Monday, March 20, 2017

Fooling Around on a Pedal-Boat

Last week I took my kids pedal-boating at a local lake and it was as near perfection as we can get on this side of eternity.

Leaving the dock, all smiles...for now.

The grand beauty of nature - just like a Bob Ross painting! - say my Netflix saturated kids.

This sweet face...belies so much naughtiness.

Until 20 minutes in...and the boys do what boys do - fool around.

The oompa-loompa in the back starts getting restless. Uh-oh.

I can't tell you how much I hate when they "fool around." And because I'm overly analytical, here's some bullet points to explain why such an innocuous sounding thing makes me want to spit out hellfire.

--It violates logic. Fooling around, by its very nature, is extreme silliness. It hurts my very ordered brain. I have to listen to stupid nonsensical phrases repeated ad nauseum ("booba-lay-lay!" "hairy!" "hairy boob!") and field totally stupid questions that only get shouted at me louder if I try to ignore them ("Why I can't I fly right now?!" "What if I poop in the water?!")

--It literally rocks the boat. All their wild fidgeting made my stress-levels sky high as I imagined our boat capsizing and my kids completely soaked (and the loud and prolonged whining and crying that would ensue).

--It causes general harm and mayhem. When the kids fool around at home it is generally punctuated by cries of bodily injury (that would've been worse if I weren't there to grab someone or cushion someone mid-fall) and bits of destruction to the house and furniture. Again, very stressful to witness.

--It causes food mess. What I hate the most is when the kids fool around at the dinner table. Crumbs spew out of mouths. Milk gets snorted and sprayed out within a 3 feet radius. People fall out of chairs and cry. I seriously loose my appetite whilst eating so often and have to excuse myself from the table just 2 minutes into our meals. I. Can't. I. Just. Can't. It's like having dinner with warthogs.

And the number one thing I hate the MOST about fooling around:

There's no reasonable way to limit it.

What can I say to my kids except "Stop fooling around!!!!"

And as every parent knows, discipline only works if it's specific and targeted. Do you know how vague "fooling around" is? What does that even mean in terms of actual behavior?

Stop laughing?
Stop saying silly things?
Stop moving erratically?
Stop flailing your appendages so as to increase the odds of knocking something off the table by more than 50%?

I either end up sounding ridiculously harsh ("stop having such a good time!!!!") or way too strict ("stop moving your hands!" "and feet!" "and body!!!!!")

Oh kids.

Always ruining perfect moments and good times.

But there are some shining seconds where all is right and our world seems shot through with grace. And I think to myself, maybe it wasn't a huge mistake to have kids after all. Maybe, nay, most certainly, they are the best things to ever have happen to me.

We took a normal looking a picture! It's a half-second miracle!

My greatest gifts.

Even if it kills me. Or maybe, more precisely, because it kills me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Life with Mr. Awesome

"Hi Mom, I'm Mr. Awesome,"
he casually announces as he saunters into the kitchen shirtless with some Paw Patrol stickers and a Batman tattoo on his chest - just like the real Batman, he says.

His older brother added his walk-a-thon medal to enhance the look - a nice touch indeed.

Mr. Awesome, duh

This is the kind of ridiculous charm that knocks me off my socks at random times on any given day and punches through my otherwise gloomy disposition like a jolt of pure joy.

Six years into this whole "motherhood" thing, and I'm finally realizing that most of my constant grumpiness is due to the fact that I am, for the most part, constantly performing menial tasks. One might say I feel like a house servant, but that would not be totally accurate - servants are paid. And they get some days off.

The master of the house drives a Ferrari. I only get to push it from behind.

And so I roll the boulder up the hill, and watch it inch down inevitably with each passing minute as crumbs are sprinkled liberally and dishes and cups are used for eating and "experiments!" and clothing is pulled off and on, just for fun, and LEGOS are sewn on every square inch of carpet as if by a farmer in hopes of a generous harvest.

And it is finally dawning on me how much I hate getting down on my hands and knees and foot-washing, figuratively and literally. But between my groaning and sighs, I sometimes...fleetingly...glimpse the grace in it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

How to make your own ghetto light-saber and other tales

More random thoughts I'd like to remember...

(1) When Judah got a "unearth" your own crystals set this Christmas it came with a little wooden mallet and safety glasses to make it seem really authentic. Judah hammered away at the little block of loose sand and found a few small gem stones and called it a day. Noah watched him intently and when Judah went upstairs to put his gem stones away, Noah, without saying a word to anyone, donned the safety glasses, and started hammering away at the leftover pile of rocky sand, hoping to unearth some overlooked stones.

I don't know why this image sticks in my mind and makes me chuckle with mirth and pity. Something about this little guy being furtive and secretive and also totally accepting of his older brother's sloppy seconds...always being second place and the receiver of used objects...it charms me.

Noah, patiently waiting in the wings for his elder brother's scraps.

(2) Judah is such a hoarder. He has an intensely acquisitive nature. He doesn't acquire things for their utility - he just enjoys the accumulation of it. Now that he can earn his own money, he has learned that it's more fun to watch his money pile grow than to actually spend it on toys. Every time we go to Target Judah will peruse the toy aisles and finger items of interest, put them in our shopping cart, only to take them out again when it's time to check out. He would rather have the money.

Four months ago, he claimed that he would spend $10 after he first earned $30. Then he said he wouldn't spend money until he had earned $50. With a big boost from Chinese New Year, Judah now has a whopping $70 in his possession. And he now claims he won't spend any of his money until he's amassed at least $100. Oh the making of a miser.

So strong is Judah's hoarding instinct, that when I gave the boys cheap electronic light saber toys yesterday (a green one for Noah, a blue one for Judah), Judah immediately put his away in his room. In its place he jerry-rigged his own light saber by taping a flashlight to a back-scratcher, with which he used to fight Noah.

Ree. Dik. You. LESSSSS.

(3) Judah, of his own accord, without anyone every making any suggestions to him in the least, has taken it upon himself to make "worksheets" for Noah. They are the stuff of regular kiddie activity books - tracing the dotted line to form alphabet letters, simple math problems, color by number pictures, connect-the-dot pictures.

Judah does this because he wants Noah to have something fun to do when Noah is bored. And he believes Noah wants to progress in math and reading - which is true. But I don't know how helpful it is for Noah to do Judah's worksheets since Judah inverts a lot of letters and numbers - he still writes almost 30% of his symbols backwards (which makes me wonder if he's dyslexic).

Nevertheless, this inclination toward instructing his younger brother and wanting to make Noah happy is unbelievably rewarding for a mother to observe. What more do I want from my kids than to have such an abundance of good will toward their siblings? And quite an abundance there is - Judah has made over 50 worksheets and keeps it all in a giant zip-lock bag.

But maybe there's so many because Judah just likes to hoard...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Love, Faking

Random thoughts I think I'd like to remember someday...

1. Judah's love is cheap. Judah tells me all day every day that he loves me. It started when he could speak that full sentence when he was a toddler and now that he's six, he still says it quite often. He especially says it when he senses that I'm getting grumpy, as he thinks that will bring me back to a happy state.

I've always known Judah loves easily, but I was reminded again last week when he started talking to our Amazon Alexa device. He asked for some jokes. He asked for Dark Horse by Katy Perry and Shake it Off by Taylor Swift. And then he said, I love you Alexa.

And Alexa replied, Thanks, it's good to be appreciated.

2. When Noah is happy he talks a lot. Usually that's in the car when I'm driving home after picking him up from preschool. My hearing is not so good, his voice is rather soft and babyish, and there are lots of ambient noises from the road, so I only end up hearing about 60% of what he says.

Noah gets upset if I don't engage by responding as an active listener so I've perfected the art of feigning understanding what someone says while not at all understanding what they've said. It sounds like this:

Uh-huh...oh yeah?
Oh, that's what you did...
Oh, I see!
And then he did that...
Oh, like that!
Right, oh, yeah, I like that too...

A giant metaphor of motherhood for me - fake it til you make it...home.

3. And lastly, Noah spelled this out on his letter board as part of my 4 year parent-child review. So far my performance has been...medium. And now I'm thinking, if I ever care enough about my blog to update its look, I would definitely rename it - Medium Mom. Thanks Noah!

The hardest boss/client I have ever had to work for.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The thoughts that Noah elicit...

It's 6:30 am and I should not be sitting here writing.

I should be getting ready for the day and packing lunches and wrapping birthday gifts for Noah. The kids will be up soon and then it's a mad-dash to make it to school on time and then the entire day will unfold like a 10K race for time.

But my totally unorganized and rambling thoughts about Noah compel me to write.

He is a mystery to me. A lovely mystery...and often a monstrous mystery.

A boy on his long-awaited birthday - a real big kid now.

Judah is my inner child. Everything he does and says and the tears behind his eyes reflect everything I have always felt in my own heart. There is no mystery there - only deep, deep understanding.

But Noah is unlike me, utterly.

Lately he has been responding to my unwanted requests and commands with - Why does it always have to be YOUR way?! It shouldn't always be YOUR way! You always get YOUR way!!!

Already he is thoroughly proficient at challenging my authority.

And every single time I cross his will (which is like 103 times a day) he responds vindictively with - When I grow up, there will be no grandmas allowed in my house! (Because he assumes I will be a grandmother).

And yet, his childish faith cuts me to my cynical core. Shames me for my hypocrisy. Exposes too much of my unbelief.

Today is his 4th birthday and he said he's glad to turn one year older - so I'm closer to being a grandpa. And then I'll die. And then I'll be in God's new world!

Noah often says - Let's talk about God's new world! - and answers almost every future looking question with - I want to go to God's new world.

And he asks me about his body v. his soul. And about the robbers that died on each side of Christ. And he marvels that almighty God could be incarnate as the least of these. And he makes me say things that sound ridiculous to my modern, culturally-assimilated ears.

Things I'm embarrassed to say in polite liberal company.

And then make me embarrassed by my embarrassment.

Which keeps me in the only good and safe posture I know - repentance.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Momiversity: Why Diets Make Us Fat

If you are like most Americans, December 31st becomes the day you re-commit to a diet.

DON'T DO IT.

Instead, commit to reading this book by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt that just came out in 2016.


She writes in an easy, accessible style about the science behind why dieting is actually counter-productive. She explores cultural values of body image and also delves into her own personal backstory of constant extreme dieting and how she finally freed herself from that, ironically as part of a New Year's resolution NOT to diet in 2010. (Just to clarify, she does promote eating healthy and exercise. She uses the term "diet" to mean drastic reduction in calories for the sole purpose of losing weight).

Her pitch is this, in a nutshell - your body has a metabolic set-point within a 10-15 pound range. If you starve yourself to lose a lot of weight, your body will just lower your metabolism to quickly pack on the pounds again. Conversely, if you over-eat and put on a lot of weight, your body will raise your metabolism to get you back to your original weight.

BUT...if you are over-weight for a very long time, your metabolic set-point resets itself to that higher weight, sadly. Thus, you should try your best not to over-eat.

And if you plunge into an extreme diet and lose a ton of weight (a la Biggest Losers on the reality show), you will be fighting your metabolism and brain chemistry tooth and nail to try to maintain your loss, and ultimately, you will lose. Maybe you will "keep it off" for 6 months, or if you're ultra-disciplined, 6 years, but eventually, you will lose. And you'll find yourself on that horrible roller coaster well-known to all dieters, yo-yo-ing back and forth and perpetually trying to lose that last 20 pounds. Starving, binging, starving, binging, starving, binging...all the while shooting your metabolism to hell.

My favorite part of the book is when she writes about how girls on the island of Fiji got brainwashed into thinking that being thin is good. Traditionally, Fijian culture valued being thick and saying "you've lost weight" is a major insult. But as soon as they started watching Western TV shows in the early 90's (like Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210) that all changed.

Now there are very high instances of eating disorders among Fiji girls, the first ever to occur in their society. The NYT wrote about it here: Study Finds TV Alters Fiji Girls View of Body

So what about us, on the great island of the Americas? Maybe it's time to get "un-brainwashed" and question our cultural aesthetic norms. Maybe some of us were made to be thicker and some were not. In the animal kingdom, variety of adiposity abounds (think: giraffes v. hippos). Why not for people groups?

There is a new movement that is trying to shatter the assumption that Fat = Unhealthy. Indeed studies have shown that "over-weight" people who eat well and exercise regularly can be much healthier than thin people who don't.

So let's just try to take good care of ourselves, without regard to our clothing size. Be good to your body and let the chips fall where they may, when it comes to the number on the scale.

It may be too late for some of us, steeped in the lore of Baywatch and 90210...but parents and aunts and uncles, let's at least try to save the children.

Our girls are watching us.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Surprised by Joy

Well, that most heralded of holidays has come and gone.

By Dec. 3rd, the kids had already littered the tree with their homemade presents.

There is so much anticipation and lead-up and preparation for Christmas Day it almost feels like you've lost a loved one the day it's over. Actually, you probably have since many loved ones travel to be together for that one time of year.

So lucky to have these wonderful aunties and uncles (and little cousin) in our lives!

My entire life history of Christmas has been more humbug than falalala, with massive feelings of let down every year on that long awaited day, particularly after the gifts have been opened. I'm not sure why. Was I subconsciously hoping to unwrap something marvelous...far more marvelous than a reasonable amount of money could buy...?

Judah was extraordinarily proud of his first "gingerbread house"

But seriously, you can literally go through my back log of Christmas post-mortem posts and witness the gloom analysis each year, without fail.

Until now, that is.

For some strange reason, that inevitable mild depression never materialized this year. Christmas was finally...not a disappointment!

Noah was extraordinarily proud of his lipstick red Rudolph nose

I guess it takes until you're in your late thirties to finally, finally, FINALLY get a good grip on reality. And to accept it...and even muster up gratitude.

The gingerbread cookie tradition continues...note to self - must ban sprinkles for next year.

Maybe being a mom for six years has finally helped me lower my expectations enough such that any day in which I'm not driven mad by 6+ hours of nonconsecutive crying and demanding that my tired bones hold a 25+ pound clinging toddler is considered a gosh darn day.

So even though we were all sick and didn't eat any fabulous feasts or engage in any particularly festive activities, it was enough. It was more than enough.

The Christmas Day hike tradition also continues, thank you sunny California!

We were together and we love one another.

The gifts each kid chose for the other - spot on!

And a baby was born to make healing flow far as the curse is found.


And perhaps most salient, no one needs to nap, nurse, or wear diapers any more.

Life just doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dear Santa

This note cracks me up on so many levels.


First, the grammar and spelling errors. Laundry is spelled "lojry" and Judah likes to invert his b's and d's so he asked for a "rodot" hahahahaha.

Also, what the heck is going on with the first letter of your last name? Lower case AND inverted.

I love how at the end of the letter, he tells Santa to "chos onw" - a very humble request to 'choose one' toy since asking for more than one is clearly too bold.

It also cracks me up how he claims to help me with laundry. That kid has folded maybe 3 hand towels in his ENTIRE life and sorted 6 socks into the right pile - 6 individual socks, mind you, not pairs. If this puts you on the "good" list, then I'm set for life after just a single day of housework.

Lastly, it's funny to me that Judah wrote this all while not believing in Santa. Since he was about 2, he asked if Santa was real and we just didn't have the heart to lie to him in the name of fun. So he wrote this for me. Knowing that I know how little laundry he actually does. Bold.

Oh my dear child. Your entire Christmas experience is unmerited grace, however blind you are to it. Indeed, your whole life. Indeed, mine.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

How do you solve a problem like Noah?

Noah is my problem child.


Okay, so this photo is totally staged, but it gets my point across pretty effectively.

In absolute terms, I guess Noah is just your average naughty kid, but in comparison with his older brother, Noah is like the devil.

Sure Judah was a colicky fussy baby, but ever since he turned 3.5 he magically morphed into an angel child. All the opposition and annoying whining truly was just a toddler phase that he grew out of. And even when he was in the midst of the terrible two's his meltdowns were pretty minor.

I would have never appreciated how easy-going and truly eager to please Judah is without the foil of his devil brother. Judah, in his heart of hearts, in the very core of who he is, truly just wants to be a good person and for everyone to be happy. He is goodness personified, people-pleasing to a fault, and the epitome of cooperation. Which is not to say he doesn't have his own moral flaws - he absolutely does - but none of them make me tense up in stress and pull my hair out in frustration by 9:30 AM.

Noah on the other hand...


Noah will turn 4 in January and it is abundantly clear that his annoying whining and opposition is not going away. This isn't a phase, it's just him.

He behaves so disobediently it even makes Judah suck in his breath with disbelief and awe. Almost as soon as I issue a command - Noah don't stand up on your chair - he has to do the exact opposite.

To gently correct him - Noah, don't color on your brother's homework - is to invite him to hurl verbal and emotional abuse upon you - You're so mean mommy! You make me sad! I'm going to be sad forever! You can't come in my room anymore! You can't come to my birthday party! You're the meanest mom ever! And the comment he thinks will hurt me the most - No more hugs and kisses for you!!!

Once I told him that we were out of the granola bars he wanted and he had these colorful remarks to say - I'm so mad at you mommy! I'm going to cut your head off! I'm going to get the big scissors, the one you keep in the special drawer that we're not supposed to play with - the big scissors - not the little ones that you let us use. And I'm going to hold them the safe way, by the handle, not by the sharp part, the safe way like daddy showed us. And cut your head off with the sharp part!

It was not unlike how a serial murderer might meticulously plot to skin his victims and sew a coat with them...

But on a brighter note, I'm so glad he listens when we talk to him about safely handling sharp objects!

But beyond his hair trigger anger, he also delights in dirty jokes. Judah never cared for 'potty-mouth' language but Noah lets it rip all the time and soon the two of them descend into the most annoying silliness. It's literally just them repeating to each other words like:

Poopy-lon hahahahahahahaha
Buttcheek hahahahahahahahaha
Poopy baby hahahahahahaha
Boobs hahahahahahaha
literally, ad nauseum (my nauseum)

Noah begged me to take a picture of this in RiteAid

Noah even goes as far as drawing boobs and butts all over the place. They both look like two tangential circles, but you know it's a butt if it has a dribble of poop coming out of the middle. He once painted some giant ones on his art easel and told me to hang it up in the house. I politely declined.

So last night, as we were snuggling before bedtime, I decided to have a heart-to-heart talk with him about his rampant disobedience.

Noah, you make Mommy so sad when you disobey me. You need to work on obeying your parents.

Noah burst into tears and instantly accused us of not loving him and rejecting him and even said that we think his name is stupid (we've often said that it's a common name, unlike his brother's more rare name). All his insecurities gushed out in a flood of angry fear.

I tried to reassure him that we love him unconditionally and that we all have areas that need work. And again it amazed me how non-intuitive grace and unconditional acceptance really is.

This morning on our drive to preschool, Noah told me how he really does want to obey us more. He wanted it so much that he prayed about it on the spot:

Dear God, Please help me obey my parents. And when they tell me 'no' help me to accept it. In Jesus name, Amen.

If ever there was a prayer that was heard, I hope it was that.

Indeed, it is the very baby-step, tiny seed evidence of it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thankful It's Over

Last week, the week of Thanksgiving, the kids had the entire week off school. I had been bracing myself for too-much-time-with-the-kids burn out, but was pleasantly surprised it never really happened.

Usually, if I'm alone with the kids for 2 days, I'm burnt toast. But this week we had lots of fun play dates and parties to attend so the kids and I had lots of good breathing space away from each other.

This is something I never realized until I had kids - interacting with them too much is a BIG problem. It never occurred to me that being with a 3 year old for more than 5 hours a day would make me loose my mind - until I did.

Why?

Because their attention span is like a gnat's.
Because they can't do a single thing for themselves.
Because they are prone to melting down (when hungry, when tired, when over-stimulated, when under-stimulated, when told 'no', as in, no you can't run around with a knife, no you can't eat candy for breakfast, no you can't go outside without pants, etc.)
Because their idea of fun is mind-numbingly boring to an adult.
Because, I've been told, they ask 386 questions a day on average.

This guy - like so many things in life - only good in moderation

So instead of getting annoyed at each other, we did the following:

Took walks when it wasn't raining. There's nothing more therapeutic for kids (and probably adults) than to be in the great outdoors.

Judah is inspired to take a photo on the edge of glory

Ran errands whilst looking like weirdos and freaking out checkout cashiers.

The Trader Bros strike again

Had some great play dates at friend's homes. This one in particular had some epic hot chocolate marshmallows.

Never so thankful for friends as on Thanksgiving break!

Had some great cousin time. Is it just me, or do all cousins get along terrifically because...you know...DNA?

Happy goofiness, it's in our genes

And of course, decorated for Christmas - the most wonderful time of year...


But something I'm totally dreading as the kids both have 2.5 weeks off school. O Lord have mercy.