Thursday, February 25, 2016

You Just Never Know When a Coconut Might Kill You

Gil took this picture, but he wanted me to make sure to tell you that I took all the rest of the pictures in this post.  So don't blame him for my lousy pictures, okay?  

Today's lesson:  Never underestimate the importance of backyard safety.

A quick Google search reveals important safety precautions such as:
  • Clear up small pools of water that can breed mosquitoes.
  • Be careful not to leave out hot charcoal in a grill.
  • Have a fence separating the driveway from the play area.
  • Don't leave children unattended with dogs.
  • Make sure children always wear shoes outdoors.
  • Never ever have a trampoline.

I was surprised though, that not a single internet list considered this one:
  • Beware of falling coconuts.
These backyard-safety-list-makers must not live in the tropics.  Everyone around here knows that you never intentionally stand under a coconut tree.

Our neighbors had a coconut tree that angled itself into our yard, so that the coconuts hung precariously over the area where we hang our clothes out to dry.  My house helper, Esta, told me that she was often nervous to spend any time out there, working on the laundry.  And after watching a few coconuts fall directly into the area where my kids had been pulling down clean clothes, Esta and I decided that was final: The tree needed to come down.  

Don't mock me.  

So what if falling coconuts may or may not kill only 150 people per year?  Sharks kill less people than that, and people are still afraid of them.  If you had a shark hanging out where you put up your laundry, I'm sure you would ignore the statistics and get rid of that too.   

Gil, of course, rolled his eyes.  A falling coconut can deliver a force up to a metric ton, I told him. He asked me how many people I know who have died from falling coconuts.  It doesn't matter.  Personally, I don't want my laundry experience to be so stressful.

So yesterday, the tree came down among a crowd of neighborhood onlookers.  We hired a couple of guys to climb it, hack off all of the coconuts and palm fronds, and then cut the trunk down.  With only a machete.  You want to see skills?  These guys got skills.  

AND I was completely vindicated, you mockers.  As they were cutting down the coconuts, one of them fell onto a metal cover on our water tank, and SMASHED IT.  Yep, it smashed a metal cover.  Into pieces.  Did I mention that it smashed a metal cover?  See?  That could have been my head.

However, now that I look at the list of backyard safety issues, I guess I better turn my attention to the mosquitoes breeding in our septic tank.  Or my barefooted children, unattended dogs, un-fenced play area, zip line, un-netted trampoline, or the large pit of burning trash.  

But hey, at least no one will die by a falling coconut.

For those of you non-tropics dwellers, those hairy brown things in the grocery store do not actually start out like that.  Coconuts have a three inch deep husk.  Like I said:  The force of a metric ton.

Comin' down.

Skills, People.

The tree cutter.  He asked me to take his picture; he was pretty proud of himself.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

When Emotions Become Monster Trucks

It was just a broken crayon.

But it was a new box of crayons she had just received for her birthday, and it had happened while her sister was using it.

Meltdown:  Commence.

So I took her aside to talk her through it, using the steps the counselor had taught her at school.

Take a belly breath.  Bigger.  Again.

Name your feeling.

I am frustrated!

Good.  A step in the right direction.  This is progress from a year ago.

Why are you frustrated?  

She did it on purpose!  These are my new crayons!  This is a very big deal!

Her arms crossed.  Anger poured out from under the creased eyebrows.

Is the crayon more important than your relationship with your sister?  

Long pause.  Small voice.  No.  But only because she knew that was the right answer.

The anger was still there.  Sweetie, she did not do it on purpose.

Yes, she did!

Sweetie, your anger is a Monster Truck that is squashing the Truth.  You have to trust me on this one.  I know it doesn't feel that way, but she didn't.  You've got to turn off the Monster Truck by telling yourself the Truth.  I want you to say it out loud:  She did not do it on purpose.  

Say it again.

Say it again.

Now say this:  It was not a big deal.  I can forgive her.   

Say it again.

You can choose joy, my daughter.  You have that choice.  You can stay miserable in your self-pity, or you can let it go, and choose joy.  

We watched YouTube videos of Monster Trucks so that she can put that picture in her mind.  Mom's going to help you turn off the Trucks, okay?  You've got to trust me.  

And slowly, slowly, we make progress.


It was just a sleepless night that turned into a bad day.

I got nothing on my list crossed off.  Dinner burned.  The children managed to step on my last nerve.  I snapped at the children, then felt guilty about it.

And before I know it, my own Monster Trucks crush through my maturity, my common sense, and anything else that happens to have a semblance of Truth to it.  

I am a terrible mother.  
I am such a control freak.
My children are definitely going to need therapy because of me.  
I can't do anything right.  
Why am I here?  
Everyone is better at everything than me.  
I am an utter failure. 

What I wanted to do was scream, throw the dinner on the floor, lock myself in the bathroom with my computer, and buy a plane ticket to a deserted island.  

Sometimes, I'm more like my daughter than I care to admit.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Talk to myself:  Turn off the Truck, look around you, do the thing that is right in front of you.  Then do the next thing.  And the next.  If my emotions are screaming one thing, it doesn't mean they are true.  I can't necessarily, in this moment, talk myself out of them, but I can do the next thing--in spite of them.

Most importantly, Tell Myself the Truth.
This life is not about me.  
It's not about how I feel about myself or how successful I am.
It's not about what I accomplish.  
My job is to obey God and do what is in front of me.  

Turn off the Monster Truck.  Don't let it smash the Truth.
You can choose joy, my daughter.  You have that choice.  You can stay miserable in your self-pity, or you can let it go, and choose joy.  


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Six Months

I've been eagerly anticipating Six Months.

Six Months means that the foster period is over; we can apply to go to court and adopt.  We signed the papers on Friday, and now we wait for our first court hearing that will make him officially a Medina.

But now that it's here, I'm kind of sad.  Six months is half of a year.  Half of a year with this little guy, and it's already gone.  I find myself clinging to his littleness.  Relishing the feel of his small hand in mine, laughing at the jumps and twirls that accompany four-year-old exuberance, squishing him into the toddler seat at the front of the shopping cart.  I already missed out on so much of his littleness, and now the rest is going by too fast.

It's hard to believe that it's been half a year, but the evidence is everywhere.  He's grown two inches since he came home, and he's losing his baby belly.  He's already gone up into the next clothes size.  He knows our routines; he knows his neighborhood and the names of dozens of people and what it means when I tell him we are going to the store or the post office.  He can dress himself (usually backwards) and write his own name and put together three 50-piece puzzles that are all mixed together in the same box.

And though he's got pretty much everyone wrapped around his little finger, he has learned what it means to be a son and a brother.  That means he's gotten really good at whining and is not too shabby at holding his own in a fight.  His food tastes have become more particular than those first few weeks when he would eat anything.  He doesn't need my cuddles as much any more, and I grab him for three-second hugs....I take what I can get.

But the old life is still there in his consciousness.  I tell him, I love you, Johnny.  I'm so glad you are my Johnny.   And often he looks thoughtful and pauses for a moment, and responds with, I need to go to the Baby Home.  I need to see my friends.  Because he knows that it was our love that took him from that life.

So I ask him, But what about Daddy?  And Grace and Josiah and Lily?  And he says, They can come to the Baby Home too.  

And I tell him (again) that his friends aren't at the Baby Home anymore, that they have all grown up and gone to new places, just like he has.  That we want him to be with us and that he is ours now.  That he makes us happy and that we are a family.  He sleeps deeply at night and he laughs a lot, but it is actually the whining that shows me he knows I am his mom.

I revel in my four.  For so long we had thought there would only be three, yet the four of them fit together so perfectly.  Lily was more than willing to give up her position as the youngest, which she never liked to begin with.  And I love the unexpected blessing of watching the older three appreciate their brother's littleness.  Last night at dinner, I told them, When I was buying onions today, Johnny asked, 'Why you buying minions, Mom?'   He makes them laugh like no one else.  It used to be only Gil and I that would laugh at our kids' antics, and now the big kids get in on it too.  Josiah regularly tells me, Mommy, I love having a brother!  There was no transition, as far as they were concerned; Johnny fit right into the hole that was always there in our family.

This morning I made my last trip to a social welfare office, at least, I think it was my last.  I needed to get one last report done.  It was long (as always); it took an hour each way and involved two hours of waiting once we got there.  Johnny had to come with me and he was a trooper; he played with his Matchbox car.  Another little boy sitting next to us found a piece of metal and pretended that was his car; the two boys zoomed around the cramped waiting space.  I stared at the cobwebs hanging long from the high ceiling and reflected on the dozens--hundreds?--of trips I had made to this office during the last ten years.  In many months, I made that trip twice a week.  I'm getting old now; I don't think I could do that again.

Gil asked me today if I would have rather gone through the physical pain of labor rather than the daily-waiting-driving-work-sweat-hours-and-hours-of-time-over-months kind of pain.  I told him that I think that real labor pains would have been easier, since it's awful but then it's done in 24 hours.  It's hard to compare when I haven't experienced it.  But I do know that I wouldn't trade my journey for anything.  When a child is the result, the pain is always worth it.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lily is Seven

Friday was Character Day at HOPAC, and Lily wanted to go as Disgust.  Her Daddy dressed her up, her principal snapped this picture, and I found myself a bit afraid of when she becomes a teenager.  She does that face a little too well.

Now she is seven.  And though she just saw her big sister have a giant, blow-out, crazy loud birthday party with all of the girls in her class, just a few weeks ago, Lily said she just wanted to celebrate at Water World.  Inwardly breathing a sigh of relief, I told her that would mean she would only get to invite three friends.  That was okay with my Lily.  My little introvert sometimes has a hard time managing even three friends at a time.

This was Lily when she became mine at age two.  I still mourn what I missed with her; sometimes I feel like we are still making up for lost time.  But she has come so far and grown so much.  She was only five pounds at birth, but she's already taller than her older brother, and it's just a matter of time before she passes up her older sister as well.  She loves school and she writes notes on everything; she loves babies and she loves helping.  Her gap-toothed, first grade smile can light up a room.

Happy Birthday, Lily Bug.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

How To Get Everything You Want in Eight Easy Steps: A Guide for Children by Johnny Medina

Step 1:  Ensure you are the youngest of four children.  The youngest of 5 or more children would also be quite effective.  This is essential to getting everything you want.  If you aren't the youngest of four, and you can't finagle your parents into adopting you some older brothers and sisters, well then, tough luck.  This plan just won't work for you.

Step 2:  Lisp.

Step 3:  When you go into a store, don't ask for anything.  Instead, just act super excited about everything you like.  When your mom tells you to walk away, obey her, but look longingly over your shoulder at the item of your desire.

Step 4:  When you are sharing a bed with your big brother (since guests are in your own bed), crawl over to him, give him a big hug and kiss, and tell him how much you love him.

Step 5:  Be incredibly polite.  Say 'please' and 'thank you' and clean up your toys as soon as you are asked.  Tell your mom that you love her great food.

Step 6:  Attitude is everything.  When you see your mom first thing in the morning, treat her like a movie star.  Practice smiling a lot.  Here's a good example:

Step 7:  When you do occasionally get in trouble, like for hitting (for example), and you lose your dessert (for example), don't whine, complain, or throw a fit.  Instead, just put your head in your hands and cry big, sad, crocodile tears (as if your puppy died).  Your mom's steadfast resolve that was unbreakable for her first three kids?  She'll just about crack when she sees this.

Step 8:  Even better, do this in front of your grandmother.  She'll be milktoast.

And before you know it, you'll have everything you want!  No one will possibly be able to resist your request for anything short of a million dollars.  Or a pony.

The End.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Something Pretty Cool You Probably Didn't Know About

This is the Logos Hope.

photo courtesy of the Logos Hope

The Logos Hope is a ship that travels all over the world.  It is home to 400 individuals from all over the world--over 60 countries.  The Logos Hope makes stops in port cities, and offers aid, relief work, and ministry assistance in Jesus' name.  But the best part--as far as I'm concerned--is the large bookstore on board.  The store carries thousands of titles in dozens of genres.  Now that we have Kindles, we are not as starved for books as we used to be, but this bookstore offers more and better books at far cheaper prices than any other store in Dar es Salaam.

During our first term in Tanzania--about 14 years ago--we had our first introduction to this ship's predecessor.  So we were really excited to discover that it was coming again.

We went to the port to visit the ship on Sunday afternoon, trying to avoid weekday traffic, but as a result, about half of Dar es Salaam had the same idea.  The bookstore and cafe were crammed with shoulder-to-shoulder people, which would bring out the claustrophobia in anyone.  But it was also really cool to see so many people from so many backgrounds and religions enjoying the bookstore.

If you are at a point in life where you can take off a year or two, consider the awesome opportunity of joining the Logos Hope.  If you are the parent of an older teen, there are also two-month programs available.  Sail to dozens of countries and do ministry?  Live on a ship with 400 Christians from around the world?  Sounds pretty amazing to me.