Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ten Days in Toddler Land

Woody and I have just returned from ten days in another world—the world of a 19-month-old. For one wonderful week we had our grandson Soren to ourselves. And for a few days on either side of that, we shared him with his parents Bjorn and Abby, before and after their one-week trip to Saranac Camp in New York with their Young Life kids.

It was a glorious week. It was an exhausting week. And it was an eye-opening week. It’s been a lo-o-ng time since we parented a toddler!

In a sense, I thought of it as a refresher course on what the lives of so many of you moms are like. Except that it was just a week. And, with both Woody and me there, we were two-on-one, while that is not the case for most of you on a 24/7 basis. It certainly was not that way for me when I was raising toddlers—Woody was hardly home full-time to help me out! And last week we had one child to care for, while many of you have more than one preschooler to keep track of.

Nevertheless, I learned (or more accurately, re-learned) a lot! A few random observations from life in toddlerland:

  • There’s nothing like a toddler’s smile in the morning. And when they reach out their pudgy little arms to hug you and “pat Nana,” you want to do this forever!
  • Every day is an adventure. You never know what exciting things you might see just outside your window (like a neighbor organizing a yard sale which fills the driveway with fascinating junk) or on a stroller ride (the world is FULL of motorcycles, fire engines, and horsies when you’re looking for them).
  • Eating is also an adventure. Not only because you never know where food that starts on your spoon may end up. But also because, if you’re Soren, blueberries and avocados and sweet peppers of all colors are like M&M’s—you just can’t get enough of them! (I know—hard to believe: a toddler who actually loves healthy food! What is Abby’s secret?)
  • Naps are a little bit of heaven—especially for moms of toddlers (and even more especially for grandparents of toddlers!) They are definitely not to be missed! Take full advantage of them.
  • If you’re taking care of a not-quite-20-month-old, don’t plan to do anything else in your life. This is a full-time job! Yes, they take naps (I HOPE yours do!) and go to bed early. But you also will need to take naps and go to bed early. So do not plan on writing the Great American Novel (or even a blog, or coherent emails) while they’re sleeping. You need to be sleeping, too!
  • A day at the beach is different when you go with a toddler. Your beach chair is actually only a place to put things on to keep them off the sand—not a place where you actually sit (although your toddler may sit in it for 3-second intervals now and then) Sand is a wonderful thing—not only for digging and dumping and making crab and turtle shapes, but also as a snack additive: everything tastes better with a little sand in it. Oh—and one other thing: a “day” at the beach is more likely to be 90 minutes than several hours—especially if you value naps (see earlier observation).

  • There is nothing—absolutely nothing—more fun than eating an ice cream cone. Especially on a hot day at a New Hampshire farm where they also raise goats (aka “gokes”) which you can watch while dribbling your ice cream cone down your shirt. This is living!
  • Correction: there is something more fun than eating an ice cream cone. It’s watching your child (or grandchild) eat one for the first time. (Although I do highly recommend eating one yourself while you watch.)
I could ramble on and on (after all, I am a grandmother talking about her grandchild). But I have to tell you that even writing this is making my severe “Soren-withdrawal” worse. So I have to move on to other things—like figuring out how I can get Woody’s job moved to New Hampshire, or North Carolina (where Bengt lives) or Ireland (where our granddaughter-to-be lives).

But I do want all of you moms out there to know that I have a renewed appreciation for what you do every day. Not just a week at a time. And not with just one kid. And not with a fellow-caregiver at your side. I always knew you were heroes. I just know better now how exhausting being a hero can be.

And, how wonderful.

The bright eyes and big smiles. The stream of new words. The songs that go through your head even when they’re sleeping (I can’t get the “Fire Truck” song out of my head!) And, oh, those hugs…

Go hug one of your kids for me, will you?

And BTW, thanks to all of you who wrote in or have prayed for our “big kid” in Iraq. I am deeply grateful. He’s due home pretty soon. Stay tuned—and keep praying, please!

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Fourth of July and a Son in Iraq

This Fourth of July feels very different from any other. And it’s not just because, as Woody and I spend what looks to be a quiet (and welcomed!) weekend at home (and he’s not even on call—yea! No beeper!), we will reminisce about many past July celebrations when we hosted big family cookouts in celebration of our son Bjorn’s birthday, which happens to be July 7.
At these family celebrations, we always gave lip service, at least, to our gratitude for our freedom and our country. As we said the blessing over our barbecue, we thanked God for freedom to live our faith and celebrate with family and friends.

But this year it’s different.

It’s different because this year we have a son in Iraq. A son who joined the Marines after college and became a Marine officer and C-130 pilot because he wanted to serve and defend his country and the very freedoms we celebrate this weekend.

The price of freedom comes a lot closer to home this year. Our son—and the many thousands of other enlisted men and women serving abroad—will spend this Fourth of July away from home so that we can celebrate freely in our homes.

The price of freedom has always been high. There have always been brave and committed men and women spending holidays away from their families in defense of their country. Not to mention those whose families will never have their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and parents, home for a holiday again this side of Heaven. For them the price of freedom is incalculable.

But whatever level you’re on, it just feels a lot closer to home for us this year when our son is so far from home.

So I’m just asking a small favor of any of you faithful blog-readers. This year as you flip those burgers on the grill or wave those flags at the parade or watch those fireworks displays, will you say a prayer for our son Lars? And for all those multitudes of men and women he represents who are celebrating this holiday far away from family and friends?

Say a prayer of gratitude, please. And a prayer for their safety and protection. And for their spirits. It gets awfully lonely in the middle of an Iraqi desert or in the wilds of Afghanistan or on a ship at sea. Or any other place which is far far away from family and friends.

Most of all, say a prayer, please, that they will feel God’s presence even in whatever desert place is their current home-away-from home. That they will know that they abide “under the shadow of the Almighty.” Nearly every day I pray Psalm 91 for Lars, a Psalm I memorized many years ago as a teen. I never could have imagined I would be praying it for a son in Iraq so many years later.

When you pray for out troops, will you please pray also for their families? I wish you could meet some of the amazingly courageous young moms I have met in recent years who are “single-momming it” while their husbands are deployed. Kelly—and Lars—represent so many, many others walking the same path.

Just before Lars left for Iraq last January, Woody gave him and Kelly each a card to carry in their wallets. The cards had a brief message from us on one side and some strong promises from scripture on the other: For Lars, Jeremiah 1:18-19 and Joshua 1:9; for Kelly, Psalm 16:8 and Philippians 4:6-7. (For more about Lars and his family, see the January 30th blog, “Deployment Day.”)

Now, some 5 months later, we continue to pray those verses for them. And as his return to his family gets closer (he hopes to be home around mid-August), I find myself praying especially that God will guard and surround and protect him in body, soul, mind, and spirit. That the Philippians 4:6-7 peace of God will “guard his heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” I pray this every day. But especially on this Independence Day.

Will you join me?

Happy Fourth of July!