Friday, June 24, 2011

My Compliant Toddler

Ayden decided to have a few minutes of exceptional behavior this afternoon while we were out walking. This is in no way a normal occurrence, but it was filled with too many adorable moments for me to pass up an opportunity to record it. 

As we approached an intersection, before I got a chance to tell Ayden to wait for me, he stopped and said, "dere's a street, Mama. Ayden hold da stroller now." We've been working on this lesson for so long, and this is the first time that he did it on his own!

I immediately began praising him for obeying me and said, "what does God say about obeying Mama and Daddy?" I didn't expect him to have the answer because I only started teaching this a few days ago. But without hesitation he replied, "Obey your parents in da yord." 

As we arrived home, I was absolutely beaming with pride for the little guy. As I was getting Judah out of the stroller, Ayden runs up with one of the "flowers" (weeds?) from our yard and proclaims, "MAMA! I got a flower for you!"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sleepless in Chicago

I was driving home at about 10:00 tonight when I saw a middle-aged woman carrying a heavy bag and wandering as though she was lost, drunk, or both. She stumbled into the street at least twice. At this particular corner, it's not unusual to see a lot of homeless people, drunks, or other loiterers because it is the end of the train line from the city. But for some reason, this woman caught my attention. It was like the little girl wearing red in Schindler's List; as she wove through the people and across the street, I just couldn't help but watch.

I immediately felt an absurd compassion. I didn't have any reason to think twice about her or help her, but everything in me felt like I needed to do it anyway. I ignored the urge and drove past, only to feel a heaviness like I had just made a mistake. I turned around and as she walked by, I again didn't do anything. Again the heaviness. Again I turned around. I think I passed her three times before I finally pulled to the side of the road and rolled down the window. I felt like some creepy stalker, but I simply could not ignore this woman.

Me: Excuse me, ma'am?
She peered cautiously into the car
Me: Would you like a ride?
Her: Oh! I'm so afraid of the africans, but I'm only going a few blocks. 
Me: Well, I noticed that your bag seems heavy so I thought I could give you a ride if you wanted it. 
Her: It is really heavy, but I am just going a few blocks. 
Me: Ok, well if you want a ride, you can have one (in a conclusive, this-conversation-is-over sort of tone)
Her: Well, yes. Yes, I want a ride! 

She got in the car.

And we talked

and talked

and talked

and talked.

This is what I can piece together of her story:

Gloria is 62 and has been homeless for 15 years. Prior to becoming homeless, she had been a chef in a restaurant for many years, then went on to become a high-level architect for over 10 years. She had three children: a son and daughter who were teens and another daughter who was elementary-aged (8?). She found that her husband had inappropriate pictures of her daughters and when she tried to report it, he managed to turn everything against her instead. Soon she found herself without a home, money, or any of her children.

In the 15 years since then, she has been beaten, robbed, and raped numerous times while she has lived homeless in a number of cities. All of these attacks were done by either "africans" or "mexicans," but mostly "africans." As a result she is terrified of anyone in either of those groups and incredibly judgmental towards them. Her life seems to revolve around avoiding anyone that she considers to fit one of those descriptions.

I haven't heard such blatant, ignorant racism in my life, except as portrayed in movies or books from pre-civil-rights era. It was utterly appalling. Yet, as disgusted as I was with her negative depictions of people, I couldn't help but feel a deep sorrow for the injustices that she has encountered.

We talked for over an hour; she would have talked all night if I would have let her. Maybe I should have. At some point, I tried to wind down the conversation:

Me: Is there anything I can do to help you?
Gloria, shrugging: What can you do?
Me: Well, what do you need? If you could have anything at all, what would help you get back on your feet?
Gloria: In the past 15 years, I have been so abandoned and hurt......There is nothing that can be done. You just don't forget all of that. 

I have no idea how much of her story is true. But regardless of how she got there, Gloria has no hope. None.

How do you just go to bed after an encounter like this?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Random Things About the Kids

One of the bloggers that I follow occasionally does "baby book" entries with recent info about the kids, since she never got around to doing their real baby books. I may not ever do it again, or I might get hooked on doing it regularly. But here it is for today...

  • In the past week or so, Judah has started taking little steps when he is standing. Today he "walked" about 5-10 feet like that. I expect that he will be independently running by this time next week. 
  • I just sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" to Ayden before bed and he sang along to the entire first verse and chorus. 
  • Judah's first word was "Mama," followed closely by "Dah-dee." I thought I caught an "Ay-duh" out of him a few days ago, but wasn't sure. However, today he was clearly saying both "Ay-duh" and "buh-duh" (brother) as he was looking for Ayden. He has also reputedly said some version of "Grampa," although he has been quite uncooperative with Grammie Joy about doing it for his Mama to hear. 
  • Both boys are wearing size 4 diapers, and can easily share shorts and some t-shirts. Judah is 20 lbs of pure muscle, while Ayden is 30 lbs of skin and bones. 
  • Despite numerous attempts, we have still not succeeded in getting Ayden to stay in his toddler bed, especially when Judah is around. Right now Ayden takes naps in the PNP in our bedroom, and starts the night there. Then we move him to his own bed before we go to bed (to any mom's reading this---I would love any tips you have!!). This is an improvement over a month or so ago. At that time, Ayden was sleeping in a PNP in their bedroom and Judah was sleeping in a PNP in the living room. We lived with that arrangement for many months. 
  • We usually put Ayden to bed at about 8 or 9 but he usually stays up until nearly 10 playing. Meanwhile, Judah wakes up between 5-6 every morning. Neither of them seem willing to shift their sleeping times. This does bad things for their parents (especially daddy, since he is usually the one to get up with Judah). Again, I will take any and all advice offered on this issue. 
  • The boys absolutely adore each other (they always have, but it is becoming even stronger as time goes by). If Judah is not nearby, Ayden immediately asks where he is. Judah is whiny all morning until Ayden gets up (a few hours after him). A few days ago, Judah was playing in the living room when Ayden woke up from his nap. He heard Ayden talking to himself in our bedroom and immediately crawled to our bedroom door, then turned and looked at me expectantly. When I let him in, both kids squealed with delight. 
  • Judah loves to give kisses (especially to his Mama). Unfortunately, his kisses involve grabbing chunks of my skin and pulling my face to his, where he then opens his mouth wide and then starts sucking. His kisses also usually come in multiples (at least 2-3 at a time). Somehow I still love them. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Life is Crazy"

At any given time, if you ask how I am or what's up in our life, I will often reply with, "life is crazy." Meaning, "I don't feel like I can quite keep up with everything, and a lot of unexpected things keep happening." And that is usually true.

Although I hate to admit it, we could cut back on our involvement in church activities, slow down on things like preparing for Rwanda or finishing school, or just generally minimize the variables in our life. And if we did those things, we would probably not feel behind as often. And there would be less opportunity for unexpected things to arise - or at least more time to deal with those things when they do come up.

I am learning that there is much wisdom in enjoying today and not pushing as hard and as fast as I can to the future. The process of going to Rwanda seems to be in perpetual delay, for one reason or another. But all of those delays have already given us much time to learn and grow in ways that will be valuable in our future. In addition, the "slowing down" has given us an opportunity to dive deeper into the ministries and relationships that we already have right now. And there has been great richness in that. 

So sometimes slowing down and cutting back on things can be good. But sometimes it can be a waste of the time, talents, and gifts that God has given us. I recall periods in our life where we weren't really involved in much outside of ourselves. In those times, we often found ourselves bored or indulging in unnecessary things. And in those times, if the unexpected arose, it was still just as jarring and overwhelming. Life was slower and "easier," but not any happier.

It seems as though, like most things, there is a balance to be found. We should not be wasting day after day on frivolous activity (or inactivity, as it may be). Nor should we be taking on so many things that we can't do any of them well (I've been guilty of this lately). The fullness found in serving God wholeheartedly and without reservation is not present when you are out of balance. You can't sit idle nor can you say "yes" to absolutely everything. 

In addition, "balance" is not something that can be decided equally for everyone. Some people get quite stressed with too much activity, while others get restless with too much free time. I imagine that those who are stressed with too much activity tend to err on the side of too little activity, while those who get restless with free time tend to err on the side of too much activity. 

I'm in the second group. I get restless with too much free time. I am chronically over-committed. I would be bored if I wasn't feeling a bit behind on something, or if I allowed enough free time for me to not be a bit frazzled by the unexpected. But I do need to slow down sometimes. It's good for me to enjoy a date with my husband and not take any of that time to go over the calendar for the month or discuss the next parenting hurdle.

I'm not sure that I will ever again be at a point where I don't feel like life is a bit crazy -- that comes with the territory of being busy, which I enjoy. But it is good for me to slow down sometimes and realize that not every minute of every day should be crazy. Sometimes calm and boring is ok. But only sometimes.