Three Things Thursday: Like Father, Like Son

*This post was originally written on October 23, only a few weeks after I began my “Three-Things-Thursday” posts. Only I forgot to hit “publish.” And then I didn’t sit down to write for 6 more weeks. Found this today, hitting publish now. Oops.

 

Turns out I am such a quitter. I’m just not made for the weekly writing of three things.

I have to be inspired.

I have to have a story.

I have to have 5 minutes to sit down without falling asleep.

By the way, just exactly when will that happen? Because I clearly remember my dad doing this when I was a kid. And now I’m… a lot older than that. And yet every time I visit him, Dad still falls asleep within minutes of sitting down. And he is 65. Was it always that way, Dad? Or did you have some years in between us kids sucking out all your energy and your old age sucking out all your energy where you could just sit without becoming comatose?

Just kidding. My dad is a very hard worker. It isn’t his old age that makes him conk out. I believe it is his very efficient use of time that allows him to do so in the rare moments where he actually sits. Seriously. He works super hard while he is up, and he instantly takes good advantage of those precious minutes when he sits.

Anyway, here it is Thursday, and I don’t have 3 specific things to share. But I would like to point out how much my son is like his father…

This is evidenced in the fact that he is ultra picky with his food. As is Matt. Only they are picky with the exact opposite foods. Jacob likes no meat. Matt likes almost nothing but meat. Meal-making is a dream in this house.

It is also evidenced in the fact that Jacob – and his dad – wake up chipper and ready to face the world, or at least talk to it. A lot. Without stopping. And their bodies move quickly. So very quickly for such early hours. Yesterday, Jacob got up, ran in to wake me up and say good morning. I sat up and said I just needed to go potty before I talked to him. In the 5 minutes it took me to stretch, stand, use the bathroom, find my cozy sweatshirt, and head to the coffee pot, Jacob had picked out his clothes, got dressed including shoes and socks, brushed his teeth, and made his bed. And he came running into the kitchen with a smile on his face. Before my coffee had finished brewing.

I am not like them. I am not awake when I am moving around in the morning. My body is up, but my brain has not yet connected to my mouth. Or other parts of me, I think. Which is why I somehow ended up with toothpaste in my eye this morning. Not even kidding. I can’t tell you how this happens. I can only tell you that it is possible. And that it stings. And that flushing it with water takes longer than you might think, because it first gets more foamy before it finally rinses out. Which I guess makes sense, but doesn’t help the pain any.

Thirdly, like his dad, Jacob is kind. He wouldn’t ever want to hurt my feelings. Which is why today, he thought of the kindest way possible to drop a not-so-subtle hint to me about something. He spent the morning at a friend’s house. This friend of mine happens to make delicious homemade bread, and Jacob had some for lunch. On the way home, he said to me, “Mom! You know what? You could not buy bread anymore! Maybe…. maybe you could have Mrs. Schouten teach you how to make bread, and then you wouldn’t have to buy it anymore!”

My four year old. Manipulating me with the idea of saving money. So he can get some fresh yummy bread out of the deal. Because apparently my store-bought bread isn’t good enough.

Which reminds me of the time his father did something very similar. When we were dating, I knew how much Matt loved chocolate cake. It is hands-down his favorite dessert and really goes beyond the normal “favorite food” kind of love. He not only loves the cake, but he often comments that “I know God doesn’t get things wrong, but that just feels like one thing He might have… Chocolate cake should be good for you. It just should. Feeling sick? Eat more chocolate cake. Aren’t sleeping well? It’s ’cause you haven’t been eating enough chocolate cake. Up your cake intake for improved health.”

So while I knew he loved it, I wasn’t sure what kind of chocolate cake he dreamed of. And in a moment of we’re-just-dating-and-I-am-trying-to-impress-insanity, I decided to make three from-scratch chocolate cakes for him to try. Yes, three. With three different from-scratch frostings. Clearly, I had no children to occupy my time. Nor did I have meals to dream up and make for various picky people. And obviously, I was still working on winning the guy over. Because that’s some seriously unnecessary overkill.

I invited my beau over for the cake testing and tried to guess which one would be his favorite. I don’t think I had ever made a cake from scratch before, and now I had done 3 in one day. You can imagine the toll this took on me and my kitchen. You can imagine the anticipation and excitement built up as I served this tall and handsome hunk not one, not two, but three slices of his obsessively favorite dessert. You can imagine the dramatic reaction I had already imagined, like him suddenly dropping to his knee and proposing before finishing the third piece.

Me: Anxious. Excited. Proud. “So? Which is your favorite cake? Which is your favorite frosting???”

Matt: Not showing much emotion. “Hmmm…. I don’t know….”

Me: Waiting impatiently. Feeling a bit disappointed he hasn’t shown signs of awe over my 3-cake accomplishment. But still hopeful that a ring might appear before the night is over. I mean, seriously. I made three from-scratch cakes. THREE. Still waiting for a response…

Matt: Between bites and with a forced excitement. “You know what would be really fun? Maybe someday you and my mom could get together and make chocolate cakes! Don’t you think? Wouldn’t that be fun?”

Me: Dumbfounded. Anger rising. Don’t even bother pulling out a ring now, Buddy, because I’ll probably just smash it into your cake. Into one of them. One of the three. There were THREE.

To be fair, this was many years ago, and my dear husband has grown much older and wiser since this comment. But unfortunately, he has not passed along this wisdom to our son. Who just today thought of the great idea of me hanging out with Mrs. Schouten to learn bread-baking.

The good news is, my son is like his dad. What a good man to look up to and emulate.

The bad news is, my son is like his dad. And that means my mornings are just going to be a bit noisier than my brain is ready for. And I might get hints dropped to improve my cooking and baking skills that are seriously lacking. (To be clear, this would only be from the ignorant but well-meaning 4-year-old. The 39-year-old has learned his lesson.)

Oh, and the other good news: My husband’s obsession over chocolate cake is any of the boxed variety. With frosting out of a can. Which means I will never ever again in my life make a made-from scratch-cake. Let’s be honest, the man is seriously lucky to get any cake after that comment.

(Turns out this wasn’t a Three-Things-Thursday failure after all: 3 ways my son is like his dad AND a story of 3 cakes.)

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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.

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.

Some days are just like that

Dad and daughter drove off to an early morning coffee date on their way to school. I set the two breakfast plates on the table and called for the boy to join me. He hustled in and climbed up the big chair while chattering away, too-long pajama pants dangling to his pudgy toes.

He stopped mid-climb and mid-sentence and made a face. “Just peanut butter? But I wanted jelly. Or Tunella!”  That’s his word for “Nutella,” a once-in-a-while treat that I have forever regretted purchasing.

I calmly sent him to his room, since he knows the rules very well: Complain about what you’re served? Sit on your bed until you have a thankful heart. That may sound harsh to some, but this is an on-going issue with the boy. He has developed a bad habit of this. To your room is now the immediate consequence, with an opportunity to re-enter and join the meal appropriately. And good grief, the kid asks for peanut butter nearly every time I serve him something else. UGH.

A few minutes later, he moped back in. If you’ve ever seen this boy mope, you know he does it well. Face hung, shoulders hung even more, so much so that it looked like he might actually topple forward. Slow walking with shuffling feet. Head swinging from side to side with each step.

He climbed back up in the chair, put his elbows on the table, and dramatically flopped his long-but-adorably-chubby cheeks into his hands with a sigh.

“So?” I asked. “What’s up?”

“I’m trying to decide,” he said with the saddest voice he could muster.

“Trying to decide what?”

“If I’m gonna choose joy or the grumps.”

I tried not to chuckle. “Ah. Looks to me like you’ve chosen already. But the great news is, you can still change your mind.”

He rattled off a few whiny remarks about his food, and how hard it is to choose joy when you really feel frustrated or angry or tired or don’t feel like eating something.

How thankful I am for a boy who can clearly communicate his every thought. Sure, sometimes it’s exhausting, but in moments like this, I so love that he can articulate exactly what he feels. It makes talking through his thoughts and feelings so much easier.

And it usually provides great teaching moments for both of us…

“Yep, I know, Bud. It’s hard to choose joy when you feel all those things. But that’s why joy isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.” He looked up at me but didn’t respond – which is unusual – so I continued. “The Bible says to be joyful always. That means that even when we don’t feel happy, we can choose to be joyful…”

“I don’t want to choose to be joyful,” he interrupted with his down-in-the-dumps-voice. “I choose the grumps.” Without me saying a word, he slid off the chair and headed back to his bed, this time not as a consequence, but because he felt the need to sulk. At least he’s honest, I thought. And I can relate. I don’t always want to choose to be joyful, either. 

I decided to eat my breakfast alone and give him time to think and calm down. After clearing my plate, he came back in, face still hung, shoulders still hung more, feet still shuffling along slowly. “Mommy, I just don’t want a peanut butter sandwich.” His face was pained.

“I know. And so you chose the grumps. What happens when you choose the grumps?”

“You get in trouble.”

“What else?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you get something else for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Did you get to eat with me?”

“No.”

“So you didn’t get what you want. You were just miserable. And now you have to eat alone, so your problem got worse. What happens when you choose joy?”

“I don’t know. Because I still don’t know how to do that when I feel so mad.Have you ever seen someone talk with their whole body? Flailing arms, face, torso all showed me the frustration of this comment. I’m sooo mad, and I have NO IDEA how to be joyful when I feel this way.

We talked about what it meant to choose joy. Be thankful for the many blessings we have. Be thankful for a special time with Mommy. Be thankful for getting your favorite green plate and not having to have eggs. Focus on the things that you can be thankful for, and remember that they are gifts from God. We talked about the rest of that verse. Be joyful always. Pray continuously. Give thanks in all circumstances.

He flashed his wide smile, and for the first time since I made his breakfast, his cheeks looked round again. “YEAH! And know what else I’m thankful for? Behind the man-cave (the play area he loves at the Krause House) there are some blackberry bushes. And when it’s Next-tember, I want to go PICK SOME!”

He chomped into his sandwich and started rattling off a list of things he was thankful for. “Mom, know what? I decided. Today, I’m gonna choose joy.”

And my heart smiled.

Cute story, huh?

Well, too bad it didn’t end there. But this is not Leave it to Beaver, and I am not June Cleaver. This is reality, people.

Maybe – hopefully – some of you can relate to what happened next: He chose the grumps every 2-3 minutes for the rest of the morning. Time to get dressed? I choose grumps. No snack? More grumps. Pick up your toys? Epic-ly grumpy grumps coupled with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And in the meantime, I’m having to choose joy a million times every minute so I don’t lose it. <—– This itself is an absolute miracle right from Heaven, and likely happened only because I was doing my best to teach him about choosing joy, which is kind of hard to do when you’re screaming about it.

After much ignoring-with-a-plastered-smile by me and multiple back-and-forth to the bedroom by him (mostly his choice, unless of course “the grumps” resulted in a mini-fit in which case he went by my direction), I decided I’d help distract him…

I attempted a tickle fight, which resulted in a fair amount of giggles. And just for fun, I brought out the big guns… the squirt guns. (This possibly could have been more to get my own aggression out than to make him laugh, but whatever. Two birds, one stone.) After I totally kicked his 4-year-old-sopping-wet-tail, the grumps returned yet again.

Some days are just like that, right? We have to decide to choose joy in each moment. Not just once when we wake up. Not just after the first frustrating moment. But all along the way.

Today, I choose joy. Even though my head hurts. Even though my favorite shirt is dirty and the kitchen is a mess. Even though I’m about to run out of gas on the way to work and then I’m late and then I forgot my lunch in the messy kitchen and then someone makes a rude comment and I can’t find an important document and everything seems to be falling apart. And not to mention, my head still hurts.

I will choose joy. Because in your presence, Oh Lord, there is fullness of joy.

Joy isn’t about the circumstances I hold, but who is holding me in my circumstances.

I guess I just needed that reminder today.