Category Archives: Family

Parenting, marriage, and living when “the days are long, and the years are short”

Bedtime Blessings

Whew! I’m writing this because we made it through bedtime! Alleluia!  Tonight Eric is teaching a night class and it’s hot … so for a treat I let the boys fall asleep in our bedroom (where our aircond unit is).  Dante read in the living room for awhile (which still amazes me … 2 years ago every printed word was cause for tears) while Cade and I laid in the dark, cool bedroom on the fuzzy carpet floor (I got tired of tiles everywhere … it’s nearly shag carpet… I love it!)  We talked about his day, his class, and I listened (because I was laying still on the floor, my “get stuff done” attitude turned off for a bit) and he began remembering bits of books his class had read two years ago.  Something in the silliness/beauty of the memories led me to thinking of camp (I love camp) and so Cade and I sang “the Pasta song” which goes like this:

Some people like pasta; some think it’s alright.  Whatever our uniqueness, God made us ri-i-iight.  Pasta! Pasta! Pasta! Makes us one of a ki-e-i-e-ind.”  And then you add other things – our verses tonight were food-themed – Porridge! Ice cream! Pasta! Makes us one of a ki-e-i-e-ind.”

At which point Dante came in for bed and demanded more camp songs.  I’m a good sport, but I was also tired.  Then both boys actually agreed on a song.  Think of the wonder of it: two brothers, age 6 & 9, willingly agreed on something.  Stop the presses.

They wanted the song “One Body,” which I suddenly couldn’t remember at all.  But Dante started singing, Cade joined in, and then I began to remember the words and melody as well.  It’s a gorgeous song – click the lyrics below for a link to one sung version of it.  As I lay there on the floor with two kids not only singing about living together well, but actually DOing it, images from our life these past weeks scrolled by in my mind.  

We are one body, one body in Christ;
and we do not stand alone.
We are one body, one body in Christ;
and he came that we might have life.

That part about not standing alone brought home to me the wonder of what life is like when people take time for each other, whether it’s praying, giving kids a ride home, bringing a card, checking in online, and what I’ve heard so often – “If you need anything, please, ask.”  I’m not driving yet and I can’t even do the dishes, but I do not stand alone and that’s what is keeping me sane.  Impatient, sore, and not sure what I should be up to – but sane is a good baseline, and I’d say we’re even positive.  The kids chose the same song … it’s like a little sign that says “we can do this, we can even find a way to stick together.”  

The boys are asleep now, and I soon will be, but I wanted to share this song with you.  I learned it at Mar-Lu-Ridge this summer, a Lutheran camp in Maryland (though we used fewer and different verses … everyone has their own version, I think).  The song rings a certain way in my ears; I wonder how it will sound to you, where you most need to know that you don’t stand alone, that God has a life and future for all of us despite our bickering and fatigue.  I’m posting this at my bedtime – it’s morning in the USA – but I wish you good dreams, whether waking or asleep, and the hope that God’s love will continue to shape our communities and our lives.

Little Miracles

What is so amazing about this picture?

Well, let me tell you! Cade has had a very strange condition his whole life – that the “macro” functions in his body are just fine – his heart beats strong, he can hang from the monkey bars forever – but his “micro” muscles have developed quite slowly. Literally, the capillaries in his legs/arms weren’t strong enough to help blood flow, so as a baby, if he was even a tiny bit cold, his extremities would turn purple – like extreme hypothermia. We’d rub his arms and they would pink up, so he was fine, but it was also distressing. His “micro” muscles are just slow to develop.

As a parent, you never know what tiny signs will be the ones that you don’t want to miss. In Cade’s case, we took him to a pediatric cardiologist – a cheerful office, on the surface, but terrifying for parents to need to be there – and the doctor said, in 6 months, he’ll be normal, for now, he is fine, even with lax capillaries. But you have to check on each thing, so that you can sleep at night. It’s similar with their emotional health – you listen for each comment, trying to find the meaning behind their words (or their tantrums!) With the body, mind, and spirit’s health, you have to “listen to what they mean, not what they say.”

Later, a friend who knows speech therapy pointed out to us that Cade couldn’t say the letter “h.” If you try to say “help,” notice how much breath the “h” takes. It actually requires a lot of lung strength, which again, Cade hadn’t developed. 6 months of daily exercises finally gave him an “h.” I still notice it when he says he is “happy” – because of the support we had to “help” “him” get to say it!

When we came to Malaysia, the school the boys attend expected 4-year-olds to be writing their letters. But Cade, though his arms & legs were strong, had very week hand muscles. He couldn’t squeeze a clothes pin all the way open. He held his pencil in a fist and couldn’t draw lines, curves, or zigzags – much less draw a picture or write a letter. Unlike many communities in the USA, we don’t have many programs or professionals to help with those basics. But look at that picture above! After nearly 9 months here, Cade had a breakthrough about two weeks ago and suddenly began drawing people with actual body parts and now is writing full sentences and math equations. (The trick was that I found that linking my index finger with his gave him something playful & competitive, and it got to where I’d put my foot on his chest and we’d both pull our linked fingers with all our might – then he’d get to squeeze my hand as hard as he wanted. Also, Nana brought a preschool drawing book that Cade attached to and could actually begin to use!) And, because he could suddenly do so much more in class at school, his enthusiasm is stronger than it’s ever been. It’s pretty amazing.

We have to celebrate the little miracles – but it occurs to me that this one was not a little miracle, rather, it was a big one. All the right things came together at the right time. But because so much went into it, I will be thankful each time I see him write his name. And, now we will have double the number of truck pictures being drawn at our house!!!

Devotions: your two jobs when you spot trouble!

Our family devotions tonight were from the Veggie Tales, but they spoke to me loud & clear. It started like this: “Face facts: not everybody you know is well behaved. Your first job is to recognize bad behavior when you see it… and your second job [Any guesses?] is to [what do you think it is?] …

not join in.”

My first thought was of conversations on facebook, especially politically charged ones. My second thought was of reading news stories on the internet and how awful most of the comments are. Even great posts often get turned into tirades in the comments sections. A member of my internship support committee wisely told me, “Underneath it all, we’re all only 8 year olds.” The internet daily proves the point.

But beyond that, the devotion went on: “Christians are the citizens of Heaven, and while we are on earth, we ought to behave like Heaven’s citizens” (-Warren Wiersbe). Not joining in bad behavior, whether in a marital spat, a water cooler gripe session, or even rubbernecking in traffic, is not easy, but it is important – to your neighbor, to God, and to your own peace of mind.

As the Veggie Tales point out, “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him.” (Colossians 2:6) Amen to that!

Aside

Today we found the seminary sign moved from the site of a landslide (it barely survived; now they are fixing the road by the landslide, so I guess the seminary is holding on to the sign for awhile.  Incidentally, the … Continue reading

Day 19 of 20 *Questions*: Are my thoughts hurting or healing?

Thoughts are important.  They can also feel as though they are beyond our control.  It’s hard, after all, to “make” yourself think something.  Thoughts also get bundled closely together with our feelings, so that the two become indistinguishable, especially in the heat of the moment (or as we re-live encounters when we can’t get to sleep….)

As I’ve learned to deal with the competing needs that happen in a relationships (family, household, or other), one of the things we’ve been practicing, in our goal of “slowing things down” (the Second Commandment for our family) is asking, “What was the thought before the feeling?”

With kids, when conflict arises, from whining to slugging, it does no good to ask what started the fight – that just starts a cycle of blame, and puts peace and solutions farther out of reach.  That probably describes how many adults approach a problem – by seeking blame/self-righteousness (win/lose), and by making peace less of an option.

Another option, in the midst of conflict, is to let people speak their feelings (without the words “he made me…”) AND then to ponder, what was the thought before that feeling?  Often the thought assumes blame so subtly that when the feeling is blame-centered, it feels like it came out of nowhere.  For instance, when I try to read with Dante, if he comes across a difficult word he immediately demands that I read it; if I suggest he try, then he shuts down and refuses to speak or read.  When I ask him for his feeling, it’s often anger at me, and sometimes that makes* me angry too. (remember how we’re not supposed to blame right away? Look what I just did… “that makes me mad”…)

But if I can hear his feelings and hold them carefully, we have time to ask, “What was the thought before the feeling?”  And then Dante can be honest, that he thinks I won’t help him when he really needs it.  A-ha.  He thought something that he didn’t have time to say, or that he was afraid of saying, and it got plowed into his feelings.  As Dante once explained, “The moment went by so quick!”

And that’s true for us as adults, too.  When we have a thought that we don’t know what to do with, we may think we’re burying it or hiding it, but in just a moment that thought wraps itself into a feeling, and we are left wondering why we reacted so strongly.

I think that we often do this with the people we love most, and we do it with God too.  Despite their past love and all of the reasons we have to trust them with our thoughts & feelings, yet when a moment arises, we think the worst of them – then hide that thought – then cry out because we feel unloved.

The question for today is “are my thoughts hurting or healing?”  When your feelings are hurting, especially when things feel out of control, see if you can ask yourself, “what was the thought before the feeling?”  Naming the thought lets you deal with the root of the feeling so that you can heal in body, mind, and spirit.  I saw the relief in Dante’s face when he could address the thought, and it helped he and I to heal our relationship from that point onward.  Today’s question gives us the opportunity to look at our thoughts courageously.

A = thinking
B = feeling
C = doing
Where are you most comfortable?
In general, the closer to the center of the diagram,
the healthier a person is (physically, mentally, & emotionally)

Day 17 of 20 *Questions*: Where should I break the rules?

I live with a 7-year-old boy who loves rules.  It’s a portrait of both the age (7-year-olds tend to be perfectionists, and they’re processing their world by noticing patterns, which are a type of rule) … as well as him being first-born, who tend to be more likely to stick to the rules (many second-born kids are rebels – certainly our Caedmon is, and many friends have the same “adventures” with their second-borns).  I find myself daily creating some rules while explaining why I break others.  I also have to restrain Dante from creating rules about every little thing, because I can’t keep track and I don’t want to seem to promise to follow the rules he deems essential (like getting a serving of sweet drink every day!)

Sometimes, I love seeing how he follows rules.  Especially when it comes to holding hands in parking lots and taking a “thank-you bite” of each food on his plate.

too many rules
…paralyzing…

But sometimes the rules are exhausting.  He can come up with so many rules, about so many different facets of life.  It makes me wonder whether he is imitating Eric and I… a scary thought, but probably a fair portrayal of how adults seem to come up with rules when and where it suits them.  Even the rules of the English language are exhausting to a kid just learning how to say verbs right or spell anything at all.

And all those rules take a toll on one’s spirit.  We’re constantly checking how we measure up, against how others are doing, or against how we think we ought to be, and we are doing those comparisons with a limited amount of energy and love.  We can weary ourselves.

This is where life as a Christian is both my firm ground and my life-buoy.  I know that there is Someone who will love me despite my failings, fallings, and confusion.  And looking at that love, I see others around me who reflect that love.  That in turn re-energizes me to try, to listen, to grow, to ask hard questions, and to boldly step forward knowing that I’m not going to get it all right.  As a Lutheran Christian, we talk about “sinning boldly” – continuing to do things imperfectly rather than be paralyzed by heartless rules.

I think I said in one of the prior posts, “Don’t cry over anything that can’t cry over you.”  Rules won’t cry over us.  They won’t stand by us.  But our Creator does stand by us, and I believe that God sent Jesus as proof positive that God accepts humans as we are – broken and needing healing, lost and needing hope, and at times looking down on others for breaking rules that we ourselves aren’t following.  Not that God gives us free reign to become heartless – but that Jesus walked with people, coaching them on how to live vibrantly and boldly in a world of rules.

What are the core rules that you would stand for?  What rules have you broken so that love can increase?  What rules do you wish the world could courageously break?

Day 10 of 20 *Questions*: What’s so funny?

What’s brown & sticky?  (!!!kcits  A)  That’s my favourite joke.  I don’t know if it’s funny, but it makes me laugh, and we know that laughter does all kinds of good things for one’s spirit and body.  So yes – ask what’s funny, and enjoy!

But I want to explore another aspect of this question.  First – a story [some details changed].  While I was studying to become a pastor, I spent 10 weeks in a hospital as one of a group of 8 student chaplains.  We learned to care for others, but we also spent a lot of time examining ourselves – our histories, our fears, our assumptions about people.  While serving on a floor for people doing short-term stays to receive antibiotics, I met a lot of people who weren’t very sick, but who were very bored.  We had some good conversations.  One man was morbidly obese and was hospitalized because of an infection related to his diabetes, a disease that had caused the amputation of several toes.  He jokingly told me how his brothers had always called him “Piggy” and finished his story, laughing himself, and said, “My brothers sure are funny.”  I laughed along, but I was uncomfortable.  It wasn’t funny.

Back in my group, I shared the conversation as a case study.  It was there I got a wonderful piece of wisdom: play dumb, because it allows you to ask the obvious question.  In this case, the question was, “Why is it funny [that your brothers joke at your expense]?”  This fellow had been so brainwashed about his own worth that he couldn’t ask that question; but I was a newcomer to the situation, so I could have asked, “What’s so funny?” and given him permission to break out of a system that mocked him but didn’t help him.  His weight/diabetes was stealing his life, one body part at a time.  He needed support, not mean jokes – but by then, he didn’t know the jokes were mean.

In our world, we sometimes need to ask, “What’s so funny?”  When people use profanity all over the place, in the name of humor, we can ask, “is that actually funny?”  When bullies act as ringleaders, we can ask, “What’s so funny?  I don’t get it.”  When people tell racist jokes or jokes that put women down, we can resist by asking, “What’s so funny?”  Make people name it; make them spell it out; make them admit what they are really saying.

Play dumb.  You can get away with a lot of undermining when you ask the obvious question.

Day 1 of 20 Questions

What questions should I be asking myself?

OK, this question gets the “obvious award.”  Any project based on questions starts with, “well, what question(s)?”  But this question, for me, links to one of our House Rules (our 10 Commandments):  “Look and listen – slow it down.”  At almost any point, it helps to Stop, Look, and Listen.  I’m consistently amazed at what I learn when I do those simple things.  We get into a groove, and it can become a rut in no time at all – but if we pause, we might notice other options, other dreams, other ways of being that we wouldn’t be open to if we keep on at our same pace and direction.

Right now I’m into interval training – riding an exercise bike, and *every minute* I spend 30 seconds at high difficulty and 30 seconds recovering.  It completely changes the workout for my mind and for my heart (literally).  For the whole workout, I’m starting something new every 30 seconds.  It’s like asking myself, “what should I be asking?” – entering into a different interval in the pace and direction of my life.

Image

the 10 Commandments at the Trozzo house

So – if you don’t know what 19 questions lie ahead of us, and I hope you don’t – what questions do you think should go on a list of “20 questions we should all be asking ourselves?”

Christmas – practicing Hope

What is a child’s Christmas list but an example of hope on paper?  When I was 6, I got to type my Christmas list.  Single spaced on an old-fashioned typewriter, who knows how long I sat there, thinking & dreaming & spelling out my wishes.  At the bottom of the page I realized I had run out of space, but hadn’t yet put the most important thing I wanted for Christmas: a soccer ball signed by Luke Skywalker.  (Yes.)  I had loaded the paper at a slight slant and only had room to fit a few words as my typing went diagonally off of the bottom of the page.

Now I coach my kids on making their own lists – it makes it easy for us to get Dante to practice spelling and handwriting.  But what he is really practicing is hope.  He takes time to think about the future and about his unique desires for the future.  It is self-centered hope, to be sure, but he is practicing.  Hope takes a lot of energy, though, as well as focus.  Hope isn’t easy.

Christmas presents are a grand practice of hope.  One of the biggest ways adults practice is in the giving of gifts – because most likely there IS a certain response we are hoping for.

a very Trozzo Christmas

Have you ever seen someone *this* happy to see a present? This is the kind of reaction we hope for!

We hope that they will really enjoy the moment of unwrapping, that they will hold up the gift in delight and say, “Wow, this is great!”  That they will put it somewhere special and use it soon.

Our hope is practiced when we wait and watch for the signs of joy and appreciation.  We put energy and focus into it, and it really matters to us that our hopes be fulfilled.

And of course, this kind of hope is but a small example of the deeper hope that underlies Christmas, the season of hope and anticipation.  God has given a promise to care for God’s beloved creation; throughout Hebrew Scripture, God promises salvation for God’s people.  In Advent, we celebrate the dual promises of Christ’s birth (of God becoming physically human) and Christ’s return –  that Christ will come again to physically transform our reality into the ultimate Kingdom of love, peace, joy, and of course Hope – but hope transformed into a Trust that takes no energy or focus, hope that is simply a part of being in the promised Kingdom.

Imagine a Christmas that didn’t take energy of focus – wouldn’t that be a miracle!  (Are you tired yet from cleaning and planning and shopping and trying to remember all the details?)  For now, we practice Hope as we prepare for a holiday that is a sign of God’s ultimate promise.  Merry Christmas and a Hopeful Advent to you!

After the political season: a foundational question

Let me start with a question:  what does your country do to support marriages?

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “support marriages” I immediately think of gay marriage.  And I forget about the essential nature of supporting MARRIAGE.  Maybe your marriage.  Maybe your friends’ marriage.  Two people that have a 50% chance of breaking up.  Two people that need help balancing finances and schedules and dreams and how they use their words.  Two people who make a promise and have decades to learn to keep it.  You know, “marriage.”  Supporting marriage.

At a Church last week the sermon was focused on the idea that “a threat to marriage is a threat to the whole nation.”  That isn’t only political rhetoric – it’s something so foundational that we often overlook it.  The family unit, whether with kids or without, is a place where we learn loyalty, hope, caring for others’ needs, claiming our own identity, and creating one piece of the environment in which we live.  Everything on that list can be expanded out to how we function as citizens of a nation.  Loyalty.  Standing for long-held beliefs.  Planning a sustainable life.  The family unit is one microcosm of the nation.  It is of significant importance.

So, I’d like you to pause right now and take just 1 minute to jot down a list of the top 5 ways that your nation/community/congregation/peers SUPPORT MARRIAGE.  Please don’t get sidetracked into attacks on one particular type of marriage.  And if you are not married, please do not feel excluded – you have seen plenty of marriages that succeeded or failed in your lifetime.  I think this is an important conversation, and one that is easily overlooked.  Here’s your 1 minute –  GO!

the top 5 ways that my nation/community/congregation/peers SUPPORTS MARRIAGE:

1…

2…

3…

4…

5…

Many books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) speak of the “House of Israel” and focus on how lives are to be led at home – the community is a wider version of the family unit where we learn loyalty, compassion, awareness, and creativity.  Scripture references:  Deuteronomy 6:1-9, especially 7 and 9; Joshua 24:15-18

How can nations care for the family unit, from the outside in?  How can we empower couples, parents, and caregivers to teach one another and children well?  I would love to hear some of the ideas from your list about how we already support marriage and how we can move towards reducing rates of things like divorce, abuse, and other marital illnesses.

The basic question here is :  How can we bless couples beyond their wedding day?  Please post your comments below so that we can have a good conversation!