Friday, August 26, 2011

I’m gonna be a ballerina?

I don’t always understand God’s ways.  If you’ve read many of my posts, you know that one of the many instances where the logic of God’s wisdom escapes me is when I see that I have a height and build many athletes would enjoy, but none of their coordination, fitness, or finesse, to put those gifts to use.  The middle school cross-country coach was thrilled to see me go out for the team, commenting on how my long legs would be an asset – until he saw me run.  Running hard makes me look like a three-legged giraffe in high heels on gravel.

In the five months since my littlest daughters’ arrival, I’ve been flattered by many observers who’ve noted how quickly I lost the weight.  And dressing strategically, I’ve mostly been able to hide the extra stomach bulge.  It feeds my vanity, but still leaves me missing my regular clothes and saying a little prayer every time I cough or sneeze.  (I’ve always said my figure would look great, if only my chest would stick out further than my stomach, and nursing has given me the dream.)  There are plenty of areas for improvement, but I think I am most limited by my lack of core strength.  When I get stuck in bed, like a cockroach on its back, hopelessly kicking my legs to free them from the covers, and trying to find a way out, I feel sure of this assessment.

When the girls’ ballet school opened up an adult class this fall, the answer to my problems was clear.  I thought back to when my oldest started ballet.  She was a pretty klutzy, head-too-big-for-her-body, toddler.  I noticed within weeks that she had better balance and coordination, and in their years of dance, both my older girls have developed a kind of poise and grace that has always eluded me.  They seem to have an athletic edge, no matter what sport they try, and they never need a hand to get out of bed in the morning.  I think it’s their strong core, and I want one for myself.

So I went to ballet class for the first time in my life last night.  I plie’d and tondu’ed and eschappe’d…it was horrible.  I’m a giant three year old, made of Jello.  No skills, no coordination, and when she had us do the little jumps, there was not a single part of my body that didn’t jiggle.  It’s a very small class, but I still managed to repeatedly bonk into other dancers, and, a short 12 hours later, I’m one giant muscle cramp from head to toe.  If they did a Married with Children episode where Peg Bundy went to ballet class, it couldn’t have been funnier than what I saw in front of me in the mirror last night.

But it was a blast.  I never had so much fun looking like an idiot and getting exercise (funny enough, those two things usually go together for me).  I was relieved when the instructor confirmed for us that we are not expected to participate in the recital next Spring, and, thank you, Lord, there is only a small window in the door for observers.  But I am not going to let my pride get in the way.  I’m going to learn to dance.  I’m going to get my body to actually be fit and not just look fit.  And I’m going to do those little, jiggly jumps until I no longer have to worry about bladder control.

It’s never too late, right?

Shapely and graceful your sandaled feet, and queenly your movement—Your limbs are lithe and elegant, the work of a master artist. Song of Solomon 7:1

Friday, August 19, 2011

I used bad words on my kids.

Hopefully not in our near future!
It’s always embarrassing when I spout off at the mouth.  No one would ever mistake me for a sailor, but there are certainly moments when my word choice is, to say the least, unbecoming.  Who hasn’t endured a moment where a heavy object fell on their toe, or a splash of boiling water seared their finger, and one of those words – the ones we usually refer to by only their first letter – involuntarily erupted?  Not wanting a young child to “out” me by repeating such choice vocabulary, I used to follow up with a series of decoy words.  For example, a carton of milk slips through my fingers and floods across the kitchen floor, and I blurt “Sh#(!” as it goes down, right in front of a very verbal 2 year old; if I think quickly enough, I followed it closely with, “Sugar!  Speedboat! Sassafras! Banana Split!”  If the practice didn’t completely confuse my daughter, it left only a 1-in-5 chance that she would drop a crayon in the church nursery and entertain her caregiver with a PG-13 expletive.  And what’s cuter than a little one who blurts out “Speedboat!” when they drop things!

10 years into this mom-thing, I’ve done pretty well at eschewing those words from even my non-voluntary speech patterns [sorry for making you look up eschew, but at least it’s a fun word you can repeat in mixed company].  In fact, my daughters have a nearly puritanical attitude toward word use.  It cracks me up every time I have to apologize for calling a malfunctioning appliance or misbehaving pet, “stupid.”  I’m not sure if their horror stems from a true belief that “stupid” is a really bad word, or if it’s the tone of disgust I’m using when I drop the S-Bomb.  I’ve tried several times to explain to them that it’s only a bad word when it’s directed at someone.  That strategy my someday backfire, however, when they decide to apply the same criteria to other words.

This week, we had an insanely frustrating afternoon, during which I hauled 20-some pounds of carseat and baby in and out of every store in town that carried children’s shoes.  As we were boarding the minivan at the end of the day, still empty-handed, my oldest began to snap at me for not buying her the ill-fitting and over-budget tennis shoes she had found at our last stop.  While I was in the midst of both reprimanding her for her tone and explaining to her that money is finite, so we do not waste it on items that do not suit our purposes, my middle daughter wanted something my oldest daughter had, and began demanding it, loudly and repeatedly.  Rather than honoring her with a response, I tried to finish the conversation with my older girl, before dealing with the younger, but she got louder and more insistent, the longer we ignored her.  In short order, the van was ringing with angry voices and the baby started to cry.  My older daughter added to the cacophony by starting her counter-argument before I finished my statement, leading to all four of us, baby included, raising our voices in ugly tones, at the same time, inside a closed up vehicle.  Completely frustrated, with my head and ears ringing, I went up another decibel to shout, “SHUT UP!"

The silence was instant – even the baby seemed to drop off in shock.  The big girls’ eyes got huge and welled up with tears.  I might as well have called them the B-word.  Or said I didn’t love them.  My heart was heavy; I was so frustrated, I took the cheap way out.  I knew using those words would have exactly that effect.  And I sold out my values to obtain silence.  I finished, calmly, explaining why we didn’t buy the shoes, then apologized for using those words, and told my middle daughter that I was sorry for how I said it, but I wasn’t sorry for making her stop interrupting, because she knew better than that.

We haven’t yet had an outbreak of “shut up” around the house, so hopefully they know that, even if Mommy says it, that doesn’t make it right.  And I realize that there are plenty of quality parents out there who use far harsher phrases on their kids than “shut up,” but I still get a little heavy hearted when I think of how hurt they were, because for our family, it was a verbal grenade.

A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up. Proverbs 15:1

Friday, August 12, 2011

I got a cavity

Back when my pearly whites
 were pearly white.
It has been about twenty two years since my last cavity.  I remember my brother, who came through his appointment with a clean slate, laughing at the irony.  By his own admission, I brushed my teeth ten times as much as he did, but I still was the one to get the cavity.  Now, here I am, with my luck run out again.

Maybe it was the pregnancy cravings – too much sweet tea and cheddar chex-mix?  Maybe it was the bleary-eyed days when I couldn’t remember if I’d brushed or not?  Maybe it was hormones that weakened my enamel?  Or maybe I was just due.  Whatever it was, I’m scheduled to go back for a drill-n-fill in a couple weeks and I’m not thrilled about it.

The long decades without a cavity had me thinking I might make it into old age with my teeth intact.  I’ve heard that a healthy smile can make you look as much as ten years younger, and that dentures make it hard to enjoy kiwi.  Both are good motivators toward attentive brushing.  But maybe it’s the vanity that’s my problem.  Did I focus too much on keeping my front teeth polished and neglected my molars?

Now I have these paranoid images in my mind of premature tooth loss.  If one tooth could fall prey, maybe there are others that might go down like dominoes.  What do dental implants cost, because I can just see myself, seducing my husband with a coy smile, only to slip my teeth into a jar by the bed before climbing in.  Even if I stay on my current rate of tooth decay, I’m ruining one tooth every other decade…when you multiply that by the inevitable depreciation of basic use, my lifelong nighttime grinding, and the occasional loose filling or accidental chip, I could be completely toothless by the time I’m 80!  What then?  I don’t want to be scaring the grandkids away with my rotten, toothless smile!

Maybe I should start flossing.  Maybe I should brush more.  Maybe I should give up sugar.  Why can’t we be like sharks and have another tooth standing at the ready?

Your teeth are whiter than sheep freshly washed; they match perfectly, not one is missing. Song of Solomon 6:6

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I'm going to steal a child

We were on vacation and took the girls down to the hotel pool for a swim.  There was a father there with his daughter and she quickly made friends with our girls.  Within minutes of seeing that our children were happily engaged with one another, he gave my husband and me a knowing look, and disappeared out the door before we could even blink back an S-O-S code of, “Wait!  What do we know?!”  Maybe it was a phone call, maybe a beer run, but he didn’t come back for half an hour.  It seemed exceptionally trusting.  Perhaps he was lulled into a sense of security by the fact that we apparently already had two little girls of our own, but we thought it would be funny to tell him that we had been collecting little girls at hotel pools from Davenport to Sioux Falls.

It amazes me how often young children befriend us at places like the playground and the zoo, with no apparent guardian in site.  They tell us their names, birthdays, phone numbers, and social security numbers with complete abandon.  When we play games with our kids, they beg for a turn; when we break out snacks, they sit down for their portion.  We wonder how far we could take it before someone would finally approach us and suggest that we give them back their child.

I know its prejudiced, but I usually, mentally, attribute these orphans to that guy hanging out in the shade by the shelter, talking loudly into his Bluetooth earpiece.  Even when they aren’t neglecting their kids, the guys at the playground with their Bluetooth sets bug the crap out of me.  What are you signaling your kids when you take them out to play with your phone attached to your ear?  “Hey, kids, let’s go have a great time together!  Unless, of course, someone calls my phone.  I won’t even have to look down and see who’s calling, because I already know I would rather talk to a telemarketer than play with you.”

Of course, I admit, I’m not perfectly attentive to my kids, every moment they’re at the playground.  I’m sure someone has at some time seen me checking to see if my witty status posted when I should have been commending my daughter for her exceptional cart-wheeling (or preventing her from cart-wheeling down some piece of equipment that could have killed her).  But I generally prefer spending time with my kids over beer runs, phone calls, or YouTube.  I hope that is what I generally communicate to them – and that you do the same for your kids.  Because someday one of these little playground orphans is going to be too darn adorable to cut loose, and I’m going to take him home.

When his parents found him, they were amazed. His mother said, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been very worried, and we have been searching for you!" Luke 2:48