A Look into the Future

First of all, I'd like to start out by mentioning that this post is dedicated to Tom Marshall, who actually reads this blog. Thanks, Tom.

Despite agreeing that I should post more frequently, I'm going to phone this one in and post an email I sent to one of my Pratt friends during the Ozark trip the Marshalls took Josh and I on. One of the evenings--I think the day we went tubing and later the guys went wake boarding--Josh was really tired, so he went to bed early.

Hi Kensey,
I just wanted to tell someone what I was doing. I'm sitting here in the condo Josh's boss rented for vacation talking to two 13 year old boys (Grant and Destin) who are obsessed with X-box and gangs and listening to Oak scream because he doesn't want to go to sleep. Too bad. Josh and Bear are asleep and it's past Oak's bedtime.
Grant and Destin keep asking me question about the gangs of Brooklyn. The questions have veered from easily answerable things I could have observed while there to things I could only know if I was in the gang, so I've started making up answers.
I had forgotten how awkward and weird teenage boys are. They just told me that they recently shot a squirrel, cut it open, and ate the heart.
"How did it taste?" I asked.
"Like a salty loogie," Grant said.
"That's actually a really good description," Destin said.
Now I'm talking about comic books and retards and leaving various dairy products in our rooms and finding them weeks later. And the best thing about it is they don't care that I'm typing this to you while they talk or I answer.* I thought I was going to be really mad at Josh for falling asleep and leaving me to talk to his boss's kid and friend, but I'm having a great time. This is the future we have in store, Kensey: awkward, weird, funny teenage boys.
I hope your night is going as well.

*"Kids" these days just assume whoever they're talking to is doing at least one other thing on their mobile device or computer (or computer mobile device). I know that really makes some people mad, but what it indicates about how our culture is shifting with the new generation fascinates me. That's another post, though.

Hanging out with Grant and Destin was one of my favorite memories from the Ozark trip. I was in Brooklyn while my brother was going through those walking-the-line-between-awkward-and-funny, personality-growing years, so this was my first opportunity to observe thirteen-year-old boys in the wild. I got some insight into the mind of an early teenage boy and a look into my and Kensey's future with our sons.

I wonder what our boys will kill and eat.



The first thing I need to say is how much fun I had going on vacation to the Lake of the Ozarks. I'm so thankful to the Marshalls for taking us! I was there for a whole week and didn't even get sniffed by a piranha (that I know of), so my incredibly shaky faith in swimming in murky water is restored. Also, since Josh was around all the time and there were plenty of opportunities for me to work while on vacation, I finished SINES, my graphic novel script, based on the original non-graphic novel Snappy, Intriguing, and Not Entirely Stolen. This SINES--like most second drafts--is a great improvement on the first one, not to mention the first non-short-story manuscript I've finished in my life (not counting that book I handwrote on notebook paper in junior high). So, you know, good for me.

But we're home again and recovered from vacation, so it's back to the old grindstone. If you follow along with my blog (which seems unlikely), you'll note that I'm a very goal-oriented person. My life revolves around making goals. In fact, in any given day, I come up with 8-10 new ones based on whatever I'm interested in at the moment. (I don't worry too much about accomplishing the goals. I've never been motivated by achievement and it seems silly to dwell on what might have been.) Lately, my goal has been to learn to draw.

I started out thinking I would draw a weekly web-comic to post on ElfshanxComix so I could measure my improvement, but that doesn't seem like something that will materialize in the near future if it hasn't already. I was pretty well ready to give up on drawing things when I got the idea for a creepy card for Josh. I sat down today and made this:

That was fun. And I really liked the reaction I got. (Where achievement doesn't motivate me, attention and adoration does.) All of which leads me to believe I'm more likely to learn how to draw if I do things like draw a series of creepy cards for Josh. My title ideas include "Morbid Love Publishers," "Bleeding Heart, Inc.," and "Only Hurt the Ones You Love Productions." That reminds me of that series of greeting cards/signs I made when I was a kid published by "Running with Scissors, Inc."


Playing Catch-Up

The past week was a busy and, at times, unproductive one. That's the way it goes, right? You decide to do something and suddenly nothing and no one want you to do it.

Where there's adversity there's also opportunity. Last week was full of chances for me to reconnect with both sides of my family.

  1. On my Grandpa Smith's Fourth of July (which happened on the third), I got to spend time with the whole right side of my extended family tree (to clarify, I consider the right side of a family to be the maternal side, so this was my family, not Josh's), including my aunts and uncle who I almost never see.
  2. Josh's brother and his girlfriend flew up from Texas for the holiday.
  3. Josh's uncle and cousins drove up from Texas and arrived the day Matt left. We were able to spend some time on Friday talking to his uncle about what we should know before buying a houseboat.
  4. On Saturday, Josh took care of Bear and Mom and Dad took Oak, so Emily and I got to hang out at the lake sunburning (mostly me) and talking.
  5. Saturday night, Josh and I went to his sister's house and played cards for the first time in at least a month.
  6. Sunday, Josh's boss and wife invited us to go out on the (other) lake with them on their pontoon boat. That one was mostly a getaway for me and Josh. It was great.
There was all kinds of trouble with my experiment last week, of course, but there's no need to focus on the bad unless we learned something from it. For example: I learned that kids are germ sacks who will make you sick and then get better while you feel like you're dying. I learned that I can take three two+ hour naps in one day and still be tired. I learned that little boys don't throw as many fits when you pay a reasonable amount of attention to them. I learned that most of mine and Joshua's fights rise out of misunderstandings and unfounded assumptions. And that I miss God--miss him like I'd miss Joshua--when I don't spend time with Him. Also that I don't like watching church over the internet but that's no reason to take it out on someone else. I don't know when any of these new-found facts will come in handy, but I figure knowing them might be the important half of the battle.

Those of you with jobs probably realize that a new week has begun. That means it's time to start over again and apply the things I learned from last week. Just this morning Oak and Bear and I danced and climbed ladders in the living room while singing along with some great praise songs. I had to give up time I could've been writing, but you know what's weird? I feel great. Really, really great.


Days 5, 6, and 7: Cop-Out

I realize it may seem like I'm phoning it in by writing one post covering three whole days, but that's only because it is. Just as I predicted, Day 4 mirrored Day 3 in terms of vomit and crying babies, but one really great thing to come from it was Joshua getting home from work on one of those rare occasions when both boys passed out at the same time and he and I finally got to spend some time together.

 Day 5 really tried my patience because Oak was starting to feel better, but not well enough to be in a good mood for more than a few minutes at a time and definitely not well enough to stop wanting to be held. Just when I thought I was going to have to pull my hair out (Although, what good would that do? Then I would be frustrated and bald.), I remembered the point of this 30 Day exercise is to focus on them, not on me. Oak wasn't crying and whining because he was trying to make me mad, he just needed someone to take his mind off of feeling sick. So I laid down on the floor and we wrestled and played until both of us were laughing so hard we couldn't remember who had been screaming or why. I count it as another victory that I got Josh to go to bed at six-thirty that night, even though I missed spending time with him and he felt bad about leaving me holding the babies alone again. As hard as they've been working at the shop this week, he really needed the extra sleep. I was really dying to write, so I stayed up after Bear's three a.m. feeding and got some work done, foolishly thinking I didn't need sleep.

On Day 6, yesterday, Josh treated me to writing--meaning I paid my sister to watch the boys while I went to Pickler's Famous to work on my comic book script. I think that did us all some good. Oak got to play with his Aunt Emmy and I got to feel like maybe God isn't asking me to give up writing. And later that evening, while Josh was playing with Oak, Bear and I had a nice, long conversation. I worry sometimes that Bear will grow up missing out on some of the things Oak got--for example, my undivided attention--just because Oak is the squeakiest wheel in the house, but I'm starting to realize that all it takes is making the time to give Little Bear those things. And it doesn't hurt to have a husband who will play with your older child. Thank God for Josh! I honestly don't know how single parents of multiple children survive. (Or, maybe, how multiple children of single parents survive?)

Today, Day 7, my mom came up and we went to the farmer's market, grocery shopping, and got some lunch. I don't remember if I mentioned that reconnecting with my extended family was part of this Rebuilding Jerusalem exercise, but it is. My mom is central to that phase for this reason: when I was a tween-teen I went all awry and stopped being my mom's daughter. What does that mean? It means I not only made things awkward between us, but I made it hard for Mom to talk to me or even be around me. My dad used to yell at me because I never told Mom anything and it was hurting her, but as a non-parent I couldn't grasp just how painful that might be. Imagine putting so much time and emotion into raising this little thing that thinks the sun rises and sets because you tell it to and one day that little thing won't even talk to you. No reason, no explanation, just--poof!--full embargo. (Kids are dicks.) I've known for some time that I needed to get back together with Mom, but today was the first time I made an effort to not be awkward or stand-offish. Honestly, it's not easy undoing something you started work on in your tweens. It's going to take more than one farmer's market and lunch, but it can be done as long as I don't give up. Luckily for me, Mom never gave up, so I don't have to start over completely.

Bear just peed on me, so I've got to go. Day 8 is my Grandpa Smith's Fourth of July celebration, so I'll have a  whole group of extended family to reconnect with.


Day 3: Ratings Hike

Day 3 of this experiment presented me with a plot twist no one could have seen coming: Oak vomitted everywhere and started running a temperature of over 100.

My first thought: What if his fever reaches 104? I've got to take him to the ER!

Luckily, Joshua was there to derail that train of thought before it went too far. We have a doctor's appointment this morning.

My second thought: This is good. I started this 30 Days thing to better take care of my family, now God's giving me an opportunity to do just that.

But here's a dilemma I'm finding myself in now: How to balance out comforting a sick toddler who just wants to be held with feeding, holding and caring for an infant who also wants to be held? And now that I think of it, how do I balance that with giving attention to my husband who has been working major overtime this week and needs some extra TLC?

Physically, I'm on my own here. When Josh gets done working mind-boggling shifts, he's too tired to change diapers and make bottles. I definitely don't want him to have to make his own supper. This means one of two things--1) someone will have to cry because they're not being held at some point, and 2) better planning will have to go into meals, i.e. prepping while Oak is napping, feeding Bear more at a time so he'll eat fewer meals a day, and so on.

Emotionally, however, I've got all the help I need. The Holy Spirit totally stepped up on this one. I'm tired, but not irritable. I'm doing everything around the house (including new things like double-washing clothes because I didn't realize washing machines don't make vomit disappear, they just distribute it evenly), but I don't feel overworked. Even hearing Oak whine while Bear screams doesn't faze me. And I really thank God for that, because--as any mom can tell you--listening to two babies feed off each other's cries can really eat away at you.

So that's Day 3, and my guess is probably Day 4, too. Tune in tomorrow to see if the producers can capitalize on this exciting twist!


Day Two: Reconnaissance

Well, I didn't post yesterday, so I'm already a day behind in my 30 Days to Rebuild Jerusalem experiment. This is what I learned about each of my targets from my first reconnaissance mission.

  • eating
  • being held
  • gurgling with someone
  • waiting to eat
  • pacifiers (sometimes)
  • pooping
  • fresh fruit, cheese, milk, grape juice
  • playing outside
  • reading books with someone
  • climbing on things
  • dancing
  • waiting to eat or drink
  • coming inside
  • being ignored
  • hearing "no"
  • food
  • playing outside
  • talking about and preparing to sell this house and buy an RV
  • traveling
  • chess, yahtzee, phase 10, monopoly
  • learning computer programming
  • sex
  • going to bed
  • getting up
  • clutter
  • milk and egg-yolk products
  • illogical statements
The Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
  • hearing/seeing singing, dancing, and making music in His praise
  • talking with someone
  • hanging out
  • taking care of someone's problems for them
  • seeing someone care for others
  • being ignored
Today, or Day 3, is the day I start using the things I learned from Day Two to better love and care for my peeps. From here on out, I think that's pretty much what it is.


30 Days to Rebuild Jerusalem

Day One: Admit, Assess & Strategize
This exercise is based on a series my church (The Crossing, Kirksville) started last week called One89, looking at the promises Christ made in Acts 1:8-9 before he ascended into Heaven. The idea the pastor rolled with last week and this week was this: our Jerusalem is our family and the people immediately around us, our Judea and Samaria is the world outside of that. If your Jerusalem is in shambles, you won't have a strong enough foundation to go out and save Judea and Samaria, and without a strong foundation, the world will pick you apart.

For those of you who are worried, my Jerusalem, my family, is not in shambles, not really. But we're not moving forward, and--to quote one of my favorite teachers from high school--if you're not moving forward, you're falling behind, and I'd hate to leave my family falling behind while I go out and try to move the world forward. That's what this series of blog posts will be about: rebuilding my Jerusalem by reconnecting with my family and my faith.

Admit the Problem
To describe myself as a hermit wouldn't be any exaggeration. We've discussed before how much I like to live in my own little world of make believe, but the fact is I have two babies and one husband who depend on me on a daily basis for love, attention, food, and more attention. It would be easy and feel great to make excuses like, "I get up five times a night with Bear, I'm too tired to play with Oak all day long and then cook supper," or "Josh sleeps all night and works all day, he should be the one giving me attention," or even better "Shouldn't I get to have some time to myself?" The one I hear myself think most often is "I started out at five this morning and before I know it, it was ten o'clock at night and I forgot to read my Bible--but Bear's going to be up and hungry in two hours. If I don't sleep now, when will I?"

The problem with excuses is that they were invented to excuse--to free from an obligation, or to justify a behavior. And when you justify, you make what you're doing seem okay. If I stop making excuses and put it in the bluntest terms possible, what I do every day is this: ignore my children, my husband, and my Saviour because I'd rather be lazy and selfish than give them back the love and attention they give me.

Assess a Solution
Giving up everything that's centered around my wants. That sounds drastic, but I don't think it really is. If you think about it, what could possibly be more freeing than not being tied down by what you want? Not having to meet your own demands is the ultimate release from obligation. Besides, I think that actually giving up everything you ever wanted in pursuit of God's plan is really on more of a case-by-case basis. What's important, I think, is being willing to give it up.

I'll need a way to keep myself accountable and display the daily results for this experiment. How about by writing a blog post every day that details something I learned, experienced, or felt? Check.

My goal is this: to rebuild my Jerusalem. Which means what? To invest myself in my family and my faith so that we can be a strong unit and foundation for each other.

Bust out a Strategy
The overview of my plan, in order of appearance, looks like this:

  • Reignite the relationship between myself and my lovers--Joshua and Jesus
  • Spend more time with my boys, Oak and Bear
  • Be nicer to our cats
  • Repair my relationships with my extended family, both on my side and Joshua's

To accomplish these objectives, I'm going to need to gather some intelligence, so please tune in tomorrow for Day Two: Reconnaissance.



It's important to me that I get this out there where someone--anyone--can read it.

For Mother's Day, Joshua, Oak and Bear took me to Columbia. We stayed in a hotel, went to the mall to buy two more of the comic book series I'm currently reading (Fables), and went to Rockbridge State Park. That's the set-up to this story.

It was the first really nice weekend of the summer. We were stopped at a red light on the way to Rockbridge and in the lane next to us sat a guy on a crotch rocket. Suddenly this roar filled the air. At least fifty bikers on similar crotch rockets flew by. As he passed, the leader of the pack waved at the biker who was waiting patiently for his light to change as if to say, "Come on, man!" The solitary biker looked at his red light, looked behind him at the still passing group of bikers, then shot into their lane to join them.

"I saw. Awesome!"

It was, too.


Light bulb!

Ladies and gentlemen, I've finally figured it out. All this time I was waiting to nest, hoping I'd get everything done around the house that needs to be done: wash the dishes, wash the clothes, put away the clothes, clean out the fridge... I even made a list of stuff to do so that when the urge struck, I wouldn't forget anything. I never once took into account that who I am is so deeply ingrained that I don't nest like most human beings.

We talked once about how I don't operate within the bounds of the normal spheres other people exist in. It never occurred to me, though, that it's in my nature to think unnecessary things are absolutely necessary. I stopped for a moment today and realized that I've been nesting for the last two days.

These are the things I've accomplished:
  • Finished reading the box of comic books my friend lent me.
  • Found two pairs of socks for the hospital.
  • Grocery-shopped for pasta salad stuff.
  • Transfered the latest pictures from the camera to the computer.
    • Organized them in the Pictures folder.
    • Uploaded a few to facebook.
  • Emailed two friends.
  • Decided to get my hair cut.
  • Wrote a blog entry about nesting.
The dishes and clothes and fridge are not done, but man, I feel like a weight has been lifted. Now I'm ready for Enis Reloaded to get here. If I get a chance, I'll tell you why he's coming on Friday.


Bloody Stumps

Or, "The Information Highway"

It happened like this: Joshua was sending a tiny piece of molding through the saw, pushing it with a push-block (a brilliantly named invention designed to keep a woodworker's fingers away from the saw blade when cutting a very small piece of wood). The piece of molding bound (the woodworker's way of saying that it stopped going through and started to kick back), Josh grabbed for it to keep it from shooting off (which sounds very funny, but which it turns out can be as dangerous as launching knives at random from a cannon), and it pulled his hand into the saw blade. He remembers not realizing that he'd hurt himself, turning off the saw, then seeing the blood. His boss's wife had just come to the front of the shop for some reason. He said her name in what he remembers as a calm voice, although reports differ varying on who you ask. What doesn't differ from one witness to another and what makes his version of events slightly less reliable is the fact that everyone remembers his boss's wife sprinting to him as soon as he "said" her name.

While this was transpiring, Oak and I were getting up from a restful midmorning nap and starting some delicious pasta salad for lunch. I was just draining the pasta and vegetables when my phone started ringing. It was my mother-in-law. That's odd, I thought. She's in Kansas City until Thursday [Often in anecdotes, I find I think in exposition.], but maybe she wants to know what size pants or something Oak is wearing these days so she can buy him something. And so, with my free hand, I answered.

eden: Hello?
Mother-in-Law: [obviously crying and a little hysteric] Oh God, just tell me what happened!
[I admit, I wasn't prepared for that.]
e: Um...what are you talking about?
ML: Oh no! I'm sorry! I thought you knew!
[I'm fairly certain she was going to hang up without telling me.]
e: Well, you can't not tell me now.
ML: [crying harder] Joshua! He got caught in the saw!
[And now I'm thinking that my husband is either dead or dying or one-handed. He just sent me a text message an hour ago that said, "I love you!" but because I was taking a nap, I didn't respond. How ironic will that make the story SLEEP that I wrote sophomore year? I think this as I finish draining the pasta.]
ML: My Tom said {Josh's boss} just came into the restaurant and said {Josh's boss's wife} is taking him to the emergency room. He didn't know how bad it was because he got there just as she and Josh were leaving.

Some hope returned at that point. Josh was walking, so at the worst, he was one-handed. I did my best to calm my mother-in-law down and told her I would find out what happened and call her when I knew. Until we knew for sure what happened there was no reason to get all worked up. I remember thinking how strangely calm I felt the whole time we were on the phone. I imagine it's easier to feel calm in high-stress situations when someone else is panicking.

Because I didn't have any of the numbers for Josh's work or his boss's phone or his boss's wife's phone, I called Josh's phone. It just stood to reason that he'd have it with him. At that time, my father-in-law knocked on the door. He said he would have called, but he didn't have my right number. He was much calmer in repeating the story of Josh's boss coming to the restaurant to tell him that Josh was on the way to the ER. I told my father-in-law that Oak and I were leaving for the hospital as soon as we called to find out what exactly the doctors knew so far. I did and then we did.

While all of these conversations were lighting up the cell phone towers and people were driving crazily around Missouri to get to the hospital or notify other people whose phone numbers they didn't have, I was packing some pasta salad in a traveling dish for Oak, getting him and myself dressed, and trying to find someone to watch him while I went to the ER. I actually got a surprising amount accomplished. Only the last task was still unfinished when I left the house, and that was resolved when my sister (who lives near the hospital) called me back as I was getting to town.

I dropped Oak off and went to the hospital to find my husband lying in a trauma room, much like the one he was in the night of his wreck, except this time Josh had bloody gauze over his hand. (Strangely, you really do think about these parallels when you find yourself in these situations.) Josh's boss and boss's wife left to fill out paperwork then and I got caught up on all that had happened and got to look under the bloody gauze as well as field the frantic calls that were coming to his cell phone and mine.

Here is the result of Tuesday: Josh is not one-handed and he still has ten fingers. Although there are sawtooth marks running in a diagonal pattern up the first two fingers of his left hand, only the tips of those two fingers were cut off. He even has most of his fingernail left on each one. An x-ray determined that he hadn't hit the bone, so there was no need for surgery. There really wasn't anything to stitch back into place, so they just cleaned and bandaged up the stumps. Apparently, fingertip injuries are desirable compared to the other sorts you can get from a table saw. And we might as well just come out and say it: Considering that the saw grabbed lower down on Josh's fingers first, it's a miracle he has any of them left. Thank God for that and for Worker's Comp.


Babies are not Pets

This particular post is dedicated to everyone who has asked me what it's like to be a mom: friends curious about babies, sisters who are trying to have babies, brothers who aren't trying to have babies yet (I hope), and various people infected with baby-fever.  They all want to know,
"Eden, what's it like to be a mom?"

Why ask me? (That's not what I say, but it's definitely the first thing I think.) Why not someone else who is obviously doing a much better job, maybe even someone who was cut out for this line of work? I can name ten of those moms off the top of my head.

Why they ask isn't the point. The point is that they do ask. Even more so, the point is that, when I tell them, they don't believe my answer.  I don't have any motivation to lie to you. Please believe me: Being a mother is weird.

I realize that's not what Google will tell you if you ask, but it's true. Try to imagine this: You have this lump that breathes and eats and poops and cries. That's all it does for three or four months. You get stressed out if it does one of these functions too much or too little because that's really all it does. Then one day this lump smiles. You realize, "Hey, it's not just a lump! It likes me!" Not long after that, it starts moving around when you lay it down. You think, "You know what, it's just like a cat. I feed it, clean up after it, pet it, share my house with it..." but it isn't like a cat because, pretty soon, what used to be a lump starts making sounds.

"That's not so weird, eden." Let me finish.

This thing that, just a few months ago, you were begging, "Please, just tell me what you want, I don't understand what you want!" starts talking to you.  Not just, "Feed me, hold me, change me!" Now it's telling you things like, "That's an animal, I like blueberries, good morning, read me this book."  Your cat has never been interested in saying anything to you except "Refill my food, pet me."  And your cat sure never got your jokes, which is what's about to happen with this thing that used to just lay on its back and stare at you.

"I guess that's a little weird."

Wait! Now this thing that used to be an immobile, crying lump wants you to laugh at its jokes. It gets mad or feels disappointed. Its feelings get hurt. It smiles for no reason or makes an expression you've only seen on adults. It talks in its sleep. It wants to hug you. It wants to know what you're doing.  It wants you to know what it is doing.

Pets stop learning after a point. Who knows why? Maybe they've satisfied their curiosity with life, maybe they're at the end of their intelligence. Whatever it is, they're done. Babies don't stop. They just keep going from lump to creepy-crawly to tiny person and whatever lies beyond.  Watching that is weird.


My New Year's Resolution

I'm just kidding.  I don't make resolutions unless they're jokes.  Last year I resolved to have a baby in February.  This year I resolved to send my friend back the comic books he lent me over the summer.

When I was younger--from about junior high to my sophomore year in high school--I did this kind of end-of-the-year ritual every Dec. 31st involving lots of weird things.  Sometimes they were things I was afraid of, but usually they were just things that I wanted to get done but never had.  One year I finished my first book. (It took up the better part of two notebooks and was written entirely in pencil.)  One year I climbed to the top of the silo.  (That was 1999, I believe.)  Things like that.  Personal triumphs.

Why don't I do that anymore?

Well, for one thing, I've seen and done a lot.  Anymore, the only things that scare me are some harm coming to my family and the dark.  There's really nothing you can do for that.

Second, a personal triumph for me nowadays would be to finish washing all the dishes on the counter. As you can see, now that Oak is walking, my Time Pie-Chart is divided much differently than it used to be.  I never spent much time before doing housework, but with all the time I spend now searching the house for my water bottle (which Oak for some reason likes better than Joshua's water bottle), stopping Oak from eating cat food, and doing vague internet research to fuel my stories, there just aren't enough degrees left in the circle.
Also, chronologically and as far as writing is concerned, I've grown up a lot since I finished that first book.  I realize now that you can't finish a piece in a certain amount of time, you have to finish it in its own time.  If you try to rush something to meet a deadline, more often than not you'll end up with junk.  If you let it get done when it gets done, you'll probably have a masterpiece on your hands.

Lastly, in my old age, I've developed a deep and passionate hatred of the cold.  I don't want to go outside in winter.  I don't even want to live in a place that has winter.  So doing outside things on December 31st is out. I don't think I even stayed up until midnight this past New Year's Eve.