Thursday, April 30, 2015

Baltimore, Ferguson, NYC: My View From the Fence

You know how I am a fence rider? Well, here we go.

One side of the fence:

My brother-in-law is a police officer. The po po. A donut eater. All the ugly words for police officer.

He is one of the most honorable people I know. A Jesus lover. In his profession because he is called to it; it is noble. He has worked so hard and advanced through the ranks. 

Every single day, he puts on a badge that says, "I would trade my life for yours. Even if you don't deserve it, I would. I am going to go out, catch some bad guys, protect you and yours even though you don't know me and I don't know you. Even though I get paid roughly nothing to take on these risks. I have a family, a wife and a little boy and girl, and together we are accepting these risks so I can protect you, whom I do not know. I will hunt down drug dealers, do my homework, testify in court, and put them in jail. For you. And your children. Even though it means my children and wife may one day get a phone call bringing devastation into their lives. We accept that risk. For you and your family."

On the other side:

Four years ago we got ourselves all tangled up in this amazing school that basically exists for racial reconciliation. Here in the South, that's still a big thing. And apparently in other places, too. After a pretty colorless life we now have friends, not just acquaintances, who have different skin colors, are married to people of a different race, have three or four different races in the same family unit, are going to great lengths to have a diverse family, adopting children from far away continents and inner-city Memphis. There was a time we seriously thought we would be a multiracial family, but now I know that unless there is a baby in a basket on my doorstep or the angel Gabriel appears in my kitchen, no more babies are coming into this house. I just can't even.  

These new friends of ours have a different culture, a different normal. These are people we love, who are dear to us. Who love Jesus. Who have had vastly different experiences from ours even though we grew up in the same region in the same generation. Our friends have watched brothers go off to prison; they have all, every one of them, experienced racism; the children I drive on field trips identify the jail we pass as the one their uncle lives in; one of the people I love most told me she greatly distrusts police. I have heard a story told of the arrest of a young man, the brother of a man we hold in the highest regard, who was merely with a drug dealer, got arrested and sentenced to a halfway house, missed curfew by a few minutes, and was subsequently sentenced to eight years in prison. 

In the South, if you are mid-30s or older, you probably heard your grandparents and possibly even your parents use horrible, racist terms when referring to people with different amounts of melanin. Some of your grandparents remember a time when people with less melanin made them move to the back of the bus, or drink from a different water fountain or sit in a different section of a restaurant. That is a hard, hard thing. Hard to forgive; impossible to forget. 

Some of your grandparents used words I refuse to type to refer to people with a little more melanin in their skin. Said horrible things stereotyping everyone with more melanin. Rejoiced the day Dr. King was shot. These things are hard to erase from the mind. 

Once spoken, these words and stereotypes can become the subconscious voice that is played on repeat in the brains of all skin colors.  

What to do? How can I fix this? Should I post something to Facebook? Social media is powerful. Maybe a graph showing lots of statistics about how our brothers with more melanin are being given far different jail sentences than our bothers with less melanin? Maybe a picture of some people standing atop a police car, hitting it with bats, childhood kings of the mountain? Maybe an article pointing out the failings of the leaders of Baltimore? Maybe something pro-gun? Maybe something pro-civil rights? Maybe a picture of Dr. MLK, Jr himself with a quote typed across it in a nice font? Maybe a police badge? Maybe a picture of my girls and their sweet friends with their beautifully different arms thrown around each other? 

Maybe.

Maybe it could start a conversation instead of a hate-fest where anyone can post a comment from the anonymity of their laptop. 




But not likely.

And there are undoubtedly dirty cops, just as there are dirty teachers, preachers, plumbers, gas station attendants, mothers, bankers, nurses, carpenters, doctors, fathers of all colors. So those hate-filled, raging comments are probably based on something. Some experience. Some time when love was withheld, when there was an actual injustice. We don't just spew hate with no reason. If you take the time to dig deep enough into each other's story, there is always a hurt somewhere. 

So what I am going to do is keep talking. Tell me about your experience. What is it like to go into a setting where you are protecting yourself from an angry mob covered head to toe with Kevlar? What is it like to sit on a restaurant stool and be spat on? What is it like to know you must put on a bulletproof vest when you go to work? Why do I need to talk to my children about slavery? What is life like for you today? Help me understand. 

And here's another thing.

When you hear a joke using racist and stereotypical words, do not laugh. My brother-in-law is a Police Sergeant. He is not the po po. He does not spend his nights eating donuts. He and his profession are worthy of respect. 

My friends are not the too-ugly-to-type words. Do. Not. Laugh. Do not repeat them. Do not teach them to your children. Do not allow them to be said in the presence of your children. Speak up when they are said. 

Change can happen.


When one of our daughters was told the story of Rosa Parks she came home and sobbed, wrecked by the injustice done.

One of our daughters draws herself with much darker skin than she actually has. She wants me to braid her hair in a million tiny braids. And I do. And she is beautiful. 




I am so thankful we have somehow found ourselves in this school where these conversations can happen. Where my family can be a part of breaking generational chains. 



But even with conversations, and seeking to understand, and going to an amazing school, and refusing to laugh or participate in inappropriate conversations, stuff can still get so screwed up. And somehow, the sides of the fence must coexist. 

So here's the real key from whatever side of the fence you are on:

Jesus. 

Ooze Him out. All the time. Be His hands and feet at every single opportunity. Don't miss one. That is how we can change things. For believers, nonbelievers, criminals, policemen, homeless people, billionaires, preachers, babies, the elderly and infirm, Jesus is the answer. (I sang that in my head - you probably did, too.) You know how actions speak louder than words? That is a saying because it is truth. Act like Jesus, and the world will notice.

Not that it's easy. I miss opportunities all day long. Or I choose to ignore them. I get on my high horse and parent poorly and justify my sinful actions with words like "deserve" and "injustice" and ridiculous, childish things like "she hurt me first." 

I'm so glad He is coming back. Maybe even today. And I bet He will take people with Him of all colors and all professions. In fact, I know it. It says so in the Love Letter He left for me. 

"And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation...'" Revelation 5:9

Grace, 
Martha

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Savoring



Yesterday I was struck, quite suddenly, with the change coming my way soon.

Lillian, our youngest, the baby, the grand finale, will be going to kindergarten next year. 

And what exactly does that mean?

For starters, these years of being a full time mom are through. Yes, I know they will always need Mom, that does not stop and certainly not at kindergarten. 

But the years of me being with her the most are over. 

I will no longer be the only, or maybe biggest is a better way to say it, influence in her life. The other two already spend more waking time with someone besides me. We hope and pray they have excellent, Jesus-loving teachers, especially during these formative years. 



Kindergarten also has me deeply introspecting: Did I do these years well? Will they look back and remember Fun Mommy who played in the sandbox, caught bugs, creek stomped, read stories, played house, school, and doctor? Will they think of the countless batches of cookies, the reading times, the thousands millions of diapers changed? Will they remember how I laid awake with them, wiped their tears, bandaged their knees, prayed over them, for them, for their future, for God to use them to do great things for His Name? Will those be the things that sunk in? Or is Yelling, Impatient, Exhausted, Tearful Mom the one they will remember? 

I'm also wondering why I didn't savor these days more? Yes, they are so hard, and yes, sometimes a day can feel like a year. Buckling people into cars seats is a stage that haunts my nightmares. Someone is always throwing up. There is no such thing as a good night's sleep. Life. Is. Hard.

But now, on the edge of these preschool days being over, I am astonished by their speed. Like, cannot understand how nine years have passed since the first positive pregnancy test. 

So for the next stage I am determined to savor more. I will be present. I will live in the moment instead of always trying to capture it on my camera. I will listen without being distracted by a whistling phone when they are telling me all about the Garfield comic strip they read. I will pray with them, for them, over them in earnest. I will push them on the swing until my arms feel like they will fall off. I will help them learn "Yankee Doodle" on the piano and marvel when they get it. 

Becuase if the next nine years go as fast as these first nine have gone, an empty nest is an eyeblink away. 



Here's my unsolicited parenting advice, talking as much to myself as anyone out there, eight and a half years in, for what it's worth:

Parent. Even when the people who need so much of you, ALL of you, are being unsavory. Do not check out. Parenting is not convenient. It interrupts conversations. It interrupts "me time." It interrupts dream vacations, date nights, evenings with friends and blog posts. It is emotional. It is exhausting. It is heart and gut wrenching. It is hard. It is hard. We cannot take a time out when things are messy. Be there. Look in their eyes. Sacrifice for them. Kiss them more. Hug them more. Listen more. Listen more intently. Tell them they are princes and princesses, sons and daughters of the Most High King. There will be nothing more important in this life than parenting well, for the glory of the Lord. This, to me, is the savoring. 

Parent, by the grace of God.  

And savor it. 

Grace,
Martha



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bibliophilia and Ramblings on a Sick Sunday

I am a bibliophile. There. I said it.  

  This is my "to read" table. And also "the smoke alarm that got ripped down when it went off in the night" table, and "dirty sock pile" table.

I get it honestly, from my mother. One of my brothers has it, too. The other one can only be described as the opposite of whatever bibliophile is. Freak. 

My bibliophileness has been suppressed for the past eight or so years, which coincidentally is the same number of years I have had ankle biters demanding my full on 24 hour attention. 

But now that these ankle biters could be better classified as elbow biters, I find myself with more energy in the evenings, and therefore my bibliophileness has reappeared. 

Hope, the Girl in the Middle, recently asked me, "Why do you spend so much time reading these days?"

I joyously told her, "Because you can make your own toast!!" 

I don't think she made the connection.

Anyways, I am also determined to raise bibliophiles, although I actually think maybe this is something with which you are born. My mother was a teacher and read to us constantly. All three of us shared a room so she would sit at night and read chapters out of all the classics: Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte's Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Little Women, The Boxcar Children. She read picture books beyond what a person can count (especially with my limited math skills), and on vacations read from any book by Erma Bombeck (which started this whole blog thing). 

Somehow, two of the three of us picked up her love. We think the other one can actually read, but the theory hasn't been tested since high school when he was required to read Moby Dick. He hasn't been seen with a book since. 

Preston does not have bibliophilia either, seeing as girls used to do his homework in high school (apparently he was a star basketball player), and he one time made up a whole book, author and everything, which he wrote a paper about simply so he wouldn't have to read a book. He got an A. Got to wonder about that teacher.

All of our girls do appear to be little bibliophiles, but will often choose Garfield books or Junie B. Jones, which I cannot really, in good conscience, call books. And then they want to tell me all about Garfield or worse, read it to me. Have you ever had a child read a comic strip to you? Time for a sharpened pencil to the eardrum. 

So for the summer, I am organizing a little book club for the girls and me. I am choosing the books, ones I know they will love, a unique one for each girl, and she will have about two weeks to read it. Then we will go out for ice cream and discuss it, one on one. When we have finished the discussion, I will have their next book, wrapped up, ready to give them. For the Youngest, who is five, I am choosing rich picture books, which her daddy will read to her, and then she and I will go out to discuss it.  

Last week Preston remarked to me, "I'm kind of like your Sugar Daddy, seeing as you aren't working outside the home this semester." (He values his life. He would never say, "not working." Remember this old post?)

Then I broke my $9 sunglasses from Target, my home away from home. He sweetly bought me some new ones exactly like the old ones. For $9. "It's what Sugar Daddies do." he told me. 

Gotta say, I had higher expectations for the day I finally got myself a sugar daddy. Like, jetting off on a private plane to Greece. Sunglasses. Whatever. 

Anyways, I figured out a way to combat his ridiculousness. 

I have a column on the left hand side of this blog where I am keeping track of what I am reading. (If you are looking at this in the mobile view you will have to switch to the full website version. Click at the bottom. Or dust off your desktop.) At first it was just for fun, to see who else has read what I have read or am reading and may strike up a conversation. But now, if you click on a book I have listed it will take you to Amazon. If you buy it, I get a little somethin' somethin'. Interesting, huh? Of course, I really do think you should shop and buy locally if you can, but if you are going to order from Amazon anyways, hook a girl up. 

Books with an asterisk are ones I am either reading to the girls at bedtime (currently In Grandma's Attic) or ones I am considering having them read. They are ages 5, 7, (in ONE WEEK!) and 8, if you are wondering if the books would be good for your kids. 

And please, if you have book suggestions for me or the girls (not Preston), please forward them on. That's always how I find my next great read. 

Grace for Bibliophiles (and I guess all you non-readers as well),
Martha 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Get Inside My Head...If You Dare

Total randomness from inside my head. And there is no order or coherence, kind of like always in my head. Read at your own risk.

The two boys playing chess in this picture are my nephews. They are playing to be the Chess Club Champion of the school. My brother has played chess with all three of his boys since they were little so it isn't surprising that it came down to these two, but very exciting and simultaneously heartbreaking for this auntie. I really am not competitive. Can't we just play, and then everyone wins? No? I'm out.



I think it's funny when one of my normally good-as-gold girls sasses a little. This is probably going to bite me in the butt in about 8 years. Last night at supper one child was complaining about the lack of anything edible, so I suggested she zip it until she had something positive to say. She goes, "I'm positive this meal is bad." I thought it was hilarious. I'm a good mom.


Very excited to read this book! May bump it up in my stack. Hear it's awesome. How could it not be with a title like that?!

Will anyone notice if I sweep all the dirt under the couches?

I think my family thinks the term "mudroom" means the room should actually be made of it. 



This is what he is thinking: "Me push trees down with big machine. Grunt grunt!"


"Me make fire with trees! Wife think projects sexy!" Ummm, no.

Why is it this one child of mine seems to take all the hits? Is it a coincidence? What is the Lord trying to teach her? What is He trying to teach us as parents? How can I love her so much that I sob, heartbroken for her when I put her to bed? How can I have feelings this strong for another human? How is it that before I met her, she never crossed my mind, while I was pregnant with her I used to worry I wouldn't love her because I was so sick every single day, and she was the cause, and now I would trade all the happiness and ease of my own life to guarantee happiness for her? Is this how my Heavenly Father feels about me? 


Why isn't it summer yet? The weather is perfect! Summer stinks compared to spring. And who is going to bathe these people?

I wonder why some posts are so popular and others aren't? I never can tell when I hit "publish," but it's always prayed over, so I guess the right people are reading it. Still, I wonder.



Speaking of summer, our Mastiff is already hot. Should we get her a haircut for summer? There are mixed reviews on this, but she basically spent last summer under the porch. 


She went around for like an hour answering only to the name "Preston." It got old. But we complied. 


How on earth did I not notice that one of these shoes is a size 5 and one is a 3 1/2? And not only not notice it, but not notice it for four months? And HOW DIDN'T THE KID NOTICE? But big shout out to Dick's who gave us the full price on a gift card, no questions asked. I think we will always get school shoes there now.


April 15 is my Christmas. Danger of frost passed, plant all the things! But why the selfie? Why did I need to be in this photo? I don't look good. I guarantee I haven't showered. Why do we take selfies? (If you see me without this hat it means I've showered and made an effort so you should compliment me.)


She is so beautiful. How did she come from Preston and me? Breathtaking.


Tomatoes are not apples.

We told the girls that from this point forward we would match whatever they have in their banks at the end of every summer and put it in their savings accounts, which are designated for a car, college, or a house. One girl said she wouldn't need a car for a loooong time. I told her the next 10 years would go fast. She rolled her eyes. If only she knew what I know.


Preston really does look like The Edge. Crazy. I wonder if anyone's ever told him he looks like Preston?


Sisters/BFFs. Until someone calls someone a "silly old poop." But really, sisters/BFFs then, too.

When will the rain stop? It is ruining things. Like field trips.

Although I selfishly don't care if it ruins field trips. 

I am horrible.

Oh, well.

I really do deserve hell. I am so, so thankful for Jesus. 

"Every experience God gives us is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see." ~Corrie Ten Boom

Grace,
Martha

Friday, April 10, 2015

10 Reasons You Should/Should Not Become A Teacher


I will let you determine which of these is a pro and which is a con. I'm just passing on information to those of you trying to choose a life path.

1. You get summers off.
I figured I'd start with the most obvious. This is the one everyone throws out there when you announce you are a teacher. And yes, it's unbelieveably fab. Preston and I used to sleep until ten, then lie by the pool, read an entire book, be exhausted from all the sun, take a nap, find some supper, go out for ice cream and grab a movie at Blockbuster on our way home, which we would start (START!) at 10 pm. Repeat. For 9 straight weeks. Enter kids. Kids ruin everything.

2. At least one child will drop his lunch tray. Every dadgum day. 
You would think this is unique to elementary schools, but alas, it is not. And so you technically are given a 20 minute duty free lunch, but really you are helping Lunch Tray Dropper. 

3. You get 20 minutes duty-free for lunch.
Twenty whole minutes? Score! Never mind that the rest of the world gets a "lunch hour." You will get 20 minutes! Usually you will be using that luxurious gift of 20 minutes to make a few extra copies of something because someone lost their copy and even though you want to be tough and not make them another if they don't have the paper they will not pass the test, and ulitmately your job depends on your students doing well on a test so you have to make them a copy so you can continue to have summers off and help Lunch Tray Droppers. Vicious cycle.  

4. The money.
Lots of breaks as a teacher. I think Preston gets about 13 weeks off a year. That's amazing. We get to be together as a family so much. It really is awesome. So even though the money isn't great, we will take it. Never mind that on more than one occasion Preston has called the utility company to use his large salary to get a student's power turned back on in the dead of winter, he regularly buys lunch for students who don't have one, treats his athletes to supper on the way to/from sporting events for which he is transporting them in his own truck, putting on lots of miles and sucking lots of $3 a gallon gas for which he will not be reimbursed. He also spends unreimbursed money for new equipment and supplies, sits in dunking booths to try to raise money, and does things like put on chili suppers. $200 a year classroom allowance should be enough, but sometimes he does not budget well so into our coffers he must dip. But after you spend your own money on that stuff, you will probably have enough left for a trip-of-a-lifetime to a state park, where you get a discount, so it all works out.  

5. The opportunity for advancement.
If you are willing to spend lots of your own money to get higher degrees (somewhere in the neighborhood of $35,000 if you are really serious and want to get both your Master's and Ed.S. (educational specialist, which is just short of a doctorate. A DOCTORATE!)) you can move up on the salary ladder, by a little bit each year, or on the career ladder by going for a principal position. Preston went this path and worked like a dog for several years and took expensive tests proving he was capable and took an assistant principal job at a local high school. Let me tell you, there is not enough money in the world to pay principals for all the sh** they have to deal with and do. Not enough. Noooooooot enough. But hey, the opportunity to deal with all the kids who do stupid stuff like steal iPods and sell weed between classes is your's for the taking if you are willing to put in the money and time. You can also be the athletic principal and get to attend every single sporting event your high school hosts if sports happens to be your bag. And then you can top out at $75,000. Don't spend it all in one place.

6. The interesting people you meet.
I once sat in an IEP meeting with a woman in a full-on sailor suit. She was not in the Navy. Just wanted to be captain for a day, I guess. This was already entertaining, but then she proceeded to tell me how I was the worst teacher, and in fact worst person, she had ever come across. She has every right to say this, and my rights are technically equal, but should I have told her what I thought of her sailor suit and her son who flat refused to try, she could have sued me. And then I would have lost this amazing lunch tray dropper job. 

7. The supportive parents.
Parents are awesome. And they all happen to be parenting the most ahhhmazing children God ever created who would not ever do anything wrong. So when you choose to sit your star ball player for having a terrible attitude and his mother comes and removes him from the bench, during the game, and announces that he will no longer be playing for your program because obviously you are incompetent if you let a little thing like respect for authority keep you from winning, you cannot be a good coach, know that she is just supporting the idea that Winning Is All That Matters. See? Support. And when a parent tapes your phone conversation without your knowledge, hoping to catch you saying something he can use against you, just know he is supporting you. I'm not really sure how. But support. 

On the flip side of this, multiple times I got wonderful gifts from parents who realized their kids were little terrors from birth, and I was an angel just for taking them off their hands for 7 hours a day, much less trying to teach them stuff. And one time (I AM GOING TO BRAG HERE) a set of parents wrote a letter to my principal, which he then shared, about my teaching partner and me saying things like "We have fostered over 30 kids and have 6 of our own, and these two women are the best teachers we have ever come across." I have saved my copy of that letter and should our house be on fire, and I have to choose between our wedding album and that letter, I will get the letter. Encouragement to a teacher is like manna from heaven.


8. The hours.
8am - 3pm? That's freakin' awesome! You have a whole day left to yourself! And it's ok that you will usually need to get to school at least an hour before the day starts because the 40 minutes your students pop off to art, or PE, or Music aren't enough to accomplish anything, much less all you would need to do to prepare to teach 7 core subjects to 35 kids for 6 hours in a way that incorporates kinesthetic learning, auditory learning, tangible learning, olfactory learning, blah blah blah blah. You must teach each child in the way that he learns best, or they will do terrible on the test where they fill in circles, and you will be fired for being incompetent since you can't get it done in 40 minutes and with all that parent support to boot. What's wrong with you? Oh, and you may need to stay late, too, for faculty meetings at least one day a week, parent-teacher conferences you will try to schedule so you can get that kid who missed ten days caught up, and sporting events and clubs you will either coach, sponsor or attend to support your students. Sometimes you will leave home in the dark and return home in the dark. Ok, most times. But 8am - 3pm is great!!

9. You get the opportunity to try other careers.
As a teacher, you will also be a nurse (I used to threaten children with detention if they threw up in my classroom), a counselor (Really, this is a HUGE part of your job what with all the unloved babies you will encounter. Take some classes. Seriously.) a janitor (When I texted Preston a couple days ago to see how his day was going, he said, "Good. Just dealing with rotten chocolate milk and nose bleeds."), and a spiritual advisor. (Warning: be careful with this one. If you talk about God/Buddha/Mohammed/A Higher Power some over-involved idiot parent will have the ACLU up there saying you violated their kids' rights.) So you will end up with lots of different skills on your resume when you get fired for your students filling in the wrong circles. 

10. The students.
For every student who makes you insane, you will have 34 whom you adore. They will worship the ground you walk on. They will write you notes telling you how much they want to be like you. They will contact you on social networks ten years after you taught them to thank you for not giving up on them and demanding excellence and to tell you how they got a scholarship to college. 

This career path isn't for everyone. But it is for us. And although I don't do it anymore, I try to support the people who are taking on my own Lunch Tray Droppers. And I hope you will, too, even as we reach the time of the year when it is all TOO MUCH. Write them a letter. Write their boss a letter. Take them a Starbucks. Go cut out some shapes for them. Find thirty minutes in your day to love on them, because I promise they will remember it forever.

And summer is coming and you will have your Lunch Tray Droppers all to yourself, and you will be wishing that teacher would show up at your door with some homework for them.

Grace for All the Teachers Everywhere,
Martha

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Cozy Little Bedtime Story

The girls are all suffering a tiny bit from springtime allergies, and I do mean a tiny bit. But enough for me to give each of them a Benadryl, because in reality, all parents look for any opportunity to give their kids a Benadryl. It just makes life easier if they are asleep for a good portion of the day. And since it's almost bedtime, I thought it was definitely a good move considering the total nightmare that is bedtime.

Bedtime. 

It happens once every 24 hours, literally like clockwork.

It has the potential to be such a cozy, endearing time. One where prayers are said, stories are read, songs are sung, and freshly bathed children are tucked snugly into their beds with much love and many kisses, drifting easily off into a dreamland filled with candy and never ending screen time.

I think it was kind of like that one time around year four of Life With Kids. 

Pretty much the rest of the time it's more like tonight. I went upstairs to see what was going on and these are the pics I snapped.

They were told to get in pjs and not come down; we were coming up. Here she is, ready to come down.




And here she is, running away like she wasn't poised to disobey.





This will not get your teeth clean.



Neither will this.



Catching the toothpaste she was letting dribble out to try to get her sisters to laugh.





And now making wise choices by blowing bubbles in the house instead of getting into bed.






We generally give a little heads up before bedtime, maybe five minutes or so, just so they know it will be in fact rolling around again tonight, and they will be expected to climb into their beds and sleep. They generally do not acknowledge this announcement, preferring to try to ignore it until it goes away. Like the Jehovah's Witnesses at your door on Saturday mornings.  

A few minutes later, the bedtime announcement is made.

"WHAT? Why do we have to go to bed? I'm not tired! I've never even been tired! What is this tired you speak of?"

I remind them of how they all cried when I woke them up and so they must get in bed on time so we don't repeat that morning disaster. (As if. It is repeated every morning no matter what.)

They are herded upstairs and admonished to do their bathroom stuff and get into pajamas. This generally requires laughing, screaming, pounding of feet, and then ultimately crying when one girl gets pinned up against the wall by her sister who says, "You are going to pay for that!" (who knows what "that" is) and when the Pinned Girl nervously says, "Are you kidding?" the Pinner responds, "Wouldn't you like to know? Ha ha ha ha ha!" Pinned Girl breaks free and comes downstairs to tell, but neither parent can be compelled to care. Neglected Girl returns upstairs, where giggling once again takes over. 

The father of these people heads up to regain some control and enforces complete silence until everyone has on their pajamas. This is the worst punishment imaginable in this house, and therefore speeds up the pajama process considerably. 

Everyone gathers on the bean bags for devotions, and since at the end of devotions comes the time to crawl into beds, their attention and appreciation for the Bible becomes more intense than any of the apostles' ever was, and they will request two, nay, even unto three Bible stories so they can be "more worshipfuller." While this would fool a novice parent into thinking they are raising the next three great theologians of our time and perhaps lead them to read even five or six stories, we are experts and know they are simply avoiding their snuggly, cozy, soft, awful beds.   

Next is prayers, during which each child offers supplications. One time a child prayed for every person she had ever met by name. A child once asked if we would stop her if she felt led by God to pray for longer than 45 minutes. Again, this could lead newbies into thinking their children were really communing with Our Lord, but we didn't just fall off the turnip truck. Or the cabbage wagon. Or whatever people fall off of who are naive.

After prayers they are allowed to read silently until a set time. "Silently" sounds like a really simple concept, but it's actually very tricky. If they are sneaking a piece of last year's Halloween candy, their stealthiness cannot be matched. But in order to read silently they have to read at the perfect decibel level that will annoy their sisters but not be heard by the parents across the hall so that when the annoyed sister tells, the "silent" reader can deny it all. 

One of us then goes in to turn lights out and take books from beds because one girl will use her magic eyes that can see words in the pitch black but not see dirty socks lying in the middle of the kitchen to read in the dark under her quilt if the book is not removed from her bed.

Then a crazy phenomenon happens, one I can't figure out. Turning out the lights triggers the thirst mechanism in children. I find this is universal and not unique to our children. Even though they have had lots of time to get a drink, they will suddenly realize they are in fact dying of thirst the exact nanosecond the light switch flips to off. Then the situation gets dangerous because if they are not delivered a drink STAT they will perish. Telling them they are not thirsty is futile. They. Are. Withering. Away. But they are hydrated enough to produce tears.

Next is "checking everything." One of our children requires that everything, including their hope chests, the closet, and the trundle bed, be checked for strangers who might have snuck in. This really has to be done by Daddy, so if he happens to be gone, as he often is during a sport season, she does not trust that I actually checked everything. She claims she won't be able to sleep until he gets home so she might as well join me on the couch.

That child gets delivered back to bed, and I check on the other two. One child has passed out. We can't ever find her because of the ridiculous number of stuffed animals in her bed, but she always comes out in the morning, so I assume she's in there during the night. She falls asleep fast so she's my favorite.

The other child will suddenly remember everything that happened at school for the entire year and want to tell me all about it. This child is hard to get details out of, so when she wants to talk I always want to drop everything and hear her. She has figured this out, and it is a totally manipulative tactic to want to talk only at bedtime. One that works.

I will finally leave and then the giggling and chit chatting between the remaining two conscious children commences. I am a sucker for this because I didn't have a sister to chit chat with and love that they have each other. Preston is less enamored by this and usually only lets it go on a maximum of one minute before he threatens things like "no Christmas ever" and "beets at every meal."

The final stage before sleep is, "I am sick," but we have started to tell them they can only say that while they are throwing up, if a bone is sticking out through the skin, or if they are bleeding from a major artery

Then they sleep. 

And the battle is won. But the war will be fought every night from 7pm - 8pm. Until they move out, I guess. And move out they will, because this ain't no Hundred Year War we are fighting here. Everybody got to get out someday. And hopefully go fight their own Bedtime War.

Grace and Good Sleep,
Martha