Thursday, June 28, 2007

You Have a Great Memory

That's what a friend put in an email to me. Here, I'll copy and paste it so you know exactly what it looks like:


 (you have a great memory!)


She was saying this because I remembered the last name of some of their friends who will be visiting them in July. Of course I remembered it! The section of my brain that contains trivial, nonessential, inconsequential information is rather empty. There are only a few items in there, and I actually find it fun and gratifying to occasionally retrieve one of these items. You know, things like if you freeze an envelope you can open it without destroying it, Trader Joe's and Aldi's have the same owners, one bulky yarn is the same thickness as two worsted (thanks, Jamie!), and if you wet a penny and press it to your forehead for three seconds, it will stay there (I don't have a link for this but it's not too hard to test for yourself).


These facts are fun but relatively unimportant to my day-to-day life. Facts that ARE important are much, much harder to retrieve. Facts like

  • whether I already put water in the espresso maker

  • whether I ever took out the old coffee filter from when I used the large coffeepot two weeks ago

  • whether I ever changed the wash over to the dryer

  • whether I hit "Start" on the dishwasher before I went to bed

  • whether all of my children have made it into the car before I pull away


Yes, this last would be the reason for this post. I did the stereotypical mom thing yesterday, and I am still in shock that I did it. We were at the weekly morning prayer meeting at a friend's house. She has four pre-teen girls who are great at watching/caring for my children during the meeting (apparently a little better than I am...). So afterwards, I loaded everyone into the van and then remembered I hadn't retrieved the drink cooler that I brought. As I was turning to get that, Lily said, legs crossed and bottom wiggling, "I have to go potty! Ooooh, I have to go potty!" So I told her to hurry and go back into their house while I got the cooler. I shut the van door as the A/C was running, got the cooler, opened the passenger's side front door, threw the cooler in, shut the door, and drove off.


As it was so close to lunchtime and I had nothing ready, I headed for the local McD's. We were almost to the drive-thru line when I said, "Lily, chicken or hamburger?" [SILENCE.] "LILY, CHICKEN OR HAMBURGER?!" [SILENCE]. "Ben, turn around and ask Lily whether she wants chicken or hamburger." Ben: "Lily, do you want...SHE'S NOT HERE!!!"


My heart stopped. Now, I have to be perfectly honest about this. My shock and heart stopping had nothing to do with guilt or fear. It had everything to do with total disbelief. I could not BELIEVE I had done that. I don't do things like that. I forget the sippy cups or an extra diaper or to have my husband put his church shoes on when camping; I don't forget children. Normal mothers forget children. Normal mothers think it's hysterical to tell of their horror upon leaving little Johnny or Christie, their racing back to get them, the sorrow and pain on their lost child's face... I am not normal. I don't DO things like this! And if I do, I certainly don't tell about them....


I am losing the battle from all sides. So we turned around, Benjamin laughing incredulously and blurting out through his snorts of laughter, "You LEFT her! You ACTUALLY LEFT her! That is so funny! Do you think she's scared? Do you think she's running through their woods trying to find us? This is so funny! I have to tell Papa! You ACTUALLY LEFT her!" Can it, kid.


When we got back to their house, my friend's children had to call her on her cell-phone, as she had already left to bring Lily home. So she turned around and came back, and I got out of our van sheepishly to get Lily.


Was she scared? Was she sad? Hardly. She was thrilled that she got to ride ALL BY HERSELF in a pristinely neat 12-passenger van. I don't think she's ever seen that much van floor in her entire life. Where were the sippy cups? Where were the popcorn pieces? Where were the Sunday School papers? Where were the camping supplies that you keep in the van at least two weeks after you've gone camping?


I just need to see that a few more times:


(you have a great memory!)

(you have a great memory!)

(you have a great memory!)


Just so I don't forget.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007


We did it. We completed the long-awaited first trip with our new camper.


The camper is not new, just new to us. We purchased it recently from some friends, and we have been anxiously awaiting our first trip in it.


So when Ethan was asked to preach as pulpit supply to a church in southern Maryland, we readily accepted. He has preached there several times before, and they are a very very warm and welcoming congregation. It is a beautiful area, and we have commented several times that it would be fun to camp there. As it is only an hour and a half away, we could easily abort ship camper if something horrific happened.


And then, in an incredibly generous gesture, a family from that congregation heard we wanted to camp and offered to get us into Solomons Navy Recreation Center (you have to be in the Navy -- or retired -- or in the Department of Defense to get in). We looked it up online and talked excitedly about all the amenities and splashing in the Patuxent River.


In true Allison fashion, we opted for making every decision as difficult as it could be. The morning we were to depart, Lily (3) came crying into our room. "I'm going to throw up!"


Ethan and I gave each other grimaced smiles. "Oh, honey, maybe you just have to go potty." "You got up too early." "Go lay down until you feel better." (This last was obviously Ethan. I would have said, "Go LIE down.")


Despite our efforts at ignoring her complaints and pretending she hadn't said anything, she did throw up. Three times. "Maybe she's just too tired." "Maybe she overdid it yesterday." "Maybe she'll be better once we get outside."


Then Abraham threw up.


That was it. I would stay home with the four youngest, and Benjamin and Ethan would go camping. I was, well, sad. I talked in a too-cheery voice to Benjamin, who was absolutely thrilled with the new arrangement and insisted on hugging me goodbye before the van was loaded, never mind the camper not being hooked up. The entire week of planning outfits and kitchen utensils and activities to do with the kids and finding swimsuits seemed wasted. I am terrible at hiding my emotions, so I don't even try anymore. "I don't want to talk about it!" I sniffled to Ethan.


Lily came crying up to me through gray lips, "Benjamin says he and Papa are going camping, and I have to stay here with you! I'm not sick! I feel better already!"


That was sad. Too sad. Against our better judgment, we decided to go anyway. What was the worst that could happen? If they were sick, I could just stay in the pop-up with them. (This shows an incredible naivete and refusal to deal with reality. The worst that could happen would have been an absolute nightmare in a pop-up.)


But God was merciful, even against our better judgment. We left a few hours later than planned and stopped at a Burger King for medicinal refreshments. (The way Ethan worded it was, "Do you feel like cleaning up Dr. Pepper throw-up or chocolate milk throw-up?" This had an obvious answer. If you're sick, you need the Dr., right?) The children slept on the way and woke up when we stopped to call our "sponsors" (the people who got us into the Rec. Center) for directions. We arrived at the campground and sat on a big blanket while Ethan unfolded and popped up the pop-up.


And the time there was wonderful. The kids ran and played and giggled and "swam" (if your belly-button is submersed, you're swimming) and ooohed and aaahed at the string of Pier 1 lights ($3 at the thrift store) we hung outside the camper and thanked us multiple times for "having this idea." Edee (almost 5 mos.) began a pacifier addiction, which was very convenient; and Miriam (2) had her first joke (arms folded, "Umm....Goodwill cheap. Hooray!" and clapping hands. OK, so it doesn't translate well, but I promise it's hysterical in person. Really. It has nothing to do with being her mother...). Abraham (2) sang various songs at the top of his lungs, all of which had the word "Hallelujah" (or "How-way-woo-wuh") in them. Benjamin (5) was the game organizer and kept his siblings occupied while making sure Edee still had her pacifier. Lily kept busy washing dishes and tables and pop-up step and anything else she could find.


It was absolutely beautiful. The water and the rocks and the trees and the sunset and the stars and everything just made for an incredible scene.


We woke early Sunday morning, gathered all the children, made sure all bows were in place and shoes were tied, and made it to church in enough time for Ethan to prepare to preach.


Unfortunately, we did not make it in enough time to go back to the campsite and trade Ethan's Teva's for preaching shoes. Fortunately, he was wearing black socks so it made it a little less obvious that he hadn't put his church shoes on after coming back from the camp showers in his Teva's. But as one churchmember told me, "I just thought he was getting a little earthy."


Ah, well. Somehow, trying to stifle my giggles at the vision of him behind the pulpit with his feet well hidden seemed to lighten the load of keeping five squirming children quiet during the service.


And then it was over. We stayed another night, packed up (oh, how quickly that can be typed and how S-L-O-W-L-Y it actually happens!), and headed for home. Bedtimes were early, and laundry was late.


And the sight of dirty fingernailed hands pudgily folded under sleeping sunkissed cheeks was delightful.



Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summertime Drinks

Here are some drinks my family enjoys during the summer:

3-2-1 Lemonade
3 lemons
2 cups sugar
1 gallon water


Thinly slice lemons in the round. Add 2 cups of sugar and stir to coat. (We usually use the potato masher and mash it all; this brings out the flavor.) Wait 10 minutes. Add 1 gallon water and ice. Stir. This is a delicious, refreshing, and stinkin' easy lemonade. If you are going to be storing any leftovers (huh?), remove the lemon slices.


Mock Orange Julius
1/2 frozen concentrated orange juice carton (I literally cut the carton in half)
1 cup water
1 cup milk
splash of vanilla extract


Put all in blender and blend. If you want it extra frothy, add ice and blend. (Note: do not add ice if you will be putting this into sippy cups. The tiny ice chunks just plug the valve.)


Lime Rickey (or, as my husband insists on calling it, Rickey Martini)
Juice of 1/2-1 lime
1-1 1/2 oz. simple syrup (boil 1 c. sugar with 1 c. water; store in fridge)
6-8 oz. club soda


Stir lime juice and simple syrup together. Add club soda and ice. Stir gently. My mom likes to drink this and reminisce about her childhood in Boston.


Iced Tea
6 regular tea bags (or 8 decaf)
3/4 c.-1 c. sugar
1 gallon water


Bring tea bags and sugar to boil in pot with water. Add cold water to pitcher. Dump contents of pot into pitcher. Add enough water to fill gallon pitcher. Stir, add ice, stir.


Tea aficionados will tell you never to boil tea blah blah blah. But this is the way my family has always made it, and my mother is known for her iced tea at potluck (or, in my denomination, potprovidence ). Of course, my mother would never submit to the 3/4 c. sugar. It has to be a full cup.


We really don't reserve these drinks for the summer. But they definitely do cool you down and taste delicious and summery.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My dad is one of those people that sticks out in a crowd. He is 6'4" with an open face, blue eyes, and quite the hoary head of righteousness.


On this day in 1951, as Grandma was giving birth to her only son (and Mozambique was becoming an overseas province of Portugal), I wonder if she had any inkling that his birth would make possible the births of my two brothers, who carry on the family name...and the births of my two sisters and me, who carry on the family grammar (don't even THINK about saying "irregardless" in front of one of my sisters!).


My dad is a lawyer, and I have never wondered why. He can defend ANYTHING (I almost said he can defend anything to death, but that just sounds morbid). He can defend the Westminster Confession and its specific phrasing. He can defend J. Gresham Machen's position on independent missions boards. He can defend his choice of bike, golf club, and furniture refinisher. He can defend well because he has thought things out well. I love disagreeing with him but hate debating him because I get tired before we're done. I like things for their intangible likeability; he likes them for their performance rating/history/impact on the future.


Which does have its merits. When Dad liked my boyfriend, I knew it was OK to marry him. Dad recognized the strength, dependability, humor, and godliness of Ethan; I just knew he was extremely likeable.


But my dad has other merits. He's a good woodworker. He makes a fine church elder. He loves to enjoy my mom. He enjoys my children. He has a contagious laugh. He can clap on one hand.


I'm glad that he sticks out in a crowd. It's kind of like having one of those antennae toppers to help you locate your car: he's easy to find, and there's a reassurance once he's spotted. Oh, good. Dad's here.


And Dad, when the only other event for June 11, 1951, on Google is "Mozambique becomes an overseas province of Portugal," you pretty much top the list.


Happy birthday!


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Happy Birthday X 2

Miriam and Abraham at 6 weeks

Yesterday was Abraham's and Miriam's birthday, and I am still scratching my head over the fact that they're 2. Sometimes it feels like they should be about 4, having taken FOREVER at each stage to move on to the next one. Sometimes it feels like they should be about 1, having taken FOREVER at each stage to move on to the next one. Sometimes it just feels like there definitely was not enough sleep in however many years there were.

We had a low-key birthday party, with grandparents and aunt and uncles and good friends that just moved back into the area. We ate outside -- cheapo pizza and iced tea (sweetened -- is there any other way?) and fresh lemonade. My mom made two cakes: the traditional my-side-of-the-family German Chocolate Upside-down Cake with a truck for Abraham, and a Daffodil Cake with pink cherry frosting, sprinkles, and colorful bangles and necklaces laced across the top for Miriam. Abraham succeeded at blowing out his candle and Miriam's.

Appropriate to their age, they each received two presents: Miriam -- a tea set and a horse flashlight that neighs; Abraham -- a large toy truck and a cow flashlight that moos. It was refreshing to watch them get a chance to thoroughly enjoy their gifts without being overloaded with presents.

Even though they are our 3rd and 4th children and we already had a boy and a girl, Abraham and Miriam brought a lot of firsts. They were the first set of twins anyone currently living on my side has had (somewhere way back there, a great-great-great something had twins and triplets; and Ethan's side has oodles of twins, but that's not supposed to matter...). They were my first C-section (and being a loud-mouthed natural childbirth advocate, I forced the attending obstetrician to do an ultrasound when I went into labor at 33 weeks to MAKE SURE there was no possibility of doing this without a C-section). They were the first children we've had to leave at the hospital. They were the first ones to be conveniently scheduled when they came home (oh, how I love NICU nurses!). They were the first babies for me to simultaneously nurse (my advice to anyone nursing twins: forget nursing modestly; just lock the dumb door and shut the curtains!).

I remember the disconnect I felt when I visited them for the first time in the NICU. I wasn't even allowed to hold them. Their combined weight was about the weight of EACH of my others. What would I do with something so small? I didn't even want to take their pictures because it was too depressing. Miriam weighed a full pound and a half less than Abraham, and Ethan's affectionate name for her was "Baby Squirrel." Once I was allowed to try to nurse them, she took to it instantly but Abraham showed no interest. We were convinced he was going to be 45 and taking pizza through a nose tube. But as we looked around and saw the other parents in the neonatal intensive care unit, we saw babies even smaller and in much worse condition. It was a striking thought that some of these babies were so premature that if they would have been in the womb, they could have been legally aborted. I am convinced that if we could somehow show these children to high-schoolers, it would drastically affect how they view "fetuses."

They have stayed true to their NICU personalities. When I first saw the nurse changing Miriam's diaper, she told me, "This sure is a FEISTY one!" and every subsequent nurse informed me of the same thing. She still holds her little opinions fiercely, and her pint-sized body has a stronger will than most. Abraham is your stereotypical guy: food is still his best friend (although he finally did give up the nose tube), and the sight of a GI Joe brings loud gutteral shouts and pudgy stompings.

When we finally were able to bring both of them home, Lily was about 18 months old. She had the same name for both of them, which was a very appropriate meshing of the two names: Mayhem. It has been constant mayhem since they arrived, and I love (almost!) every bit of it.

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