Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brothers and sisters

Here's what's breaking my heart lately: the dawning, sad revelation that Oli and Mani, well ... they aren't destined to be the chummy buddies I thought they'd be.

Oli (2) & Mani (5 mos.)

Mani has surpassed Oli in so many ways.

Oli (age 3) & Mani (19 mos)

His speech. His reasoning. His physical abilities. His size. His play. His everything.

Mani (age 2) & Oli (3.75)

18 months in age stand between them. And yet ...

Oli (4) & Mani (2.5)

Oli is the two year-old, and Mani is going on three.

There are days when it doesn't matter. Days when I see them as twins, and simply do the next thing in my long list of get-'er-dones. 

And then, there are days when the blossoming relationship between Mani and Seven yanks me back to reality. Yes--these two are destined to be buddies. They are already in love with one another. Already connecting and nurturing and sharing the giggles and grins that set the foundation for peerhood.

Seven (4 mos.) & Mani (2.5)

And there sits Oli, trying so very hard to keep his footing in a world that moves faster, burns brighter, and laughs harder than he can fully understand.

OIi (4)

It is bittersweet, the innocence that Oli embodies. He is not wise to the ways of the world, and for that, he seems much younger. But he is also beginning to realize that he is being passed over by so very much.

In the end, it does not matter--this sad longing that I have that will go unfulfilled. It is God who crafts my family, and He knows the who and the why and the how. As my dear friend Benny reminded me this morning, I can only see what lays in front of me, and His vision goes farther and longer than mine ever could.

But still I mourn for the could have, would have, should haves. Even as I watch with awe and wonder the bud of a relationship that is opening between Mani and Seven ... I pull Oli a little tighter to me and try to make up for what he doesn't even know he will miss out on.

Perhaps this is what special needs parenting is all about.

Friday, January 21, 2011

You've got to read this

I struggle with the middle class, American life that I was born into. Do I enjoy the comforts and freedoms and good stuff that comes my way for no reason at all other than my simply being? Of course. But still ... I know what's out there. I've seen hurt, and suffering, and loss ... but nothing like what the vast majority of the world experiences. I have never tried to console my child as he or she slowly withers and starves in my arms. I have never nursed my husband back to health after he was beaten and left for dead simply because of his faith. I have never lived under the threat of stoning should I stray from my society's mores. 

I turn on my tap, and clean water comes out. A cold snap hits, and I grab a sweater from my stash and slip warmer socks on my feet. My kids want a snack, and I have the luxury of perusing my fridge and pantry to find just the right thing.

Did I mention that I have electricity?

Simple things, right? In the industrialized world, largely, yes.

But do I deserve all of this? Are these riches something that I can enjoy because of something I have done? Something I am? Something I have? Are those unfortunate others who occupy the lowest, dirtiest places of the world any less "good" than I manage to be on a day to day basis? Are they reaping what they've sewn? Do they deserve it?

Don't answer that. Instead, read this. Be challenged. And be thankful.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

God's classroom

I prepared pretty well for this school year. Taking into account the fact that we'd be meeting someone brand new just as the year got really underway, I crafted my plans in such a way as to (try to) keep things simple. And it's working. Well, most of the time.

Since you don't exactly know what any particular child's temperament will be until you actually live life with them for a while, I conjured an image of the most high maintenance, time intensive infant my imagination could muster, coupled with what I already knew of Oli's very time consuming needs, with a side order of Mani's two year-old penchant for needing 110% of my attention 150% of the time. 

Assuming the worst, I figured, was only bound to lead to relief rather than frustration. Thus far, I haven't been disappointed.

It's turned out that Seven is the easiest newborn I've ever had. She may surprise me yet, of course. But so far, she contentedly sleeps an 8 hour stretch at night before waking up to nurse and then happily drifting back off for four more peaceful hours. She only naps in little one-hour snippets three times a day, but I'm not complaining. In addition to giving me plenty of nighttime rest, she's also got a sweet disposition. She's happy on anyone's lap, will grin for any and all takers, and gleefully passes time in the ergo, the bouncer, the sling, whatever. She's just ... delightful.

Mani has been less of a challenge than I'd feared during school hours, but only slightly so. Like Logan before him, Mani wants to feel involved. He will demand markers when the older kids are working on maps. He will clamor for a separate Bible story after our morning study. And, oh yes, he will remind me ever so vigorously that he likes puzzles. Lots of puzzles. And a movie, too, if you don't mind. All in all, though, this is what I expect of a toddler: a healthy appetite for being in the mix.

And then there's Oli. Unable to play on his own, he shadows Mani so closely that my younger boy has started flinching whenever he sees his big brother move toward his space. "Oli! I not playin' dat!" is the constant refrain. Oli copies Mani like a parrot. If Mani is sprawled on the floor with Rescue Heroes, lining them up and making them talk, Oli will shoulder in and grab a guy, then bounce it on the floor in imitation of what he thinks his little brother was doing. Mani has given up trying to engage Oli in his imaginative play, realizing that Oli just can't manage it. And so, Oli drifts, or pesters Mani until he shrieks, or sits on my lap trying to scribble with a pencil, or catapults himself angrily to the floor when he can't get a toy to work the way he'd like. I'll be honest: it's frustrating. It's loud. And it is constant.

And yet, I'd say this school year has been a success thus far. My planning has smoothed the way, yes ... but the real triumph has been in what we're learning in the day-to-day. I lowered the bar in terms of academic expectations, and left room for the unexpected, but opened the door for something else entirely: God's lesson plans. 

Last year, Jo read Plutarch's Lives, The Last Days of Socrates, and Herodotus' Histories. This year, she's learned how to play alphabet games with a toddler, doula for a newly post-partum mother, and manage her own schedule a bit more. She's still learning math, science, etc. But added to it are lessons in making healthy snacks, grinning at a newborn, and humbly asking younger brothers for help.

Atticus has had a crash course in patience--one area where he needed, desperately, to be stretched. Redirecting Oli, waiting his turn to do his math on the computer, and singing "Twinkle, Twinkle" ten times a day with Mani have greatly improved his ability to die to self. He's delighting in his special ability to make Seven laugh out loud. Logan has been able to develop his natural gift of nurturing by reading to Seven, cuddling with Oli, and learning to make simple lunches.

As for me, I'm trying a allow God to grow me, even as I run up and down the stairs, fold laundry, make meals, teach, and read board books. Some days, I'm not sure I've learned anything. Where was God among the diaper changes, the shouting toddlers, the surly adolescent who doesn't understand why sentences always start with capitals? Other days, I am overwhelmed with the strength He has given me, or the gifts He has poured into me that so perfectly seem to match up with the needs of my children, or the opportunities He has offered that allow me to draw closer to Him.

In this place of chaos and busy and plain old messy life, I am keenly aware that I am living, daily, in God's classroom. I could have never have scheduled a season this perfectly designed to craft my children and myself into the people He wants us to be. I'm so glad that I didn't lock the door on His gentle teachings by insisting on adhering to a timeline of structured learning. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Being there

Seven at play

I've composed probably a hundred posts in my head in the past few months--posts that, obviously, ever made the leap from thought to written word.

There was the post describing the roller coaster ride of Jo's emotions when her prized rabbit broke its back and had to be put down by a vet we didn't even know on a rainy, pre-Holiday night. The post about how I still, nearly four months later, can't believe that Seven is here. The post cataloging my ups and downs in dealing with Oli's delays and health issues. The post where I reveal how inexcusably behind I am in just about every area of the life I once managed to have outside the four walls of my own home. The post where I acknowledge how head-over-heels my husband is for baby girls, in particular. The post where I ponder how it is that Logan could memorize Scripture at a rate that has shocked even his AWANA leaders ... and yet still be unable to recall any directions that require more than two steps. The post where I list Atticus' interests and ask whose son this strange, techno-geek boy could possibly be. The post where I explain why 2 is not my favorite age. The post where I sing the praises of a well-stocked pantry. The post where I admit that I can't grasp how quickly Seven has outgrown her cradle at my bedside, her clothes, the space she used to fit on her Daddy's knees. The post where I lay out precisely how it felt to hear Bee's voice on the other end of a phone line for the first time.

I never wrote any of those thoughts down. Instead, I found myself simply living out the moment, savoring it ... and moving on.

As I write today, Jo is beside me at the kitchen table, reading a book called, "What's Darwin Got to Do With It?" Oliver is nearly naked-- despite the damp chill in the air--and playing contentedly with Seven's little wooden rolling toy. Mani is on hour two of his afternoon nap. Logan and Atticus are in the playroom logging in time assembling the robotic arm Atticus got for Christmas. Bee is asleep in Kathmandu. And Seven is on my lap, watching me type one-handed.

This morning I have had my new washing machine installed, drank too much tea, kissed my husband good-bye, put Seven down for two naps in her big girl crib (second day in a row of the crib), gotten Oli off to preschool, taught math, history, language arts, overseen lunch preparation, welcomed Oli home, nursed 6 or so times, snuck a caramel from my secret stash.

Soon I will go on with my day, swinging from one busy, loud, messy moment to the next.

It is all, blissfully, good. It is painful good, the kind of good that washes over you in the mundane. The first giggles of my newest daughter, the shrieks of joy as Mani completes a puzzle "by myselps," the casual squeeze on the shoulder Jo gives Atticus as she walks past him at the sink, the clamor that is Oli as he bangs two trucks together over and over, the Cheshire Cat grin Logan has on his face as he brings me yet another Lego creation. Another meal to be served, another load of diapers to wash, another trip to pick Mr. Blandings' shirts from the cleaners. 

The moments are happening. This is life. I am in it. Even if I'm not finding the time to sit and string words into sentences, the moments are real. So thank you for being patient with me, dear Readers. And enjoy the moments that you have been gifted to live inside of, as well.