On Your Birthday

When you first opened your eyes,
The moment before I blinked
With vista full of tears,
I thought I saw
The galaxy swirling.
That a universe so incomprehensibly vast
Could be confined to such small vessels.

As hopes and
Dreams and
Wishes and
Prayers
All shot by at over eleven million miles per minute.

As you became,
I became something new under sun and moon.

Hope fulfilled.
More than dreams imagined.
Wishes turned truth.
Prayers answered
With a soft cry pushed into being by tiny lungs.

Miracles.

I thought I saw the galaxy be born.
I believe I heard the voice of God.

To My Son

Ten proverbs for daily living

  1. Safety First: wear your helmet, buckle your seat-belt, tie your shoelaces, and always use a drink coaster before putting a beverage down on mommy’s nice end-table.
  2. Learn to listen before speaking. You have two ears and one mouth which means you need to listen twice as much—especially to me, listen to me. Plus, people will just assume you’re smarter if you stay the strong, stoic type.
  3. Inactivity kills. Get moving. But always use the potty before going on a long trip.
  4. Wash your hands you filthy animal. Ain’t nobody got time to be sick.
  5. Always do the right thing—which is usually the harder thing—and never assume that someone else will do it. Just be the one who does it.
  6. Drink Dunkin’, not Starbucks.
  7. Try not to care too much about what other people think. People are dumb. Except me and your mother. And your grandparents and maybe some of your other relatives. Also, probably the pastor. I guess there’s a handful of people that aren’t total nincompoops, but still.
  8. Write down your goals and plans to accomplish them. Write down thoughts, inspirations, prayers, and checklists. When writing a list for the Internet, be sure to try and include an even 10 things like the “Top Ten List of Top Ten Lists.”
  9. When you grow up and leave home, please remember to call your mother. You don’t have to call me.
  10. Start and end each day with gratitude.

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9)

A Suitable Sunday School Shape-Sorter Sermon

Fits like a glove… if chickens wore gloves…

We have this little, wooden Noah’s Ark shape sorter—a toy set with pairs of animals that match slots in the ark so your little one can put the animals inside. (God’s judgment poured out on the entire earth always seemed like an odd choice for nursery paintings and children toys… but I guess it is a convenient way to teach animal names?)

The other day, our two-year-old (or two-and-a-half, thank you very much) was playing with this wooden ark toy. What transpired was equal parts hilarious and horrifying. A sight to behold; a just can’t look away at the impending disaster moment.

In her infinite creativity and premature cynicism, our cute, precious, little child was grabbing the various animals out of the ark, one by one, and throwing them out into “the ocean” and commanding the wooden figurines to “Swim you animals! Swim giraffe! Swim zebra! Swim lion! Swim!” The only thing missing was a maniacal cackle.

I guess these animals had been found wanting, and now they would feel the full measure of wrath of 26 pounds of pure, unbridled princess rage. The day of reckoning had come.

I’m really not sure what lesson to take from this. Don’t mess with the princess, I guess. You shall rue the day. But everyone already knows that. Also, learn to swim just in case you ever find yourself in an Aqua-Armageddon scenario.

One of the Four Horsemen of the Toddlerpocalypse.

Do you have a terrifying toddler tale? Let me know, and we can commiserate with one another on that true life.

Alexa… Alexa… ALEXA!!!

Alexa, why oh why did I cross the road?

Our doting toddler recently mastered the ability to use our Echo Dot which can only mean two things:

  1. Listening to “Baby Shark” a bazillion times.
  2. Never listening to any particular song all the way through again. Ever.

Initially, it’s one of the cutest things to hear that tiny, squeaky voice peep out “Alexa, play Baby Shark please!” But all good things must come to an end. What begins as adorable quickly fades into aberration. Alexa becomes an insanity-inducing device; a form of cruel and unusual punishment like waterboarding, except, it’s song-and-rhyme-boarding.

Seriously, what is it with kids’ songs anyways and all the morbid undertones? A song about a family of bloodthirsty carnivores on the hunt for their next unsuspecting prey with cheerful hand motions to accompany the death and despair?

If I hear that song one more time, I’m gonna go nuts. It’s like someone has cut open my skull, scrubbed my head with bleach and a Brillo pad, and then blended my brain with jalapenos, sandburs, and thumbtacks.

But then I remember: these are precious moments, and they won’t last forever. I must learn to cherish them, all of them. Despite the monotonous, repetitive dribble drabble, there is a contemplative solace to be found in ritual. Life doesn’t have to be “just going through the motions” even when you’re just going through the motions—even when those motions involve toothless sharks. Within the daily routine we might find a divine rite. If we stop to look for it; if we have eyes to see. The simple spaces become sacred places.

Because re-experiencing the familiar time and again allows one to focus in on the deeper, often overlooked realities. As my daughter and I sing and dance to Baby Shark for the tenth time in a row, my heart and mind become free to see my beloved child in fresh new ways. I see the sparkle in her eyes. I hear the giggle in her voice. I feel the delight in her soul. And my heart is overwhelmed.

Although, of course, sometimes Alexa doesn’t “work” because she’s tired and needs to rest (i.e., mommy or daddy unplugged her). That’s ok too. We can live life to the fullest in silence as well.

The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard but must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

Noodle Polish

We tried out a new Japanese restaurant this past week. Perhaps I should say faux American-Japanese because we all know it’s not really what they eat in Japan. In fact, one time when we had a foreign exchange student from Japan visiting he really wanted to go to an American-Japanese restaurant because he couldn’t get that kind of food back home. But that’s another story.

This story. This story is about the creative depths of a toddler that transcend all logic and known knowledge about the universe and reality.

As we finished our teriyaki chicken and soba noodles, our pint-sized person was displaying some particularly peculiar behavior. She selected a pristine and perfect noodle of choice, and she delicately dipped the noddle into teriyaki sauce. Then she methodically and artfully began to paint her nails with the gluten string and black goo. And I thought I had years before I had to worry about my rebellious teenage daughter with her black nail polish, gothic “nobody-understands-me” phase.

Yes, after completing her meal, our toddler had decided to treat herself to a little spa day right there in her highchair. I was equally bewildered by her creativity, mesmerized by her skill, and proud of her proclivity to repurpose and recycle. Reduce that carbon footprint y’all.

I was also curious as to whether we could start a business and market this new product. They make edible arrangements and even edible underwear. So why not edible nail polish? Especially for young kids—they always be chewing on their germ-infested fingers anyways.

So, as you get ready for the day, ready to face the world and its judgments, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Express yourself girlfriend! Boyfriends too! Let your imagination empower you to stand against challenges with courage and creativity. You do you because what the world needs is more people who are actual real people and not the fabricated façades that we manufacture in response to social media, pop culture, and peer pressure. In other words, don’t pretend to be Japanese chicken when you’re really from Salisbury, Maryland. Is the chicken local? How local? Can I get some basic background information and family history? Were they a graduate of Purdue Perdue U?

This world is but a canvas to our imagination. – Henry David Thoreau

When Life Feels Constipated

Living life with a toddler is a daily adventure. No shortage of blog post topics. The other day, she was sitting on the potty when this little exchange occurred.

She strained, “Ugh, it’s not working! It stuck. There’s a hino-cheer-us in there!”

“Oh,” I replied. “A rhinoceros is stuck in there?” (I believe this is in reference to a children’s book in which a rhino gets stuck in a tree—because that’s totally normal.)

“Uhuh,” she nodded, and then she looked down into the toilet bowl. “Where are you poopie? It’s ok. Come on out!”

I said, “Yeah, ya rhinoceros, get outta here.”

When I was a kid, like around seven or something, one of my teachers told me, “Finley! You’re slower than molasses coming out of a constipated cow!” I didn’t even know what molasses or constipated meant. I just shrugged and took it as a compliment. Now that I know what she actually meant, I still take it as a compliment.

Sometimes, life just feels like one big, boring waiting game. Like standing in the longest line ever at a Department of Motor Vehicles located inside of the newest ride at Disney World. Or waiting in the drive-thru outside of a Krispy Kreme on free-donut day and the apocalypse is scheduled for tomorrow. I hate waiting. It gets so frustrating. This is why we invented fast food and Internet right? I shouldn’t have to wait for anything.

But maybe there’s something essential about moments of waiting too. Waiting teaches us that the whole world doesn’t revolve around us and our itinerary, like how I need to speed up and cut this person off in traffic so that I can hurry up and wait at the next stop light. Waiting slows us down and gives us the opportunity to reflect on the world around us, like who is the fella with ostrich feathers in his hair and all the other weird people standing in this line? Being bored and waiting can help us to learn how to think, plan, and be creative.

Maybe waiting isn’t something to be avoided at all costs. Maybe waiting is a time that can be embraced and even cherished in our modern lives of frenzy and frantic. Maybe there’s an art to actively waiting.

So, the next time you find yourself stuck in a line or stuck on the toilet or stuck waiting on life to start, just remember to find ways to redeem the time. That and drink some prune juice.

I should really set a calendar reminder to delete this post before my daughter is old enough to be embarrassed by reading it…

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

– attributed to Anne Frank