Holy Week, Part Three: Thank You Easter Bunny

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Mark 10:15

"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:17

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:42-43

Today I had a huge “Ah-ha” moment. I finally began to understand what Jesus meant when he said we have to be like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. As we were explaining to our kids why Easter is such an important day for Christians and how it defines Christianity in a way that no other day can, trumping even Christmas (“because followers of other religions know Jesus was born and lived here on earth, they just don’t believe the resurrection”) I started to laugh. How crazy do we sound? The very idea of someone dying, being killed no less, and then a few days later rising from the dead, visiting his friends and spreading the good news of God; telling us to go out and do the same, and then finally ascending into heaven because oh yeah, I forgot to mention, He was in fact God here on earth….I will admit, I have often felt like asking, “Really God? You gave us these magnificent brains and you expect us to believe that? You think we are THAT gullible? What do you think we are, children?” Jesus might as well be the Easter Bunny!

And therein lies the very point of having faith like a child. You see, children have no problem believing with all their hearts that there is a super special rabbit, a bunny like no other bunny, one that defies logic every hop of the way; a magnificent, almost magical creature that not only CAN leave them plastic eggs filled with all sorts of goodness, but that WANTS to do it as well. They can believe that. And even in their questioning, they'd bet their lives on it being just so.

All God is asking, is for us to be like children, to suspend our understanding of the laws of nature for just a moment and believe that all things are possible by way of the Creator. If, as Aidan said the other day, a creator is more powerful than their creation, then we can rest assured that God, as our Creator, can do whatever He DARN well wants to do, the "laws" are His to break. And, with that great power, fueled by His love for us, He chose to show us a better way, a more loving way, a simpler way to live out the lives He gave us. He sent us a perfect human example; said, “I am the Way” and “Follow Me.” And asked us to bet our very lives on it being just so.

Children have no problem looking past the truths of reality to believe in something awesome. They don’t have all the answers to the how or even the why, but even in the midst of suspicion they sure as heck are not willing to throw out the what and all the good tidings that come with it. And they certainly reap the rewards. The chocolate smeared faces and glowing smiles this morning tell me that at the end of the day, they really don’t care what the details are, they are just glad the Easter Bunny remembers them, whoever he or she might be. Given the questions they have asked, I don't know that they fully buy into all the details they imagine or have heard about the Easter Bunny but they do know one thing: on Easter morning, they will awake to something special, (encapsulated in little candy eggs). They will have been remembered and will know they are loved: a beloved child of our family.

How much greater is our reward for living without all the answers and still keeping our faith, like a child? I am not suggesting we forfeit our God-given (perhaps even God-driven?) ability to explore the deeper meanings, the historical facts, to critically think through and ponder the questions that arise. I don’t even suggest that we throw out the doubting Thomas lingering in our own hearts but instead embrace him, love him, and lead him to the grace that we know to be true, that we have seen and touched with our own lives, time and time again. And at the end of the day, at the end of our earthly walk, we too can smile our messy smiles and say, “Thank you Easter Bunny” and know that some”bun” loves us, too.  So much....so much that He was willing to give up everything for us: God's beloved children.

He died. And yet He lives. And, regardless of the details, that is good enough for me. Actually, it’s good enough for all of us.

Thank you Easter Bunny!

Happy Easter.

Holy Week, Part Two

"Well, I'll be Darned!"

I have to Go Tell it on the Mountain this fine Easter morning: I did it. I was able to hem a pair of my pants and actually do a decent job. And I am so proud of myself (and thankful for the guidance of my patient friend, Kim) that I have to show you. As can be seen in the picture, Solomon is obviously not too impressed (he's kind of wise like that) but that's ok. He needn't be.

I even darned the holes in my jeans....although I will admit, they are not exactly how the fashion conscious person might want them. And I did run out of blue thread and had to leave one side only partially finished. But it does extend their life in my wardrobe by another few years I am guessing (trendiness is not my thing as previously discussed.)

I'm ecstatic as these two things mean I will be able to save a lot of money in the coming years hemming and fixing clothes myself. And the projects are already rolling in, thanks to an 8 year old boy who apparently thinks skidding on his knees is a valid means of mobility and a 3 year old who grows so slow that he can fit into the same pair of pants two years straight, leaving plenty of opportunity for wear and tear. (I've already darned up two holes in the knees of his 12 month sized pants that he loves and can still wear!)

What does it all mean to you? Nothing. But for us, it means, next year, the week before Easter will be far less holey and we can spend our time on more lofty pursuits.

Speaking of lofty pursuits, like many families, we had a joyous Easter morning, filled with baskets of goodies and the traditional egg hunt. We even made it to church close to on time, although the pews were already full and we ended up in the extra seats in the very back. Afterward, I attempted to get the 5 children in a picture worth sharing. I ended up with a lot of bunny ears and crazy faces mixed in with a few tender moments, the occasional fight and one crying Liam (once the sugar high came crashing down and he had simply had it.)

Here are the best of the best (scroll down fast or you might miss your bedtime):


And after a hundred and twenty some odd shots, I didn't get a single "perfect" picture. But I did capture a very accurate story of our family.

Imperfect? To be certain. Chaotic? Just a bit. Fantastically fun? You betcha! 

Happy Easter!


Holey Week, Part One

"How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gather her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." --Jesus, speaking to Jerusalem, Matthew 23:37

Darning-a sewing technique for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric....in its simplest form, darning consists of anchoring the thread in the fabric on the edge of the hole and carrying it across the gap. It is then anchored on the other side, usually with a running stitch or two. If enough threads are criss-crossed over the hole, the hole will eventually be covered with a mass of thread. -- Wikipedia 

(Kind of changes the phrase, "I'll be darned!" doesn't it?)

It is Holy Week, the holiest of times for Christians all over the world. It is a time for reflection, for pondering the deeper meanings of our faith, to prepare for Easter and a risen Christ, a Lord who is no longer the infant Jesus but one who has come into His own, the Divine Son of God who calls us to leave our worldly things behind, take up our cross and follow Him. No pressure there.

On a more secular level, this is a time to do away with the burdens of winter and to once again welcome spring into our lives. A time to purge, to clean out and clean up so that on Sunday we can relax and fill ourselves with chocolatey Easter goodness, nibbling ears off of candy rabbits, cracking into beautifully dyed hard-boiled eggs and reveling in the delights of sugar-high, egg-hunting children. Yes, these are the days that memories are made of and where traditions are born anew.

Whether you are the loyal church-going type, one who only makes it there a couple times a year, someone who has found no place for the holy or religious in your life, or anywhere else on the spectrum, it's hard to miss Easter quickly sneaking up on us. Aisles upon aisles in store after store are dedicated to supplying us with every possible chicken, bunny, basket, egg, chocolate, candy combination. And we jump on it like a gymnast on a trampoline. Yes, it is nearly here with all its implications and fattening gooeyness. You can't miss it. Are you ready?

I have to admit, I sometimes wish Kurt and I had not gone along with the whole "Easter Bunny leaving eggs and treats to find" thing. I can hardly wait for the day when Aidan comes home and (WARNING: Season Spoiler coming) announces there is no Easter Bunny/Santa/Tooth Fairy/Leprechaun.... (Well, duh! Sometimes I do wonder how intelligent these kids of ours can really be if they truly think there is a furry rabbit who hides bunches of candy filled plastic eggs for them in our house once a year....I mean COME ON! And how are they not aware that a fat guy in a red suit can't really....well, I digress....) While I don't anticipate with great excitement the ensuing broken hearts of two little girls, whom I imagine will argue the bunny's existence until they are out of breath, or at least until Kurt gives in to buying them a live one, I do look forward to the burden of secrecy being lifted. But then again that innocence lasts for just a moment and will be gone before we know it. And I do not wish that away. Plus, there is something so special and pure about the heart and mind of a child....pure enough that even J.C. himself told his disciples to, "“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he went along, gathering the children in his arms (apparently like a hen gathers her brood) blessing them....and possibly filling their baskets with chocolate eggs and bunnies, who knows.

For me, Holy Week is a time to tackle some personal projects. Each year during Lent, I prepare myself to play violin for an extremely somber and moving Good Friday service. And this year, since the piece I'm playing (Albinoni's Adagio) isn't as difficult as those of past years, I decided to tackle some other hole-y projects as well: patching my jeans and hemming some pants. Now, a seamstress I am not. My ability to sew up the holes in the knees of my pants is about as good as my ability to sew someone's arm back onto their body. So, I had my friend Kim (think rooster shoes) come over to teach me basic knee-patching technique. She got me started on one side and then left the darning and the other side for me.

How did that work out for me? I'm so glad you asked.

I got a lot of practice threading and re-threading the sewing machine. Over and over and over and over (that went on for the better part of an hour at which point I decided knee holes were not so bad after all....)

Here is Kim's patched knee (I still haven't darned it, unless by darning you are politely referring to the words coming from my mouth in the process.) Notice the nice straight lines and rectangular shape.

Here is my version.....also not darned, except verbally. Actually, it's just barely sewn on as far as I can tell. There's even random strings hanging down from it.....hmmm, scissors anyone? (Or blowtorch?)

And here is why we pay $13 per pair of pants for someone ELSE to do the hemming:

I'm guessing no one is going to call to have me sew there arm back on now....OK, truth be told, this was the practice pair. Kim cut off one of my abysmal hem jobs (now the much shorter side) to show me a wonderful trick. You see, there is this thing called an iron....I actually do own one and after digging out my ironing board from beneath the piles of laundry and stray socks, she showed me how, if you actually USE the iron, you can flatten the ends of the jeans to make it look more professional. Novel idea Kim (but I'm just aiming for even)! Now, if I can just figure out how to cut straight, sew straighter and perhaps get both sides the SAME length, I won't have to pay someone else to fix what I have spent so much time screwing up.

And so, dear reader, I pray your week has sided far closer to the holy than my jeans....and that any holes you may have experienced are filled with Chocolate Eggs left by the Easter Bunny and/or with the love and grace of God, brought to all who are willing by the one and only risen Hen. (Ok, ok, I might be pushing it with the chicken bit here!)

But, in the event I don't get back for Holy Week Part Two: Happy Easter.


"You Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em...."

"Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away, know when to run....."--Kenny, as in Rogers!

I ran into the husband of one of my good friends the other day while I was parked in their driveway. (Odd that we'd run into each other like that, eh?) We had an interesting conversation about where a pet owner draws the line on paying for any more health care for a sick or injured pet. He said each of his dogs has a $1000 life cap. Anything after that and the dog is toast. Now, some people reading this are probably gritting their teeth in horror that a person would allow an animal to die instead of spending just another couple hundred dollars. But, now that I have a sick animal to keep alive (so that my children aren't traumatized), I totally get it. (Although $1000 seems a bit high for a stinky cat.....I was thinking maybe we'd cap at, let's say $0 to be generous, and see how that goes.....)

The original title for this post was "That Blasted Cat!" if that tells you anything. You see, Leroy, oh yes, Leroy, remember him? The cat that gave me a two-week anxiety attack? Well, he is very ill. (I want to say "serves him right" but I am trying to be compassionate here.....) Anyway, Leroy is sick. He stopped eating over the weekend and became very lethargic. So on Monday, Kurt mentioned we might need to take Leroy to the vet. I nodded and mumbled some sort of agreement with full intention of taking him the next day. But by that night, Kurt broke down and started looking stuff up on the internet which is the equivalent of drinking and dialing for all things medical as far as I can tell. When I got back from teaching lessons, he told me he thought we needed to take Leroy to the vet "right now"; and by "we" he meant me. I warned of overly priced after-hours emergency vet expenses and when that didn't weaken his resolve to be a responsible pet owner, I explained to him how to heat up the baby's bottle while I packed Leroy up in his travel case and off we went. Just me and the cat.....it was almost like a vacation. But not really.

I arrived at the Emergency Pet Hospital and they asked me why I was there. I answered with some remark about not having anything better to spend our monthly's discretionary budget on (to chuckles from the front desk,), and sat down, waiting to be seen while they took Leroy into the back where they confirmed, "Yes, he is sick, how would you like to pay for that?" Apparently they don't except sick cats as payment.

Seriously though, the vet was very thorough in his assessment of Leroy's "fever of unknown cause" and gave me all sorts of pricey options to choose from. I asked what the minimum was we should do (subcutaneous fluids and antibiotics) and he warned me not to give the cat Tylenol because it would kill him (the cat, not the vet). I paused as I tried to figure out if there was a "wink wink" in that bit of knowledge and then hauled Leroy back home, $200 more broke than before.

At some point I asked Kurt exactly how much he was willing to spend to save this cat's life and was told to take it as it comes and we'd see. (But to call and confirm with him before doing anything.)

The next day, Leroy was still not eating, not going to the bathroom and basically not moving. Actually, come to think about it, he was probably mostly dead for all intents and purposes. So, in we went, Leroy, Solomon, Liam, Madeline and I, to our normal vet's office.  Because our cat had a fever and was acting mostly dead. And Kurt cared. And sure enough, they confirmed he was still sick with "a fever of unknown cause." They, too, gave me a detailed list of options and not knowing any better and since I couldn't get a hold of Kurt, I told them to go ahead with the blood and urine work up. Why not? I spent all our extra money last night, what's a little more? Maybe we can get a home equity line of credit or something....

They took Leroy into the back while the kids and I sat in the waiting area. We heard Leroy screaming and moaning and howling and Madeline, in her sweetest voice asked: "Mommy, is Leroy going to die?"

"I don't know, Madeline," I answered her honestly, trying to mimic her concern. "He might."

"Well, that's okay," she replied, giddily. "We can just get a pet fish."

WHAT! A FISH? Are you flipping kidding me? Hey, hold the phone Vet! I'd like to change my order...I'm pretty certain putting the blasted cat out of our misery is FAR less expensive than whatever you are doing and the kid wants a FRICKING FISH! A fish....people have lost it for far less....

Several hundred more dollars later we were told Leroy had orange, crystalized pee, which pointed at a UTI/Bladder infection that probably was already progressing into his kidneys by the way he was acting. We were given a vial of pills to give him and sent on our way while they went back to grow some cultures.

"Oh, and come back tomorrow so we can recheck his temperature," they said, probably laughing as the door hit our rears on the way out.  Well, that is certainly one thing that is not going to happen, I thought, in complete sticker shock. We just spent ALL our month's money. On a cat. In the words of a favorite comedian: "That is not good. That is bad." And at this point, if the cat gets home, curls up in his box AND DIES I will immediately take him to the local taxidermy and have him flash frozen (because, you know, more nutrients are retained that way, so they say.....about vegetables.....) and upon having money again, I will have him stuffed so that our house guests can delight in a sweet stuffed putty-putty curled up on the end of the bed. At least then I will have something to show for this spending spree.

So, later that night.....Ok, let me just stop and ask, have you ever given a cat a pill? If you are already laughing, then you know what I am talking about. If not, click here for a realistic account.

"Just make sure you get it to the back of the cat's throat," they said. "Just open the cat's mouth, drop the pill in, hold their mouth shut while stroking their necks to get them to swallow," they said....and then watch as that cat laughs that pill right back out at you, sticking their tongue out in gross mockery of your feeble attempt. Yeah, give a cat a pill. Pfffff. "But it's only once a day," they said, implying that that would be much better than the twice a day syringe full of drops. After a few good tries (Kurt holding that cat down, forcing open his alligator-like jaws and I trying to stuff a pill down his throat only to find that same pill on the floor over and over again), Leroy is still getting the drops and if I can sneak the pill into some sort of liquid (poison perhaps?), I'll double dose him and see how that goes. Otherwise, Tylenol it is!

(I'm mostly kidding about the Tylenol, of course. I'm sure the poison would do it...) Then, today, when the vet called and asked if I was bringing Leroy back in to recheck his temp, I explained we had maxed out on his health care allowance. Hit his cap. We have no more money for this fur ball. Mainly because we have no more money.

"Well, would you mind taking his temp and letting us know what it is?" they asked. Oh, gee, I can't think of anything I would rather do than stick a thermometer up a cat's rear end, outside of maybe licking the toilet bowl clean. Alas, Leroy's temperature was surprisingly easy to take with two little girls holding him down, and it effectively convinced Madeline that her fish idea was a mighty good one.

Wouldn't you know it? I suppose I have to put a hold on the Tylenol trick and refrain from folding up Leroy's bed because right as I was on the verge of walking away (or was I gonna run?) Leroy got his mojo back. And though I'm guilty of countin' the money while sitting at the table, there ain't nothin' left to count now that the dealin's done.....except for one: one stinkin' (albeit healthy) cat.


Sick Chick

A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935) -- Also known as the "Sick Chicken Case" because amongst the many charges was "the sale to a butcher of an unfit chicken." In this case the Supreme Court unanimously decided to invalidate some of the regulations in the poultry industry, invalidating part of Rooselvelt's New Deal as well. The court at that time made it known they would not allow the government to centralize everything (and that it's best not to mess with the chickens!)--for more info (and less commentary), see Wikipedia

"Chickens are remarkably resilient and can recover amazingly well from significant illness and trauma. Warmth, easy access to food and water and quiet are the most important things to provide to a sick or injured bird....At first sign of injury or illness, confine him/her in a hospital kennel. A medium sized dog crate is perfect for most chickens." --from CARING FOR A SICK OR INJURED CHICKEN, Mary Britton Clouse, Founder Chicken Run Rescue

"MOM! You have to come up here. There is vomit in our room!" Madeline exclaimed in a way that sounded more like a child who had just found candy from the Easter Bunny than one who was marveling over puke. Really, you'd have thought she had just found a cute little puppy in her bed.

"Yeah, and we don't know who did it," Lily added, sincerely. My wheels started turning. Vomit and no idea who did it? Sounded a little fishy to me. But I was in the middle of something and didn't go running up just yet.

Lily came down to get me and again said, "Mom, there is vomit in our room and Madeline and I didn't do it."

"That's strange," I admitted, heading upstairs to check it out, thinking maybe the cat had been up there to leave a small token of appreciation.

"Maybe Leroy did it. I think I heard him last night while I was sleeping," Madeline suggested, apparently able to read minds now. The things they teach in schools these days!

I got to their room and I am pretty sure that if I were a texter or a tweeter or user of any other anti-full-English (or pro-chatspeak) technology I would have said something like OMG, WTH?! Because unless our cat had suddenly morphed into an overgrown cow with four extra large chambers in his stomach and perfected a vomitus version of the bunny hop leading from the beds and on out the door, it was not the cat.

"Ew, did you guys step in this?" I asked, quickly assessing the situation.

"No!" they both squealed. There were clearly matted footprints in at least two of the piles. I hopped on down the vomit trail, hippity, hoppity, to the edge of Lily's bed. Dried up chunks of grossness covered her sheets, stuffed animals, pillows....I'd have thrown a tweet bomb in the room if that meant someone else would've come to clean it up, which I presume it doesn't.

"Lily, did you throw up last night?" I stupidly asked, a little more overwhelmed now, and wondering why kids can't seem to hold still and throw up in ONE spot when they are sick rather than painting a large portion of the house with it. And seriously, how did I not HEAR this disco party that took place in the middle of the night?

"No, I didn't do it. I think Leroy did it," she answered with all the honesty she could muster. I look at her more closely. Her pants are missing, her night shirt is splattered with dried up puke and she stinks, I mean, really stinks. Like a frat house the morning after....although, that is only a hunch as I have never stepped foot in one, unless you count that time I went inside the "Animal House" frat house at Dartmouth during Kurt's Business School tour....but that hardly counts....

I got down at her level: "Um Lily, you have vomit in your hair. I think you got sick last night and somehow slept through it...." (Actually, from the looks of the crime scene, she must have slept-walked slept-cha-cha-ed through it.) "Go get in the bath tub and I will turn the water on for you."

And this is where the true colors of our family come out. You see, it was Sunday morning and the fact that she had thrown up, even though she didn't remember doing it and seemed to be just fine now, meant that she would have to stay home from church. Thems the rules! "Warmth, easy access to food and water, and quiet" only happens at home with the majority of us gone. So I went down to tell Kurt he would have to skip church to stay home with Lily (he was crushed, really) and, as luck would have it, Aidan overheard.

"That's no fair! How come Lily gets to be sick and stay home from church? I wish I were throwing up. I wish I were sick and got to stay home. Lily always gets to be sick. It's not fair!" And on and on he went about the injustice of it all."It's sometimes fun to throw up. She's so lucky," he said.

If you ever need someone to spin your personal reality into some opposing, mixed-up paradigm, Aidan's your guy. I'm surprised he hasn't been recruited by some political news source yet and he's darn lucky I refrained from forcing him to experience a mom-induced collision with Syrup of Ipecac.

Meanwhile, in Nevereverland, Madeline was whispering sweet nothings to Lily about how much fun she would have staying home with daddy, being somewhat experienced in the matter herself:

"And Lily, you have to ask if you can watch something first and he will let you watch a show. You're going to have such a good time. And then...."


And while Madeline was talking in flowery fairy tale language  (think: All your dreams have come true, Lily! La-ti-da-ti-da), and Aidan was complaining about his poor fate (She doesn't even look sick! Why can't I stay home?), I was barely making a dent in the Vomit Fairy's surprise, leaving me with all sorts of non-maternal thoughts:

"Ok, apparently selling sick chickens is frowned upon, so, kennel up, Lily!" (And watch it Aidan; I'm thinking I could get a pretty penny in the free market for the healthy likes of you!)

Kidding....only kidding....


It's the Thought That Counts (Right???)

While we knew spelling was not his strong suit, we now know Aidan may need a little work on his, um, hospitality skills.

This is the letter Aidan attached to the piece of candy he gave my father as a welcoming gift.  (See below for the legible version!)

"Dear Offah (Grandpa),
Thanks for coming!
I have this thing called tickets in my class and I wasted 20 tickets just to buy this candy. Oh, and the candy is sugar-free so no need for brushing after. Don't bite it either cause your teeth will fall out.
Love, Aidan"

Can't ya just feel the love? I mean, he could have spent 40 tickets to get something that actually tastes good and perhaps doesn't break teeth, but why "waste" any more than he had to? Hopefully it really is the thought that counts. (We just need to fine tune the thought part!)