Thursday, June 23, 2011

Twelve Years - Already???

As my facebook page has so kindly reminded me, our anniversary will be this coming Sunday. June 26th. And this will be our twelfth. I know it is cliche to say ‘where has the time gone?’ or ‘it seems like just yesterday!’. Sorry, but it does! I overheard a friend recently telling someone that he always jokes that he and his wife have been married for thirteen years, nine of them happily. The fact that we have a child who will be turning nine this year startles me every time I am reminded. I know some people thought we were married too young and had children too young but we don’t regret a thing. Sure, we have disagreements like anyone else. I know I’m no walk in the park to live with (just ask anyone in my house the day after I have cleaned!). And yes, it might have been nice to have been more financially stable at times (like now, LOL) but what is romance without a few kinks to work out?
You want a good story? I think our story is pretty good. (of course I’m biased)

It all started on a.... Okay, I don’t even really know. I know it was a park around Detroit called Greenfield Village or something like that. There are some pictures somewhere. Anyway, the reason I don’t remember is that I was a couple months old. Jeremy was five years old. He had a baby brother who was a few months older than me who was colicky. So the story goes that Jeremy told his mom repeatedly in the following days that, “that Martha baby is such a good baby, that Martha baby doesn’t cry.”
At that time, my parents were serving as missionaries in Papua New Guinea. Our parents had met when my Dad was serving his vicarage year at their church the year that Jeremy was born, so when we were on furlough, it was a good chance to catch up with old friends. While we were in PNG, Jeremy’s parents would send us care packages with toys and books (when studying children’s literature in college I went home for Christmas and brought back some of my favorite childhood books only to open them and find inscriptions written to Jeremy in the fronts of several!).
But back to the childhood years. When I was seven my family moved to Chicago for my Dad to work on his PhD at the U of C. This meant we got to visit with the Paschkes more often and I developed a schoolgirl crush on Jeremy. Of course, he was 12 or thirteen at the time and he was way too cool to pay attention to an obnoxious little girl in pigtails chasing him around. He does vaguely recall someone chasing him with water balloons at a church picnic. Yup, that was me! I thought he was dreamy with his braces and his big smile, looking so cool as he headed off to baseball games or band practice when we were visiting for dinner.
Then we headed back to PNG for two years. The next time we returned I was twelve and something about moving so frequently gave me the boldness needed to send a letter to Jeremy after we visited them on our way through town. I was in seventh grade and he was a senior in high school who had a girlfriend but he actually wrote back to me. Of course I was heartbroken to learn that he had a girlfriend but I loved reading his letters and loved that he cared enough to write to me so we continued writing. For six years.
Yes, you read that right. What started out as friendly notes back and forth grew into love letters over the course of six years. I was in boarding school in Australia for most of that time and checking my mailbox at the end of the school day was the best part of my day. When I had a letter, it made my day. I would grab it and run to my room and lay on my bed to read his letter even before changing out of my uniform.
My senior year in high school, Jeremy finished college a semester early and came to Australia to study for a year. He arrived when our family was on summer vacation in Cairns, so we got to enjoy my favorite waterfalls and some time together before we went back to our respective schools. Even though he was still sixteen hours away by car (which neither of us had then anyway) he could call me! I remember being in one of the classroom buildings studying on a weekend day when I heard a few of my friends running from the dorms, screaming my name - Jeremy had called (the dorm had one phone at the end of the hall that people could receive calls on). Girls intentionally walked past me several times to eavesdrop on our conversation. So imagine the excitement in the dorm when he actually came to visit once! My house mistress had come to trust me over the three year I had already been there and since he was written down as a family friend who had been approved of by my parents for visiting, she was much more lenient with our visiting. We sat on the steps or Ross Roy, the grand old building that stood at the top of the hill near our dorms to talk one afternoon and a few of my friends tiptoed past to catch sight of my dreamboat boyfriend that I had talked so much about. Then we were allowed to go into the city on the weekend for a few hours (which was pretty much unheard of for our boarding school, so all those years of good behavior paid off!). We walked around the city a bit and enjoyed a picnic lunch before he had to get me back.
Then a stroke of luck - I won an essay contest that sent me to Sydney as a part of the Youth Futures Forum, a national forum that drew youth form all over Australia to talk about how we envisioned the future of the country (I felt like a bit of a cheat, not really being Australian) and it happened to be held at the same time that Jeremy and his parents were visiting Sydney! So when my conference was over, they picked me up and I got to be a tourist in the country I had already lived in for three years. We saw the zoo and rode the water taxis and saw the famous beaches and even caught a show at the opera house. It was amazing! I do recall having that madly-in-love-inability-to chew-and-swallow feeling the whole time and when I boarded my plane back to Brisbane I sobbed like a baby. That Martha baby does cry.
After finishing high school, my family returned to the States and after a half year of working I started college at St Olaf in Minnesota. Jeremy came up to the Twin Cities to study physics at the U of M and one fall day when I took the shuttle bus to the city to visit him, we ate dinner and then he got down on one knee and proposed marriage.
I arrived back at my dorm that night flushed with excitement and after calculating the time difference, I called my best friend who was in a boarding school in Taiwan and asked if she would be my maid of honor. The plans were beginning!
Our engagement lasted almost two years but the wedding day seemed to arrive before I knew it! We were married at my Dad’s church in southeastern Indiana on a very hot June 26th. At our rehearsal dinner the night before, his uncles brought a pig out on a spit and a platter of yams as a continuation of the joke our parents had had about bride-price, which was the custom in PNG.
I woke up on our wedding day with monster-sized butterflies in my stomach. My Dad made me some tea and ran to get something to settle my stomach. The day is a blur of happy memories - I know I cried as I said my vows - I had dreamed of this day for so long it was hard to believe it was happening. I remember it drizzled as we arrived at the reception site and I insisted that the photographer still take some outdoor pictures. I remember his brothers carrying me on their shoulders around the reception hall. I remember all our friends and relatives that were a part of the day. His friends decorated our car but most of it washed off in the drizzle during the reception. I remember my Dad speaking during the reception and playing old tapes of the two of us talking when we were little. There was so much laughter and joy that night.
That outpouring of joy and love from family and friends at our wedding has sustained us through these twelve years as we moved and started our family and as we continue to grow. Sure, we have our spats, we have our days like everyone else but there are a few things I am sure of in life and one of them is that Jeremy and I were meant to be. I still feel like that giddy school girl when I think of how much I love him. Yes, he turns laundry pink sometimes but that makes him human - so that I can get past the flittering stomach of first love and be able to chew and swallow in his presence.
As testament to what our twelve years has brought us - three kids and an over-commitment to our local community - I am only now finishing this piece that I started three weeks ago. As I hear about marriages failing and unfaithful spouses and unhappy wives I know that I am truly blessed to have by my side a man that never leaves me in doubt and whose love I can always count on. Of course it is much more than that. Words do not do justice to the deep and abiding love that you know cannot be broken when you have your soulmate by your side. So here’s to another twelve years and more!

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Secret to ‘Good’ Kids

I was enjoying a conversation with another Mom at the pool last night when she said she really had to leave and added apologetically, that it might get ugly since she would have to drag her daughter out kicking and screaming. I tried to share my secret with her and figured I would share it with all of you too.
Here it is - my kids are not necessarily ‘better’ than anyone else’s although I do (blush) receive lots of compliments on their behavior. I’ve just been sneaky in how I manage those ‘unwanted’ behaviors. You know, the whining, fighting, complaining etc. Which is not to say that they never do it, but I think we are on to something in our house so I want to share it.

1. Whining - especially at stores - the “I want that” “so-and-so has that, why can’t I?” etc. that are frequently encountered in retail settings. Since they were very young, I have kept up an Amazon wishlist for each of them. Whenever something is desired we simply write it down or remember it and add it to the wishlist when we get home. (you’d be amazed how often the must-have item is quickly forgotten) As for grocery store meltdowns over specific commercial items and candies, the remedy was simple. We only shop at Trader Joes. Not only has it been less expensive and healthier for our family, but there are no cartoon characters wielding their trance-like powers over my kids. Oh, and we don’t have TV, so they have not seen the commercials for all this junk anyway.

2. Fighting. Oh No You Did Not Just Hurt Your Sibling! This is a big one for me, any kind of hurtful behavior is stopped immediately. If at home, they are removed from the house to the back step since this behavior is not acceptable in our house. Of course I stand nearby on the inside to watch them and when they are brought back in they are reminded that hurting people is just not an option and they need to apologize ("say it like you mean it" never really works, does it? a muttered and shamed apology is fine). Usually just a quick disapproving look and a reminder that what happened was not okay is sufficient for minor infractions.

3. Complaining. This brings me to the pool incident. Evie HATES leaving the pool. The first time I experienced her strong reaction to my telling her we had to go I froze. It took me a few minutes to gather myself and figure out my strategy - “Hey Evie, if you complain about leaving now, we won’t be able to come back because it won’t be fun for Mommy.” Amazingly, this two and a half year old had the logic skills to figure out the ramifications of continuing her tantrum. My hunch is that all kids are smarter than we give them credit for and most of the time we can appeal to their logic and get great results. This applies to a wealth of situations. Complaining about not having anything to do? Okay, I’ll take your computer for a week. Don’t like the food? You have to try it, not finish but at least try it so that you can be honest in your description of why you don’t like it.

So last night as another little girl was being hauled out of the pool kicking and screaming, Evie whimpered, I whispered this in her ear, she took a deep breath and held my hand to walk out of the pool. Ah, now we all had a fun night and will look forward to returning for another swim!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Praising God on a Beautiful Day

Most of you who know me, know that I am an ‘MK’, a ‘PK’, a regular church-goer and so on. But if you really know me, you also know that I am not very open about my faith. I often feel that my faith is not really up to snuff for someone with the ‘churchy’ credentials I have. I don’t do daily devotions, my Biblical knowledge is sorely lacking, I do not like to pray out loud other than our mealtime prayers and I get uncomfortable when talk of religion becomes anything more than intellectual conversation. So it may surprise some of you as much as it surprised me that today a hymn just popped into my head. And I could not shake it.

We were leaving the pool on our bikes and this hymn started playing in my head. As I started going over the lyrics to myself, I realized that it was quite perfect. The day had been quite perfect. The house was clean, laundry done, Jeremy had gotten some work done but was home in time to enjoy lunch with us on the patio. The kids had enjoyed playing outside some more (well, minus Evie who is going through a spat with insects). The weather was perfection - blue skies with big fluffy white clouds blowing by, right around the mid-70s to almost 80 degrees, not humid, just perfect. I was ready to teach my class which is my real passion. Life is good. I have a new nephew whom I absolutely adore, who is a miraculous gift from God. Siblings that I love, parents who are continuing their phenomenal parenting as fabulous grandparents. Grad school classes are all done, student teaching is coming up and then a diploma, another achievement that will open up life to more experiences, more challenges, more joy. Doula certification is in the works, allowing me to be present and assist couples in that exhilarating experience of becoming a family. We are blessed beyond measure with good fortune in our lives, how could I not be amazingly joyful? Something within me, perhaps my inner ‘PK’ busted out with a hymn that captured the moment perfectly:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

1. Praise to the Lord,
The Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him,
For He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

2. Praise to the Lord,
Who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings,
Yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen
How all your longings have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

3. Praise to the Lord,
Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness
And mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew
What the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

4. Praise to the Lord,
O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath,
Come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen
Sound from His people again, Gladly for aye we adore Him.

For all the contemporary Christian music there is, and I love most of it, there is something about these old hymns, maybe it is that my body can feel the surge of the organ and the tingling feeling I get from experiencing the joining of so many voices, whatever it is, there is something about it that makes it so special that it is what played in my heart in a moment of incredible joy. What an incredible blessing from above this day, and all that it contained, has been!