One time a number of years ago when I will still playing road manager to my lovely sister Beth, I told her “you know what? I am having a really bad day….week…month…year…whatever” She burst out into laughter and eventually I followed suit and had to snicker at my own dramaticism.
I should have reserved that exhange (perhaps minus the laughter) for this week.
I cannot get into what is so ‘really bad’ but I will ask you to pray for us. And since I can’t get into it no matter how much I would love to save myself the cost of therapy and just vomit it all out in colorful words on this blog, I said to myself.. “self, how about some story time?”
I mean, who doens’t love story time? I was just reminiscing a few nights ago at our fire pit about the Moon Dog stories my uncle Mike used to tell my cousins and I when we were growing up… my cousins’ house was an old, comfy farmhouse that seemed to always be filled with the smells of Aunt Deb’s baking and the sounds of adventure and wrestling that three young boys can bring…Aaron and I loved to play there. (and by that, I mean, Aunt Deb would let us play runaway all day out in the barn without one of the lectures my mom would have given us about suffocating in our straw forts! *grin*) But something happened to the warm and cheerful atmosphere of the farm once dusk hit. The big picture window adjacent to the wood fireplace had no blinds, and as the fire crackled we watched as the branches of the old oak tree whipped in the wind and made a frightening rapping noise on it. All four of the boys and I would drag blankets out and snuggle up on the floor and with only the light of the fire on his face, Uncle Mike would tell us his made up stories about Moon Dog.
A history teacher by trade, Uncle Mike was a master story crafter. If he ever decides to record them…all I have to say is, watch out Mr. Potter. (*grin*)
We had another kind of ‘story time’ here Thursday evening…because of my really bad day/week/month/year situation a few of my favorite Seattle ladies (you know who you are and you know I love you) decided to bring dinner to my house and help me do some packing. My brother Ben had flown in hte Saturday before to also help with the latter and my sweet Mama flew in Tuesday night in accordance with her role as Best Mom EVER. So, before getting to the work of bubble-wrapping all of the glass in my house (the thing I hate most about moving) we all sat down in the living room to eat. The dinner was wonderful and I was so glad to see my friends and have a small, but important fraction of my amazing family meet several of those dearest to me here. There was a little chit chat before the Best Mom EVER broke out into some stories.
I keep telling her she needs to write a book… not in quite the same realm as the Moon Dog Chronicles…maybe something more like Anne Lamott would write if she had been the 7th of 8 loud and opinionated German preacher’s kids, worked in a group home, housed over 40+ foster kids, legally adopted two sons and not-so-officially adopted numerous of her childrens friends along the way, and was currently raising a 3 and 5 year old at the age of 50.
Mama has true (and often very funny) tales to tell. My soon to be sister in law, Beck, thinks Mama’s house could be the setting for one of those crazy reality Tv shows (in her words, “Tina, people would pay to watch this”), but I am sticking with the whole book thing…
ANYWAY (looks who is windy when life is chaotic…wait. I am always windy, aren’t !?)… Mama recently said that the youngest of our clan, Josh, seamlessly houses the obscene and the profound. And it is with that statement that this super-duper-too-long introduction transitions into the actual stories…(which, I am sure will be much shorter)
Joe (5) and Josh (3) have been living with my parents for about two and a half years now and they are so dang cute that I am pretty darn sure you’d want to eat them if you ever had the pleasure of making their acquaintance. My soon to be brother in law, Shane, calls them his “choc-nillas” which may not be the most politically correct way to categorize their ethnicity, but I love it. They are half brothers but its sometimes hard to believe they share even one strand of DNA. Joe is tall and willowy…dark complected with almost black hair and brown eyes so vulnerable and deep you could drown in them. Quiet and hesitant, he feels more like the younger brother that he isn’t. Josh is a wild child…charming and loud and unpredictable. His chubby face is framed by almost-blond curls and his green eyes dance with mischief.
My two favorite characters.
Now for a few of my favorite stories involving my two favorite characters.
JESUS IS THE REAL KING!
Joe and Josh spend about one day every week or every two weeks with their biological mom…she’s not a bad person, but she is crazy. (let’s just be honest) So while the rest of us on the planet realize that WWF wrestling is not really appropriate for a 3 and 5 year old (and perhaps everyone else too!), she seems oblivious.
My mom would call me frequently after the boys had returned to her home following a bio mom visit and complain about the influences of WWF in their little lives…body slamming and take downs were beginning to be an hourly event..not to mention she had taken worms out of Josh’s mouth on several occasions while he was pretending to be “The Undertaker”. ugh. My poor Mama learned more about the characters of WWF than I am sure she ever thought possible.
In the car one day as Mama was driving, she heard the boys in the backseat discussing “The King”. A short inquiry resulted in her understanding that “The King” was in fact an arrogant wrestling character. She had finally had it! In a moment of parental genuis (that I can only hope I inherited) Mom began to talk to the boys about Jesus…
[now, I should mention that Joe and Josh LOVE Jesus…they wake up every morning asking “is this church-day?”]
“There is only ONE King, did you boys know that? Who is the wrestler that he is pretending to be the King?!?! How big is he?” The boys responded “big” with emphasis. “Well Jesus is bigger…bigger than even the earth!” (Now she had their attention) “That wrestler is not the King, boys,…there is only ONE King and its Jesus. Do you know why? Because He is so Big and Strong that He body slammed the devil” Well she had said the magic words…the boys each stared out their resepective windows, gazing outside with dreamy thoughts about a King bigger than the earth, taller than the sky body slamming a little red devil.
Mom was just about to pat herself on the back for her quick wit and excellent parenting skills when they pulled up to the house. The boys jumped out of the car and into the yard..Josh grabbed Joe and body slammed him just before flexing and yelling, “I AM JESUS! AND JESUS IS THE REAL KING!”
Like I said in the above story, the boys still have somewhat regular visits with their bio mom. Besides being crazy, she also has a potty mouth. So, almost as soon as they began talking, my parents began living with the most beautiful, cussing toddlers you have ever seen. Luckily, both boys had speech impediments so the cussing was not always recognizable to everyone else.
At first, Mom tried not to over-react and instead redirect the conversation. When Joe called Mom a b****, she would say “Joe, are you calling mommy a peach? Well…then you are an orange!” When Josh slipped a**hole into a sentence, she would say, “Apple? No, how about we get some pears” The boys would giggle and in a minute be calling each other names of fruits, not distinguishing fruit-name-calling from cussing insults. Smart, isn’t she?
This worked when the boys were younger and when they were just parroting words, but the older they got and the more their speech imporved, the harder it became to direct them. When they began using the words correctly and in context, Mom had to resort to making the time-out chair their second home. This worked for Joe, but Josh is a little more stubborn…I had never seen a two year old who would do a an hour long time-out happily rather than saying “I am not the boss” until I met the likes of JOsh.
So eventually Mom decided to try to reason with Josh. Banking on his love for Jesus, Mom explained how it made Jesus sad when he said those words. Much to her surprise, it started to work.
One night about a week later, she was tucking the boys in. She prayed for Joe and when she started to pray for Josh, he said “I pray myself mom”. Delighted at his initiative, she listened to his little dutchy voice…
“Dear Dod, peese help me be a dood boy..help me not say bad words..” Mom smiled to herself, not at all suspecting that what would soon follow those sweet words was going to be a list of all of the bad words he was not wanting to keep saying!
I asked her how she didn’t crack up laughing while this sincere 3 year old listed off all the “cusswords” (in quotes since he listed ‘shut up’ too!) he knew in his very first prayer. Her answer? “Just as soon as he finished, I told him Mommy had to pee and I ran into the bathroom and exploded in laughter and the composed myself for their good-night kisses!”
Our Pastor’s wife says my parents are going to have to pray the cuss out of them and she’s probably right. Despite his prayer, when the boys know they have to go home to see bio mom, the cuss seems to come right back out. Mama says she thinks that drive from Logan Co. to Springfield has become a space where the boys mentally prepare themselves to re-enter the ghetto…the world of their mom…
Beth and Shane were recently the ones entering into these dangerous space with the boys. Beth drove and Shane opted to make a seat in the back between the two choc-nillas and their carseats. To keep the transition from being to rough, Shane got the boys singing. They just sang and sang their hearts out. It ddn’t take them long to go through all of their favorite church songs, “Beshy song”, “Sawn Donald” songs, and “Shane-Shane” songs, and even “Toby MAC” songs and soon they were left to singing the regular kid songs. At one point, Josh suggested “twinkle, twinkle little star” and when he sang it a little more like “tweekle, tweekle dittle dar”, Shane was overcome with his cuteness and decided to call his 68 year old mother to share the moment.
Now, I should say that Shane’s mother is very sweet, conservative…and well, 68. And I should also say Shane (or at least Beth!) should have known better than to give that kid a phone during the transition drive…but, that’s exactly what they did.
Shane called, told his mom joshy had something to sing for her, and handed him the phone, and prompted him to sing “twinkle, twinkle” again.
Josh smiled and ornery smiled, grabbed the phone, turned toward the window and promptly sang with all of his might “tweekle, tweekle little B****!”
I am sure Shane was able to convince his mom Josh was singing “twinkle, twinkle little peach”…too bad that whole speech impediment is clearing up….
I know I keep telling you how the boys love Jesus and going to church…and they do. When I was home in late May, they wanted to worship for me. Mom put in the pre-release of Shane and Shane’s newest album (in stores Aug 22) “Pages”. Joe was quick to request his favorite song…”Mommy, LOVE YOU JESUS! LOVE YOU JESUS! PEEEEES!” They both ran to get chairs from the kitchen and placing them in the living room, they stood on them as the music began. They sang their little hearts out, pretending to hold mics…they knew every word. Neither one of them can hold a tune in a bucket and the longer the song goes, the louder the ‘sing’ until the ‘singing’ is more like ‘screaming’. Once Mom tried to get them to realize this, but Josh quickly retored with “Beshy (Beth) screams too, Mommy” and from that moment on, the issue was settled. I watched them dancing and singing with their ball caps on backwards and I am pretty darn sure angels everywhere stopped whatever they were doing to listen in….
You should see them at church!…
One afternoon some time ago Mom couldn’t find the boys..this is always cause for alarm, even though their hiding is usually benign (once Mom found JOsh hiding in a dark closet, drinking Hereys syrup!) After looking outside this particular day, she started to worry. When she heard water running in the master bath, her worry moved inot panic. Running in, she found JOe holding Josh’s head under the water! She screamed and both boys jumped up to their feet, soaking wet and fully clothed.
“Joe! Don’t hold you brother’s head under water! You could hurt him!” Her adrenaline was pumping and too little boys were about to get the talking-to of their lives when Josh spoke up.
“Its o-day (ok) Mommy…he dust batizing me!”
Realizing that baptisms had taken place the Sunday before, she decided rather than scolding them too harshly she would explain that Mommys always have to present for baptisms…. you knew that rule, didn’t you? *grin*
DAT DUPID [“that’s stupid”]:
Mom is still using the Bible story book that she used to read to Aaron and I years ago… every night before the boys go to bed, Mom and/or Dad read them a Bible story. So the last time they went to the Library, Joe wanted to get out a “Jesus book”. Mom found one about the resurrection and for a week, it was the only book they read.
When it was time for them to visit their bio mom, Beth was the one to drive them there. At 45 minutes, its a pretty long drive for two little boys so keeping them occupied is always a task. Beth was talking with them after they had finished singing a medley of their favorite songs (minus the cuss words this time!). Joe wanted to talk about Jesus’ death and how he rose again. So the three of them recounted the story…somehow, instead of being crucified, Josh was convinced Jesus had gotten shot.
Trying to get things back on track, Beth said emphasized that Jesus was strong enough to not yet killed, but that He had allowed Himself to be killed for the sake of everyone else. “Who did Jesus die for?” she asked, seeing if the message had gotten through.. Josh was quick to answer, “us”. “And who does Jesus love, Joe?” “Us,” Joe answered softly. There was a moment of silence…and then Josh spoke again…
“Dat Dupid, Beshy” She had to ask him to say it again to be sure that was what he had said and again he repeated a very clear and slightly louder, “DAT DUPID!”
So there you have it…even a 3 year old (a bright 3 year old, but 3 year old none the less) has to grapple with the seeming ridiculous nature of grace…I wonder if he was looking at himself and Joe and thinking ‘Someone who didn’t have to die, would die for us?!?!’
I have to admit I have had the same thought when considering the generous heart of God…
I WILL FINALLY BE AT HOME
My mom and soon-to-be sister in law saw a race car bed by the road someone was selling. Knowing the boys would love it, they stopped to inquire about the price. Mom soon realized the man who answered the door was someone she had gone to High School with…they chatted a little while about the bed and then about life. It was then that the man told my mom his wife (someone my mom had also known) was passed away from breast cancer the day before. Suddenly, Mom realized the living room had a hospital bed…and she felt sick. “I am so sorry, ” she offered, “I didn’t know. I never would have stopped in… Is anyone bringing you dinner tonight?” No one was, so she insisted on doing it.”
She and Becky left and went into town to buy grocceries and afterward picked up the boys from preschool. On the car ride home, Mom asked them if they would like to help make dinner, knowing eliciting their help was the only sure way to get the dinner made in time. She then went on to explain to them why they were making dinner for this family, “a little boy and girl and their daddy are very sad.” “why?” they wanted to know, “Why are they sad Mommy?” “well, they are sad because their Mommy died. The good part is that she was friends with Jesus, so she went to heaven to be with Him, but it is still sad for her family because they won’t get to see her anymore.”
THe boys stared at the windows of the car, taking it all in. In a moment of profoundness, Joshy said “Someday when I die I am going to be with Jesus too and He is going to hold me in his arms, and then I will finally be Home.”
Mom said looking at that little boy in the backseat, who is always bouncing back and forth between her, stable home and his bio mom’s crazy world, it seemed so obvious that he would profoundly understand this concept.
Like every great moment, it lasted only a split second…. Joe was the one to bring it to a close when he announced that he wanted Jonah to hold him cause he “likes Jonah the best.”
Like I said….the obscene and the profound. In a few short weeks, the stories will no longer be being relayed to me as I will be there (Home, Sweet Home!) to experience them myself.. I guess that means we will be having Story Time again sooner than later.
God Bless..keep us in your prayers…
Oh and by the way, laughter truly is good like medicine.