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  • I Like The Way He Thinks

    August 31, 2008

    In the bathtub this evening, Sean was dunking his head under the water and proudly showing me how he could hold his breath, which I believe led to the following conversation. But with a four-year-old, you never really know.

    “Mommy, I’m glad I’m not a hippo because then I’d have to eat grass.”

    “Yes, that’s true, hippos are herbivores, they eat river grass and other vegetation. And what are lions?”

    “Carnivores.”

    “That’s right, they eat meat. And humans are omnivores. We eat both meat and vegetables.”

    “What about the crackers?”

    “Well, um, yes, crackers. Those fit in… I think that… Crackers come into play…. Um… ”

    “Crackers are universal,” I said with authority.

    I don’t even know what that means.

    Noggin

    Guest Post

    by Cousin Tim

    Recently, I took a trip to Indonesia and India to visit the work our congregation and my family have been involved in for many years. I intended only to visit an orphanage and return with a report to the congregation on how the work was progressing. I had not prepared to make any speeches or preach any sermons, but God had other plans.

    A method of outreach in Indonesia is teaching English through Bible classes. At their request, I brought slides of a recent trip to Israel to show to the English classes. I did so for 3 classes over six hours and also participated for an hour on their radio outreach program.

    Upon my arrival in India it was clear to me that I was not in control of anything. I had planned to simply be a polite visitor and observer. However, after 23 hours of preaching and teaching in classes, villages and churches, and delivering a different message to each one, I realized something that should have been clear from the beginning: Nothing I had planned was going according to my pre-conceived idea of my purpose for this trip. The true purpose of my trip would be revealed in a poor village of Southern India.

    After a long day of teaching my hosts said that we would be traveling to yet another village to preach. When I asked who would be preaching, they said, “You are!” I asked myself how I could do it after such a long and tiring day and wondered how I could think of a relevant topic.

    On the road to the village, I asked my hosts to describe some characteristics of the village. As I had noticed in Indonesia, in spite of my lack of preparation, Bible stories came to my mind which applied to each group I spoke to. In this case, the covenant between David and Jonathan and how it relates to God’s faithfulness came to my mind as the right application for this village, although I did not know why. I thought about Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, who had been crippled when dropped by his nurse. He had grown up in fear that David would try to kill him.

    When we arrived in the village, it was dark except for the dim light of low-wattage bulbs. I sat in a chair that was provided for me and the villagers gathered around to hear a sermon from the visiting missionary. They were poor people who had worked all day and had made great effort to come hear me speak that evening, some walking long distances to get there. I felt a great burden to meet their expectations.

    As I sat there pondering this burden, a young boy of about seven years of age came crawling out from the darkness. He crawled in front of me, pulled himself up fully and with deep, dark and sparkling eyes and a smile on his face, reached out his hand to shake mine. To say the least, I was very humbled. At that moment, I had not the slightest doubt Who was in charge. I sat back down in my chair in the shadow of the night and cried, hoping I would be able to preach.

    I know now that it was the Holy Spirit who provided the scriptures and the application brought to life by Mephibosheth of old and Mephibosheth of the village, a young polio victim whose nickname was Noggin.

    We went to many villages and I never grew weary or worried because the Holy Spirit prepared my heart to teach His Word with a message specifically fit for each village. God’s Word would accomplish what He intended. I was not in control.

    This trip belonged to God.

    The World’s Oldest Four-Year-Old

    August 30, 2008

    This is a picture of Cousin Tim, the world’s oldest four-year-old. The fact that he qualifies for AARP membership does not stop him from enjoying a homemade Slip N’ Slide. I really like that about him — that and the fact that he’s the original mangy varmint thug.

    Tune in tomorrow for a guest post from Cousin Tim.

    Chain Yankin’ Episode #7

    August 29, 2008

    One of the many many delicious things about having a four-year-old about the house is that you can really get away with yankin’ their little chain, because, you know, they are only four and they’ll believe almost anything you tell them.

    I know. I know. It really says something about you when you can trick a four-year-old.

    On the other hand, I once convinced my Cousin Cheryl that I had won a trip to Zimbabwe in a random drawing when I purchased some luggage at Foley’s. None of it was true – no luggage, no drawing, no trip to Zimbabwe. I don’t even know why I brought it up. At that moment, it just seemed like fun to yank Cheryl around a little and luggage came to mind. It almost made me sad when I had to tell her the truth a day or so later. She used to live in Africa and I think she was trying to figure out how she was going to go with me.

    It’s kind of thrilling to see if you can come up with just the right detail and insert it in just the right spot with just the right amount of nonchalance to convince the victim and then gauge their expression to see if they are buying into it.

    I also once convinced AD for more than a week that Rhode Island was named after my mother’s ancestors who came to America in the 1700s. My mother’s ancestors did come to America in the 1700s but so far as we know, no one named a state after them, even a small one. (He just reminded me that he recently convinced me the remote control was voice activated. For a full five minutes I was talking into the TV remote saying, “Volume up! Volume up!”  So you see, it works both ways.)

    Be that as it may – story telling or chain-yankin’ as the case may be is one of my many non-income producing talents and makes me very popular and well-loved among family and friends as you might well imagine.

    And now I have a four-year-old to mess with (rubbing hands gleefully).

    This morning, Sean slept in a little later than usual and so I took the opportunity to make some muffins. When he finally got up and followed his nose to the kitchen they were done and sitting on the stove cooling.

    “Oh mommy, did you make muffins?” he asked.

    And I could not stop myself.

    “These? No I didn’t make these.”

    “Well, who did?”

    “Well, funny you should ask,” I said with just the right degree of nonchalance.

    “I was here in the kitchen working on my computer at my desk, when I heard a little bell in the distance. Sounded just like an ice cream truck and I thought, ‘That’s weird, an ice cream truck this time of day?’ but I didn’t think anything more about it and I went right back to my computer.

    Well, the next thing you know, I heard a little tap tap tap at the kitchen window and I looked up and there was a little round man wearing a white hat standing in the shrubs and motioning me to the window. I raised the window just a bit and oh my goodness, the sweet smell of something filled the air, like cake or cookies or something. ‘Yes?’ I asked him, ‘Are you here to check the meter?’ ‘No ma’am’ he said ‘I’m the muffin man and I was wondering if you’d like some muffins.’ ‘Why yes!’ I told him, ‘My little boy loves muffins! What kind do you have?’ He said he had blueberry and bran and so I said we would take six of each.

    Well, he walked down the driveway to his little white truck and when he opened up the two little doors in the back – oh my! The aroma of fresh baked muffins filled the entire neighborhood! The smell was so captivating that the birds fell right off the telephone lines. He had a little bitty bakery right in the back of his truck! Can you imagine such a thing?! Well, he came back with the muffins and I handed him some money through the window. I turned to set them down and when I looked up to thank him he was gone but for the sound of a little bell in the distance.”

    Sean cocked his head and squinched one eye shut. “Are you teasin’ me?” he asked skeptically.

    “Sean,” I said, “I would not tease about something as serious as muffins.”

    “I think you’re teasing,” he said.

    Then he got up and looked out the front window.

    Mangy Varmint Thug

    August 28, 2008

    In the ten years I knew him, I never once saw Uncle Earl wearing anything but bib overalls. He was just that kind of guy, not an ounce of pretension in him. But what I think I loved about him most was that he called anyone he cared anything about a mangy varmint thug. It was his own special term of endearment. It meant you were family, you were one of us. And that could be good or bad, depending upon your point of view.

    Uncle Earl died a month before Sean was born, but the legacy of the mangy varmint thug lives on in those he left behind. I think the first time Sean was called a mangy varmint thug was by Uncle Earl’s oldest son, Cousin Tim. And it made Sean laugh so hard he couldn’t catch his breath. And to this day, if you just say the word mangy, he will fall down on the floor laughing.

    The thing about family-isms like that is that they only make sense and are only amusing to those who are in on it, the mangy varmint thugs with the shared history. And when you’re four, as is Sean, humor is mainly about the punch line. And how loud you say it. Four-year-olds generally just shout out the punch line and then laugh loud and long at their own amputated joke. And if that doesn’t work, repeat it 10 or 30 times.

    When we were in California last week, we stopped to visit a friend of ours named Bill. He welcomed us into his home and fed us dinner and showed us these fabulous guitars that he makes by hand. Sean really liked him. And so to express his fondness for this very nice man, out of the blue Sean called him a varmint. And then laughed uproariously. And to further complicate matters, it sounded more like Sean had just called him vomit, which is maybe worse, if only in matter of degrees.

    The horrified expression on Bill’s face, thinking that my son had just called him vomit is beyond what I can describe. I was mortified. I wanted to faint. So then I rushed in and made things all better by explaining to him that he didn’t call you vomit Bill! No, he called you a varmint, as in a mangy varmint thug. Much much better!

    At this point I considered just throwing in the towel and laughing uproariously to deflect attention, because, really could it get any worse, could we look anymore like the big weird Texas characters that we are? Only if I had worn some bib overalls and a hat with a price tag.

    California Bill with one of his rockin’ hand made guitars – order yours today!

    You’re a varmint Bill, and we mean that in the nicest way.

    Observations

    August 27, 2008

    One of the most delightful things about being the mother of a four-year-old is the opportunity to see the world through his eyes.

    The other day, Sean sat on a bar stool at the breakfast bar while I worked in the kitchen.  Seemingly out of the blue, he offered this observation:

    “Mommy, young skin is smooth and bright,” he said lightly rubbing his forearm. “But old skin is dark and bumpy and… fragile.”

    He looked up at me, into my face, as if to verify that he had been heard and understood.

    All I could do was look at him and sigh.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard skin described so eloquently.

    “Indeed Sean, that is true,” I told him looking down at my own arm which is not smooth and bright but not yet dark and bumpy.

    I spent the rest of the day thinking of how beautiful skin is in all seasons of life, whether it is smooth and bright or… fragile.

    Make Mine DeCaf Next Time

    August 26, 2008

    Nothing will wake you up faster than a steaming hot cup of coffee.

    One morning not too long ago, I lay in my bed not fully awake and not fully asleep. AD had risen before me, an extremely rare occurrence as I am the early bird in the family, and I could hear snippets of conversation coming from the kitchen and a bit of rattling around and other kitchen noises.

    This is good I thought to myself. They are in there. And I? Am not. I am here in my nice warm bed. This is good indeed. And so I burrowed deeper into my blanket, hugged my pillow a little tighter and allowed myself to slip back into the cool shadowy lands of slumber.

    In what seemed like the very next moment, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and intuition violently roused me from my dark paradise. I sensed danger was afoot. I opened one eye and scanned the room.

    And then I saw it coming right at me. I tried to scream “NOOooo!!” but in my sleepy stupor could make no sound.

    Sean was stumbling towards me wearing a big happy helpful smile on his face and carrying a cup of scalding hot coffee.

    “Here Mommy!” he beamed. “Daddy and I made you some coffee!” And then he lurched forward and thrust the steaming cup towards me.

    I bolted upright in my bed. I flinched as I braced myself for the impending pain. In slow motion I reached out in self-defense and grabbed the cup, hoping to lessen the agony if only by one degree. Like a seiche, coffee sloshed from side to side and nearly up and over the edge of the cup, but by the grace of God and some fluke of the laws of nature, every drop stayed in the cup.

    I sat up in my bed, clutching the cup of coffee with one hand and my racing heart with the other. I was wide awake. NOW. And I hadn’t even had one sip.

    Nothing will wake you up faster than a steaming hot cup of coffee — delivered by an eager four-year-old.

    * * *

    Mother’s intuition — A 6th sense that protects your child, but apparently also protects you from your child. AD does not have this intuition.  He has been head-butted in a sensitive area a number of times by our precious off spring who it seems may or may not be trying to kill us.

     

    And Then There Was Lots Of Laundry

    August 25, 2008

    So then, yes, most of you were right – we were in California.

    We started out in the San Diego area for the tall ships festival, then we went to the Zoo and then the Wildlife Park.  And this little four-year-old boy went ninety to nothing all day long, from early in the morning until well past bedtime the entire time and remained remarkably cheerful.  Everything thrilled and delighted him and that makes for a good travel companion.

    After that we headed up to Los Angeles to see Cousins Tim and Judy who co-taught kindergarten for 28 years before retiring a few years ago, so that was like Disney World + grandparents + gummy bears with whip cream and a ferris wheel all rolled into one.  The boy has all but OD’d on good times in the past week.

    Yesterday we took in the Getty Museum which is just an amazing way to spend the day – fabulous art, incredible gardens and lots of kid friendly activities.  I highly recommend it if you get the chance.

    Here’s a picture of my fellow traveler having lunch at the Getty.

    We’ve covered not putting your elbows on the table, but not the part about keeping cutlery off your face.  Nonetheless, I was amused because I’m juvenile.

    Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

    August 21, 2008

    A line from one of my favorite poems – anyone know which one? – besides Veronica Mitchell who is super awesome and the best read person I know and would know the answer and could probably even recite the entire poem in her sleep.

    Seanshine and I are on a little get away.  Wanna guess where we are?  Another clue tomorrow.



    Life Is A Beast

    August 19, 2008

    Swimming is not coming easily to Sean. Physically he is quite capable of swimming. He is naturally athletic. But he harbors some fear not understood by me or articulated by him that prevents him from mastering the water.

    This summer I’ve spent countless hours coaxing him into the water with me, chiding him about preferring the baby pool, pointing out other kids his age and younger who are swimming – AND HAVING FUN DARN IT! And honestly, sometimes I’m just flat out aggravated with him for not even being willing to try. "Just try dammit!" I want to scream. But I don’t. I say "Whatever Dude" instead and try to hide my frustration.

    And yes, I realize I have violated every rule of good parenting, so please don’t go to the trouble to point that out. I am aware. I’m sure it will come up in therapy one of these days.

    This thing he has against swimming, it is maddening to me for many reasons which have nothing to do with the substantial amount of money I have spent on swimming lessons for this boy. What bugs me is not that he won’t master the water, but that he won’t master the fear. But what I think bugs me even more than that, is that in this regard, he is not like me. When I was his age, I was fearless. I had two older brothers to keep up with and there was no time for fear if I didn’t want to be left behind. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do something.

    In Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood , Vivi Walker tells her 10-year-old daughter Sidda Lee who is afraid to ride an elephant at the grand opening of the local mall, “Life is a beast, you just get on it and ride!”

    And that is true. For some of us.

    For me, life is a beast. I just get on it and ride. I just hope for the best and figure it out as I go along. And I fall off the beast – a lot – and I skin up my knees and I get on again.

    But for Sean and for others like him, life is a beast that you observe at a distance and read up on and understand before approaching.

    One of the hardest parts of motherhood as of late, as Sean becomes increasingly more his own person, is to allow him his own journey, his own approach to life at his own pace. He may look like me, but he ain’t me.

    Sean needs to learn to swim. And I need to learn to let Sean learn to swim in his own way.