Sometimes Fantasies Need A “Plan B”

When I asked my younger son what he wanted for his sixth birthday, he only had one request:  “I want to see snow.”

In most parts of the country, this would be a simple wish to fulfill; just lead him to the window, fling open the drapes and gift granted:  enough snow piled in the yard to make a 2-foot deep snow angel, a snowman and an arsenal of snowballs.  And under the big mound of snow in the driveway, you could almost make out the shape of the family car.  Oops, sorry…that was the adult thought process creeping in.

Here in the desert, it would be easier to head to a toy store and pluck a toy off the shelf.  But we will take him to the snow for his birthday.  Here are a few reasons why I am in favor of it:  A trip to the snow will not be strung out on my family room floor, making vacuuming nearly impossible.  I cannot slip or stub my toe on a vacation when I get a glass of water in the middle of the night.  A visit to the snow will not be tossed aside in a few months, left for me to pack it in the car and schlep it off to Goodwill (with him clutching my leg begging me not to give away his ‘favorite toy.’)

Still, I know that the visit to the snow can’t live up to the fantasy he’s created in his mind.  I expect him to whine about his freezing fingers after about twenty minutes (if that) in the snow.  He will get frustrated that his fingers won’t work right in gloves.  He will get mad when clumps of snow slip inside his boots. And he will be disappointed when his snowman doesn’t look like Frosty, but instead, looks like tumor-inflicted mutant.

I am also aware that his innocent declaration of wanting to “build a snowman” really means he wants to peg me in the back (or the face) with a snowball.  Perhaps I will allow him this moment of glee, because it will distract him from his discomfort.  When he remembers his icy fingers, wet feet and ugly snowman, we will reveal the “Plan B” we worked into the trip:

That’s right.  We booked a hotel with an indoor heated pool.  (We’ve learned from past mistakes :))

Do your vacations live up to what you imagined?  Or do you keep expectations low and find yourself pleasantly surprised?

Am I Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? Not If You Ask My Fourth Grader.

The great thing about having two kids is that each of them gives me different reasons to shake my head and wonder when I learned to speak a foreign language.  Although they can’t agree on much, they seem to be in harmony with one point:  they are smarter than me.  Well, I’m smart enough to know I should let them believe that…for now, at least.

Exhibit A:  I don’t know how to cook for the family

 My efforts to vary our meals are not appreciated by the young men in my house.  Every afternoon, the kids ask me what is for dinner.  For the last two weeks, if my response is anything other than “chicken nuggets” (for my younger son) or “nachos” (for my older son), the response is a less-than-enthusiastic, “oh.”

You’d think I just told them we were having paper paste for dinner.

If meal planning were left up to them, all of the grocery shopping would be done in one aisle:  the candy aisle.

Exhibit B:  I have no memory and don’t know what I’m talking about

 I’ve noticed this about both of my kids:  when they like something, they whole-heartedly like it with all of their being…until they can’t stand it anymore.  It goes for food, their favorite color, favorite TV show, new toys, friends, etc.   It seems I’m constantly two steps behind.  Here’s an example:

Me:  “What do you mean orange isn’t your favorite color?  I bought three orange shirts you picked out when school started.”

Older son:   “Ugh,” he says with an eye roll, “blue has been my favorite color forever.”

Me:   “Forever as in since yesterday, or last month?”

Older son:  Shakes his head in disgust and walks away.

We’ve had similar identical discussions about his best friends.  I’m amused that he thinks I’m such an idiot.  In my defense, I have a grasp on the factual definition of ‘forever’.  I haven’t figured out if there is a standard conversion for what ‘forever’ means to someone under the age of say, ten (kind of like 1 dog/cat year = 7 human years,) or if it loosely translates to anything over five minutes ago.

The dream of an underestimated parent:

If I crack the “forever” code, I think I could sell it to parents everywhere and make a fortune…which I would then invest in other child-to-parent translation projects.  I would revolutionize parent-child communication and might even get my own Wikipedia page.  With all this notoriety, I’d have literary agents begging me to let them represent me.

“Hell-o…what’s with you?” My older son asks, interrupting my daydream.

“Just thinking.”

“About what?”

I smile.  “World domination.”

He scrunches his face into a confused look, but decides against asking any other questions.  Instead, he leaves the room again.

My cover isn’t blown…he still thinks I’m an idiot.

Open Hearts Believe In Miracles

I’ve read several more chapter of Know Why You Believe by Paul E. Little.  Since the last update on my reading status, the book as discussed the following questions:  Is the Bible God’s Word?  Are The Bible Documents Reliable?  Does Archaeology Verify Scripture? Are Miracles Possible?

I found the chapter on miracles particularly interesting.  The Bible notes several miracles performed by Jesus.  This book notes that miracles were done to confirm Jesus’ message and God’s truth.  Jesus never gave in to temptation to perform miracles for entertainment, or for any reason other than teaching spiritual truth.

The book also explains that miracles aren’t necessary for us today because the records of miracles noted in the Bible have been proven to be very accurate.  Based on this, we don’t need miracles to have faith in the truth of God – the proof is already there for us to believe (or not.)

Even though miracles may not be needed to build our faith in God, I still believe they happen.  Un-believers can explain unexplainable occurrences away as coincidences or flukes, but I see them as God’s way of reminding us of his presence. 

I’ve read stories about terminally ill cancer patients given months to live, but they live completely healed five years later.  These stories tell me two things:  1) Doctors aren’t God, so they can’t tell us with certainty when we will die; and 2) God has a plan, and if it’s not our time to go, we stay.

I have had things happen in my life that may not qualify as miracle status, but they are striking enough that I feel God played a part in them happening.  I’ll share one experience with you:

My older son suffered from chronic ear infections as a baby.  Because of the continuous clogging of his ears, he was significantly delayed in his speech development.  When he was two-and-a-half, he was tested for cognitive and speech impairment.  They found his cognitive functioning was fine, but he had ‘moderate to severe’ delays in speech.

We were told that this period was crucial for speech development.  They explained that speech therapy services had a 6-month wait list, and that services couldn’t be obtained through the school district until he was three.  Then they shared more bad news:  speech therapists charged an average of $100 per session (not covered by insurance) and a shortage of therapists meant that finding one could be difficult.

I don’t remember exactly how much time passed, but it was soon after this meeting that I had an appointment at the salon to get my eyebrows done.  Like beauticians and bartenders, estheticians are great listeners.  After I finished telling her the story of our predicament, she said, “You know what?  I have a client who is a speech therapist for <name of school district>.  I’ll give her your number.”

I left that day with some great looking eyebrows and a renewed sense of hope.  I wondered if she really would talk to her client (lots of people say things that never get done.)  So I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high, I told myself that she was probably too busy.  The fact that we couldn’t afford $100 a week loomed in the back of my mind.  To my surprise, the woman called several days later.  She was booked, but could work in one more. 

For six months (until he qualified for preschool services with the school district), she came to our house once a week and taught us some sign language so we could communicate basic needs.  She did muscle strengthening exercises with him, and showed us some to do on our own in her absence.  Most importantly, she gave us hope that everything would indeed be all right.  She did all this for a price we could afford.

If I hadn’t gone to the esthetician my mom recommended; if that esthetician hadn’t left the salon and I got scheduled with the other one; if I hadn’t mentioned our situation to her, we may have been in for a long wait.  Skeptics may look at this situation as a lucky coincidence.  I think it was God.

<Our older son is eight years old and still receives speech therapy services.  We think this may be the last year he will need them, as he is working on the last letter:  “R.”>

Have you witnessed any miracles (or mini-miracles)?  I’d love to read your experiences.

When Blanket Tents Were Magical & Windows Were The Moon

It’s no secret that a child’s imagination and ability to indulge in fantasy worlds are often superior to that of a jaded grown-up’s.  Yesterday, I got the opportunity to flex my creativity in a last-ditch effort to salvage my sanity, which was fading fast.

While working from home, my children fought CONSTANTLY from the moment my older son got home from his half-day at school.  “Mommy, <older son> hit me!” followed by, “Well, he annoyed me!”  Soon after trailed by, “Mooooommmmmm (spoken in two syllables) <younger son> took my toy!” then answered by whining, “He wouldn’t let me play, and I wanted to!”

It would be four hours until my husband got home.  I had to transport my mind somewhere else before I lost it forever.  I closed my eyes and remembered my younger son’s morning playtime.  Hunkered down with his stuffed kitty (aptly named, “Kitty”) in his magical tent made of chairs and blankets, they devised a plan to fight off a bear that waited outside.  He typed stuff in his computer (Lite Brite) by the light of the moon (window above our door.)  Finally, he and Kitty came out and after a fierce fight, they defeated the bear.

Kitty resting after a tough fight

I opened my eyes and felt a hint of a smile on my face.  I breathed deeply and exhaled slowly, allowing the calm to flow through me.  I got back to work, only to be interrupted ten minutes later with the tell-tale signs of sibling discord (screaming, whining, arguing, sounds of scuffling, and then crying).  Time for plan B.

I channeled my inner drill-sergeant and got them moving.  In no time, they were picking up toys (“Anything left on the floor will be given away!”), cleaning bathrooms (“That toothpaste better be scrubbed off the cabinet!”), and dusting tabletops (“Whoever has the dirtiest cloth wins!”)  Meanwhile, I released my pent-up frustration into vacuuming the floors.  Back and forth I went over the carpet and tile until the frown lines creasing my forehead smoothed out and my frustration didn’t feel like it would burst through my skin.  By the time we were done, all of us were too tired to argue.  Peace at last.

On occasion, I have mourned the loss of my childhood imagination but, on this day, my goal-driven adult creativity ruled.  And with that, my sanity will live to be tested see another day.

Have a magical weekend!

Which would you rather have:  a child’s fantasy-driven imagination, or an adult’s goal-driven creativity? 

Mothers – 365 Days of Really Hard Work…1 Day of Recognition

Mother's Day Picture

Lately, I’ve felt like being a Mom is a job that I need more training for.  Many times I’ve asked myself “What am I doing?”  I’ve been hard on myself, thinking of all the things I’ve done wrong; the times I’ve yelled when I should have taken a deep breath, the times I’ve rushed to get somewhere when I should have stopped and listened, the times I’ve been annoyed when I should have stopped to enjoy the gifts God has given me.  Maybe recognition is the first step to change.

This morning, my older child got up early and (with Daddy’s help) made pancakes with fruit for breakfast in bed.  Even though we were out late yesterday spending time with my Mom for Mother’s Day, I recognized the sweetness of the gesture.  So what if my eyes could barely see the heart-shaped pancake; I felt the love. 

He gave me a gift he made at school and I almost cried.  He wrote a fill-in-the blank book that was so special.  I learned some things.  Apparently, I would most like to vacation in Alberta, Canada – I did not know this until today.  I also found out that our time reading together really matters to him because he wrote about it three times in the book.  I realized he knows me, even if he doesn’t listen to me much of the time.  He correctly named my favorite color as purple, favorite candy as Reese’s and favorite lunch at Red Lobster as popcorn shrimp.

His words help me understand that even though I’m not a perfect Mom (nowhere close), I do have a positive impact on him.  With a little patience and a lot of love, he’ll be okay.  And, with a little less guilt, I’ll be okay too.

I should note that during all of this, my younger son still slept soundly in bed- he had the right idea.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the hard-working, underappreciated, early rising mothers – enjoy your day (because it’s business as usual tomorrow)!