Friday, May 25, 2012

Reflecting

He never stopped.

Never even slowed down.  

Just kept on speeding through our quiet neighborhood as if nothing so tragic it would take our breath away had just happened. 

We still haven't fully caught our breath from the shock and confusion and pain of it all.  Some of us never will.  We just learn to live with our lungs half full, damaged but still viable.  

Monday, May 28, marks the one year anniversary of the day the world stopped on our little cul-de-sac.

But today, May 25th, is Matt's seventh birthday.

Today we remember.  Every mailbox in our neighborhood is wearing a blue ribbon, Matt's favorite color, in his honor.  


We lost our neighbor, our friend, our buddy, and we still miss him every single day.  Still think about those laughing blue eyes of his, that winsome little smile he always wore, that little toy jeep he loved to zoom around the cul-de-sac in and the early talent he showed for sports of just about any kind.  

Matthew Dahl, age six, was taken from us far too early.  He had just celebrated his sixth birthday three days before his death.

His leftover birthday cake was still in the fridge.

He had just finished kindergarten.

He just wanted to cross the street on his bike so he could join his playmates for a game of flashlight tag.  He strapped on his bike helmet and pedaled to where his friends were waiting.

Kids being kids, enjoying the brand new summer break and the freedom that comes with it.

In an instant, he was gone.  Hit and killed by a driver charged with drunk driving who never even hit the brakes.  

For the next forty-eight hours, I spent nearly every moment in the home of my friends who were experiencing indescribable pain.  I just did whatever I could and mostly cried with them.

I'll never, ever forget those two days.  I saw it firsthand.  This is something parents never recover from.  They just learn to keep breathing.  

I often wonder if that young man who killed Matt thinks about the suffering he caused by selfish, immature choices.  I struggle with anger and bitterness, wanting him to feel just a fraction of the pain Matt's parents have and continue to experience.  He's just a kid himself, so surely he can't possibly understand the depth of suffering in that home.  

But instead of focusing on the driver who took so much from the family and all of us who knew Matt, during this past year I've chosen to focus on the word "stop".

When's the last time I've stopped for no reason whatsoever but to wrap my arms around my daughters and remind them that I love them?  


Have I stopped lately to thank God for His undeserved blessing of healthy children who are still here with their Dad and me?


I stop more now just to watch them playing, to watch as they figure things out like tying their shoes and how to brush their hair.  Amidst all the running that goes along with motherhood, I don't want to forget to STOP.  To look around me at the little treasures entrusted to me, and to push every other trivial little responsibility I have that day off my top priority spot to make room for what really matters, being intentionally grateful for every single day God blesses me with as a mother of three.

When's the last time I stopped to take a short few minutes to write a note of encouragement to a friend?  To pick up the phone to see how someone's doing?  To just be there and help carry the load of a friend who needs a shoulder?

So I challenge you to join me.  

Will you stop?  


I don't want to miss opportunities to be a friend who's there during the good times and the bad.  I don't want to live with regret over missing mommy moments because I'm too busy to stop.  They will be gone before I know it, all those requests for me to snuggle them at bedtime and to draw silly pictures on their napkins for their lunch boxes.  

Stop.  

This photo was taken of all the kiddos on our cul-de-sac on Halloween, 2010.  Matt was so excited and happy in his green power rangers suit.  



We love you, Matt.  Miss you terribly but will see you again.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Change is Gonna Come

We knew it would happen one day.

After all, we'd done it ourselves when we were growing up.  

It's just that we thought we had a little more time.

We've hit the stage where our kids are now much too cool for us.

This photo was taken this past Sunday after church when we went to Newk's for lunch.



Just look at them!  Sitting at a table for two on the farthest wall away from their parents and baby sister as possible.  Look how happy they are!  It's as if they are saying, "Family?  What family?  We are free as birds out of the nest."  

They even got their own drinks and spoke with the employee who brought their food.  

Yes, they were pretty grown up.  Clearly able to take care of themselves and eat with good manners and behave as civilized human beings in public.  The only tiny detail that was missing was the fact that THEY DIDN'T PAY FOR THEIR OWN FOOD.  

Of course this teeny little fact pretty much negates all other aspects of them being independent grown ups who no longer need Mom and Dad.  

I realized right then and there that I'd been doing them a disservice by not helping them be more grown up at home.  After all, if they wanted to be grown up, it was high time they began pulling their weight a little around the house. That evening, I began with my little (true) sob story about how my sisters and I used to have to stand on chairs in order to reach the kitchen sink to wash dishes.  We couldn't have been more than about four and eight years old.  

My oldest looked at me and very seriously said, 

"That is cruel.  It should be against the law."  

Strange.  I do not remember child services ever showing up at our door while I was washing dishes.  

Oh, yes, girls.  We are quite willing for you to enjoy some benefits of being more grown up.  However, we as your parents are going to enjoy some benefits as well.  

Girls, I'd like you to meet my dear friend, the dishwasher.  

Contrary to popular belief, he does not magically collect dirty dishes.  Nor does he magically place them back in their proper place when they're sparkly clean.  

I know this will come as quite a shock, but I actually have to MANUALLY place each and every dish and utensil in this machine before it will wash them.  

Let's take a moment to let that sink in, shall we?

Next, I'd like to familiarize you with a little thing I like to call...bathroom cleaner.

What?  Bathrooms have to be cleaned?

I'm so glad you asked!  Why yes, yes they do, my darlings.  And not only that, but they have to be cleaned from top to bottom WEEKLY!  

Every week this summer you will be making all kinds of fabulous discoveries and having new adventures now that you're "grown ups".  I have a whole list of grown up things you can do...you're gonna love it.

Regardless of how you may feel about our current President, I have to admit I like his campaign slogan of "Hope and Change".

My girls may hope there won't be much change, but change is comin'.  In fact, it's speeding towards them and they don't even know it.  I'm not just hoping.  This is a fact.

Just look at the wonderful things they've done so far the last few days:

Washing dishes:



Bathing the dog:



Drying off the dog before he's allowed back in the house.
I made a mental note to tell her next time to please refrain from using one of their good bath towels.  EEK!

But hey, progress is progress...



Cleaning up after the dog:




Feeding the dog:



Is anyone else sensing a dominant theme in household chores?  Namely that most of them have to do with caring for the DOG?!  Man's best friend...wife's worst enemy.  But I digress...


Laundry:



Dusting (while eating a fruit roll up).



Cleaning mirrors:




Bathing themselves:



The youngest child, observing and sensing that this all began because her big sisters decided to display their independence and ability to care for themselves, decided to play it smart.

She asked her Daddy to sit next to her and cut up her pizza for her.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Confessional Prayers

The sad truth is that we all have things to confess in prayer.  Some of us more often than others, but at the end of the day, all of us have little indiscretions to discuss with the Lord.

Now, we are not Catholic, but apparently my children are confused about this.

You see, all three of them seem to be under the impression that they need to confess sins in prayer while in the presence of their little friends.  It's like they have to confess to a priest. 

Oh, and one other little thing I forgot to mention:

They think they are supposed to confess EACH OTHER'S sins, not their own.  They are taking the role of priest because they are quite happy to bring the sins of their sisters before the Throne and speak with Him on their behalf.

It would be quite touching if I were not so acutely aware of their more sinister motivations.  They are not just concerned for the state of their sister's relationship with God.  Oh, no.  This is nothing less than an all out game of "truth or dare" disguised as a prayer.  Only in this game, the poor sister being prayed for does not get to choose whether she will tell the truth or take the dare.  Everything she's ever done is laid bare for God and everyone around the table to hear about.  

I saw it again just last weekend.  

You see, being the supermom that I strive to be, I bought tickets to take the girls to see the play "Rapunzel" downtown.  

I was quickly informed by my oldest daughter that she already knew that story and did not want to go.  Well, so much for supermom.  I can't even find a play everyone wants to see.  


Then the youngest one was despairing over the fact that she'd have to wear this ridiculous Cinderella dress because we didn't have a Rapunzel dress.  It was almost more than she could bear.

Whatever.  

I then told my middle daughter that she could invite a friend to join us.  She was ecstatic at this idea and had her decision made in an instant.  She wanted me to call her best friend, Belle, who sits right next to her in kindergarten.  

Fast forward five days and ten thousand times of answering how many more days til the play and it was finally time to go.  The girls were so excited and dressed up and couldn't wait to get there.  

We had a wonderful time and went out for a fancy dinner at Five Guys afterward.

Being the very well-mannered and spiritually conscious children that they are, my youngest very energetically volunteered to pray before we ate our health conscious meal of burgers and fries.

Warmed my heart.  Few things are sweeter than hearing your small child talking to God.

Things started out alright.  She thanked God for the fun day and for Rapunzel and for squirrels and for Belle.

Ahh, listen to that.  She's just precious.  I could almost picture the face of Jesus smiling upon her as He listened.

The prayer then began to focus on the less holy moments of our day.

She freely confessed her own wrongdoings.  These included accidentally hitting her sister, accidentally forgetting not to say stupid, and eating jelly beans when she forgot Mommy said no.

But then, she quickly turned the confessional spotlight onto her big sister, who was still sitting with her eyes squeezed shut and holding a french fry in midair.

Oh, she was thorough.

She was determined to lay it all out there for the Lord.  It was almost as if she were giving last rites and wanted to make totally sure her sister could meet God with a clear conscience.



She covered the time her sister had hit her that day, how her sister fussed when Mommy asked her to make up her bed, the moment when her sister stomped up the stairs because she couldn't eat ice cream for breakfast, and even shared her sister's ongoing struggle with beating her habit of needing pull ups at night, earnestly pleading with Jesus for His help.

Big sister was NOT pleased at this point.




I had to do something.

She was bound to turn her attention to other members of the family at any moment.

I certainly did not want our little guest to hear about how their Mommy...well...I've already confessed it and don't need to mention my failures here.

I cleared my throat loudly, said "Amen", and quickly thanked my child for her heartfelt prayer.

So, next time you ask your child to pray, be ready, mothers.  You never can tell what may come up in the course of their conversation with God.

Now I know why lots of families just stick to the tried and true prayer song, "God our Father we give thanks for our many blessings.  Amen."  Short, sweet, to the point, and not likely to reveal the last time you lost your temper and threw your plastic cup hard enough to break it on the the tile floor.  Not me, mind you. Someone I know.

Amen.  



Friday, May 4, 2012

Hunger Games and Easter Egg Hunts

On a scale of 1 to 10, how wrong is it to allow your child to cheat at a game?

I suppose I should add that the game was also taking place IN A CHURCH.

Okay, AND it was a game centered around a holiday which celebrates Jesus' defeat over sin.  

You've probably heard of it...Easter.  


The game of which I speak is none other than the beloved Easter Egg Hunt.  That age old competition between young children dressed to the nines in little pastel colored dresses and miniature suits and ties, while toting around adorable little Easter baskets with fake grass in them.  

We've had some unfortunate experiences with egg hunts in the past.  

A few years ago we took our kids to a humongous egg hunt (10,000 eggs!) and, after waiting for thirty minutes for the hunt to get a very late start, ended up with ONE lousy Easter egg (which cost us $15),  TWO very unhappy little girls, and one resolute vow to NEVER do that again.  It was a total madhouse.  Little bodies running a mock everywhere!  They were like a termite infestation, crawling all over each other and devouring everything in their path.  It was a little frightening, really.  My girls were slightly traumatized and just stood there virtually paralyzed in a sea of screaming children searching and clawing for the plastic treasures all over the lovely grass.  

So, with a few years parenting experience under our belt, we've learned to give our little egg hunters a few helpful hints along the way.  It occurred to me that we are a little like Haymitch in the Hunger Games, advising our tributes in the best way to survive and win the game.  (Now before I start any rumors, the comparison breaks down a little since Haymitch was an alcoholic, but work with me here.)


 

We tell them that they must overcome the temptation to go for the easy eggs nearly within their reach when the race begins.  Pass them by, girls!  Run!  Find someplace where nobody else is!  Solitude is the key to success!  

However, at this year's recent egg hunt at my youngest child's Mother's Day Out "school", two of my kids ignored my advice and decided to form an alliance.  The hunt was for preschool children mostly ages three and four, but my oldest daughter tagged along with her own plans for victory (you must remember she directly benefited from her sister acquiring a large number of candy filled eggs).  She had enough egg hunt experience to qualify her as a Career (if you have not read the Hunger Games, this will make no sense whatsoever to you....join us and go read it).

I watched my sweet little girl happily frolicking around the church lobby, cluelessly passing by egg after egg in plain view.  

It was just more than my little "Career" child could take.  

Suddenly she was in there leading her three-year-old sister by the hand and pointing at eggs Leighanne would otherwise miss. It was not unlike the Tributes receiving an unexpected source of help in the form of a parachute.   It went a little something like this:



I began feeling slightly uncomfortable.  



Other parents were standing around watching their strategy and without fail began subtly looking my way to see if I would do anything about it.  

But to be fair, most of their kids were still stuck in the "bloodbath" at the starting point of the hunt.  They were fighting it out over the easy eggs and paying the price for it by losing out on the bigger picture.  These were kids who could have benefited from having a Haymitch as their mentor.  



So, I don't know.  Maybe egg hunts where kids turn into nearly ravenous, rabid beasts in pursuit of cheap plastic eggs is not the best way to remember the true meaning of Easter.  I guess I need to add "allowed cheating" to my list of motherly confessions.   

Where's that leftover Easter candy?  I need some comfort food.  


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