Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giddy up

I experienced an unfortunate low point in my month last weekend. 

Knowing the kind of sadness we've had this past year, this is really saying a lot.  I'm not proud to admit this, but here goes.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we went out to the lake.  It was a perfect fall weekend - 60s during the day and briskly chilly at night.  We built fires and cooked out and had a spectacular weekend. 

Part of what makes it so beautiful, and so, well, autumnal, out there are the trees.  There are many, many - think, a bazillion, tall majestic trees - pines, oaks, pecan, elm, sweetgum, maples, cedars, etc - which, aside from contributing to the brutal seasonal allergies that plague my husband, also mean many, many leaves in the yard. 

So there we are, such a perfect fall tableau - our pictuesque little family in our boots and jackets and scarves, raking all the zillions of leaves. 

Okay, FINE.  Since Chris apparently reads my blog and prefers me to accurately represent the facts, I'll be a little more specific:  he was raking leaves, Aria was playing in them, and I was finding any excuse in the world to not rake leaves. 

But the point here, people, is this:  Chris reads my blog!!

Woops, not really the point.

Anyway, during some moment between burying herself, her sister, and Cooper in the leaves and rapidly dissembling the neat botanical burial mounds my husband had so painstakingly compiled about the yard, Aria posed to me this particular question, and I had a difficult time saying no.  Or, it could have been that I was looking for any conceivable distraction to get me out of the yardwork. 

Either way, it went like this:

"Mommy, can I get on Lexi and ride like a horse?"

A little background.  We've had big dogs my whole life.  There was our first family dog, Missy the Collie, then came beloved (Peppermint) Patty the Chocolate Lab, my personal all-time favorite Cooper the Big Yellow Lab, and Lexi - the um, well, my other Yellow Lab.  Get the message?  Big Dogs. 

And as a child, I often fantasized about saddling up one of said Big Dogs and cruising bareback around the neighborhood.  Yep.  There it is.  I always wanted to ride my dog.

Can't you just see it?  Me in my Indian Native American Princess costume, parading around the yard on the back of Missy the collie, galloping off to seize the gold from the bandits and rescue the cowboys from certain doom.  Or down to the mailbox to get the mail.  Or to the kitchen to eat a bologna sandwich. 

So last weekend, when Aria asked me if she could ride Lexi around the yard at the lake, I instantly saw it as, no, not a moment to teach my child about boundaries.  No, not as a chance to define for her right and wrong.  Nor to display for her my utmost respect toward animals.  Nope. 

I instead saw this as a fulfillment of one of my childhood dreams, and my answer was, "Sure!  Great idea, baby girl!  All aboard!"

Let the Mother of the Year Nominations begin.

I summoned Lexi over to us and convince her to sit.  Aria stood behind her and wrapped her arms tightly around Lexi's neck, and her legs tightly around Lexi's waist.  I then conspiratorily reminded Aria that in order for this to work, she needed to hold on very tightly and not let go.

I know, I know.  Such great advice, right?

Only Lexi refused to budge.  She stood still as a stone, not moving a muscle with the strange tiny human clutching onto her so tightly.

So here I realize my only possible option - other than abandoning this foolish venture, which I'd not be very likely to do as I am a complete and utter idiot stubborn - is to give Lexi cause to move.  And the one thing I know that will make her move - no joke, this trick would probably even still work when this dog no longer has breath in her body - is the very thing that I do: 

I shout, "Lexi!  GO GET THE RABBIT!"

Aria, bless her sweet little obedient heart, held on for dear life as my big, seventy-pound bounty hunter took flight with amazing alacrity in her zeal for the imaginary flop-eared Leporidae.

(See, Dad? I really did pay attention in Biology).

As you can probably guess, it did not end well.

My little equestrian (canine-estrian?) held on for about fifteen feet as Lexi went full-tilt down hill and across the yard.  The laws of physics ultimately forced her hand, and Aria had to release her hold of the furry ball of predatory muscle.  I watched it all in slow motion:  Aria flying off the dog, the dog tearing down the hill, Aria rolling over and over across the yard for about ten more feet, until landing facedown in a flourish of leaves and grass.
What did Mommy of the Year do then? 
Dissolved in a fit of hysterics.
Not the kind of, Oh-ma-gawsh-is-my-baby-okay hysterics, mind you.  It was more like the, No-way-that-is-the funniest-thing-I've-ever-seen-and-I-think-I-just-peed-myself hysterics.
Uh huh.  I know.  I know!
My account of these events may make it sound like I'm heartless, but see, I knew my baby was okay.  She landed in a big pile of leaves, kind of like alighting on nature's down comforter if you will, and after about thirty seconds of fake crying over her damaged pride, she was insisting we try it again.
Finally, though - finally! - good judgment prevailed, and I suggested instead that we go inside for a Capri-Sun and a cheesestick.
That said, I do hereby promise to not let my three-year-old's logic take precedence over my maternal judgment or a desire to fulfill my own three-year-old fantasy, which could ultimately put my precious baby in jeopardy of a scraped kneed, or broken collar bone, or bruised pride. 
Even if it does give Mommy hours of good laughs. 
I won't let it happen again.  Lexi, consider yourself free to hunt your bunny bounty without a passenger.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Santa Threat

Remember back in the spring, when I was all braggy about the fact that the Terrible Two's in our house weren't terrible at all, but were in fact, delightful?

Well, this is me eating those snarky words.

All I can say is, Oh.  Ehm.  Gee. 

The Threes.  The Threes.  THE THREES! 

I don't know how this happened, but upon turning three, and if you want to get technical, it's really been upon turning three and four months, my beautiful, precious, spectacular, miraculous daughter has become an obstinate, inflexible, stubborn, opinionated, argumentative she-devil. 

Okay, maybe I shouldn't have said that last part -- she really isn't that opinionated.

(Listen!  Do you hear that?  It's the sound of my mother snickering...)

Take Friday for example. 

Chris was out of town, and from the moment she rolled out of bed, Aria stood in direct opposition to everything I could possibly say or do all day.  "Aria, we're leaving, you need to go potty", was met with, "NO!  NO!  NO!"; refusal to purchase a snack at the gym garnered a full-on temper tantrum in the lobby, complete with boneless melting to the floor in protest (which, I don't know if you've experienced this, but it really chaps my hide); and so on.  You get the point.

Sidebar:  It is here that I would like to introduce a little observation Chris and I have made along the way as we have learned to be parents these past almost two years:  although we are as genetically different as two people can possibly be, Aria Grace and I could not be more alike than if scientists had removed strands of my DNA, cultured it in a petri dish, and grew a little Sarah clone.  It's scary how alike we are. 

(Insert sound of my mother laughing - no, make that, slapping her knees and guffawing at this irony.  Mom, do you mind?  I can hear you all the way out here in Texas).

I digress.

The thing is, 98% of the time, she's a happy, loving child, who goes with the flow, and is always smiling or offering a hug.  But the other 2% of the time?  Have mercy.

The really funny part in all this, is that I'm really, really trying to pay attention to how I parent the girls.  Chris and I are taking Dr. Larry Taylor's Kingdom Parenting class at church, and it has been such an eye-opener about how every little thing, said or unsaid, every move you make as a parent can have critical, lasting impact on your child, emotionally, physically, developmentally, and most important, spiritually. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in a KP class, don't turn it down.  It is invaluable.

In Luke 6:40, Jesus tells his followers, "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher".  When you translate this to parenting, it means our kids are going to be just like us.  How do we look?  Do we look like Jesus to our kids?  Dr. Taylor says we have 6,570 days with our kids from birth to diploma.  In our case, since we adopted Aria at 19 months and we missed out on 570 days, we essentially have 6,000 days with her until she leaves the nest and heads to Clemson, I mean, the college of her choice (Clemson).

6,000 days!  6,000 days to look like Jesus to my child.  That doesn't sound like enough, does it?

So back to Friday and my complete unraveling.  At the end of this particularly challenging day, after another battle of wills with Madame Snakeoil and innumerable time-outs, I sat her down and we had a Come to Jesus about her behavior.  Eye to eye, mother to child, we had our most serious talk yet.

"Aria.  This behavior - the whining, arguing, talking back to Mommy - this will not be tolerated.  This is not how our family works.  We love each other and we love God, and we need to act like it.  You need to do what Mommy and Daddy tell you to do, and you need to do it with a happy heart, not arguing and temper-tantrums".

"So we are going to need to make some changes.  And I am going to give you a choice.  You can control your own actions and what happens to you, okay?  If this behavior continues, there will be some consequences.  And here is what will happen:  First, you will be sent to your room for time-out for ten minutes, maybe more depending on whether or not you obey.  Second, if the behavior continues, you may get a spanking.  Next, if it still continues, I will take all your Halloween candy, and I will throw it away.  Gone". 

Aria:  Gaaaasssppp!

"And finally, Aria, and I want you to listen to me very closely on this.  If you continue to disobey Mommy and Daddy and argue and fight with us, here is what will happen:  I will call Santa.  I will tell him you have not obeyed your parents, and I will tell him not to bring you anything on Christmas morning."


I said that.  Even writing it now, I can't believe I said it.  But I did.  I actually threatened her with Santa.

Not to mention the flashbacks I was having to my own childhood and hearing that same thing from my parents for like, 6570 days or something.  Give or take.

But guess what?  It seemed to be the only thing that got through that precious, brilliant, little thick head of hers.  She sat up straighter, looked me in the eye and said very earnestly, "But Mommy, I really, really want Santa to bring me a present!"  I assured her that he absolutely would if she tried really hard to obey, and to not talk back or argue.  "I will, I promise!" she cried.

So yes, I realize Jesus probably wouldn't have exercised The Santa Threat, and I'm doing my best to reconcile that with what I'm learning in parenting class, but for the time being, Madame Snakeoil is gone and harmony has been restored to the Thomas house.

Good thing, because Santa did some recon last week and procured an extremely cool present, something he is very excited about presenting to the Thomas girls on Christmas morning.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Future Glazed Cherry

Since the holidays appear to be upon us, and Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby have had their Christmas decorations out since September, I decided it was time to start thinking about the annual family Christmas card, which yes I agree, always turns out to be more trouble than it's worth since it will undoubtedly end up in trash cans all over the country come December 26th. 

Yet year after year, I persist in this endeavor. 

I guess I'm what one would deem a Christmas card masochist. 

And, since according to Scrooge, I mean Chris, we're doing Christmas on a modified budget this year with the recession, I mean economic downturn, I also decided we would take our own holiday photo instead of paying a professional to do so.  This past Sunday, the girls looked cute, Chris and I looked acceptable, and the weather was gorgeous, so Sunday would be the day.


There was a teensy little complication called a time change, so when we got home from church it was 12:30, but Two little tummies thought it was 1:30, so they decided to be, um, somewhat uncooperative:

Notice a conspicuous absence from the family photo? 

25% of the family was inside eating a turkey sandwich. 

So much for loyalty.

Moving on.

Have I mentioned that my spectacular, beautiful, magnificent three-year-old is taking ballet?

Well she is.

More precisely, the class is called TBCM.  An acronym, as you've undoubtably guessed, that stands for Tap, Ballet, and Creative Movement.  The dance studio is staffed by current and former Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, and I'm pretty sure this is the reason my husband is suddenly volunteering to take her to class every Wednesday morning.  And even some of his friends have offered as well. 

Whatever, honey and honey's friends.  Not a chance.

Anyway, these cheerleaders are very serious about the skills they are inferring to our youth.  There is a dress code and a behavior code, both of which have to be adhered to at all times.

So far, my little ballerina is obeying the rules laid down by Miss Meghan, and appears to be having a blast. She'll even show you her plie' and pirouette if you ask.

The best part of this hour class for me is the Starbucks next door where I go with five of the other moms for fancy, high-calorie, overpriced caffeinated beverages and girl talk.

Today, however, I forewent the double latte, as we parents were invited to sit in and watch what the kids have learned so far this year.  I'll just say this right now:  Miss Meghan is more than just a pretty cheerleader.  That woman has the patience of Job.

Of course, there were plenty of ooh's and aah's and aren't-they-cute's, because let's be honest, they were, but I'm pretty sure today was all about buttering us up to fork over the big bucks for the "recital" costume. 

Yes, there apparently is a recital in our future. 

I know it ain't gonna be cheap, but while gulping at the presumed expense for this event, I'm also simultaneously swallowing a little lump in my throat as I remember my own days of the first dance recital. 

We were Glazed Cherries.  Red satin tutus and all.

Aahhh, the memories.

So anyway, here are a few cute (albeit blurry) photos I took of my future little Glazed Cherry dynamo at Parent Observation Day:

Mommy was so proud.

Incidentally, our appointment with the professional photographer is next Wednesday.

Even I am willing to admit to my photographic failures and call in the experts.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

AWANA be obedient

I've been feeling like the Lord has been laying something on my heart recently.  One word.  A word I've heard over and over and over, probably every day for the past three weeks I would be willing to bet.  A word I use quite often now as I try to teach my daughter the why's of right and wrong.


I think the reason God has to say it to me over and over is because I'm so hardheaded.  And stubborn.  And unwilling to submit.  Great qualities to have when you are a mule, or a triathlete, or a Republican.  Not so much when you are a child of God.

AWANAs is the perfect example.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, AWANAs is an acronym which stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, derived from 2 Timothy 2:15,  "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth".  The mission of AWANAs is to help churches and parents raise children to know, love, and serve Jesus.  It's a once-weekly, hour-and-a-half youth program which Aria absolutely L-O-V-E-S.  They have storytime, sing songs, make crafts, have group exercise, and, believe it or not, learn Bible verses.  Essentially, it is mini- Vacation Bible School every Wednesday.  And she adores it.

The kicker is, for your child to attend AWANAs, one parent has to volunteer once a month to be a helper in the classroom, and guess what, I'm that volunteering parent.  And with a classroom of 18 three-year-olds, half of them boys, my particular AWANAs night is all about wrangling those boys.  The girls sit nicely in a circle with folded hands listening to the teacher or singing the songs, while the boys are everywhere:  climbing up on the tables, beating each other with Bibles, breaking into the snack cabinet, tripping each other, sneaking out of the room.  It is straight up exhausting.  My first night after volunteering, I came home and threw myself on the couch, and declared, "Chris Thomas!  I'm so glad we have GIRLS!"   I really did, I got on my knees that night and THANKED GOD for my sweet, well-behaved, calm GIRLS.  I was more tired after two hours in AWANAs than I sometimes am after working 24 hours at the hospital.  It was that draining.

And the whole night, between cleaning spills and wiping crayon marks off the walls and pulling brawling boys off one another, I'm thinking, why am I here?  I'm really just an unpaid babysitter.  What's the point?

I know, I know!  Where's my happy heart, right?  My Obedience?

I will say, it has become slightly more tolerable little by little each month.  Maybe the kids are more in a routine now, or maybe I walk into that classroom a little more prepared for the mini-tornadoes with Y chromosomes, but either way, it doesn't seem as chaotic as of late. 

Which is how I noticed little Jeremy (no, of course not his real name).

Jeremy is a beautiful, sweet child who is significantly less dynamic than the other boys, and for this, I think he has a behavioral disorder on the autism spectrum.  Okay, that's not why.  I'm claiming limited expertise in this area, believe me, but he does have enough of the characteristics that I know I'm not wrong about it:  unable to make eye contact, minimal verbal skills, playing alone, often standing in a corner rocking back and forth, inability to follow simple commands, flapping his arms, becoming overwhelmed in a crowd. 

So naturally, I decide to make it my personal mission that Jeremy feels the love of God every Wednesday between 6:30 and 8:00 pm.  This child will be welcomed and cherished and included when he walks in the door to his AWANAs class.  I will hold his hand and help him make the crafts, I will teach him the songs, we will say the Bible verses over and over if we have to.  I will do my best to share Jesus with him, maybe not so much verbally but with care and love.  Maybe he gets this love and attention all day long at home, but what if he doesn't?  He probably does, but what if?  What if, by chance, this is the only time this child will experience God's grace, this one hour a week on a Wednesday?

So is this my obedience lesson?  To befriend and love this child who is harder to connect with?  Maybe.  Or maybe just learning to honor Him by honoring my commitments, even if it means herding cats boys for 2 hours a month.  With a happy heart.  Who knows?  Only my God.

My mother forwarded this story to me last week, a story on Obedience (see?  It's everywhere). 

I have a high school friend who is a missionary and recently attended an evangelical conference in South Africa.  He heard this story at his conference and passed it along to the pastoral staff at my parents' church.

A Muslim Background Believer (MBB) from Saudi Arabia (yes, Saudi Arabia) stood and told the story of a friend of his and his wife driving through Iran.  They were local MBBs.  Pulling into a gas station, the man looked up to see a bearded soldier leaning against a wall with a gun.  The wife turned to her husband and said, "You need to give that man a Bible."  The husband responded that he did not think it was "wisdom" to do so as the man looked very religious and had a gun.  His wife looked at him and said, "I don't care, I think you are supposed to do it."  The man went into the gas station and returned with some water and pulled out of the gas station.  His wife turned to him, "You didn't give him a Bible, did you?"  Quite upset the man retorted, "It was a terrible idea!" 

The wife began to pray aloud, "Oh Lord, on the great day of judgement may that soldier's blood be on the head of my husband and not on mine." 

[Sah-nap!  Don't you just love that part?]

Immediately the husband slammed on the brakes and wheeled the car around back to the gas station.

He gingerly approached the man with the gun, "Sir, please take this book."  The gunman looked up with tears in his eyes and said, "I had a dream I was supposed to come to this gas station and stand here until someone brought me the book of life.  I have been waiting here three days, THANK YOU SIR, THANK YOU!!"

The soldier gave his life to Christ.  Five years later the soldier was martyred for his faith.

THAT was obedience.

Our Sunday School teacher this week told of a story he heard from a visiting pastor who spoke at a prayer breakfast our teacher attended last week.  The visiting pastor is the father of five children, two of whom are adopted.  One of the adopted children was an older boy from The Philippines, whom they named David. 

The pastor tells of the first week they were home with David, and every morning he would wake up and find himself looking into the deep brown eyes of his new son.  David would take his new father's face in his hands and say excitedly, "Father, today I am going to be a good son for you!"  In response, the pastor would take David's face in his own hands and say, "Son, today I am going to be a good father for you".

Waking up every day and saying to my Lord, "Heavenly Father, today I am going to be a good daughter for you".

Yes, even if it's scraping Play Doh off the blue berber one Wednesday a month...


Monday, November 1, 2010


This Halloween, the Thomas family paid homage to our bi-denominational roots:  we went to a Fall Festival at our Baptist Church, of which we are faithful, active members.  And, since Baptists have the unspoken belief Halloween is pagan-y and all, and since I was raised Presbyterian and we took absolutely no spiritual issue with dressing up and begging for high-calorie indulgences from perfect strangers, (and also since I totally wanted Aria to have that experience), we did partaketh in both. 

Halloween 2010:  Fall Festival from 4-7, Trick-or-Treating from 7-8.  Reveling in our spoils, and sugar detox from 8-8:30. 

As promised, here are pictures of my Two princesses, Cinderella and Ladybug...

One of my favorites, Cinderella riding a big wheel at the festival:

 Ladybug playing in the grass:

 Cinderella Trick-or-Treating:

Now the true work begins: hiding the candy from Aria and Chris.