Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Bad Mommy Diaries

Do you ever have those days when you feel like a bad parent? Here are a couple of excerpts from Allyson's journal chronicling some of my less stellar parenting days.

Is That Finger Paint? 3/31/08 (22 months)
One of the nicest things as you've gotten older is the way you can entertain yourself so well, for longer and longer periods. This definitely comes in handy when I need to take a shower or cook dinner.

Last week, I was taking a shower while you happily read books, played with blocks, and pushed your Little People bus around the steamy bathroom. When I got out, I was delighted that
you continued to entertain yourself while I completed my five-step Swiss Arbonne skin care regimen. Since you were happy and staying out of trouble, I decided to press my luck and spend 10 minutes styling my hair.

As I basked in the warm air from the blow dryer, I noticed that you were now snooping in Daddy's vanity drawer. I figured you'd throw everything out on the floor, but I let you keep playing since you were having so much fun, and since I only had a few minutes left before my hair would be perfectly coiffed.

Just as I finished the last flip and dutifully unplugged the dryer so that you couldn't drop it into the sink, I noticed that you were smearing something on Daddy's cabinet door--something red. Had you somehow found a lipstick?

My heart started to pound when I leaned closer and realized that you were literally finger painting with your own blood! You had obviously found Daddy's Mach 3 razor, and you were mesmerized by the steady flow of blood from the tip of your index finger.

I started to panic but caught myself; you weren't even crying, and you were watching me to see how you should react. "You have an owie," I explained calmly as I grabbed a T-shirt off the floor and applied pressure to slow the bleeding.

After about five minutes, I gently washed your finger, blotted it dry, and quickly wrapped a Band-Aid around it. I held your finger firmly while I read you a story....

You were fascinated with the Band-Aid, which formed a long, skinny point like a witch's hat. You kept pointing at things with that tip, and you also liked tapping or poking yourself with it. "Allyson - owie!" you kept repeating, waving your pointy Band-Aid.

It wasn't until the next morning that I could see the parallel double cuts on your poor finger. No wonder it bled so much! It didn't get sore or infected, though, and it healed very quickly.

Needless to say, we have moved the razor safely out of reach. I felt like a bad mom to have overlooked such an obvious danger, but you just grow so fast! What was out of reach yesterday is perfectly accessible today. I'm just thankful that you didn't seem to suffer any pain.

Poor Little Monkey! 4/30/08 (23 months)
Recently, Daddy couldn't find you anywhere, though he could hear you giggling in Ethan's room. He finally found you hiding in the corner of Ethan's bunk bed. He was shocked and horrified. How had you gotten up the metal rungs of the ladder?

Since then, we've found you up there several times, always laughing. It's so hard to get you down! You're very heavy when I lift you up over my head. We've had to start keeping Ethan's door closed.

A couple of days ago, you were having a rare grumpy afternoon. You kept fussing and fussing. You wanted to play with the fancy piggy bank from Nordstrom's, and I wouldn't let you. I stepped into the hall to distance myself from your whining, which only made you cry harder. I tried to tune it out.

Suddenly, I began distinguishing words from the incessant crying. "Help me, Mama! Help me!"

I whipped around and found you dangling from your quilt rack, hanging by your armpits! You were frantic. I think you were trying to scale the quilt rack to reach the forbidden piggy bank.

I carefully extricated you from the rack and then held you close while you cried hysterically. I felt so bad for ignoring you--even for a moment. It took a few minutes to calm you down, poor little monkey!

Daddy with baby Allyson--quilt rack and tempting piggy bank in background

OK, so here's what I want to know.... Does anyone else have bad mommy stories? It would make me feel so much better to know I am not the only less-than-perfect mom.
Kindly comment with your stories!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Actually, It's a Dinosaur Impression

This is not a new post. I had removed this story from my site a few weeks ago. (For an explanation, see A Painful Lesson.) The other night, Ethan was looking at my blog and said, "Hey! Where's my dinosaur story?" So I decided it's about time for me to revise it and put it back up....

Here is one of my favorite Ethan stories. I searched all my journals and Ethan’s, too, but I apparently forgot to write this one down. So I’ll have to tell it from memory. It happened around the spring of 2001, when he was four…

One evening after work, I had to rush to pick up Ethan so that I could make it to Haverty’s to buy some bedroom furniture before it went off sale. When I got to the daycare center, I was horrified to find him in his emergency clothes because he’d had an accident during naptime. It had been so long since he’d had an accident that the emergency clothes were a year old. He wore skin-tight, very high-water green sweat pants and an orange T-shirt, and he smelled like pee. I had no choice but to take him to Haverty’s like that because my house was too far out of the way.

When I arrived, I decided to carry Ethan on my hip; maybe he would be less conspicuous that way. But I had to wait for several minutes for the salesperson, and Ethan was getting heavier and heavier, and more squirmy. When the pain in my arm became unbearable, I finally let him down.

Much to my dismay, he immediately launched into his dinosaur impression. He had developed a fascination with velociraptors after watching Jurassic Park. Now, I realize that Jurassic Park is pretty violent for preschoolers (and their 30-something mothers), but after he’d watched it 38 times at his dad’s house, I finally relented and let him watch it at my house, also. He’d been perfecting his performance for weeks, and it was actually amazingly accurate. But the last thing I wanted, given his tacky clothes and unpleasant odor, was for him to draw attention to himself.

He crouched low as he walked, his elbows bent so that his hands were claws against his chest. His head jutted forward like a strutting chicken, and he jerked it from side to side periodically when he spotted his prey. His stalking was punctuated by guttural growls, and flecks of spittle flew as he darted around the formal living room furniture.

“Very good, Ethan. That’s enough now,” I hissed as I chased him. But he was in character now, and there was no stopping him. Just then, the salesman came back, accompanied by a middle-aged woman.

“Oh, how cute,” the lady said. I thought about explaining about why he was wearing his emergency clothes, but I thought that would be weird.

“He’s a dinosaur,” I mumbled. They responded with blank stares. “He’s doing a dinosaur impression…. You know, like the velociraptors from Jurassic Park? He’s really quite good,” I explained, averting my red face.

“Uh huh,” replied the salesman.

“Cute,” repeated the lady.

I scooped up my dinosaur and signed for my furniture. Then I called Bill and told him all about it. I laughed until I cried, and I still laugh like that when I tell this story.

Ethan can still do a pretty mean dinosaur impression, by the way. The pictures below were taken at Allyson’s birthday party, when Ethan was 11.

Friday, September 19, 2008

He Knows Me

Here is the story of how I found my second memory passage, and a little about what it has meant to me...

Rock Bottom
Around August of 2000, I went to Chicago for one of my many training classes for work. This was usually a fun time to get away from responsibilities and have fun with friends from all around the continent. But this trip was different.

One night, after I'd been there a couple of days, I woke up with a start. My heart was racing, and I felt a crushing weight on my chest. My breath came in short gasps. I felt absolute panic as I mentally reviewed the mess I'd made of my life.

I was 30 years old when my life fell apart. Funny, I'd always thought that I'd be wise and settled by that age. Instead, my 11-year marriage ended in a messy divorce and a scary custody battle, and everything I thought I knew about myself seemed to be a lie.

This was not the first time I'd experienced a panic attack in the middle of the night. A few times toward the end of my first marriage I'd woken up feeling trapped--I'd think about spending a lifetime in that marriage, and I'd feel such hopelessness, as if there was no chance that I'd ever be happy again. I never dreamed we would get a divorce because I was very opposed to it morally, but the strength of our convictions was not enough to keep us together.

Since I'd felt so desperate to be free, I thought that the divorce would be a relief. So why was I still feeling so trapped? To complicate matters, I was already head over heels in love with the man of my dreams. The happiness I thought I'd been searching for was nearly within my grasp, but now I felt worse than ever. I felt unworthy of love and incapable of loving anyone in a healthy way. I knew it was too soon to get involved, but I was afraid to end it because Bill seemed so perfect for me. I figured it was only a matter of time before I would destroy this new relationship. And I felt powerless to change anything. I realized now that even though I could get away from an unhappy marriage, I could never escape from myself.

At that moment, I just wanted to die. It's not that I wanted to actually kill myself, just that living seemed too hard. If I could have willed myself to fall asleep and never wake up again, I might have done that. Instead, I called out to God. "Please! I need to hear something from you. Help me!"

I turned on the light and opened the night stand, hoping there would be a Gideon's Bible there. I was so thankful when I found it. I had no idea what to read, so I just opened it up at random. I landed on Psalm 139 and started reading. As I read, the tears I'd been holding back for so long--years, actually--started flowing freely. Here's what I read...

The Passage

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
and abhor those who rise up against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
My Response
I felt so soothed by this passage on so many levels. I realized that God was right there with me, that the darkness of my anguish could not hide me from him. There was nowhere I could go, even to the depths of hell, where his Spirit couldn't find me.

Not only did God know where I was, he also knew who I was and what I was feeling... and he loved me exactly as I was! He had his hand on me, and I was going to be OK. Further, I realized I had no business feeling worthless and unlovable because he had lovingly made me. I marveled at the idea of God skillfully knitting me together in my mother's womb.

Although I didn't hear an audible voice, I was sure God had answered my cry for help. I knew he had a plan for my life, and I could trust him. I went back to sleep, and I woke up feeling hopeful. As he'd promised, God was still with me.

Eight Years Later
I didn't decide to memorize Psalm 139 until several years later, but I returned to it often. Over the years, that passage has encouraged me in many different circumstances. I now consider it my "life passage." Whenever I'm feeling hopeless or anxious (which still happens more often than I'd like to admit), I can quote it to myself; I never get tired of hearing that beautiful message. I'll share more in future posts about what I learned through memorizing it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Allyson Falls in Love

Excerpts from Allyson's journal regarding her beloved Cabbage Patch doll...

How You Met Baby - 2/24/08 (age 21 mos)
You and "Bee-by" are inseparable. You fell in love with him a few weeks ago. We were over at Aunt Emily's when you found a stash of nearly antique Cabbage Patch Kids that had belonged to Emily.

For some reason, one 25-year-old, naked doll captured your attention. You carried him by one leg, then by the tuft of yellow yarn hair. I didn't expect Emily to let you keep it; she'd been fiercely protective of those dolls when she was a teenager. They were collectors' items from the beginning.

When we were getting ready to go home, we started to pry your fingers loose, and I was prepared for a teary scene. But Uncle Paul said, "Let her take it," and Emily nodded. (Uncle Paul can never deny you anything.)

So the doll is now yours. You sleep with it, feed it eggs, and carry it everywhere. It's quite a conversation piece. A few strangers have actually shared nostalgic stories of
their first Cabbage Patch dolls. Other people probably wonder what you see in the homely little doll that looks like a stuffed pair of pantyhose. I have to admit, though, that its butt crack and outie belly button are pretty cute.

Now you just need to give it a name. The tricky thing is that Daddy and I can't even agree on its sex. I was calling it "she," but he was calling it "he." You don't care. You just call it "Bee-by."

Baby Has an Owie - 3/21/08
You and I were driving home from the gym one evening when you kept repeating, "Baby owie! Baby owie!" At first I just nodded an smiled absently, my eyes still on the road. But you became more agitated, so I finally turned to see what you were talking about.

You were holding your beloved naked Cabbage Patch doll, and you were poking your finger into a small hole on its back. I said, "Yes, Baby does have an owie. Don't worry. He'll be OK. We'll have Grandma fix it."

You smiled and patted Baby's back softly. "It's OK," you reassured him. "Grandma fix it!"

I couldn't believe how motherly you were! Since then, you've patted my back when I was upset about something--like the time I forgot the lunch on the kitchen counter when we went to Grandma's for our weekly visit. Your tiny, gentle hands are so soothing.

By the way, I still haven't taken Baby to Grandma's for stitches. But Daddy did dress him in one of your old Onesies to protect the wound.

Aunt Amy, Allyson, and Baby

9/15/08: Today Allyson sat in the rocker with Baby while I was folding clothes. I was delighted to hear her singing "The Jesus Song" to her baby doll. Here's an excerpt about that song...

Sing the Jesus Song! - 7/9/08 (25 mo)
Your favorite part of the bedtime routine--and mine--is singing "Jesus Loves the Little Children." After you have had your snack ("Want milk!... and cookies!"), sat on the potty, and watched a "yibbit of Noggin" [a cable channel for preschoolers], you say, "Sing the Jesus song!"

We sit in the rocking chair in the corner of my bedroom, and I hug you against my chest. You melt into me while I sing a minimum of three choruses of "Jesus Loves the Little Children"--with one minor modification. On the last line, instead of "Jesus loves the little children of the world," I sing, "Jesus loves my little Allyson in the world."

In a deliciously sleepy, contented voice, you make requests: "Sing Ethan!", "Ethan and Allyson," and even "Daddy, Mommy, Ethan, and Allyson." If you're not too sleepy, you sing along with me in your pip-squeaky voice. You can carry a tune, and sometimes we make harmony.

I love that your favorite song is the same one Ethan used to beg me to sing over and over. Most of all, I love the way I feel so, so loved while we sing it, your warm body draped over mine. Jesus really
does love his children!

Today, when Allyson sang to her baby, she sang it just the way I do. She ended with "Jesus loves my little baby doll in the wuld!" So sweet!

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Hate Cheese!

Here are excerpts from Ethan's Journal regarding our Grand Canyon trip in October of 2004, including some of my favorite funny Ethan stories. Ethan was 7.

Hiking at Grand Canyon
I nagged you incessantly to stop running, and stay on the path! Each time we approached the edge, my heart would pound. I felt most comfortable at the railings....

We wanted to sleep in a bit, but you were up by 7:00. By 8:30, we were at the South Kaibab Trailhead. Bill wore a backpack with three bottles of water--I thought we
should have six--three granola bars, several Rice Krispy Treats, and several mini bags of chips.

I had been under the impression that this trail was not used by mules, but we quickly discovered that was not the case. Bill had to remind you to pay attention to where you walked instead of wildly dodging mule poo....

We stayed at Cedar Ridge for about 30 minutes before heading back up. We explored the entire ridge. We climbed out on a huge rock that jutted over the canyon. That made my heart thump. I was so worried about you.

We did very well on the return trip. You leaned on a small stick you had found,
but about half of the time you were dragging it through the rocks behind you, or poking it in donkey poo. Bill spotted some donkeys coming up behind us, and we tried to stay ahead of them so we wouldn't have to smell fresh droppings. We climbed a little faster, but we had to keep taking breaks, and they were gaining on us steadily. As they got closer, you began to lag behind. It was obvious that you wanted them to catch up so we could see them better.

We were in sight of the top when they caught us. We stood in a sheltered corner while they passed. The last three switchbacks were indeed very smelly, but you seemed to enjoy exclaiming over the droppings. A couple of times, Bill even kicked some of it at you, which made you shriek and jump.

At last we made it to the top. I was so proud of us! We didn't even do much complaining. It was definitely worth the effort. The beauty was beyond compare.

Sunset at the Canyon
After our sunset jeep tour that evening, we found a big rock to sit on while we waited for the sunset at
Grandview Point. It was peaceful and majestic, colors changing by the moment, gathered with people from all around the world, hearing... a HUGE fart! You lifted up one leg and let one rip!

"Ethan Montgomery!" I hollered, and hid my face. There were loud giggles all around. A German couple behind us said, "Big foof! Little boy!" Then, in broken English, they said that you had broken the rock; they pointed to all the cracks and laughed themselves silly.

Finally we were all quiet again as we watched the sun slip behind the trees. It was the most beautiful sunset I'd ever seen. I could scarcely tear myself away to ride back in the jeep.

Incredible Sunrise
At my insistence, we all rolled out of bed around 5:30 Wednesday morning so we could watch the sunrise over the canyon. We drove to Mather Point and sat, then stood on a boulder. You were wrapped in your red Clifford blanket. Some Japanese tourists walked past and pointed at you; obviously they thought you were really cute, all covered in your blankie. I was wrapped in my own blanket, a plush new one from Target. However, no one remarked that I was cute.

We watched the colors change gradually from pink to yellow to orange.
After about 30 minutes, the sun began to peep out from behind one of the ridges, framed between that ridge and another that was perpendicular to it. The crowd of people who had gathered sighed, "Ooh!"

We had our free breakfast and were back on the road by 8:00. We drove east on 64, then north on 160, through some of the most beautiful terrain imaginable. There were mountain ranges, canyons, and mesas, many beautifully colored. We were driving through the north part of the Painted Desert.

The Cheeseburger Story
Not long after breakfast, when we were far from civilization, you began to complain that you were hungry. What could you have? Bill told you he didn't want to hear it. "You know what there is: chips or Rice Krispy Treats."

You wanted something else. What else was there?

"Do you think I can just pull a cheeseburger out of my butt?" Bill asked.

"And if he could, would you eat it?" I asked.

"No!" you replied emphatically, "because I hate cheese!" We laughed so hard! I said that conversation would definitely go in the trip journal. It wasn't long before your next adventure that was journal-worthy.

Killer Bees
We were just driving along quietly, with you playing your Gameboy, when you went berserk. You were scrambling around the backseat, terror in your eyes. "There's a bee!" you shouted. You said a bee had flown through the cracked front window and hit you in the forehead. You saw it, and it was... ALIVE!

Bill said there was no way a bee could have flown into that crack, but you were hysterical. So we stopped. You said the bee was on your pillow. I pulled your pillow out and examined it, then my pillow, too. I put both pillows in the trunk and convinced you to strap yourself back in.

We had driven less than a mile down the road when you started shouting again and even cried. "It's here!" you choked out. "See, I told you! It's right there!" You huddled against the door, as far as possible from the bee.

Bill pulled over again, and I crawled into the back to investigate. I finally saw the object of your terror: a common housefly! Bill flicked the fly out the door and told you to calm down, for Pete's sake! It took you several minutes to relax.

Mesa Verde National Park
While we were hiking in Mesa Verde Park, we were 8750 feet above sea level. The view was breathtaking. You could look into four states, and you could see mesas and mountains. On the way back down the path, you told us you had heard some rustling in the bushes. As you leaned over to point out the spot, Bill surreptitiously picked a long piece of straw with a fluffy tip. He sneaked up behind you and poked the fluffy tip into your neck. You should've seen yourself jump. After that, you picked your own piece of straw and tried to startle us with it, but you didn't have the necessary stealth.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Surly Grocery Checker

Excerpt from Allyson's journal...

8/10/08 (26 months):
The first few times we had Stephanie babysit, you cried frantically when we left. Over this past summer, however, you and she have become inseparable. She's been home from school, and you ask for her the moment you arrive at Karen's on my work days.

"Where Teffy?" you ask eagerly. If she's still asleep, Karen lets you go upstairs to wake her. And she
doesn't mind! [Amazing, since she's an 8th grader!] I've never seen a family more devoted to someone else's baby--though I guess you are not really a baby any longer.

Most days, the kids or Karen or even her husband greet me with a funny story about your day. There was the time you wheedled Karen into buying strawberries. "I
need them!" Then there was the time you danced with Andrew's robot. Whatever move the robot did, you mimicked it exactly. Karen's husband tried to get you to show me, but you just clung to my leg shyly.

There was the phase when only Stephanie could do anything for you: you wanted Teffy to make your lunch and tie your shoes, and you wouldn't go potty without her.

My favorite story is the time you played grocery store with Stephanie, Ryland, and Andrew. They have a little cash register, and you got to be the cashier.

"What do you want?" you asked.

"Hmmm... I'd like milk and diapers," Stephanie requested.

"No!" you replied authoritatively.

"OK, what can I have?"

"Strawberries and ice keem," you replied.

"All right, then. I'll have strawberries and ice cream, please," Stephanie said meekly.

"Why??" you asked.

We all laughed ourselves silly over that little interchange.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Are You Sure You Have the Right Girl?

In June of 2002, I found my first scripture memory passage. I thought I would share the story, the passage, and the ways I applied it to my life while I was memorizing it...

The Story
When I went through my divorce in 2000, it really shattered my self image. The guilt and disappointment and shame was crushing. I'd done some things during my first marriage that made me feel like I could never hold my head up again, and no matter how hard I tried (or cried), I just couldn't forgive myself.

Starting in 2001, I went to several group counseling weekends in a program called The Road Adventure. Slowly, slowly, I began to forgive myself and believe that I was worthy of God's love. I attended my last session of the The Road on the weekend of June 21, 2002. At that point, I was mired in my perceived inadequacies as a single mother. In fact, I was so caught up in worrying that Ethan would be scarred for life that I could scarcely get anything out of the session.

There was a young man, probably around 20 years old, in my small group. He was a recovering drug addict, and he wanted a fresh start. He became a Christian during that weekend session, and I got to pray with him and encourage him.

At the end of the session, he came up to me and nervously announced that he had something he
had to tell me. "My grandmother has this cross stitch hanging in her kitchen," he began, with halting speech. Where could he possibly be going with this?

"It's about that woman in Proverbs. You know? The virtuous woman? Well, you remind me of that woman. I think you are a virtuous woman."

Immediately, tears started streaming. He looked alarmed. "Did I say the wrong thing?"

"No," I choked out. "You can't imagine how much I needed to hear that!"

I have no doubt that God prompted that young man to take a risk and tell a virtual stranger something so intimate. I wanted so much for his words to be true. I longed to be a virtuous woman, to become a Godly wife and mother. My dear friend Jenny had been encouraging me to start memorizing scripture, and now I had my first passage. I memorized it in the New International Version, which refers to this paragon of a woman as "the wife of noble character." But I will always think of her as "the virtuous woman" (as she is called in the King James translation) because of the way God directed me to the passage.

The Passage
Here it is, along with excerpts from my journal. Proverbs 31:10-31:

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.

16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

My Response

Monday 7/8/02: From this passage I learned that I am valuable, good for Ethan. I am a hard worker who can make wise choices and work efficiently. I am successful in business and am not afraid to take risks. I am not a wimp! I am prepared for anything, day or night. I have compassion for those less fortunate, and I am generous with what God has given me.

Opening my arms to the poor means I must welcome and love the needy. Instead of waiting for them to ask for help, I will reach out to them. I will need to open my eyes before I can open my arms. Lord, I need your help with that. Help me see the needs around me: emotional, physical, and financial.

Thursday 7/11/02: The virtuous woman "has no fear for her household when it snows, for all of them are clothed in scarlet." As a virtuous woman, I take care of Ethan well. I am prepared for difficult situations. I keep him well groomed.

Monday 7/15/02: The virtuous woman "makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple." This tells me it is good to appreciate beauty and to do all I can to make my surroundings lovely. It is also fitting to take care with my clothing and appearance.

Thank you, Lord, for the blessings you've given me. Thank you for the means to buy the new furniture and decorate my room so beautifully.

Tuesday 7/16/02: The virtuous woman's "husband is respected at the city gate..." I guess this means that the virtuous woman is a support to her husband and contributes to his success. Others see her virtue, and her husband is respected for that.

I want to become that sort of wife, Lord. Please prepare me for the future. I put my dreams and hopes and doubts in your hands. Let your will be done concerning my prospective marriage, and let it be done in your perfect time.

Wednesday 7/17/02: The virtuous woman "makes linen garments and sells them..." Hmm... I guess that means I am successful financially. It means I do quality work that is valued by others. Through God, I can provide for my household.

Lord, I want to thank you for blessing me so richly. I don't have lots of money, but I always have enough. You meet every need. I know that my success at work is directly related to you.

Thursday 7/18/02: The virtuous woman "is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." I love that one! I am a strong woman, deserving of respect. I am free of anxiety and assured of my future. I am full of laughter, not worry!

Thank you, Lord, for these wonderful qualities. Thank you for making me strong in my weakness. Thank you for giving me laughter.

Six Years Later
It took me many months to memorize those 21 verses, and my heart was changed in the process. Of course I will never attain the perfection described in Proverbs 31, but I continually strive for virtue in my marriage and my parenting. When I feel too tired to drag myself out of bed for my quiet time, I remind myself that the virtuous woman gets up while it's still dark. When I feel helpless to guide Ethan in a difficult situation, I remember that the virtuous woman speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. And when I ask God to give me the words, that verse is true!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Give the Boy a Whoopie Pie!

Excerpt from Ethan's journal...

Tuesday 3/20/07 (age 9):
Grandma Bushong had given us six whoopie pies, and we had three left. [A whoopie pie is two pieces of devil's food cake sandwiched together with something like Twinkie cream in the middle.] After all those sweets on our trip, I wanted to save these fattening treats for awhile, but I didn't want to let them get stale. So I wrapped them up and put them in the freezer.

A few days later, you wanted dessert one evening, and you asked if we could get out the whoopie pies. I replied that I was saving them for a special occasion. Bill snorted but said nothing.

You asked if you could eat yours and I could save mine for a special occasion. I said if you ate yours, I'd want some, and I didn't want any more sweets for awhile. You accepted defeat with a sigh and began rummaging through the freezer for an alternative. "Can I have these Girl Scout cookies?" you asked when you found the three peanut butter chocolate cookies I'd been hoarding.

"I'm saving them for a special occasion," I answered. Bill burst into laughter.

"You're never going to eat them," you complained, and Bill pointed out that they'd been in the freezer for three months now.

"Oh, I'll eat them," I argued. "You guys ate your Girl Scout cookies three months ago. Leave mine alone!"

"For Pete's sake!" exclaimed Bill. "Give the boy a whoopie pie!" I relented, and Bill cut one of the pies in half for you. You savored it after your shower, though you left two bites for me to finish. What a dilemma! I couldn't eat sweets on a Tuesday, yet I couldn't bear to throw out a perfectly good fragment of whoopie pie, either.

My phobia of food wasting won out over my phobia of fat grams. I ate the rest of the pie, and oh my, was it good!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Do You See Me?

Excerpts from my journal regarding one of my very favorite activities: riding my bike...

Monday 5/28/07:
I bought a bicycle trailer with my birthday money (only $70!). So far, Allyson and I are really enjoying it. I love getting out early in the morning and doing laps in the park, praying for my family and friends. I love the way my body is still strong even as I continue to slowly age.
I love the trembly feeling in my thighs after I labor up a hill. And I love Allyson's squeals when we go barreling down the gentle slopes in the park.

Thank you, Lord, for the strength and health you have given me.

Saturday 8/4/07:
The other day, I went for a ride at our neighborhood park--Arcadia. It was just me and Allyson, riding in her cheap, serviceable blue trailer. We were heading back home after 30 or 45 minutes of riding, and I was enjoying the beauty of the trees and flowers in the neighborhood--after an unprecedented amount of rain this summer. My thoughts turned to God as they often do when I'm enjoying beautiful foliage or a cool breeze or the warm sun on my back.

Suddenly, I remembered the song by Bette Midler called "God is Watching Us." That phrase sang through my mind, and I wondered, "God, are you watching me now?" That put me in mind of Ethan's continual request to "Watch me, Mommy! Watch this!"

So I said, "Watch this, God! Do you see me riding my bike, pulling this trailer? Do you like seeing me have fun?"

And I felt I could almost see him smiling, content and proud of his daughter. I felt such peace and thankfulness pervading my thoughts. I was thankful for the strength in my legs and the breath in my lungs and the steady, strong beat of my heart. It was a wonderful moment, if fleeting, and I'm glad I remembered to write it down.

Wednesday 9/5/07:
Last week, I paused in my favorite part of my bike ride. I stood in the cool, green light and drank my water. Before I stopped, it had seemed so quiet and peaceful. All I noticed was the click-click of my badly adjusted gears and the creaks of Allyson's trailer frame.

When I stopped, I could hear hammers on a nearby roof, a garbage truck, and kids playing at Bluebonnet Elementary nearby. Still, though it was far from truly quiet, I marveled at how quiet it felt. Something about the canopy of trees overhead and the tall, swaying grasses gave the physical sensation of quiet and calm.

In any case, I literally breathed in the peace. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, and then I climbed back on my bike and rode back into the noisy world of every day life.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Clown Lips and Sticky Tape

Excerpt from my journal, Thursday 2/22/07, regarding my holiday party for work...

The party was held at the Petroleum Club in Downtown Fort Worth, and I was dressed in a sexy purple halter dress with a plunging neckline, a low back, and an asymmetrical hem. It was a $200 dress--expensive by my standards--but I only paid $4.99 on final clearance at Dillard's! Wow! I couldn't believe my good fortune. (The brand name was Laundry, which Angela informs me is very nice.)

The only problem with the dress was that it was about three sizes too large. I figured I could get around that problem by using double-sided garment tape to hold it in place. With the sticky tape and the stick-on bra cups, that added another $20 to my total.

On Angela's advice, I bought dangly gold earrings, chandelier style with a bit of purple--I found these by myself, on sale at Kohl's, and I was very proud. She also recommended matte gold sandals, and I found some on sale at Famous Footware. They were gold fabric slides with gold bows and a little frill. I thought they were a tad gaudy, but Emily and Angela said they were perfect.

Emily [my little sister] fixed my hair in a low bun and applied dramatic "evening" makeup. She used the sticky tape to cover most of my cleavage and hold the back of the dress in place. It worked amazingly well--at first. I had also gone to a nail salon and had my fingernails and toenails painted a pale pink shade, and I felt very put together.

I knew I looked sensational--at least compared to the usual me--and that made me a little self-conscious. I felt a momentary stab of disappointment that Bill didn't swoon over my beauty and sex appeal, but he did offer a distracted, "You look beautiful." (I think he didn't really see me because he was agitated about running late.)

There were a lot of gaping stares and a few compliments when we arrived. My coworkers had just never seen me looking sexy before. The way the dress was taped, there wasn't much cleavage, but it was just a racy style. I did a lot of eating, quite a bit of dancing, and some occasional shouting over the music with my friends.

As the evening wore on, my dress got more and more revealing. [I was still nursing 6-month-old Allyson at the time.] My breasts gradually grew to gargantuan size, and the sticky tape lost its grip so that I had to keep pressing it back into place. To make matters worse, it had picked up the color of the dress, so you could see a purple line on my left boob! But that wasn't the worst of it, though I didn't know it yet.

Thankfully (I guess), it wasn't until I looked in the bathroom mirror back at home that I discovered I had CLOWN LIPS!!! Emily had used a new makeup kit that Hillary had gotten for Christmas, and maybe it was of dubious quality. The lipstick had bled all around the perimeter of my lips, about 2 millimeters outside the natural line of my lips. Here I'd been dancing around, thinking I looked so sexy, and really I had a mysterious purple boob and garish pink clown lips!

I howled, "Why didn't you TELL me I had clown lips??" Bill swore he hadn't noticed them, though he had to admit they were pretty funny just then. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt since it was quite dim at the party. Maybe no one noticed?

Oh well... It was still a romantic evening, even if I had a date with the breast pump when we got home.


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