Friday, October 21, 2011

Now what.

     Anna and TJ have shown remarkable growth in Christ since their placements with us. God is trading their ashes for His holiness. He is taking their sorrows and giving them joy. He is changing their fear into faith. What an honor for Bob and me to be able to watch these miracles transform the ruined lives and tattered hearts of two of His precious treasures.

      Being home with me during the summer months, the girls became my captive audience and were subjected to my constant ramblings about the great goodness of God's love for us and the pleasure He takes in all of His creation. Anna read her Bible more often and TJ began memorizing Scripture verses. Our dinner discussions revolved around their questions and observations about Jesus's teachings and how they apply to our lives. Living on our small farm afforded God opportunities to speak to them through nature - sin permeates all of nature and can be seen in the chickens and hummingbirds; God provides for every thing is observed in the peacock and the wild turkeys. Bob and I pointed to all we have and that we are so underserving of God's grace, mercy and blessings, but He showers us anyway. But more than all that our lives are forever blessed and changed because they are now apart of us.

     It was with much trepidation that I sent the girls back to their schools in August. I was esspecially fearful for Anna. She is not strong in spirit. She is a follower and a people pleaser. She cries out to be loved and accepted, even by her raunchy peer group.
     The school year started off strong with both of them. TJ decided first grade is not so hard after all. Anna tackled the year with the enthusiasm of a winning football team. She was determined to make up her lost freshman credits by taking an overload of classes which included two classes at home on the computer. The goal - to graduate with her class in 2013. Suddenly this seemed to be within her reach.
     When the progress reports came home, both the girls grades showed just how hard they are working and how focused they are. TJ had all A's for her first progress report of the first grade. She wasn't quite sure why Mom and Dad were hopping around like corn in a hot kettle, but she was happy that we were happy. Anna's grades leaped from 20's, 30's, on occassional 60,  to 80's and 90's! WOO-HOO! We were quite the happy family!
     Two days later Anna was expelled.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


     That's me in the middle of the room! . . . hips hula-ing, arms circling in the air, spinning around with a broad smile and loudly chanting,  "I did it!  I did it! I made it through the summer. YEA!  I did it! I did it!  I made it through the summer. YEA!"
     Bombarded with ten weeks of  ' TJ won't stay out of my room!', 'Anna's being mean to me!', 'TJ hid the remote!', and 'I'm bored,' left me irritable and impatient. but the question I disdained the most came every afternoon from Anna : 'What are we doing tomorrow?"

    "What are we doing tomorrow?"
    "Let me think." I mused. "Tomorrow we will do the same thing we are doing today, and the same thing we did yesterday."
    "I'm bored,"
    "For heaven's sake, Anna, you live on a farm!  Ride a goat, pluck a chicken, bathe the pigs. I can't believe you can't find something to do. The garden needs tended, beans picked, jelly made. Here's a novel idea . . . CLEAN YOUR ROOM." None of those activities ever appealed to her. "What do you want to do?"
    "I don't know."

     Being ADHD TJ was her own source of entertainment. She carried on hours of conversation with herself, began collections of dead cicadas, crickets, and beetles that she kept in separate baby food jars, colored reams of paper with pictures of God and Jesus and frogs. Constructions were made from any scrap materials from Bob's recent building projects. There were days she followed me so closely that when I turned around quickly I knocked her over and many days I thought she would never stop talking. Her stories and chatter trailed on and on and on . . . "blah blah blah AND THEN blah blah blah AND THEN . . ." She could keep a story going for hours!
     TJ did get have six weeks of swim lessons and Anna two. Both girls now know the breast stroke, side stroke and butterfly. Anna went on a one week mission trip and returned wanting more. Two weeks of visiting grandchildren stressed TJ and Anna to the brink, but they handled it well.
    And now the girls are back in school and I am wandering in circles around my empty house with no one calling my name. I'll adjust.


Thursday, June 16, 2011


     My mother (82), stooped in her wheel chair, was blankly watching the TV. In the corner closest to the picture window sat my Dad (83), his head bowed, eyes closed, exhausted from carrying his burden and the visits to the nursing home twice each day. Caddy corner from Dad, my sister (53), whose epileptic seizures and mild retardation will never allow her to be on her own, sat engrossed in a book. No one heard me enter the small room.
     For a moment I stood silently taking in the profound picture of my aged parents. When Mom noticed me, a broad smile spread across her face. I hadn't visited in two weeks. She had been waiting for me to come trim her finger nails, groom her eyebrows, give her teeth a good brushing as well as take her outside for a stroll, bring her a milkshake, and lift her legs when she needed them rearranged.
     Before Dad and my sister left for home, I caught them up on all my family's news. A lot had happened in two weeks with my children and grandchildren, but my biggest and best piece of information I held until last: Bob and I had begun the paperwork for TJ's adoption. I feared someone may ask them about it in the course of a casual conversation. I knew I had to tell them. I did not want to. I was fairly certain I knew how they would respond.
     I parked myself on the edge of Mom's bed, with her next to me in her chair and Dad ever so slightly behind my shoulder. I came to the end of my litany of activities in my children's lives and the conversation came to a lull. "And . . . Bob and I have decided to adopt TJ." There it plunged like a block of frozen lead.
     Silence. Awkward silence. Dad stared at nothing on the floor. Mom looked at her knees. My sister continued reading, oblivious.
     "Well. OK then. We prayed about this for over a year. We weighed the pros and the cons. The truth is that this decision is not about us, but what is best for a little six year old girl."
     Silence. Suddenly I was thrown back not too many years ago, facing my parents disapproval. My mother, always vocal about her feeling and thoughts about me, did not have to say anything. I had heard it for decades: 'You're not thinking! You're so emotional. You can't handle what you have. You're not responsible. You don't have enough money.' and blah blah blah. I continued. "God puts the fatherless in families and we are TJ's family. Everyone deserves a good family."
     Finally, my Dad spoke up. "It's not right what some children have to live through and you are right, everyone deserves a good family." That is as close to approval I will get from Dad, but Mom remained silent.
     My parents will never hold me high in their esteem They are confounded by our decision to adopt, but God has knit my new family together in ways that they cannot understand and it is important to Him that both Anna and TJ be our children. That makes it important to me. I am hurt that my mother will never approve and I have to shrug it off.  My obedience to my Lord is so much more important.
     TJ has begun to refer to herself as TJ Lillis. Everyone she meets soon knows she is being adopted. She now has a home with a family who thinks she is special and her tragic past is quickly fading to a forgotten memory.
     God's plans are perfect.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Thanks alot, TJ!

"Momma, you look old today."
"I am old, TJ."
"Yea. But I thought all that stuff you put on your face is suppose to make you look younger."
"It takes a long time to work. How old do you think I should look?"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Tense Moment

     Please revisit "I Can't Tell Her the Truth," from July 6, 2010, before reading this post.

     Bob and I had known this day was not far away, yet we never discussed which direction our decision should take. We avoided the discussion with vague utterances of inconsequence, never addressing the question but well aware of the weight, breadth, and complications to either choice. The call had come. There could be no more stalling. After a short conference we reached a consensus and decided we had to talk to TJ.

     TJ, comfortably propped up on six pillows on our bed, was deeply engrossed in late afternoon cartoons. Bob and I anxiously entered our bedroom, neither of us knowing how to approach a sensitive and difficult topic with a six year old.  "TJ," I spoke quietly,"Daddy and I need to talk to you. No. You are not in trouble, but it is important." Alarm and panic seized her replacing her carefree expression with fear.
     I placed myself cross-legged in the middle of the bed, Bob sat on the edge, while TJ remained surrounded by pillows, eyes wide open, expecting the worst. I started solemnly. "We got a call from your caseworker today. There was a court hearing. The judge decided since Melissa is in jail for a long time it would be best for you to find a family that would be your forever family with a forever mom and dad. Daddy and I were wondering if you would let us be your forever parents."
     TJ's brow furrowed, trying to comprehend what we were saying. She laid her chin in her hand, thinking, her extended index finger tapping on her cheek. "Let me think about it." While she was thinking Bob explained she would never go to another home, her last name would change to ours, and she would still see her brother - who is also being adopted by another family. She thought some more, leaving Bob and I wondering what she would choose. Finally, with a heavy sigh, nonchalant tone she gave us her answer, "OK."
     That was it? 'OK?' We expected a little more enthusiasm then that! I cocked my head and gave a quizzical look when she bounced up on her knees and lurched toward me yelling,"I'm so happy!" We hugged and laughed and talked about her new last name. Her life is changed forever


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

America the Beautiful as sung by TJ

     In some inexplicable way, TJ manages to be front and center in every school program, as she was, again, at her kindergarten graduation: picking her nose, turning around, bending over, climbing on the risers, waving at me, and picking her nose.
     It was a wonderful little program with a USA theme and each of the 80 children had small parts to speak. TJ practiced her part diligently. When her time came to deliver her line, it was done with fervor and force. There remained no questions in anyone's mind that "The capital of the United States of America is George Washington, DC."
     With her delivery done, it was time for the group to stand and sing "America the Beautiful." This is TJ's version of that emotional and beautiful anthem:
               O beautiful for spaceship house, for angry gates of grapes,
               For purple mountains, majesty, above the fruit and rain.
               America, America God's spaceship is on me
               And idle blue with something new
               From sea to shining sea.

That's my girl!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Not Fair to TJ

     Anna leans her head against the backseat window, eyes closed, feigning sleep. TJ, restricted in her carseat, sings unmelodic songs of trees and bugs, Jesus and love, and frogs and friends. "Do you want to hear me sing that one again?" No one answers. "Does anyone want to hear me sing my song again?"
     "Sure TJ," I say,"That was a lovely song."
     Anna, moving only her lips, quietly responds, "No. You have been singing for the past 20 minutes. Just sit there and be quiet for a while." Now TJ is inspired to sing louder and longer and begins a new rambling song about how much she loves her family, all the pets, and animals, and the thousands of tadpoles in our fountain, and her favorite toys. Then it is quiet. She has become bored with her own singing . . . finally!
      . . . that is until Anna speaks and is clearly losing patience with her little sister. "TJ. Stop." Pause. "I told you to stop!" Pause. "CUT IT OUT!"
     "I did not! She wouldn't stop hitting me so I pushed her arm away."
     "She hurt my feelings," TJ sobs.
     I'd rather the girls work things out without my help, but if I don't intervene, Anna will knock her sister to the floor and duct tape her hands, feet, and mouth! Truthfully, her incessant singing is wearing on my patience and I would appreciate a little quiet, too. "TJ, keep your hands and feet to yourself. Your sister is trying to rest and you need to be thoughtful." Once again, there is quiet . . .
     Suddenly an unidentified mass whirls past my head, bounces off the passenger side seat, and rolls onto the floor mat. Some things I think, are best ignored. TJ begins using the front seat as a basketball hoop. Flying wads of crumpled math papers, gooey sucker sticks, peices of crayons and parts of Happy Meal toys fly past making bumpy landings in the seat next to me.
     I know TJ is ADHD so I try, with great difficulty, not to sound as irritated as I truly am. "Please stop, TJ. I am trying to drive and your throwing things is very distracting. It could cause me to have an accident." "OK, Momma."
     WHACK! An old Happy Meal box clunks me on the head. "TJ! STOP THROWING THINGS!"
     "I'm sorry Momma! It just slipped out of my hand! I didn't mean too." I am too upset to respond to that ridiculous statement.
     Finally we arrive at Kroger, the three of us pile out of the car and the lists of 'I want' and 'can I get' begin. "No. No. No. No to everything. I have a short list and we are sticking to it."
     TJ sprints ahead of Anna and me, ignores my command to look both ways, rushes the sliding doors to pick out the best cart for me to use. As she is attempting to climb into the cart, I remind her of what happened last time she came grocery shopping with me. . . she wanted in, wanted out, got stuck, I became angry, she cried, wanted back in, back out, cried because I wouldn't let her back out, etc. "Oh yea. I guess I will ride under the cart this time."
     She squeezes herself under the cart, contorting her lithe little body into a very uncomfortable position. All too soon, her cramped style is getting to her and there in aisle 2, pickles on one side and ketchup on the other, she rolls off the cart on the left, sending the cart careening to the right, into jars of relish. Very sternly I glare at TJ rolling on the tile floor and say between gritted teeth,"Walk along side of me. Do not go anywhere. Do not ask for anything. I am almost finished."
    Her walking shortly turns to skipping and soon she is running up and down the dairy aisle . . . in front of me, then behind me, then disappearing into bags of Doritos. "TJ! GET BACK HERE!"  A mother of three getting two gallons of milk, gives me a sympathetic smile. "It must be hard being her grandmother." "I don't know," I snip back, "I"m her mother." "Oh. I'm sorry." and mom of three disappears down the diaper aisle.
   TJ runs back to me, jumps onto the side of my moving cart, tipping the cart. I scream. TJ screams. Apples roll out of their bag and onto the floor. "CHRISTINA! SETTLE DOWN!" What am I thinking? Telling TJ to settle down is like telling a frog not to croak.
     Obediently, she walks next to me as we head for checkout. Together the three of us move toward the car. "Momma.I would really like to open the car." I hand her the keys. She pushes the button to unlock the car. She pushes the button to raise the trunk. Then the horn starts honking . . . and honking . . .  and honking. I take back the keys, quiet the horn, and begin loading groceries into the car. "Momma, I would really like to help you with the groceries." TJ hands me the bread and bananas and then buckles herself into her car seat.
     Finally we are on our way back home. Fortunately it will be bedtime when we get there and I can hide myself under the covers and not be found until tomorrow morning.
     The 30 minute ride home is fairly uneventful, but far from peaceful. TJ chatters the entire way home and is happy with my tired responses of  'u-huh' and 'that's nice.' At home, I pop the trunk, grab all my things out of the front seat, and make a bee line for the door. I breeze past Bob in the garage with a short remark. "It's your turn." Anna goes directly to her room and closes her door hoping for a little quiet and I sequester myself in my bedroom, pull the covers over my head, and breathe.
     Knock, knock, knock. I muffle a 'come in' but it doesn't matter because TJ comes bounding into my bed before I finish the invitation. She puts both arms around my neck, tells me how much she loves me, kisses my forehead, and bounds back out the door.
     I love TJ and I realize how often all of us seek shelter from her activity and incessant talking and singing. It is not fair to her that her ADHD interferes with her relationships with her family, friends and teachers. As with most ADHD children, she finds herself entertaining, but no one else does. She is boundlessly happy, probably from all those endorphins being released from her constant motion. She is eager to please so much so that she is underfoot all the time. I am left pondering: Why do I give her medicine for school but not at home? It is not fair to TJ that people and family want to run in the other direction when they see her coming.
What is fair and what is right? To medicate or not to medicate; that is the question.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Look at my new short bangs!"

     Folding the weeks of laundry dumped on my bed, I heard TJ's feet purposefully plopping up the stairs as she aimed toward her bedroom. Alarms began sounding. "This can't be good," I thought, but the mountain of laundry kept me glued to the bedside. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed before her feet hurried back down and took her directly into the kitchen seeking out her daddy.
     Eight months of ballet practice culminates today, TJ makes her debut as a pony to Father Christmas in "The Roar of Love", the ballet adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She has had costume fittings, spacing rehearsals, and dress rehearsals. At home we practiced with stage makeup until she looked beautiful then combed, brushed, twisted, and pinned her long tresses into the perfect pony's tail. All this preparation so she could prance confidently, knowing she looked flawless and every hair would stay in place.

     TJ climbed onto the swivel stool and waited patiently for Bob's attention. Bob, enveloped in emptying the dishwasher, had not noticed TJ staring at him. "Daddy! Look at my new short bangs!"
     Bob glanced up, smiled, "Very nice TJ", and went back to the dishes.
     TJ, unhappy with her daddy's response continued. "Don't I look pretty?"
    "Very pretty, but you are always pretty inside and out."
     My stomach twisted and sank. I put away the last bit of laundry and apprehensively walked to the kitchen eyeing TJ's hair. Little sprigs of hair, like confused soldiers, stood at attention at the crown of her head. Longer strands fell over, wounded, to one side or the other. Her bangs, now 1/4 inch long, floundered across her forehead. She had chopped her hair from her forehead to her crown, leaving the rest of her long, now stringy hair, dangling on the sides."TJ? Did you cut your hair?"
     Her smile faded. "No." It's hard to believe at this point that Bob and I have been working so intensely with her on honesty and ridding her of that lying spirit which flows fluently from her tongue. With my hand on my hip and eyes drilling into her, she quickly changed. "Yes. I cut my hair."
     I was so taken back by her truthfulness I exclaimed, "TJ! THAT"S WONDERFUL!"
     A wide grin sprinted across her face. This was not the response she expected from me."Don't I look beautiful, Momma?
     Back-peddle. "I am so happy you told the truth, but I am very unhappy about your hair cut."
     Now we had Bob's attention. "She cut her hair? I thought she always had short bangs."
     I continued. "Your hair does not look good. If you wanted your bangs cut you should ask me to do that for you." Pulling up the stubble on her head I said, "These are not bangs and should not be bangs. This should be long hair."
     "I like my hair cut and I think I look beautiful." I gave her credit for her self confidence and explained that even though Daddy and I are pleased with her honesty, she would be punished and her hair would be cut.
      It's time to get ready for the performance. A combination of frustration and sadness choke my heart as I look at my little girl who will prance out onto the stage and be the only pony with a crew cut.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stitch Witched

      Exhausted, I opened the driver's door, reached over to the passenger seat pulling on my purse, lifting the computer, grabbing the grocery sack of dirty clothes, and one more bag full of miscellaneous items one might need for an extended hospital stay. TJ, bounding out the garage, met me at the car. "Momma! I cleaned the house for you! Wait 'till you see it! It is beautiful!" Anna, close behind her, quietly and with much concern asked, "How is Grandma?" Seeing me struggle under the burden of bags, Bob quickly relieved some of my load and together, hand in hand, we walked somberly into our home.
      Four days I have been next to my mother's hospital bed . . . day and night. Confident in Bob's care, I did not give much thought to Anna or TJ. That's not to say I never thought of them. At 6:00 each morning I knew Bob would be leaving for work and the girls would just be rising. Anna had the sole responsibility of getting her little sister ready for school and walking with her to the bus.
     Lately, the two girls act like true blood sisters: bickering, jealous, snide comments, goading each other, etc. Sometimes I thought I would be breaking up a knock-down, drag-out, sister fight. But it appeared I had no reason to be concerned these past four days. They worked together to make the time without Mom run as smoothly as possible. Anna carefully coiffed TJ's hair each morning, picked out the cutest outfit, making sure the ponytail holder, shirt, shoes, and skirt matched. According to TJ, Anna taught her how to use hairspray and mouse, and from my vantage point, TJ was a diligent student. Both girls helped with dinner, setting the table without a harsh word to one another and cleaning up cheerfully. Anna read stories to her sister nightly and tucked her into bed.
       It dawned on me that we, as a family, have been stitch witched. We, especially my two girls, have bonded together by the heat of grief. Our family has become one. No longer are Bob and I  the foster parents of an African American teenage girl and a pastie white kindergartner. We truly are Mom, Dad and two daughters, whose relationship will never be severed.
     I leave for the hospital in a few minutes for a two night stay. I have no concerns. Bob is doing great with his two daughters who, together, are picking up the slack in my absence. It is not stitch witchery which binds this family together. It is the strong love of our God and His promise to put the fatherless in families that has carved us into one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tipping Point

     Every parent has a tipping point: the head roll, arm on the hip, "WHAT!?!", the hand, eye roll, the loud sigh. Mine? I can't stand a sassy mouth and TJ's is the sassiest.
     For example: one day we were at the kitchen counter going back and forth - her sass, my response, her sass, my response, her sass, my response - when finally I said, "TJ. Go to your room and take your sassy mouth with you!" To which she responded, "Well, I can't very well leave it here now can I, Mom." As far as I was concerned, she couldn't high-tail it up those upstairs fast enough.
    Again this morning, she woke up with sass just dripping from her tongue. I got that little girl ready for school in record time and sent her to the bus stop 10 minutes early. . . not early enough. Anna wasn't happy."MA! I don't want her! and it's not time to go yet!" I pushed them both out the door, Anna a good bit in front of TJ and TJ's mouth just running.
     All this leaves me wondering: what in the world am I going to do this summer?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stray Pea

     "Wow, Momma, look at this." Anna stood very still staring out the french doors at the porch railing.Hearing the hushed tone in her voice, TJ tiptoed to stand next to her. "His tail goes all the way to the floor," she whispered in excitement. I stood between them gazing at the stray peacock that had found its way to our porch railing.
Back story
     PeaPea, better know as Pea, has been a part of our family for a year and a half. We have all, including Bob- who becomes quite angry when Pea eats freshly sprouted corn, cabbage, beans, or any other garden vegetable - yes, even Bob, have grown quite fond of him. Pea eats cat food out of our hands, pecks bugs off our shirts, hollers before the 5:00 AM alarm, roosts on the back porch, comes when called, and has been known to make his way into the house via the doggy door. Anna and TJ think he is really cool, as if living on a hobby farm isn't unusual enough. Pea sets them apart. None of the other children have a peacock for a pet.
     Two weeks ago Bob called us to the chicken house. "You've got to see this." He had a specific tone in his voice that he only gets when he makes a new discovery, like the day he stood 36 inches from a live beaver frozen like stone on the shore, or the afternoon he brought two very large snakes from the chicken house into the living room - three girls went screaming out the back door, down the stairs, and as far away as we could get on that memorable day.
     Forming a pre-school style line, I followed Bob, Anna followed me, and TJ followed Anna. "Look," he said nodding his head toward the tractor. He was hard for me to see amongst all the chickens, but I didn't know what I was looking at. Then he informed me, "That's not Pea."
     Not many days after Stray Pea made himself comfortable, I noticed Pea was not grazing with the chickens as is his normal routine. I called from the back deck. No Pea. I shook cat food in a plastic container. No Pea. Worried, I went looking for him, first to the hen house. I slowly opened the door - snakes, you know - and what did I see but Stray Pea strutting in the middle of the chicken floor and my poor PeaPea huddled under the roosts, in a corner! Stray Pea, on seeing me, skidaddled out the chicken coop. Pea stayed put. It took some coaxing, but finally Pea cautiously crept out of the corner and followed me back to the yard.
      The next day, instead of Pea foraging with the chickens, it was Stray Pea. I am not going to have my Pea treated as the outsider in his own home! All I had to say was "shoo!" Mister and Ellie Mae took off after that bird with a fervor! They chased Stray Pea high into the pine trees and there he sat until evening when he disappeared into the forest.
      That was five days ago. We were all convinced that our little ten pound dogs had informed Stray Pea who is boss around here. Apparently we were wrong, for there he perched on the porch railing with a perfect view into the dining room. On the other side of the deck, in his normal seat sat Pea, next to the kitchen door, his neck strained to peer in the windows.
      Maybe they are forming a bond. If not . . . I hear peacock is a fine delicacy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Peals of laughter are bergeoning from my kitchen. I have no idea what just happened in there. Bob is howling and Anna is cackling. TJ, spinning in laughter circles and clapping her hands together in mid-air, announces, "We have the funniest family! We have the funniest family!" She sees me giving her a queer look and pauses for a moment. "Daddy is so funny and Amber is so funny and I am pretty funny, too. . .  and Momma, you're sorta funny," to which I respond, "hmph."

Monday, February 21, 2011

      TJ came sleepy-eyed into the kitchen, pulled herself up onto the stool, and stared at her 1/2 cup of juice and 'concentration' medicine sitting before her. Around the corner and into the kitchen came Bob. "Daddy!" she shouted."You're home!" She had forgotten that Bob had this President's Day off, but she still had to go to school. Darn those snow make-up days!
     Suddenly, her lethargy disappeared, replaced by excitement and enthusiasm. Daddy's here on a school day. Wanting to impress him with all her knowledge she began calling out words and spelling them. "Start . S...T...A...R...T. Start! Cat.  C...A...T. Cat!"  Another word or two and she switched to her new addition skills. "Two plus two is FOUR!" We applauded again. "Four plus four is EIGHT!"  More applause. But TJ had exhausted all her math knowledge. Thinking I would help her out, I asked 'what is three plus three'. She was stumped. Standing behind Bob I held up three fingers on my right hand and three on my left. She counted silently. "SIX!". She shouted, laughed with pride, and kicked her feet in excitement. I continued with one plus one. Stumped again, I held up one finger on my right hand and one finger on my left.  She knew she had this one. Her feet began flailing, arms waving, bursting with confidence she screamed, "ELEVEN!"
      In stunned silence, Bob and I - with my two pointer fingers frozen in the mid air - turned to look at her. She grew quiet wondering why there were no plaudits. The silence was broken by Bob's contagious uncontrollable laughter. In unison, and through our glee, we said, "It's two, you silly girl!" With that, TJ looked at my fingers, still hanging in the air, and burst forth in squeals of delight, giggling at her obvious mistake. "You"re right!" she said, "I am silly!"
     With that finally clarified, we got her ready for her day at school and sent her off  ready to face the challenges of one more day of kindergarten.

Monday, February 14, 2011

       "Momma! I don't want to go to Sunday School! I want to go with you!" Pregnant pause. Momma doesn't respond. "I HATE SUNDAY SCHOOL!"
       This has become our Sunday morning mantra. Of course I know TJ doesn't hate Sunday School. She is always bursting to tell us what new thing she learned about Jesus and to show off her art work. Her desire is to be with us, to sit next to us with our arms around her, or to sit on a lap and lay her head on a shoulder. It's comforting to her.
      With Bob out of town visiting his parents, it occurred to me that this may be a good opportunity for her to join me in church. This is the first Sunday for me to attend both Sunday School and church. Two and a half hours is a long time for a hyperactive six year old girl to be contained in a small room. Compromise. "TJ, you go to Sunday School, Anna and I will go to Sunday School, and afterward we will come and take you to church with us. Deal?" "DEAL!" she shouts.
     An hour later I rescued one excited little girl, took her by the hand, lead her through the maze of grown-ups to the Sanctuary entrance. I squatted in front of her, eye to eye and listed the rules: be quiet, no squirming, no gum or candy, don't dig in my purse, stay in your seat . . . and be quiet and no squirming. With TJ in tow, Anna and I made our way to our established seats in the balcony - 6th row up, center left, seats one, two and three.
     Worship started. The congregation stood. TJ watched in wonderment. It didn't take long before she was bored with it all and began pressing herself against me, wriggling herself into me, and wrapping her arms around my hips. When we sat, she quietly asked, "Momma, can I sit on your lap?" "No, honey, I am writing." She took an offering envelope and a small pencil and busied herself writing words and letters. Since the seat next to her was empty, she used it for a writing table. During the sermon I occasionally glanced at her to see her bent over the other seat, occupied with her writing. 'She is doing so well,' I thought.
     Half way through the sermon I felt a deliberate bump on my elbow. TJ thrust her hands in front of me, palms up, both hands thickly painted in chocolate. Stunned, I put my palm up to her to say 'I don't want to hear it' and my first thought was 'what must those people behind me be thinking!' As Anna quickly whisked TJ away to the restroom, I stared at the seat left vacant next to me . . . melted chocolate smeared between the two fabric chairs. The harder I tried to get it out, the deeper ingrained in became.
     After the service, I found Anna and TJ waiting for me in the lobby, TJ making herself small in the overstuffed chair. Again, I squatted in front of her, eye to eye. "I am not happy with you."
     "Why not?" she asked innocently.
     "Let's think about it for a minute. Why might I be a little upset with you?"
     "Because I had candy?"
     "And what did you do with your candy?"
     "Well," she was being very thoughtful, "the candy just fell out and got all over my hands."  I stared at her. "Well," she stalls and I continue to stare. "well . . . well . . . well OK then! I got candy in Sunday School and I opened it in church and squished it in my hands."
     "I think you need to wait for a year, until you are seven, before you try to come to church again."  With that she takes my hand, the three of us walk out of church and I wonder if we will have to have this conversation again next Sunday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Life piles on top of life and before I know it three months of days have been spent: moments uncaptured and days unchronicled. Time washes out the tiny events leaving behind the intricate form of life. Even with an undocumented past three months, of this I am sure: my life is more colorful, more defined, more complicated and much richer with Anna and TJ in it. God has chosen to bless me . . . again.