BOYS TO MEN

My two boys have birthdays every summer, about two weeks (and 9 years) apart. 

We were all together recently (which is rare) and took this picture. 

Our oldest, on the left, used to be bigger than our youngest, on the right.  And the hubs (in the middle) used to be bigger than both of them. James, the baby here, is in the 100 percentile in height for others his 4-month age. Everybody’s growing. 

When did that happen? 

Our oldest son used to look like this. He was three when lava lamps were cool. 

Our younger son used to look like this. 

He wore vests and bow ties and Redskins caps on Easter. 

The older one is no longer blond. The younger one has not been seen in a bow tie since this picture.  Both boys loved baseball, Legos and macaroni and cheese. Those things are still true. 

Now that we have a grandson, I‘m reminded of the days I changed diapers on and gave raspberries to my own sons. When I was home with my children, the hours seemed long at times, but looking back…they are but a wink of one eye.

Somewhere along the line…boys turn into men.  They work through challenges, try to figure out women, change jobs, move, try to figure out women, make mistakes, mostly figure out women, and settle in to the game of life.

They begin to resemble their father, their grandfathers, their uncles.  Not physically (although sometimes), but in action and habit and character.  

It’s supposed to happen, of course, that they grow up and onward, but it kind of happens when you’re not looking.  And then…one day…you just see it.  

With my sons, it was choosing marriage that added a new depth to their lives.  They both met women who sparked in them a willingness to be vulnerable, to sacrifice, and to commit.  These are honorable – and sometimes rare – traits in a man.  

It’s heart-warming to see.   

My sons are not little boys anymore, but strong, hairy adults who give me great bear hugs, which I love, love, love.  My prayer for them is that they continue to grow in tender-heartedness, courage, and conviction.  

Because life will continue to throw them curve balls now and then.  

I want them to know we will always been in the bleachers rooting for them. 



Baby Jesus and Baby James

Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas, Josh Groban’s Noel and the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas…these are the tunes I’m listening to as I write.  These CDs, along with a few others, are on a loop in our house during the holidays. Especially this year. I had to turn off the news and away from the reports on terrorism and random mass shootings. My heart couldn’t take it any more.

I’m kind of a news junkie, but over the past month…the violence has been nonstop, and I became so discouraged by the worst of mankind and the hatred that is rising across the globe. Only God can change the hearts of the brutal, the greedy, and the lost. I can be kind in my own small circle, but I cannot fix much. So, I deliberately turned to setting up our nativity set and remembering a miraculous night an infant King entered a just-as-troubled world in a cold stable surrounded by smelly livestock.
 

There might have been a pine cone or two at the scene as well.

How brave God was to send an innocent child into this filthy world. What an investment He made in His children, who had already failed Him so.

Such is true love. To engage and invest in and commit to something when all past evidence proves the object of affection is untrustworthy.  It’s only through this sacrifice that I understand anything. If not for the love of God, I would have no hope in human nature at all. On our own, we are aimless and wasteful, fearful and self-absorbed. We truly are immature children. Once God gets a hold of us, though…we have such potential.

The Christ child reminds me that God still invests in us. With every new life, He says, you’re all still worth it.

Which brings me to our 30-week in utero grand baby, James. Here’s what he looks like now, via his beautiful mama.

Innocence and wonder hidden in a warm belly, almost ready to emerge into the world in the form of James Daniel; another sweet life that comes from heaven with the message of here you go – more hope, new dreams, vast potential, and likely curly hair. Babies are straight from God, so we get the closest glimpse we can get in the flesh.  I still believe in you, God says. Look at this.

Baby James doesn’t yet know how loved he is; how fearfully and wonderfully made he is. I’m going to tell him as soon as I meet him. And I’m going to tell him every time I see him. In this often dark world, it’s important he understands that his heavenly Father is bigger than any tragedy he will ever see in his lifetime. I want James to always have hope as he grows and faces life’s disappointments.

I will tell him about the baby Jesus and what hope He brought to the world. I will tell him that babies have great power to soften adults and prompt maturity and sacrifice, and how these things can change a family, which in turn can change a community, and then, yes, the world.

Ten more days, baby Jesus; ten more weeks (maybe less), baby James.

No matter what circumstances into which a child is born, he has the potential to change a human heart. That is the miracle of life.

 

Why Moms Can’t be Sick on Picture Day

In the fall of 1988, I had a terrible case of strep throat. Besides the razor blade sore throat, I had a fever and a headache that kept me in bed for a few days. I wanted to die. If not for Alexander Fleming and his penicillin discovery, I think I might have.

I vividly remember this week because it was picture day at school for our fourth grade daughter, and I had to pass off the morning “getting her ready” duties to my husband, who was scooting to work the minute she was on her way to school.

Let me just say up front, my husband’s a good guy. That needs to be clear. Because when you see the harvest from picture day, you’ll think he walks through life with half a brain cell.

I have to back track a bit…the previous year, for Halloween, our daughter was a skeleton. You’ll see why I share this with you in a moment. I painted all the bones in black onto a white sweat shirt and sweat pants. It was a cute get-up, and our girl loved it. In fact, over time, this costume became her P.J.s because the sweats were soft and cozy as the weather turned chilly.

More back info…our daughter often had a single French braid because yours truly loved braiding her thick auburn hair. Our girl could not have cared less what her hair looked like. She favored a quick pony tail; anything to get it out of her way so she could climb trees and tear around with her brothers. But, if mom wanted to braid her hair, fine. Whatever. (To this day, our girl allows me to play with her hair. She’s cool that way.) If she slept in her braid, we had a fuzzy mess in the morning, but no biggie, we’d undo the braid, wash it or wet it, comb it out and start over. More fun playing with hair.

Back to picture day.

I can’t begin to tell you.

Just see for yourself.

Clearly, yesterday was braid day, and somebody didn’t notice the child was heading off to school in her P.J.s. 

I can only imagine what the photographer was thinking: Is this kid homeless? Does she not own a comb? What’s with all the bones? 

Did not one teacher (at the time, all women) take this child aside and brush her hair out? Did they really think this was the look we wanted on picture day? Thank God I spelled ‘clavicle’ correctly. It will be forever immortalized in this picture.

Twenty-seven years later, I can only laugh (howl, really) at this photograph. It’s representative of a phase in our life when we had three kids that were in too many activities, and Dad didn’t notice his beautiful daughter, on that morning, resembled a scarecrow.

Grade school pictures are often, years later, good for a chuckle, but this one…when I came across it yesterday, I laughed until tears were running down my face. 

Across the nation, school pictures will be taken soon. Let this be a cautionary tale to moms everywhere.

WHO’S ON FIRST

Today is our firstborn’s birthday.  
Every new baby ignites in his parents an enormous passion, and a fierce sense of protection and provision.  It just wells up, usually accompanied by tears. 
The first time that happens, however….your defenses are stripped away, your heart is laid bare, and you realize, maybe for the first time, what unconditional love is.
You realize how vulnerable you now are.  You have just created something you will protect more than yourself.
In the summer of ’77, we became parents for the first time.  Our tiny, flesh-of-our-flesh, often smelly newborn was completely ours to snuggle and nurture and feed and clean and teach and love.    
It was overwhelming and frightening and wonderful.
We realized early on, however, that we were completely inadequate parents.  We didn’t actually know anything.
We worried that we’d drop this precious bundle, or not hear him if he was suffocating against the mattress.
We worried that, as a toddler, he’d run into the street, or trip over a brick and knock his new teeth out, or find a dead worm and eat it.
The worries only got bigger: the copious germs at school, predators offering our innocent boy a candy bar, crummy friends who would lure him into stupid behavior, and, worst of all…GIRLS.
Despite the worries, our firstborn could not have been more adored.  As the first grandchild on my side of the family, we were “over the moon” with this youngster.
He was born one year after my twenty-three year old brother unexpectedly passed away.  This fresh, new life was a soothing balm to my grieving parents. 
Our firstborn was a smart, serious child who loved Legos, transformers, and McGyver.  (To this day, we all believe duct tape and a pocket knife should fix anything.)

When the soccer coach broke our son’s seven-year old tibia with a powerful, but misplaced kick, I tearfully learned that I could not protect my boy from the world.  This is a heart-wrenching moment for a mom.  

That same year, this son won the Fire Prevention Week art contest for the second grade.  I had tears in my eyes again.  This tough little guy who weathered a clunky leg cast and crutches for six weeks was artistic and creative, and pretty nonchalant about it too.   He’s still not one to blow his own horn.
But, his mom will.  Here’s the second grade winner… 
…and some of his later work, a portrait of all the grandchildren with G.G., their great-grandmother.
Don’t miss the tiniest little sprout on G.G’s lap.   This picture is so precious, my heart aches. 
As the oldest child, our son was a good little helper, a job most firstborns tire of over time.  God bless ’em.  The burden of being first. 
He once referred to himself as the “experimental child,” which is, unfortunately, true.   The first offspring has to weather the learning curve of Mom and Dad.   I can only pray that our insane love for this child counter-balanced our inexperience. 
Our son became self-reliant early on, and moved to Arizona with only what he could fit in his pick-up.  He has an adventurous spirit that enables him to follow his heart.  Once on his own, he never asked us for anything.
He’s a whip-smart pharmacy technician, a talented musician, and an avid baseball fan.  He also does a very good Jim Carrey impersonation. 
He’s still creative.  A few years ago, he proposed to his girlfriend on opening day at Fenway Park.  Then, he designed their wedding invitation, incorporating a baseball theme. 
I believe any children will have reddish hair. 
Today, we thank God for our firstborn.  The child that made us a family.
Happy, blessed birthday, beloved son.
All our love…
Mom and Dad

Zat’s All, Folks!

The end is here
It has to be
We finish with
the letter Z
It’s never first
It’s always last
It’s cache of words
is not so vast
Still, Z is a love of mine
Our son hears it all the time
I’m so glad that Z is free
For, his name is Zachary

Zach at 6 months
Zach today with his lovely bride

Thanks to everyone who popped into the ballpark this month.  Writers need readers; otherwise we’d just be sitting at the computer getting wider saddlebags for nothing. Of all the blogs in blogswarts, you paused to visit this one. And I’m grateful.  I pray it was worth your time.  Join me in the dugout anytime!

X-tra Special Sock

A while ago, I spent the weekend with my daughter.  We watched four movies, made cookies, ate crab roll-ups, and laughed a lot.  She also worked on a little crochet quilt for a friend.

As she was rooting through her yarn, she tossed me this, and said, “Oh, here’s a sock I made for you.”

Well, I have to admit, I’d never seen a sock like this before.  I slipped it on.

Thought maybe I had it on wrong, so I turned it around.

Nope.  I didn’t know what the safety pin was for, but the sock was warm and cozy.

“Is there another one?” I asked.  Socks usually came in pairs.

“No,” my girl said.  “I used too big a yarn and the thing just got too long, so I stopped.  It’s more like a leg warmer, without toes.  I didn’t make another one, because I clearly don’t know what I’m doing.”

Well, then I got the giggles.  I love the yarn and the softness, and if I just wear it low and fold down the long flap thing, it’s really quite comfortable.

Except for the safety pin.  And the no-toes thing.  “If you just finish off some toes, I can wear another bootie with it,” I said.  “I really like it.”

“I’m not doing anything else with it,” she said.  “It didn’t turn out right, and it’s goofy.  It looks like a cast.”

I turned it around, trying to position the thing so my foot was covered.  I really do like it, and I love that she made it. 

Hmmm….I could not see how to get the foot covered and have it stay on.  “If I sew up this flap, it will be snug and stay up.  If it just had some toes…”

“You can add some toes, if you want,” my girl suggested.

“I don’t know how to crochet,” I replied.

“I guess I don’t either,” she said.  “I can make squares and put ’em in a line.  I can make blankets, but not socks.”

I came home with my toeless, leg warmer, cast-size sock and used the safety pin (which I now realize is crucial) to pin the rolled-down flap over the exposed toes.

Paired with another knitted bootie I have, it works.  Kind of.

There’s still a bit of toe poking out at the tip, but you can’t have everything.

Grateful Beyond Words

I’m so grateful to God for life this week.  Two big events took my peace and kept me fearful for a bit, even though I prayed fairly unceasingly during the waiting periods.  I was not in control of either situation, and I realized how weak my faith can be.  By the grace of God, I’m still His.  He never left me alone.

Situation one:  I’ve had blood in my urine for a month.   Not enough to see, but enough to need a cat scan to look at my kidneys and my bladder.  I had the cat scan and waited a week before the doc called me at 7:30 in the morning and said the CT did show something abnormal, and could I come in that afternoon for a cystoscopy?  I wanted to yell, can I come in right now?!?

From 7:30 until 1:30, I worried.  I prayed and worried.  I called my husband, who came home from work to go to the doc with me.  Once he was home, we tried not to imagine the worst, but of course, we did.  I texted my best friend, my daughter, and my sister to ask for prayer.  My sister told me later that while she waited for the final word from me, she wondered if she would be able to donate to me one of her kidneys.  I cried when she told me this.

During those waiting, morning hours, I wiped up the kitchen and folded laundry and scrolled mindlessly though facebook, anything to occupy my mind.  Every time my mind would consider the fact that I might hear fatal news, I rolled that into the prayer, Be still and know that I am God.  Be still and know that I am God.  Be still, be still, be still.

We arrived at the doctor’s office early, and I flipped though an old TIME magazine, reading parts of articles, comprehending nothing.   The nurse called me back, and my husband came with me.  I would be on my back in stirrups for the cystoscopy, but I wanted him in the room.  Once I was gowned and ready, we waited another fifteen minutes. It seemed like an hour.

The doc came in and explained that the CT showed my kidneys were fine, but it appeared there was a mass on my bladder.  The cystoscopy would give him a better look.  Within a minute, the scope was in and we saw my bladder on the small screen to my left.  He pointed out different aspects of my bladder – all healthy tissues.  No mass.  He smiled and said, “Your bladder is fine.  I suspect it was empty during the CT and it folded in on itself, which bladders sometimes do.”

I stared at him. “The bladder is fine?  The kidneys are fine?”

“Both fine,” he said.  “The urethra is a bit irritated.  We’ll give you some cream for that, and I’m 99% sure the bleeding will stop.  It’s nice to get good news once in a while, isn’t it?”

I took a deep breath and looked at my husband.  He had tears in his eyes.

Situation two: Exactly a week after the fearful morning/good news cystoscopy, our youngest son was in a car accident.

Front of the car

 

Back of the car

He was rear-ended by a young woman who plowed into him at a stop light.  He swerved, went off the road, and hit a tree.  He was crunched from both ends. The air bag knocked him with such force, his glasses broke, and his seat was flattened into a reclining position.  With such impact from both ends, his over-six-feet frame could have been broken in many places.

He emerged with only a bloody elbow and bruises from the air bag.  Unbelievable.  (No one else was hurt.)

Our daughter-in-law called us (we are two hours away) and kept us updated.  Until he was seen in the ER and cleared from head or internal injuries, I was back in worry/prayer mode.  A few hours later, we talked to our son.  He was sore, but assured us he was OK.  The accident was not his fault, insurance would kick in, he already had an appointment to get new glasses.

I breathed deeply, and my husband and I looked at each other, again, with tears in our eyes.

People get terrible medical news every day.  People are injured or killed in car accidents every day.  I don’t know why we were spared the worst of things these past two weeks.  I know God is good all the time, whether we are ill or well, safe or harmed.  Life is random and crazy.  God is not.

He’s in control all the time.  He’s loving all the time.  He wants the best for us all the time.

A time will come when life will not serve me the best outcome.  I pray I will remain true to whom I know God to be.  All the time.