23 April 2009

The Peacemaker

It is both curious and humbling to watch your children develop traits and characteristics on their own.

London Eli is growing into quite the Peacemaker or Conflict-Avoider.

She seems to be always keeping her eyes open for opportunities to smooth over situations between her siblings before conflicts get out of hand. At a recent lunch at the lodge, after Bergen finishes his allotted one cup of juice, London quickly observes his sadness and near emotional breakdown as he asks for more juice and gets a parental refusal. Before he hits the floor, London says, "Hey Berg, I have some juice left. Would you like to finish mine?" Conflict avoided.

On a trip to Ben and Jerry's, the kids all enjoyed an ice cream cone while sitting outside on a park bench. Every Keigley kid enjoys the last pointy bite of ice cream cone as their favorite bite. And it takes a lot of effort and eating to make it all the way to that pointy end. After finally working through the cone, Berg was just at the end when....oops... he dropped his cone on the sidewalk. As I was informing my unhygienic son that he could not consume that precious bite, any observing eye could see what was about to happen - meltdown. Again, London to the rescue. "Bergen, look - I still have a pointy bite like you, only it's bigger. Do you want to eat my cone?" And the answer is "yes" and the breakdown is averted.

Now, I am not saying that I think London's consistent pandering to her brother will work in his benefit exactly. I just think it is interesting that she has already developed such a strong sense of keeping the peace.

And I think it is really amazing that I have the privilege of watching these small humans grow and mature and learn and explore.

21 April 2009

What's That?

After church Sunday I had to stop at the grocery store and I knew every little person in the car was hungry and that by the time we got home it would be later than our normal lunch time.

No one likes that - right?

And I didn't feel like creating some great meal nor did I want to drive through a fast food place. (Maybe I'll blog about my relationship with McDonald's later.)

The point here is ...... I walked by the frozen pizza aisle and thought, "Yeah, that would work" and I bought a frozen pizza. It did feel like an out-of-the-ordinary purchase for me but I didn't really pause to contemplate the reasons why.

At home I took the pizza out of the grocery bag and London said, "What's that Mom?" Once I told her it was a pizza she had a look of confusion on her face. "In a box? How did they put a pizza in a little box at the grocery store Mom? That's weird."

And then it occurred to me. I have never served my kids a frozen pizza before. How funny is that?

What frozen oddity will they encounter next?

I think the other day I bought Eggos for the first time. Primarily, I bought them because it was triple coupon day at Bloom and they only cost 15 cents per box. (I prefer serving whole foods, but who can pass up processed convenience at that price?) I also bought them in anticipation of the upcoming newest Keigley arrival and I figured it was a breakfast even London could make on her own.

Just wait until they get a hold of waffles that come of a box. Weird!

19 April 2009

Happy Birthday Bergen

Bergen turned four this weekend.

Celebrating with Bergen Hawkeye . . . .

- When you tell him "happy birthday" he responds by saying, "Happy Birthday!"

- Kevin made him his own special Wolverine claws. Quite an undertaking, but well-appreciated.

- After his birthday party, Bergen would thank his guests by shouting "THANK YOU FOR COMING" through a mouthful of cake.

- Bergen received the coolest remote control car that keeps running, even when it hits a wall. Not only was it his first remote control, it was the first gift he ever requested after seeing it on a "cah-mur-shuh-mull". [commercial] Ah, advertising.

- Berg's cake was the coolest Batman-inspired cake ever. Designed especially by his loving father.

- I assembled Bergen's Big Wheel - way more complicated than it should be. And the wheel fell off when he raced it down the driveway. (But Dad can fix it!)

- When Bergen blew out his candles he took a huge breath between each candle and spit all over each one as he blew. The spit cake was not as popular as the alternate cake.

Happy Birthday Little Mister! I have loved four years of you!!

17 April 2009

This is My Day

Everyone was playing happily outside. It was so nice and quiet inside.

I should have known better.

After all these years and all these kids . . . . I should have known better.

13 April 2009

Poop and Potential

Every morning it is my privilege to enter little Willow's room to give her a good morning kiss and hug and to see her sleepy, sweet eyes light up when I enter the room.

And nearly every morning the same smell and the same words greet me as I enter her domain. "Poo Poo," she declares, pointing to her itsy bum. And the smell pervading the room affirms her assertion.

For some reason this morning, I was talking Baby Smack to her as I changed her diaper for the eleventy-billionth time. Now, Baby Smack by its very nature does not need to make sense, and so it frequently does not. I said something like, "Oh Piper - you are loaded with poop and loaded with potential." I don't know what I meant or what I was saying. (It was early and poop is not a welcome wake up call.)

But as I wiped off her filthy bum, I started to think that maybe what I said was sort of profound. God loads us all with potential and we pretty much cover it up with poop. Usually loads of it. Messy, smelly, disgusting poop that emerges from our own rear ends. And it isn't until that degrading, offensive load is cleared off that we can even begin to see the potential God has planned.

I know that I am sick and tired of poop. And I imagine God feels the same way about our lives, when He sees what a mess we make of things.

Lord, I don't know where all this is going

or how it all works out.

Lead me to peace that is past understanding -

a peace beyond all doubt.

O Lord, you are the author,

redeeming what's been done.

You hold me in the present

and all that is to come.

-some Newsboys song I really like right now

10 April 2009

Weeping May Occur

I wrote this when Mosely was but a younger lass, moving from her beloved crib to her big girl bed.

When reading the Bible I often find certain verses that I think apply directly to my own children. Sometimes I chuckle to myself at the verse’s real intention and the intent I jokingly like to apply to it.

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge but whoever hates discipline is stupid."

Sometimes I highlight the verse. Sometimes I get out a handy note card and print the verse and stick it to the fridge for all to enjoy and ponder.

Recently I read a verse that I think maybe I should scrawl in permanent marker on my daughter’s wall. "Weeping may occur for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

Mosely is about to turn two years old - her birthday is just days away. She has been sleeping in a borrowed crib since her birth. The gracious lenders are expecting their own crib dweller shortly and the time has drawn near to return the bed to its original owners. Mosely may be unaware of the politics of her crib’s removal, but she is aware of its present implications to her - no more crib. No more familiar resting place, home of her favorite three blankets - shiny pink, shiny yellow and chenille green. This is the genesis of a new era for Mosely - the Era of the Big Girl Bed. And for Mosely, Big Bed means Big Tears.

We tried to make the new bed look strikingly similar to the old crib. We put it in the same corner of the room. The sheets closely match. We provided the same comfortable resting place for the previously mentioned Favorite Blankets Three. We still kiss her goodnight every evening. We still read a story before bed and say prayers together. Really, not much has changed. In fact, it’s actually been an upgrade for the tiny toddler. More space to roll. More space to create worlds for her Little People and her favorite green cucumber Larry. I would think she would be pleased with her expanded real estate.

She isn’t.

The ritual has become pretty routine. Following our nightly rites, we place Mosely in her bed. A few moments pass. She crawls out of bed, clinging to her trio of cotton comforts. We see her escape - she isn’t very stealthy yet. We place her back in her bed. The tears begin. And the accompanying sighs, cries and wails. Mosely is unhappy. She wants us to know it. She is not pleased with her new surroundings. She gets her point across clearly - a good communicator already.

The funny thing is, when Mosely’s body is overwhelmed with exhaustion and her tired eyes close and the wails subside, she rests contentedly in her new space. When she wakes up in the morning she is happy, excited to crawl around her new bed, now spacious enough for more blankets if she ever desires them.

I think we are all like that. We don’t know what is best for us and we all dislike waiting. We want what we know, what is comfortable, what is routine. We want our parents to never age, our children to always be obedient, our jobs to always be stable. What we want is what Mosely wanted - static, unchanging lives. And what we get is the opposite - unexpected turns, surprise visits, unplanned adventures. And even though the new is often times an improvement over the old, we cling tenaciously to the familiar and resist the alternative. We weep. And the night seems long. It seems very long. But God’s promise to us is so much bigger than even our promise to our daughter.

You will weep. You will. But joy cometh in the morning. Joy.

And all we have to do is wait.

08 April 2009

Never Say Never

I always told my English students to avoid using cliches in their writing. I accused cliches of sounding predictable and boring. I encouraged my young aspiring writers to strive for fresh words and intelligence in their writing styles. Don’t misunderstand me here - I thoroughly believe that avoiding cliches in writing is still good advice. And working to find new ways to say old ideas is still worthy of the challenge it requires. But I guess it’s also true that cliches are cliches for a reason. (I also instructed my students to never start sentences with "and" but some grammar rules are acceptable to bend in certain situations.)

A cliche is a phrase that is used so frequently that it becomes trite and ineffective. The thing that makes cliches hang around for years and years, however, is the fact that, quite simply, they are true. Let’s examine one cliche, just for fun.

"Never say never." A pretty broad statement. I bet you can already think of several times in your life, probably in the past month even, that you found yourself doing something you said you would NEVER do. (And if you are like me, you probably said it with the word "never" in capital letters too.)

I said I would never teach English. I taught for five years.

I also said I would never have children. I now have five, almost six!

During my college years I enjoyed being hip to new musicians and listening to the latest releases from the most popular bands. I frowned upon adults who knew nothing about modern music and I vowed that I would never be out of the music loop. Now I keep the radio stations turned off and the same bands I listened to in college loop through my new little yellow Ipod. I can no longer recognize the faces I see on music videos. Furthermore, my first reaction upon seeing most so called modern day musicians is to wonder why their parents let them out of the house so alarmingly under dressed.

I said I would never lick my finger and wipe my child’s face. I recently found myself doing just that. I apologized quickly to my daughter, but come on - there was a big smear of banana on her face.

I said I would never spend exorbitant amounts of money on a veterinarian’s bill for my pets. But several summers ago I stood in the vet’s office and handed over a large sum of money to repair my dog Bosco’s torn tendon. (Who has ever heard of a dog tearing her tendon anyway?)

In my defense, however, I once made a "never" statement way back in high school that I have managed to salvage to this day. I said I would never marry a dairy farmer. I did not.

When my husband and I purchased our latest vehicle, I was enthralled with the cleanliness of a new automobile. I boldly (and foolishly) proclaimed, "We will never eat in this suburban." Reality quickly set in when hunger struck and no one wanted to waste time waiting for three preschoolers to slowly finish their Happy Meals when we had places to be and were running on our usual schedule - late.

I also said I would never own a minivan. I am currently driving the aforementioned dirty suburban, but never say never. I hear they have a minivan now with a sun roof for every passenger.

06 April 2009

I Don't Understand

Why does this look like so much fun but imagining fifteen-year-old Riley behind the wheel seem so terrifying?

(Okay, so I know the reasons why.......but isn't it a little alarming how few blinks it takes to get from one stage to the next?)

05 April 2009

Are You Happy?

I wrote this piece when London was a toddler. Enjoy.

"Are you happy, Mommy?" It’s a question my two and a half year old daughter asks repeatedly throughout the day. I’m not sure where she first heard it or why it has stuck in her mind so. Who can explain the vast intricacies of the toddler mind? Who would even try?

Even though I hear the question a multitude of times in any given day, it still makes me think with each utterance. "Are you happy, Mommy?" Well, the house smells like spilled milk and dirty diapers from you and your two younger siblings. But I guess I’m okay.

There doesn’t seem to be any clear pattern to her questioning - just randomly checking the emotional status of her primary care giver. Good business skill, I suppose. "Are you happy, Mommy?" I haven’t completed one chapter of the novel I’ve been reading for two weeks. My hair cut is looking shaggy because it’s hard to take four children to the salon. But, hey, I’m feeling alright.

Sometimes she asks the question when I am most certainly not happy. At the precise moment she has discovered a hole in her sippy cup and has delightedly poured said cup’s entire contents on the kitchen floor. "Are you happy, Mommy?" Well, you see, I’m not a big fan of scrubbing floors anyway and I really don’t have time to clean up this mess. The dryer’s buzzer just went off and your brother is spreading squash all over his highchair. You’re still wearing your pajamas and your sister has a doctor’s appointment in ten minutes. I’m not really sure this moment qualifies as being happy. Check with me later.

I imagine she must question other members of the family in the same manner, although I have not heard her badgering them at the same level at which she badgers me. I am serving lunch to four young children for the six hundredth and twelfth time, but who’s counting? "Are you happy, Mommy?" I’m growing a little weary of peanut butter and jelly and of slicing apples without the peeling. I don’t remember the last time I sat down to start a meal and finished that same meal without sharing it with toddlers or having it spilled across my lap or wiped on my shirt sleeve. I know I am your mother and I am thrilled to have that role but I am not equally thrilled about my plate becoming the refuse plate for all food that you "don’t care for". It does make me a little queasy, but overall, I think I am feeling just fine.

There are other times, of course. Riley is comfortably reading a book on the sofa near us. Baby brother Bergen is napping peacefully in his bedroom. We’re playing a game of Connect Four - the toddler version. You know, where you just place the red and black checkers in the yellow thingy at any random order that pleases the capricious mind of a toddler. Yeah, that version. London and her younger sister Mosely are grinning at each other as they take their turns dropping the colored checkers. They wait on each other and even offer encouraging comments. When the square is filled I show them how to pull the blue lever that releases their carefully stored checkers into a pleasingly loud barrage of black and red mayhem. Mosely claps her hands and smiles at me. London cheers and laughs. I set the board back up and they happily settle down to start the process over again.

"Are you happy, Mommy?"

Yes, London, I am happy.

02 April 2009

Little Creases

The little creases on Piper Finn's body are one of my favorite things about that kid.

You know the creases I am talking about. The one at the wrist. The one at her elbow. The itiest creases surrounding each knuckle on her teeny hands. The crease where her ankle connects to her foot. Her neck creases.

I love those little parts.

01 April 2009

It's Official - I Am A Parent

This is an older piece from the early days ............

When was it that I officially became a parent?

Was it when I adopted my first daughter?

Was it when I gave birth to my second daughter?

Or was it when I licked my finger and rubbed smeared banana off my then seven-year-old daughter’s chin?

What about the time I used my pinky finger to dislodge a booger dangling from my infant daughter’s nostril?

Did parenthood claim me that Saturday morning I found myself in the dressing room at a department store, sitting on the bench as the official coat hanger, taking the clothes off the hangers and re-hanging them for my nine-year-old to have a mini fashion show in the changing room?

Or was it when my newborn needed a diaper change while I was enjoying a candy bar - so I set the candy bar beside the changing table, changed the offensive diaper and resumed eating the chocolate chunky bar immediately afterwards?

Maybe my official title of parent was earned when I realized that I was reading the Berenstain Bears more than I was reading the local newspaper.

Or was it when I recognized that I was continually referring to myself in third person - "Mommy is going to change your diaper now." "Mommy loves you." "Mommy would like paper bags instead of plastic, thank you."

Maybe I earned my parental status when I had an extended conversation about Barbie’s job and her future plans. Would she rather be a doctor or a teacher?

Or was it when I found myself explaining why it wasn’t a good idea to wear white shoes in the winter even if they were shiny with pointy toes that made you look like a fairy princess?

I could claim the day when I discovered I had been reading the entire novel To Kill a Mockingbird in a high falsetto so my daughter would smile as I read.

Or was it an evening a few weeks ago - there I was, sitting in front of the television . . . sewing. Sewing! Well, okay, my daughter’s quilt had several holes in it and I was looping mismatched thread over and over to try to salvage the blanket for a few more nighttimes. Isn’t anything using needle and thread considered sewing anyway?

How about when I was up at midnight decorating cupcakes with tiny number nines for every child in Riley’s second grade class?

Perhaps my real badge of parenting is delivered every time I just go ahead and leave the door to the bathroom open because I know my daughter will walk in anyway.

Or what about the fact that every movie I watch now, aside from cartoons, has to be viewed well after 9 p.m.?

Maybe my new style of television watching altogether reveals my parental traits - remote control in hand, ready to aim and fire whenever a risque commercial or an inappropriate scene appears on the screen. (Which is about constantly these days, but I’ll save that ranting for another column.)

Or how about my new showering schedule - only at nights or during random nap times during the day?

Could it have been the final straw - the one that just happened yesterday? While feeding my infant daughter, her diaper leaked through her clothes and onto the sheets of my bed. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter-sized amount - well, maybe two quarters, but definitely not any larger than a baseball. I changed the diaper but then the day’s distractions hit hard. I forgot about the stain until bedtime - late night. I looked at the small mark. I knew what needed to be done. I looked at my alarm clock. I took a clean burp cloth, one was conveniently lying beside my pillow - I knew what needed to be done. I carefully placed the cloth over the stain, turned out the lights and climbed into bed.

Good night, I thought to myself. It’s official - I am a parent now.