Friday, February 22, 2008


I remember when I was in college and I had to take something called prerequisites. I thought: "what in the world is a prerequisite?" I dared not ask for fear of looking like a stupid freshman. I took the word into my internal memory and kept it in a file with other words such as syllabus that I was sure that I would only need for the next four years (or 6 but who's counting).
A prerequisite is a class that you must take in order to gain necessary knowledge for classes that you will take in the future. For example, I had to take College Algebra before I could take Agricultural Economics. I'm still trying to figure that one out! But, then again, I DID breeze through both of them with a 'D.' Hey! I passed! Layoff!!!
I'm not sure I figured out what prerequisite really meant until I had children. I'm constantly having flashbacks of things that I have gone through in my life that left me with a feeling of 'Why me?' only to be now left with a feeling of 'Eureka! Thanks God!' One such event came to me last night as I was reminiscing over the last 2 1/2 years and the many episodes of 'Revenge Nudity' (where all clothes and diapers are ripped off to make a point of control) and incidence of a little curly head leaning over the bath tub, staring down the drain because he's sure that Sally the Turtle is down there somewhere and the fear that he would somehow get blamed for her disappearance.
When I was employed by Children and Family Services, I had the pleasure of meeting and developing a friendship with a little boy. "Little Johnny" was your basic 7 year old, oldest sibling of a whole gaggle of kids. He came into my life one day as a result of a responsible adult who left he and his younger siblings alone with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey. Once the party got started, things got out of control due to an intoxicated toddler that the others were afraid was going to torch the place with the cigarette he was smoking. 9-1-1 was called by one of the children and the rest is history.
I had the honor of escorting "Little Johnny" to his doctor's appointments and parental visits. He was a delight to be around and never a dull moment was to be had. I was fresh out of college and still pretty proud of my little dark red sports car only to have it ripped apart by this child that I couldn't 'hit.' "Little Johnny" did everything from pushing all my buttons (both figuratively and literally) to taking off his seat belt and trying to jump out of the car going down the interstate. Thank God the speed limit was still just 55 then because another 10 or 15 miles an hour and I might have had to "push" him. Tee hee! Not really!!!!
After a few weeks, "Little Johnny" became the Dennis the Menace of our office and believe it or not some people actually hated him. I didn't particularly care for his behavior but I had a brand spanking new degree in "Human Development and Family Studies," tons and tons of prerequisites under my belt, and an undying belief that there was good in everyone (some of us just require a little deeper dig than most). The nearest I can describe as to how I felt about him is the character of "Little Nicky" from the Adam Sandler movie of the same name--while still the son of Satan he was more pitiful than the evil ones who had abused him all of his life.
One dreary day, I was scheduled to escort "Little Nicky, er, I mean, uh Johnny" to the pediatrician. Now, being a worker for DHS, I was not allowed to disclose to anyone who I was. It wasn't necessary because the office employees at the pediatric clinic knew and it wasn't really the business of anyone else. That worked really well for most children in the system but this Precious was a different story. He tried every bit of patience that I had but not before he had in some way annoyed every other adult in the waiting room. I was receiving glares that would bring the devil himself to his knees. I took it for as long as I could and then I announced to the entire waiting room with apparent despair in my voice, "HE IS NOT MINE, OK!"
A question from a mother whose child had been assaulted, "He's not yours?"
"No Ma'am. I am doing a favor for a friend who is at work." That was my standard answer because I did after all kind of like my supervisor (she was one of my bridesmaids) and she was at work. They didn't need to know that she wasn't the mother either.
The lady responded with, "You're a better friend than I am. I wouldn't put up with that."
I managed to get "Johnny" wrapped up in my arms preventing him from hitting anyone else and he couldn't throw anything. As he screamed for me to let go of him, I was headbutted and kicked. While I could have probably drawn Worker's Compensation, I refused to acknowledge getting beat down by a 7 year old. Those bruises were from running into the wall, yeah that's it! I managed to get one leg wrapped around him and explained to him while it was embarrassing to sit like this in the full-to-capacity waiting room, I was going to sit here and hold him until he calmed down. After about 5 minutes of intense pain for both of us, he settled down. Eventually, they called us back to the exam room. I'm sure that they put us in front of others just to get him out of there but I didn't care and neither did the other patients and their parents/guardians. "Johnny" and I got up from a seat and walked back together and he even took my hand and let me lead him back. *SHOCK!!!!*
Once the pediatrician came in the room, all of the calmness went out the window. The second he hopped up on the exam table it was like WWF. The doc handed him a tongue depressor....OK???? Does anybody else see this as a problem? I had no children at the time but I figured that handing this kid something that could easily be made into a shank was probably not the best idea. But, he was in the doctor's care now. ~smile~
The little boy took the tongue depressor and quickly slapped the doctor on both sides of his face like something straight out of the 'stooges' and screamed at him "ELVIS!!!!" OK! Minus the sideburns, he could have passed for the King....I guess! This invoked an unbelievably calm response from the doc of "Have you ever thought about maybe Elvis faked his death and he really still is alive?"
WHAT??????????? Where in the world did that come from? ", Doc, can't say that I ever gave that a pondering?" Still, I was impressed at his calmness. Apparently, this wasn't his first "Little Johnny." Although, the tongue depressor strategy still remains a mystery. I guess it worked at some point.
Later, the doctor caved. "Is there anything you can do to help me keep him still while I finish his physical exam?"
"Ooooohhhh! I don't know let me see. I haven't had much luck before." I walked over to the exam table and said softly to the child. "Do I need to hop up there on the table and give you a hug like I gave you in the waiting room?" He looked at me with the sweetest expression in those deep dark eyes and said, "Noooooooooooo." He laid down on the exam table and allowed the doctor to finish the exam. All was well, until the inevitable examination of the unmentionable area. "Johnny" grabbed his pants, threw his leg over to protect himself, and screamed "HEY MAN!!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING??????" Thank the Lord and all things good this was the END of the exam.
We left the office that day, got in the car, and put on our seat belts. I said, "Look! I'm making a deal with you. From this point on, when you are with me, every time you break a rule, no matter where we are there will be a 5 minute time out." He agreed to the deal. For any infraction occurring while traveling down the road, we pulled over to the side of the road for 5 minutes. It took us 1 1/2 hours to drive 15 miles. I heard 'I'm sorry' more that day than I have the rest of my life combined. Each time, I explained to "Little Johnny" that if I let him off with less than the agreed to time of "5 minutes" then I would be a liar. "I will never lie to you!"
While other CFS workers hated even being in the room with this child, I never had another problem with him. They even called me a few times to calm him down. I think sometimes he just wanted a hug. I never gave him the "super hug" again after "that" day; but he was only 7!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even though he was "Johnny the Barbarian," he still needed hugs! Something had happened to him in his short life that caused this behavior.
I still think of him regularly...especially, when I'm getting my lip busted and collar bone thrashed from head butting. Thank God for the curls that cushion the blows and another prerequisite on my life's transcript.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Calm in the Midst of the Storm

We had gone to my parents' home and spent the night for dentist appointments on the next day. We had a good trip with no significant out of the ordinary events; which in itself for our household could be some humourous situations. This day was filled with smiles, laughter, fun, and thankfulness like others but nothing to really blog about.
We went to the dental appointments and still nothing really to write home about. It was Luke's first experience at the dentist. He tried to escape several times. They were amazed at his abilities to open doors (as are we); especially the big heavy duty doors that are supposed be difficult for small children to open. He screamed during the appointment but this just made it easier for Dr. Willis to count his teeth. Nothing that really inspired me to write.
We left the office and headed back to my parents' to pack up. I had heard from other parents in the waiting room that there were thunderstorms headed for the area . I wasn't overly concerned. I was sure that we would be home by the time they hit. A weather bulletin came on the radio informing that a severe thunderstorm was to hit the area around 5:00. It was about 3:30. I thought to myself: I can pack, get out of town, and be halfway home before they hit here. Still, not overly concerned for our safety.
We got to my folks and I was packing our belongings, putting the car seat back, etc. It started raining. I told Moriah to get her things and get in because it was starting to rain. I got Luke loaded. I went back in the house to do the benediction and jump in and go. It was 4:10. I got in the vehicle. The wind was blowing and it was raining very hard by now. Moriah was extremely concerned but I told her to pray for our trip home and God would take care of us. But, before we left town, I had to stop and get gas. The rain was blowing sideways; I put my back to the rain and went on with my gas pumping. I had on a rain resistant wind suit; which I found out, means "difficult to keep pulled up on leather seats."
I was scanning the radio for weather reports not nearly concerned with the genre of music playing. We have traction control on our vehicle that has a little alarm that sounds and flashing warning lights when you start to slip followed by the vehicle grabbing a-hold of your car to stop the sliding. It is a very handy tool to have once you get used to the process. Every time this would happen (which was quite often in the first 30 minutes of our trip), Luke would say "I'm alright Momma. Are you okay?" I'm okay! Isn't that precious? Moriah, who is deathly afraid of storms, was watching 'Barbie as the Island Princess.' I was thinking to myself, 'Thank the Lord for headphones and tunnel vision.' I thought she didn't realize we were driving through a storm.
It still wasn't 5:00; the time in which the big storm was going to hit. I was driving 35 and 40 miles per hour. Police officers were pulled over and parked under awnings which made me wonder what they knew that I didn't. John calls me on the cell phone to tell me a tornado had touched down in Ola. I have to drive through Ola on the way home. While I appreciated the fact that he was keeping me informed about the wall cloud that was hovering over my vehicle, I expressed that this was a time that my hands needed to be at 10 and 2 and my knees did not need to be on the steering wheel so that I could hold the phone (I hate speakerphone and hands-free devices).
I see many things that should have scared the living daylights out of me. One particular event was the lightning that struck a tree right in front of me and I saw the specific tree catch on fire. I kept thinking to myself 'it doesn't usually rain during an actual tornado so I'm okay.' The rain stopped for a few minutes; a brief sigh of relief. Then, it came back blowing the other way. Again, a bit scary but I managed to convince myself that it was a different storm that had started. I said to Luke who had been silent for a while, "I'm okay, Luke! Are you okay?"
"No Momma! I'm not okay!" was the response. At this point, I started singing 'Faith is the Victory' and wishing that I knew all of the words. Those 4 seemed to help calm me down quite a bit so I just kept humming the song and filling in what words I did know. I could see the clouds over to the East and was so thankful that wasn't the way I was traveling. I was traveling on Highway 10 (if you know anything about how our highway system is set up in this country; you know that odd numbers run North and South while even numbered roads run East and West). I tell you this to let you know that the road had taken a slight curve to the South and I was about to turn and go East.
We arrived in Ola (where the tornado had allegedly touched down earlier). John called once more and asked where I was. He told me to pull over and sit for 20 minutes and the storm would be gone. What? I was 30 miles from home and I had driven in this the whole way (a usual 90 minute trip had already taken 2 hours and I had 30 more minutes to go). I wanted to be home. But, I listened. While we were at the Ola Mall (???), the employees there said that nothing had touched down there and they had been receiving calls all night about the damage to their town. They said that Atkins was hit pretty hard but nothing in Ola. Me, being totally geographically ignorant in the "way the crow flies" thought I had been concerned for nothing. We ate our snacks, drank our drinks, and came home.
I have to admit....John was right! We drove home to dry highways, no rain, and virtually no wind. We arrived in Perryville at about 7:20 (remember we left for our 90 minute trip home at 4:10). John said when I walked in the door, "you still have time to go vote before the polls close." I grabbed the doorknob to go; but I couldn't bring myself to walk out. John McCain and Mike Huckabee neither seemed very appealing to me at the moment; not to mention Romney, Hillary, and Obama! Yuck! So, I didn't vote!
In the days following, I watched the reports of the storm; all of the loss and devastation. I had driven the entire trip parallel to the storm. It was right beside me all the way. I was driving in to it! When the rain stopped and switched direction, was more than likely the "eye" passing over. While I was scared a bit, I never felt less than safe. It was a calmness of sorts that I can't explain with anything other than God's hand being over us. It was similar to the calmness I felt during the birth of Moriah. I am thankful for the blessing of ignorance shielding me from the seriousness of the situation.
Last night, Moriah's choir teacher at church told me about Moriah telling them Wednesday evening about how terrified she was driving home Tuesday. She had told them how she prayed that God would keep us safe and he did. I thought that she was back there in the back seat watching TV and was oblivious to our surroundings. What a little prayer warrior she is!
This past weekend, Luke broke one of my Precious Moments figurines. He gained access to it through the door of the curio cabinet that is absent of glass due to a faulty clubhouse that was built by 2 unlicensed contractors that pushed a winged-back chair directly into the cabinet and broke it. I packed the remainder of Precious Moments away and left the broken one (he just ripped the tail off of a lion--he's a ruthless kid) to be repaired. I discovered this morning that Luke had drawn on the walls of the livingroom for the 4th or 5th time. I cleaned it up and let him help me. I helped him rebuild the living room clubhouse that I swore would never be rebuilt. Right now, as I am writing this, a crash comes from his room. I go to see what it is (THIS TIME) discovering that he had thrown his lamp and shattered the bulb. I picked up the lamp, vacuumed up the glass, changed his diaper, cleaned his nose, hugged his neck, kissed him and came back to finish this story. Some things are not worth getting upset about. The "REAL" Precious Moments are much more valuable. If we had not been so richly blessed, nothing in our lives would ever get broken! How much more empty would we be?