Monday, March 26, 2012

Not Without Grandpa

Back in February, my mom gave Allyson a gorgeous picture book, a children's version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She promptly fell in love with the book, and we read it several times over a period of days.

One evening at bedtime, we started talking about parallels between this book and the Bible: Aslan (the lion) and Jesus, the white witch and Satan. We talked about how the witch deceived Edmund into betraying his siblings by using false promises and by appealing to his pride. "That's how the devil works," I said. "He makes sin look so fun, but really he wants to destroy us. But Aslan chose to take the punishment that Edmund deserved, not because Edmund was good, but because he loved him so much."

She nodded, deep in thought. "You know how Lucy and Susan watched over Aslan all night after the witch killed him?" she asked finally.

"Yes."

"They remind me of the disciples when they were looking at Jesus's tomb. They didn't know he was alive, just like Lucy and Susan didn't know Aslan was coming back to life."

I was so shocked that I sputtered when I spoke. "Allyson, you really understand the story of Jesus dying on the cross, don't you?"

"Yes. The book helps me understand it much better."

I felt a fluttering in my chest. Was it time? Yes. It was.

"Allyson, remember when you asked me what it means to ask Jesus into your heart?"

"Yes."

"I told you we would talk about it again when you were a little older. Did you ever ask Jesus in your heart?"

"Sort of. But I wasn't sure how to do it."

"Are you ready to do it now?"

"Yes."

So right then and there, I led her in the believer's prayer. She confessed her faith in Jesus and her need for a savior, and she proclaimed that Jesus is her Lord. And then she asked about baptism.

"Baby, I'm not sure you're ready for that yet. I don't know if you understand what baptism means. Maybe when you're a little older."

She brightened. "How about when I'm six?"

I didn't point out that four months might not make that much difference in the scheme of things. Instead, I resorted to the vagueness that surely frustrates her. "We'll see, honey. We'll talk again when you're six."

I kissed her and tucked her in, my heart light. Wonder of wonders, all was quiet in her room. There were no requests for drinks or more cuddles or second trips to the potty. She was out. Or so I thought. About ten minutes later, she called out, "Mama, I think I want to get baptized right away. As soon as I can."

I went back to her room. "Okay, we'll pray about it, and I'll talk to Daddy and see what he thinks." I leaned in for another kiss.

She yawned. "Okay."

At breakfast, her first words were, "Did you ask Daddy about me getting baptized?"

Bill looked at me in confusion.

"No, sweetie. I wanted you to tell him your news first."

She beamed. "I asked Jesus in my heart last night."

Over the next few days, she asked about her baptism continually. Meanwhile, I prayed and sought advice. I thought back to my own baptism at age 9, and how I did it again at age 16 because I felt I hadn't understood what I was doing the first time. How could a 5-year-old comprehend such a sacred decision? Then again, how would I have felt if my parents had made me wait when I was 9?

Ultimately, I decided I couldn't stand in her way. She was elated. And very impatient. I had to make arrangements with Ethan's dad to make sure he could attend, and I had to talk with the minister at my parents' church; I wanted her to be baptized by the same man who baptized me (the second time).

Everything was set for this past Sunday, and Allyson was beyond excited. She told her teachers, her friends, and not a small number of complete strangers that she was going to be baptized. She was downright radiant about it.

And then my dad got sick. He was admitted to the hospital on Friday afternoon with a small bowel obstruction. On Saturday morning, I broke the news to Allyson, who was curled up on an easy chair waiting for her breakfast. I rubbed her leg as I explained the situation. "So, if you get baptized tomorrow, Grandpa won't be able to come. And I know he would want to be part of your special day. But you've been waiting a long time. I know you'll be so disappointed if you have to wait even longer."

Her chin quivered, and she heaved a shaky sigh, her eyes downcast.

"What do you think we should do, sweetie?"

Her voice was barely audible. "I think... we should wait... as long as it takes for Grandpa to be there."

"I think that's the best choice. Grandpa will be glad." I rubbed her back. "Now you'd better eat your breakfast and get ready for soccer."

"Will you hold me?"

"You want me to carry you to the table?"

"No, I want you to hold me."

I pulled her onto my lap, and she wrapped her legs around my waist and buried her face in my neck. I squeezed her so close that I felt her rapid heartbeat against my chest. We swayed back and forth as I stroked her hair. I felt almost guilty to be enjoying her so much when she was hurting. Do you think that's how God feels when we go to him with our hurts?

Allyson in Kindergarten Classroom


The next day, we went to see my dad when he got home from the hospital, and we told him that Allyson had decided to delay her baptism. I wish I had thought to take a picture when she hugged him goodbye.

"I'm glad you waited," Dad said. "I want to see you get baptized."

She smiled at her feet. "I wouldn't want you to miss it," she said.

My cup runneth over.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

We're Gonna Need an Equation

The first thing Ethan said when he got home today was, "When can you take me to Walmart?"
"Walmart?"

"I need to buy some cloth to make a flag."

When I raised my eyebrows, he explained that it was for a Social Studies project. "When's it due?" I asked.

"Tomorrow."

My eyebrows rose another half inch.

"Well, it's actually not due yet, but if I turn it in tomorrow I get an extra 10 points."

Those were the magic words. "We can go during Allyson's soccer practice."

Ethan said he'd rather go after dinner. "Don't worry," he assured me. "Some other kids said it only took about 20 minutes. You can buy some kind of sticky tape at Walmart and just iron the whole thing together."

"Good thing because you know I can't sew," I said. "But I wouldn't be too sure about the 20 minutes. Things have a way of taking a lot longer than you think."

In the Walmart fabric section, the clerk took one look at Ethan and said, "Making a flag?"

He nodded.

"What colors do you need?"

"Red, green, and white."

She informed us that they were out of kelly green, which apparently is a popular flag color all over the world. (Either that, or it's on the simplest flags; Ethan says most kids picked their countries based on the perceived difficulty of this flag project.)

Ethan pointed at a bolt of olive green fabric. "I think that will work."

She measured out 11 inches of each color. "That way you only have to measure the 14 inches," she said. "And you've got lots of extra fabric in case you make an error." (God bless that woman!)

She then led us to the iron-on tape, called Stitchery Witchery. She had clearly learned all the details of the project from the throngs of kids coming in over the last few days, which goes to show that procrastinating sometimes has its perks.

It all came up to less than $5. This was one of those days when I love Walmart.

Back home, we laid it all out on the kitchen table while Ethan looked up the Madagascar flag online. "It's three rectangles, all the same length," he read. "But they aren't the same width."

"We'll need an equation," I said with a big grin. (I'm always looking for chances to prove that you really do need math in real life.) I grabbed a tablet and drew a rectangle with three rectangles inside it. I labeled the big rectangle's sides: 14, 11. On the inside vertical rectangle, I marked an x.



"Mom, that side's 11," Ethan said.

"Oh, of course it is," I said, flushing a little. If we couldn't use algebra, at least we could use a little geometry. "Okay, if all these sides are 11, then the little rectangle must be 3 inches wide. And the other two must be 5.5 inches, right?"

I fetched the tape measure that Allyson gave Bill for his birthday last month. We marked out 3 inches on the white fabric and then stared at each other. "How are we going to cut a straight line?" I whined. "And what will we use to cut it? I don't have sewing shears."

"What about your scrapbooking stuff?" Ethan suggested.

I grinned as I trotted up the stairs. (I'm always looking for opportunities to show that my scrapbooking supplies can be used in real life.)

We used the rotary cutting tool, which served as a ruler, straight edge, and cutter all in one. But we soon learned that the fabric was crooked all around; that's how it came off the bolt.

"I don't know how we're going to make all this line up," I said. "And look at all those strings hanging off the edges. I wish I knew how to sew. What we need is a finished edge. Do you know what that means?"

Ethan nodded halfheartedly.

I tried to show him how you can sew an edge and then turn it inside out and iron it to make a sharp edge. "What if we cut the pieces longer and then fold over the edges?"

"But we've already cut the pieces. I don't want to cut them again," Ethan complained.

I sighed. "And how would we know how long to make them?"

He voiced my thoughts. "We need Bill."

"We're on our own tonight," I said. "Bill's watching hockey. Canucks hockey."

I cut out an 11 X 14 white rectangle to use as a base and then laboriously outlined the perimeter of each smaller rectangle with Stitchery Witchery tape. Next, I carefully laid each small rectangle in place and then covered the whole thing with a damp tea towel.

Ethan, Allyson, and I counted to ten in unison as I held the iron over each section. This was fun! But when I pulled the now dry towel off the flag, we groaned. Toward the right side of the flag, there was a thin line of white between the red and green rectangles.


"It looks horrible," I said.

"It's good enough," Ethan said. "With my extra 10 points, I might get an 80."

"You can't turn it in like this. It's pathetic." I sighed heavily. Time to call for reinforcements. "Bill!" I bellowed. "We need you."

He trudged downstairs and surveyed our (my) work.

"I can't do this-it's too hard-I can't cut straight-the fabric was all crooked and look at these strings," I wailed.

"Why are you getting so worked up?" Bill asked.

"Because I really tried my hardest, but look at this piece of... dog dung. It's horrible."

"Why did you put this little white piece on top?" he asked. "Why didn't you just use a big white piece and put the other rectangles on top? And why didn't you put the green on top of the red instead of trying to make two straight edges? And why didn't you cut some extra fabric and fold over the edges all around?"

I bit back my angry retort and did my best to mimic Lola's puppy dog eyes when she wants to come in out of the rain. "Could you please... I don't understand what you... Please?"

He sighed heavily. "I guess if you tuck Allyson in. And pause the hockey game."

"Thank you!" I called, already halfway up the stairs.

As soon as Allyson was settled, I started on this blog entry, listening to Bill and Ethan with half an ear. Every now and then I snickered; clearly it wasn't quite as easy as Bill had made it sound. "What the heck happened to our straight line?" Bill grumbled at one point. I looked down over the banister and exchanged a sly grin with Ethan, who was watching Bill iron.

Well, I don't know how he did it, but look how awesome the finished product looks:
Front

Back

And that's how both Bill and I ended up spending an hour apiece doing Ethan's homework. I can't complain, though. My sixth-grade Me-Doll comes to mind at times like these. On the night before it was due, the entire family slaved over that doll all evening while I just wrung my hands. Mom cut out the pattern and sewed it together while Amy and Dad made the clothes. As I recall, even little Emily helped. I think she drew the face. Even at age 8 she was quite the artist.

But I digress. Isn't Bill amazing? There really isn't anything that man can't do.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

And The Lobster Award Goes To...

...you, of course! What's a Lobster Award, you ask? That's what I said when my friend Victor awarded one to me recently. To put it briefly, this unique award honors not the blog writer, but the reader. To use Victor's words:
This magnificent and rarely presented Award is only given to those tireless and hard-working Bloggers who, despite the many vicissitudes which life may throw in their way, despite the magnitude of the task ahead in their daily grind that is this vale of tears, despite every obstacle, every hardship, and every discouragements and temptations to just click and move on to another Blog; they still find time to visit your personal offering and to regularly leave a message there in the Comments Box.


I couldn't believe his generosity--to give me an award for doing something that I enjoy so much. It's always a joy to read Victor's blog, and it's fun to comment because not only does he reply to every comment, but he also faithfully visits the blogs of all his regular commenters. (I don't know how he finds time to do that as he quite a popular blogger.)

So, now that I've been honored with the illustrious Lobster Award, my instructions are to nominate the bloggers who comment regularly on this blog. I will leave a comment on their blogs and invite them to pass the award on to their faithful commenters.

Here's my list:

Victor (of course)
Gentle
Melissa
Jenny

I'd also like to give an honorable mention to all my readers, the vast majority of whom are not bloggers--like my sweet Aunt Donna, who comments on just about every post. (I'd list all of your names, but I'm quite sure I would miss someone.) I know you all have busy lives like mine, and that I am terribly long-winded, so I'm honored that you would spend the time to read what I have to say.

To those of you who comment via email, Facebook, or good old face-to-face conversations, thank you so much. Your encouragement is what keeps me writing. You see, blogging is an act of faith. It's rather like talking to myself. For me, there's no such thing as a quick blog entry; it's not unusual for me to spend two to three hours on a single entry, especially if pictures are included. Whether I'm sharing my heart or just telling a funny story, I have to trust that someone out there is reading. Getting comments in any form makes my heart leap, and hearing that something I shared touched your heart usually brings happy tears.

I'll make you a deal: you keep reading, and I'll keep writing. And if something I share makes you smile, or laugh, or cry, please consider letting me know. I love you guys.
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