Sunday, March 29, 2009

Flying the Coop

We are leaving for Thailand in the morning for a few days of vacation and ten days of meetings. I am hoping (and praying) that time in the sunshine and swimming pool will help Nathan sleep. Otherwise two weeks in a hotel room could be less like heaven and more like...well, let's just say we'll all be miserable.

Before I sign off for two weeks, I want to tell you about Caleb's Sunday school class this morning. It was classic. I was listening in because there is no nursery for babies or toddlers, and Nathan has outgrown sitting quietly on our laps. The teacher was telling the Easter story and framed it as two things that happened--one very sad thing and one very good thing. Immediately one of the boys raised his hand, holding it at the elbow and hopping up and down. "Ooooh ooh ooh...I know the good thing!" he insisted. The teacher paused, and he snatched his opportunity. "We get chocolate!" he grinned. The teacher quickly moved on but not before he won a few snickers from the two or three of us restraining our toddlers in the corner.

The teacher went on to tell the kids about the cross and the terrible death of Christ. She talked about Jesus being shut in a tomb guarded by soldiers. One little boy was listening wide-eyed. The teacher reached for the next picture, but he could no longer contain himself. Horror stricken, he shouted, "NO! God can not die!" His eyes grew large and his voice quivered with the force of his certainty and his fear.

It struck me later that I forget to be horrified at the idea of a world without God. My emotions have been stunted by time and busyness and familiarity. I am no longer shocked and shaken by the death of Christ. I am not so relieved by his ressurection that I breathe more slowly and settle back into my seat. It's an old story and one I know well, too well. As I approach Easter, I want to take time to listen to the story again but with fresh ears--the ears of a child.

I wish you all a very meaningful Easter celebration. I will write again after we return to Vietnam.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Terrors and Temporary Insanity

Every night at 7pm (give or take maybe 30 seconds), Nathan goes to sleep for the night. The routine is simple. We pick him up and give him his blanket. He holds it to his face, plugs his thumb in his mouth, and waits for us to put him in his crib. Within minutes of hitting the mattress he is typically sound asleep. Staying asleep, on the other hand, has never been the boy's forte. On a good night he wakes up at ten and two wanting milk. Then he starts the day when the sun rises at five or six. This is a good night. (I don't actually remember the last time this happened.) Usually he is up every two or three hours, and occasionally he wants to start his day as early as four. I heard recently about something called "sleep debt." If such a thing exists, I am clearly in the red!

I didn't think matters could get much worse until a week or so ago. Every now and then over the course of the past six months Nathan has woken up completely frantic and inconsolable. It didn't happen very often and there didn't seem to be any reason for it, so I decided not to worry. Then it started happening several times a week, then every night, and now multiple times a night. I finally took him to the doctor yesterday. Nathan, of course, decided it was a good opportunity to entertain the entire waiting room by handing out books from the book rack and giggling hysterically. One mother with an obviously sick baby asked, "What is the matter with him?" I wasn't entirely certain what the question implied, but I answered, "Apparently nothing at the moment."

In the examining room, Nathan explored the alphabet floor mat for all of ten seconds before he discovered a little stool. He scooted it closer to the examining table and made every effort to climb up. When I decided this wasn't the best plan, he complied by crouching down under the head of the table and pulling a lever of some sort. At one point, Nathan very sweetly gave the doctor a book he had purloined from somewhere. The doctor, looking bemused, asked, "So, what is the matter with him?"

"This may sound silly," I replied, "but he won't sleep."

The doctor just smiled and I wished for a moment that the floor would open up to swallow me and my troublesome child (or maybe just the child). After a thorough discussion and a not-very-thorough examination. Nathan was diagnosed with "insomnia." Ironically the cause for his insomnia is "sleep terrors." I googled it after I got home, and found the following grocery list of symptoms (click here for the original article if you are remotely interested):
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Sweating, shaking, and fast breathing
  • A terrified, confused, and glassy-eyed appearance
  • Thrashing around, screaming, kicking, or staring
  • Child may not realize anyone is with him
  • Child may not appear to recognize you
  • Child may try to push you away, especially when you try to restrain him
Check... check.... check... Sounds like an accurate diagnosis. The bad news is that we can do nothing for him, except do nothing. Since Nathan isn't actually awake when he is having these "terrors," it isn't helpful to hold him or to try to comfort him. In fact, it makes the situation worse. The good news is that he is in the deepest part of sleep when this happens and has no recollection of it in the morning. This is why I say "insomnia" is ironic. Maybe the diagnosis was actually for Nathan's parents.

While I was googling "sleep terrors," I wandered to a page or two about sleep deprivation. Who knew missing sleep could result in such things as slurred speech, inability to form complete thoughts or think creatively, blurred vision, and even (according to one college student in a Psychology 101 research paper) "temporary insanity." Ah, finally an explanation for all my woes! My child is terrified and I am temporarily insane. For now I'm clinging to the "temporary" part of all that.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Going Shipping with Sails

We found out this past week that Daniel was accepted to the PhD program at Wheaton College. This means that we will take a three-year hiatus from Vietnam instead of just one year. I'm excited for the boys to get to know our family and to experience playgrounds and libraries and grass between their toes. I'm also a little sad to pack up and say goodbye to life here, but some sadnesses are a good thing.

There is much to do before we will be ready to leave, but I feel like we've already started the process of wrapping up, packing up, and saying goodbye. My biggest concern at the moment is getting Caleb ready for the move. He is a complete control freak (not unlike his mother), and I've learned in recent months that it is best to prepare him well for any new thing. We've been talking a lot about going to the States and flying over the ocean. I explained to him yesterday that soon we will need to put his books and toys into boxes so that we can ship them to America.

This morning as I was getting out of the shower, I heard Daniel and Caleb talking in the next room. Caleb was saying, "Daddy, we have to put the toys and books in boxes so we can get a ship... And go shipping... And it's a big ship with sails."

Apparently I still have some explaining to do.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Mmmm, a belated Valentine's Day surprise.

An Optimist

Caleb brought me the remains of a fly yesterday--one of the big, tropical ones that drones like a helicopter and thunks against windows with nearly enough force to shatter the pane. There wasn't much left to it since the ants had gotten to it first. By the time it landed on my desk it was little more than the shell of a fly with legs and wings long gone. Caleb dropped it next to my arm and stood there grinning waiting for me to notice.

"Ewwwww," I exclaimed. "Caleb, do you really have to haul dead things around the house."

"It's not dead, Mom," he insisted. "The fly is just cold."

To prove his point he blew a little puff of air making the fly-shell tremble. "See. It shivered."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Blowing off Some Stink

I know many of you are weary of the dregs of winter and ready for more than a few feeble hours of sunshine in your week. I really shouldn't complain about having the opposite problem, but some days the sun and heat and haze are unrelenting. There are comforts with cold...a fleece blanket, steamy cup of tea, wool sweater and socks, soft scarves and mittens. I'm sure these comforts have lost some of their charm, but they do remain. There is nothing to do for heat but suffer it. One can only remove so many articles of clothing before decency becomes an issue, and these days the fans and even the air conditioners just seem to churn the heavy air instead of cooling it.

I find myself, more often than not, in a funk. I wake up ornery and it only gets worse as the temperature rises. I grumble to Daniel and snap at the boys. I can't bear the thought of another dirty diaper, another potty training mishap, another pile of laundry, or the next meal that must be cooked in a hot, airless kitchen. My perspective is off. There is no end in sight, even though rain is predicted later in the week.

When my brothers and I were small, my mom had a solution for these gray, grumpy days. If we were bickering, or restless, or bored, we were invariably sent outside to "blow some stink off." It didn't really matter what we did--throw dirty snow at each other, climb onto the roof and tumble off into icy snowbanks, pound a whole carton of nails into the tree trunks, or tramp through the woods following deer paths and giggling at all the piles of perfectly round droppings. I'm not sure what my mom did with the reprieve, but when we came back indoors, the "stink" had usually dissipated and we were all a little happier.

This morning I had no choice but to blow some stink off. I hauled out our cheap exercise machine that sounds like a flock of geese migrating, found a pair of jersey shorts and an old maternity shirt, put Nathan down for his nap, and sent Caleb outside to torment the pond life. For the first five minutes I groused, "I hate this. Hate this. Hate this..." in time with each step. Then I forgot to grouse. Forgot to be so ornery. I listened to Rich Mullins and watched Caleb outside the window raking up little mounds of algae. I hit the twenty-minute mark and thought I could go longer, except that Nathan was screaming and Caleb was insisting he needed the rubber bath duck for some mysterious purpose.

Ah well, back to life and all its demands--hopefully with a little less stink in the air.

Hot Days

We know it's hot when even our Vietnamese friends grumble about the weather. These days the heat and humidity are insufferable. We try to avoid running the air conditioners during the day because there is never enough electricity to go around, and the rates get higher with increased use. Instead, we plan activities that involve sitting in front of the fan or moving from the path of one fan to the next. It requires some creativity.

In the past week or so, we have...

gone spelunking...

built a block city...

sailed the high seas in our pirate ship...

run a marathon...

and done some serious excavating...all without leaving the house.