Friday, October 29, 2010

on stuffed animals

This morning I had the kids come "snuggle" with me in bed. (A morning "snuggle" is what I call it when the kids come crawl all over me with no regard for which part of me is lying under that part of the covers.) Eden had my old teddy bear. She hugged him for a minute and then grabbed his front paws. "Look at your hans! Say, 'Ta-da!'" and she made him throw his hands up in the air. (As far as he could, anyway.) She repeated the process for his feet. She made me "nug-guh" her Pig-pig and then traded and had me "nug-guh" my old bear.

Israel entered the room with his "Ellie." (Ellie is a stuffed animal formerly known as Cookie Monster.) These days, she sports a cloth diaper and infant pajamas, which look really funny hanging off her stubby limbs. He went back to his room and returned with a rabbit and then started to go get some more.
"That's enough stuffed animals," I said.
Israel got visibly upset. "But...Ellie is not a stuffed animal!"
He came up into the bed with the stuffed animal and I told him I needed a hug this morning. Usually, it merits the best 3-year-old squeeze a mom could ask for...and a kiss on the cheek, too. This morning, I was presented with Ellie's wide-open black felt mouth and outstretched arms (which are default for her). I told Israel her hugs just aren't as good.

At bedtime, Israel piled all his stuffed animals on his pillow in a semi-circle around his head. He made sure a choice few of them were covered up and looked around at them all before settling among them under the covers himself. Eden had her favorite "Pig-pig" and a rotation of other special animals. It's anyone's guess which one she really wants on any particular trip to bed, but once it's found, she lays it beside her and is perfectly ready for sleep. Of course, blankets are part of the ritual here, too. For Eden it means knowing whether she wants to be covered up or not. For Israel, it's always the same: sheet, baby quilt, favorite fuzzy blue blanket on top. These things have become such habits they remind me of the way a dog circles before laying down or a cat kneads her bedding before laying down.

This morning, Israel would not stop asking me about it until I told him that Barker Bear is STILL my favorite stuffed animal. In a 3-year old's world, everyone has to have a favorite stuffed animal, I guess. Having something you take care of must be a way of letting people know you'll do your best to take care of them, too.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

7th anniversary trip

This weekend, thanks to the generosity of family and friends, Pat and I were able to get away to our "yearly" camping trip. (I say "yearly" because it has not happened since the kids were born.) For our anniversary, our favorite thing to do is to spend a night camping in Red River Gorge.

This was our first time being just the two of us without our kids. (Yes, we also left them in the capable care of my parents a couple weeks ago, but that was to go to a conference with thousands of people and we shared a hotel room with friends of ours. Not the same.) I was looking forward to being out in the woods -- my favorite woods -- with just me, Pat, God, and the trees. We spent the first night in a cabin, since we arrived after dark. It was a perfect little cabin with no electricity or running water, but a gas stove we could turn on to keep warm. It was glorious waking up in the woods the next morning! I even liked the little outhouse!

~waking up in the woods~

We spent the next day finding a camp site, since ours was taken. Pat kept reminding me that it's not "ours," but I still say it is. It can be a lot of other people's, too, as it obviously was this weekend, but it's still ours. We found a new, nice camp site and went on a new trail, and they were both just fine. But they weren't our favorite camp site and our favorite trail. Pat kept feeling anxious about always doing the same thing every year, and I was curious, too, since the forest is large and there are many trails through it. But after trying the new, we went back to the old favorite trail (Rough Trail, west of 715, for those familiar with the area) the next morning. It's kind of nice to be affirmed in your belief that you had already found the best..for both of us, I think.

I am not sure what I expected from the weekend. We prayed when we got there, inviting God into the time and we tried to listen for Him all weekend. I may have expected to hear something new from Him. I often feel I hear His voice in the rustling of many leaves. But I didn't hear the new direction for the next year of our marriage or anything like that. We read through some of the note cards we received on our wedding day (maybe we even read yours...). We re-read our vows to each other. We talked through some of the bests and worsts of the last seven years. We recounted lives ended and lives begun. We spent time silently being together and listening in some of our favorite places. We listened to music that has been meaningful to us over the years. It was nice.

~where we read our vows~

But I didn't hear anything life-changing. There are things we hope to do better going forward, of course, but nothing crazy. What was apparent, though, in reading cards from people and our vows, is that we're still about the things we've always been about. On the day I first read the cards or first wrote the vows, I may have imagined the life's work referenced in them to happen with that group there rather than this group here or in that way rather than in this way, but it's amazing and comforting that, with all that has changed (neighborhood, church, kids, friends, culture, etc.) there is so much that hasn't changed (working with kids, opening our home to others, being concerned with being good neighbors, and having our life's mission being about reconciliation, which was the theme for our wedding).

So often I feel like I have become merely the things I do. I don't know if it's the work that we do, the fact that we have young kids, or just human nature, but so often I get caught up in "I do this," and "I do that," that I forget that I am a person apart from those things. And Pat is a person apart from the things he does. This weekend, remembering all the things and people we love, we could just be ourselves apart from having to do anything. (And this is even to the point of setting aside the "having" to remember or document to share later!) It was good to be able to get away from responsibilities to just be ourselves, apart from the things we do, with which we too easily identify. It was good to find that we are still the same people we've known and still on the track God apparently had in mind from the foundation of our marriage.

We count ourselves blessed by God's faithfulness and your friendship, for some of you stood with us on that day seven years ago and others of you we had not even imagined! We are glad to be in this together.