Sunday, March 30, 2014

Speak To Me

"People see God every day, they just don't recognize him." ~P. Bailey
Albrecht Dürer - Praying Hands. One of my mother's favorite art works.
I had a funny conversation about religion today at a baby shower. And when it comes down to it, I guess my true answer is that I'm a very spiritual person, but probably not an overly religious one. Some of my friends are atheists, my own husband is most likely considered agnostic, and my kids aren't all that interested in church even though I try to drag them there on a regular basis. But be as that may, I cannot dismiss the power faith has in my life - including my daily life.

I have to admit the loss of my mother caused a pretty seismic shift in my childhood. My mother was the driving force of my own religious upbringing. She came from a very devout Catholic family, sent me to parochial school for my elementary education, and taught at one for about 9 years before she passed away. I'll never forget how excited she was to go see the Pope right before she died. Sure she was seeing him from the nosebleed seats in a sports stadium, but she was as giddy as a teenager getting backstage passes to One Direction. However, the event of her death, and the circumstances surrounding the people she worked and taught with, really soured my whole outlook on faith, religion, Catholicism, and for a little while, God himself. Sad to say, I was a typical angry teenager with the mentality of a toddler. I wanted to know "why?" Why, why, why, why, why? Why my mom? Why did this happen to me? Why not take me instead? Between the "why's" and the "what-ifs" my spirit was sucked down an abyss faster than Alice went down the rabbit hole.

It took me a long, long, time to accept what happened. Even longer to accept that it didn't happen to punish me or because I was bad, or unfaithful. And it was an even more lengthy road back to my spirituality. Sure there were the reminders, and the nudges to go back to my faith. I started attending a Youth Group with my girlfriend because I slept over her house on weekends, and that's where she ended up on Sunday mornings. Coincidentally, (or not), it was the same place my husband ended up on Sundays as well. I became a member of the E & C Club, and would only go to church on Easter or Christmas with another family when I went to their house on holidays. And then there were the little happenstances that kept occurring around me that couldn't be discounted or explained away. Things like certain songs coming on the radio when I was having a hard time missing my mother. Seeing people or having someone call me out of the blue when I was feeling frighteningly alone and desperate. Certain photos or papers of my mother's that would mysteriously fall out of books or drawers when I would least expect it. These little signs were like a tide ebbing away at the dried up remains of my faith. The more I got them, the more I could feel that empty little spot inside where my spirituality used to reside. The more I knew that spot was empty, the more I wanted to feel like it was filled up again.

I am now a great believer in "God winks" (to borrow the term from a book I once read). Mostly, I believe I receive them from my mother. But there have been other occurrences that have happened that don't carry her mark on them. These little signs and messages are treasured and cherished by me every time they occur. They're delivered to me through the radio, strangers, books, and my own kids. They remind me that I can still connect a part of myself with the one remaining essence of people who have passed away. That even though I might not be able to see my loved ones, they can still speak to me and be involved in my life. Because as much as I'd like to say I've matured, and learned to keep my faith overflowing, there are still events that cause those little tremors to return. Things that seem senseless, and cruel, and unfair, and revert me back to that demanding toddler mentality of "why? why? why?" But again, I am sent a sign, a message, an answer. 

On today of all days, I struggled with the 8 year "angel-versary" of the death of a friend's son. I have never been able to reason or wrap my head around this loss. Such wonderful parents having such a small window of time with their little boy. And they are such loving, positive, people despite that. The effect they have on others and for others in the name of their child is a beautiful thing to behold. Their courage and strength are amazing to watch, and because of that, it is so easy to slip back into that questioning mentality. Why? Why them? And in the Gospel reading at church today was a section that jumped out at me. My answer, if you will.

John 9:2-3
And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "it was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."

For me, his works have never been displayed better. Faith, humility, dedication, love, and kindness. Thank you for the note.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Testing, Testing, 1 2 3

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. ~R. W. Sockman

Scootch not impressed during his allergy testing
Growing up hurts. I think its an evil system that most parents are hardwired to do anything to relieve their kids' suffering, but true growth involves your children surviving pain.

We've been so lucky this year so far with the food allergy issues (knock on wood). I am was petrified every day Scootch headed off to school to the big scary world of Kindergarten. Fortunately, I think we were blessed with a very empathetic teacher for him this year. She wasn't scared to grow and learn along with us. There have been plenty of near misses involved with the school snacks and food projects, but she has never hesitated to act, or pick up the phone to call me whenever she has a question. I am happy to say the Epi Pen has not made its debut as of yet.

But the necessary evil of growing older for Scootch is the allergy testing. And re-testing. And testing some more. His allergist and I discussed his falling IgE scores on his last blood test and decided that his egg allergies seemed to be down low enough to warrant a scratch test on his skin to see if there still was a reaction. Just hearing that made my head spin off in the direction of baking with real ingredients again. Instead of visions of sugarplums, it was more like visions of leavened cakes, fluffy pancakes, and cookies that didn't resemble chocolate chip crepes. But before I could get ahead of myself (again), we needed to actually accomplish the test.

We trudged in today in full force. Daddy even took off early from work, because I wasn't sure if easygoing Scootch would morph into the full fledged kicking demon he sometimes impersonates in the doctor's office, and if so I needed all the extra arms I could get. But it turned out only mildly difficult. After hanging out in the waiting room making friends with an 11 month old, we were called back to start the skin test. Scootch only needed a little bit of encouragement and restraint as the nurse marked the numbers on his skin and applied the allergens with the scratch applicator. (I think he really thought the pen was a needle, he was screaming so loud). Then we got to watch a Thomas the Tank video for 20 minutes while we waited for the results.
In number order, they show the 1. histamine control to represent what an allergic reaction would look like, 4. egg white protein, 5. egg yolk protein, and 8. saline control. The egg yolk shows almost no difference to the saline, so as far as the allergist is concerned, he's not considered allergic to egg yolk anymore! The egg whites show a very mild reaction, so the consensus is that for now, he is allowed to have egg products if they're baked for an extended period of time. His allergist feels that the small amounts of proteins present in foods that are baked would be low enough to boost his tolerance without triggering a reaction. But still no omelettes or hard boiled eggs for Scootch just yet.

However, I'm extremely hopeful that I can enjoy some homemade pound cake for dessert in my near future!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Long Winter

Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth. ~H. M.
Daddy and the kiddos in front of the snow shelter they made
Is it safe to come out yet?
How does the shortest month of the year somehow feel like the longest? Can’t believe how much was due and done in the little month of February, but C’est la vie of a busy mom, I guess. I survived my first cookie sale as a Girl Scout leader! Monkey reached all her selling goals despite the weather giving us more snow days than we knew what to do with. I am always amazingly grateful for the generosity of our family and friends during fundraiser season. And this year she also won a Golden Award at school for the month of February for demonstrating Fairness all month. Couldn’t be more proud of her and the little lady she is blossoming into!
Scootch is flourishing in Kindergarten despite some physical issues. He’s already mastering addition, subtraction, and lots and lots of reading! He loves to come home with stories and pictures from his Writers Workshop sessions in school, which usually depict monsters and roller coasters. There is no end to his imagination and his bright mind. You can tell he is always thinking. His teacher is suggesting we get him some assessments done, though. Many of his motor skills and developmental behaviors don’t seem on par with his age group, so she just wants to make sure we aren’t overlooking something that might impact him as he gets older if they aren’t corrected now.
Little Bear is becoming quite the little man these days. He is definitely not shy in telling you what is on his mind. And what’s usually on his mind is his next meal. ;-) He is getting so proficient and independent in everyday things, and is my capable little helper. Whether we’re using the screwdriver to change the batteries in his toys or making a three course meal, he is usually right there by my side telling me “I help you, Mommy.” And help he does. He could probably make the Friday night pizza dough himself if he could reach all the ingredients. As much as I miss having a baby around, this bright little boy is nothing short of amazing everyday. Come September I’m sure we’ll have to start him in a preschool program of some sort. He’s already so good with his letters and numbers and shapes, I think a learning environment a few days a well would do him lots of good.

But right now, we’re just thinking warm thoughts and wishing for Spring!