Monday, May 29, 2017

What Tobin Did

First, I'll tell you that, at the ripe old age of nine, Tobin gave his first official haircut.  (Not to be confused with his first unofficial haircut which happened at the tender age of three!!)
Benjamin had been needing a haircut; and, since Josiah and David have each had a turn cutting his hair, Jeff had told Tobin that he could be the next one to have that honor.
Last evening was an opportune time, since Jeff was at home and could supervise the process.  Tobin did well with it (and of course, it's a very simple cut), but discovered one thing: cutting a toddler's hair is a lot harder than it looks.  I think Tobin was surprised by how much Benjamin moved around, and how hard it was to hit a moving target!  ;-)
I'm sure this was only the first of many haircuts Tobin will give in the future!

But what I really wanted to write about was something else Tobin did yesterday afternoon.

Every Sunday, I tell myself that I am NOT going to give in when the afternoon sleepies hit me.  Surely I could stay awake and use that time productively, right?  But nearly every Sunday, my resolve disappears when lunch is over and Benjamin is tucked into his crib for his nap and my responsibilities are over for the moment.  I lie down, and sleep quickly overtakes me.  It's the one day of the week in which I normally indulge in a nap.

Yesterday, the same old familiar scenario occurred; and I laid down on the couch and drifted off.  But as I slept, I had a vague awareness of peculiar noises coming from the kitchen.  Someone was cleaning up and doing the dishes!

When I awoke, I discovered that Tobin was the culprit...I mean, angel...who had worked so hard to transform the kitchen while I slept.  He had unloaded the dishwasher and put clean dishes away, loaded it again with the dirty dishes from lunch, handwashed some dishes, put the leftover roast and vegetables in a smaller dish in the refrigerator, covered the leftover applesauce with saran wrap, taken the scraps out to the compost pile, and even washed out some zip-lock bags like I always do.

I was floored.

Rather than awakening to a big mess (the mess I should have dealt with before I collapsed on the couch), I awoke to the sound of the dishwasher humming, and the sight of a cleared-off table, and the splendor of Tobin's beautiful smile as he waited for me to realize what he had surprised me with.

What a welcome surprise!  What a sweet act of service!  What a dear, dear, dear boy!!!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday Night Is for Taking Baths

It was for Almanzo in Farmer Boy, and it is for Benjamin.  A Saturday night bath is essential for being clean and fresh on Sunday morning.  :)
 Fortunately, Benjamin's style of bathing is much more convenient than Almanzo's was.  Am I ever grateful to live in a time and place where indoor plumbing is the norm!!  ;-)
 Benjamin used to look like this when I gave him a bath...
 ...but now he looks like this.
My big, little man cub!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Benjamin Doesn't Talk Much, But...

...he still manages to get his point across quite skillfully.

For example, if he could have spoken, he might have said to me yesterday when I walked outside without him, "How dare you go out without me!  I'm in the depths of despair because you abandoned me!  But don't mind me: I'll just stand here and cry my eyes out until you return."

Instead, he just did this:
 Well, he made his point.  ;-)

Or in the next case, he was probably thinking, "You are the most important thing in my life.  Please don't ever, ever, ever leave me.  And while you're at it, don't even take a step without me clinging to you like a koala.  I mean, I know you talk about all this work you're supposed to be doing, but really, what could be more important than spending time with me??"  

Or this one: "I will gaze at you with ardent admiration until I melt you with my beautiful blue eyes, and then you will reach down and pick me up and hold me, and I will be happy."

Really, who needs words when you can express so much through body language?  ;-)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Since 7 Is the Number of Perfection...

...those who reach their 77th birthday must be doubly perfect!!  :)
 My dad attained that lofty height today, and we celebrated--as we always do on his birthday--with German chocolate cake.  Because I had neglected to buy another "7" candle, we used our lone "7," then added seven smaller candles to make up for the missing digit.  A poor substitution, according to some of my children.  My dad didn't seem to mind. :)  By the time Jeff turns 77, I'll try to make sure I buy another candle.  ;-)
 Jeff grilled steaks for us, and my sister came for dinner, and it was a special evening...
 ...all because of this special man.
When I think back over the past decade of my dad's life, I'm amazed at all the ways he has adapted to all the changes in his circumstances.  From being a full-time country doctor whose wife was basically functional (even though she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's), to then going through the upheaval of retirement and moving, then watching his beloved life partner decline and grieving every bit of loss all along the way...from being someone who depended on his spouse to cook and clean and do the laundry, to needing to learn to be independent and do all of those things himself (although he would be the first to admit that his current definition of "cooking" consists mostly of pouring a bowl of cereal or opening a container of cottage cheese) ;-)...from being in a mutually-beneficial marriage relationship to then going through all the stages of  The changes have been huge.

I admire my dad for the way he's learned new skills, bounced back from every emotional hit, sacrificed to make sure my mom's needs are cared for, and faithfully loved her through it all.  In addition, I'm grateful for his presence in the life of my family and the ways he serves and cares for us.  We are blessed.

And so, happy birthday yet again to you, Dad!  YOU are the gift that this day brings!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Out of All that I Could Write About...

...I only have the mental energy to slip in a quick post here about Benjamin.  There are so many other things I want to record here on the blog, and now that the next two weeks have much less ink on my calendar than the preceding...oh...35 or so weeks did, I might actually get a chance to do that!  ;-)  But for tonight, just this.

Benjamin is obsessed with tractors.  He says "tractor" WAY more than any other word at this stage of his life, he loves to look at them in books, he delights in seeing them in real life, and he plays with them every day.  Oh, and "tractor" doesn't just mean tractor.  He seems to use that word to describe nearly everything with wheels: cars, trucks, buses, trains, lawn mowers, even wheelchairs.  :)

A couple days ago, I grabbed my phone before I walked into his room to get him out of his crib, and this is what I captured...  :)

Another thing that Benjamin loves is music, and he sings (his version of singing, anyway) probably more than he speaks.  This morning, he was not only singing, but also dancing...that is, until someone at church came to the doorway of the room and distracted Benjamin.  :)

Benjamin is in a bit of a difficult phase right now (revolving around two issues: his clinginess to me, and his habit of screaming which hasn't yet been broken), but he is so precious to me.  I'm doing the illogical balancing act that moms do when they simultaneously wish that their kid would hurry up and grow out of whatever tough stage they're in but also wish that their kid would remain small and not grow up quite so fast.  It doesn't make any sense, but moms know it's true!!  :)

Friday, May 12, 2017

So Many Special Things

Two days ago, we made the familiar trek over the mountain to the airport to send our dear Grandma Fisher on her way back to California.  One last quick group shot in the airport...
...and then she was gone...
...making her way through security as we watched until she turned for her final wave and then was out of sight.
"This trip has gone so fast!" she exclaimed many times during her last few days with us.
And so it had--especially the last week--rushing by in a swift river of special moments.  Moments like...

The day before Jeff's mom left, I took her and our friend Doris (who now lives in the retirement community where my mom lives) out for lunch.  Benjamin came, too...
...and while the ladies chatted on after lunch, Benjamin and I strolled around the market...
...and admired all the interesting things.

The day before that, I had taken advantage of Grandma's Free Babysitting Service and had left all the kids at home while I had traveled to Richmond to speak at a MOPS group organized by my friend Miriam.  It was a huge honor to be there, and I loved every minute of my time with the women.  I was having so much fun that I completely forgot to take any pictures, so you'll have to take my word for it that the event actually happened.  ;-)

Two days before that, Jeff took his mom and the five older kids to Washington DC because that's the day he was able to get tickets to tour the White House; I hope to do a post about that at some point, using the pictures David took.  Meanwhile, I stayed in town and had the great fun of accompanying Sarah, a violinist I've known for the past decade or so, in her senior recital.  
She did a beautiful job, playing so expressively; it was such a treat to be part of that!  In addition, she introduced each piece herself, giving a brief bit of background about it or her reason for choosing it or some other tidbit of interesting info.  Her poise in speaking and in playing was impressive.

Afterwards, I sort of glowed all afternoon as I remembered the wondrous thrill of making music together with her...and the flowers her parents gave me brightened my heart, too.  :)

Two days before that, I had slipped away one evening to go to a Ladies' Tea at a nearby church with my friend Diana; and that was a delightful break from my normal routine.  The physical food was outstanding--such special, unique combinations of flavors--and the spiritual food was, too.  Once again, I forgot to take any pictures, but fortunately my friend Tess took this one.  Thanks, Tess!  :)

To have four out-of-the-ordinary, out-of-the-house events in six days is a little unusual for me, but I enjoyed each one thoroughly and was especially grateful for the presence of my mother-in-law during that time so that I could run off a little more than normal and not worry about things falling apart at my home during my absence.  ;-)

Besides the noteworthy extras, Grandma Fisher's time with us was filled with many ordinary activities... feeding Benjamin...

...and playing Settlers of Catan with Jeff and the four oldest boys.
The picture below shows Grandma Fisher during her first game, and I do think her initial reaction--like so many other people who are just learning that game--was slightly bewildered.  ;-)  But she sure picked up on it quickly and got hooked.  I don't remember exactly how many times this crew played Settlers of Catan while she was here this visit, but it was a lot!  :)

As I look back over the last 11 years since Jeff's mom's first visit to us in Virginia (that visit occurred in March of 2006), I am so thankful for her good health and her ability and willingness to come and spend these extended vacations with us.  While she's been with us, we have "gone and done" interesting things and also stayed right here at home and enjoyed the simple parts of life together.
We have shared many, many, many special moments; and I am quite sure that as we look back on these years, we will marvel over the blessing of having so much time with her.  Certainly my children will remember the anticipation of knowing "Grandma Fisher is coming!" and will have precious memories stored up in their hearts of the days and weeks and months we've shared with her.

We're already looking forward to the next time!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What's Significant about 2017's Easter

So, last month, Easter happened.

It zoomed up to me, said hello, then dashed away again, almost before I knew what was happening.

It's not as if we normally make a big to-do out of Easter.  Growing up, our celebration of it was more along the lines of "holy day" and not "holiday" (which is arguably how it should always be), and so we didn't do Easter baskets or the Easter bunny, I don't remember any special attempt to always have a new fancy Easter dress, and there were no particular Easter foods that we always had to have.  Instead, we celebrated it for the significance of Jesus's resurrection (and some years, that included an Easter play with our church, and sometimes a sunrise service).  

My upbringing continues to influence me heavily now, and so our family observance of Easter is similar to that of my childhood and does not usually require extensive preparations.  But this year seemed even more low-key than normal.

Oh, Moriah had a pretty dress to wear--a new-to-us one that Grandma Fisher had found at a yard sale for her--and it was fun to snap a few pictures of her in it that afternoon.

We had a church service that morning (and I was in charge of music for it).  We ate food for lunch (although what it was, I can't tell you).  I probably took a nap that afternoon (a customary Sunday afternoon delight for me).  But it wasn't until that evening that Easter became especially significant for me this year.

Why then?  Because of a visit to this dear lady.
I knew I wanted to see my mother on Easter, but her condition has worsened so much that she isn't really able to get out and about anymore, so her Sundays of going to church with my dad, then having lunch at our house, are sadly ("tragically!" my heart cries) over.  But we can still go to see her, and so we did.
Since her walking has deteriorated along with the rest of her abilities, we helped her into a wheelchair and were able to use that to take her outside her building.  It was a gorgeous evening, and the children played while us older adults watched.

It was pleasant to be outdoors and fun to watch the kids--an easy way to spend time together.  But more than that, being with my mom finally helped my heart to grab hold again of the significance of Easter.  Here's why.

My mom is dying.

All of us are, of course--only, we don't think about it so much.  But with my dear mother, it is obvious.  Her mind is shutting down, and her body is following suit.

I don't mean to imply that she only has a few weeks or months to live--not at all.  People with Alzheimer's sometimes linger...and linger...and linger, and that very well may be the case with her.  But it's impossible for me to spend much time with her without being aware of the decay that is happening in her.

That decay is happening in all of creation and has been for thousands of years.  (I think the Second Law of Thermodynamics has something to say about that?)  But one event pierced the "natural" (since the Fall in the Garden of Eden) order of things and reversed that.

The resurrection of Jesus.

Because of that, not only did His body come back from the dead, we also have hope of that.  And this year, my hope took a very specific form: my mother, whom I love more than words can say and whom I miss intensely as she slips away bit by bit, will not be that way--the way she is now--forever.  In heaven, she will be restored, and not just to her former glory, but to a celestial glory that will far surpass anything we have ever seen before.

Because of Easter, the fact that my mother cannot say my name, doesn't seem to recognize me consistently, can barely walk or talk, needs help feeding herself, and is just a shell--a fragment--of the woman I knew her to be...those facts will be wiped away.

Because of Easter, all the losses that my mother has endured--so many losses that I wonder what is left? how much more can she lose before she's simply gone?--will be returned to her, above and beyond what we can even imagine.

Because of Easter, there is a resurrection coming--not just a general resurrection in the end of time, but a very specific one for her.

And so we wait for it, with more anticipation than any child expecting a basket stuffed with chocolate on Easter morning.
Easter happened this year, and I almost missed it.  But thanks to a visit with my beloved mother, I caught hold of it before it completely slipped away.

Glory be to God for the indescribable power of the resurrection--and for the hope that it drops like dew on the thirsty ground of my aching heart!