Friday, March 15, 2013

Stopping to Smell the Roses

Today wasn't particularly easy (this is me trying to be honest). But it wasn't exactly hard either (still being honest). In fact, if anything, it was just kind of a blah, boring day. 

I really struggle to play and engage with CJ when it is just she and I together, all day, at home. Give me a stack of books to read to her, and I'm happy. Or put her next to me in the kitchen to bake cookies, and everything is peachy. But today she just wanted to play. And I can only play cars (her current favorite make-believe game) for so long. Hide-and-seek with hotwheels cars named "Tindy," "Hotty," and "Jeff" loses its charm after the forth time. By the tenth time...there just aren't words.

So when we both got a bit frustrated - me bored and her whiny - we definitely needed a change of scenery. We went outside into the lovely tropical warmth and walked around our neighborhood. We strolled to the end of the cul-de-sac, and we stood on our tiptoes to see over the high cement wall where there is a cage full of huge parrots. CJ was convinced she could communicate with them by doing a sing-song cawing. 

Soon the tropical heat became more than bathwater-warm, and we decided to start walking back home. As we rounded the corner near the tennis courts, CJ stopped abruptly. She thrust out her arm to keep me from crushing a flower with my flip flop. Then she stooped down to retrieve a small white blossom that had fallen from a nearby tree. She put the petals to her nose and breathed deeply.

"Smell this, Mom! It smells beautiful!"

I did. I held the soft petals to my nose and inhaled. It smelled wonderful. CJ gathered more blossoms, and we spent a few lovely moments literally stopping to smell the flowers.

I had my iphone with me and CJ insisted I document the smelling...yes, she has a flare for dramatics.

I am thankful for this final child of mine who challenges me and gets me down on my hands and knees to play cars. Because of her, my life is far from lonely. Because of her, there are cars to hide, parrots to sing to, and flowers to save. Because of her, I stop to smell the roses.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Doing Hard Things

A few years ago, I delivered some muffins to a lady who I knew from church. When I dropped off the muffins at her house, she oohed and ahhed and said, "How did you make these? It would have taken me all morning to make...and then I would have needed a nap to recover." I remember thinking really? I just whipped these up. It was no big deal at all. I make these at least once a week.

The strange thing was - she wasn't just being nice and saying nice things. She was really telling me the truth. Making muffins for her was hard.

I've been thinking about those muffins and that conversation lately. The lady's comments made me realize that just because something is easy for me, doesn't mean it is easy for everyone.  And even though that idea seems self-evident (a duh! kind of thought), I sometimes forget and then that gets me in trouble.

Let me explain. A couple months ago, my husband and I decided it was time to push Leasie a bit harder and a bit further with her violin. Up till then, she had taken individual lessons and practiced on her own. But we felt that it was time for her to join an after school orchestra and add group lessons. 

When we proposed the idea, Leasie was terrified and flat-out refused. I was so surprised. For me, music lessons and after school activities were easy, even enjoyable experiences. We were offering her an opportunity - but she saw it as some kind of punishment. I confess, I wasn't very sympathetic.

After one particularly difficult conversation with Leasie, I found myself remembering the lady and the muffins. Maybe orchestra and group lessons for Leasie were like the muffins for the lady. Easy for me - but hard for someone else. Maybe I needed to be more understanding and try to work with Leasie instead of assuming and pushing so hard.

So we addressed some of her fears (aka bought her a cell phone so she would feel safe), we talked through scenarios, and after lots of reassurance, we signed her up. The first couple weeks of her orchestra lessons were down right hard. There were tears. But she was brave. 

Now fast forward to two weeks ago, when Leasie did another hard, scary thing. She and her orchestra group boarded a bus and came to the high school to play in the annual Strings Bash.

It was a fabulous concert - and not just because of the music. It was a thrill to watch Leasie and Madi play together. But it was thrilling mostly because I knew of the personal fears Leasie had faced in order to get to that point.  
 Do you see Leasie's shy smile? Yep, she's scared to death, but willing to try.

Do you see Madi's "please don't take my picture" smile? I took it anyway.

Can you see that "I did it" smile on Leasie's face? I can.

Muffins. Orchestra. Hard things. I'm so proud of my girls for being willing to do hard things.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Jakarta Neighborhood at dusk

Tonight as I was clearing the dinner table, I looked out my window and couldn't believe what I saw. The sky looked like it was on fire, ablaze in orange. The neighborhood was bathed hues of gold. 

I left the dishes, called to the kids to get on their flip flops, and we rushed outside. It's not often the sky is this beautiful, this entertaining. Most often the sky is hidden behind a fog of pollution or a layer of clouds.
By the time we walked to the entrance of our neighborhood with the line of palm trees, the sky had changed to purple and pink. It lasted only a few minutes, but it was so beautiful.

We chased the colors in the sky past the security guards, down the brick path (where a squeaking rat barely phased us), and out onto the busy street. The sky had calmed to a dull gray. And we ended our pursuit when the haze of car exhaust burned our lungs. 

As we returned home, I had to smile at this familiar site: the bright lights of our neighborhood grocery store blinked on with the coming of night.