Tuesday, March 30, 2010

two worlds collided

where I spent a couple of hours this weekend

Days like today leave me with many thoughts swirling about, tangling themselves in my head. If one comes out, I'm afraid they will all spill out and plop onto the page. There are many small disappointments that speak doom and many small successes fanning my hope that someday they will add up to something substantial. (Why is it disappointment seems so much more tangible than hope?)

I go through this every time I return here from Kentucky to a greater or lesser extent. I go from being surrounded by the hills, the trees, the extra sets of helping hands afforded by grandparents, and the quiet suburban street where I grew up to the house that needs cleaned, the cars that need mufflers, the projects waiting to be done, the diapers, the noise of kids fighting and threatening to fight, and the relationships that feel more like your next chess move than a book in a cozy chair. It can sometimes be a little too much for a girl.

But, as I was told by a friend recently, I'm ruined anyway, because I am not completely comfortable in the nice and the quiet anymore, either. "We're becoming more like third-culture kids," she said. And she's right. Not at home here, not at home there, but at home with people who know the feeling. Sometimes. I guess I'm not entirely third-culture, either. Is this what Jesus was getting at when He said we live as "aliens and strangers in this world?" Maybe.

I have this never-ending desire to have both worlds -- the white, privileged one and the diverse, under-privileged one -- be together. When I'm alone in the woods, enjoying the sounds of a stream and the flutterings around me, I wish my 12-year-old friend could experience it with me. (But then I wouldn't be alone in the woods, would I?) When I'm here at home, I wish old friends could know the joy of having half the neighborhood (the african-american middle-school girls, the preschoolers from church, the older neighbor who wishes he would've gone to college, and the friend just completing his master's) gather on your front porch -- together -- to see your kids, chat with you, and play with your dog. I wish my friends here could all have the blessing of being taken out to eat at a nice restaurant with their parents. I wish my friends there could have the blessing of receiving a 12 pack of Coke from a youth who brought it to your house because he was just thinking about you when he saw it.

In many ways, then, I have the best of both worlds. And I am glad for that. I'm glad to be able to share both worlds with my children. I'm anxious to see what sort of people this kind of life will make of my kids. My hope is that they will be gracious, generous, thankful, loving, and more naturally accepting of others than me. Heck, I hope those same things for myself in a few years!

But some days it messes with you. Some days I really appreciate the good about both worlds and some days I find it easier to point the finger and despair over the faults of both. Days like today are a mixed bag. There are the adults putting up walls of lies and pride that hinder our relationships with them and with their children. But there's the grandma who is glad to have someone on her team wanting to keep her grandson from failing school. There are the three groups of kids walking the streets, all cursing and talking about fighting each other. But then there's the truly tough boy with his fists up who has his way of letting Pat know he finds comfort in knowing Pat would come to make them talk it out. There's the disappointment of finding out one of "ours" is failing three core classes at school. But there's the joy of seeing her smile when her friends sing "Happy Birthday" to her at her lunch table in school.

But does a song from friends do more to a person than failing in school? Is the grandma's kid really going to do better in school than the hundreds of other failing kids we know?

Just when I think I am going to be overwhelmed, I look back to my time in the woods, away from everything. I remember the little taste of peace. I look around at my neighbors trying against all odds to make life better. I remember that we don't labor in vain. And I look forward to the day when these worlds will collide. I remember the promise of something New. I remember that one day we will all sit around the same dinner table and swap stories. It'll be a new world, then, and we will be aliens no longer, but friends.

me and Israel on our street last summer

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Things said tonight at bedtime

We had said our good-nights to Eden. We had a sweet time with Israel telling us he loves us and us telling him that we love him. Pat had just given Israel his hug and kiss and walked out of the room. I gave my hug and kiss and then Israel said:
"Mommy, can you leave so I can cry?"
"Can you leave so I can cry?"
"You want to cry?"
"Because...I'm saaad."
"Why are you sad?"
"I'm sad because...I'm scared."
"Why are you scared?"
"Can Jesus help me?"
"Yes. Do you want me to pray for you?"
"Jesus just pray for me?"
"Jesus is always praying for us. Do you want me to pray for you?"
"Jesus just help me?"
"Yes, Jesus can help you."
"Jesus live in you?"
"Yes, Jesus lives in me."
"Jesus live in Eden?"
"Um...I don't know."
"Jesus live in Eden?"
"If Eden wants him to, then He does."
"Jesus live in me?"
"Do you want Jesus to live in you?"
"Well, we can ask Him..."
[interrupts] "Jesus live in Daddy?"
"Jesus just live in Eden and me and Mommy and Daddy and...a lot of people?"
"Yes, Jesus lives in a lot of people."
[without a pause] "We just swim in the boat at the playground?"

We've had a couple of these conversations within a week. Israel is really interested in cause and effect (because) and is curious about how the whole Jesus thing works. Specifically, he had been really concerned about, "Where Jesus?" and "Where Jesus live?" I didn't want to merely answer that Jesus lives in heaven; it makes him sound all far-off and floaty. So I said Jesus lives in a lot of places and He lives in me. I then said it was more correct to say that I live in Him, but Israel didn't latch onto that. So now he's very concerned about who all has Jesus living in them. It makes me curious how much he understands. I think we're getting into some pretty deep water when Israel just totally changes the subject without batting an eye. One minute, I'm digging deep into my theology/philosophy bag and the next, Israel says, "I'm just digging my butt."

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Eden is now a year old. A whole year. One. When people ask how old she is, I no longer say x-number of months; I say, "She just turned a year." And then it will be, "About a year and a half." And then, "Just about two."

On the same day, Israel hit the two-and-a-half mark. And just before that, I hit everyone's favorite age: 29. (I plan to only spend one year here, though.) It's enough to make a girl feel like the pace of her life isn't in her own control.

Plus, Eden is in the changes-with-each-passing-day stage. I said about a month ago that Eden had made it to "toddler" earlier than I expected. She walks, she talks, she throws fits; she can still fit her size three month onesie. (Okay. The arms are a little short.) The other day, I took out the camera to catch her saying and signing the word, "more." She turned, looked at the camera, and said, unprompted, "Cheese." (More or less...but those of us there knew exactly what she had said!) She says all kinds of things, its seems, and I know it grows exponentially from here as she tries to say everything she hears. For my own records, and to amaze and astound the rest of the world, here are the things she says that I understand:

"Hi!" (especially when pretending to talk on the phone)
"Bye, bye."
"nie, nie" (for night, night!)
"more" verbally and with a sign
"please" verbally and with a sign
"TI, ti!" for "thank you!"
"Dah!" or "Doggy"
"Ca..." for cat
"Ah nuh!" with a sign that means, "All done!"
"Buh-bwye," which she says for butterfly at the end of the Very Hungry Caterpillar book.
"huh-gy" which she also repeats during a reading of said book
"yeh I duh" which is copied from a book that repeats the line, "Yes, I do!"
"bah" for ball
"buh" for book
"mee-muh" for "banana." She's a creative one. :)
"no..." seems to mean "nose" these days
"No, no!" (Self-explanatory.)

She chuckles when you ask her if she's funny. If she can tell you're asking her a question, she often responds, "No." She's learning to hold up one finger when asked how old she is. She can blow you a kiss, punctuated with a "Mmmm-WAH!" She comes to me with her arms up and gives me hugs while patting my back. She swats at her brother if he's in her way. She laughs if you do it back. She is perfect. And less of a baby each day.

I'm in the wow-is-this-really-the-last-time-I'll-hold-my-baby? stage. So I experiment to find out. Israel is fascinated with babies these days and asks if I have one in my belly (like his babysitter does) and where my baby is. I told him he was my baby and he said, "I'm not a baby." I almost said, "You are, too!" but that would undermine some of our potty-training slogans. So I modified the "big boy" from potty training to "little boy" upon completion of potty training, phase 1 . That makes one little boy and one little girl, whose hair is long enough to require fixing and who thinks she is every bit as old as her brother.

Pat found a bink in the car this week, stared at it, and said, "The days of this thing are numbered." But the days of that thing have been over for some time. They're gone. Eden never really took it anyway and I rushed Israel out of it so I could stop having to put it in his mouth during the night. We won't be needing that anymore. I've given away many things we "won't be needing anymore." Like the exersaucer. And the swing. And the bassinet and the floor mat Israel spent hours and hours on. And the size 4 diapers. (I think Eden will be 6 before she'll need that size!) We didn't even need a carrier for Eden at the Children's Museum! She walked most of the time! The days of so many things are gone.

I often think of the times in the Bible that talk about how Mary "treasured these things" or "pondered them in her heart" or something like that. And I hope I've treasured enough. I try to take snapshots by writing down the words my kids can say. I know the list will seem funny and short in a matter of months. I recently realized that Israel no longer tells me "huh moh-nih" for "good morning" and someday Eden will not play peek-a-boo by putting her hand on the side of her head and saying, "Bee!" And I'll miss it. In some ways I miss it already and I hope writing it down somehow bottles it up and saves it. It's a careful balance to strike between enjoying the moment and saving it for later. Do I run and get my camera when Israel is pretending something really funny or do I get in the floor and pretend with him? How should I treasure these things? Hope you don't mind as I fluctuate between trying to catch it all and trying to just participate in it all.

All that said, here are a couple of captured treasures from life these days.

Eden is the one who initiated this particular action. She is one crazy baby!

This one is a bit longer for those itching for an Eden update. This is a couple of weeks old, but you can get a bit of an idea of what she's doing these days. I wish I could've gotten her to dance for you! It's too cute. Perhaps I'll have to cue the music at a later date.