Wednesday, July 15, 2009

'Everyone is a baby,' she said

This morning over Cheerios, Brielle was estimating God's age.

"He's a hundred," she said.

"Even older than that, sweet Brie," said I.

"Yeah, He's a thousand."

"Even older than that. Infinity."

"Yeah, He's infinity, 'cause that's the number that you can't count to."

Also at issue this morning, on the other end of the spectrum, was how old we are. I must have started it when I said, "Ashlyn, you're my sweet, good Ashie-baby."

"But I'm not a baby for real life," Ashlyn countered.

"No, you are a big girl. But you are still my baby."

Ashlyn's eyes widened. "Actually, everyone is a baby."


"Yeah! Everyone is a baby. Even you are a baby. Because we are all little--kind of little--and only God is big."

A big thought for a little Ashie-baby. One this Daddy-baby needs to remember.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

'Daddy is lying again,' she must have said

Last summer, the girls took their first professional swimming lessons. They LOVED swimming lessons.

This spring, my folks gave them all the birthday gift of another round of lessons, complete with leads printed from the Net on where they could take them. I've been planning on setting it up since school got out in early June.

But first I had to clean out the closet (which was at one time an office) where the printouts had buried themselves since being gifted. That occupied the first four days.

Once found, I set them out to call the next day. They sat out not quite long enough for me to call, but long enough for six small hands to disappear them into the rubble.

The next next day, I extracted my leads from among the piles of sorted stuff I'd removed from my blindingly sparkly clean closet (which has renewed its ancient claim to officedom), and from the piles of spent drawing paper to which my little swimmers had helped themselves.

That done, I found myself on Friday, July 3, when USA celebrated the foreshock of its 233rd birthday, and no one was in business.

No worries. Sunday night, I planned for them to start Monday after work. I built it up, had Mommy send the bathing suits with them to childcare, mentioned it at random times just to get a huge "Yay!!" out of them.

I called from work the next day and got the dirt on the lessons. I had the date wrong.

Darn. They'd have to start the next week. This would not go over well.

When I picked them up, the news was greeted with cries and screams, barely mitigated by my consolation offer to take them to the creek to swim on our own. I explained that I'd messed up on the date and that it was too late to start lessons this week. I was sorry, but we'd do it next week (i.e. "a million years from now").

Another week of planning and hoping--the girls anticipating the highlight of their summer education, me exploiting their anticipation to gain compliance and mood lifts when needed.

Yesterday was the big day. I had the times, I knew this was the session start date, and I'd get them there at 2 o'clock--opening time--so I could sign them up for the best time slot.

It's just that they were having so much fun that morning pretending to be pets inside those Tupperware storage bins. And I was having so much fun figuring out online if I could save money by cutting my home phone line. It was 2 now, past lunch time and they were asking for Rice Krispies in bowls just like pets eat their food.

That would be fast.

But somehow it was not fast, and when we got down the mountain to the pool at 4:29, the swim class coordinator tried to be nice as she explained that we had a snowflake's chance in a hot place of snagging a spot in the 4:30 class, the last of the day.

At 4:40, the girls were still in the bathroom helping each other put on their bathing suits. Normally I'd be itching for them to finish the job and get the hot-place out here to start the lesson. But yesterday, I considered letting them play at changing for half an hour (an easy amount of time to kill with such a task) and then telling them they were so slow they'd missed the lesson.

But I didn't.

Instead, I muffled the self-loathing tantrum that was going on in my head, told them the truth, and apologized. Again.

"We'll start tomorrow, girlies." They didn't even cry this time. And that was worse, because it gave me mental space to imagine what they must have been saying:

Daddy is lying again.

Another plan thwarted. Another promise broken. Another hope dashed. Another doubt planted.

They stood there, sweet and stoic, as I signed the paperwork and forked over the cash for lessons that really, truly would start tomorrow (i.e. "sometime slightly sooner than a million years from now, but at 5 p.m., still way too far away from today"). I knew it was for real this time. But the doubt in the air squeezed my throat tight.

I compensated with the increasingly lame creek idea, throwing in an ice cream cone this time. No protests. No complaints.

But no delight either.

Today, I had an afternoon meeting. My wife took them to swim lessons. She drove 40 minutes from work up the mountain where a friend was watching them, hussled them into the car and down the mountain, out of the car, across the parking lot and into the bathroom to change. They were in the pool for their 3:30 lesson at 3:31.

When I saw them afterward, they were bubbling with stories about what they'd done in class.

"Daddy, I floated on my back--withOUT any help!"

"Daddy, I jumped in by myself!"

"Daddy, I put my head under the water!"

After celebrating with them for a few minutes, Ashlyn added another boast. "And Daddy, we made it on TIME to swimming lessons today!"

"That's awesome, Ashlyn." Finally, someone had gotten these sweet little fish to the pond. Go Mommy.

"Um, Daddy, I have an idea." Ashlyn was bright-eyed. "After today, Mommy should drive us to swimming lessons."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

'What does love mean?" she asked

Melía tells us she loves us a lot. Scores of times each day.

And at least as often, we tell her that we love her.

We quite enjoy it, although it might get kind of nauseating after awhile if you were here listening.

"I-love-you-so-much-you-are-so-cute, pweety pie," she'll say to me, rapid-fire. Kisses--wet, wonderful and splattered all over my face--come with the deal.

"I love you so much, my mini-Melía. You are my wonderful, sweet, beautiful princess daughter."

"I love you so much, Bo-Bo." (Bo-Bo? Don't ask me.)

This kind of dance goes on throughout the day, from the first hello in the morning, to the final good-night in the evening. (And on to the five or six loving good-nights she manages after that, before we stop responding.)

But one day, in the midst of one of these syrupy sweet conversations, she asked,

"Daddy, what does 'love' mean?"

I know now that I answered way too quickly, considering that this may be the most important question in the universe. The fact that I don't even remember my answer shows how profanely hasty I was to field this holy inquiry.

But I must have said something like, "Love is sharing, and being nice and good to people, helping them, even when they are not nice to us." (Accurate, but so blasé. I should have spent days pondering it, like I'm still doing with the "When will God rest again?" question.)

What I do remember is her response: "Oh, that's fun!"

I buy that.

Is love easy? Rarely.

But when we manage to pull it off, is it fun? Absolutely, my mini-Melía.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

'Is God resting today?' she said

Driving down the mountain toward Vacation Bible School one afternoon, Ashlyn asked,

"Is God resting today?"

"Wow. That's a great question, Ashie-love. Um, Jesus says in the Bible that God is always working--listening to us, helping us, taking care of us. God doesn't really get to rest. He works every day."

"But He did rest one day!" Ashlyn cried. She must have thought I'd forgotten.

It should be said that infant Ashlyn was our angel baby, because she actually did the only two things babies really need to do: eat and sleep. She is still rather adept at this pair of simple pleasures.

She relishes her grub with commentary worthy of the top foodie magazines (at least the ones read by preschoolers). The first time she ate kiwifuit, at age two-and-change, she said, "Yum! Kiwi tastes like canteloupe and grapes." (And it does. I'd never thought of it, but I couldn't beat that description now.)

And even though she precedes them with tormented screaming and insanity, Ashlyn is our one child who still does naps. We've long known known that her crescendo of ferocity is just the storm beform the calm. Just this week, she confessed to her appalled sisters, "I do like naps."

Ashlyn plays hard, eats well, sings loud, fights strong. And she rests.

Was she looking for divine company now on this late afernoon, Someone as passionate, alive, brilliant and busy as she, Who also knows when it's time to stop?

"Yes, Ashie, you are right. The Bible also says He rested for a whole day when he was done making everything."

Exonerated, but no more satisfied than I with the paradox in the air, she paused. "Daddy, when is He going to rest again?"

Delighted, I laughed aloud.

"Daddy! When is He going to rest again?" She was urgent now, demanding to be taken seriously. And I was taking her seriously. It was just such a beautiful question that my joy at being related to her and the depth to which she had stumped me only knew how to come out as a giddy giggle.

"I don't know, Ashlyn. I'm just laughing because that is a very good question. It is such a good question that I think I will think about it for many days before I try to answer it. That is one of the best and hardest questions I have ever heard in my whole life. I'm very proud of you for asking it."

When will God rest again?

When we stop screwing up? When life stops giving us owies? When the human experiment is finally over and we're living out its happy ending in Paradise? Or will keeping Paradise Paradise take more God-work than ever with us on board, like a parent trying to keep the house tidy with a herd of small children on the loose?

Lord, you're the God of rest. You know--the One with the easy yoke and light burden. The One who made it a rule for us to chill every seventh day. (Great idea, BTW.)

You're the God of rest. But when will you get any Yourself?

Ashlyn and I want to know.