Friday, January 21, 2011

Making Peace With the Early Morning Hours

Around 6:00 am on Christmas morning in my backyard
     I have a love-hate relationship with the early morning hours of the day. When I was a lazy, self-indulgent teenager, I  loved sleeping in till like, noon. I shudder at the thought now. I remember warm summer mornings where I was unpleasantly awoken by those *&^%$green parrots that escaped from the pet store fire like 30 years ago. They have managed to successfully reproduce and love chomping bites out of my persimmons. They find me wherever I go! Of course, all of you in the Los Angeles area know about these obnoxiously LOUD parrots. You've heard them, too, huh?
     Then there were the years when Tim and I were married without children yet. We'd groggily open one eye on a late Saturday morning and say to one another, "Enjoy these weekends of sleeping in, smoochkins (yes, that was the corny name we had for one another back then). After the kiddos come we'll be up early enough."
     If only I had known the half of it! Elena, Camille, and Leanne slept till sane- people hours soon enough in their infancy, but Chloe was a whole different story. She always has been! That bright-eyed, dimpled, springy-curled child broke me into accepting 5 am wake- ups as par for the course. It was either that, or pull my hair out in desperation. Actually, she was preparing me for the last days of my pregnancy with Daisy.
     I had gotten HUGE during my pregnancy with Daisy. Wouldn't you know it, she didn't want to come out when she was "supposed to." Days past her due date, I would fall into bed exhausted, but hopeful (will this be the night I go into labor? Oh, please God! Let it be so!), and awaken around 3 am or so with intermittent, mild contractions. I would lay in bed for at least an hour, counting the contractions and the minutes, sleepy, but wondering if this was "it." Well, I thought to myself, if I am in labor and I get up, the contractions will keep on going. So, I'd get up, go to the kitchen for a snack, and sit at the table reading my Bible. Too many mornings, the sun would rise over the field behind my house, and I would sit there with a calm, relaxed uterus - all contractions had ceased completely. The sun, bright orange and glowing like fire some mornings, seemed to be saying, "Not this morning, dear. Perhaps soon...." Those mornings, mixed with discouragement and exhaustion, were accentuated by a glorious sunrise. It was the one redemptive aspect of those 10 days I waited till I finally went to the hospital and evicted that 9 1/2+ pound child. Amniohooks have their place in modern day labor (although I think they are way overused for the most part).
     Anyway, fast forward to my current schedule. With six kids, ages 2 to 15, in various places throughout the day, and multiple demands on my time, energy, and organizational skills,  I absolutely have to start the day out with prayer and Bible reading. It makes such a difference in my day. The problem is I can't seem to get up early enough. I frequently find Daisy and Julia have arrived in my bed throughout the night and half the time I didn't even know it! If I can get out of bed by 5:45 a.m. and am very quiet, so as not to wake them, then I can help get Tim's food ready for his long days and then sneak into my office for some reading time, journaling, and prayer. Sometimes, they wake up, though, and I'm holding Julia on my lap who wants to cuddle as I read, but she really needs a diaper change. Or, she's hungry, and because Chloe is still usually an early riser (thank God now!), I'll send Julia to Chloe who gets her some cereal. I then have a couple more minutes to jot down some prayers I like to write out.
     The part of my morning I treasure the most, however, is observing the sunrise over my backyard field. I simply am in awe most mornings. I pause and look out the window in my office. Frequently, I say, "Oh, thank you Lord. Good morning to you, too. You are simply awesome!" The heavens declare the glory of God....Indeed they do. They also reveal a loving Father who rewards those who diligently seek him. He whispers to me in those sunrises, "Today's another day to experience my presence and joy in your life. I love that you love my expressions of kindness toward you. I will be with you today in all things."
     Oh how I need that reminder!
The view out of the back room next to my office at 6:30 am or so

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Conversations with "Cookie Cal" - My Friendly Neighbor

     Late last week my neighbor appeared at my door with two wooden, red-handled children's brooms. This neighbor, I'll call him "Cookie Cal" (to protect the innocent), is in his late 60's and is an upstanding member of our community. He was Citizen of the Year back in the 90's,  is our neighborhood block captain, and has recently retired from a very successful business. His first two wives have passed away, and his third wife is a lovely, svelte, jewel of a woman who, in addition to her front yard gardening projects, really enjoys the new Mercedes he bought her for her birthday awhile back. "You know, I'm a millionaire..." he has told me on several occasions. Okey-dokey.
      He's also a leftover hippie from the 60's, with a long, sometimes braided white beard and a propensity for "amusing" off-color jokes and expletives thrown into the conversation every so often. He had knee replacement surgery awhile back and so I hadn't seen him walking barefoot, shirtless (and sunburned - no surprise there!) down our street  like I had in the recent past. I also hadn't caught him sneaking through the field behind our houses to get a hot dog in town with a buddy without his health-conscious wife knowing. So, when I saw him at my door I was a bit surprised; "I've been cleaning out my garage and found these things your kids might like." I have a good rapport with him, despite some of our dialogue from our recent conversations. (These are direct quotes, too!)

Cookie Cal (CC) standing at the door holding the brooms while several of my kids, plus some neighbor friends, ran out the door eating cookies. His thick, hairy dog Zach seized the opportunity to wander into my living room: Isn't there a law against having all these kids?
Me: I don't think so.
CC: Observing the children eating their cookies in the front yard  and holding up two fingers I want two cookies.
MeOh sure. One for you and your wife?
CC: No. For me.
Me: Okay. I'll be back. I go to my kitchen, put three cookies in a baggy and bring them back to him.
Me:  Your wife is too slender to eat these cookies.
CC: That's right. I told her that if she gets fat, that's it. He puts his hand up in a horizontal position near his face and slices the air.
Me: You're a pig.
CC: Laughing, And a male chauvinist, too!
ME: I  groan and we talk about the brooms, the recently deceased neighbor and his property, the city mayor, the retreat center behind our houses, etc. At a break in the conversation he makes this comment as he's hearing the kids run around on the front lawn screaming, laughing, and playing:
CC: I don't know how you don't do drugs or drink a lot with all these kids.
ME: Oh, Jesus helps me out. He gives me everything I need.
CC: nervous laughter He doesn't like kids!
ME: Oh yes he does!
KK: more nervous laughter Yeah, you're right. And then he launches into a joke about a guy in a bar, 2  $20 bills, embarrassing bodily functions, and an angry wife. This is the second time I've heard the joke. It really is funny minus the potty humor and content. At this point in the conversation Julia comes to the door crying because CC's dog grabbed her cookie from her hand. He was now chomping on it as he sauntered through the doorway outside. She's crying and I try to calm her down. (No wonder that dog is so fat!) Cookie Cal comments on the red wagon that appeared in our yard ("I brought that down earlier"), bids me farewell, I thank him for the brooms, and he's off.

The Following Day
I answer the door bell and there stands Cookie Cal with a pile of spaghetti strap t-shirts in his hand.
Me: Back for more cookies?
Cookie Cal  nods and smiles as I wave him inside to have a seat. He proceeds to explain the valuable vintage t-shirts (I'll need a lot of cookies for these!) and several tie-dye t-shirts he brought over for our girls.
CC: Here's a tie dye one - I really hope you have at least one hippie. Someone's got to save this family... he grumbles. Tim had just awoken from a nap and greets Cookie Cal as he enters the living room to sit down. Daisy walks in to say hello to Tim and Cookie Cal.
Me: Oh, look! It's Daisy! Our flower child! We do have a hippie child in our family. I guess there's hope for us after all!
CC chuckless and proceeds to tell us about the lavish, expensive diamond stud earrings he bought his wife for Christmas last year. She didn't want them, though, and told him to return them.
Me: Oh, no! Tell her you'll give it the neighbor lady down the street instead! (The poor one with all those kids! I should've added).
Cookie Cal smiles at this as we talk about how expensive Mercedes are to maintain and general neighborhood stuff. I then make sure that he has a whole bag of cookies in his hand as he leaves. 
     He came back again two days later to drop off a large roll of white paper for the kids to trace themselves with. He commented, They could draw full body outlines of themselves. I had to irreverently add, Yeah, like crime scene pictures - all sprawled out!
      Uh-oh. I think my neighbor's bawdy, off-color humor is wearing off on me. I better stop making cookies so he'll stay away. Somehow I just don't think that will do the trick. I've given him apple pies and apple dumplings from the apples I pick from his tree that he so generously offers each Fall. He's also let me know how much he enjoys my Christmas treats each year. What to do? I'll just keep being friendly and maybe he'll be done cleaning out his garage soon. Although we really are enjoying his red wagon and the brooms....