We got a Sunday paper today.  On Thursday, a lady called asking if we’d like a promotional subscription to the Sunday paper, to try out for 26 weeks.  Jeff and I had talked about getting a subscription at one time so I signed us up.  I was thinking I was signing up for the Duluth News Tribune.  Imagine my surprise when I got an email saying ‘Thanks for your subscription to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’.  What?!?!?  We’re not really interested in the Minneapolis paper.  Hello, we live three hours north.  I wanted the local paper!  She really should have specified MINNEAPOLIS.  It was the “Tribune” part that tricked me up.  I tried to cancel on Friday, but couldn’t.  So, today our first paper showed up.

When I was a little girl, it seemed like pretty much every Sunday afternoon was spent at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We would go to church in the morning and afterword I would skip across the street to my grandparents house.  Since my Grandpa was the pastor of our little church, their house was conveniently located right across the street.  The parsonage.  Do they even have parsonages any more??  My brother, sister and I would would have lots of energy from sitting in church for an hour and I remember lots of excitement while the others (mom, dad, Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins… the whole nine yards)  made their way across the street.  Then there would be the hussle and bussle of getting Sunday dinner ready.  The ladies would be busy in the kitchen and the men would sit around in the living room.  That’s how I remember it anyway.

When I was very young, I had lots of uncles around at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  And there were plenty of laps to occupy.  While the dinner preparations were being made, I’d find the Sunday comics and whichever uncle was lazing on the couch.  “Would you read me the comics?”  I would then snuggle in for the best part of Sunday afternoon.  I LOVED having the comics read to me.  Once I learned to read, I remember the uncles, seeming to think it was better for me to read them myself (more likely they were just tired of reading the comics), would have me read a couple to them, but really, I liked it best when they read.   The comics are still my favorite part of the news paper.

Today we came home from church, had a simple lunch, and took a really long nap.  There wasn’t the loud commotion of a big family, the preparations of a large family dinner or all the loud laughter of my big Scandinavian family that dominates my memories of my childhood.  It was just our little family.  Later in the afternoon, I pulled out the paper.  I separated the ads, the sections and the comics.  After a while Ava joined me.  She looked at the ads for a while, insisting on showing me all the cute pictures she came across.  Cute animals on the Purina ads, cute pictures that you can get on your checks…  At one point, she showed me one of Tom and Jerry.  “Look Mom!  The Bonus Features!”  What did you say?  “This one’s got the Bonus Features!”  She was pretty excited about it.  Ummm, I’m not sure how to respond to that or even sure why she thinks Tom and Jerry would indicate bonus features.  Then she discovered the comics.

“Mama, could you read these to me??” 

Oh, in an instant I was 5 years old again, back at my Grandma’s house, snuggled into an uncle’s lap.

“Sure Baby, come on up.”

So we sat and read the comics.  It seemed like a rite of passage in some ways.

It may possibly be the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon.


Second Chance

I’ve been thinking about my encounter in the Target parking lot ever since it happened on Tuesday.  The what if’s, the should have’s and could have’s…  If I had a second chance ‘I’d do it this way’ scenarios have played out in my mind over and over.

I meet with two friends almost every Wednesday.  We share our lives and the struggles they contain and pray for each other.  Well Wednesday I told them about my troubles on Tuesday and my disappointment on missing out on what seemed like yet another chance to hear God and take a leap…  Because I’ve had lots of those experiences through out life and lots of stories like Tuesday’s… passing.  Anyway, my friend Amanda prayed for another opportunity, a second chance.

It came along today.

My friend Edeanne and I met for lunch today downtown at a little deli/ place of all things sweet and delicious call How Sweet It Is.  Lunch was a crazy time of corralling my children, mopping up spilled water and trying my darnedest to have an adult conversation.  When it was clear Ava and Oakley would no longer contain themselves, we headed towards our cars.  As we were walking down the street, a woman approached us.

She was a little hunched over and kind of shuffling along.  “Excuse me… could you spare a couple of dollars so I could get something to eat?”

This time I didn’t hesitate.  As I pulled out my wallet, I asked her what her name was… and in an attempt to have some conversation, “Are you from Duluth?”  Looking back, that seems like a pretty lame question, but it’s the only one I can thing of to ask in situations such as that.  The lady was eager to talk and somehow managed to get a pretty good summation of her situation out in about a minute thirty seconds.  Her name was Christine.  She grew up in Duluth, born and raised.  She has been homeless for 5 months.  She has had not good things happen to her since then.  Being a woman on the streets is rough, there is no respect she told us.  I asked her if we could pray for her and she lite up.  “Oh I’d love that!”  So then I asked if there was anything specific and she listed off a small list of physical troubles, which I had to chuckle a bit about in my head because most could be resolved if she would have snuffed out the cigarette she was smoking, but I didn’t mention that.  Anyhow, we prayed for her right then and there on the street.  She had tears streaming down her face.

It wasn’t a long prayer.  I don’t think there was miraculous physical healing right off the bat, but I hope she felt… human… and noticed.  I gave her the money, gave her a hug and told her to go get herself something good to eat.  Who knows if that happened, but I don’t care.  I hope in the three or four minutes we talked with her she felt Jesus near.

I’d say the second best part of all this is that God answered our prayer on Wednesday so quickly.  And Edeanne was there to see it too, because she had been apart of the Wednesday prayer too.  Seeing prayers answered builds my faith by leaps and bounds and gives me hope for my other requests… the “big ones” you could say.  This was a big one too I guess.  I kind of take Matthew 25:34-45 literally… and I want to be on the right side of things at the end.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

Ummm, hello, nobody wants to be hearing those words some day.  Not me anyway.  So I’ll keep trying to conquer my fears, take a chance when I see it, and hopefully teach my kiddos along the way.  I’ve had plenty of mistakes to learn from, time to start applying the lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

Best Versions

Today was a proud mama day for me.  The morning started out a little rocky, that’s because Ava has taken to whining about lots of stuff.  Today it was getting dressed.  But we had things to do and places to go, which she enjoys, so it was a minor bump in the road.  We left the house for the bank, our first stop of the day.

I was a little nervous about this excursion because it was a go-into-the-bank type trip.  Oakley runs around like a mad man and Ava can get bored and start whining (please tell me it’s a phase).  She did have a brilliant idea however about Oakley.  “Why don’t you just put him in the stroller?”  Why yes, yes I should.  Why didn’t I think of that myself?  Oakley had come with us to Ava’s eye appointment earlier this week and he sat in the stroller for a whole hour and didn’t hardly fuss at all.  I did feed him snacks the whole time, which probably helped the situation.  Anyway, keeping Oakley contained would be a big help to the experience.

So we arrive at the bank this morning.  The teller helps me with our deposit and then I tell her about the other couple things I had come in for.  Apparently we needed a personal banker for those things.  Luckily there was one available right away and we went right back into a cubicle.

Here’s where my heart burst forth with love and pride in my children.  Ava sat the whole time, which ended up being about 30 minutes, drawing on a couple pieces of paper.  She was well behaved and used a quiet voice.  Plus she drew several faces, suns, and a couple numbers, which is a new thing for her.  I was happy to see those.  Oakley also waited fairly patiently in the stroller, keeping somewhat pacified with his paci and a couple stickers.  He didn’t even scream.  I had a few left over snacks I found in my purse that he enjoyed.  (I really need to keep a supply of those in my purse.  Sheesh.)  I left the bank feeling very proud of my children that behaved so well in a boring situation.  I could tell our personal banker was impressed too.  That always makes a heart burst forth as well.

We then went to therapy, a store grand opening, and for a treat, because they had been so good all morning and because we hadn’t eaten any lunch and it was 2pm, McDonalds.

It was a slow waiting experience for our food and Oakley was not content to be held.  At one point, I found him climbing up into a booth with a couple older ladies.  I think they thought it was cute… hopefully.  He also was fascinated with a mop bucket.  It was like bees to honey for him with that thing.

Ava, who has not been eating much, ate two chicken nuggets, a couple apple slices, some fries and most of her apple juice.  Oakley ate all of his burger patty, all of his apple slices and a couple of Ava’s, and some of his french fries.  I found it funny that he seemed to like the apple slices best of all.  After a while, I let them play in the playland.  I find playlands to be just about the grossest thing ever, but they’re kids!  You can’t keep them out.  So they played.  At one point, I found Oakley with another apple slice.  Where he found that thing I don’t even want to know.  Gross.

Then, it’s time to go.  We’re getting packed up and about to leave.  I put Oakley down and before I know it, he’s bent over and has found a piece of hamburger on the floor.  Before I can stop him, in his mouth it goes.  AAAUUHHHH!  I try for all of 3 seconds to get him to spit it out then give up.  Really, the damage is already done.  And reality is, the boy has eaten poop.  Can a piece of burger off the floor of McDonalds be that much worse?  I’m not sure, and am trying not to think about it much.

In any event, my children where the best versions of themselves today (minus the eating of nastiness by Oakley, which in reality is a normality for him) and I wanted to remember it.

Empty Lot

We went to Target today, basically because we’re getting a little stir crazy.  Watching the snow melt can only be so exciting.  As we were walking to our car after a big purchase of toddler cutlery, a man was walking towards us.  I didn’t see him until he spoke to us; I was busy making sure Oakley kept his hat on and Ava was staying close in case a crazy driver came careening toward us and I had to pull her to safety… you know, just a typical day in the life of a mama.

“Do you have any spare change for something to eat?”  I looked up and saw who was addressing me.  Sorry to stereotype, but he looked like the ask for money type.  He had a scruffy beard, dirty coat, old stocking cap and beat down look.

“No, I’m sorry I don’t.”

“Ok, thank you.”

Instantly I felt a barrage of emotion.  One, a heightened awareness of who else was around.  Two, a knot in my stomach… basically I guess because  a stranger talked to me and I always get a knot in my stomach when strangers talk to me.  Three, guilt.  Because I really did have money and what I said was essentially a lie.

Now, our world today would probably not fault me.  We had parked in a side parking lot at Target, not the front lot.  There weren’t a lot of people around, but there were one or two.  I was alone with small children.  I would have had to dig in my zipped up purse in a zipped up wallet for a couple dollars, all of which common sense tells you opens up a huge can of opportunity for your purse to be swiped.

But my guilt came from somewhere.  Jeff and I save money every month for random acts of kindness.  When we see someone with a need, we want to be able to act on it and so there is a fund set aside.  And the fund actually has money in it.  It is not as easy as you would think to find people who need random blessings.  Have you tried it?  Unless you interact daily with the less fortunate or have a job that takes you to people and places where there is a lot of need, I would venture to guess opportunity is hidden from most people… unless you are actively looking for it, which I guess most days I forget to actively look.  Or maybe it’s just me.  Perhaps it’s in part because I stay home with my kids and my interactions with the outside world are limited.  So unless I feel like I should pay for the persons groceries behind me, which I’ve never felt the nudging to do, it’s been hard for me to find opportunities.  I have to admit my daily routine keeps me pretty squarely in middle America.  And not that there’s not need in middle America.  Anyway, I’m not trying to justify myself, or maybe I am.  I don’t know.  Alls I know is I want God to use me.  So I’ve been praying about it and asking God to send a few my way.

Well, it seems He may have sent one my way today and I passed.  Come on God!  Why can’t this be a little easier??  Why an empty parking lot?    Why someone who instantly raises every suspicion in me when it’s just me and my littles?  Why do I have to war against my instinct to protect myself and my kids and the chance to help?  Why couldn’t it have been a woman and not a man?  Would that have made a difference?  Why didn’t I have $10 in my pocket??!!

Blast it!  I don’t have answers to any of those questions.  I’ve lived through a year of ‘trust in God’ boot camp and I still fall back into fear.  Will I be more brave if I get another chance?  I don’t know.  I don’t have a good ending to this post, just sharing the quandary.  What would you have done?

That Wasn’t Chocolate

Oakley has a little problem with needing things in his mouth.  He is completely attached to his paci… attached like I always dreaded my child being attached.  He likes to have one in his mouth and hold one in his hand, just in case.  The other day I found him with one paci in his mouth and one in each hand.  Three is too many for this mama.  He was NOT happy about giving any of them up.  He has taken to eating crayons, biting off the tips basically making them pointless… (hahaha!  That wasn’t even on purpose!)  I regularly fish out dirt, play doh and gluten products from his mouth.

This morning I was in the bathroom washing my hands and Oakley toddles in.  “Hehe!”  He wants me to notice him.  So I look down.  There is Oakley standing in the door way, big grin on his face.  He has brown spit drooling down his chin and something stuffed in his mouth.  What has he gotten into now?   In a split second I do a mental inventory of all the things he could have found.  It looks like chocolate but I don’t remember any chocolate upstairs for him to find…. OH NO!

Five minutes earlier I had brought Oakley upstairs to change his diaper.  After getting a clean diaper on him, I got Oakley dressed and set him on the floor to run around while I finished cleaning up.  I’ve started emptying his dirty diapers into the toilet once he’s changed so they don’t stink up the bedroom.  This morning was no different.  I put the used diaper off to the side to take care of later.  He’s had a problem with his dirty diapers lately.  Half the time they turn out like deer poops, little round pellets.  I left the bedroom to go wash my hands, half forgetting about the diaper sitting on the dresser… until Oakley walked into the bathroom with brown drool coming out of his mouth.

“OAKLEY!!!   JEFFFFF!  Oakley has poop in his mouth!”  Sure enough, I get Oakley to open his mouth and out comes several pellets previously found in his diaper.  Totally grossed out does not even begin to describe this.  He thought it was funny until I start wiping his mouth out with a wet wipe.  “Ohhhh, it’s on his tongue!”  says Jeff.  “We need to brush his teeth.”  At this point, Oakley no longer thinks its funny.  He doesn’t like having his teeth brushed and he really didn’t like the wet wipe.  So he starts crying with his teradactyl eating a piglet scream.  No one is happy at this point.

That sure wasn’t chocolate.