September 30, 2011

Pine Valley, Part Three

Last summer, after the loss of their summer camp's administrative building, I posted some reflections on the impact the Reicharts have had on our family. Sadly, this family keeps teaching me more on suffering, loss, and God's goodness.

Matthew and Susan Reichart's granddaughter, Jada, has had a whirlwind few months that began with a lump on her leg, which led to chemotherapy for bone cancer, and this week, traumatic surgery in hopes of eliminating her cancer and preserving her life. All at age 5.

Susan Reichart wrote an essay for her local paper  that declares her faith in God's promises, even in the face of heartache. 

"We are convinced as a family that we exist to make much of God, and so we will," Susan wrote. "One day we will all be whole again, body, mind and spirit, from the brokenness that plagues us in this life, but until that day we will work relentlessly to extract the priceless from the worthless in this life in order to be spokesmen for the glory of God!"

Susan is well acquainted with suffering and tragedy from her work with impoverished children and her own life experiences. Her words need no commentary; just go read them. 

And pray for this family and little Jada.

September 12, 2011

The Child Who Parents

"Who of us is mature enough for offspring before the offspring arrive? The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults." - Peter De Vries

Even before Saturday when Lindon read that quote to me (which stopped me in my tracks), I had been wondering who needs more parenting: me or Levi. The daily battles of childrearing increasingly take place in my head and heart rather than at the dinner table or in the playroom. Turns out the hardest part of parenting for me isn't correcting Levi's unruly behavior but my own, and of all the disciplining I do throughout my day, the hardest is the discipline of responding rightly.

Don't get me wrong: it's no fun to discipline my kid. But I need it more than he does.

Today's lunch was a good example. Lunchtime typically segues into afternoon nap, and as such it easily becomes a battleground where worn-out (and pregnant) mother must take on weary child. Today was no exception. Levi's behavior did not constitute outright rebellion, as he didn't commit any offenses that have been outlined as punishable, but he aggravated me nonetheless. I had a phone interview for a story scheduled right after I put him down for his nap, and I wanted a little extra time to review my questions and ensure I placed my call on time.  Levi wanted extra time to amuse himself by eating slowly and playing with his plate. This dilly-dally attitude made me want to throttle him.

Which I didn't do. But I did lose my patience with him, a fact that became embarrassingly clear when he began mimicking me yelling, "Stop it!" He found my frustration amusing, and in doing so showed me how foolish my behavior really was. And I count it a blessing he found my frustration funny rather than frightening.

Scenes like this happen more often than I'd like. In my moments of irritation I remember a hymn that describes God's kindness toward His children: "Father-like he tends and spares us; well our feeble frames He knows. In his hands he gentle bears us..."


Those words rarely describe my response to my son, though my heavenly Father has far more reason to lose his patience with me than I do with Levi. On many days when I feel so tired, irritable, and edgy, I find myself thanking God for not blowing His fuse with me and praying for a more godly response to my own kid.

And then comes nap time, the great respite that offers me perspective on the morning. Levi really loves his routine (maybe all kids do), so our time together right before his nap is sweet time. Whatever has happened moments earlier at lunch, all is forgiven at nap. His love for his mother humbles me and convicts me.

Sigh. Again.

Shouldn't I be modeling steadfast love, not the toddler? At these moments I feel so patently unqualified for this role, and I don't say that to be a pity sponge. Really, it is a good thing. Feeling my unworthiness is good. Through all the battles internal and external I just keep praying that one day I will be the adult and parent that Levi needs and that he will be a child who takes after his Father.

September 11, 2011


I remember where I was when I heard the news. I remember what I wore that beautiful Tuesday morning, how I did my hair, and who I was meeting for breakfast at Grove City's MAP cafeteria when the crowd around the TV in the lobby caught my eye. The feeling that came over me when I watched live footage of the North Tower collapsing most closely resembled horror.

Those memories have come back afresh this week as I have heard personal essays on the radio from others who were impacted by the events of September 2001. Ten years ago I lived less than two hours from the spot where so many people lost their lives on United 93. While it shouldn't have, the intensity of my sadness this week has surprised me.

After breakfast this morning Lindon turned on the TV. This is unusual for us on a Sunday morning, but he wanted to see what the news coverage. We watched as the Ground Zero Memorial opened to the family members of victims for the first time. As I watched in silence I became aware that tears were streaming down my face.


Suddenly I realized that Lindon was holding Levi, who had also been watching the events on TV in silence. But he recognized that the memorials had walls of water cascading down where the towers used to be, and he had to label that which he recognized. For the first time I began thinking about how much has changed in the last 10 years, not just in our culture and our country, but in my life. Time, like the water of the memorials, has rushed on.

Throughout the rest of the day I reflected on just how much has changed for me in 10 years. I've graduated from college, gotten married, lived in three states, supported my husband through his master's degree, and become a mom. How could life not change? After all, the difference between age 17 and 27 is huge, but the changes feel more dramatic when considered in the shadow of those horrific moments on a Tuesday morning in 2001.

During the moment of silence at 9:59 this morning, Lindon and I sat motionless. But despite our stillness, Levi kept banging his toys in his room, wholly unaware of why we were so fixed on the TV. And BF2 was doing tae bo on the right side of my belly. Life's responsibilities have gotten more...complicated.

We ended the afternoon playing outside. Lindon wrestled with Nash while Levi and I blew bubbles. The bubbles were a wedding favor from a beautiful wedding Lindon and I attended yesterday evening. As we headed back inside to escape the mosquitoes, Levi reached up and grabbed my hand. The pressure of his hand in mind felt sweeter than usual. It occurred to me how I have come to take this loving gesture for granted.

Of course, by dinner Levi was so tired that mealtime was a real battle, but then bedtime came, and he was down without incident. Mealtime battles, diapers, laundry - those are the new normal, just like security alerts, war, and the phrase "9/11."

And while I do grieve for those who lost parents or children 10 years ago today and mourn the fallenness of our world, today was also a day for me to cherish my family - to marvel at the beauty of my son's voice (even when he's whining at me), the treasure a nap on my husband's shoulder during a football game, to enjoy a squirming belly. Because life, like water, goes on.

September 8, 2011

We Just Needed Shoes

That was it. Poor Mr. Growing Like a Weed did not have any close-toed shoes (other than the cowboy boots, which aren't ideal play shoes). So we stopped by a children's consignment shop. And, well...

We got shoes! And a few other things. Oh, you consignment shops. You get me every time, and I love you for it.

And poor Nash. Our faithful, long-suffering dog has no idea that those darling little onesies he is sniffing are a portent of things to come...

September 6, 2011

The House that Smells of Smoke

Three times in a little over a week our house smelled of smoke. All for different reasons. Well, kind of.

The first time was last Saturday when we decided it would be fun to have pancakes for breakfast. Since no one had to go to work and we all love pancakes, this seemed like a great idea. And it was...

...except that our range it certifiable garbage. As such, simple things like evenly distributing heat to a burner are just too much to ask of our range. This became abundantly clear when one set of pancakes refused to cook. After 20 minutes on the burner, they still had not even turned slightly golden. Then, without any notice whatsoever, they were black. And so began the smoke.

We tried to gain control of the unruly burner and get the heat adjusted, but to not avail. It kept getting hotter, resulting in more burnt pancakes and an increasingly smoky house. All the while Levi, who had been informed he would have pancakes for breakfast, kept saying, "Pancakes? Pancakes? Pancakes?" After 2 or 3 failed attempts (yes, we tried changing burners, too), it became clear Levi might not get his desired breakfast food after all. Lindon, who until now had been the chef, gave up in frustration, as we now had all the windows and the front door open to eradicate the smoke.

(Side note: If I wanted to be self promoting, this is where I would tell you that I salvaged the rest of the batter by baking it in a cast iron skilled with bits of plum in it, that Levi indeed got his pancake, and it tasted fabulous.)

The fact that the story had a somewhat happy ending is good because otherwise Lindon's whole morning might have been ruined. But it still bugged me that the burner had been so unreliable. After all, we had just made pancakes a week or two before, and while it had taken a practice round to finagle the heat, eventually we got them just right.

Then on Wednesday we had another incident. This time I was re-heating some leftovers in the oven when we heard a noise like a giant bug being caught in a bug zapper. Even Levi, with his 21 months of wisdom, understood this was not a good noise. When I entered the kitchen, the oven window indicated the oven was most certainly ablaze.

Mercifully, the flames subsided when I turned off the oven, and I think the incident might have finally instilled in Levi a proper fear of the oven (When we open the oven, we always tell him, "Stay back." He obeys for about 3 seconds, puts on his mischievous smirk, and begins inching toward the open oven. Every time.). But of course we had smoke pouring out of the oven and an element that had most definitely burned apart.

(Side note: The rest of the oven story is that after replacing the element, the oven still doesn't work. We suspect it needs a new electrical panel, and that might fix the unreliable burner and the malfunctioning oven. I will keep you posted.)

The third time our house smelled of smoke was under much better circumstances. On Sunday fall came to St. Louis! In typical St. Louis fashion, Saturday was blisteringly hot, then came the rain, and then summer was gone, replaced by cooler temps, and gray skies. We took advantage of the delightful change in weather to open our windows and finally give the AC a much-deserved rest.

After church Lindon started a fire in the backyard to burn up some branches he cleared out earlier this year. It was so fun to watch Levi, Lindon, and Nash all deal with the sticks in various ways (Lindon putting them on the fire; Nash eating them; Levi handing them to Lindon to burn and to Nash to eat). The happy scene that meant fall is definitely here. It also means we can now spend more than 25 minutes outside without the fear of sunburn or heat stroke.

By Sunday evening, the house definitely smelled of smoke. But rather than the awful smell of burnt food or an electrical fire, this was the smoke of a bonfire, a sure sign of the change in the air. It was a welcome smell for a welcome season. While we will likely have a few more 90-degree days before all is said and done, change is afoot.

Bring on the happy smoke.

September 1, 2011

We're Working on It

An Open Letter to my Son

Dearest Levi,
As you know, it has been over a month now that I have been home with you full time. Hence, we spend a lot of time together. A lot. As such, there are a few things that I would like to share with you from our time together.

1. You smirk just like your father, and it makes me happy.

2. I promise you that when I hear the train whistles, I will do everything in my power get us to the door as quickly as possible in order to see the train go by. There is no need to start weeping for fear of missing the train. We will see it.

3. Here is a partial list of words I love to hear you say: Noodle, momma, lawn mower, Nash, dadda, mail, Amen, music, pool, dip, stinky, turtle, whoa, yes, wow.

4. Here is a comprehensive list of words I would be happy to hear less from you: No.

5.  Your blossoming sense of humor is alternately amusing and aggravating. Your sticking out your tongue with me is great. Pretending to take a bite and then showing me that there was actually no food on the fork is pretty good. Taking teeny tiny steps when I ask you to come to me is not funny.

6. Don't forget that you are the only person in the world (other than Dad and me) who knows what we will name your little brother or sister. Don't tell!

7.  It makes me happy to watch you play on the playground and to hear your enthusiasm for riding the bike.

8. If you want to keep taking 3+ hour naps every day for the next 3  years, I am cool with that. If not, you'll need to notify me in writing.

9. You are so precious, and I love you dearly.