Sunday, August 19, 2012

A nature bike ride in the hood

I love family bike rides.

LOVE them!

We haven't ridden since before the tornado last year.  The bikes got locked in the garage for about a month, then they got buried behind building materials and everything in the garage just got out of control.

Today we rescued out bikes and took them out for a ride!

I had a such an entertaining time partaking in the sights and sounds of our nature path weaving in and out of the hood/ghetto.

Let me take you along for the ride so you can enjoy it too.

Paul is the only one who is responsible enough to know where his bike helmet is.  The rest of us are at a loss.  So he wins the award for being the coolest, safest, and most responsible in the house.  This is no surprise really as he has held this title for the last 10 years.  I mean truly, he is unbeatable, its disgusting.

So, my bun is really big so that works for me.
Little is in the buggy so a private cave works for her.
Middle puts on Great Grandpa's helmet that has 100% no padding.  He rides with a tilted, slanted helmet the whole way.  The crooked helmet is perfect for our slightly off kiltered kid.
Big however has scored the best vote with wearing a baseball helmet.  Yup.  That's right.  We rode for an hour and half with him wearing a StarWar costume that is three sizes too small and a baseball helmet.  I just nodded and smiled politely at all the people we  passed as they starred three seconds too long at our kid. 

We own the phrase, "let you freak flag fly."

Middle is attached to Paul.
Big rides alone.
Little rides in the buggy attached to me.

Within the first few moments, Big says, "Don't worry mama, I will stay in the pocket."  Pretty great memory since we haven't done this in two summers.  If you want to know more about the pocket, you can read that blog here.

Then as our hour continued, we were rewarded with the following:

In the matter of 20 minutes, I smelled fresh flowers, someone grilling, burning tires, which always takes me back to Haiti, and the stench of the sewer.

We rode down to the Mississippi where we watched a bunch of young men come back from fishing.  Half of them struggled to walk with their pants around their knees, the others just had a look of getting away with something.  We crossed under the bridge and there was the beautiful river.  Then we noticed the bank littered with garbage.

I heard four different languages in five minutes.

An African American Luau decked out with full figured ladies dressed in grass skirts and shell bra's playing games with the music blaring.

A field fight where Middle couldn't understand if they were talking or fighting because it all sounds the same to him.

Riding next to the river on one side and a graffiti train on the other.

Biking through 7 basketball games in the street and one battle scene where kids were using sticks as swords and baseball plates as shields.  It was hilarious.

Little singing Happy Birthday to everything she sees and thinks of.  And I mean everythingg.
"Happy Birthday to my toe, to my shoe, to my umbrella, to my bike, my clouds, my jammies, my tree, my wheel, my keys, my fingers, my hair." You get the idea.   It was unbelievable.  If she wasn't singing, she was pointing out every bump I hit, every smell that was weird, she noticed every dog and animal we passed, and she greeted everyone we passed.  It was non stop chatter.  I am a little concerned with when both boys are in school.  I thought there would be some peace and quite, but I have been proven wrong.  Ms. Chatterbox will apparently love being heard and not fighting for my attention.

We stopped and surprised some friends the night before their first day of school and took the nice parkway all the way home.

We biked through pounding music blaring from cars, scandalously dressed girls, kids riding bikes, and animals aimlessly wandering around.

Every turn we made, there was something new to see and something that didn't make sense.  It was nature and the hood all wrapped into one.  Everything had an opposite and we were never bored. 

We laughed, we wondered and now we have lots of stories of our new bike adventures.

We're back biking in the hood, but we need helmets.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The beast of Cancer

Hey all,

This post is a little out of the ordinary for this blog, but still very near and dear to my heart.  My cousin Ryan has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  He and his wife and 2 year old son and new baby live in Lansing MI.

This is his story.

He has asked that anyone with a platform that can help him spread what he has learned through countless hours of research should do it.  In no part of my heart or brain can I understand what he and his family are going through.  Constant daily moments that have you facing life and death day after day.  How do you live and appreciate each moment when you live facing death and need to plan for your family to go on without you?  How do you live in a place that is thankful to God for the life you've had, but angry at him that it might end too soon?  How do you live in hope for recovery, but have to live through discouraging progress reports?

I know nothing except that cancer and death and accidents and disease doesn't care who you are.  I also know with all my heart that a limitation we have as humans, is that we see just one moment.  We see one damaging event that happens and we cry out to God and ask why.  We wonder how he can be so heartless as to give someone wonderful, with two small children, a loving wife and passion for life, cancer.  Maybe we wonder why he is so distant that he won't step in and take it away.  Or maybe we wonder why he is so uninvolved in our lives that he doesn't care what happens to us, but just allows us to reap what we have sown in regards to sin.

We have to remember that it is our mistake in trying to be God.  As humans we see but one moment at a time.  God however, sees all things past and present and future.  He knows what was and what will come.  He knows our lives do not stand indepently of one another, but they are all intricately combined.  With each one thing that happens to us, whether good or bad, it has a continual effect on everyone around us.  God is never just doing one thing at a time with one person at a time.  He is always doing hundreds and thousands of things all at once, weaving and designing in our lives.  There is hope and despair in the same moment.  There is death and life, healing and breaking, good and bad, right and wrong, broken and whole, hard and easy.  God does many things in the moments  of our lives for us, but also for others.  My life is not about me.  My life is apart of the community of life, of humans, together on this one planet.  I may not understand why this very terrible thing has happened to Ryan.  We may never know, but we do know that God is not done doing what he's doing or can do in this moment.

Above was a link to Ryan's website where he shares his story.  He posts often with updates about his progress.  He speaks beautifully with encouragement for us all to make the most of our moments and our relationships.  I deeply encourage you to look around his website and read old posts, you will be so inspired by Ryan.

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with cancer, I urge you to read this post.

Information is key to recovery, and a plan for your future.

Thank you for letting me share this story with you.  If you feel moved by this, I encourage you to share his website and more specifically the information on research with those you know.  You never know who you might reach.

Thank you Ryan.  I love you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Best thing ever

So it doesn't matter how bad or how good the day was.  Doesn't matter if we spent a good portion of the day separated or we did the whole day as a family.

I love family snuggle time.

Family snuggle time consists of all members of the family coming together in hang out on mom and dad's bed.  It is where we don't do anything else except be together.  We reconnect.  We talk about all sorts of random and silly things.  We create a stronger foundation for our kids and open the lines of communication and break down any walls of tension that might have been built up during the week or day. It is probably the most spiritual thing we do as a family and all of our hearts are so full when we are done.  It used to be that we would all lay down and talk and pray and hang out.  It recently has turned into its own thing.

Here are some fun things that happened in Family snuggle time last night.

* Family snuggle time has turned into all out wrestling match.  Seriously, its a good workout for everyone, but man we get loud.

* Paul plays bad cop, attacking the kids to point of tears and then they scream "pineapple" (our safe word for protection.  You say it when you really can't take anymore.) Then they come over to me, good cop, and we snuggle and come up with another plan to attack dad.

* When Little cries pineapple on Big, he explodes out of his hold on her and then does a slow motion retreat. He even has sound effects. He would be holding Little, she would cry pineapple, and he would blow his hands and arms and legs out and then ever so slowly, lower them to the bed. It was hilarious to watch him explode and slow mow to a sleep position.  Paul started doing it becausee it was so funny.

* Family snuggle time has also apparently become the time where we fight about which kid belongs to which parent.  Paul and I play with the kids fighting for them to be just ours.  They giggle and laugh and play along, and I usually win which makes me feel all powerful.

* Prayer time was probably my favorite last night.  Somehow prayer time has turned into an all out personal affirmation time.  I had a tear or two because I found my children's utter confidence simply hilarious.  All they did was thank God for how awesome they were, how cool their siblings were, how handsome their dad was and how mom is so cool cause she is always doing stuff for them.  They all have this strong sense of knowing how loved they are that it has given them unbridled confidence.  Seriously, they each needed their own time to thank God, affirm each other and wait to be coated in compliments.  Middle actually said to me, "mom, you didn't say how awesome I am to God."  Oh man kid, I don't know if you are listening but I prayed that God would give you wisdom.  Pay attention!

I would have taken a photo, but I was too busy enjoying the moment, and all my kids sleep in their underwear and thus it would have been inappropriate.

I pray the feeling of us all crammed on the bed, laying on top of each other, poking each other with feet and elbows and giving kisses never leaves my mind and heart.

It is our most special family activity and totally free.  I hope my kids never out grow it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A proud mama

It often feels like the things worth fighting for are made up of long roads of small constant battles, big changes, emotional roller coasters, all with little reward along the way.

We all have things that we want to fight for, that we believe in, that we desire for our life.  Sometimes we let those dreams or ideals or goals go because we look at the road and we don't think we can do it.  We grow weary just looking at the obstacles right in front of us.  Surviving that road makes us exhausted just thinking about it.

If I had a penny for every time I heard, "I don't know how you do it", I could pay off my last student loan.  I hear that comment about our diet every time someone asks why we aren't eating with the rest of the group.

I remember sitting in the nutritionists office that very first time when we were going through Big's blood test.  She told me that we would have to start a Gluten Free/Dairy Free diet.  I understood that what she was telling me was a very big deal and it would change the way we do things, but I didn't understand the extent or depth of that change.  I didn't understand the way it would radically change our lives, for the better.

I was home in MI for two weeks, and most people there we hadn't seen in a year.  Last year at this time we were still figuring out the diet, our house had just been hit by a tornado and we were all a little dazed and confused.  Now here we were, a year later, and I could fill the pages of a book with all the observations people were giving me about my children.

When we live day in and day out it can often be hard to see the benefits of the choices we make.  I wish I could express to you the joy, satisfaction, and pride that I had for my children.  Everywhere we went, all the people we saw, my kids were full of joy, manners, politeness, energy, and helpfulness.  I got to experience them for the first time like everyone else was.  I was able to see what they see, instead of the day to day grind of life, little bickering moments and meltdowns and great expectations.

I used to live in a world where our bad days/moments far outweighed the good.  My world was dominated by correction and discipline, explanations and talking down the over emotional child.  Please don't misunderstand me, those things still exist, but they now exsist within the boundaries of children who can mostly control themselves.  Children who have multiple good days with the bad thrown in.  Children who share with the occasional fight.  Children who follow the rules with the occasional defiance.

It feels like what having children should be, a joy.  I stepped back and really observed my children so I could see what they would see. 

Last year I wanted to take my mom out for dinner, but Big couldn't handle it.  He always struggled with me leaving.  He would cry and throw out all the things that make mothers feel guilty leaving.  And I did, and he came with us.  This year, mom and I wanted to sneak out so that the kids wouldn't be upset.  We ended up having devotions together and giving the kids breakfast.  When it was time for girl day, Big told us to have a great time and kissed me goodbye.  Whenever he was told it was time for bed, he would go and get ready.  In the morning, it was never a reminder of what he needed to do before he could play.  He was Papa's big helper with the boat.  He was always helping with the smaller kids.  He was full of joy and gentleness and kindness and goofiness.  When he didn't agree with a decision, he told me he didn't like it, then it was over.

One morning I went for a run and he cried because I didn't take him with me.  When we talked about it when I got home, I told him, running was mommy time.  He looked at me with clear eyes and said, "Oh, just like when I need my alone time and I go downstairs to the pull up bar?  I get it.  You just needed alone time.  I am sorry I got mad.  I understand.  Will you forgive me?" 

Wait?!  What?!  No big fight, no long explanation, no more tears and fighting that I left him behind?  It was just over.  He understood.  He figured it out himself.

A parent has immensee pride when others enjoy them as much as they do.  When other people consider your children a joy to be around.

In the last four years, before I would go home to visit my folks, I would always say, "Dad, I am so tired.  I need your help.  I don't know what to do and I dont' know how to get my kids to listen.  I need you to be the heavy.  I need your help because they are out of control."  True statement.  You can ask my parents.  I would go home, guilty, exhausted and out options.  I felt like I crawled home needing bandaged up and my kids needing boot camp.

This year it was just a fun trip home.  It was a joy to bring my kids and they weren't the reason I was tired.  No discipline needed.  No help required, (except for the fact that it is always way easier to raise kids with a fleet of people).

My children can be who they were created to be.  Seeing their real personalities and hearts come through all the time instead of occasionally is a huge reward for homemade cooking.

This was hands down my favorite trip home.  It was easy, relaxing and just so much fun.  It was fun because my kids were so much fun.  We enjoyed a trip together instead of me sleeping while my parents dealt with the kids.  I hate that phrase, but that is how we existed because we knew no other way.

We know differently now, and I will never go back.  I stand behind our diet more now than ever.  For all the work it is, the reward of my children having the life they were meant to have is worth every dish I have to wash, and that is saying something.

If the idea of this diet is tinkering around in the back of your mind, don't ignore it, explore it.