Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking Off the Training Wheels

We spent last week in Disney World celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary with our family.  The girls had been counting down the days--all 289 of them--since we booked the trip and they were beside themselves with excitement for each day's planned activities.

Except for one.

They weren't overjoyed for Epcot day since there aren't as many rides and they are forced to saunter along while the grownups check out the different "countries" at a leisurely pace.  I tried to liven things up for them with the promise of going to the France Pavillion. "It will be fun! We'll buy a souvenir for Clèmentine and there will be employees there who speak French!"

They weren't buying in. 

By the time we got to France, much later in the evening than we'd hoped, the girls were exhausted and disinterested.  They didn't want to go into the shops. They didn't care about the Eiffel Tower or the simulated Parisian streets. They didn't want to eat at the restaurants or dip into the parfumerie. They wanted to go back to the hotel and go to bed.

Just when I had given up on seeing the fireworks, we rounded a corner and ran into  a crêpes stand. In a last ditch effort to load the girls up with enough sugar to make it through until 10 p.m., I sent the little ones to a table with their cousins while Brontë, my husband, and I hit the crêpes stand. Waiting our turn, I noticed the name tag worn by the girl working the crepe stand. It read "Lilian" and underneath that "Grenoble." 

I turned to Brontë. "This girl is from France.  You should place our order in French."

She agreed immediately.

When it was our turn, we moved up to the window.  Lilian looked to me and I pointed down to Brontë whose head was barely higher than the counter.

"What would you like?" Lilian asked her.

"Bonjour. Comment ça va?"  My daughter looked nervous, but she spoke up loudly enough to be heard over the surrounding clamor of the other passing tourists.

Lilian leaned forward and lowered her head so she was eye-level with Brontë. She asked Brontë her name in French, though she didn't say "Comment t'appelle tu" as we are used to; her syntax was a bit different. But Brontë heard "appelle" and figured out what she meant.

"Brontë.  I mean--Je m'appelle Brontë," she answered, remembering to use a complete sentence as she must in her Language Stars class.

Lilian asked how old she was and Brontë dutifully answered "J'ai neuf ans."

People were starting to line up behind us, so I nudged Brontë to go ahead and order.  

"Je voudrais deux crêpes chocolat, s'il vous plait."

Lilian obliged and began making our crêpes, asking Brontë if she was learning French in school and Brontë told her that we take French classes each week. When Lilian told us our total (and I thought "Mon Dieu!"), Anthony handed her the money to pay and we started to leave.

"Bon soir!" Lilian called after us. "Keep studying your French. It is very good!"

"Merci! Au revoir!" Brontë answered. 

Her nervousness melted away and a big smile broke out on her face.  She had done it! She had ordered in French and made a little bit of conversation, not with me or with Clèmentine--both of us would have been encouraging no matter how well or how poorly she had done--but with a stranger who had no vested interest in her, no obligation to be supportive or even play along or prolong the conversation by asking questions. 

I had been worried when we started Language Stars that Brontë and Chloë (9 and 7) had already missed the critical window to start learning another language. Frankly, it has been their 5 year old sister who seems to be absorbing the information more naturally. But this little encounter proved me wrong. The little one may be quicker at absorbing what she's learning in French class, but it is her big sister who has gained the confidence to test herself and venture out on her own.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Power of a Praying Child (to Embarrass Her Parents)

My girls love our church and the girls ministries activities they participate in mid-week.  I'm so thankful that they have other strong women in their lives to encourage and build them up spiritually and fill in the gaps that I'm no-doubt leaving, despite my efforts.

Witnessing their childlike faith builds my own. Most of the time, their first response to negative things like illness, stress, or fear is to pray. I remember once Chloe was complaining of a sore throat.  As I started digging through the medicine closet, she scolded me:  "Mommy!  I said I'm sick! Why haven't you prayed for me yet?!" 


Of course, they also pray for things like American Girl Dolls and for their sisters' character reformation ("Dear Jesus, please make my sisters stop being so bossy").

This Wednesday, I received some disappointing news that sunk my mood for the day. Bronte, by far my most sensitive child, started following me around asking me what was wrong, seeming worried and frankly, making a bigger deal of it than was necessary.

It dawned on me that we were going to church that night. I stopped what I was doing and turned to her, offering her less of an explanation than a word of warning.

"Bronte, I'm fine, ok? I am just not in a good mood.  No big deal and, not to say this was your plan, but please don't go to your class tonight and put up a prayer request about your grouchy, stressed-out, mean  mother."

It sounded really crappy and I quickly tried to backpedal hoping I didn't just create a new prayer request revolving around deep psychic wounds inflicted by said grouchy, stressed-out, mean mother:  "I mean...I'm sorry.  I will cheer up and you can have whatever prayer request you want, of course."

Too late.  Now she was in a bad mood (And no wonder. I suck).  "I wasn't even going to do that, Mom.

She sighed and stomped off.  I sighed and stomped off after her, apologizing again, and feigning a cheery voice to prove all was well while offering her some Halloween candy.

Cut to nine hours later as we were driving home from church. I asked each one of them how their class was and they asked me how the youth service went. Everyone seemed to have a great night and the girls mentioned that they had put in requests ranging from prayers for our dear friends who lost their home in a fire this week to safe travels as we head out on our vacation.

Then, it happened. 

And by "it" I mean the retribution I'd earned for potentially quashing one of Bronte's prayer requests in the interest of my own pride and not wanting her teachers (my friends) to know that I can be a jerk.

The five year old chimed in from the backseat.

 "Mommy, I prayed for you tonight in my class."

Oh boy. Lord, here's a prayer request: Please don't let this be about what a grouch I was today.

"What did you pray for me about?" I asked, trying not to dread the answer.

 "I prayed for the bumps on your face."

Now, I wish I had beautiful skin, but I don't. I'm 42 years old with skin that looks like the before picture on a Proactive commercial.

"Oh. My. Gosh. CARYS!!!"  This was not going to be good (although, hey, prayer answered: It wasn't about what a jerk I can be!).

"It's okay, Mommy.  I just told my class that you have bumps on your face and that I told you that I think it is because you must not take enough showers."

I screamed.  Bronte and Chloe screamed (I had enough presence of mind, however, to realize their screams meant they are aware they shouldn't embarrass their mother during prayer request time). My mother-in-law, who was also in the car, screamed with laughter.

I started sorting through a mental list of churches I could switch to.

Carys started crying.  Over all commotion she bawled, "I told them that I was wrong and that that wasn't the reason!" (But not that I do actually shower daily, I noted).

I quieted everyone down and reassured my baby.  "That's okay, sweetie. Thank you for praying for me! That was so nice and thoughtful of you!"

The last thing I want to do is hinder my children's prayer life. If that means that other moms hear about my bad mood and bad skin, so be it. I suppose there is something to be said for discretion, but how to teach them that without them feeling like they can't speak what's on their heart or that they have to cover up for my shortcomings?

Until I figure that one out, I've decided to be willing to be humiliated. It's a small price to pay for children whose first response is to pray!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fashionably Late

What does a 5 year old do when saddled with the mind-numbingly dull chore of waiting in the customer lounge of a car dealership? 

Play with Mommy's iPhone, of course!  

And what does Mommy mutter under her breath when she realizes that by handing over said iPhone to the girl, she has circumvented an hour's worth of whining and misery?  

"Thank you, Steve Jobs."

Yes, I know I'm late to the party. But I'm still grateful, not only for meltdown-prevention invention, but for the laughs we enjoyed later upon discovering the little one's penchant for photography.

Here is the gallery.



Wild Life

Carys' favorite tiger, Mr. Stuffy (aka Richard Parker, as Mimi and Mommy like to call him)

I think this is Mr. Stuffy's self-portrait, actually.