She had quite a sense of humor and more than a few eccentricities. When I see her house now, from the outside looking quite similar to the way it did many years ago, I wonder what other memories those walls hold. It's kind of like Granny in her later years, after Alzheimer's had captured most of her mind. It has known many things and been witness to many changes over the years, and yet it sits, silently, as time continues to wear away various parts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What would you do?

There's a show, I think on ABC, that uses actors to confront unknowing people with ethical dilemmas and then there are hidden cameras to record their responses. Sometimes it's bullying, sometimes it's racism, sometimes it's cheating or stealing or trying to get away with something illegal. It's always interesting to see how different people react and then when they are questioned about their reaction, to hear what motivated them. In these scenarios, the "observer" never has a prior relationship with the victim or the perpetrator. Because of the set-up aspect of the show, they will not have a future relationship with either party. The focus is what you would do in the moment for a stranger.

So now comes my question, what would you do?

You have at least an acquaintance level relationship with a person, but not much more. You see this family around the neighborhood, at the gym, at the ball field, at church, at school events, wherever you and your family spend time. Whenever you see each other you say, "Hi!" and exchange a brief conversation of pleasantries. The other parent(s) is all smiles and has the "friendly voice" on. However, just before you made eye contact, or after they think you're out of earshot, 90% of the time, they are directly criticizing or berating one or more of their children. Maybe it's just the mom that has the razor sharp tongue and sarcastic comment for every act of imperfection. Maybe it's the dad that seems to point out every falter and flaw. There is a very harsh tone and body postures that just make you uncomfortable. Whomever it is, you can see that it is slowly eating away at the fiber of the children, but what do you do? There don't appear to be any signs of physical abuse, so you don't think you could intervene legally. You don't have a strong enough relationship with the kids to ask them if there's more going on behind closed doors. You just know it's not right. So what do you do?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Telling secrets

Today I had lunch with four amazing women. These are women that I know on varying levels, but women I love more each time I'm around them. We enjoyed a tasty meal together, but what I believe fed us each a little more, and satisfied our appetites beyond what food could provide, was the extra hour and a half spent in the parking lot, talking, sharing bits and pieces of who we are with each other.

And like Frederick Buechner, I also, "have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition--that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are--even if we tell it only to ourselves--because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about. Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell."

So I thank you, sweet friends, for sharing lunch, and some "secrets" with me today. I count myself more blessed because of each of you.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The end of the day

I know I'm not alone in this, because I've heard other stay-at-home-moms express the same feeling, but at the end of the day, when all little people have been tucked snugly into bed, I'm done.

I don't want to give anyone "just one sip of water" or "a little back rub" or "help to find my small blanket" because if you drink too much water I'll be changing the sheets in the middle of the night, I rubbed your back while we were reading the bedtime story, and your small blanket was in your bed when I left your room 3 minutes ago. I'm done!

But then there are the requests that are impossible to refuse. "Mommy, I'm scared. Will you sit by my bed?" "I love you so much. Will you hold my hand for a few minutes?" "Could we rock a little and will you pray with me?" I realize these statements can be just as manipulative as any other, but how can I refuse?

There are sometimes that I am racing from my parental responsibilities to the retreat of our comfy couch and a good book at the end of the evening. There are other times that I can be soothed by the sounds of my children slowly settling into rhythmic breathing that tells me in the darkness that they are sleeping. It continues to be an internal and external struggle. I know they need consistency, but I also know there are times to make exceptions to the routine.

I often wonder how they will remember bedtime when their beds are no longer under "my" roof.