Saturday, December 17, 2011

how NOT to fool a teenager

One of the finest pieces of parenting advice I ever read was something along the lines of: You will get unbelievable mileage out of the word special. This advice, however, must expire sometime after the 4th birthday and before the 18th. Now, it's still working great with my kids. Just this week, I served roasted potatoes for dinner. Maria hates them. She always has, for over four years. She's not a picky eater - white potatoes are probably one of three foods she doesn't like. But last night I briskly spooned some onto her plate and - as soon as her lips curled in disgust - I quickly announced, "And these are some special french fries!!!" Then I covered them in ketchup before she could really make out anything more. She ate three servings. And announced that "special french fries" were her new favorite food.

But perhaps I've become a bit too dependent on the word special - especially in a pinch. See, earlier in the week it came slipping out of my mouth so fast that I barely had time to register that I was speaking to a young woman, not a four and half year old. I was hiking with the girls group, Joseph in the Ergo. It was rainy and cold. The lithe, nimble youth scampered merrily up the long and steep ascent. They chattered and laughed carelessly. Christine and I lagged behind - far behind - lamenting our comparative out-of-shape-ness. She struggled under the soon-to-be dead weight of 35 pound Bernadette, who was trying to sneak in a nap. I had only 6th percentile Joseph as my pathetic excuse, so I searched for a better one. It occurred to me that the girls trotting so effortlessly up the dreary, wet mountainside were aged thirteen to eighteen. The youngest ones were exactly twenty years younger than me.  I felt so much better about myself that I cheerfully informed poor forlorn Christine that she was ten years older than the youngest hikers.

Papamoa Hills on a sunnier, warmer day

Finally we reached the summit. The two eldest girls had mysteriously gone up ahead and were awaiting us in surprise costume - Santa Claus and the Cowardly Lion. We all had a good laugh and then headed back for the cars to escape the rain and biting wind. Santa and the Lion are heading off to NET with Christine next month, so the rest of us had a surprise goodbye party awaiting the 3 of them back at the church. But suddenly I worried that the Cowardly Lion was going to go directly home without swinging by the church first. Brilliantly, I announced that we were all going to reconvene in my living room for our last group photo. But the darn Lion said, "I have a camera with me - we could take it right here." I forgot I was in "Youth Minister" mode. I slipped automatically into "Mother of Toddlers" mode, where I spend 98% of my life. I blurted,"Oh, yes, ok, but I have a special camera at home that I'd like to use."

In my car, we laughed hysterically the whole way back to the church about the special camera faux pas. We thought  the cat was surely out of the bag. Certainly it's ears and whiskers had peeped over the top, but I found out later that Santa and the Cowardly Lion had driven back pondering, "Do you think maybe she has a Polaroid camera that she wants to use?"

Maybe the "s" word still had a  tiny  bit of power in it after all.

view from summit
(we actually forgot to take that group photo)

Post Script - The school year has finished up here and the youth are on Christmas and summer holidays now. While we'll still get together randomly with them for board games, movies and beach frisbee over the summer, there will be only a few proper "religious" events over the next two months. I share this by way of explanation of why the "ministry" news has trickled off and the blog will blob along into a  disproportionate share of "madness" and "musings"

Other random bits....Joseph is doing well - we get asked so often by so many people in both countries who tell me they are still praying for him daily - THANK YOU SO MUCH! His liver continues to slowly improve and while he is not exactly taking the 9th percentile line by storm, he has steadily inched above the 2nd percentile line for weight on the WHO chart. He even has a few fat rolls on the wrists and dimples in the elbows, thanks to Ice Cream Therapy. (I love Ice Cream Therapy. One bite for Joseph, three bites for Mama.) Other than monthly blood tests and a monthly exam, the doctors have pretty much left him alone. He'll be 9 months old on Christmas, has 7 teeth, is almost crawling and is a pretty decent sleeper. He thinks feet, piglets and things falling down are hilarious. He screams when he's happy and is hypnotically cute. His favorite games are Itsy Bitsy Spider and shaking his head "no" - and if he's noisy at Mass, blowing gently on his hairline will generally distract him for up to three minutes....enough to get through the Consecration. Bouncing him up and down quite boisterously can get him through the entire Liturgy, but then Fr. Michael is beset after Mass by worried grandmotherly types who beg him to have a word with us about the fact that we are possibly injuring his brain and/or spinal cord. By "we" I mean Richard. Ever since he left for the South Island, I think the 80-plus crowd feels a bit more relaxed. Richard, by the way, is loving his trip and intends to WRITE HIS OWN POST when he returns! I will be glad for it because, although I have managed to find time to write three posts in his absence, I will have far less opportunity to write once he's home. While he's away, my evenings have been luxuriously long -let's just say that I do not share my husband's hang-ups about putting kids to bed before 6pm.  Actually, I think the second best piece of parenting advice I ever read was that children are happier when they have very early bedtimes! ....Or maybe it was that their parents are happier? Maybe not the parents that like to sleep past dawn, but all I know is that if I'm going to be awake nursing Joseph by 6am, I might as well have the girls up also. I'm enjoying these sweet early mornings when the girls sleepily stumble into my bed to quietly snuggle with their brother and me. 
 I'm sure Richie will come to see the beauty of it all.
 But, to be safe, I might preface the news by telling him that the girls have a special new bedtime.

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