I sit down in the coffee shop for my weekly writing date and notice the new arm band dangling from my wrist as I begin to type. One of those rubber “Live Strong” type bracelets with the mission statement of our church printed across reading "Celebrate and Share." We handed them out at church this morning as a part of the rally day festivities. A term used to describe the first Sunday of Sunday School in the church community, I can’t help but think the phrase “Rally Day” was chosen less as a statement to pump up the young children and more for the workers behind the scenes of Children’s Ministry, those who need just a little more pep in their step when approaching a day that will likely involve chaotic drop offs of nervous little faces, weary teachers who wondered what they signed up for, and the busy leaders buzzing around like bumble bees managing the tiny yet inevitable missteps that pop up, particularly among a congregation where young families are an important and integral part of the beating heart of this great church. It was a day as we all expected, one that leaves you both energized to see the amazing faith in the little hearts, and also wanting a nap. I’m proud to be a part of a church group that sees the important space our young children have in this community of faith, despite the tired look in my eyes.
But back to the mission statement stamped across my armband, it reads “Celebrate and Share,” God’s Grace, encouraging all members of our congregation, from the little two year old on his first day of Sunday School to the seasoned member leading a bible study, to celebrate the incredible Grace of God in all that we do, while sharing in this grace with one another.
As I see this “Celebrate and Share,” I can't help but think this isn't just a message our church community needs to hear. I need to hear this too. Sometimes, amidst the inevitable tired eyes and weary arms of parenting small people, we forget about the celebrate part of life. Celebrate the good that happens in the ordinary day, those little things that can sometimes get cloudy with the stress of parenting, or the stress of volunteering, or the stress of just living.
And along with the celebrating part, sharing those little things with others is equally as important. When we share our joys, it is a whisper of a reminder for our souls as well. It makes the moments shine even brighter.
So today, as I sit a little weary from parenting, and rally day-ing, and just life living, I’m taking a moment to celebrate those things my children are doing that I never want to forget and share them with you. It’s an important mission for a growing faith community, but equally as important to my own little personal faith growing life.
To my sweet children, at eighteen months and four years, I never want to forget this about you…
Elliott Eighteen Months
· All of the language. Language at this age is the best. There are so many words but most only make sense to a parent’s ears. My favorites are the F words . Faffle (waffle), Foppee (coffee), Feep (sleep), Fuffin (muffin), Fuhba! (football, always said in a loud cheer), mufic (music). And so many others I will never correct because they are too cute. Bip (dip), Baline (Caroline, took us awhile to figure this one out), Waty (water), Cone (corn), Blahlahlah (watermelon, difficult to type phonetically, just imagine flailing the tongue back and forth), Ladle Ladle (see you later, similar to the “watermelon” word, said in a sing song voice). I could go on and on because toddler words are just so stinking cute. I know if I don’t write some of them down I will eventually forget.
· How music brings you alive. I’ve written about it before, but I still am amazed at the power it has in your life. Like when you walked into your first music class this week as if you have been waiting your whole life for that moment. You spent most of the class dancing in the center of the circle, which made your mama’s heart race (dancing inside circles is a major pet peeve of hers, just FYI.) It has taken me a year and a half to figure you out, but that day, I knew I found what lights you up.
Or the way a song can cure any mood. When you went through one of those super fun stages of life where you kicked and screamed and squirmed your way through every single diaper change, I dug deep into my old bag of distraction tricks to find that singing you songs had the greatest chance of keeping you still. “Sun? Sun?” you kept repeating. Caroline and I brainstormed as many songs as we could think of that used the word “sun.” After the fourth rendition of “You are my Sunshine” or “Oh Mr. Sun” we realized “sun” was just “song.” Now you use Caroline as your personal juke box and request songs at any moment of the day. And of course, she obliges. You are a lucky brother.
· Having “Fun” away from me. For the last 6 months or so, separating from me was torture. You would start crying when we pulled into the parking lot of church or the gym, fearing the inevitable, a drop off in the nursery. Workouts and worship were interrupted when you wouldn’t calm down. Or you would simply cry yourself to sleep, which seemed to ruin the rest of the day. And just when I feared we would be partners for life, there was a shift, as there always is. “Fun” and “friends” are new words in your lexicon (those F words again) and you seem to finally have an awareness of what this means, a brief separation from mom to play and have fun with your friends. This is an enormous relief.
· How you throw, EVERYTHING, but always warn us with a quick “set, go!” right before launching cups, forks, plates, umbrellas from the second floor balcony toward the shelf of wine glasses below. I appreciate the “set, go” and I am getting better with my reaction time and saving some of these throws from time to time.
· Your recent discovery of Fuh-ball (see translation above.) Seeing as this is your first season as an aware toddler, you have quickly adopted your father’s love, as well as his manerisms. It only took one Ohio State game for you to begin repeating “Go, go, go, Niiiiice.” I think if anyone has ever watched a game with your dad, they will understand where this came from. Dad is working on the “O-H-I-O” call and response. I’m working on “Touchdown Packers!”
· The way you still snuggle in the carrier. I can’t believe we are still using it, especially with all 24 pounds of you, but it works, and any mama knows you never mess with what works. You may look like a giant child in my arms, and my back my cringe by the extra weight, but as long as you still take refuge in snuggling close to me, I will keep wearing you.
Caroline Dee – Four Years
· Having a front row seat to your imaginative world every afternoon during “quiet time.” Since naps became non-existent, quiet time in the loft took its place. I am generally listening to something, but if I happen to pull my ear phones out, like right now while I am typing, I can hear the stories you tell and they are magical.
· When you ask us about our day. You genuinely engage with others and are curious about how they experience life. “How was work, daddy?” “what did you write about today, mommy?” “how was Elliott’s music class?” This is an amazing quality, to show interest in others and want to share their life.
· The way you lit up with joy when you tried out dance class for the first time. You told me after your first class “I was having so much fun that I kept giggling!” There is no better description of joy in what you love! I can’t wait to see what this becomes in your life! And seriously, I don’t think I have seen anything cuter than a bunch of preschoolers in tiny pink ballet gear Pas de Bourree-ing in front of a mirror. Makes all the drama that comes with being a girl mom totally worth it.
· Ponytails in your hair! You’ve come a long way from bald baby, to mullet toddler, to short bob preschooler. Pulling your hair back into a little ponytail makes my heart stop with a look at the young lady you are becoming. Pair it with some tennies and soccer shorts and all I see is a big kid who is ready to conquer the world.
· When your heart breaks with change. Like the other day when we were getting a new refrigerator, you were aghast that we would let go of our beloved 1980s version, as if I was asking to remove a limb. Or the night before your fourth birthday when we mentioned it was your last night as three and you burst into tears saying you would miss being three. Or the moment when we said goodbye to a new friend's baby and you were beside yourself, exclaiming through the tears that "I was just getting to know her!" The thing is, I know you always do fine once the transition occurs. You are adaptable when you need to be. But I think you express what we all feel a little in our own hearts when change occurs, but don’t always understand. You embrace your world just the way it is, rarely wishing for what you don’t have. And new can be scary when you kind of liked things how they were working before. I am proud of you for pushing forward with change. Your bravery is inspiring.