Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I heard a cross between “Merrarrr” and, “Wrrrraaaaa” this morning. This is a new noise in our house, belonging to the kitten that we chose from the Humane Society. We failed the Petfinder Questionnaire, so we were forced to choose from pets that had no other options. The email denying our application for the orange tabby explained that that kitten was used to “a quiet life” and they were concerned that two small children would not afford him the same sort of lifestyle. Monkey, the Humane Society cat, seems to be doing fine with the noise; it’s the game, “Tackle the Kitten” that she hasn’t adjusted to quite as well.

“Tackle the Kitten” is a game that Halle adapted from one that her father created: “Tackle the Beans”. “Beans” is Halle’s nickname, and the game is one that has been around since she could move and feel fear. The game is elegantly simple: place the child on the bed and then yell, “Tackle the Beans!” and leap on the bed, chasing and tackling her. Most of the time, it’s a really fun game. We have memories of tackles that took the breath out of Will and he would have to take a nap immediately afterward. It’s intense. Actually, that was during the two years when he split his time between the hospital and home. But still, it is intense.

These days, Halle and Will have more games than can be counted. Unfortunately, now that Daddy is well, the Army is trying to make up for lost time. Will left yesterday morning for a week long trip, and is probably glad to be missing the dual potty training of Monkey and Beans. Hopefully Monkey catches on faster than the child, but if she doesn’t, we can always sentence her to the out-of-doors.

I have often contemplated what I would do without my Spot-Bot, vacuum cleaner, chemicals, and washing machine. Would we have to live outdoors? How did the ancient Israelites potty train their children? I am convinced that potty training was one of the uses of the Festival of Booths. Potty training was put on hold until the festival when they lived in tents. While celebrating a time of simplicity and reliance on God’s provision, the children were introduced to underwear. During this annual festival, parents didn’t have to worry about their kids whizzing all over their furniture, bedding, and clothes. They also had everyone in dresses – man dresses, woman dresses, kid dresses – all of them can be lifted up effortlessly, rather than tugged down and soaked.

Maybe we’ll go camping when Will gets back. We can tell Halle it’s a potty training festival. As long as we’re not sharing a sleeping bag, I think it could work.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Creepy things

A maintenance man’s version of good news: “Everything is working the way it’s supposed to, but… you have a couple thousand crickets living under your house”. Anything in that amount (except for money) has to be bad. Even if he had said, “You have a couple thousand butterflies”, I would be concerned. At least we got something musical.

As usual, Willie was gone. He’s always gone when cataclysmic things happen. The first time he left for a month, our jeep broke down and I found out I was pregnant. Another time, I landed in the hospital on my birthday and upon being discharged found that my jeep refused to start (yes, the jeep was a lemon). When the mice tried to run us out of our house this winter, he was deployed. The worst part of that fiasco was resetting the mouse traps. The only kind of trap the mice would even consider dying in was the old fashioned snapping-guillotine. So I would dispense of the mouse, bait the trap with peanut butter, and then promptly snap myself. My thumb will never forgive me for those months of torture. I would, of course, scream both in frustration and surprise. No wonder the mice liked them so much. They’re thrilling devices.

Halle would ask me what was wrong.

“Oh, I just snapped myself with the mouse trap.” Halle was a mouse sympathizer. Disney teaches children to be rodent sympathizers. It was difficult to teach her that there are invisible germs on them that might cause something like the bubonic plague.

“What’s the bubonic play?”

“It isn’t as fun as it sounds.”

Bacteria is an impossible concept for children. This past weekend, we went gold panning and fishing in the river. At a slow spot in the river, I sat on a rock panning for gold while Halle stirred the water with a spoon we had brought. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Making soup for the alligators,” she replied. (Alligators are as plentiful as snipes in that area.) I thought that was an excellent idea until I noticed her tasting the soup.

“Honey, you can’t drink the water. There are bugs that you can’t see that will make you sick.”

She tilted her head to one side and then smiled. I didn’t think my child would consider me an idiot until she was much older. But it was clearly a patronizing smile. I took the spoon away and told her if she couldn’t stop drinking the water, we would have to get out. I held her hand and led her out of the river. She “slipped” in the shallow water several times, causing her backside to rest on the river bottom and her head to stay just above water. At those moments, she opened her mouth and let loose her tongue, slurping up as much river bounty as possible.

There are so many things we teach children, just hoping one day they will either learn it for themselves or take our word for it. We have faith in their ability to grow and change and learn and re-learn. I wonder how often God shakes his head and thinks, “She clearly doesn’t get it. But someday she will realize that I wasn’t just telling her about invisible threats for no reason.” Oh Lord, I hope that I will indeed understand everything one day, and until that time, obey you because I trust you. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Truthful to a Fault

One thing I should lay before my courageous readers is that this blog shall be set forth with complete honesty. This isn’t something I have decided as I prepare entries, but something I cannot escape from. There was a zero lying tolerance in our home. On the surface, this appears to be a tremendous thing to walk away with. After all, three children had at least one of the Ten Commandments firmly implanted into their brains. But that quality was taken and enlarged to a comical degree.

We were the Santa spoilers. The “Christmas magic” believers hate those kids. “Why do those little brats have to ruin the enchantment? I get one season where my kids are asking someone else for stuff!” It doesn’t matter, of course, that they financially back Santa. But our family was dreaded to a greater extent. We weren’t just tactless; we hinted at conspiracy: “It’s all an illusion. There is no Santa and your parents have lied to you. What else could they be hiding?”

To this day, we have no tact. One Christmas, I purchased some boxers for my brother. He opened them and said, “Oh, thank you. I hate these.” We cannot, even for the noblest purposes, lie.

Gentleness was lost in our efforts to drive even the appearance of falsehood. “Our sheep was put to sleep last night,” a friend told some students at school one day. We had spent the evening at their house (it was lambing season, and our ewes were rooming in their barn). We knew what events had taken place, and most unfortunately, one of the ewes had had to be put down. My brother blurted out, “that sheep’s not sleeping; it’s dead!” Death was always dealt with in this manner. There was no softening of the blow for us: we were told exactly what had happened and that, probably, we would not be seeing that specific animal in heaven.

Even now, I find an almost compulsory need for precision. My husband will be telling a story and I’ll jump in with something like, “It wasn’t five o’clock. It was six.” No one cares what time such-and-such happened. But I can’t help myself.

It is frightening to know that though truth is an excellent principle, it has still has some comical side effects. What will happen if I unknowingly teach negative principles? I guess whatever happens, I will be able to face that with a truthful air.