The Lego-man Diaries: On Acquired Importance

4966_199482005371_2693008_nBefore I became a mother, I was functionally unaware of the existence of certain basic things.  Bulldozers, for example.  They only existed for moments in the summer as I waited in a string of cars for the orange-vested Highway worker to give us the go-ahead to drive.  Then those Bulldozers vanished quickly into oblivion.  Oblivion, that is, until we saw road reconstruction after an earthquake in Costa Rica.  My son was 1 1/2 .  Then bulldozers became all the rage.  We drew them, we read about them, made them out of pancake batter and chocolate cake.  If we were lucky, he’d spend a few moments on his own in the sand playing with them.  Once, I snuck a miniature bulldozer in the pocket of a bridesmaid dress for my little ring bearer.




Another previous unknown is the SR-71, colloquially referred to as the Blackbird (charmingly mispronounced as the Blat-bird). This reconnaissance military jet blasted into my consciousness after my son watched a preview for a video on Military Machines. A two minute clip and all of a sudden we were making Blackbirds out of cereal boxes and duct tape, dancing around  singing  a modified version of the Beetles’ song:


Blackbird flying in the dead of night
take those speedy wings up to the sky
all your life
you’ve been only waiting for this moment to arrive.

These phases burst onto the scene and I am forced to learn quickly to answer my son’s many questions.  Because he is a fan of long and complex explanations where no detail is too small to mention, I am taking full advantage of the juvenile non-fiction section in our community’s library.  If a picture is worth a thousand words and the average book has, say, forty pictures, I have just saved myself 40,000 words.  That’s a significant savings.  It goes right back into my patience bank.  Boom.

IMG_4598Now, with son #2 on the scene and becoming more verbal and individual by the millisecond, Lego men are the new rage.  Who knew they were so interesting?  They elicit shrieks of delight and the ever-enthusiastic “GUYS!” when he finds them.  These mini-figs parade all over my house.  I imagine them like the army of soldiers in Toy Story.  I close the door and they shout commands to each other, scaling walls, rappelling down staircases, hiding under furniture.  Some are as audacious as to hide in my pillowcase.

Purely as an aside, I can handle many Lego-related injuries.  I understand that kneeling on little pieces is inevitable; stepping on swords, unfortunate.  But Lego in my BED??  That’s just going a bit too far.

Now, we spray-paint garbage cans to make Lego men costumes.  We hoard and spray paint protein powder containers to make storage for the bazillion Lego pieces that evade organization.  This morning, I plucked Lego men out of the milk jugs destined for the recycling bin and later out of the dish washer where they were nestled in the detergent compartment, awaiting their “bath”.

bath time

Now I get excited about Lego men when a few months ago I didn’t care.

This is the mystery of motherhood.  You love what your children love.  Because you love your kids.  You become aware of things that you were blind to before.  And you don’t just stop at awareness—you become a full-blown fan.  What is important to them becomes important to you.

Long after bulldozers and building and Blackbirds are outgrown, I’ll look on them fondly, maybe even exclaim, “Oh look!” before I remember to stop myself.



Planes, Trains and Bicycles

It is 4:05 am on a Saturday morning and I have no little person to blame this wakefulness on.  It is all me.   I found myself very reasonably packing suitcases in my head…5 ½ months early.  Now I like to be organized and all, but this is just plain silly.

I didn’t do it intentionally.  My subconscious started it.

I started in the toy room, thinking of these beautiful gifts the kids received for Christmas. I don’t want to sell them or give them away yet but I know my husband won’t let me just put them all in storage.  We already have to figure out how to get a whole house down to one room.  So I debate shrink-wrapping plastic and think about the Alphabet Train and the Rescue Helicopter and wonder how much does a Lego plane weigh anyways?

And then I remember.  Lucas begged me to bring his bicycle back with us when we go.  The one he got in summer as an early birthday present from my parents.  The one that makes him light up like this.

IMG_3438The snow made me forget.

Ah yes, the bicycle.

And I said to him, “We’ll see what we can do.”  I said that to a 5 year old who still believes his Mommy is half-superhero.  It is practically a yes.

He made a list in his first week here of the things he wanted to bring to back with us and stuck it on the fridge.  It consisted of his bicycle, helmet (safety first!) fire truck, Lego and was modified thereafter to include every prized new possession.

A bicycle.

We did it before with a tricycle.  Let me tell you, handlebars were not meant to be packed in suitcases.  Maybe you already knew that.  You did, didn’t you?

I have about three suitcases mentally packed when I remember the bike.  It is enough to make me get out of bed.

At 4:00 am on Saturday morning, you don’t mince words with yourself.  You don’t try to pull the wool over your own bleary eyes.

I realize precisely why I am doing this.  I am trying to pack up this and bring in there and sneak it past customs.  In six suitcases.  And make it look like we’re not greedy or materialistic to the local family we live with.

They notice everything, you know.  New socks.  New shampoo.  New toys and protein powder and bicycles.

There is no hiding what we bring in.

But it isn’t about them.

I’m trying to bring here there.

I’m trying to make that this.

The toy room, the pantry, my wardrobe, the bicycle.
Cottage cheese, strawberries, whole wheat toast.
Apple sauce, cheddar cheese, mashed potatoes.
The Food Network, FaceBook.  Unlimited texting.
School for my kids. Plush carpet for working out.
Tap water you can drink.
It doesn’t fit.
My kids’ favourite foods.  My family.  Everything that is normal about life.

It just doesn’t fit.

I have to let go.

I just got here and already I’m thinking of letting go.

God grant me grace.



I love fresh starts—new years, new seasons, even new journals, something as small as a new day.  I love this idea of leaving behind the old and hard and awkward of the past and stepping into the new carrying, with you the lessons and the wisdom and the grace.

I have all these ideas of what to do with this new year.

At the top of the list is a restructuring of our days, making new rhythms based around the giving and receiving of Sabbath.  Our days have been full of working and not working and children, speaking engagements, boxes and demands.  There is this feeling of working too much and not enough all at once.  There are dissonant chords I keep expecting to resolve and they never do.

We’ve been trying for Sabbath.  Really we have.  To paraphrase Einstein, we have found a thousand ways that do not work.

The closest I have gotten recently were long walks in the valley in the crisp fall air with Micah sleepily tucked into the carrier.  Occasionally I would free him to toddle after a deer whose wide ears were alert, twitch-twitching.

Before, I let landscape speak to me.  I divided off those Sabbath times with steps, by setting my feet in a different direction than normal, by changing out runners or high heels for walking shoes. But now we sit surrounded by snow and I can’t seem to find it in me to invest in the proper winter gear for one year of such walks.  Besides, the valley is now far removed from our new house.

No one will carve out Sabbath for me. It is a gift given to me but I am responsible for its keeping.  No one will pace out the boundaries of this space for me.  I must.

I must.

Normally tea and candles are company affairs in our house.  Today, though, I steep some double spice Chai and light a vanilla scented candle and sit with a new journal.

It is not that this tea-making and candle-lighting invokes the sacred but it reminds me that this is different.

It is not as though my last journal had all the pages filled.  I just needed something new.

Inside the stained glass hurricane on my coffee table the flame flickers, sweet fragrance wafting, heat softening the wax, like those hardened parts packed around the wick of me are softening.

Maybe this will be a year of finding a voice again, a voice in prayer and a voice in writing.

I want joy to be at the centre of me, like a well-steeped tea. The waters of life, hot though they be, infuse meaning into my days.  The longer I sit, the richer the flavour imbued, me sitting, stirring in honey and cream.

And something is stirring. I know Who it is but what it is doing, I haven’t found out yet.  I need to retrain myself to sit, to listen, to speak the right words like, “I’m here.  I’m staying.  I’m listening.”  And maybe, “Would you like a cup of tea?”


My second son’s middle name is Emmanuel.  Micah Emmanuel.  I love how it sounds in Spanish.  It is one smooth word, 5 syllables.  Mi-cah-eh-man-WELL.  Soft but strong.  In English it sounds a bit more clunky.  Really Christian sounding if you ask me.  Maybe too much so for my “taste”.

I knew an Emmanuel when I was little.  He was fair and frail and his name seemed very serious and very long for someone so small and white.

I have to take my Christmas tree down tomorrow, pack away the little snow men, box up this year’s handmade ornaments for Christmas in 5 year’s time when we’ll explain to Lucas how his face lit up like the tree itself as he fumbled with his mitts to pluck beaded candy cane ornaments from his backpack.

Knowing this, I sang a final Christmas carol to Micah as he pressed his sleepy face into my neck and his arms dropped from their firm embrace to hang loosely at his sides.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

I hadn’t sang it this year and it seemed only fitting as I have been gripped with the concept of Emmanuel this year.

It started on a drive home from soccer practice.  “Mommy, why is that star so bright?”

“It is a planet, Lovie.”  I replied.

“Which one?”  Lucas inquired.

“Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe Jupiter?”

“Why do they name the planets Jupiter?  And Mars?”

“They are named after gods that people had long ago.”

Lucas was quiet for a moment.  “But Mommy, they aren’t real, those gods.”

“No, they aren’t Honey.”

“How can you name something after someone who isn’t real?  That’s just silly.”  Another pause.  “Hey Mommy?  Can I rename the planet I see?”

“Sure Honey, that’s a great idea.  What do you want to name it?”

He didn’t pause at all.  “Emmanuel.  Because he’s real.  And because it means God with us.  Do you like that Mommy?”

“I like it very much.”

And I do.  Renaming the false to remind us of the very present God in our midst.

I have thought often of that conversation, and often about Micah’s second name this season.

When we settled on Emmanuel as Micah’s second name, or tentatively decided on it, because, truth be told, I was very unsure even as I filled out the forms, God-with-us felt about as far away as those roman gods, or at very least, that planet.  Emmanuel wasn’t an easy proclamation.  It was a plea.

I was in a season of deep silence, dark spiritual waters.  I wasn’t questioning my faith really, I just felt very alone.  And I grieved for what this separation from God would mean for my little one who couldn’t “marinate” in His presence.

One of the very few things I sensed God say was that the season of darkness would end when the baby was born.  I was mad at this and thought it foolish.  How can I put the expectation on a tiny little baby to change the climate of my soul?  And yet, God knew best.  He is good at that.

Somehow, in a very mysterious way, this child has ministered God’s presence to me.  There have been times when holding him, I feel he is holding me.  His disarming sweetness and quiet little presence has grounded me when the world has felt fragmented and unstable.  And it feels silly saying it but somehow in his wide, long lashed-eyes, I keep seeing God.

So I’ll pack it all up tomorrow, maybe hum a tune or two, but I’ll keep carrying Emmanuel with me.  The little one and the Big one made small.