Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nice Mommy #2

Turns out I'm not that much nicer when I can't talk. Just because I'm not speaking doesn't mean I don't lose it from time to time - it's just that right now I can't spew out my frustration with words.
Yesterday I got really mad at Bran. I'd love to camouflage his identity, but you'd figure it out. I was totally and incredibly frustrated - a combination of a disrespectful response to me mixed with selfishness on both our parts. So have you ever seen a red-faced, 36-year-old woman scribbling out words and words to her nine-year-old son? Just picture Branson sitting by my side, looking around my bedroom in between reading the wipe board - erase - mom fills it up again - read - erase... ridiculous. For some reason he had this far-off expression in his eyes...
And you can imagine, I was even more frustrated that I couldn't TELL him all those things he needed to hear me say, right??! Because HEARING me would have definitely changed the pattern of our interactions, since this has only been going on for about two years now. Ugh!!!
So again, it was a wake-up call that in these situations, I have no business getting angry. I should even expect these responses from my kiddos, then have swift, natural consequences ready. And then be consistent. And not angry.
As for my doc's no-using-my-voice instructions, I'm on day seven of ten. Monday morning marks the day I can officially start speaking again, so one more silent weekend and I should be good to go. In some ways, it's been a relief not to speak at all. At the park or at Central Market, I can totally and completely focus on my children - no need to engage in conversation with other moms. It's actually been kind of a nice break to be hermit-like the past few days. I've forgotten a few times and said a few words, but have been nearly 100% silent. My mistakes have been either late at night or first thing in the morning when I've been half asleep and asked Corbin a question - and he looks at me and smirks, reminding me of this silence sentence. I've mouthed things to the kids and after several unsuccessful attempts of getting them to understand me, I've whispered (which is worse than talking, as it takes more vocal control and makes the vocal cords work harder) and they've reeled backwards in shock that I'm WHISPERING. "Stop, Mommy!" Talk about taking things seriously.
Out of all the kids, it's Basden that's I'm having the most difficulty communicating with. The boys can read my notes, and Esther understands gestures just fine - I can point to the potty, point to her shoes, and point to her sippy cup. But Basden needs "real" conversation and answers, yet isn't reading more than "hat" and "cat" and "sat." And unfortunately I don't communicate very often in Dr. Seuss words. So I know she's a little frustrated, but usually either Corbin or his parents or my mom is around (or the boys to read her my notes).
One thing I'm learning this week is that there's a significant power in silence. In fact, being quiet can sometimes prove much more powerful than words or speech. It's opened my eyes to just being QUIET.
Just this morning Charles and Jamie took all four of the kids to Waxahachie for the day to visit a dear friend and just spend time with she and her grandchildren. It's something Jamie has talked about wanting to do for weeks as she's anticipated being in Fort Worth this week. I balked at the last minute and chose to stay home - sending the crew with them instead. Of course Jamie had given me that option, but I felt guilty staying behind for two reasons - one, sending them with a car full of kids and not being there to help with crowd control, and two - wanting Jamie to know that I'm interested in her friends and spending a day with them.
But truthfully, it sounded exhausting spending the day with people I don't know without a voice. It's difficult to show interest without talking, almost takes more energy. So while I knew Jamie would understand this morning when I jotted her a note on my handy-dandy dry erase board, I felt bad.
I thought about writing out my "defense" - that it was genuinely my voice stopping me from going with them, not disinterest - but it dawned on me that Jamie would know that. If she knows me - and she does - and trusts my character, then she'd figure it out. I can trust her to give me the benefit of the doubt, to see the best in me - even when there's a lot of selfishness and crummy in there too - I know she chooses to see my best.
Today's devotional in Streams in the Desert is about the silence of Jesus. Specifically, about Jesus remaining silent when men reviled him, beat him, and eventually killed him. He had all of His Father's power available to him, yet he chose to stand in the "power of stillness."
Oh, how often we thwart God's intervention on our behalf by taking up our own cause or striking a blow in our own defense! May God grant each of us this silent power and submissive spirit. Then once our earthly battles and strife are over, others will remember us as we now remember the morning dew, the soft light of sunrise, a peaceful evening breeze, the Lamb of Calvary, and the gentle and holy heavenly Dove.

So that's what I desire - silent power and a submissive spirit... to be a peaceful evening breeze, not the ugly hurricane my children have witnessed more often than I'd like to admit. And regarding talking too much - to use silence instead of retorts and defenses. To let my friends and family think through things and let them hear God speak truth rather than my repetitive, often self-seeking words. I'm taking lessons from my toddler children who would cross their arms around them and hug themselves in an effort for "self control." I clearly haven't mastered it yet, but am reminded this week that a soft response in love is far more powerful - and pleasing.
As I've said many, many times, I'm learning - along with Corbin and our children - how to live together and make our family and home a place we all want to be - a place where we all feel confident and secure with boundaries and overflowing approval and acceptance.
Leaving you with a few pictures from our week - has been a JOY and a lot of fun to have all the kids home with a relaxed schedule this week.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Nice Mommy

Evidently, I'm nicer without a voice. At least according to Hudson. In his kindest, most sincere way, he told me yesterday, "Mommy, you're nicer when you can't talk."

It's been nearly 48 hours since I've spoken or sang or yelled or whispered. After Friday's vocal cord surgery, my family has clearly enjoyed a quieter house with my TEN DAY sabbatical from talking. At all. That means not even whispering. (I know, my doc has NO idea what he's asking of me.)

(the bottom note is Basden's writing - "Love TJ")
These notes are fluttering around my home, finding their way to my nightstand and bathroom counter. I'm comforted by the sweet messages, despite my entire family's glee that I'm now a captive audience to anything and everything they want to tell me - uninterrupted. My mom especially finds this amusing.

A few things I'm learning...
- Corbin can relay stories without being interrupted. In fact, he didn't quite know what to do with himself Friday evening as he told our moms about some doctors he works with and I wasn't able to interject. He kept looking at me, waiting for me to add my comments, and he looked quite perplexed not to be interrupted. (I've decided to infer that he and I are a team and my opinions HELP him...)
- Basden has the gift of compassion. When she realized the night before my surgery what would happen and that I couldn't talk for more than a week, she wouldn't leave my side. I found her crying twice because she didn't want me to have to go to the hospital. She cried because I wouldn't be able to read her books on the trampoline (which we've done once), and I wouldn't be able to tuck her in and pray for her at night. We decided my silent prayers are as effective as the spoken ones. Basden has also become mommy to Esther since I'm not fully functional. This isn't totally new behavior, but it certainly is exaggerated this week.
- At 36, it's an awesome thing to still be taken care of by our parents! My parents AND Corbin's parents are all here, taking care of us with meals and movies and just bringing fun and laughter into our home. Charles and Jamie were coming in for spring break and I surprised them with scheduling this surgery while they're here to help. Ha! We all enjoyed dinner together Thursday night around our dining room table, and there's nothing quite like eating and laughing with both sets of our parents.
- Mom and Jamie were both at the hospital all day Friday with me, and it was a flashback to all those hospital trips for babies. I always felt comforted having both moms (grandmoms!) with me, with prayers of the matriarchs in my hospital room during the deliveries of these precious kiddos. It was quite odd to be discharged from the hospital Friday, wheelchair and all, without a baby in my arms.
- There are a lot of people in our city (every city) with deep physical needs. Even in a pre-surgery groggy state as the happy cocktail surged through my IV, I was acutely aware of the people around me who were undergoing surgery for things not nearly so simple as a polyp on their vocal cords.
- Below is my new companion, my never-leave-home(or the room!)- without-it dry erase board. (Thanks, Mom!) The funniest thing about this form of communication is that the kids are writing their messages to ME on this. They'll come in and ask me a question by WRITING it out. Perhaps they've forgotten I can still hear?? And yesterday morning I answered the door to a repair man. Upon motioning (and then writing) that I couldn't speak, he started whispering and gesturing right back to me. Several minutes passed before he realized I could hear just fine and he could speak normally to me. He laughed at himself, embarrassed, and even called to tell his wife about it. Funny funny!

Finally, a picture from breakfast this morning - thank the Lord for a daddy who likes to cook big breakfasts!

See those happy faces?! Smiles that seem to say, "We've got NICE MOMMY this week!"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Daisy Chain

Well, she did it again. For you lovers of well-composed, thought-provoking fiction, pick up a copy of Mary DeMuth's Daisy Chain and move it to the top of that must-read pile on your nightstand. Just released this month, DeMuth penned a novel that has kept me thinking about her characters and sometimes even praying for them. Even more than the entertainment provided by a compelling story, reading Daisy Chain makes me want to be a better parent and love my children - and all the children in my life - more fully and selflessly.

Similar to Watching the Treelimbs and Wishing on Dandelions, DeMuth somehow gets into the heads of these young characters who portray hope and justice and redemption despite abusive childhoods. Any adult - man or woman - who reads these books will relate to the characters' journeys.

The trademark of all Mary's writing - fiction and nonfiction, books and blogs - is her vulnerability and honesty. Even if you've never met her face to face, you'll get to know Mary through her writing and speaking. The Lord has and continues to turn her trials into triumph, and that genuine message overflows her work.

So, dive into Daisy Chain, and enjoy - my guess is that it'll stay with you. And the best part? It's the first in the Defiance, Texas trilogy - more coming our way!
Thanks for this gift, Mary!

Learn more about Mary here.
And for more reviews on Daisy Chain, check out these blogs.

(Also - until I can fix the crazy half-screen of the above video, you can catch the entire thing here...)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Perspective of Redbuds

The Texas redbuds are blooming. We've got three of these trees in our backyard, and they happily summon spring as the wispy branches pop with bright purple blooms. The first year in our home, we had no idea what to expect of our backyard. We moved in during the drought-laden summer months and enjoyed the deep greenery and heavenly shade of magnolias and oaks, unaware of the brief, teasing redbud blooms that would appear come spring. The view through my kitchen window bursts with the tree blooms for a few happy weeks each February and March, the new growth dotting the view with color and my heart with expectation of new hope.
So the redbuds are blooming not only in our backyard, but all over town. With her keen appreciation for all things beautiful, Basden points out each blossoming tree we pass on car drives and bike rides. She delights in the purple and magenta beauties that beckon her attention at the park, in neighbors' yards, and along the bike trail.
So a couple of nights ago Corbin and I took a bus tour through Fort Worth. Tarrant Net hosted their annual fundraiser, but this year instead of a country club dinner, we loaded six chartered buses and toured the city, specifically low-income neighborhoods targeted by the ministry's outreach events. We cruised the shoddy and history-packed east Fort Worth streets while local pastors acting as tour guides described points of interest - parks, colleges, and churches that beckoned tens of thousands of neighbors to Hopefests and Back to School Extravaganzas and Celebrate Christmas events.
Those on our bus who had spent time in the parks and schools and neighborhoods reminisced about their experiences - crowds of thousands with dental hygienists cleaning teeth, nurses administering shots and providing check-ups, volunteers handing out school supplies and bags of groceries, all accompanied by prayers covering both the people and their neighborhoods.
Our caravan continued through north Fort Worth, pulling back the curtain of oblivion and revealing poverty-striken neighborhoods just a few miles from our own homes. By ironic intention or simple practicality of the most direct route, the drivers then took us south on University Drive and through Six Points, arguably one of the city's most affluent shopping and dining hotspots.
The expedition through unfamiliar neighborhoods in Fort Worth felt both uncomfortable and invigorating as people stood on their front porches and yards and sidewalks, watching with bemused and surprised and curious faces as our police-escorted caravan of six enormous charted buses filed past. Most waved enthusiastically at our entourage, and I found myself waving back to each observer as our eyes met. Interesting, I would have expected a sensation like this while sight-seeing in Mexico or India or even parts of Europe. But in our own city?!
The high vantage point from our tour bus allowed for a full view of these homes and their backyards. Some yards were tidy and well cared for despite impoverished conditions, and many were not. I noticed along our tour the bright blooms of redbuds peeking out from backyards masquerading as junk yards, between crumbling driveways and rotting carports, and behind chain link fences and sun-faded plastic slides.
We passed one home with three young children jumping and waving and cheering at our procession. On the wooden deck behind the little ones, their sweet mommy waved her arms, hands reaching to the sky, an enormous grin filling her face. I saw her shining eyes from thirty yards away. Despite her wheelchair, she nearly bounced up and down in her seat, laughing alongside her jubilant children. And beyond that precious mommy and those three little ones and their ram-shackled home, a tall Texas redbud swayed in the Saturday evening breeze, its magenta blooms bursting with color and hope.