Habit, made daily

No matter how they were passed, I know how almost every day will end: we will pray, and then we will pass around hugs and kisses. Usually showers precede this, almost always stories, and often a meltdown of some sort. But regardless of whether they have wet hair or dry, tear streaked faces or not, the kids always include the same basic prayer:

“Dear God, thank you for this day. Please help me to have a good night sleep, and have no dreams or good dreams, and no thinks or good thinks. Amen.”

Sometimes there’s more, and we as parents add on quite a bit more. But this is the base prayer, so predictable I can mouth along with it. It began when K was having nightmares and we talked about the importance of prayer in controlling our minds. It certainly was comforting for them to think of the protection they were calling upon. But after so many nights being prayed, constant comfort became routine. It’s like our close:


The line pours from my mouth just as their line pours from theirs. Then we will hug: seven hugs, counted out, followed by seven kisses, and then “one hug until you’re done.” M started this before K could even give hugs, and it’s stuck for a good four+ years. The counting gave him comfort, just like with the prayers, and routine was born once again.

The problem with routine is that it becomes rote. Mechanical. And if it becomes too mechanical, it can also become void of meaning. I think there’s a fine line between enjoying the comfort of that routine and using it as a substitution for real thought. While I know that God will search a willing mind and understand our true thoughts (1 Chronicles 28:9),  I also know the commandments of the new covenant: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27). And when words pour from my mouth, I’m pretty sure I’m not loving with all my mind.

I love routine. I’m a total creature of habit. Kids are even more so, taking comfort in even the smallest of routines. But it occurred to me, mouthing along, hugging by habit, that I was no longer using my whole mind. How easily Satan can use even the act of prayers to separate us from the active nature of God’s amazing love, and the love that we can share with one another.

Our prayers may look the same tonight. Hugs too. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with routine. But I do think it’s healthy to be aware of routine, to ask yourself if you are loving with all your mind. To focus on each word and action, to ask yourself again why you’re doing it–even if you can’t remember how it started, you can remember why it started, and why it continues. To say these words slowly and deliberately, imparting them both with the fullness of your mind and with a renewed fullness of meaning.

Good thinks, in other words. Even grown ups can use those.


Dream Weaver

It’s not unusual for K to have very vivid dreams. For example, she announced very matter-of-fact the other morning during breakfast, “I do not like Big Bear’s icky icky snakes.” Big Bear is our mom-sized stuffed bear, and to my knowledge, he does not have any snakes. “What do you mean?” I asked her. “His snakes,” she continued, “he hides them in the house and then throws them at me.” And then I thought, with intense relief, to ask, “Was this a dream?” “Of course,” she replied sweetly. Of course. Because that makes so much sense–at least the part about her having such an odd and vivid dream.

But it is unusual for her to be alarmed by these dreams, as she was the other night when she woke up screaming. We settled her back to sleep without incident, but I asked in the morning what had been so bad about the dream. “M and I were on the beach, and a shark came up out of the water and ate M up.” That would be alarming, but she wasn’t finished. “The worst part,” she continued, “was that God and Jesus were playing checkers on the beach, and they didn’t do anything!” Indeed. As much as I feel for her mental anguish, I am very intrigued. I can picture just about everything else she’s dreamed up, but I would love to know what that looked like to a four year old–God and Jesus, just hanging out on the beach. And it’s also not lost on me that even sleeping she knew that if God and Jesus weren’t helping out, there was something really wrong with the world.

Sweet Dreams

As I tucked M into bed tonight, he took hold of my arm and clutched it to his chest. “I’m not letting you go!” he insisted. He will never know how many times I’ve thought the very same thing. I tried to reason with him, that we would wake each other up and we need our space and there are precedents to be kept. But in the end, I slept in his bed. It was not the most restful night, but it was a lovely way to wake up, with my boy by my side. We spent a while just talking about traveling and possible summer vacations and how fun it was to spend time together. There’s something so very comforting about being wanted, and such an honor too–one that I know I won’t be privileged with forever. I’m glad–even with an unrestful night–to enjoy it while it lasts.

Ear plugged

I have become addicted to my earplugs. This is not entirely a bad thing, since they are a great cue for me to sleep and I sleep deeply when I do. But sometimes I wake up in the night and find I’ve taken them out. In my sleep. Without any recollection whatsoever. Which is fine if I find them on my bedside table. But when I don’t–when they are absolutely unfindable–I not only do not have my cue to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep even if I did because I’m so concerned about where those earplugs could be. If I can take them out in my sleep, could I have eaten them? Is that why I can’t find them?

These are the concerns of a person who is not getting enough sleep, obviously. I’m asked often, when I mention how early I regularly wake up, whether I’m a morning person. Though I am, I must argue that 4am is still middle of the night, and I am definitely not that person. Just, you know, an earplug addict who occasionally worries about eating them.

Meet the Characters

My mom and I took the kids to Disneyland on Thursday. It was a kind of final celebration for us, since my mom will be gone for the next few months and will miss the trip we planned on taking together at the end of the summer. Being in the summer, with no outside obligations attached, I told the kids that we could stay for fireworks–and anything else. “The park’s open until midnight, so we have all the time in the world,” I said. The kids’ eyes lit up. “Can we stay all the way until midnight?” they begged. “Sure!” I told them. I too was eager to shed the weight of responsibility. “We’ll stay all the way until midnight if you want, and we’ll keep you hopped up on all the sugar we can find to make it happen! We’ll take a lollipop and wrap it in cotton candy and dip it in chocolate! We’ll wash it down with soda! We’ll have the time of our lives!” Mom had officially left the building.

We had the time of our lives, from 8am to 9pm. The kids were still going strong, and so was I. I wielded their lollipops (thought just lollipops) for the third time that day. They were barely a quarter of the way through them. Standing in line for the Storyboat Canal ride, they took a few licks, then handed them back. “We’re done,” they said, and though still swinging from the rails, they were closer to it than I knew.

As luck would have it, we happened to be on the ride when fireworks began, and when that happens, the ride waits until the show finishes before continuing on. Our boat stopped just outside the tiny Toad Hall–the boat driver’s favorite place in the park to watch the show–and we bobbed on the water with the spectacular going off right overhead. But it was very close, and therefore very loud. K cringed immediately, and I wrapped my hands around her ears and held her head as we stared at the sparkling night sky. Halfway through I realized that she’d fallen asleep in that position, propped straight up by my grasp.

Suddenly, that weight I’d been to eager to shed was back again, instantly and surprisingly welcome. I shifted her into a cradle and carried her through the park, M slowly plodding along with my mom. We wound our way through the crowds, into the line for the shuttle, onto the bus. M dozed off within minutes and I found myself holding him up with my free arm, lest he tumble into the aisle, gently kissing both my children, who were so sure that they were midnight bound. Hadn’t I been so sure I wanted that too? Yet there I was, cradling them, gently dressing them in the pajamas I’d left in the car, cleaning their feet and faces as I’d planned.

Once we were in home, the kids tucked in bed, I gratefully took advantage of my mom’s generosity. I showered, my feet aching and swollen, and crawled into bed with the familiar ear ringing / stimulus shock that a day at an amusement park leaves behind. Earplugs in, I pulled the covers up to my neck and once again was that teenager, her mom in the other room, manning the fort.

Mom had never left the building. She was always in there, as was the kid in me. And the kids, well, they could stretch themselves, but that didn’t mean they could ignore their four and six year old realities, not entirely. But it is nice to be flexible sometimes, to realize that things are not always so cut and dry, and to see how peacefully different roles can all exist together. I don’t need to be reminded every day, but it is nice once in a while, just when I think of myself as “full-mom” instead of an actual person.

Funnily enough, the lollipops are still on the kitchen counter, forgotten shortly after our return home. Looks like a little goes a long way for everyone.

Feeling fruity?

love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control

Also known as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Or what’s getting muttered under my breath every thirty seconds as I attempt to navigate another day of children up by 5am**.

**I try to tell myself that’s 6am. They’re practically sleeping in! Is there a statute of limitations on this kind of logic, or can I just keep on insisting that it’s really an hour later than it seems all the way until spring?

Happy is as happy sleeps

Dear K,

You know that happy feeling when you wake up? How that happy feeling continues all through the day? How happy mommy seems now that you’re happy too? It’s called sleep. When you sleep until seven thirty or eight, you feel good. And that feeling lasts all day. And it makes everyone else feel good. So for pity’s sake, can you please not get up at five fifteen anymore? Especially since, come Sunday**, that’ll be an hour earlier.

Much love,

**That sound? It’s the sound of me cringing. Already. No matter what way daylight savings time is moving, it’s bad news.