Monday, March 23, 2015

Learning How to Fall

Yes, it's March, late March at that.  And, yes, a fire is roaring in our living room.  The temperatures dipped into the 30s and freezing rain pelted our windows.  We sought respite indoors and prayed spring would land soon (and stay!).

Collin and I are focused.  We have a singular mission: Collin will master his bike sans training wheels.  We hashed out a strategy that involves a daily practice ride with mom.

On Saturday, the weather warmed and the sunshine glistened.  Collin hopped on his bike and trailed it out onto the sidewalk.  He had an audience for today's practice session: his grandmother.  

I clutched Collin's handlebars and raced along side his bike until I felt like he could maintain his independence.  Then, I let go of the handlebars and watched him glide past me.  Each ride ended up the same: Collin would travel a few feet, loose confidence, steer the bike off course, and then plummet onto the front lawn.

My mother watched this scene unfold a zillion times.  She beamed, like grandmothers do, and tossed out encouraging phrases.  Then, I heard her say, "Collin, you've got to learn how to fall."

At the time, I thought it was odd.  Shouldn't she be referring to him  as the best cyclist since Lance Armstrong?  Why was she talking about teaching him to fall?  Wasn't it a bit negative?

But the truth of the matter is that no one can learn to ride a bike without falling...a lot.  Falling is an inevitable part of learning to ride a bike.     My mother, being wise and experienced in the motherhood department, knew this fact.  Collin needed to learn to fall because he would fall and we really didn't want a string of ER visits in our future.

On Sunday, our pastor said, "Storms don't develop character, they reveal character."  Storms are inevitable, he asserted.  

Storms are like falls, I thought.  Like learning to fall, we needed to learn how to weather storms before they happen.

I was asked this week if I go to church every week.  A man questioned me with a hint of skepticism and confusion about why on earth anyone would include church in their weekly routine.  A bit caught off guard, I fumbled an answer and then walked away discouraged.  I wished my response was more polished and thoughtful.

For many hours after our conversation, I thought about why I go to church.  How should I have responded?  Numerous reasons floated into my head.  I realized one of the big reasons church is part of my weekly diet is that it teaches me how to fall the right way and it helps me know how to weather storms.  It equips me with a Savior who won't let my falls be unrecoverable or the storms sweep me out to sea.     



Monday, March 16, 2015

Listening to the Music

Teaching our fourth son to ride a bike without training wheels.  It seems like we should have it down by now, the whole art of teaching a child to ride a bike, but each son learns so different. 

Caleb's band teacher invited us to an evening entitled "Painting with Music."  Because Caleb adores his band teacher, we went seemingly knowing little about the event.

We arrived and made ourselves at home in the high school band room.  The band director, a true spitfire in every sense of the term, commanded attention from the podium.  He encouraged the students to grab their instruments, and he let my little ones select a percussion instrument to play.  He then explained how the evening would work: he would describe a scene, show a picture, or play a movie.  The children were then to match the music they would play with their mental image of that scene, picture, or movie.  

The band director first described a traffic jam filled with horns, frustration, and loud voices. He let the image soak into the little musician minds.  Then, he raised his arms and directed the children to commence.  Caleb blasted his trumpet in a sound that mirrored a horn.  The other students followed on clarinets, electric guitars, violins, and more.  My little ones tapped on snare drums and beat on the xylophones.

The clamor from the combination of instruments sounded messy to me.  In fact, I wondered if this sort of exercise could be used as a torture technique by the US government.  After a few minutes of it, I felt my mental stability start to wane.

I noticed the band director walking around the room.  He stopped by each student and intently listened to their play.  I noticed how he could narrow in on that student's play while drowning out the masses.  And so I started to do that too.  I tried to listen, really listen, to my children's music.  I noticed how they tried to draw out the image of frustrations with the use of their instruments.  I appreciated this about each individual child, but it took me choosing to cut my way through the noise and chaos to really listen and focus on each son.

I thought about our lives, about how hard it is to sift through the noise and busyness that seems to stick to our household.  I thought about how I really want to hear the music each child plays, but it requires focus, time, and the ability to drown out distractions.

On Sunday night, I convinced (bribed would be a better term) Caleb to take a walk with me.  We wandered through the neighborhood and set our sights on a pond (hopefully) teeming with creatures.  I left my phone on the counter.  His brothers were left at home.

As we walked, I was able to truly listen to him.  All distractions were gone.  With each step, he gave me a peek into his world.  As we neared home, I concluded that the best sounds in the world comes from the mouths of my children....when I really hear it.   

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sick Day

Images from Connor's Hoosier Wax Museum at school.  Connor played a charming Knute Rockne.  

Monday afternoon I sat in my minivan in the school parking lot and watched the boys barrel towards the car.  It was a common scene, but this time the boys radiated a level of excitement (or was it revulsion).  Time would tell.  

They reached the minivan at the same time, and each boy roared out excited utterances.  The meaning was lost within the jumble of words.  

But then I caught sight of Connor.  He had tears streaming down his face, and he was clutching his stomach.

He sobbed, "I didn't know you could throw up out of your nose!"

It was a pivotal mom moment.  I could have easily screeched out of the parking lot and retired to the serenity of home.  I could have easily left my sick son at school and had an evening without the stench of vomit mixed with carpet cleaners.  But I couldn't do that.  I wouldn't do that.

I asked Connor why he didn't let his teacher know he was sick.

"I did," he wailed.  "She said it was too close to the end of the school day to go to the nurse."

Caleb chimed in, "You have to say you're going to get sick. Those are the magic words to get out of class."

Life lessons from Caleb.  

I eased my ailing son into the car and ferried him home.  I tucked him under a mound of blankets and let him rest on the couch.

The rest of the night went as planned.  Caleb left around 7 p.m. for a tween Bible study.  All was good again in the world, until about an hour later when I received a call from his Bible study leader.

In a solemn voice, the Bible study conveyed the news.  Caleb had vomited (several times) in the church hall.

I rushed over to the church and found Caleb and the Bible study leader standing in the hallway.  Caleb was clutching a plastic Ziplock (I guess the best they had) bag.  His Bible study leader looked less than charitable.  

I apologized profusely for my sick son and insisted I had no idea he was sick.  The Bible study leader looked skeptical.  In fact, I think he scowled just a bit.  I imagine having a child cut into the study with vomit sort of ruins the discussion time for everybody.  I wondered if there's a passage in the Bible that reads, "Thou shall forgive each other's vomiting trespasses."  If not, there should be.

Tuesday, two boys stayed home from school.  I wanted to be angry and annoyed about the whole thing, but I just couldn't.  I spent their sick day cuddled up with them on the couch.  I joined them in long naps.  For one mother who has squeezed the life out of many days as of late, a sick day was welcomed...and even enjoyed.  

Just don't give me too many of them.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

We're moving South...who's with me?

Saturday night we celebrated a friend's 40th birthday with a Masquerade party.  Love the masks....cover wrinkles!

I stopped looking at the weather.  If I don't look, I can imagine conditions are improving. I can tell myself spring is days away and snow is a distant memory.  

But this ignorance of the weather caught up with me this weekend. On Saturday night, snow flakes landed.  It was a light dusting at first, but then they grabbed friends and combined forces.  Within hours, the snow swallowed our yard and driveway.  On Sunday, the relentless snow continued until white mounds blanketed our landscape.

I wanted to give up.  For a good while, I considered packing our bags and traveling south. Where?  I'm not sure.  Just south.  We'd stop wherever the temperatures soared above freezing and the grass wasn't afraid.

During our latest snowapocalypse, Chris was in Texas at a medical conference.  I'm sure he spent many hours studying the latest science on cardiac arrests and learning about improved suturing techniques.  But I didn't hear about those things.  I heard about the awesome barbecue dinners and disappointing weather (in the 40s).  I scanned our snowy drive and thought about how 40 degrees must feel.  Tropical, I imagine.  Glorious, I thought.

What to do on a snowy Sunday when even church is cancelled?  How does one mom fill all those hours?  As luck would have it, Collin contracted a stomach bug.  And for those lazy, unscheduled hours, I divided my time carpet cleaning and snow shoveling.  Problem solved.  

The other boys stayed busy too.  They spent time outdoors creating snow structures and masterpieces.  At one point, I caught Cooper carrying a power drill, spackle, and superglue into the yard.  When asked, he said all items were needed to create his snow igloo.  Of course, right. I pried the power drill away from his fingers.  (I imagine Chris would be displeased to find it laying in the front yard come spring.)  I strongly encouraged Cooper to use snow as a sealant rather than spackle and super glue. Who else envisioned him glueing his gloves together?

Today is Monday.  Collin woke up with pep and vigor.  The snow had stopped.  Sunshine flooded through the windows and the yard seemed to sparkle.  Yesterday's memories shifted in my mind.  The snow and the sickness seemed more like an adventure than a burden.  I love how sunshine does that to a person.