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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!