You’re Never Too Old

Remember when you were a teenager and had things happen that were so horrible, so embarrassing, that they become long-term bedtime pillow suffocation incidents? I have learned that those events do not magically end once you reach voting age.

Jason and Harry (almost 18) came home from a hiking trip a few weeks ago with a stomach bug–the kind that sends you routinely sprinting to the nearest toilet. Saturday morning the bathrooms were overtaken by whiny men, with much shuffling-sprinting-shuffling from toilet to toilet. Around eleven, I heard Jason moan up the stairs to Harrison. “Hey buddy, get your stuff ready, you have a lacrosse game in an hour!”

“Um, sweetheart,” I said (sweetheart is code in our marriage for “hey stupid head”), “He’s got di-uh-ree-uh. I’m pretty sure running around a field isn’t the best choice right now.”

Ron Swanson glanced at me with his sweaty, pallid, manly face. “Honey, all he needs is a little fresh air and sunshine and he’ll be just fine.” He gripped his stomach and leaned on the stair railing. “Just let him try to play, don’t baby him, he’s a man…SON, YOU WANT TO PLAY, RIGHT?”

Pause. Pause. Pause. Bedroom door creaking open. “Huh?”

“The game,” Swanson says, “You want to go play your lacrosse game, right? You’re fine, bud, you’ve got this!”

“I…guess. Sure.” Door closes.

An hour later Harry had reluctantly left for his game and I was putting on my shoes. “Honey, let’s go!” I yelled up the stairs.

“You go ahead,” I hear, “I’m just going to take a quick power nap…let me know if he decides to play.”

When I got to the park and saw that my manly son was out on the field running around, despite his crappy condition, I called his power-napping father. “Get over here, and bring him an extra change of clothes just in case.”

“Oh? He’s playing then?”

“Oh, he’s playing all right, get down here and watch him.”

After the game Harry was in his car, about to head home. Before leaving, Jason and I hurried over to his car window.

“Baby!” I said to Harry, then jokingly, “I’m so proud of you, did you poop your pants? Daddy brought you clean clothes–“

“Mom!” he gave me a death glare. I realized he must be feeling pretty rotten to miss how funny I was being.

“What? It’s okay, everybody poops. Like in that book we used to read. Do you need new undies?”

“Mom, I’ll see you at home.” He put his car in gear and gave us a warning look. We shrugged, chalked it up to grumpy-sick-teen-syndrome and headed to our respective vehicles.
Later that night Harrison and I were in the kitchen. We joke a lot, we laugh a lot, we have a great relationship. “Mom,” he said, “You realize that today was possibly the most embarrassing moment of my life, right?”

“Huh? How so? Did you poop your pants?!”

“No. But when you came up to my car window and asked me, the car parked right next to me, behind you, was full of high school girls with their windows down. They heard our entire conversation.”

I could have melted in shame and horror.

You’re never too old.

The crash

Last night I hit a semi truck on the autobahn.

We were on our way home from scouts, my little Mazda 5 loaded down with myself and 5 children–my four + the neighbor boy. Harrison was in the front seat. Jason is in Missouri for a two week TDY so I’m on my own with the kids.

I was driving along, hands at ten o’clock and two o’clock, playing an easy game of “I’m Thinking of an Animal I Hate” with the kids and getting ready to exit the autobahn. I was traveling between 60-65 mph, fully alert and paying attention to my surroundings.

Suddenly I realized that I was coming up on the semi in front of me fast. I signaled and checked my mirrors, but I misguaged his traveling speed. It is illegal in Germany to pull off on the shoulder, and minimum autobahn speed is 40 kmph. There were no hazard lights or break lights to warn me.

He wasn’t even going 20. I found out later my girlfriend had almost hit him as well; he was parked half on half off the road out of his vehicle just moments before I found him. He was barley even moving.

When I realized we were going to hit him I tried to swerve but we smashed into his rear end like a cannon ball, hitting mostly on the right side. we started to spin so I overcorrected and flew all the way to the left, and suddenly I knew I had absolutely no idea how to get us out of it.

It was like being in the middle of the worst roller coaster ride ever, then realizing your cart had disengaged from the track. In that split second I thought of a thousand things. I thought, “Oh crap.” I accepted the fact that we might not make it out of there alive. Three lanes of traffic and the autobahn was busy, I knew we’d be hitting someone else in no time.

I thought of the five children strapped into my car and yelled out a quick, “Kids, Mommy loves you!”

Then I just let go. Hands straight up, I sent up a simple plea to Heaven. “It’s all You,” I said and sat back as we smashed into the left guard rail and started to spin out of control.

It was like we were alone in a parking lot. Not a car in range, we spun until the thought crossed my mind, “You should probably put on the break now.”

So I did and we stopped. At some point I had met my darling air bag, and thankfully Harrison’s held true and stayed put.

I stepped out of the smoking rubble and surveyed what was left of my car, then watched as my five children slowly emerged from the vehicle screaming their little heads off in fright (all except Georgia who was totally calm and collected through the whole thing).

I’ve recently been accused of being too religious on my blog, being a “Bible thumper” if you will. But let me tell you right now, watching my beautiful little children step from the broken remains of our car, completely unscathed and untouched, not a drop of blood or a broken bone, I knew that we were in the arms of angels.

I’m pretty sure that at least two of the three Nephites showed up to rescue us within seconds, I have no idea who those amazing American guys were. They retrieved coats and car seats, put the baby in the stroller and comforted my terrified children. One of the brothers from church was close behind me and pulled off with his blessedly empty minivan and we loaded the kids in while we waited for the German paramedics.

They loaded us into an ambulance while the Rescue Squad surveyed the scene. Standing outside the door, I watched as a group of nine or ten decked out emergency guys slowly made their way to my family. They crowded around the door and looked in at my beautiful, unharmed children with a collective look of awe. Turning to me as a group, there was only one thing for them to say.


So Marcee, you can accuse me of being overly religious all you want, but I certainly hope you find a little religion before you find a semi truck.

I have a lot more to say about this but I need to take a break. It’s too much, this is too fresh, it’s still too raw and horrible and wonderful. I’ll write more about what happened next later.


When Jesus can’t convince them, throw some marshmallows on top.

I’m quickly realizing that Harrison (8) is an easy child. He has never given us a problem at school, preschool, or church, knows how to speak the local language without any difficulties, and does not wet his pants.

I love that kid.

As for the rest of them, I think fate was trying to trick us into this parenting business and yesterday I felt like a big fat failure.

June has been doing great at preschool–until this week. I went in yesterday and the poor teachers were beside themselves with frustration. Having lived with June for over three years now, I know that there are moments when I would rather stick my head in the toilet and give myself a swirlie than deal with all her strength and willpower. One Two Three Try Not To Kill Her seems to be the method that works best around here.

This sudden burst of bad behavior has come as a total shock to her teachers. She’s eating puzzle pieces and throwing the game boards around the room, refusing to listen to anything and wreaking havoc on anyone and everyone. It’s bad, and the language barrier doesn’t help.

The thing is, I know what’s wrong with her, but I have no idea how to fix it.

Last week June came home and started telling me that one of the little girls in her class won’t play with her. She loves this little girl, she wants to be friends with this little girl, but this little girl has suddenly decided that she no longer wants to play with June, she wants to play with someone else.

Honestly, my daughter is three. Do we really have to start in on the little girl drama this early?

I know she’s acting out because she wants this little girl to pay attention to her, but she isn’t old enough to realize that this kind of behavior isn’t going to win her anyone’s friendship. She thinks she’s being funny and silly to the other kids.

I stood there yesterday and listened to the laundry list of her misdeeds, feeling red in the face and embarrassed to have created such a little beast. I could feel the tears stinging the back of my eyes like a thousand hot little needles; can’t these kids do anything right in the German schools? What am I doing wrong here?

I assured the teachers that I understand better than anyone just how difficult she can be, and told them I wouldn’t bring her back. I think they were expecting me to argue with them on her behalf, because they got much nicer once I offered to keep her away (also all the stupid tears probably made them think I’m a big ninny who could use some outside help, which is right). They insisted I bring her back every day, that we would work on it.

After talking with my neighbor (who is smart and wise and wonderful), I think I’ve got a plan. Today June only gets to go to school for two hours. I am taking in a big bag of marshmallows and a small empty container. Every time she is good, she gets a marshmallow in the jar. At the end of the day, she can eat her earned marshmallows in the car.

I also told her this morning that the only person who matters is Jesus, but she looked at me like I’m some kind of idiot who knows nothing about playing princess. I guess that lecture doesn’t hold as much weight when you’re three. Maybe next time I’ll throw Jesus and Santa in together and see if it makes more sense.

I hate this post

We were driving in the car yesterday evening talking about our day when Rex quietly said from the back seat, “Mommy, the kids at school were mean to me today. They were kickin’ and pinchin’ me…and well…they were not very nice kids.”

I almost had to pull the car over and vomit. This is my worst nightmare for Rex. I know he’s quirky and different and has the most massive imagination in the universe, and I know those qualities don’t usually win a kid the “most popular” vote. He’s not interested in soccer or sports, is a very young 6-year-old who still wants to build houses for his animals all day long.

I tried to press him for more information but he’s not good with this kind of verbal communication. He just changes the subject to things like snipes or frogs. I did ask if he told his teacher. “Yes,” he said, “but she didn’t understand me because she only speaks German.”

I feel like bulldozing my way into the school today and throwing a few little German kids around. My first thought was yank him; if kids are being mean to him he’s out of there. It’s one thing when a kid deals with a bully and has the power to tell an adult, but when the adults have NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE SAYING it’s a totally different ball game.

Unfortunately, he can’t live here in my house and hide from real life. He’s got to learn how to make a place for himself in this stupid world and get along with other kids. If I didn’t love him so much I would home school him until he was twenty.

Lucky for me he got a rash on his face last night and we called the neighbor (a good friend and pediatrician) for a quick consult. A little cream and I put Rex to bed, then decided perhaps we should ask the doctor for a little advice.

I am so, so glad we asked. First he wanted to know if we’re seeing any effects from school in his home life–regression, violence, major melt downs, overreactions or bed wetting etc. So far Rex has been really happy here and we haven’t seen any kind of outbursts. That gave me great peace of mind. Then we talked about kids in the quirky category.

According to our doctor, if you got 100 6-year-olds together you’d find that a good 20% of them are at Rex’s bus stop on the route to maturity. We talked about how much childhood has changed just in one or two generations, how quick we are to expect children to put down their toys and grow up. Our society has high expectations and demands more emotional maturity than many kids are ready for. I hate that about society.

His best friends are Harrison and June, they love each other and play constantly, especially he and Junie bug. I wish you could see what Rex can do with scissors and an old box, or with a silly piece of string. He comes home from school and explodes creativity all over my house every single day.

For the record, creativity is super messy.

How do I help my boy? I am going into the school today to talk/pantomime to his teacher to see if she has any suggestions. German or American schools, he’s going to come up against this regardless.

When he said his morning prayers today and actually prayed that the kids at school would be nice to him I almost cried. He usually just prays for his animals. Perhaps this is the Lord’s way of teaching Rex to ask for help with his problems. Oh, the refiner’s fire is so uncomfortable.

Heaven help me help him.