Fair Enough

I’ve spent some time this morning reflecting upon the sovereignty of God. I’m a Christian and a liberal, which seems hard to reconcile for some people.  I have no desire to try to sway  you to my end of the political spectrum nor do I want to enumerate all the ways in which I believe Hillary Clinton would have been a better president. All I’m saying is I believe in the radical, life-changing, and all-inclusive love of God for His creation as expressed through Jesus Christ’s life and death on this earth. Did He not love ALL of us enough to lay down His life? And are we not likewise called to love all people?

 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you

John 15:12-14

So my candidate lost, and I’m left no choice but to face a different America than I envisioned. I had to tell my darling girls that we faced a bitter disappointment. As I got ready this morning, while they were still blissfully asleep, I prepared my thoughts and words and prayed for wisdom. I find immense solace in the fact that I have a sovereign God, who is not shaken by the events of our world. I tried my best to cheer my daughters with the fact that our God reigns regardless of the rulers of our world. God wasn’t out of His throne and let something slip passed.

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.

Isaiah 40:22-23

It’s not easy to take in these ideas, especially when you’re a four year old. Avery couldn’t help but cry, just brought to tears with disappointment. I held her and told them that the three of us are called to love all people, help those in need, and stand up to bullies. We’re going to continue living out these beliefs and will not ever count ourselves out. In my most optimistic voice, I asked Avery and Lily, “Can you do that with me? Can you help a friend in need? Can you stand up to a kid who’s being a bully?” Lily, my eternally honest child,  replied, “I don’t know if I can do that.” Fair enough, my little one, fair enough. I told her the good thing is that she never has to stand alone.  I will always stand with her, but more importantly God will always stand with her. Shoot, Avery’s ready to go toe to toe anytime, so any preschool bullies need to lay low around those twins.

For all of us who feel a bit bewildered today, I’m with you. The longer I live, the less I feel like I have this world figured out. I’ll just keep struggling toward that perfect love and pray you all forgive me when I fall short of it.

 

I Literally Don’t Care

A few days ago, I was browsing a kids’ clothing website, a pastime I enjoy ever so much! Scrolling through pages of adorable outfits and dresses, I had an immediate visceral reaction to a t-shirt. Yes, I was upset by a child’s t-shirt, angered even.  A 7 year old girl modeled this garment with the slogan “I Literally Don’t Care” emblazoned across it. No, I’m not ranting about the popularized misuse of the word “literally.” I was affronted by the sentiment behind the statement. It embodies the very core of what I don’t want in my child. Rarely have I ever felt so strongly about a piece of clothing! I have always been a bit old fashioned in my girls’ clothing choices. I lean towards smocked dresses rather than animal prints. Those of us who shop for little girls have surely seen loads of tees sporting words like “spoiled, ” “diva,” “princess,” and even “brat.” As a rule, I’ve shied away from those types of words. I know that the majority of adults look at those words on t-shirts and see the humor in it. My concern is that the child wearing it may not have sophisticated enough of a sense of humor to get that these aren’t necessarily desirable traits. I’ll never forget Lily’s reaction to her first Mickey Mouse shirt. Mickey has been her main man since she was at least 18 months old. I slipped that shirt on her 2 year old self, and she said, “I’m Mickey!” Her innocent statement has shaped my clothing choices for them ever since!

A few months ago, we were playing at our neighbor’s house. Karl is our best buddy, and the girls jump at the chance to play at his house. When it was time to pick up and go home, Lily threw a full out fit.  It was pretty unusual for her to get that worked up, even though she’s never eager to leave. When I turned to Avery and said she needed to start picking up the toys,  she looked at me and said, “I don’t care.” In that quiet, scary-mommy voice, I informed her that her statement was far more upsetting to me than the fit Lily was throwing. Once we were in our own home and calmed down, I explained to her that those words hurt me. Those words from her mouth hurt me, because I care so very much for her. While I want their childhood to be free of adult worries, I want them to care. I want to raise people who care deeply. I understand that one person’s sphere of control is limited; however, I want to impress upon my children that we care. If one day, when they’re 20 year olds, and they’re waitresses at Torchy’s Tacos, and when two moms with three little kids ask for some to go containers, I want them to care enough to bring them some boxes rather than apathetically point to some sheets of tin foil on the other side of the restaurant next to the drink station. That’s all I’m saying! They don’t have to lie awake at night stressing out about the ills of the world, but I’d sure hope they care about the welfare of others.

Maybe a t-shirt a kid wears when she’s 7 makes no impact on whom she is when she’s 27. All I know is, for the time that I’m the most influential person over my girls’ lives, I can’t help but reflect upon the words that impact them. In the 22nd chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus is asked which of all the commandments in the Law is the greatest. He answers:

“‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22 : 37-40 

So the first one, I totally get it.  Sure, we should definitely strive for loving God like that, even though we can’t possibly achieve it. For some reason, the whole idea of loving my neighbor as myself is way tougher. Believe me, I absolutely love my neighbors. I have the best neighbors in the history of neighbors, but do I love them as much as I love myself? Better yet, do I love them as much as I love Avery and Lily? To make the order even taller, I don’t think Jesus even meant specifically the people who reside next door. I’m pretty sure he was talking about loving all of humanity. Do I love Syrian refugees as much as myself? Nope. Do I love those among our population who intentionally strike fear into the hearts of innocents? Nope. I can honestly say I’ll never get there; however, that’s the measuring stick Jesus is holding up. I need to try, at the very least. I need to care. I need to teach my beloved daughters to care, and I just don’t think putting them in a t-shirt that says “I Literally Don’t Care” is going  to help us get there.

A Pretend Horse

My darling girls are four years old today. There’s virtually nothing I can say that won’t sound terribly cliche. It’s gone by so fast. They’ve gotten so big. They’re not babies anymore. All are true statements that sound painfully trite when I say them.

My lifelong best friend is having her first baby, which has brought up in me all the thoughts and feelings I had when the girls were first born. Looking back on these four years, the most unexpected aspect of it is the paradoxical nature of parenting. I’m perpetually at odds with myself. Essentially, to be a good parent I must work myself out of my job. I’m intensely proud of their accomplishments and character but feel a cold grip on my heart when I see them need me less and less. I revel in the girls they are today but grieve over my babies who are no more. Watching them today was a joyful, yet sobering time.

For their birthday, Avery requested to ride a real horse. Lily, on the other hand, declared her desire to ride a pretend horse. I knew I could manage to find a real horse for them to ride. This is Texas, after all. The pretend horse threw me for a loop. Was she talking about an invisible, imaginary horse? She could ride that horse anytime and without my facilitation! Was she talking about a stick horse, a carousel horse, a rocking horse? Her only elaboration when I asked for more information was that this horse would be named Harmony.  So I went ahead and found a stable where they could sign up for one lesson and decided to wing it in regards to the pretend horse. When we drove in the parking lot of the stable this afternoon,  Lily immediately got frustrated and yelled, “These are real horses!! I wanted a pretend horse!” Avery was delighted, so at least that was going my way.

As we got out of the car, Nenna, who was along for the experience, and I just told her she didn’t have to ride a real horse. She could just hang out and watch Avery if she didn’t want to participate. Well, that didn’t last more than a second! Her instructor showed her her horse for the lesson, and Lily completely changed her tune. She was pleased that the horse was named Joy, like the character from Inside Out.

I stood back as the two instructors led my little bitty girls through the process of tacking a horse. They brushed the horses’ legs. Avery’s was named Euphoria, by the way. They cleaned the dirt from the hooves; they fetched and carried the reins and bridles; they strapped the boots on the horses’ forelegs. I had to stop myself from stepping in. My first instinct was to call out, “Oh, they’re not strong enough to carry that!” or “They don’t know how to feed those straps through those holes.” or “They’re not big enough to hold those reins!”

But they were strong enough, smart enough, big enough. They led their horses to the arena. They listened to the instructors. They followed directions. They mounted. They rode. They circled. Lily even trotted. Then they led their horses back to the stables and put away the reins, bits, and bridles. They cleaned the horses’ legs and fed them treats. They did all these things, and it made me immensely proud and just a tiny bit sad. I know I have years to go, and even when they no longer live under my roof they’ll still need me, but I have to say that they will never be babies again. They may be my babies, but they are not babies.

Life is unmercifully busy and full of things that are so unimportant. I force myself to frequently reflect on the blessing that these girls are to me. Not just the joy they bring to my days, but the remarkable example of God’s loving kindness that they are. My body should never have been able to conceive them. My body should never have been able to carry them. My body should never have been able to bear them. But it did. I remember laying in the hospital a day after they were born, surrounded by wide-eyed doctors saying to me, “This never should have happened.” But it did.

It happened. It is still happening. These precious children who reside under my care are just as much a miracle today as they were four years ago. A broken vessel was used to bring life into this world. He has given me life abundantly.

 

 

Now pictures of course.

 

A Good Life

There’s no way to say it without sounding cliche, but they really do grow up so fast.  Avery and Lily are not even three months into the school year, and I feel like they’re more grown up each day at 3 PM when I pick them up than at 8 AM when I dropped them off. They’re still my same girls, but in a way I know them better than ever.  They’ve always been expressive, but they’re better able to express themselves every day.  With a twinge of sadness, I see some of their secret twin world dissolving.  Gone are the days of the “Ha-Ba” language, and Stick-ee-a-gwaba is only uttered occasionally.  They recently abandoned their unique finger counting system, and now they indicate number one with their index fingers rather than thumbs.  I knew the day would come, but I had no idea how soon it would arrive.  What thrills my heart though is to see their love for each other deepen and grow.

Their school has a policy that twins are placed in separate classes.  As the school year approached, I wondered just how the girls would react.  They’d never spent more than a couple of hours apart in their whole lives.  They sleep in the same bed; sometimes they feed each other; they even shampoo each other’s hair!  I’d post a pic of that, but they’d kill me when they’re older!! On the first day of school, there were tears.  By the second day, they cheerfully hugged and kissed and proceeded to their own classes.  Each morning when I drop them off, they hug, kiss, and say “I love you, Sister.”  Their classes share playground time together most days.  Their teachers report that when they seen one another, they run to each other, give hugs, and then clasp hands and run around the playground.  I love imagining that picture.  During our drive home, they compare daily activities and discuss mutual friends.  Gossip sure starts early in life!!  It’s great to seem them interacting with other kids but still returning to the safety of their bond.

We enjoy Sunday lunch with Grandpa and Uncle Danny every week.  Lily and Avery look forward to that time so much.  Most mornings they tell me they dreamt about either Grandpa or Uncle Dany or both!   A few weeks ago, as we were all digging in, Lily looked up and said, “It’s a good life.”  I couldn’t agree more.

How do you do it?

So I’m back out there in the world, meeting new people, talking to strangers, which really isn’t that big of a deal since we now know that stranger danger isn’t a real thing, for the most part. I hold it back for as long as I can, but eventually it comes out, “Yes, I am a single mom of twin three year olds.” I don’t really like saying it; it requires too much explanation or sidestepping of explanation.  Inevitably, it comes out, and the hearer invariably looks at me wide-eyed, shakes her head (I basically only speak to women), and says, “How do you do it?”  Sometimes I’m in a good mood and give the answer that people feel most comfortable with, “Oh it’s a lot of work, but I have a wonderful support network.” It’s true. I do have a wonderful support network. Just this Sunday, Uncle Danny rounded up my kids and took them to church so that I could attend a brunch concert. Now that’s support!  Sometimes I’m in a feisty mood and throw out an answer like, “Actually my kids are so well-behaved and smart that it’s really no work at all” or “I maintain order by using a whistle like Colonel Von Trapp in the Sound of Music” or “It was easy when they were babies, but now that they have thoughts and feelings it just got real” or “Avery and Lily have been honing their pick-pocketing skills after school to bring in extra income.”

In all honesty, what I’m really thinking when someone lays the “how do you do it” question out there is more like a mash up of something Yoda would say and a Nike slogan. There is no how; I just do it. The exact definition of “it” is vague. It’s not as if I’m trying to split the atom while taming Lily’s ringlets. I identify the rock bottom necessities and make sure those are covered; food, shelter, clothing.  I consider anything else as a bonus.  Seriously, I like to imagine not doing “it” and chuckle.  Like I could wake up one morning, and say, “Kids, I’m not doing ‘it’ today. Fend for yourselves!”  They probably could get pretty far, actually, with their Austrian style discipline and tiny hands just perfect for lifting wallets.

So when the next person asks me how I do it, I’m going to tell the truth. I don’t know. I don’t know how to raise these girls to be the remarkable women I want them to be. I don’t know how to knock it out of the park in my career when a large portion of my brain is always devoted to my kids. I don’t know how to make sure that the house is always orderly, the dishes are washed, the laundry is freshly folded and tucked away, and the lunches are packed thoughtfully. I don’t know how to get my kids dropped off for school without angering another parent with my inconsiderate parking! I do not know how to do all of these things. I do know how to shove a frozen pizza in the oven, put an album on our record player, and dance with my two best gals. Now that I can do. I’ll figure out the rest of it tomorrow, after I split the atom.

Conformity

Twins seem to have a knack for developing their own culture.  Avery and Lily have words they’ve made up for random stuff that they just use between themselves.  When talking to someone else, they’ll use the English word, of course, but to each other they use their own word. For example, dish washing soap, in their language, is something like “stick-ee-a-gwaba.” Please forgive my spelling, I’m working phonetically here.  They know it’s soap, but to each other it’s “stick-ee-a-gwaba.” They also have languages called Ha-Ba and Go-Gee.  They’re two separate languages, each consisting of only one word (the name of said language), simply pronounced with varying inflection in order to convey meaning. I am forbidden to speak either language but am asked as to whether or not I like said languages.

Their newest invention is a nonstandard method for counting on their fingers. It’s definitely a blend of the American and European styles, but I’m baffled as to how they came up with it. Avery obliged me with a demo during breakfast this morning.

Thus far, when I demonstrate the standard technique of the index finger as one, they completely reject it. I can’t help but wonder at what point they will conform to the culture around them.  I love that they have their own special world, even though I’m excluded from it. I imagine it’s a comfort to have that level of connection with another person from the very first moment of consciousness.  I know the day will come when something or someone will come between them, but I trust that their bond is strong enough to withstand it. For now, I enjoy watching them play in the world of their own making.

What Kind of Woman Will I Be?

I was helping Avery and Lily get ready for bed, when Lily stated that she is a girl and that I am a woman. I confirmed this fact with her and followed up with, “One day you will grow up and be a woman too.”  Avery paused, mid-chapstick-application, and asked, “What kind of woman will I be?” Yeah, I wasn’t prepared for that one. For the sake of brevity, I answered to both of them, “You will be smart, kind, and beautiful.” They were pleased with this answer, so I decided to leave it at that. I mean, how could I ever adequately answer that question? Adjective after adjective rolls through my mind.

I can sense a quiet desperation rising up in me that I vigorously tamp down. Time slips ever faster through my fingers, and the days in which I shape their hearts and spirits grow increasingly shorter. Have I done it right so far? Will I manage to do it right when it’s hard, when the painful questions come, when the hurt is written on their faces? Lately, I’ve felt more like a cautionary tale than a role model. I can tell them a lot of what not to do, but will I be able to show them the right way? When I allow myself to look to the heart of the matter, the question truly is if they turn out to be a woman like me will that be good enough. Yes. I think it’ll be just fine.