On Snails and Heaven

Naomi has been a handful today.  She’s tired, waaaay over-sugared, and fairly under-napped as well, since Malachi just HAD to go get his light-saber rightthisminute and forgot she was asleep.  We went to an evening church service tonight. After church the kids ran around in vicious circles screaming and playing and knocking stuff over and sticking their hands in my water (Just, why?) until I was dun-dun-DONE and we left. Titust cried all the way home (poor, sleepy baby). When we got home and it was time to go inside, Naomi was dawdling and then turned around to look at the snail on the sidewalk.

There’s this awkward commercial (here it is) where the guy opens with, “Has anyone else been experiencing a snail infestation?” and I always yell, “Yes! ME!” because every time it rains we get tons of them all over our walkway. It was raining on the way home from church so when we got home – snails. Everywhere, snails.

Naomi: turns around
Jeremy: Naomi, don’t step on the snail!
Naomi: crunch
Me: Naomi! Daddy said no! You killed the snail! It was alive and now it’s dead.

Yes, I actually said that. I shouldn’t have – but I was mad and tired and stressed out and really, really ready for bedtime.  Naomi sauntered proudly into the house with quite the unfazed smirk on her face and I started the “Jackets off! Shoes off! Someone get the baby his paci!” routine when I looked up and noticed Malachi’s lip was quivering.

“What’s the matter, buddy.”

“I’m sad because Naomi stepped on the snail!”

And then he burst into tears.

You guys: this was heartbreaking. 99% of the time if my kids are crying it’s because they’ve been hurt or they’ve been punished. They are little, they haven’t experienced any kind of death yet, and it’s rare that true, genuine, innocent sadness happens. But here it was, sitting in my lap (barely fitting), crying on my shoulder because his sister killed the snail.  After a few minutes he asked me,

 

“But why did Nani kill it?”

“I’m not sure, buddy.”

At this point I notice that Naomi is staring out the window, refusing to look at Malachi and I, completely expressionless. It scares me a little how she can detach herself from things. I turn her face towards me.

“Naomi, you need to tell Malachi you’re sorry.”

Two big tears roll out of Naomi’s eyes, and she quivers, “I’m sorry, Malachi.”  I pull her into my arms and let her cry.

Me: “Naomi, I forgive you.  This is why Daddy told you no, and why you should listen when we say no. He was trying to save the snail and to save you from being sad about the snail.”

Malachi:  “But I’m sad Nani killed the snail.”

Me: “I know, buddy.  It’s sad when something dies.  But you know what?  Jesus tells us that every time a leaf falls, or a bird sings, or a snail dies, He sees it and He cares.  Because He made the world and He loves it.”

Malachi: “How will the snail get un-dead, Mama?”

Me: “Well, it won’t, buddy.  It’s dead now.  But it’s ok – there’s lots of other snails.  God made a lot of snails.”

Malachi: “But I want ALL of the snails to be alive!”

Me: “I know, buddy.  But if snails never died the whole world would be full of snails!  Sometimes animals die to make room for new animals.”

Malachi: “But if Jesus loves the snail, why did He let it die?”

Me: deep breath… “Well buddy, even when Jesus loves something, He still sometimes lets it die. Everything that is alive dies sometime.  Animals die.  People die one day.  Flowers die.  It’s how the world works.”

Malachi: “But isn’t Jesus really sad about the snail?  That Nani killed His snail He made?”

Me: “I’m sure Jesus is sad that the snail died.  But you know what?  He’s more sad that you are sad, and that you are sad, Nani.  He cares a lot more about you than about the snail.”

Malachi: “But how can Jesus love Nani if she was bad and killed the snail?”

Me: “Malachi, have you ever done something bad?”

Malachi: “Yes.”

Me: “And did I still love you?”

Malachi: “Yes.”

Me: “Well, Jesus loves us, even when we do something bad, he still loves us so, so, so, so much.  And Nani, just like I forgive you and Malachi forgives you, Jesus forgives you, too! And he wants you to be happy.”

Naomi: “But it was an accident, Mama.”

Me: “No, you didn’t step on him by accident. You stepped on him on purpose. But you probably didn’t mean to kill him, did you?”

Naomi: “No.”

Me: “Why did you step on him, Naomi?”

Naomi: “I wanted him to move out of the way.”

Me: “Well, next time why don’t you just step over the snails, ok?”

Naomi: “Ok.”

At this point both kids are in my lap, with one arm around me and one arm around each other, having completely forgiven but still sad.

Me: “You know what, guys? We don’t have to be sad anymore. One day when go to Heaven, nothing will ever die, and nothing will ever be sad! Because Jesus will be there.”

Malachi: “But what if there’s snails in Heaven and what if Nani steps on them there?”

Me: “Well, God won’t let that happen because sad things don’t happen there. And we can pray tonight that he will bring us a new snail friend tomorrow!”

Malachi: “But what if Nani steps on the snails tomorrow?!?!”

Me: “Are you going to step on them, Naomi?”

Naomi: “NO! I’m not.”

Me: “That’s good!  See, Malachi?  It’ll be ok.”

This whole time Jeremy was putting a crying, over-tired baby down for bed, so we finally went upstairs and got ready for bed. Naomi went potty all by herself without any prompting (this is HUGE) and that helped everyone feel happier and gave me a good reason to act (and be) super, super proud of her. We read our bedtime story with both kids cuddled up together in Naomi’s bed. When we prayed, we thanked Jesus for dying on the cross and rising again so we could live with Him forever. We asked him to take care of our snail in Heaven and send us a new snail friend. Malachi got a little teary again because that boy is MADE of sensitivity and Naomi got excited that she gets to put another sticker on the chart for going potty.  All ended well.

I know more things were said that I left out – something about the snail turning into dirt to grow food for new snails to eat (which Malachi quickly interpreted as cannabalism #backpedal). And most of what I said was directed at both kids equally – Naomi listened intently to Malachi’s questions and my answers.  Now I can hear them snoring through the monitors and hopefully soaking up all the sleep their bodies need.

For children, disobediance seldom leads to true remorse or repentance, but when her actions gave pain to those around her Naomi’s heart truly grieved over and repented of her sin.  If Malachi wasn’t so sensitive, the whole thing would have blown over.  If I wasn’t so stressed, they probably would never have known that the snail actually died. And even though it was sad, sitting on my living room carpet cuddling with my teary babies and talking gently about Heaven and forgiveness and the cycle of death and new life was such a gift.  He makes all things good.  He makes all things new.

Happy Easter.

 

Kid Convos

Update for the handful of you who don’t know me in real life (*winkwink*): We are 14 weeks along with our third!

Conversation with Naomi yesterday
Me: Do you want the new baby to be a girl or a boy?
Naomi: Boy baby.
Me: Are you sure? What if it’s a girl?
Naomi: BOY BABY!
Me: What should we name the baby?
Naomi: Scout.
Me: What should we feed the baby?
Naomi: Hmmm….water.
Me: How about milk?
Naomi: No, water.
Me: Where should the baby sleep:
Naomi: My bathroom.
Me: What should we give the baby to play with?
Naomi: Loveys.
Me: Loveys are a great idea!
Naomi: My loveys! Give new baby my loveys!
Me: ….heart melt….

Conversation with Malachi today
Me: Do you want a boy so you can have a baby brother or another baby sister?
Malachi: Another baby sister.
Me: What should we name the baby?
Malachi: Santa!

ultra

She doesn’t know she’s big.

The girl was tiny – really tiny.  She looked like a walking baby doll.  She was obviously much older than her size would lead me to believe and when I asked her mom, yep – 16 months in 9-month clothes.  She was beautiful and just so precious.  Malachi was tiny like that, too, and it was the best.  He wore newborn clothes for 4 months, and I carried him around in his infant seat until he was 14 months old.  In a sense you really do get to keep them “babies” for longer.

My daughter, however, is the opposite. 22 months younger than her brother but four pounds heavier.  She is not even 2 but comfortably wearing 3T shirts because of her adorable, enormous potbelly. We are asked frequently if they are twins.  She is stronger than my son.

stuck on a see-saw

And she’s fearless.  She climbs things, jumps off things, and is utterly independent. I let her climb ladders and slide down big slides and learn by doing because she won’t have it any other way and she has plenty of padding to cushion her falls.  Which are frequent.  When Malachi is too timid to try something she goes first and barely notices when he follows her because she’s already off to do it again.  She’s a natural leader who doesn’t even know she’s being followed – she’s just being herself.

She’s heavy, and she’s squirmy.  You carry her for 5 minutes and you are exhausted.  When Malachi hides from scary cartoon characters, she laughs.  She talks in sentences and already knows half her letters and can count to 13 (minus “7”).  She has entire songs memorized.

Two months ago she got a toddler bed for Christmas and she was really excited. She layed in it to watch TV and we set it up in her room that night.  And the poor thing was terrified.  She didn’t know what to do with herself and felt so insecure. Every time I heard her get out of bed she was picking up another toy to put in the bed with her – her popcorn push toy, her Elsa doll, 6 books.  If I told her to go back to sleep she burst into tears.  The next two nights I had to lay with her until she fell asleep and she still wimpered and sniffled.  We switched back to the crib after that, and I dealt with my Mommy guilt for a week.  I was so surprised by her reaction – my girl who leaps from couches, laughs at the guarddogs in our neighborhood, and watches the Frozen ice monster without fear just did not know what to do with herself in a bed with no walls.

pre-freakout

I adore her hugs and cuddles, but carrying her around is so hard.  She’s so big, and so advanced, and so mature, and I have to constantly remind myself, “She doesn’t know she’s big.”  She may not look like a baby doll, but she’s still a baby, at least for a few more days.  Even though she can do things other kids her age can’t do, reach things, open heavy doors, climb on the big kid playground, balance on a tire swing, she still crys when she bonks her head, or when she can’t play with big kid toys, or when Mommy can’t carry her anymore.  She is Malachi’s best friend but she doesn’t understand pretend, so when he tells her that he’s a crocodile and he’s going to bite her, she runs to me for protection.  And I have to say to myself and to my son, again and again, “She doesn’t know she’s big.”

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Your kids don’t either.  They don’t know they are mature for their age, or strong, or heavy.  They know they are your baby and you are their protection.  And in the moments when they are frustrating, or tiring, or needier than you’ve seen them in weeks, remember that most of the world still looms over their heads like so many giants, and most obstacles are still too big for them to hurdle.  You are the one who gets on their level, picks them up, and carries them home.

She doesn’t know she is big, so I won’t forget that she’s little.  She is, afterall, still my baby.

Conversations with Malachi

If you’re sniffing a theme, this is a drop in the overflowing bucket (or toilet) of Malachi jokes.

While going potty before bed:
**dramatic sigh**  Mama, is this pee-pee EVER going to come?

Right before the nursery-free Christmas Eve service that Jeremy and I in a fit of over-sugared Christmas spirit genuinely thought our kids could endure peacefully:
Malachi:  **dancing on the chair**  Pee pee pee pee pee pee pee!
Me:  Malachi, no. We don’t do that unless we are at home.  Some people don’t like to hear that, okay?
Malachi:  O-KAY!  Poo poo poo poo poo poo poo!
Me:  Malachi!  No.  I’m serious and you know better.  Stop.
Malachi:  **dramatic pause, followed by a dead-serious stare-down with me, and then broken by  GAS gas gas gas gas gas gas!

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After finishing his bidness, in a super high-pitched voice:
Mama! Wook at those widdle baby poo-poos! Aw, they so cute. I wanna give them hugs.

Passing our neighbors’ lighted Santa sleigh and red-nosed leader:
Wook, Mama!  It’s Santa and Sven!

At a random breakfast:
A-B-C-poop-E-pee-pooooop-H-I-J-poop-L-M-N-O-gaaaaaas!

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What You Thought You Wanted

A few months after my first was born my husband said, “It seems like you were happier when you were working than you are now that you stay home.” In other words, he punched me in the gut. I felt a defensive, sad, and guilty because in many ways he was right and I didn’t want to admit it. I’ve wanted to stay home with my kids all my life – I wouldn’t trade it for the world or the paycheck or the 9 to 5 adult conversation. But it was true – I was stressed and often unhappy. My baby had reflux and I had overactive let-down and excess milk. He cried a LOT. He didn’t gain weight well. We went through three to five outfits each a day, multiple sheets, all the burp rags, and a ton of laundry detergent. I was exhausted. I carried him around non-stop and adored him like I’d never loved anyone before, but all the same – I missed adult interaction, using my mind, doing what I was good at (I didn’t feel very good at motherhood), taking a break, and being challenged.

Things got better and easier and the stress lessened (slightly) and changed (every day). I started volunteering as director and teacher for a local ESL program. Malachi got a prescription and my boobs calmed the heck down so he was able to sleep, gain weight, and eat in peace. I fell more and more and more and more in love with my son. I stopped bleeding and started napping and things got a LOT better. But I was shocked – shocked – at how much I missed my job.

From the time I was a child I knew I wanted to be a teacher until I hit middle school and felt called to missions. So it was no small providence that I combined both and ended up teaching English to international students. I loved it. I loved them. I was good at it and I thrived on it. Teaching ESL became a huge part of my identity. And teaching was the first job I ever enjoyed. I loved what I did and I loved who I worked with. My happiest memories of that job are the summer I worked 60 hours a week, even though I never slept or cooked anything decent. I fully expected to fall in love with my baby and be overjoyed to be home with him – and that happened. But I didn’t expect to grieve the loss of my job – which also happened.

After Malachi got older I started wanting to work part-time, teaching one or two clases a week. I knew I would like spending the majority of my time at home but also to go back to a job, ministry really, that was so fulfilling to me. The thought still appeals to me. I tried and asked and searched and attempted to tutor for a while but still there was nothing.

Then this past summer my old job offered me a class – one I had taught before and loved. I was thrilled – I nailed down childcare and talked to Jeremy and got way ahead of myself in my excitement. But after a lot of prayer and thought and agony, I turned it down. The timing was bad, the commute was bad, and it would have been really weirdly hard on my kids because of all the minutae.

Within a week a new ESL program was created in the city. It was intended as an adult community outreach. The faculty were diverse, it was close to my neighborhood, and they used curriculum I have used and taught before. I applied and interviewed and nervously waited and prayed. After my interview I discovered that although it was only 6 hours a week and payed well, it was during the worst possible 6 hours of my week it could be. I wanted the job but I didn’t want the job and I warred with myself over it while I waited for a call. Then finally I got the call and they had offered the job to someone else. My pride took a blow but my heart felt relief, and once again I was shocked.

Over the past few years my heart and mind have grieved and let go of my old job. I still miss it, but not in the same way. Letting go of a job and having a child is similar to letting go of your only child and having a second – the relatioship changes, who you are changes, and the adjustment is wonderful and priceless but also painful and surprising. I’ve also gotten really, really stupidly busy. I volunteer too much and take too much on and when I get stressed and overwhelmed it strains my relationships at home. Over the summer everything went on hiatus – both my volunteer positions, Malachi’s pre-school, Bible study, and at least half of our small groups. And it was wonderful. I had so much more patience with my kids, and we spent so much more quality time together. We baked cookies and went to the park and played games and napped and threw plans out the window to eat popcorn and watch movies instead. And in those moments, on those good days, I realized that THIS is what I want to be doing with my days. And that the biggest thing keeping me from it was my own overcommitedness (<– new word). I miss my old job because it was wonderful and I loved it, but it’s no longer what I want to do. Not all the time. I romanticized the wonderful aspects of it and diminished the things that would be challenging and God used two no-go job offers this summer to show me that.

I still hope down the road I can teach again and I believe I will. One day the timing will work out and my kids will be ready and I will be fully confident that it’s the right thing. But now I can look at it honestly. I can look at my kids and know without a doubt that I would rather be home with them. And I can look at my teacher-self and know that she is a part of me, too, and that one day she may get to shine again. But when I look at Christ, I realize that HE is what defines me. Everything I am – mother, wife, teacher, leader, volunteer, friend – is tied up in Who He is. And for this season, whether long or short I do not know, he has called me to be here, in this moment, with these children. Maybe I’ll get a job offer tomorrow and I’ll take it, maybe I’ll go back to work when my kids are in school, maybe I’ll homeschool and never go back to work, maybe we’ll move overseas and everything will change. I don’t know and that’s ok. This summer I needed to let go of what I thought I wanted to realize that I what I truly wanted is what I already have. And I have found so much freedom in that.

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Let it Flipping Go

When Malachi first saw Frozen he completely fell in love just like every other child on the face of the planet. He watched it every day for over a week. He learned all the songs. We bought the book. He occupied himself for thirty minutes in the CD section of Barnes and Noble by passionately staring at a cardboard cutout of Anna and Elsa and announcing every 15 seconds, “It’s Fwozen, Mama! See it? Wook, Mama, Fwozen!”

And then all of the sudden he became so terrified of Big Snowman (the ice monster thing) that he wouldn’t even stay in the same room when the movie was on. He’d watch the first twenty minutes, hide when Anna started up the mountain, and not come back until the big snowman died approximately 45 minutes later. He became obsessed. He would flip to the page in his book with a picture of Big Snowman and stare. He had a near panic attack in the car while listening to the sound track. He couldn’t focus on his hot dog in Sam’s because 100 yards away he could see Frozen on approximately 30 flipping TV screens and he knew Big Snowman was coming. I think this trailer accurately sums up his perception of the movie for the last couple months:

So for the past two months we have impatiently and patiently waited, talked logically about how animated objects are just pretend and live in the TV, avoided TV screens where Frozen was playing, and watched other movies. And then, earlier this week, he was ready to try again. It’s possible I bribed him with popcorn, chocolate, Captain Crunch, and a toy from Toys R Us unless you think that’s excessive in which case I’m assuming you probably don’t have kids. He did it, he laughed, he decided Big Snowman is burping when he screams “Don’t come baaaack” and he gives me huge high fives every time he sits through it. He is also no longer afraid of the Wiggles or the Chica Show so hip hip hooooooray. And now we’re back to watching Frozen every day.

I was going to insert some pithy picture to illustrate my feelings about this, but I found this instead and couldn’t stop laughing.

Malachi will only tolerate Pixar movies or other animated films of equal quality. He is not to be bothered by the Jungle Book, Aladdin, Fievel, or even The Little Mermaid. He only wants Cars, Different Cars (Cars 2), Buzz-Woody, Different Buzz-Woody (Toy Story 2), Finding Nemo, or Frozen. He’s also taken to spontaneously quoting lines from these movies and confusing the daylights out of me.

Me: Thanks, buddy.
Malachi: No pwoblem.
Me: No problem, huh? Where’d you learn that?
Malachi: Like Dori says.
Me: Oh, ok.
Malachi: No pwoblem, Mama.
Me: Ok, buddy, go eat your lunch.
Malachi: No pwoblem.

During lunch with a friend, when no one was talking to Malachi he interrupts our conversation to say…
Malachi: You wanna thwow me out the window, Mama?
Me: What? What are you talking about?
Malachi: You wanna thwow me out the window, too?
Me:
Malachi: Like Potato Head say in Buzz-Woody!
Me: Good Lord, Malachi, please don’t say those things in public.

During dinner tonight when conversation lulled.
Malachi: Oh my gosh! Malachi swimmin’ out to sea!

Anytime he is annoyed with anybody.
Malachi: Don’t! Come! Baaaaaaaaaaack!

We’ve actually had to put him in time out for repeatedly screaming “Don’t come back” in my face when I tell him he has to finish his lunch or put his toys away.

Jessie: All you ever talk about is your STUPID Andy!
Malachi: Jessie, say “stupid,” Mama. Dat’s bad.
Me: You’re right, buddy, it is. She should say “silly.”
Malachi: You want to say “silly,” Jessie, ok?

I’m not sure how to wrap up this yawner of a post so…..

Tick Tock

It seems like the best definition of being a stay-at-home-mom is being busy all day, exhausted at night, but still having no idea what to say when asked, “What did you do today?” I used to be proud of myself when I could accomplish my whole to-do list in a day. Now making a to-do list at all is an accomplishment. It amazes me that any day I have to grocery shop automatically means: exhausting. And heaven forbid they don’t have a car cart because the consequences are the toddler has to either 1. walk (i.e. run a 5k down every aisle and fill the cart with canned corn and fruit snacks) or 2. get covered in groceries that he may not touch, eat, sniff, crush , rearrange, or throw. Also, your legs are numb, offspring? Suck it up or tough it out – I literally have no other options. You may have a free cookie from the bakery, or 4 if the bakers aren’t looking.

Bribery is your friend.

I wouldn’t trade my role as a stay-at-home-mom for the world, but these young years can be tough. Hilarious, sweet, fun, rewarding, but tough. There are days when all the busyness is exhausting not only because it’s a constant rotation of squat, lift, bend over, carry, repeat but because reading children’s books, playing restaurant, and explaining over and over that brown grapes don’t have dirt on them is far from mentally energizing.

My church teaches this principle of the pendulum. In the first century, grapevines were given three years to rest before they were allowed to grow grapes. The vine dressers knew that without enough rest they wouldn’t be strong enough to bear fruit. the same principle applies to us – we need to work from our rest, not rest from our work. Our life is like a pendulum constantly swinging from rest to work, abiding to fruitfulness, tick tock. Neither can exist alone. A clock can’t stop at one hour and keep ticking and you cannot stop on one end of the pendulum and keep living.

I used to take this literally. Without enough sleep I get short-tempered and sad so I need to make sleep a priority. Not a bad idea, in theory – extremely hard to maintain in practice. Babies get sick. Toddlers have nightmares. Laundry piles up and thunderstorms happen and sleep is no longer a constant. It used to be discouraging to think I’d always be operating on 50%, always fighting off frustration and bad moods and apathy. I was trying so hard to get enough rest and it never paid off, so why on earth was God nudging me to start getting up early again to spend time with Him? The baby still wasn’t sleeping through the night. Wasn’t this the grace period? But finally I did, and I realized oh. Physical rest, though important and something to strive for, isn’t a constant. But spiritual rest can be. Resting my mind and heart in Him every morning lets me “go to work” yawning and tired, but renewed and at peace. Does it always “last”? No. Do I still lose focus, roll my eyes, yell at my kids, or pretend I can’t hear them sometimes because I just need a break? Yes. But giving up a little physical rest to invest in spiritual rest every morning makes me feel like a new person.

The days are long, but I want each morning to be a fresh start, not another “Here we go again.” And on the nights when I stay up too late, bending over to pick up the pieces of a day that blew up in my face, those are the nights I KNOW I need to take some time to rest in the Lord, not just to recover but to prepare for a new day investing in my children. If my job description is to parent my children with grace, to teach them about a God who adores them, and to gently shepherd them towards His heart, they need my example more than my words. They need a Mommy with rings under her eyes who showers them with grace and patience, much more than they need a Mommy who got 8 hours of sleep but is tiring under the weight of all the yesterdays that she is dragging into today.

Maybe it feels more like your life pendulum swings from cuddles to tantrums, from Caillou to Dora, or from goldfish to Oreos. Maybe your baby is precariously wedged between your arm, your husband’s back, and somehow your left knee and if you twitch she WILL wake up. Maybe you’ve given it a fair shot and decided that mornings just do. not. work. for you. I’ve been there and I get it. He understands, too. But carve out some time. Find a way to wake up and get some rest. He can restore your heart and prepare your mind for another day of tea parties, crayons, The Hungry Caterpillar, and squat, lift, bend over, carry, repeat. There is no guilt in abiding and no greater productivity than pointing (little) hearts towards Him.