Three Things Thursday: End of Summer Edition

Welcome to the first edition of “Three Things Thursday.” I’m hoping it won’t also be the last, but there are no guarantees. We will have to see what next Thursday holds. (I’m sure you are waiting with bated breath. Just not bated for too long, as next Thursday is also the second day of school, and I will likely have no more words to use – nor the energy to use them – by the time I sit down at night.)

Our summer was chalk-full of wonderful memories. The kids and I made our Summer Bucket List mid-June, and we checked off almost everything. (We plan on checking off a few more things this weekend.) Annalise’s list items that likely won’t happen over the Labor Day weekend include: “go to disnewruld. go to idoneshu. nooyouc.” (Translation on the last 2: Indonesia, New York.)

What can I say? The girl dreams big.

And also? Her writing. It’s seriously too much, you guys. It has me in hysterics all the time. I may have to do a Three Things Thursday: Leesie’s Letters Edition. I die, I love it so much. I considered having her drop out of school just so I can see her write like this forever. But somehow, “hicing on man bacr” and “watr fat” just don’t seem quite as funny when you’re 16.

But back to the three things. The following pictures from summer are not some of the big things we did, but they are funny little memories that make me smile when I think of them. And come to think of it, each picture represents a story about a different member of my family. So maybe this should be called: Three Things Thursday: Uneventful Summer Events, Why My Family Members Keep Me Smiling. Although, that seems a bit long, so I’ll just stick with the original title.

1. photo(99)

What’s that you ask? That, folks, is gum on clothing. Things like this happen with kids. At least I assume it does. Although, it had actually never happened with my kids prior to this lovely mess. But the unique part about this picture is that the gum was not sat in or leaned against. No, this gum had some real talent. When it fell out of my child’s mouth, it didn’t land on her skirt as we sat in the car heading to Eugene, Oregon. This special gum fell up her skirt. Yes, up. Then it was immediately squished by the legs that were residing in said skirt. As we walked into the restaurant we pulled up to minutes later, my talented child with acrobatic gum climbed out and walked gingerly to the restroom where she discovered that her anti-gravity gum had multiplied, divided and conquered, sticking her skirt to her shorts, shorts to undies, and adhering all of it to her legs. I had to laugh, because of all the people in all the world in all of the history of ever, if I had to pick one girl this would happen to, it would be my girl. She is a beautiful mess, and it makes me smile. And also, she probably actually takes after her mother in this area. It is through no fault of her own that she falls into ginormous fire pits (thankfully, not with fires going) as though they suddenly arose out of the ground where there was once nothing. (This happened while we were having our “watr fat” – or water fight – in grandma’s back yard.) I have been known to walk directly into a ginormous planter pot that measured 3 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. I’m still not sure how it got moved into my path so quickly.

 

2. In August, we celebrated our girls’ 8-year-birthdays by bringing flowers to their spot. As we pulled up, Jacob grabbed the flowers and shouted, “I’ll carry these!” He hopped out of the car with enthusiasm and ran to a marker where he announced, “This looks like a good spot! I’ll leave them HERE!” It made me giggle, seeing him standing proudly on Tillie E. Cue’s headstone, ready to give her the flowers meant for his sisters. photo(100)His other sister, a bit annoyed with his ignorance, quickly informed me, “MOM! Jacob is standing on someone else’s GRADE!” These two. I love them to bits. photo(101)I am so thankful they are mine. And when we got home, they ran to the door and stood there like this, waiting for me to walk up. photo(102)How can that not make a mama smile?

3. Let’s see, who is left in my family? Oh yes, my dear husband. What a good Daddy and husband he is. He carries the kids to bed when they’re tired or already asleep, shares his last bite of a treat, and gets an armband at the fair so I don’t have to go on any rides and the kids don’t have to ride alone. photo(104)That is true sacrificial love, people. Unlike for our 13 year-old-selves, fair rides are not either of our favorite thing. But here he is, taking one for the team. And because the kids are just a little bit more grown up this year, we decided we’d head over to the big rides to start. It was not quite time for them to open, so we were first in line at the Yo-Yo. (If you’re not familiar with the Yo-Yo, picture a giant swing going around a circle. Like a carousel, only faster, higher, and you’re riding a swing instead of a horse. That’s it.)

The kids seemed a little apprehensive about the ride, and since it hadn’t opened for the day, they weren’t able to see how tame it really was. Matt, good dad that he is, offered to ride once so they could witness for themselves that it was not too scary or fast. They agreed. He climbed on, with just a few other kids riding far away from him. The swing was lifted into the air and began its circular path. Matt had passed us just twice when the kids looked at me and said, “Can we go on that maze over there?” I agreed, because it only took a few rotations for them to see what the ride was about. No use standing here for the last 45 seconds watching the swings follow the same path.

Only the ride didn’t last another 45 seconds. Maybe it was because there was no one in line waiting to get on. Or maybe the guy operating the ride thought it would be funny, since there was a big dude sitting up on the Yo-Yo all by his lonesome. But whatever the reason, that ride continued for another 8 minutes. EIGHT MINUTES OF GOING IN CIRCLES. The kids were done watching Matt after 15 seconds. He continued riding without them nearby for another 7 minutes and 45 seconds.

At one point, Matt considered taking off his shoe and hucking it at the (I’m sure very amused) carny.

At another point, a friend walked towards the ride and didn’t see me. As she looked up, I saw her say with confusion, “Isn’t that Holly’s husband up there?” Why yes. Yes, it is. My husband likes to be the first in line to go on carnival rides, he loves it so much. He goes all by himself, because they are THAT fun.

8 minutes later, when he finally got off the spinning wheel of death and the children had gone through the maze approximately 3,127 times, Annalise declared that she would like to go on the Yo-Yo after all. Phew. At least the long ride wasn’t in vain. Except Jacob had determined that it was actually too high for him. And then Annalise decided that, while it looked super fun, it would be too scary to go on alone.

And so that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my husband got back on the Yo-Yo after 8 minutes of nausea for yet another round of torment. Because if his little girl looked up at him and asked for a real live unicorn, he would probably buy a horse and adhere a giant party hat to its face. He is that dedicated. Or suckered. Take your pick.

Deja vu all over again

Here we are again at the end of another glorious summer.

I can tell this is true, not just because of the date on the calendar (of which I stopped looking at long ago, so I actually have no idea what the date is), but also because of my full heart from all the summer memories.

That and all the rotting vegetables in the kitchen. There is a cabbage turning black in the fridge next to a couple mushy cucumbers. And just yesterday, Jacob pointed to the now-speckled spaghetti squash I purchased I don’t even know when and said, “Mom! We’d better eat your spaghetti squash soon, because it’s starting to turn into a cantaloupe!”

Please tell me I’m not the only one who feeds my children watermelon and Otter Pops for dinner more nights than I’d care to admit at the end of the summer. Because who really wants to eat spaghetti squash and cooked peppers when they could have fresh peaches followed by a trip to Edaleens? And probably a bowl of cereal later, because you’ll now be hungry before bed.

Tonight’s meal was an improvement on the end-of-summer norm. Jacob had a tortilla, a peach, and a handful of salty almonds while hopping around in the kitchen. He likely also ate several fruit flies that kept swarming his peach, but we won’t tell him that. The boy needs protein where he can get it. And any extra fruit flies have since been taken care of. (Insert evil cackle.)

Annalise had a Mexican Pile. (Let me clarify, as this meal name could possibly bring to mind several different pictures, none of which would be appetizing. Or edible. Or even really appropriate. The “Mexican Pile” was what she named an accidental dinner I made the other night. No, I didn’t accidentally make dinner. Although at the end of August, any prepared meal is likely the result of some sort of strange phenomenon – accident or otherwise. It’s just that the meal I made didn’t work out as planned and turned into something else. A surprise. I had planned an ambitious meal of pork tacos with homemade pico-de-gallo and a side of Mexican rice and black beans. The tortillas fell apart, dropping the shredded pork and other taco fillings on to the plate. We decided to share the meal sans tortillas, and we just slopped it all together in one big pile with some sprinkled cheese on top. She christened the meal a “Mexican Pile” and has asked for it several times since. Tonight while chowing away on her (leftover reheated) pile, she said, “Mommy, I think I could eat all the Mexican Piles in all the whole world, and none of them would be as good as yours. I LOVE your piles.” My middle school brain and I don’t know how to respond to such, ahem, compliments. So I just smile through my stifled giggles and move on.)

Still, you’ll notice our end-of-summer improved dinner was less than ideal and contained almost no produce. (Unless you count the fabulous homemade pico-de-gallo, if I do say so myself.) Plus, it was served at 8:45 PM. And to tell you the truth, at the end of summer, I really don’t even care any more. Food enters mouth. Stomach is filled. Mouths are not complaining.

This is the kind of high-bar we set around here once August nears its end.

But it all is just further evidence to this sad truth:  Next week, I’ll be going back to work. And Jacob will be back at the babysitter’s. And Annalise will be back to school.

Which means it’s high time I head on over to the grocery store and invest in a cart load of tissue and chocolate to get me through all the tears that will soon flood.

(And while I’m there, I should probably purchase a vegetable or two.)

Remember this post? About the first days of Kindergarten? A.K.A. The Days that Slowly Ripped My Heart Into a Million Tiny Shreds?

It’s all about to happen all over again. And I can already feel my stomach in knots and the lump in my throat that is a signal for the floodgates of emotion and panic about my children growing up too quickly and guilt about not savoring every moment of summer wonder with them.

The truth is, when you’re spending every waking moment with these little peeps, sometimes you forget that – although your ears need a break for JUST ONE MINUTE FOR GOODNESS SAKE – soon there will be minutes upon minutes upon hours and days that you’ll wish you and your ears had them back for every waking moment again.

Or at least for some of the waking moments.

Because I mean, let’s be real here. A few minutes hours of couple time, reading, a quiet walk, OR GOING TO THE BATHROOM IN PEACE is always nice. So no, you don’t want them around every waking minute. Just more waking minutes than you seem to get them once school starts again.

Alas, wishing they would stay little and we’d stay home together is not only futile, but it robs me of the joy of watching them grow into exactly who God wants them to be.

Or at least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself tonight as I do my best to stifle that massive throat lump and the ugly cry that will surely follow.

Tonight while on a walk, Annalise picked up a dandelion fluff and said, “I should make a wish and blow this all away. It’s supposed to make your wish come true, you know. Only I know that’s not true. But you know what, Mama?” She giggles, revealing the little patch of dimples on her right cheek. I love her so much, it hurts. “I COULD wish something that I know for SURE would come true. All I have to do is wish that a bunch more weeds will grow, and then I blow this away, and my wish will come true every place they land!”

Well now. There you go. If that isn’t just looking on the bright side while setting the bar about as low as it can go.

Or maybe it’s avoiding heartache by accepting (or even finding the joy?) in the inevitable.

Kinda like wishing your kids would keep growing – because you know they’re going to anyway.

Even if it fills your heart to overflowing while simultaneously ripping it into a million tiny shreds. In all of the history of ever, I don’t believe there has ever been a more beautiful and painful thing as being a parent.

And then next summer, it will continue. All those heart-filling memories and joy of seeing them become who God made them to be. Followed by the end of August reality of how they’re growing at a faster speed than you ever imagined and now you have to let them go once again.

And it will be deja vu all over again.

Give and Take

I have had the honor of assisting Matt at several weddings he’s photographed. Sometimes, these weddings are out of town. All the time, I’m not needed for as long as he is. This results in me spending anywhere from 1-4 hours alone in semi-dressy attire in a city where I know no one and have no home to go to. Which results in a trip to a coffee shop. And since I’m not used to sitting in quiet all by my lonesome, this quiet alone time – although glorious – can only last so long.

Which is why I’ve taken up shopping. What else is a girl to do?

If you’ve known me most of my life, you know that I have always disliked – no, completely loathed – shopping. But in these times where I have a need to fill up a few spare hours, I’ve discovered that I don’t hate it. I just like it better by myself. No kids. No waiting. No going to stores I’m not interested in. I can go where I want and look for what I want. Another pair of earrings and a long necklace? Don’t mind if I do.

It’s worked out nicely so far.

On the wedding day, Matt and I have an early breakfast together. I take him to the location and drop him off. I shop for a bit – likely for clothes for myself. I know, right? All mothers out there are in a bit of shock after reading that last sentence. Because how many of us ever get the chance to do that, and then ACTUALLY DO IT? ALONE, no less???

(Two years ago, it took me 3 trips to the mall with my two little humans to find a single bra, then I bought 3 dozen of them just so as to never have to experience that again. Ever.)

(Ok, maybe not 3 dozen, because who could ever afford that many bras? They are ridiculously expensive. And the worst kind of purchase – for something you already have and never wanted in the first place. It’s like spending money on a car tune up. You don’t really want it, and it hurts paying the bill. Things may seem just fine as they are, but without it, you may find yourself hanging out in an awkward situation. Car tune-ups and bras: they are necessities for avoiding bigger problems.)

Then I hit a coffee shop before joining Matt at the wedding location, my purchases safely stowed away in the car. Like I said, it’s worked out nicely so far.

Except that lately, I don’t go to as many weddings. Which means I don’t have this alone time where I get to shop for the things I desire enough to purchase, but not enough to drag my kids into the store with me to do so.

And then, I discovered Amazon.

Oh, I already knew it existed and had used it some. I just didn’t take full advantage of it until lately.

Matt has shot 16 weddings so far this year. I only helped him at 3. Which means during the other 13, I’ve spent some of the time he’s been gone ordering things on Amazon. Because seriously, you just have to click a few buttons, and the stuff comes right to your door. I don’t have to even get my purse out. Or shower. Or put on one of those aforementioned necessities if I don’t feel like it.

I may have already redecorated our entire bedroom due to Amazon purchases that occurred while he was away working very hard. Did you know they will ship king size headboards FOR FREE?

I may have bought myself a kayak. And technically, this wasn’t an Amazon purchase. It was a Craigslist one. Still online, but I did end up having to get dressed and go out of the house, a whole 3 blocks away. Sometimes, life is hard.

I may have purchased gifts for the kids, some which they already received, some which I’m stashing away for birthdays and Christmas. See how ahead I am? This online shopping is really going to benefit us in the long run.

My shopping-while-Matt-is-at-a-wedding frenzy hasn’t gone unnoticed by him. After all, we share a bank account. And an Amazon account. And an email account.

Which means he gets email notifications on his phone of Amazon purchases while he is at the weddings.

Which is why – while at his last wedding – he received a text that said, “You’ll be getting an email confirmation about an Amazon order any minute. Unless I get it and delete it first. In which case, I just admitted my guilt for no reason.”

Followed by, “But I would like to say in my defense, they are gifts for my sisters.”

15 minutes later, I received his reply. “ :-) Love you.

And so my point is this…

Marriage is full of give and take. Sure, he’s doing a whole lot more of the giving in this scenario and I’m doing a whole lot more of the taking, but sometimes marriage can be hard like that.

And my point is also this…

You know you’ve married a good man when his only response to your purchasing frenzy is “Love you.” Although I can’t be certain he ever saw the previous texts, since he’s always so busy at weddings. And I did get to the Amazon email first and deleted it. So that “I love you” may have been just because he was in the middle of documenting a romantic union of two love-birds and suddenly missed me terribly. But I’m guessing not.

And I would also like to make this point…

Money can’t buy you happiness. But it can get you a pretty sweet king size headboard shipped right to your door and about anything else you can imagine with just a few clicks.

Except love. It can’t buy you that either. Good thing I don’t need it, though. ‘Cause I already got myself the best.

With all my heart

As any parent will tell you, tummy pains aren’t uncommon when raising kids. Jacob has them often. Usually, a successful trip to the bathroom fixes the problem. (Sorry for the TMI.)

But Monday, his stomach pains were worse than usual, even after an extremely productive bathroom trip. (Nope, I wasn’t really sorry about the earlier TMI either.) And he was so specific about where the pain was “all around my belly button and on my side,” (while touching his right side, of course), that I made the call to the doc. They scheduled us an appointment for early evening, so I had the whole day to let him rest, watch his symptoms, and pray and trust that God is in control worry myself sick thinking of every possible horrible scenario. (And you know where the worst case scenario fears lead. Always. I swear, in their combined 11 years of life, my children have died 5,327 times in my worst case scenario fears.) (Yes, I realize that this is not a constructive way to spend my time.)

After his fever spiked to 103.3 and he was bent over in wincing pain when I tried to get him to go to the bathroom, the nurse recommended I just take him straight to the ER. After all, if his symptoms were the same at the doctor appointment that was still 2 hours away, they would be sending him there anyway for further testing for appendicitis.

I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down and made a call to a friend to see if she could watch Annalise. With the rear-view mirror tilted so I could see my red-faced feverish boy alternately head bob and wince in pain, I headed to the hospital, calling Matt and the grandparents on the way. My sick boy had gone from having one worried mom bargaining with God to 2 sets of grandparents praying, a family of 6 praying, and both his parents praying with all their heart as the situation seemed more and more serious.

As I held my silent boy on my lap in the waiting area, I prayed that it would not be appendicitis or something worse. Jacob was still a bit restless, and he opened his eyes as I whispered my prayer. I told him he didn’t need to worry, that this was exactly where he needed to be. The doctors would know what to do, I assured him. Funny, I can’t seem to convince myself of these things when I’m terrified and picturing him on his deathbed.

By the time we got called back to a room, I could tell he was starting to perk up a bit. As you might guess, the absence of noise coming from his face is usually a pretty good sign he is either asleep or feeling pretty awful. (It has to be pretty bad for him to be silent. Just not feeling well means he might be laying down, but the mouth still moves.) After being quiet for most of the day, my little buddy had a lot of stored up words to get out. As I laid him in the hospital bed, he began to use them. Sure enough, his fever had gone down, and he was excited to play with the toys our friends had given him in a get-well-bag. He told me about all the characters in Star Wars, even though he’s never seen the movie. He argued with Matt about how to pronounce Han Solo. He asked questions about every. single. thing. in sight. He repeated over and over how funny it was that “they want to do a test on my pee! I had to pee in a cup! That’s so funny that they wanna check my pee!” And when there was finally a moment of silence – as in maybe 10 seconds – where nothing was being said, he just blurted out one word – the thing that is always on his mind… “Bottom.”

I’ll admit it. It sent me into a fit of giggles. Here sat my boy, previously down for the count at home with a ridiculous fever, the only sounds coming out of him were groans of discomfort and “ow ow OW OW-OW-OW”s when the sharp stomach pain would return. Now, at his most expensive doctor visit ever, he was full of life and ever-flowing words, making us laugh through it all.

On the other side of the curtain separating the two beds, I heard a lady giggle, then sigh and say, “I think I’ll take a break and walk the halls.” By “take a break,” she meant her ears. Not even kidding. Welcome to my world, lady on the other side of the curtain. Only you’ve just experienced 10 minutes. Try 10 HOURS A DAY.

The nurse offered him a popsicle. I asked her how much that was going to run us. “You don’t want to know,” she replied and handed him a blue one. Somewhere, a hospital administrator cackled.

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It was pretty clear at this point that we were done and just waiting to be given the release to go home. Sure enough, the doc headed in and said, “Sounds like he’s doing much better. I’m just going to check him over real quick, then you’ll be out of here.” Except as he felt his abdomen, he felt a bulge around the appendix area, and Jacob winced when he touched it. We couldn’t leave just yet.

The lady on the other side of the curtain returned to her father’s bedside. Jacob and I waited. He talked. I listened. More giggles from the other side of the curtain. The lady who had left earlier whispered to another lady – her mother – “Well, he is sure one very happy boy.” I could hear their quiet conversation about how much he had to say, and that it was all so happy.

I was thankful he was so full of joy, but I was dying of embarrassment just a wee bit. We really had no business being in the ER. Clearly, this kid was fine.

We headed to ultrasound, his mouth still constantly moving to the ultrasound tech about the “fun ride” he was getting as she pushed his bed through the corridors. On their way back, the tech asked Jacob how many siblings he had. He didn’t even hesitate. “I have 3 sisters. Annalise is 6, and the other 2 are Madison and Taylor. I won’t get to meet them until I get to Heaven. How old are they again, Mom?”

He’s never responded this way, so I was quite surprised, but not as much as the ultrasound tech was. It was clear she didn’t know what to say. “It’s ok,” I explained while holding back tears, “We had premature twins before he was born. They would be 8 next month.”

“Yeah.” He continued. “They are 8 in Heaven.”

They are 8 in Heaven. How come I still can’t seem to use the present tense when I refer to them? How come my kids keep showing me up on their wisdom and faith?

Back in our room with the same 3 people still on the other side of the curtain, the ultrasound tech awkwardly tripped over her words about the doctor coming in and us going home. I wondered if she was uncomfortable with the topic of Heaven, or if maybe it just got her thinking. Either way, while she was very well spoken earlier, she clearly stammered in that moment.

A few minutes later, the doctor and a nurse came in to discharge us. “It’s not appendicitis. Probably just a virus.” he said.

In my head, I thought about the insanely expensive doctor visit we just had. How much are these unnecessary tests going to cost us? I wondered. At least it’s not appendicitis.

“Nope!” Jacob stated matter-of-factly. “It’s not, because my Mom prayed it wouldn’t be!”

I just stared at him. In his hazy state, Jacob had heard my prayer in the lobby. While I was relieved it wasn’t appendicitis, my grown-up brain immediately assumed it never had been, followed by thoughts of the useless and pricey ER visit, and a little bit of embarrassment that we came to the ER for “no reason.”

His thoughts – and boldly flowing words right from his heart - immediately went to answered prayer.

I’ll admit, I don’t understand how prayer works. Our own personal tragedy is evidence to the fact that more people praying doesn’t necessarily guarantee desired results. We had hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people praying on several continents for our twins to survive. I also don’t believe that if we had just had more faith, our prayers would’ve been answered. My dad is a funeral director. I’m quite aware of the personally devastating results of unanswered prayer.

But I do know this: We are commanded to pray. In fact, we are to do so continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and faithfully (Romans 12:12). We are to trust God, who is sovereign. And while God does not need our help to accomplish His will, He gives us this opportunity to cast our cares upon Him, to join Him in His works, and to acknowledge our total need and dependence on Him. And I fully believe that if we submit ourselves in prayer to Him, we will witness miracles and the mighty works of His hand.

I also know that in God’s sovereignty, He knows each of our needs. He allows people to cross paths, experiences to happen, things to be said that will bring glory to Him.

I wonder if that ultrasound tech needed to hear of Heaven on Monday night?

I wonder if a doctor and a nurse, and three people who sat anxiously on the other side of the curtain needed to hear the faith of an ever-so-happy 4-year-old boy who contributed his lack of appendicitis to answered prayer?

I don’t exactly know how prayer works, but I know that a little boy got sicker and sicker while his mom worried herself into a tizzy. But then she finally set aside her anxieties and began to pray presenting her requests to God (Philippians 4:6). Around the same time, 11 other people also got word of the sick boy and began to pray, and that sick little boy ended up perfectly fine in the ER. And I know that he used his words to brighten the day of everyone he talked to and spoke his faith boldly where no fewer than 6 strangers heard.

I’m not mentioning any names or anything, but I wonder if a certain mom of a certain four-year-old boy needed to witness that kind of faith and boldness?

Incidentally… while in the ER, I found myself explaining to everyone who came in the room just how sick Jacob had been earlier. I was feeling like a total idiot with a super healthy chatty kid sitting there eating the most expensive popsicles known to man. Three ER nurses responded the exact same way. “Don’t feel bad. It happens all the time. People come in and have been so sick for days. They get here, and they’re suddenly all better.” At the time, it just served to make me feel like less of an idiot. But now I wonder… How many of those people did exactly what I did – waited until they started their drive to the ER to really begin to pray and ask others to do the same? How many people’s prayers began to be answered as they finally submitted their requests humbly before God?

I don’t know why some people are healed and others aren’t. My aunt – who has been in remission 3 times for her Leukemia in the last 13 years – just found out some of the “bad cells” have entered her spinal column. I know that last week, as she had part of her head shaved for the port that was put in her head so the chemo can go directly into her spinal fluid, she was trusting Jesus. And now, as she sits recovering from a surgery that left a “Frankenstein” jagged cut in her head, she is glorifying Him to those she comes in contact with in person and on Facebook. And I know that God has allowed her to be the 79th documented case of this in the world for a reason. For His purpose. He has a big job for her to do, and she has said that through it, God has given her amazing peace and strength.

I wonder, how many nurses, doctors, techs, other cancer patients, friends on Facebook, or friends of friends of friends, need to see that kind of strength come from a woman who has difficulty standing and walking on her own two feet as a result of these cells in her spinal column?

I don’t know what you’re going through, or why. And I certainly don’t know how it will turn out.

But I do know this… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13, emphasis my own.

Oh, Loquacious One

I’m supposed to be reading right now. It’s rest time with a book for the Priestman household, but I’m breaking my own rule. I’m not reading. Instead, I was on Facebook, and now I’m writing this. I blame the youngest in the household. Partly because I was the youngest for 9.75 years and then lived with a new youngest for about the same amount of time after that, and so I know that youngests are often to blame. (At least the oldests think so. Or – more appropriately – set them up to be so.) But mostly I blame the youngest because the youngest in THIS house hasn’t stopped making noise for the last 30 minutes of rest time. Scratch that. He hasn’t stopped making noise for the last 4.25 years. I can’t concentrate on reading.

I’ve reminded him it’s quiet rest time. He makes a “sorry” face. His noise continues, only quieter.

I pointed out that the rest of us are reading without talking. He stopped reading with talking. And then immediately began reading with singing.

I clarified that we were neither talking nor singing. He quickly stopped his singing. But seconds later, the humming began. Quietly.

None of the noise comes from a tone of disrespect. It’s like a reflex for him. It’s like it’s physically impossible for him to NOT make noise. It’s like a swimming fish. They just swim. They just do.

Fish swim.

Jacob makes noise.

He just does.

I know this, because after the talking, the quieter talking, the singing, and then humming, the humming stops. But then the tapping starts. And when the tapping stops, the clicking tongue starts. And in between time, there are a hundred thousand million questions about what he’s reading, what I’m reading, what Sis is reading, and why raspberries grow this way and strawberries grow that way. He wants to know how telephones work and if dogs go to Heaven when they die and what would happen if instead of putting water on the plants, we put coffee or juice or maybe turned the plants upside down and spit on them 5 times a day. And every other question he asks is far out of my realm of expertise and even out of my slightest bit of understanding.

His every question is bigger than my brain.

Except for the questions that start like, “Mom, know what I would do if I was a strawberry?” Because he is FOREVER coming up with impossible scenarios and having very detailed explanations to answer his impossible-scenario-questions.

To which his very-literal-6-year-old-sister replies something wise and matter-of-fact like, “Jacob, that can’t even happen. It’s TO-TUH-LEE impossible.”

To which he responds with further explanation and even more conviction about why that is exactly what would happen if that impossible situation happened to take place. (And in case you’re wondering, if Jacob was a strawberry, he would “Hop up and eat all the other strawberries. BUTCEPT FOR LUKE. I would NOT eat Luke if he was a strawberry!”) Noted.

The other never-ending comments are about random facts he’s learned about random things. Mostly animals, which he is very interested in and has billions upon billions of questions about, all of which I have exactly zero answers for. These random animal facts come out in full-story form at no particular time, anytime. Several months ago, he was explaining to me how frustrated he was that his Sunday School teacher “just totally interrupted me, Mom! I was right in the middle of my story, and she just totally interrupted! I didn’t even get to finish!” So, I ask him what the teacher had been doing when he started his story. “She was telling us a story. But I raised my hand. And she called on me. And I was telling my story.” I tell him that his teacher probably needed to finish the lesson she was teaching. And I ask him what his story was about. “Oh! It was about polar bears, Mom! Did you know that…” And then I proceed to turn my ears off and my random “Uh-huh”s on, because it is only 9am, but my ears are already exhausted. And while turning my ears off may seem rude to you, I promise you that it is true when I say this: you must pick your battles. If he were telling me about his day, or something he’s concerned about, or even maybe why he likes his Dusty shoes better than his McQueen shoes, I would likely pay attention and give some authentic feedback. But stories about polar bears are not the time to use up my listening.

I’ve been a teacher of kids ages 8-12 for 12 years, and up until 4.25 years ago, I didn’t even know “using up my listening” was a thing. It is. It’s a real honest-to-goodness thing. My listening gets used up on a daily basis.

I don’t really know why I’m surprised. I’ve told this story many times… When Jacob was just about 10 months old, Matt and I took the kids to the Woodland Park Zoo. After a long fun day, we buckled the kids in the car to head home. Annalise, just barely 3, fell asleep before we pulled out of the parking lot. Jacob began to babble – as many 10 month olds do – as we drove out of the lot and all around the UW campus nearby. His babbling continued 20 minutes later as we got on the freeway to drive our 100 miles home. It would take us about an hour and 45 minutes. We expected our bubbly bundle would doze off soon. We were wrong. He babbled and babbled. And then he would pause for just a second. And then he’d babble and babble some more. It must have been just north of Everett that we decided to count how long he would be quiet in between his noise. “1-2-3… Oh, babbling… …1-2-Babble… …still babbling…” I am not even kidding when I tell you this: We never got to 5. NOT. EVEN. ONCE. He babbled the entire one hour and 45 minute drive home in addition to the 20 or so minutes of babbling that occurred while driving around UW.

So no. I shouldn’t be surprised.

Except that I’m a little surprised he hasn’t run out of words already. At some point, you’d think his brain would just stop making questions because it had used them all up, wouldn’t you?

Yesterday, we spent the day at home while Matt shot a wedding. Just like every other day, Jacob’s mouth was in constant motion. While we ate, he asked questions and told stories. While he played, he narrated each and every thing his toys did through song. No one need respond. No one need even listen. No one need even be in the same room. The noise just is.

Annalise sat coloring and mumbled to me, “Is he ever gonna stop making noise? He just doesn’t stop! EVER!” And then she used a word to describe him I’m not so fond of: annoying. While I can see that from a big sister’s perspective, the constant noise would be bothersome, I don’t like the tone or the label annoying gives. So we talked about other, more appropriate ways she could ask him to stop.

Then today, Grandpa asked Annalise about something that bothered her, and asked her if “it got under her skin.” She wasn’t sure what that meant, so he explained, “Something that is annoying or bothers you.” Later, when the kids played in another room, Jacob was singing “America the Beautiful” as best as he can remember – which isn’t very well, since he’s only 4 and hasn’t heard it more than a handful of times. I kept hearing his sister’s response. “Jacob, your noise is under my skin. Jacob, your song is under my skin. Jacob, when you say America like that, it’s under my skin! Jacob, YOU are under my skin!”

I sigh.

I have a very dear friend with 5 beautiful children. While I’m certain she has more mouths to feed, more bedding to change, more teeth to brush, and more laundry to do, and while I can even be reasonably sure she has a higher decibel level in her house just because of the number of vocal cords that live there, I think I may have her beat on number of words that enter my ears and try to be processed in my brain on any given day.

Do I sound like I’m complaining? Please know I am absolutely not. I love my little chatterbox. There are days where the constant flow of verbiage brings so much joy and laughter, and I am ever so thankful. There are days when I learn so much and am amazed at the thought process and ideas a boy of barely 3 1/2 feet can come up with, and I feel blessed beyond measure. And yes, there are days where I feel like – even though I’m still so thankful and still feel so very blessed – my ears might actually just shrivel up and turn into dust if they have to hear one. more. utterance. And if they don’t, my brain certainly will.

Today was one of those days.

I considered a bike ride. But the trailer bike he’s been using is attached directly behind my bike. The last two times we went out, he sang a narration of everything we passed by. I found it funny then, but today didn’t seem like the appropriate time to affix his mouth directly behind my ear.

And so we headed out to the store for a change of scenery. It paused the words, but the singing was unstoppable. I’m okay with that. I think the constant music is an outward sign of his contentment. The boy has a song in his heart, and who would want to stop that? Or the dancing down the grocery aisles that goes with it! It was in the store that I thought back to this morning’s Children’s Church lesson…

8 little sets of eyes looked up at me as I reminded them of all we had learned so far about God providing for the Israelites. He had led them out of Egypt and slavery. He had parted the waters so they could walk across on dry land. He had given them manna from Heaven when they were hungry. Every need they had was fulfilled, and every promise He made was true. But now, here they were, afraid to go into the promised land, the land of Canaan. They complained and whined and questioned God. When they faced the fortified city and the strong people of Canaan, they forgot all that God had done and that He is all-powerful. And when they forgot that, they became afraid. And when they were afraid, they stopped trusting and did things their own way. And our way is never better than God’s way.

As we reviewed all God had done for the Israelites and how they responded with a surprising lack of faith now, Jacob sat with his hand up in the air, waiting to talk. I didn’t call on him right away, because – like his previous Sunday School teacher – I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the story with a tale of giant squid or sperm whales (not even kidding, thankyouverymuch to the show Wild Kratts) or a demonstration of something cool he could do with the gum in his mouth that he seemed to be quite interested in. When he finally had permission to talk, what came out surprised me. “What the Israelites did is kinda like what Peter did. When Jesus was walking on the water, then he got out of the boat and walked on the water, too. At first he did, but then he saw all the big waves and the water and he forgot about what Jesus could do and started to be afraid and then he just started to sink.” Um… yeah. It was actually just exactly like that. Nice analogy that I didn’t even think of, FOUR-YEAR-OLD.

And now, as he hummed and danced his way through the grocery store and sang and drove his matchbox car over everything he could reach on every aisle we went down, only knocking over one thing that thankfully didn’t break, my nerves were shot and my head was mush and my ears had shut off. But I noticed the smiles on peoples’ faces as they passed by. Mostly older faces. Come to think of it, their smiles may have been less about the sweetness of his song and innocence of his play and more of an “Oh this Mama has no idea how much she has her hands full.” In any case, I thought of the smiles, and I thought of what happened in Children’s Church. And I thought about this oh-so-wise boy who has ideas beyond what I think of and uses his mouth so well. And I prayed a prayer I’ve prayed before and I’m sure I’ll pray many more times… May the words of his mouth and the thoughts of his heart be used to glorify the Jesus he spoke of today.

And so, I end with this:

Jacob, my loquacious one, you have been given a gift making people smile, and of words and noise. Daddy and I have a very big job to try to teach you self-control of that noise. A very big job. We don’t want to squelch your spirit or make you something you are not. But we will do our best to help train you to use your noise – at appropriate levels and in appropriate quantities – to bring Jesus to others. It’s going to be one of our biggest jobs ever. But I know what an absolutely unstoppable force you could be for Him. I know first hand. And so does your sister. And Daddy too. Mostly anyone you spend one-on-one time with for any extended period of time knows. And also a few random strangers at the coffee shop and the Green Barn might be able to guess how unstoppable you and your words could be, too. And likely your Sunday School teachers know. And probably also most of Mommy’s Facebook friends. Sorry about that. At any rate, I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you and your gift.

In the meantime, keep making us laugh. Keep asking your questions. Keep singing your songs and humming your tunes. Keep dreaming about your what-ifs and possibly impossible scenarios.

But also remember, unlike your sweet mouth, Mommy’s ears have limits.

Thankfully, God’s ears don’t.