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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

When I first started this post (before WordPress lost several of my drafts) I intended it to be a funny story about Ava and how she is learning about life through books. Now it’s a not-so-funny story about how I’m learning through Ava and her books about life.

Take a quick gander over at the side bar at the recently published posts. There are literally three times that number of posts in the draft section of my blog and would be more if WordPress hadn’t decided to shave off a few. And that’s just blog writing projects. I have creative writing projects, crafty projects, house remodeling projects, organizational projects, cleaning projects, correspondence– I’m up to my ears in projects. And frankly I’m not making a whole lot of progress. I am, however, continually coming up with new ideas for new projects as if this is helpful. When the balance of the ideas starts to tip strongly to the uncompleted side, my mood starts to slide in the downward direction.

And this heap, well it’s about to send me into the depths of despair.

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(Please note the open drawers and cupboard–one of my many endearing qualities, just ask Nate.)

Actually, I hid the pile in a Steve Madden shopping bag two weeks ago. Someone must have added a couple packets of yeast, because it doubled in size and is now taking up an entire place setting at my dining room table. Talk about an unwelcome guest.

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Oh it’s hideous. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Christa asked other moms to share pictures of their messes in attempt to dispel the myths of perfectionism. There it is, Christa. Not that this is shocking as this blog is open source chronicle of my imperfections.

Somewhere in this heap is the medical bill and the lawn service bill that Nate asked me to mail ten days ago. There are stickers in there for the daily job chart I was going to make Ava months ago. There is also a library book I needed to return yesterday as well as the embroidery floss needed to complete the baby gift I still haven’t mailed. If you look closely you will see an ad that expired on Valentine’s Day. I probably don’t need to state that we are passed the midway mark in March. And taking up the bulk of the mess are heaps and heaps of Ava’s art projects.

People, I have never thought of myself as a saver, yet I have so much trouble throwing away Ava’s art. It’s ridiculous, but that’s another post.

Suffice it to say, this pile is driving me to write about it, not actually fix it, but write about it.

So let’s see if we (or just I) can learn from Ava and her recent life lesson.

A few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen slicing apples when I heard a little voice in Ava’s room say, “I’m down in the dumps. I’m down in the dumps….I’m down in the dumps!”

I walked toward her room and found her standing the midst of tutus, undershirts, plastic ponies, glitter wands, pink bottles, lacing cards, and pocket-sized princesses. “Blah! I’m down in the dumps.”

“You’re down in the dumps?”

“Yep, like Toad,” she said picking her Frog and Toad book out of heap.

She explained the state of her room (as though it wasn’t obvious) and how it was just like Toad’s room. We talked about how upsetting it was to have a messy room and that it wasn’t fun to play or sleep in a mess. We reviewed the story together, how Toad didn’t want to clean his room, but he couldn’t enjoy himself knowing that he would have to clean it later.

“Maybe if I put away all my jammies,” she said echoing Toad’s line, “I won’t have to do it later, will I?”

“No, you won’t.”

She starting sorting the matching tops and bottoms out of the heap and stuck them in their drawer.

“And if I pick up all my books, I won’t have to it later, right?”

“Right,” I said, as I helped her put her books on her shelf.

“If I pick up all my barrettes and tails now, then I wouldn’t have to later, will I?”

“No, you won’t.”

And with the hope of clean room set out before her, Ava cheerfully put away all the things in her room with increasing expectation and excitement. As though she was sent forth as a continual object lesson, she demonstrated how to tackle a project one piece at a time. In what seemed like merely moments, Ava was twirling around a delightfully organized room.

“Now, tomorrow I can take life easy,” Ava said throwing her arms up and landing on her bean bag.

I should hope so, you are only three.

As for me, well I still have the pile. Let’s see if I can put this lesson to practice.

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sugar bandit

“Mama, did you go in my room?”

“No.”

“Don’t go in my room, okay Mama.”

“Why don’t you want me to go in your room, Ava?”

“Well, you can go in my room, but don’t look behind the door.”

“Why?”

“Well, ’cause there’s no sugar behind the door.”

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So the day that I posted about how Ava shares her candy, which I realize was a while ago now, Ava and I had a little candy incident. I was going to write this addendum earlier, but then I got sick. Then Ava got sick. And then Nate got sick. Obviously, sharing runs in the family.

To be honest, I feel like there is a huge neon sign outside our door flashing, “vacancy” to each and every virus that has come into our neighborhood this winter. In the battle between vitamins and flu vaccines, vitamins are sorely losing. On the bright side, there are puddles on our streets again, and soon the sun will melt away these insidious colds that have plagued us since the first freeze in November.

We are on the mend. Nate is back at work, Ava is in preschool, and our home is no longer raining tissues and throat drops, so now I can tell you that back when I was about to tell you all about Ava and her candy benevolence, Ava was being naughty. It was one of those rare days when she actually had a sucker in her mouth. And to tell you the truth, I felt a little funny pushing publish on a post about her lack of candy at the very moment that she was savoring a lollipop.

She crawled up next to me and started to kick my laptop. Now granted, I’m rarely on my laptop when I’m with her and I never write when she is awake or around. For one, I stay at home to be with her, and two, she wouldn’t let me. So on this particular day, I was trying to quickly read over the post that I had written late the previous night, before sending it out into the big, wide world.

Now, in my case, this is quite a worthless endeavor, as I cannot see any mistakes in my own writing until at least four days after I have written it. My brain simply refuses to acknowledge what my eyes see. In some bizarre power play that continues to mystify me, my brain literally takes over and confesses to see what is truly not there. People, in my last post, I had described Ava’s new Norwegian fairy friend’s previous costume as a “pink leopard customer.” For two days, it said, “leopard customer” and no one said a peep. Clearly, I meant costume and clearly my confounded brain was in auto-correct overdrive. But come on, leopard customer! Ugh. When I read my old posts I vacillate between hanging my head and laughing out loud. If nothing else, it keeps me humble. Humble and embarrassed.

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, Ava kicking the laptop. So there we were, I trying to post an essay about one of her beautiful qualities in the face of sugar depravity and she was trying to get my attention while sucking on a sugar stick. Could we have more irony?

I told her to stop, and that I was writing a beautiful story about her. I told her that I was almost finished and then I would read it to her. She swung her legs up and crashed them down on my keyboard, splattering letters all over my freshly written story. With one hand, I pushed her legs off the laptop and with the other I reached over and pulled the sucker right out of her mouth.

She was horrified.

“Mama, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for kicking the computer. If I’m a good girl again, can I have it back?”

“No, Ava, you can’t have your sucker back.”

“Mama,” she asked with tears closing in on her blue eyes, “Mama, can we put it in a baggie and then if I’m good again, can I have it later?”

Today, sitting in my warm cozy coffee shop, sipping Monk’s brew tea and writing uninterrupted, I wish that I could tell you that I said, “yes” or at least that I took that time at that moment to talk about it with her. I didn’t. Her tears flowed freely down cheeks as she ran into her room.

Having no where to stick my sticky contraband, I placed the wand in between my teeth and clicked on the publish button. I sat there trying to comprehend all the irony of all that had just occurred: my tribute to her, my enjoyment of her sweet sharing spirit, my burden to teach her healthy eating habits, her disobedience, my reaction. Was my response wrong? Was my reaction tainted with a disappointment that she wasn’t sweet in every respect? Was I really responding to fact that I want her be perfect, maybe not forever, but at least for the space in which I write that she is good?

With the weight of these unanswered questions I walked toward the sobs that were besetting my small child. I found her sitting on her rocking chair hugging Bubba and her favorite blankie. I knelt down to her eye level and before I could ask, “why are you crying?”, Ava answered.

“Mama, God doesn’t like it when you do that. Daddy doesn’t like it when you do that.”

“Do what, Ava?”

“Take my sucker. God doesn’t like it when you steal.”

“Ava, I didn’t steal your sucker.”

“Yes, you did. God doesn’t like when you do that.”

I scooped her up and sat down on her chair with her in my arm.

“Ava,” I said gently, “what did you do to Mama’s computer?”

“I kicked it.”

“Did I ask you to stop?”

“Yes.”

“What did you do?”

“I kicked it.”

“Why do you think that I took your sucker?”

“Cause I kicked your computer, but Mama, God doesn’t like it when you do that!” she repeated, erupting into a fresh set of tears. I kindly explained the result of disobedience and reality of consequences as I wiped away her tears. I filled her up with hugs as I attempted to talk away the injustice that we both felt. We left her room more cheerfully than we had entered it and continued our day of reading books, telling stories, and making more valentines, punctuated with lunch, snacks, and dinner. All in all, it was a good day. A happy day. A day that said amen to the cheerful giver post.

Since Nate had to work late that night, I was the one to read her bedtime Bible story. We snuggled up with Bubba in her big, blue rocking chair under her favorite blankie, and I read to her about Joseph and his brothers. The brothers had come back to Egypt to ask Joseph to forgive them for selling him into slavery. Joseph forgave them and saves them from starvation. At the end of the story, there are review questions and a prayer.

I prayed, “Dear Father, please forgive me for not obeying you.” I pronounced my amen and opened my eyes to find a familiar pink mouth rounded in a great big “O” that matched her similarly widened eyes.

“It’s cause you stole my sucker, isn’t it?”

…..

Ahh, the simplicity of her faith and understanding is both confounding and convicting. She understood that morning that there was a consequence for her actions, but that consequence came tainted with irritation and frustration. While God is always just, I am as fallible as she. So yes, Ava, forgive me for snatching your sucker without an explanation. Forgive me, that my actions are not always pure. You felt it in your being and you were right, “God doesn’t like it when I do that.” Ava sweet, I love you and want you to learn how to obey. With His help, I will try to correct you in love and not as a killjoy.

Before all of you start scrambling for an envelope and stuffing it with suckers to send our way, remember, today is Thursday. In a few minutes, I’m picking her up from preschool and we are heading to the bank to get a shiny, new sucker.

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While you are probably counted among the many whose sleepy eyes don’t pop open until they are greeted by the woodsy steam of their morning brew, I don’t fully emerge from dreamland until the sweet tart pulp of orange juice washes away all the sleep from my mouth.

I, like my mother, love orange juice first thing in the morning. And by first thing, I mean I stumble out of bed and lead my slippers directly to the fridge. It’s best not to talk to me until after I’ve had my orange juice. My mouth doesn’t work, my brain doesn’t work, really I’m quite useless.

On Tuesday morning I made my bleary-eyed path to the kitchen with my pint-sized shadow pattering behind me. I opened the fridge and found a large glass of pre-poured orange juice sitting on top of a hand-written note.

“Oh, Ava look,” I said as I lifted the drink towards my mouth, “Daddy poured Mama some juice, and he left me a note.”

The first sweet sip confirmed my suspicion that Nate had woken up early that morning and hand-pressed enough oranges to pour me a tall glass with freshly squeezed orange juice and paired it with a love note.

“Can I try some? Can I have some too?” she asked as she hopped around in delight and pulled her own cup out of her drawer.

Together we drank in the delicious juice as we discussed what a wonderful daddy she had.

Ava was absolutely delighted to discover that in the world of ordinary things, one might open a door a find a surprise. For the past four mornings, Ava has run to the fridge shouting, “Let’s see if Daddy left us a note!”

Each morning she has whipped open the door, taken a peek, and then shut it with a sigh, “No note.”

This morning, her daddy was still home and watched her run through her note searching routine.

“There is no note. I didn’t get a note. I NEVER get a note!” she exclaimed, “When am I going to get a note?” She stomped out of the kitchen, ran into her room and threw herself on her bed.

I did not just make that up.

She reappeared a few moments later and I asked her if she was feeling better. She looked up at me and shouted, “Ehhhh!” and then repeated the previously described scene. Apparently the first time did not achieve the desired response.

I followed her into her room and found her in a face down heap on her mattress. I proceeded to “search” for her in her room. As I pretended to look for her behind her rocking chair and under her bed, more and more giggles erupted from the pouting child.

Finally, I declared that I was too tired to search anymore and needed to sit down. I gently plopped myself down on her prostrate person. Of course, she yelped and I responded, “Oh this bed seems to have a squeak.” I sat back down on her and she quickly squirmed out, laughing at my folly. I pulled her in for a hug and her lip resumed the pouting posture, “Why don’t I get a note?”

“Daddy gave me that orange juice because I’m his special wife.”

I want to be his special too!”

“You are special to him. You are his very special daughter, but not everyone gets the same special things. Daddy does special things just for you, Ava. Does Daddy hold me in his lap and read me books?”

“No,” she replied giggling at the absurdity.

“Does Daddy sit on the floor with me and make puzzles?”

“No,” more giggles.

“Does Daddy twirl me around and do drops when I’m sad?”

“No.”

“See Daddy does lots of special things for you. Different people get different special things.”

“Like when it’s Henri’s birf-day,” she asked, “and people get special things for him? And it’s for him and not me ’cause it’s his special birf-day!”

“Yes, just like that. And we can be happy for the person when they get special things. You can be happy that Daddy made me a special drink because that shows that he loves me. And it is very special to have a Daddy who loves your Mommy.”

She bounced off her bed, rebounding from her bad mood in a way that only three-year-olds can, and then raced me to the front door to see who would get more goodbye kisses from Daddy.

About a half-hour later, she pulled back the curtain as I was rinsing lemon sage Bliss out of my hair and declared:

“Mama, you don’t have to worry about things, ’cause God always takes care of you. And He gives different things to different people. And you don’t have to worry just like I was worrying about getting a note. And I don’t have to worry about the note ’cause different people get different special things and God knows what special things we need so you don’t have to worry.”

She closed the curtain and pranced off before I had to chance to give her a squeeze and say, “Ava, you are my special thing!”

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