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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tales from the Dark Side

Mom thought I should post a blog about the recent stomach virus that hit the Line family home. Only my mom would find this to be interesting writing material! My mom, by the way, the most amazing and lovely woman I know, and was a lay midwife for 16+ years of my life. I know this might sound weird, but in our childhood home, we had a second refrigerator/ freezer in the garage, but rarely was it used for food. No, there were no dead old uncles or neighbors being preserved (that would be TOO WEIRD). But you may think the truth is even weirder: Not only did my herpetologist father store frozen mice and rats for snake-feeding purposes, but for many years there was (stored in the freezer) a one-of-a-kind very unique frozen placenta (yes, human) that my mom thought to save for research purposes. It was an interesting childhood . . . but I digress.
Needless to say mom has a strong stomach, so the stories of viruses and freakish ailments don't bother her one bit. Dad's another story. Dad, you may not want to read this one.
I guess I never realized that when you have four boys under the age of 12, a stomach virus is like an Old Testament Plague. It started with Mitchell last Monday night. We were all sleeping peacefully until suddenly my bedroom door was thrust open and my overhead light was turned on abruptly. In the doorway, Mitchell stood, wearing a giant American flag t-shirt. Old Glory was covered in old pot roast.
"Why did you turn the light on, Mitchell?" John asked, shielding his eyes from the sudden bright like. At the foot of our bed, Porky barked at him for intruding upon her rest.
"I barfed in my bed!" He whimpered.
"Well, take off your clothes and go get in the shower!" I insisted. Then I went into the boys' bedroom to survey the damage. Mitchell sleeps on the highest top bunk in the boys clubhouse, and it was impossible for me to clean the mattress without waking the other boys. So we put all the sheets in the washer and added lots of color-safe bleach. I sprayed the mattress with disinfectant and odor-remover, then told Mitchell to get into bed with his brother. Yes, friends, this is how germs thrive.
The next day John stayed home with Mitchell and there was only one more puking incident, this time, all over Samuel's pillow. Lucky Samuel. Wednesday came and everyone went to school. We assumed Mitchell had just eaten something that disagreed with him, because no one seemed to be too sick. But Wednesday night sometime late, Jeremiah showed up in my bedroom asking if he could sleep with me. I wish I had know that little stinker was a time-bomb waiting to go off. Early Thursday morning, Jeremiah sat up in my bed around 6 am and threw up bright red (meatballs) all over my tan sheets, white bed spread, and pillowcases. I jumped out of bed, started stripping his clothes and my bed linens, feverishly trying to save my mattress from a meatball stain. Lucky John had already left for work earlier in the morning.
Thursday I tried to take Jeremiah to work with me. We only lasted a few hours. He slept on the sofa in my office, but woke up grumpy and hot. When his temperature was over one hundred, we left the office and headed back home. An hour after I got home, I heard a cry from Georgia's room. Peniel was sitting on Georgia's bed, covered in his own vomit. Somehow, his ultra-gooey barf had found it's way through Georgia's comforter, sheets, mattress cover and all the way to her box spring. I had no idea barf could travel so quickly! Once again, I tore bedsheets off ANOTHER bed, stripped ANOTHER little boy and put him in the bath. Needless to say, Peniel had no appetite Thursday night. Friday came (Peniel's 8th birthday) and I was determined we were having his party no matter what. He had wanted to go to Ryan's steakhouse for dinner and by this time, the thought of a buffet was too much for me to handle. I was beginning to feel it in my own belly, but I denied it's power and went on with the day. Friday around 2 pm, I took Georgia to her boyfriend's house for the afternoon. Jeremiah and Samuel rode with me, and after we dropped off big sister, Samuel climbed into the front seat of my car JUST IN TIME to start banging on the window, hollering "pull over! pull over!" We were on the so-very-curvy highway 9 and I pulled over as fast as possible, but not fast enough. Samuel's lap was already covered in chunks and it ran down his face. I pulled over into an area covered in leaves and Samuel literally rolled out of the car and lay on the ground, vomiting into the piles of leaves. Cars passed and people pointed and stared but the ever-dramatic Samuel kept moaning and groaning, rolling on the ground like he had been shot with an assault rifle. Like the wicked stepmother that I am, I forced my ten year old stepson to undress on the side of the road. I found a plastic grocery bag in the trunk and put his pants, coat, socks and shoes (all vomit-soaked) into the bag and into the trunk. I used Windex wipes to spot-clean the upholstery and then ordered Samuel to ride home in his whitey-tighties. What else could I do? From the backseat, Jeremiah giggled and chanted, "Samuel! You're wearing just your underwear!" As luck would have it, this errand had not been just about dropping off Georgia, but also had been for the purposes of picking up more bleach and detergent since I had now laundered every bed in the house at least twice in 48 hours and more was waiting for me. So Samuel had to cover himself with an extra jacket and remain in the car in his underwear while Jeremiah and I ran into Family Dollar for supplies. Needless to say, Samuel did not attend the birthday party at Ryan's Steakhouse that night, but he did manage to conjure up enough energy to whimper "Bring me back a roll!" as we loaded into Big Bessie for our night out. By this time, the mere thought of the hard boiled eggs on the salad bar was enough to send me running to the bathroom, but I was not about to let a little nausea get in the way of Peniel's birthday party. School had already been cancelled three days during the week, and he had missed not only his class Christmas party, but he was not able to bring cupcakes in for his class on his birthday since it was a snow day! I pressed on, forced myself to eat dinner (but not dessert) and sipped a sprite throughout the party, hoping to avoid a sudden run to the restroom. That night, I dipped into a stash of phenergan that was around from last year's bout with the stomach flu. I rolled around all night wishing someone would put me out of my misery. Mine lasted three days- lucky me. Wasn't Jonah in the belly of the whale three days and nights? I felt like something odd was in my belly for three days and nights. Sunday came and I missed church due to sickness for only the second time in 14 years! I stepped on the scale and found I had dropped four pounds - a silver lining, perhaps? Sunday afternoon I began to feel a little better and thought- maybe I will live.  I came out of my bedroom to join the land of the living.  Hannah rounded the corner and met me in the hallway with a grim look on her face. "Melissa . . . I'm not feeling so well."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gifts of Grace . . .

Well . . . ready or not, here it comes: The most wonderful time of the year.  And even though I share my life with the most amazing people on the planet, and worship the Birthday Boy himself, I am just slightly disenchanted with the Holiday season this year. And here is why:

I spend countless hours shopping for the toys and goodies for our kids. I research the best prices, drive around and find those things their little hearts desire, wrap them up with the cutest paper I can find, and place them under the tree. After this process, inevitably someone (at least one of the kids) will remark that what they REALLY want for Christmas is ___________ and name some other toy that hasn't been previously talked about. This makes me a little crazy and I feel like telling the kids there is a "wish list deadline" - sort of like April 15 for taxpayers. You can add or change something to your list before the wish list deadline (say, November 23) but when it is midnight on November 24 don't even THINK about changing your wish list. And if you try to back out of something you previously listed, I will take it all back to the store and you get NOTHING. 

But here is the other problem: my kids are "counting" presents under the tree! They aren't just looking at them, shaking and listening to the packages, or talking about what might be in those beautifully wrapped gifts. They are COUNTING to see how many gifts they will be getting, and comparing their numbers to the other kids.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? HAVE WE REALLY GOTTEN THAT MATERIALISTIC?

I feel that something drastic needs to happen. Maybe John and I should load the kids up in Big Bessie and find a Leper colony, or a family of homeless bums and camp out there for the duration of the Christmas season to give the kids a little perspective. They have completely forgotten what this season is all about - sharing, sacrifice, and being together with those you love. How can I teach this to kids I haven't had for very long? How can I teach them that Christmas is NOT about what you get- it's about what was already given!

When my sisters and I were little, our parents had a good policy on the gifts. The scriptural record tells us that Jesus essentially received three Christmas gifts from the Magi: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Never mind the fact that spices and precious metals aren't exactly the most practical gifts for a toddler, we all know that those gifts were shared to honor and bless the King of Kings. I feel this practice Mom and Dad put into place is a good one, so I have instituted the "Three gift maximum" for the Line bunch. It only gets complicated when the always-brilliant Mitchell points out that "Jesus got gold, which is basically like a gift card or money because he could spend it on whatever he wanted."

Maybe the biggest problem with Christmas is Santa. I never really thought of him as "Bad", in fact I always thought the jolly old soul was just fun and magic, and an innocent part of childhood. And though I'm not ready to lump him into the same category as Osama Bin Laden or Satan, I am beginning to wonder if "he" is part of the problem. You see, Santa brings gifts to the "good boys and girls." Santa "knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes!" The problem with this is: who is good, and who is bad? It's the same problem that the Pharisees kept running into all over the gospels. The Pharisees had a long list of rules and regulations, and were so busy running around trying to catch the bad guys, they didn't realize that they themselves were outside of the perfect holiness of God. But through the important lessons that Jesus taught in the gospels, we have learned that through GRACE, we can be made right with God - and ONLY through grace. There are simply not enough "good" deeds that we can do to earn the magnificent, complete and perfect love of Jesus Christ. While many kids who still believe in Santa Claus might try to be "good" around the holidays in case Santa is watching, we who follow Christ know that "being good" is not the way to get in right with our Heavenly Father. If we tried to be good enough to earn gifts from God, we would find ourselves to be utter and hopeless failures. Every gift from God is the complete opposite of what we deserve or what we have earned. Every gift from God is just that - a gift - not something we got because we were "good little boys or girls."

So maybe instead of trying to teach my kids about Christmas, I should try instead to show my children GRACE. By loving them just as they are, and accepting the fact that they are children- sometimes foolish, sometimes weak and ALWAYS in need of a Savior, I can give my children the gift of grace. After all, isn't that what Christmas is really about anyway?