Monday, February 28, 2011

100 Days Smarter

Addison's class just celebrated 100 days of school. They had a party with cake and crowns and Mardi Gras beads. This was his homework assignment, and Trey assured me that Addison came up with the answers completely on his own. (click picture to enlarge)

I couldn't stop laughing at the random nature of it, and yet it provides keen insight into the mind of a male Kindergartner. I mean, who would want 100 folders when you could have 100 airplanes?

The Delicious Taste of Helium

I have been home sick all weekend, starting Friday actually. And I mean really sick. Flat in bed with chills and fever sick. I have honestly not had anything like this since I had the real flu 11 years ago long before the era of children. Being a mother and sick? Let's just say it's not an enviable combination.

Yesterday afternoon when I finally did venture downstairs for some nourishment, Davis was sucking down orange juice. Between sips he authoritatively informed me, "I have to drink it because I need the helium."

The helium? Was my fevered brain playing tricks on me? Your healthy minds have probably already figured out what he meant. Calcium.

Yep, love that delicious taste of helium.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today You Are Six

Dear Addison,

Today you are six, and I feel like I should begin this letter with an apology. An apology that I am sure I will only continue to repeat with each passing birthday. I am sorry you are the guinea pig and that you are breaking me in as a mother for your two younger siblings. You see, I am an oldest child too, and so I, of all people, know what a hard birth position it is -- the expectations, the responsibility, and the lack of parental experience. But despite all my promises and good intentions, I am still figuring this out as I go along, which means that you get to bear the brunt of my mistakes, my over-weaning zeal, and my misplaced priorities. But if there is one thing I know about you, it is that you are quick to forgive. I hope that will never change about you. It is a rare and beautiful virtue.

This year has seen wonderful progress in your life. With starting school you quickly learned all your letters, their sounds, and began reading simple words. You now write your name and your numbers. But beyond these rudimentary language skills, your mind is probing ever more deeply, and you have begun asking hard questions. Questions like, "Why do I do things that I know are wrong?" said with the exasperation that made me think of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7. Or like, "I know babies come from your tummy, but how do they get in there?" Not sure how I got myself out of that one, but I mumbled something about biology and learning more advanced science when you get to older grades.

You eat everything in sight. Gone are the days of toddler nibbles and skipped dinners. You inhale all of your food at every meal without complaint and often steal scraps from your siblings. And the results are showing. Winter is hardly over and your shirt sleeves are becoming too short and your pants are becoming floods and snug in the middle. You are tall and lean, and the fatal combination of Cheshire grin and sapphire eyes makes you very hard to resist.

I remember the day you were born so clearly. I truly labored for that delivery, and the moment you came out...there are no words. You were alive and warm and loud, and I loved you. Deeply.

I am so proud of the boy you are becoming, and I already see a glimpse of the man you will one day be. Hold fast to your faith, Addison.

I love you,

Mom

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why We're Getting Fatter

Today I was off from work for President's Day, which meant I had a little extra time at breakfast to sip my coffee and linger over a magazine. As I leisurely flipped the pages of Cooking Light, I came across this disheartening tid-bit:

"Today, our average daily calorie intake is 2,674, up more than 600 calories from 1970 levels. We now consume a hefty 459 calories per day purely from added sugars."

So naturally I begin to think about how awful this is, our gigantic-portion obsessed, sugar-crazed nation.

But later in the shower I had an epiphany. It seems like everything is getting bigger and better, right? We continue to break our own records from box office sales to skyscraper heights and sporting feats. And so too I believe it is with food. We've only come up with more delicious food choices and concoctions. How is one to refuse? It's really a wonder we're only consuming 600 more calories. I mean, hello. They didn't have Doritos in 1970, did they? I blame Food Network for the marketing of it all. If everything didn't look so darn delicious, we'd all still be eating olive loaf and jello salad. No one's gaining any weight on that. Trust me.

Wicked

Chicago. Mama Mia. Phantom. The one I had yet to see, had been wanting to see for year, the one that has broken all Broadway box office records, was Wicked. It's not easy to get tickets. It sells out regularly, and they are not cheap. After hemming and hawing over the decision, Trey said, "You only turn 30 once. Get them!" And so I did.

We went up the weekend before my actual birthday. Took the train, got pre-theater drinks and appis at a little tavern nearby, and then whisked away to see it at 8 o'clock.

Wow. Both of us were totally blown away. If you ever have the chance to see it, DO! It is marvelous, worth every penny. The story is creative and thoughtful, witty and inventive. Trey and I both burst out laughing many times. In fact, it was Trey who, in the end, turned to me and said, "That was incredible." If the characters of the Wizard of Oz are flat and stereotypical, the characters in Wicked are nuanced, textured, and surprisingly realistic. It deftly handles many profound themes in life, alienation, loyalty, prejudice, honor, duty, and of course, love. And it ends in a way that will leave you thoroughly satisfied and a bit smug about knowing the true story of which The Wizard of Oz can only be described as propaganda.

After the theater, we went to a fantastic little Mexican joint down the street and enjoyed delicious margaritas and tacos at 12:00am. Between the succulent veal tacos and the lateness of the dinner hour, I felt more than a little wicked myself. This was the first overnight away for both of us together since Addison was 9 months old. 5 1/2 years. That's too long, folks. Don't recommend it. And we were a bit like giddy children not knowing what to do with ourselves.

We enjoyed a late lie-in the next morning followed by a leisurely breakfast during which I remarked that I had not spoken in the imperative the entire meal. It's the little things. After breakfast we strolled through Soho and I bought a beautiful Italian red leather bag and some black and white plaid Wellies. It was a cold day but neither one of us seemed to mind, hand-in-hand, reconnecting with a by-gone era in our marriage when life was simpler, quieter, and oh so sweet.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

All the Lonely People

Every year our church, Tenth Presbyterian, holds an Urban Missions Conference. This year the title is "All the Lonely People: Urban Alienation and the Gospel of Community". The theme has gotten me thinking a lot lately about the concept of alienation in the city, and it was never more profoundly driven home than during our recent trip to Manhattan with the boys.

I'm a suburban girl through and through, but working in the inner city as a professional puts urban life in front of my face on a daily basis. It's a strange experience. Walking to work in my business attire with all the other thousands of professionals, passing homeless men and women sleeping on steam grates, in cardboard shelters, or in abandoned doorways. Some hold signs, some put out hats, some just sleep. Over the months you get to the know the same faces and you can tell when they are having a bad week or month. The deepening lines of addiction that crease their faces. The smell of smoke, urine, and unwashed filth. They become a part of your daily commute, like the backyards and ball fields that I pass along my train route every day.

I know these people, and yet I don't. What is their story? How did they end up like this? Why do they disappear for months and then somehow find their way back onto the streets again?

I remember walking to school in Camden, NJ, the most crime-ridden city in the US, as a young college student being confronted by homeless people whose signs of addiction and liver disease showed in the yellow of their eyes, and I felt angry and hardened against them. I was a penniless student just trying to get good grades and a decent job when I graduated. I had no money and I certainly wasn't going to give it to a person who refused to work and spent every penny they panhandled up their nose or in a bottle.

But then I grew up, and I began to see that it wasn't as simple as I thought. The sophomoric idealism of youth gave way to the leavening understanding of experience. People don't end up on the streets because they're lazy. They end up on the streets because they have no hope or help. Many are mentally ill or in the clutches of addiction. Many have no support network of any kind. Can you imagine the kinds of things a person has lived through that bring them to the point of hunting in trashcans and sniffing half eaten containers of nameless food for a bite to eat? Or holding a cardboard sign that reads, "Tired of prostitution. I need money."

When I see these things, I feel so heavy. There is so much darkness and pain in this world, and it is only magnified and accentuated in an urban context. It is laid raw and bare in a way that those in the suburbs are typically shielded from.

Of course, lonely people in the city aren't just the homeless. It's a much bigger issue than that touching even the highest paid professionals. The reality is everyone is lonely without Christ whether they know it or not. There is an unidentifiable void in every heart that can only be filled with the hope of the Gospel. His power is greater than their despair, and his promises are everlasting.

Mary Poppins

You may remember that last year for my birthday, Trey and I went to NYC to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. I am an unabashed show tunes devotee, but I have to say that this time around Trey was the one pushing to take the boys to see Mary Poppins. After last year's performance, he thought they would love it. So we decided to take them for their birthdays, which are 6 days apart.

While the pictures show many smiling faces, and there were some happy moments, in all honesty it was a lot more work than I had anticipated. Davis was a little too young in retrospect. The weather was very chilly. A snow squall blew in while we were eating lunch, and with the biting wind that whips down the alleys between the high rises, the boys had little stamina for walking even a few blocks.

The train was a novelty at first, but that wore off after 30 seconds, when they realized they had to "share" one window seat. In true diplomatic fashion, I ended up timing intervals on my iPhone.

Sometimes I build things up in my head and make them more than they could ever possibly live up to. Somehow I had it all worked out to be a perfect day with happy, delighted children who were just so awed by their surroundings and the play itself that nothing else mattered.

In reality, Manhattan was probably a little lost on them. I suppose to a 4 and 6 year old there is little practical difference between downtown Philadelphia and New York. Although I have to say as someone who spends 6 days out of 7 in an inner city environment, there was an extra dose of crazy going on the day we were there. I don't know if it was my own heightened awareness with my hands firmly gripping the small ones of my boys, or if it was just Fashion Week nonsense. Whatever the reason, my heart was troubled at all the darkness around me. It's a post for another day.

We had some time to kill before the show and decided to visit M&M World at Times Square. What a waste! It's a glorified, 3-story chotsky shop withe every conceivable piece of merchandise emblazoned with the M&M logo. I am a big fan of M&Ms but talk about American merchandising at its worst. After awhile I began to feel the same dizzying, sensory overload of our early days back from Scotland.

Care to pay $500 for an M&M chess board?

Addison did brilliantly throughout the performance. He was thrilled with the experience. Davis flagged toward the end and ended up on my lap. It was fine though because we were surrounded by other antsy children, which felt validating in an odd sort of way.

Well that confirms that Disney is not in our near future.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

St. Andrew's Saltire

For Christmas I gave Trey a flag of Scotland to hang side-by-side with our American flag.

For a variety of reasons it was only just now hung up.

A happy tribute...

to a very happy place in our hearts.

Secret Moments

A love so deep...

so profound...

its private expression takes my breath away.

When Addison noticed us noticing him, he smiled and said, "He's not feeling well."

"Bear one another's burdens..." Galatians 6.2

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Today You Are Four

Dear Davis,

Today you are four, and you ushered in your birthday by waking just after midnight burning up with fever, glassy-eyed and shivering. I suppose this is the hazard of having a February birthday. Winter and illness go hand in hand, but it makes me sad to think that your special day is marred by the reminder of the fall.

You arrived in the early morning hours on a cold day like this one. When I think back on that crazy and chaotic time, one of the happiest memories I have is holding you close to me to warm your chilled body after you were delivered. Even today you get chilled easily. Your normal body temperature is usually a cool 97.4. Those moments are so precious to me because even now you love to cuddle up into an infant-like ball and burrow your head into my bosom. It's instinct, and I hope you never lose it. You will never grow too hold for me to hold you.

This past year you have experienced amazing changes and the continued development of your sweet and distinct personality. You were potty-trained and started preschool. You performed brilliantly in the role of donkey in the Christmas pageant, singing your little heart out. You embraced baseball with an enthusiasm that thrilled us and a talent that made us sit up and take notice. You are funny and so clearly delight in making others laugh. You are a curmudgeonly older brother to Evie, but I know you have a real soft spot for her and are becoming fast friends, especially with your constant companion Addison away at school.

Three was also a challenging year. Your usually easy-going personality gave way to some new-found defiance. You have always been independent, and I love to see you blaze out on your own. But even so this was a year for learning boundaries and respect, and now a year later we see the progress.

Davis, there is something magnetic about you. Wherever you go you attract people. Something about your cool, casual self-confidence that is neither pretentious nor disingenuous. You are comfortable in your own skin, a trait so rare as to be captivating, and know what you are about. You don't look to others for your affirmation. You already have it.

Daddy and I love you so much. We love watching you, the way your mind works a little differently than others. The quirky differences, like your left-handedness and preference for fruit over candy. God was good when He gave you to us, and my greatest prayer for you is that you find your all in our Savior.

Happy birthday, sweet D.

Love,

Mama

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thoughts from the Left

No, this will not be a political ramble, and while I am acutely aware that I owe at least one more blog about St. Moritz and several from our adventures in January, they will have to wait while I relay one of those ordinary moments in everyday life that is just too extraordinary to let it slip by.

The other day Davis's preschool sent him home with a "fun bag". What is a fun bag, you ask? It is a bag of various activities that he is to enjoy during the week and then "report" on when he returns the bag a week later presumably for the next kid in the class to enjoy. The colorful tote included a stuffed hippo, Golden Book on the life of Jesus, several wipe clean activity board books with dry erase marker, a box of alphabet flashcards, and a composition book for journaling the whole experience.

Davis was over the moon to be included in the nightly homework ritual. I, needless to say, was less enthused although I have to say his sweet, smiling face thawed me a bit. We went through the flashcards and I became increasingly impressed with the number of letters he recognized by sight already. They must be doing a lot more than glorified playing because I've never taught him his letters.

And then it came time for the writing. By now you all know that Davis is a confirmed southpaw. I'd never given it much thought beyond thinking of the sports advantages, but as I watched him write, I had a moment of revelation and dismay as Davis struggled to trace and circle in the book with the dry erase marker without smudging his diligent efforts. He got ink all over his hand and then began to contort it in a horseshoe shape to avoid the smears. Suddenly, it clicked. That's why lefties write that way. I'd always wondered. Same thing with scissors the other day. He couldn't get them to work, and in my moment of epiphany I realized it was because he was holding the scissors left-handed and they were intended for righties.

My heart ached, and I wasn't even sure why. Probably didn't help that I had just watched The King's Speech. It didn't seem to bother him too much. He adapted as necessary and got on with it as he always does, middle child and all. But from the observer's seat, I had this forward glimpse into left-handedness in a right-handed world and the unfair disadvantage it imposes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Grass on the Other Side

Remember my resolve to be more transparent? Well, this is me being real. While I can't say everything on my heart because this is a public forum, and it wouldn't be prudent, I can share a little bit of what I've been experiencing lately during this trip to Switzerland.

One of the defining features of my personality is my eagerness for new things. I have been this way since I was a young child. I was always ready for the next grade, the next birthday, the next milestone. Unlike many people, change does not scare me. It energizes and excites me. While this certainly has its positive elements, one of its downsides is that I often miss what's right in front of me. I'm so eagerly anticipating the next phase that I don't fully live the one I'm in at the moment.

I've definitely made strides over the years, but I still struggle with it, and this trip has been an eye-opening experience for me in self-evaluation. You know the old saying "the grass is always greener on the other side"? Well, guess what? It's not.

This trip I've been experiencing "the other side" and what I've come to see is how rich my life already was. Having three children ages 5, 3, and 1 and working a full-time job with a daily 2 hour commute is exhausting, but how I miss them! Even their squabbles and bickerings. How I miss Trey! How I take him for granted. Suddenly I've been smacked between the eyes with the lonely life I would have if they were not in it.

True, I haven't had to discipline anyone since last Friday. I have't had to wipe any bums or food-covered faces. I've not experienced any defiance or whining. No one has needed buckling in their carseat and I've been able to eat an entire meal uninterrupted. But you know what, I'm coming to see that those things are over-rated. I miss my little babies and all their constant needs. I see their smiling faces on Skype and my heart aches to wrap my arms around them, rub their fuzzy heads and hear Genevie say "smeeeeellll chicken". Even when they argue over space in front of the web-cam, I don't feel my nerves tensing.

I don't know that I've ever felt so fiscally poor before. I passed a Chanel window the other day (flanked by Prada, Cartier, and Hermes) and nearly fell over when I spotted the sticker price on the handbag in the window. $40,000. That's a sizable house down-payment or the cost of a luxury car or a year's tuition at a fantastic private university. A handbag. And someone must be buying it or it wouldn't be for sale. I am surrounded by furs and designer labels, Rolls Royces and Bentleys, diamonds and Rolexes, and all I come away with is the utter emptiness of it all. Empty and lonely.

Perhaps it is just the rest that my body needed after such an unsustainable pace, but I believe this time has been one of deep reflection. I have gained some previously elusive perspective on my life. Indeed, absence does make the heart grow fonder. When what you take for granted is suddenly gone and you are surrounded by something else that otherwise seems so glamorous and desirable, you are able to see the truth more clearly. Surrounded by unbelievable wealth, I am actually the richest person here. I have a Savior who gave his life for me, a husband who is my dearest friend and confidant, and three beautiful children who love me deeply. I have shed many tears in private during my time away, something I was not expecting to do. My heart is sick missing them, and I am counting the days until I return to my common life which is so overflowing with grace and blessing.

Smell Chicken

video

Genevie started saying this last week. Trey was out getting something at the grocery store, and while they walked to the car, Genevie popped out with, "Smeeeeeeell chicken!" Very random but apparently the beautiful aroma of fried chicken was in the air. I suspect she may have inherited her brother's olfactory sensitivity.

It is not uncommon for us to be driving somewhere and have Davis announce that "Mmmmm...something smells delicious!" usually of the fried order. It's not always good though. Davis informed me the other day after I came back from a birthday massage complete with essential oils that I smelled like strawberries and cucumber. He did not seem pleased. The next morning he said, "Mom, do you remember how last night you smelled like peanuts and carrots and sausage?" Wow, I must have reeked. And here I thought the masseuse used citrus and lavender.

Back to smelling chicken. Since her first chicken observation, Genevie has continued to repeat this mantra wholly unrelated to any chicken smells and to rather humorous effect, I must add. So the other day in the car, I just happened to have the camera and recorded it for you.