Some reflections on Wendell Berry’s “The Country of Marriage,” John Mark McMillan’s “Magic Mirror,” and what it means for a married couple to be spiritual partners in faith on the occasion of Andrew’s 32nd birthday. Continue reading “More Together Than We Know”
Reflections and Ramblings Volume Twenty-Two
Our youth, my privilege, and a scene from Moonlight.
Reflections and Ramblings: Volume Twenty-One
Reflections & Ramblings: Volume Nineteen
Soaking up the fullness of life, and getting back to some writing.
Sarah works nights as a labor and delivery nurse. Sometimes the schedule works out so she works four nights in a row. This weekend has been one of those times. She’s worked Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and tonight. All twelve hour shifts.
On top of that she worked the end of a call shift on Wednesday. So technically she’s worked five days in a row now. That’s really tough to do. And it makes things tough here at home, too.
When Sarah works, she gets home in the morning around 8:00 am or so, then she nurses Ezra and heads straight to bed. We see her for maybe 15 minutes or so. And when she gets up around 5:00 pm we eat dinner around 5:30, and she’s out the door around 6:10 or so. That means that I watch the kids almost every moment of the day. When Sarah works those multiple days in a row, it leads to exhaustion for both of us in different ways.
It can be pretty isolating. Just me, the boys, and now the puppy. When I’m having to watch them like that I basically have no time to do any kind of housework. And so after four days in a row of watching the kids without being able to get any housework done, the place kind of, well, it gets out of hand pretty quickly.
As an introvert who also likes to have things organized and ordered, well, I can be sort of an anxious wreck after those four days or so. I need some me time and I need it badly. And the house is a total wreck, desperately needing to be cleaned and organized.
So I’ve learned to take advantage of this pattern and ritualize it.
After a few days of work, Sarah is ready to just relax a bit at the house. And by the time she’s ready to stay at home with the kids, I’m pining for some alone time. So we have established the pattern where she stays and watches the kids in the basement while I escape to the kitchen to do dishes, scrub pots and pans, and clean up four days of trash, crumbs, and toys leftover by two amazingly messy kids.
These times of doing chores and cleaning have become precious to me. They are the times where I am able to be productive, but also can kind of switch off for a while and not have to worry about the kids or the puppy. I pop in some earbuds, turn on my favorite podcasts, take a deep breath and just enjoy the time to myself.
These times have become one of the many rituals I now perform on a regular basis in my home.
I call them rituals because I have become very ordered in how I do things, and I have let it be a time of quiet reflection. I listen to sermons, TED Talks, and podcasts that help expand my mind, my worldview, and my faith.
Turning chores into rituals brings greater purpose to the mundane tedious tasks of day or week and helps push me to grow as a person, husband, friend, father, and Christian.
It’s also just a chance to hear great storytelling, which is probably one of my greatest loves.
I do plan on writing more about turning household tasks and chores into rituals as it’s own blog post at a future date. I still haven’t gathered all my thoughts yet.
We got our puppy on New Years Eve. So we’ve had her now for a little over two weeks. I can’t believe how quickly I’ve warmed up to her. For as long as I can remember, a belief that I have always had about myself is that I am NOT a dog person. There’s nothing that has ever appealed to me about dogs. Cats I’ve liked. Dogs? Never.
But in the matter of two weeks I have been completely smitten by our little Schnauzer. It’s the strangest thing for me to come to grips with. I love our little Missy. I feel like she’s already an essential part of our little family.
Micah and Ezra love playing with her. They giggle like crazy despite the fact they don’t really know how to play with her. It’s mostly them running away from her and laughing hysterically as she chases them down running circles around them. Micah finally has met someone that can outrun and out dart him.
She’s still a bit nippy with Ezra and sometimes Micah too. But we’re teaching her not to do that. She’s starting to get the hang of things though. She hasn’t had an accident in the house for a few days now, and I’m hoping she’s starting to understand that indoors is not where you go potty.
The kids love to play like they are dogs. They crawl around panting like dogs, tongues out of their mouths. They did this before we got Missy, but now that she’s around they do it all the time. Micah knows that we are trying to train Missy to go potty outside. And he saw her fail to do so a couple times right after we first got her.
While I was playing with Missy one day within the past couple weeks, Micah got on all fours and starting playing like he was a dog, too. It was cute, and he was having fun mimicking the dog. But then, out of nowhere he stood up, pulled down his pants, and peed on the floor. He thought he was being like Missy. And he thought it was funny.
It was not funny.
So, great. I trained the dog to go outside, and Micah reverted to peeing on the floor. *facepalm*
Also, training a dog to go potty outside when it’s -20 degrees outside.
Ok. Enough potty talk.
I had a good weekend of basically doing nothing productive. I watched the NFL playoffs today and yesterday while trying to also watch the kids. That Green Bay-Arizona game was nuts. So fun. I hope Arizona goes to the Super Bowl. They are such a fun team. And although I would love for Peyton Manning to end his career with a Super Bowl ring, I just don’t think they’re going to beat New England next week. It does still feel poetic though to have the AFC Championship game be Brady v. Manning. But I have a feeling how it’s going to go. (Not well for Manning).
Also, tonight I watched the Democratic debate. Two of my best friends and I pretty much talk about politics every day. And when it comes to these debates we usually live chat with each other during them. We’ve known each other since second grade, and over the years we’ve forged a unique sense of humor together. We can get carried away pretty quickly. And usually the jokes we end up with are so farfetched or have trailed on so long that they would never really make any sense to anyone else.
But that’s ok. I love our humor, and I would never trade it for the world.
Anyway. This is our summary of the debate:
This makes no sense to you. And that’s ok. But since I am ultimately writing this blog for myself, it doesn’t have to make sense to you.
But trust me. It’s funny.
Please spread the word.
Today was Micah’s first day of preschool.
In the excitement of the morning, and in the rush to get out the door, we forgot to put our new puppy Missy in her crate before we left.
There was an incident.
So she ended up getting an unplanned bath.
Because we didn’t really know how much Micah would understand that he was soon to be going to school in the mornings, over the last couple days Sarah and I have been talking about it a lot with him.
When we got up this morning, I didn’t know if he’d remember or understand that he was soon going to be headed off to his new school.
He definitely remembered.
The first thing Micah does when he wakes up is to check to see if it is “blue” outside.
He is like an alarm clock. He almost always ways up at 6:15 am on the nose. And during this time of the year, it’s thankfully still dark outside. Micah knows that daddy and (especially) mommy don’t like to get out of bed when it’s still dark outside. So he asks for the iPad so that he can watch “George!” his favorite show on Netflix. I allow him to borrow it and watch an episode or so while Sarah and I try to catch a few more minutes of rest before the day starts.
And the day starts when Micah sees any hint of light outside, in which he announces “Blue! Blue! Blue!”and then “pot-tee, pot-tee, pot-tee!”
When we got to this part of the routine this morning I asked him if he knew what he was going to do today. And he pointed out the window and started saying “Bus!”
Unfortunately I had to tell him that he wasn’t going to ride the bus today, but that mommy and daddy would drive him to school today. (The bus won’t be arranged for another week or so.)
Micah showed that he understood, and he told me that he needed to eat and change his shirt. I think I must have mentioned something about wearing a different change of shirt to school before going there yesterday and that stuck in his head.
Getting Micah ready for school was a bit surreal. It’s just so hard for me to come to grips with the fact that he’s finally able to go to preschool. It’s so amazing. Micah was definitely excited about going to school. But Sarah and I were much more so.
I was finally a parent taking those cheesy first day of school pictures. It felt kind of weird on January 15th, but nonetheless, I had Micah stand near the front door while I took the cliche pictures.
And I loved it.
Getting to the elementary school and seeing the long line of cars and minivans was kind of fun. It’s one of those things I’ve seen a million times on TV, but before the moment I pulled into the line of cars, I had never imagined myself doing that. It made me feel more adult. Hard to explain.
We walked Micah up to his classroom for his first day of school.
We signed him in. He walked right in with no hesitation. We watched him take the hand of one of his teachers and go over to his new cubby to drop off his backpack and his coat. Seeing that melted my heart in a way I was unprepared for. Just an overwhelming sense of pride and love. We’ve put so much effort, energy, and time into raising this boy and here he is – holding the hand of his new preschool teacher.
They started him on the routines of their morning, and Sarah and I ended up being a distraction and the teacher kindly said something along the lines of,
“Ok, mom and dad. I think it’s probably time for you to go bye-bye now!”
So we left. Without him.
When we pulled into the driveway back home it was definitely strange. I asked Sarah, have we ever been home together without Micah?
Sarah’s eyes welled up a bit.
“No, we haven’t.”
I’ve generally been pretty good about taking pictures of our children. Trying to document things overall. I’m not the best with the more typical day to day stuff. When I look back on the pictures of the kids I’m amazed by what sticks in the memory and what doesn’t. There’s so much that we forget. They are constantly changing before our eyes, but it is so gradual it’s hard to notice it as it is happening.
Pictures are good, but audio and video capture so much more of a moment than a picture does. And I almost never take videos or record audio of things going on. I’m not really sure why. For one thing I am a snob when it comes to photography and video. I want things to look as nice as I can. And it’s really, really hard for me to get over that. I realize that every picture I take doesn’t need to be worthy of being published or put into a photo book. But I often still feel like I don’t want to take a picture if I know that it could be blurry or if the house is a mess or if the kids aren’t wearing something cute.
But then I miss out on life’s more normal, day-to-day moments.
The moments that are the easiest to slip out of my memory.
I don’t want to miss out on those moments. I want to be better at capturing them.
So I decided a few days ago that I wanted to be better about capturing audio and video of our daily lives. And that I want to take more pictures that represent the typical – the real – parts of our days. Messy house, missing pants, and all. When I go back and watch old videos that I have recorded they are more precious than gold to me. Invaluable. And I always ask myself why I don’t take more videos.
I don’t have a camcorder. I have my cameras which can all take video, but at varying qualities and with various limitations. For example, my nicer cameras can shoot some pretty great video, but I don’t have the option for autofocusing. I have to focusing things myself manually, and that can be a chore while recording video. My smaller more handheld type of camera does have autofocus, but it also doesn’t have the greatest quality video. Same with the iPhone 5S that I have.
So I picked up a camcorder from the store yesterday thinking it would encourage me to record video more often. When I got home and started playing around with it I realized the limitations of the camcorder and decided that it just wasn’t worth the money. I’ve decided to take it back.
If anyone happens to know of a good affordable camcorder that will give me a great picture, let me know. Otherwise I guess I’m just going to stick to my other cameras for now. But I do plan on recording more videos.
Ok. Back to reflecting on Kabuki Syndrome.
We are in day three of knowing that Micah has Kabuki Syndrome now. And I think it has sunk in a bit now. It’s more real now. This is our life. This will forever be a part of the reality of our family.
But personally, I think the concreteness of having a diagnosis has really done something for me. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted.
I realize only now that with Micah’s behavioral issues and delays that I have really felt really guilty over the last couple years. I always told myself that these issues weren’t really my fault, but I guess I didn’t believe myself.
I feel a great sense of freedom.
I feel that I can talk about Micah’s issues and delays now without a deeply rooted fear of being judged by other parents and grandparents. There are definitely reasons I didn’t feel safe talking about these things before (that I won’t get into here), but now I feel like I can talk more freely without being scolded or judged.
(There’s also issues of people pleasing and wanting to look good that I need to work on within myself, too. So don’t get me wrong, there either.)
But I don’t feel as vulnerable talking about things like the fact that Micah sleeps with me in bed every night. He starts out in his bed, and usually by 11:00 or so he has woken up and needs to be with me and/or Sarah in our bed for him to fall back to sleep.
People have strong opinions about this. I know our pediatrician does. He spent about 20 minutes telling us how to make it so Micah doesn’t sleep with us anymore. But honestly, that’s at the bottom of our concerns. If it doesn’t hurt him, then we’re not all that concerned.
But something we’re just now realizing is that kids with Kabuki Syndrome sometimes have sleep apnea, which could be what wakes him up and helps lead to many of the night terrors he has. We just don’t know at this point.
Another example is how Micah uses a pacifier even though he is three years old. We understand that kids can’t talk while sucking on a pacifier. But his speech issues are much greater than sucking on a pacifier. For Micah, a pacifier can completely change his mood. He can go from destructive and obstinate to peaceable and calm just by giving him a pacifier. I really understand where it gets its name.
But we also discovered that kids with Kabuki Syndrome have a strong desire for oral stimulation. And that is definitely true for Micah. He almost always wants to have something in his mouth to chew or suck on.
I believe parents know their own kids better than anyone else. If we take the time to learn what makes them tick, what makes them happy, what makes them frustrated – then we are the best people to make some of these decisions. Yes, being well informed from reputable sources is a good idea, but let parents make the decisions about their children unless it is hurting them or other people around them.
One time after church when I went to go pick up Micah from the Sunday School there, the teacher told me that Micah needs to learn how to be more obedient. He kept wanting to go to the teacher’s desk in the room, which is obviously not allowed. And that I should teach him to be better at sharing with other kids because he kept taking toys away from some of the kids while they were playing.
My blood ran hot.
I was kind of in shock that someone would say things like that so directly to me.
No one ever really tells us anything negative about him. Maybe someone might say something along the lines of, “Micah is quite the explorer, isn’t he? He is a boy full of curiosity and energy!”
And I know what they mean. And they know I know what they mean.
But when this woman told me this, man, I was both very angry and sad. It really hurt. Not what I was expecting after a nice church service, that’s for sure.
But now that I have this diagnosis, how do I respond? I don’t want to use it as an excuse for bad behavior, but I also want his teachers to know that he has some genetic issues which may lend themselves to undesirable behaviors in a Sunday School classroom. He may not be like all the other kids there.
I sensed no empathy in that woman. None.
I also don’t want to guilt trip anyone by telling them that he has Kabuki Syndrome.
“Micah was disobedient today. You need to teach him how to be obedient.”
“Hey lady, my kid has a genetic syndrome which may inhibit his ability to be as well behaved as we’d all like him to be. Ok?”
That’s how I feel. That’s what I want to say. But I know it’s not appropriate.
I can pretty much guarantee that I’m not alone in feeling this way. In fact I’m sure that there are plenty of parents with kids that have special needs that could help me think through issues like these better than I am on my own.
On Wednesday when I heard through a distorted speakerphone that Micah was being diagnosed with Kabuki Syndrome, I kind of chuckled to myself.
Kabuki Syndrome? Really? That’s what it’s called?!
I knew it had to be of Japanese origin. And that was strange enough, but to call it Kabuki? Because of how he looks? That seems weird to me. It doesn’t really seem appropriate.
Due to the whirlwind of the diagnosis, I kind of tucked it in the back of my mind as being odd, and moved on.
But today as I was messaging with a friend he kind of called it out.
I have to say this, and I know you know this but I have to say this. I can’t just have us typing here about Kabuki like it’s a normal thing to do. We’re not doing that.
It’s messed up. Any time you name someone based on what they look like that’s insulting and insensitive. It’s no different than calling someone a Redskin. Oh, it’s not insulting, it’s just that’s what color their skin is. Yeah, you’re right. But it is insulting. It’s totally insulting.
You’re short. I’m gonna call you shortie! Insulting.
You’re pale. You’re…Casper! Nope.
You have a hunchback! Let’s call you the hunchback! That’s not what decent people do.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s not just about being politically correct. This isn’t being over-sensitive. It’s just not appropriate to name someone based on what they look like – and that includes genetic syndromes.
We briefly hypothesized what it would look like to sort of hijack the term and go edit the wikipedia article on it and things. But this is something I plan to really do some good thinking about and maybe come up with a solution. Because honestly, I simply don’t feel ok with continuing to call it Kabuki Syndrome – a name that comes from the dramatic facepaint of Japanese theater actors.
I know I’ve only known about this syndrome for something like 56 hours or so, but still, there has to be a better name.
As I continue to process what I think about the name, I’ll write about it. Maybe eventually I’ll write an entire post about it, with a detailed plan of how to hijack the name.
Today I ran some errands for Valentine’s Day. I had my (almost) five month old son in the back seat babbling to himself throughout the ride. As I was driving around I was reminded of what a blessing it was to have a healthy, handsome young baby boy riding around with me. Not just any baby boy, but MY baby boy. I couldn’t help but be a bit overwhelmed by my almost forgetting how much of a blessing he is. How could I already be taking him for granted? But there I was driving down the road realizing that I have indeed been taking Micah for granted.
I went out to pick up some cream and some mozzarella cheese for dinner tonight. I had told my wife that instead of going out tonight I would make her and myself dinner. I don’t usually cook. I can, but rarely feel inspired to. I have a simple to please palate and I usually am satisfied with macaroni and cheese or tuna salad if I cook. But Sarah does almost all the cooking, and she works hard at work all day so I thought it might be nice if I cooked us some dinner for once. I decided to make Chicken Parmesan. It ended up tasting quite nice, and it wasn’t too hard to make. (A key ingredient? Really nice olive oil from a friend that I fried the battered chicken in. YUM!)
I had ordered some flowers from a local flower shop. Well, three red carnations to be specific. I always feel kind of goofy buying three red carnations for Valentine’s Day. They are some of the cheapest flowers to buy. But it’s a tradition. When I was in high school our school offered a flower delivery service during lunch. You could choose from a various number of colors, with each color having a meaning attached to them. Purple meant simply “Happy Valentine’s Day,” yellow meant “friends,” while red meant “true love.” Numbers meant things too, increments of three being significant. At the time I had recently been flirting with a girl named Sarah. She was two years younger than I was. I was a Junior and she was a Freshman. I thought this might be a good opportunity to let her know I liked her. I bought her three red carnations and had them sent to her homeroom. I didn’t let her know they were from me, though. I wanted to keep her guessing. I wanted to see if she would guess they were from me.
This was back in the day when people used Xanga. This predates Facebook. I had been secretly stalking her Xanga and I’ll never forget her trying to figure out who had sent her the flowers.
Anyway, ever since that first Valentine’s Day in 2004 I have been sending her three red carnations every year without fail. Some years have been harder than others considering that we have been almost 1000 miles away at certain points of our relationship. But every year I have them delivered to her without her noticing where they came from. It’s basically our one tradition…and my attempt to be romantic. 🙂
Today I went to pick the three red carnations up from the local flower shop. I brought Micah in with me to pick them up. All the women in the shop were going crazy for Micah. Some pleaded for me to let him stay there at the store. A few gave me the typical “Oh, he’ll grow up before you know it” and “The next thing you know he’ll be in college.” I paid the $4.5o for the flowers (thank goodness it’s the thought that counts!) and left the store.
Sarah was as happy as ever.
As I was driving out of the parking lot I came to a crosswalk near our local Metra station. As I was sitting at the red light a little girl and her dad were crossing through the crosswalk. The little girl, probably about six, had a little rolling suitcase behind her. She skipped and hopped trailing a few feet behind her dad. She stopped and waived at me and said, “HI! Thank you for stopping. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!” And then she continued on, skipping a bit faster to catch up with her dad. Her dad didn’t even look back, he just kept up at his focused pace, probably concerned about making the train on time.
But when she turned and waived to me I waived back, and couldn’t hold back the big grin that she got from me. What a cute little girl. What an innocent and carefree little girl. But as I thought about how happy she was I found my eyes welling up with tears. It surprised me. But I guess I was just so overcome with her innocence. She was genuinely happy and really wishing me a happy Valentine’s Day. She skipped like there wasn’t a thing wrong in her life, like there wasn’t a thing wrong in this world. I quickly was overcome with the the contrast of her genuine greeting and the cynicism I see in so many people these days, including myself. I was overcome by the thought that one day my sweet little boy will ask me why bad things happen in this world. He’ll be confused about the evil that exists in this world. And some day I’ll have to try and explain such things to that innocent little boy. The same thing goes for that little girl. Some day soon she’ll realize how many horrible realities there are out there in the “real world” and we adults will have to enlighten these young innocent hearts.
My eyes stung as I pulled away through the intersection listening to my son buzz his lips and babble to himself. Indeed, he’ll grow up before I know it. I roll my eyes at such statements because sometimes the days seem very long, and the nights even longer. Micah may cry a lot throughout a day, but he’s not crying because he is confused by this complex world. He’s only crying because he is tired, or hungry, or wants to be held. That’s it. And I must be thankful for these short days of innocence.
For whatever reason I have consistently been able to say goodbye well. This doesn’t make goodbyes easy to do or say for me, but I have been blessed in being able to end relationships and chapters in my life with healthy closure.
When you grow up in a community where the population is basically 98% white, you really miss out on some of the enhancing elements of other ethnicities and cultures. So when I came in contact with anyone that was different than me, I was instantly intrigued. Perhaps no more so than on the first day of seventh grade when a puffy-haired, quiet Japanese boy walked in late to my first class, Percussion. I don’t believe we had assigned seats at the time, but we were all sitting in two rows of plastic band chairs. There was an empty seat beside me. When he walked in I could tell he was a bit overwhelmed, eyes scattering to and fro. I wanted him to sit next to me. I motioned for him to come sit in the empty chair next to me. His eyes caught mine, noticed the empty chair, and he started over my way.
This Japanese boy would soon become my window into another culture. The Japanese culture. As I helped him with his basic English, he taught me some Japanese words. As it turned out, we also had Home Economics together. We made cookies and even Hungarian Bubble Loafs together. We became friends, and as it turned out he would influence me in some pretty dramatic ways.
In the middle of my freshman year of high school, my Japanese friend told me that he had to go back to Japan. His dad’s company wanted him to go back, and so they had to leave before the school year ended. I was pretty sad about this. He really had become a friend of mine. We had been in marching band and other percussion groups together. I had even started taking Japanese at my high school, as well as some of my other friends who had gotten to know him.
The time eventually came for him to get ready to go back to Japan. A group of friends of mine threw a small party for him. But before he left, I wanted to let him know how much I appreciated him as a friend. I wrote a long letter (like 5-7 pages) reflecting on our friendship and how he had impacted my life. It was my way of accepting that we had to say goodbye. It was my way of honoring my dear friend. Hopefully it meant as much to him as it did to me.
That was really my first goodbye of any real sense. I do remember moving from Omaha, Nebraska to Indianapolis when I was five. We left our families behind and moved into a new chapter of life. But I was five. And all I remember was being excited about moving into a new house and making new friends.
My closest friends from high school I still have not had to say goodbye to. Although we took different college and career paths we have nearly all moved up into the same area together, able to see each other on a fairly regular basis. Of course Facebook has made things easy for keeping up with many people, feeling like you never really have to say goodbye. It’s more of a “see you later.”
The week before I graduated from college I wrote individual letters to every professor I had recounting the classes they taught, and what I took away from their classes. I went around to all their offices and individually thanked them for their impact in my life.
By the end of my senior year in college I had made some close friends. And all of us were going in completely different parts of the world. One moved to central Florida, one to LA, one to France, one to Texas. But we were able to spend the last semester having fun with one another, meeting nearly every friday to hang out and play games.
School is always hard because if you make friends that are older than you, you will have to say goodbye to them sooner than those of your own year. If you make friends that are younger than you, you will have to say goodbye to them before they graduate. So making friends knowing that you will have to say goodbye before you want to can hinder the relationship. But if you know that you only have eight months together, you can either make the decision to take advantage of the precious time that you have, or to stay disengaged. I always try and choose taking advantage of the time I have. It could potentially set me up for be very sad when we have to say goodbye, but I probably would be even more disappointed knowing that I never really took the effort to be a close friend with people because I knew we’d have to say goodbye.
I just graduated from graduate school. I have invested a lot of time and energy into this school and student body. My situation is a bit muddled because I just graduated with my Master of Divinity, but am also continuing with an MA in Counseling. So I am saying goodbye in one sense, but hello in another. I was wondering how I was going to put good closure on this degree because I’ll still be around for another one. I wanted to end well, to close this period of my life cleanly. I didn’t really know how it was going to work. But then, within a few weeks of graduation I was asked to give a testimony of my time here at TEDS in chapel and then I was asked to give the student response of thanks at graduation. And before I knew it I was once again able to give a proclamation of my reflections and thanks to the professors, friends, and mentors that have influenced me so deeply while attending school here. I was able to say goodbye, and to say it well.
In a sense, meeting my Japanese friend was a hello, but it was also the beginning of learning how to say goodbye. In no small part because of this friend, my wife and I and another friend from middle school (who was also in our Home Economics class) will be traveling to Japan to serve as missionaries. I have been there three times, and even got engaged to my wife over there. I didn’t know it at the time, but meeting that friend of mine in seventh grade was really the beginning of saying goodbye to the life I know here in the United States. Hopefully when the time comes, I’ll get to say goodbye well to America and all my friends that I’ll be leaving behind.