It's that time of year....Lent. If you would have asked me in the fall about the next Lenten season, I would have given you all sorts of wonderful challenges I wanted my family to accept. I started writing about conquering fear. I had epiphany moments where I ran straight into the face of some of my own fears and knocked them out of the park. At least temporarily. I focused on supporting kids through their fears: Lily, afraid to "try out" for a solo at school. Madeline, afraid to keep pushing through her anxiety with a new soccer team. Aidan, well, he's another story, one wrought with apathy more than worry (maybe a topic for next year).

Then LIFE happened. Fat Tuesday arrived and quite honestly, I did not even realize it was upon us until it was almost too late. Maybe we would just take a pass. Let the challenges and the sacrifices move around us, through us, by us, into the Easter season. God is good after all. And that goodness is with us regardless of our deeds.

But the girls insisted: they wanted to give up something. Sugar? Desserts? For Madeline it became obsessive and I started coaching her on the notion that maybe giving something up was not a good idea for her mental health right now: try adding something like "Being nice to your sister" or "Making your bed."

"What are you going to do, Mom?" the girls wanted to know.

"I am not focusing on that which I take into my body. I am going to work on giving up the frivolous spending. There are too many odds and ends we do not need. I need to put a stop to the buying of those things. And that it mostly on me."

"What are Solly and Liam going to do for Lent?"

"They need to cut back on screens: You know, read more, watch/play less."

And then Solly proved that maybe there were other things he needed to give up.

You see, over the last year he has really begun to take his camouflage seriously. He hides in bushes. He squats down, quietly waiting, barely breathing, until he thinks you can't find him and then he ambushes you. It's cute.....it's hilarious really.....unless you are the neighbor who is supposed to be watching him and all of a sudden he is gone. MIA.

I was sitting in the dentist chair, my mouth full of who knows what, the hygienist asking questions I could not physically answer even if I wanted to, when the phone rang. Madeline was sitting there and I had her call the mom back. She quickly handed me the phone and I listened as this neighbor frantically explained that she could not find Solly anywhere. She had gone upstairs briefly to get her stuff and when she came back down, the door was ajar, he and all of his belongings gone. She searched her yard, yelling. She drove up the street, checked all my doors, which were locked. And by the way, "I really have to leave like right now!" (to get her son to an appointment.)

"It's ok, just go. He is in the neighborhood somewhere, I am positive. I will just call the other neighbor and see if she can find him."

"I can't leave your kid!" she exclaimed.

"It's fine, really. I will come home if I need to." (Obviously he is the fifth child, not the first!)

At that point, I call my bestie neighbor and ask if she is home.

"Why yes! I was just getting ready to drive your son up to your house 'to get something'; I found him sneaking through my yard," she said.

"Of course you did. He was hiding from his friend's mom," I explained.

"Well, he is fully decked out in his camouflage today," she laughed.

Yes, yes he is. As with every other day.

I am fortunate to have good friends. Solly is fortunate he is so darn cute.

"By the way," she said, "I asked Solly why he wanted to be at home when there was no one there. He said he likes it when everyone else is gone, because it is nice and quiet."

I guess the kid has to get his Sollytude somehow.....

The next day, after apologizing profusely to the other mom (this is the SECOND time he has wandered off on her watch....I might have to reexamine his going over there come to think of it), I picked up her son and drove the boys to school.

On the way there, his friend dramatically exclaims: "You were REALLY BAD yesterday! You should not have left! My mom looked everywhere for you! She was yelling for you and even went all the way to your house looking for you!"

Solomon snickered.

"I did NOT leave!" he insisted. "I was hiding in your bushes the WHOLE time and she couldn't see me because of my cammo! I saw her leave and kept hiding until after she got back! My camouflage kept me hidden! BUT I WAS RIGHT THERE THE WHOLE TIME!"

And not to compare my kid to God or anything, (but, you know, if the Fatigues fit.....), well, sometimes in our chaos and the frantic mess of life, we think we have been abandoned. We might even search wildly, thinking that our yelling and shouting out and worrying will bring Him closer......but like my little Camouflaged angel, He is there, hushed: watching, waiting, maybe even ready to ambush us when we least expect it.

Sometimes we just aren't looking in the right places.

Sometimes we just aren't really looking at all.

Sometimes we just require a little Sollytude....and the picture clears and we see what has been right in front of us all along.

Maybe Lent is not really about sacrifice at all. Maybe it isn't about that outward showing of "giving up" or "taking on"....maybe it is actually about simple openness: slowing down just enough to see that which is already there. Listen closely my friends. He comes in a gentle whisper. And maybe wearing cammo.....

Happy Lent Ya'll.

He was told to get ready for bed.....this was his answer.

I'm not kidding about the hiding in the bushes....
They don't call it "amBUSH" for nothing!

Solly takes on Colonial Williamsburg

Even Soldiers have off days.....(He thought he was getting a shot.....he wasn't.....I just let him think as much!)


On Prayers with Children

"Jesus, tender Shepard, hear me,
bless this little child tonight.
Through the darkness be down near me
Keep me safe 'til morning's light...."

Dear Younger (read: inexperienced) Self:

When you start to tack on blessings at the end of your children's night time prayers, keep it simple. Please just trust me here. Your time becomes far more valuable (and your patience quite a bit shorter) and well, you see, if you start adding pet names it might go something like this:

God bless Daddy, Mommy, Aidan, Madeline, Lily, Liam, Solomon, Leroy, Stripsies, Storm, Oreo, Sparkles, insert the names of 6, nope 12, chickens, wait, make that 24......no wait.....

And then, oops, Sparkles, the fighting fish, went all kamikaze and jumped ship.....out of the tank (we are guessing) and well, I'm pretty sure the cat ate him....because there were no remains.....not anywhere. And then Oreo, well, that abscess was no joke and while his jaw got bigger and bigger, to the point of caricature, his body withered away until your kid found him stiff as a board (and the only thing you could think to say, but fortunately knew not to, was "Well, I guess the vet was right after all!" but then there was that constant reminder every single night that his name was missing). And then, a chicken will die, and then another, and you will subtract their names and with those down, you pick up a couple more rabbits and Messi and Morgan quickly become a family of six, but instead of keeping them all you only keep two, so while you added Messi and Morgan and Ham and Baggio and Ranger and whatever the heck the orange one was named, you will have to cut a few from the roster when they get sold off. And then Leroy will break the Dish and run away with the Spoon and while we are going to pretend he did not get eaten by some bigger animal and is now just shacked up at a better home, after months go by, we scratch him off the list as well, and then those 6 cute peeps are now 58! And who names ALL 58 CHICKENS?! I know you think you will but I assure you, you get over that when you realize you can't tell those six white silkies apart at all! NOT EVEN A GUESS! And get this, you hatched them! All. By. Yourself! (Well, you know, with the help of those hens.) But you can't even tell which is which! Oh, and while we are at it.....you know those three black roos you thought you couldn't live without? Larry, Moe and Curly? Well, don't add them to the prayer either because they do MUCH better at someone else's farm! I know, I know, so hard to imagine now. But one day you will speedily gather up six thoroughly unnamed chickens, throw them in some make-shift cage and just haul them away to someone else's house, without a second thought at all......BECAUSE YOU HAVE WAY TOO MANY GOSH DARN ANIMALS!

So please, when you start tacking on all those names, just stop. Ask yourself: is this REALLY the road you want to travel?

(No! The answer is NO! Put away that quizzical look and shake your head back and forth because it is unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, N-O!)

"God bless Daddy, Mommy, Aidan, Madeline, Lily, Liam, Solomon, all of our Pets and all of our friends and loved ones (See? It even works with people!)......help me be a good child, praise in Jesus's name. A-frickin-MEN!"