Monday, March 18, 2013

Prayer for a Chicken

Lately, we've been making it a point to say a prayer at dinner time. We had gotten out of the habit, but the boys are old enough to understand the reasons for thanking the Almighty and others for the food that they eat and the other blessings that we enjoy.

The dinner prayer can go two ways. There's the singing kind, courtesy of Michelle's family. As you tap your hands on the table, it goes like this:

"The Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord,
For giving me the things I need,
The sun and the rain and the appleseed,
The Lord is good to me..."

Commence rhythmic clapping

"Amen, amen,
Amen, amen, amen

The boys like this one, as you would imagine. We introduced a second, more solemn prayer as well. It's open to variation, but it goes something like this:

"Dear Lord, thank you,
For the food we're about to eat,
For the plants and animals that provided it,
For mommy for cooking it.
We thank you for our family and our friends,
We love you Lord, and we love you Jesus,
In your names we pray, amen."

Not exactly lyrical or rhyming, either, but at least it's sincere.

So, we mix the two up, depending on the children's mood (Spazzy? Go with the solemn prayer.), level of hunger (Famished? Whichever is quicker.) and when we're having dinner (Late? Solemnity prevails.). Also on Fridays as of late, Michelle's been whipping up a fine breakfast-for-dinner feast of scrambled eggs with veggies and pancakes dotted with chocolate morsels. Yum!

Last Friday, when we had finished reciting a prayer for that meal, Nathaniel opened his eyes and asked why we hadn't thanked the chickens – you know, for the eggs.

"Because they're animals," I replied. "We thanked the animals already."

He mulled my answer but did not query further. My guess is he was thinking about when we have chicken for dinner, in which case we certainly want to thank the animal's contribution to sating our appetite, and those chickens that laid eggs that turn into scrambled eggs, fried eggs, pancakes, french toast and other breakfasty stuff. It's a fair point and an understandably difficult distinction for a 4-year-old to make. Since I don't want yet to get into a discussion of dying versus living chickens' contributions to meals, I've not bothered to help clarify it for him.

Tonight, we were having tacos and a fruit salad, and began singing the amen song for our prayer. As we sang, Nathaniel had taken it upon himself to recite the serious prayer, or at least the parts he remembered. Michelle and I stopped singing and asked Nathaniel if he wanted to lead the prayer. He nodded, folded his hands, closed his eyes, and began:

"Dear Lord,
Thank you for the food,
For the plants and animals,
And for the chickens."

May they get their due. Thanks, chickens.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Trying Weekend

Ever had one of those weekends when you find your patience is always being tested? I'm having one of them.

Maybe it's because I'm going through one of those sleepless jags. Those stretches when I feel perpetually beat. By the time 8:30, 9, 9:30 rolls around, I'm dead tired, and I go to bed. But I can't sleep. My mind races, from things minorly consequential to truly, well, mindless. I don't know how to shut off the mental movie reel that turns on as soon as the bedroom lights are turned off.

So, I imagine my troubles with sleep exacerbates my frustration with the boys, and I'm sure it's shortened my patience fuse. But I digress, mostly, because the boys have been a handful.

Let's start with Nathaniel. We all know he's high-energy, super octane, hyper kinetic. A five-course meal of activity. But this weekend he's been all that and more. Leading up to the weekend, he already was in full spazzy mode, traumatizing Michelle so much that she called me in the middle of the day spluttering that she couldn't take it any more. And that mommy can take a lot, so I know she felt as if she were at the end of her rope.

So, Saturday morning rolled around. I got up – or more accurately, Nathaniel the human alarm clock woke me – and I went downstairs to compile a breakfast of breakfast-for-dinner leftovers (awesome scrambled eggs with asparagus, spinach and peppers and pancakes) with a side of freshly cooked bacon. So far, so good. Mostly. The boys played, but mostly they wanted me to play with them. I'll take that as a compliment at this point, as they don't see a whole lot of me during the week, and, maybe they like me some, too. And, I try to oblige, to a point. After all, they are brothers, and I feel they need to learn to play together, or separately, without Michelle and/or I being involved. Still, it's nice to be wanted, so this is a tricky little tightrope to traverse. I remember one of my friends from our church's men's club saying to his son, "I'm not your friend. I'm your father." His son was several years older than even our oldest, but it still struck me as a stark line-in-the-sand declaration that I don't look forward to making but realize that I ultimately I likely will.

Anyway, I digress again, I guess The point is, I also wanted to watch some college basketball on TV (If you can call it a TV; our flat-screen tube picked a fine time to die, so we brought this tiny box that we use to show the boys VHS movies downstairs as a sub), but every time I settled on the floor to squint at the tiny figures on the screen, one of the boys would interrupt me. Plus, there was a lot of eye rubbing, and we hadn't even hit noon yet. I endured this for an hour or so, and finally announced lunch and nap time.

And that is where the games began. Isaiah was exhausted. He had slept in Natty's room the night before, and apparently the "sleepover" wasn't all that restful for him. He was yawning and pawing at his eyes at like 9:30. He was done. Normally the quiescent one, I figured he'd be an easy one for nap time. And he appeared to be, snuggling into his woobie as I lay him in his crib.

When I got downstairs, though, I heard thumping, shrieking, whoops, war cries, screams, shouts, stomps, jumps, falls and general mayhem. Had some devil entered his body? When I entered his room to check, the carnage was apparent: Stuffed animals strewn throughout the room, blankets roiled and abused and a major stench of a little boy who had worked out an awful poop. Diaper changed and scolding administered, I figured mission accomplished. He was very tired. But for the better part of another hour, he wouldn't let up. The thumping, the whooping, the screaming, the yelling, the stomping, the jumping, the knocking, the careening, continued.

I would've done something about it, but I was preoccupied with the other one. Nathaniel has gotten wise to nap time and now treats it as a game of "Can I get out of my bed and raise hell and then get back in my bed before mommy or daddy get upstairs and check on me?" He's pretty good at it, too. His ally are the stairs, which creak as you walk on them. It's nigh to impossible to sneak upstairs and bust him. There are too many creaky spots. Believe me, I've looked for them. So, I settle in to watch some college hoops, and WHUMP! I go upstairs and enter Nathaniel's room, and lo and behold, he's in his bed, under the covers no less, eyes closed. I think it's him, but with his warrior brother, I'm not sure. I've got to give him the benefit of the doubt. I go back downstairs, sit on the floor to watch, and WHUMP!

And this goes on for a few more time before I start to get really pissed. Quiet time is not so quiet, and it's actually more irritating than if the boys were raising Cain around me downstairs. Finally, Isaiah falls asleep, and I thought Nathaniel had, too, until he "woke" up, came downstairs and within minutes, started bouncing off the walls and rubbing his eyes.

We'll fast forward to Sunday. Remarkably, the boys behaved well in church, darn near angelic until we neared the end of what must have been at least a 30-minute sermon (and this for a service geared for families). Lunch was on the early side, and I shuttled the boys to quiet time, in separate rooms. This time, Isaiah went quietly, exhaustion winning out over crib madness. Nathaniel also snuggled into his covers, nary a protest, appearing to welcome the rest.

For a bit, there was no noise, and I settled on to the floor to squint at the tiny figures running around on the TV. Then, WHUMP! BANG! WHUMP! This time, I didn't bother trying to be sneaky; I sprinted upstairs and caught Nathaniel trying to sneak from  Isaiah's room back into his own.

I was furious. I can barely describe how mad I was. Not only had Nathaniel disobeyed me about quiet time (don't get out of your bed), but he had gone into Isaiah's room and woken him up, too. I wanted to spank him, but I wouldn't; instead, I did my best verbally intimidating, fear-of-God, make-him-pee-in-his-pants admonishment that I could. The jig was up. No more games. He would stay in that bed for as long as it takes. THIS IS IT.

His eyes grew very, very large. And then he began bawling.

And so I picked him up, sat on his bed, took several deep breaths and rocked him for a while. I whispered to him that I was really, really mad at him, not because he got out of his bed and woke up his brother per se, but that he wasn't listening to his mommy or me, and was disobeying us.

He nodded as if he understood. Then, I told him he would stay in his bed until I came back and got him.

And, this time, he did.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Daylight Savings Time Sucks

We don't like daylight savings time very much around here.

You see, we have two little boys, and it's important to keep a schedule, for them and for us. Part of that routine is getting them to bed around the same time each night, roughly 7:30. The ritual starts earlier about an hour earlier, with a final bout of playing, shooing them upstairs, getting them in their pajamas (no easy task with flailing limbs), brushing teeth, final pees in the potty, filling the humidifiers, fetching them last swigs of water, locating lost woobies (blankets), reading them books and singing.

Whew! No wonder Michelle and I are so wiped out by the time little heads finally meet the pillow.

Anyway, a major ploy, or proxy, in the it's-time-to-go-to-bed rite is to announce that it's dark outside. After all, darkness is a universal icon for nighttime, and nighttime in this household has been drilled like a sergeant's order as bedtime. It's easy to show, easy to understand, and easy to enforce.

And, in winter, it makes for a (relatively) easy way to begin the bedtime dance.

In Iowa, the sun is well below the horizon by the time 6:30 rolls around, even in November. So, beginning then, our lives are made that little bit simpler by the change of seasons.

But then daylight savings time comes and wrecks our best laid plans. "Spring forward!" the supporters exuberantly cry, anxious for that precious extra hour of daylight to get started on spring planting, play outside or drive home in waning daylight. Us? That extra hour of daylight means that it's no longer dark at 6:30 – not even close, in fact. Now, our base argument of darkness = bedtime no longer reads true. We can see it, and the boys can, too. It's harder to convince them it's time to get ready for bed.

And, it's only going to get worse. By late June, when it will stay light here in Iowa until past 9, it will be all but impossible to coax the children to bed at their normal times, with the sun practically blazing through the blinds in the house. Good luck coaxing Natty and Isaiah to sleep when neighbors' children are happily shrieking outside. (How do they do it in Iceland? Inquiring minds want to know.)

I remember this was a trial last summer. But at least Isaiah was not even 2, and he got sleepy in the early evening no matter what was going on around him. But he's not even napping regularly nowadays, and Nathaniel? ... well, that one resists sleep as if it were a disease (and just like his daddy did). So, while others bask in the elongated days, here we brace for the backlash.

"Clocks fall back" never sounded so good.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


All was going jim dandy this past weekend until Nathaniel decided to get hurt.

Saturday evening, we partook in the rare luxury of going out to dinner. Sunday morning, we tried a new church in town, followed by breakfast out. Followed by a restful day of good family fun.

That evening, the good family vibes continued as Nathaniel and Isaiah embraced in a hug as a song played, making as if they were lovebirds locked in a slow dance at prom. Without warning, feet got tangled, Nathaniel lurched backward, with the full force of his 30+ pound butterball brother adding to the fall. Wham! Natty's head bashed against the corner of the wall, and blood began spurting from the back of his head.

Michelle and I looked at each other, a dazed, "How did this happen? Oh, of course it happened" look on our faces. Then it was off to the hospital emergency room to get the wound checked.

As we were driving, Nathaniel, who had remained lucid the whole time and now sat with a bag of ice wedged between his head and the car seat, asked where we were going.

"To the hospital," I said.
"Why?" he asked
"To have a doctor check you and make sure you're OK."

"What will the doctor do?" he asked after a pause
"Well," I said, "You may need to get some staples for that cut, like you did a couple of years ago, when you were two and jumped from the sofa to the coffee table and landed on the back of your head."

That took a couple of moments for him to digest.

"I need to get some stamples?"
"Staples," I said, correcting him.
"Stamples?" he said again.
"Staples," I repeated.

We got to the hospital and after a while a nurse ushered us into an examination room.
"Do I need stamples?" were the first words out of Nathaniel's mouth.

I didn't bother to correct him.

As we waited – and waited – Nathaniel had become fixated on the prospect of stamples and how they might be applied to his head. I gingerly tried to navigate to an answer that would be (mostly) truthful but not get him too worked up. After all, getting stampled is just what you think it is. Someone jams little stamples into your head, pulling hair, piercing skin and driving little metal nails inward. It must be painful, and I could understand why the little bugger would be anxious. Hence, my attempt at a delicate explanation.

Well, it turned out that, yes, Nathaniel would need stamples – three, in fact. After a faulty first try, our third-year medical resident got them in. Mostly. One needed to be rearranged, and the middle veered at an angle, like it was shot in mid-lurch. Nathaniel, bless him, whimpered just a little during the while thing.

For his bravery, I promised him he'd get a treat at Dairy Queen.
"Gary Queen?" he asked, excitedly.
"Dairy Queen," I said, then realized the futility of correcting him on that one. It was pretty cute.

And so, a tranquil Sunday night turned into a nearly five-hour sojourn to the hospital, a trifecta of stamples and ceaseless badgering about Gary Queen, and a letdown when each store was closed on the way home.

On the up side, Nathaniel and his stamples were a hit with his schoolmates the next day, and he got lunch and a hot fudge sundae on a blessed snow day this week. In fact, we all got treated at Gary Queen, per Nathaniel's request.

Getting stampled never ended so good.