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Encounter - A Book Review

It’s not everyday that I feel quite so blessed by the eloquence of young people. My heart leaps in my chest when I see children interested in reading and writing - compelled to tell the stories of their vivid minds in ways that show a unique perspective mixed with intelligence and creativity.

And that is exactly what I found when I came across 12-year-old Cooper Lafreniere’s book Encounter. Earlier this year I had the privilege to read a book by his younger brother to my children. Cody and the Hairy Thing soon became a household favorite and the children were anxious to see what Cooper had to bring to the table in Encounter. And as I expected, we were not to be disappointed.

In his book, Lafreniere shows great attention to detail, grabbing the attention of young males straight from the get go. With topics of camping, nature, and building rafts, any young boy would be drawn in straight away to the captivating tales shared in Encounter. My own son began pestering me to start constructing clubhouses and fishing poles before we were even halfway through the book! And anything that inspires that kind of creativity in my child is something that I support.

Cooper goes on to address heart-warming themes such as a beautiful depiction of a loving father-son relationship, overcoming immense fear, and heroism. As his young character, Jack, faces his greatest worries, he is guided by his earthly father to find security and trust in his heavenly Father as well. Even as an adult, I found myself moved to tears as this young boy showered those around him with respect and, ultimately, as he took on an adult role in order to protect those he loves.

In our society, children are often looked at as small or incapable of doing great things. And yet every child dreams of doing something with the biggness that is inside of them. In this book, Lafreniere allows his character to rise to that occasion and tackle obstacles that show that children are just as capable of greatness as adults. With childlike faith and strong love, anything is possible.

 

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Taylor Takes On The Dentist

            Today, Taylor had dental surgery. Let me start off by saying that anxiety-ridden 7-year-old girls who already have a high propensity for drama, mixed with the expectancy of teeth extractions, equals one hot mess! The poor thing was born into bad teeth. I know this because her biological mother had no teeth. Nada. Zero. Zip. Her biological brother, also our son, Cameron, also has terrible teeth. She’s already had multiple fillings. Caps and orthodontic work are a given. Extractions are a must.

           Despite brushing twice daily and consuming very little sugary products, we still have found ourselves in a stressful predicament. The days/weeks of nerve-wracking anticipation for the grand teeth pulling, the months of headaches, the gum pain, the tears… oh, the tears! Let’s just say our dramatic princess has been even more emotional than usual!

          My alarm went off at 5 am and I staggered nauseously down the stairs to Taylor’s room. I turned on her light and touched her arm. And before her little eyes even opened, the tears started slipping from beneath her long lashes. But there was no time for another cry-session as we had to be out the door by 5:15, so I hustled her along and we were in the van without a moment to spare. She asked to watch a movie in the car. She chose The Tooth Fairy.

          It seemed appropriate and kept her occupied on our 1-hour trip to the surgery center. Miraculously, she held herself together through the intake process, even when we had to go through yet another explanation of her adoption, talking about her past family’s health issues, and completing another change in guarantors on her medical forms. (Side note: how many times do we have to do this? Shouldn’t we be in the system by now? It’s been 3 ½ years since the adoption already! Don’t these people know that talking about the bio family each and every time we have to go to a doctor isn’t helping my kids??)

          Once we got back to the prep-room, the nerves reemerged. Luckily for me (and now, for all of you), Taylor was given Silly Juice. And let me tell you, it lived up to every bit of its name! In less than 10 minutes, my shy/nervous/clingy little girl turned into the picture of a tipsy patron who had just emerged from the local establishment. She was, in fact, a walking margarita.

          It started with the giggles. There she was, in her gown and cap and fuzzy socks, cracking herself up like a loon.

          After listening to her cackle at six-bloody-thirty in the morning, I casually mentioned that I could really use another cup of coffee. This was her response to me:

“Mommy! Don’t EVER stop drinking coffee…. It’ll just ruin my life!”

(Ok, I was starting to feel amused.)

“Why’s that, Tay?”

“Because of all the spaces!”

“Because of what spaces, honey?”

“What spaces?”

“I don’t know that’s what I’m asking you.”

“What spaces?”

(Trying not to giggle) “I don’t know honey, nevermind.”

(Terror suddenly spread across her face.) “Holy crap, where ARE we?”

(Ok, definitely starting to giggle.) “Honey, we’re at the dentist, remember?”

“Oh… did Wyatt run away? Where did he go?” (She starts frantically looking around for the baby.)

“Taylor, Wyatt is at home with Daddy. We didn’t bring him, remember?”

“Bring him where? Where are we?”

(Ok, giggling is turning to all-out laughter.) “We’re at the dentist, honey. Here, you wanna play a game on my phone while you wait?”

          I set her up with a kid’s app that allows her to practice typing like in a text message. She typed her name. Five minutes later, she typed me this gem and slurred an explanation that this was a love letter to me.

 

          I thanked her for the lovely message… whatever it said. That’s when Daddy called on the phone to say hi to her. She grabbed for the phone and started talking into it upside-down. I helped her flip the phone the correct way and she proceeded to giggle and slur all sorts of silly things, spit slipping from the corners of her mouth in tiny bubbles. As she talked, her eyes began rolling in circles and she told me that I have more than one head. (It was obviously time to take the phone.)

          “Mommy…. I wanna see the streen. The streen. The streen. The…. I don’t know. Doyouhaveany lipstip? Lickstip? Litstick? Litstit? For my lits?”

          And this is why I started taking videos. I don’t care, you can call it exploitation of a child when they’re in a vulnerable state. But I call it Heaven. When I die, I expect this to be played on a continuous loop while I’m in that mansion in the sky. Yes. This is my favorite thing ever.

          Suddenly, my daughter raises her finger as if saying “Check please!” as she yelled to a passing doctor. “Exxxxuse me? Where’s my mudder? My mudder? My mother?” The doctor chuckled and made a comment about the fantastic powers of Silly Juice as I gently touched her arm and assured her that I was directly next to her…. Exactly where I had been for the past 45 minutes. She looked at me like I was an alien. Then, with sudden recognition, she goes, “Heeeyyyy. I see you there! Ha. Ha ha. Hahaha, hehe. Hum.”

          Is it wrong that I love her more like this? I mean, that is wrong, isn’t it. It is. I know it is. Ok. Sorry. (Actually, no I’m not. This is fan-tas-tic!)

          And then it got even better. As I was just finishing a text to my husband, I looked back up and noticed that my daughter was sliding out of her chair like a slippery fish. She looked like pure liquid as she seamlessly glided over each bump and curve of the big recliner. She landed in a puddle on the floor and laughed so loudly that nurses came running to see what the commotion was! I picked up my jello-y daughter and tried to situate her back in the chair, but it was no use. She was a complete blob.

          So, I slumped her as best as I could and secured her pillow and blankets around her to keep her upright. And then…. Stage two of Silly Juice set in. This is where she started tripping.

“Ahh, oooohhhh…. I don’t want my teeeeeeeth pulled!” (Sobs. Tears. Yells.)

“Where am I? Oh my gosh, where am I??” (Fear. Terror. Hysterics.)

“Moooommmmmy! I’m having bad dreams!” (Hallucinations. Horror. Panic.)

“Hey, you look funny… I look funny. Ha, am I upside-down?”

“Don’t let them kill me, Mommy…… pleeeeaaaaase!!”

          Ok, it was getting less funny very quickly. The nurses said I could pick her up and hold her until her gurney arrived. She asked if I would “cubble” her. I think she meant cuddle. So I did. And when her bed showed up outside our curtained room, she wailed in fear.

          She screamed my name for all to hear as they wheeled her down the hall and out of sight. And it was definitely not my favorite part. I remembered back to a time several years ago when she used to scream for her biological mom like that. I used to feel so hurt. And now, even though her screams broke my heart, I felt a sense of warmth pour through me. I am that mommy now.

          I returned to my place in the waiting room, sipping my 6th cup of teeny, tiny coffee as I patiently froze to death in the sub-zero temperatures of the office. My coffee tasted like dirt. I was contemplating a 7th cup with the doctor came into the waiting room.

          “First off, your daughter did great. So no worries. Two teeth pulled, two capped, two filled. Secondly, does your daughter tend to be a little dramatic? I checked her over good and she’s in great health, everything went well, she didn’t even need stitches. But she’s very difficult to calm down. Is that normal?”

          “She got a papercut once and wanted to go to the ER. And then there was the time she got a splinter and I thought she was being murdered when my husband tried taking it out… he hadn’t even touched her yet when she started screaming. So…. Yeah. Normal.”

          “Ok! Just checking. You guy are good to go!”

          On the way home, she was every bit the gem I’d envisioned she’d be. I thought about taking her back to the hospital and asking them to keep her until the new teeth grew back in. But it hardly seemed fair to their staff. Not that she’s not in pain… I know it must feel terrible! But once she started sobbing uncontrollably over the vanity of having caps and now looking “stupid like Cameron”, I decided it was probably time for a mandatory nap!

          And she’s been sleeping ever since. The final stage of the Silly Juice is apparently a coma. And for this, I am grateful.

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Teenage Girls

     There I was, being a good little mother, minding my own business, when all of a sudden all of my children decided that they wanted to be teenage girls. If you have a teenage girl, you already feel sorry for me. If you don’t, let me explain what the past week in our household has looked like.

The Indecisive Child:

Cameron (the 9-year-old)- “I want to play with play dough.”

Me- “Go ahead.”

C- “Ugh….. but I don’t really WANT to play with play dough… UGH!!!” (This was followed by 45 minutes of tears. I kid you not, my child sobbed when given his way.)

The Mood Swing Child:

Taylor (the 7-year-old)- “Thanks for having us do homework over the summer, Mom! I don’t wanna forget everything I’ve learned before 2nd grade even starts!”

(2 minutes later) “I forgot how to add. I FORGOT HOW TO ADD!!!” (Let the tears begin.)

(5 minutes later) “Oh, nevermind, I remember! Ha!” (Smiles of pride replace the tears.)

(3 minutes later) “I forgot it AGAIN!!!” (Tears resume.)

The Entitled Child:

C- “I think you should give me $10 every time I do yard work for you.”

Me- “Nice try. It’s called being part of a family. We work for free around here.”

C- “That’s not even fair!”

Me- “I think you should give me $10 every time I do your laundry. And cook you dinner. And flush the toilet for you. THAT would be fair.”

C- “You guys never give me anything!”

Me- “Shelter… food… clothes… swim lessons… any of these ringing a bell?”

C- “But I want money to buy things!”

Me- “So do I! Either get a job or get a more grateful heart, child, but either way, you’d better get out of arms reach if you’d like to continue living here rent-free.”

The Screaming Child:

Wyatt (14-months-old)-  Frustrated by his inability to articulate his needs, and the fact that he has FOUR TEETH COMING IN (including a molar), he has taken to screaming. Screaming during the day, screaming during the night, screaming when his screaming becomes too laborious for him, screaming when he’s bored…. He even screamed when I refused to let him stab me with a pen. Not kidding.


And the higher the pitch, the more delight he seems to get out of his new hobby. It’s awesome.

The Rude Child:

C- “Why don’t you EVER take us anywhere cool? You’re not any fun.”

Me- “Well, I thought the circus was fun… and the pool. And the amusement park, VBS, the library program, hiking, the park, out to eat….”

C- “McDonald’s is NOT out to eat.”

Me- “I’m sorry that McDonald’s is so beneath you. Your advanced pallet of hot dogs and ramen noodles obviously has you spoiled. Well, we certainly won’t be going there anymore if you can’t show a little appreciation for the things that we do. I’m sorry I can’t entertain you every second of every day, but you’re old enough to use your imagination and be creative. You can play and do some things on your own while I do work.”

T- “It’s not OUR fault you have to work though….” (Said with such attitude!)

And that’s when I took away all electronics, made them put on play clothes, and banished them outside. I told them they could come in when they were no longer teenage girls. They looked at me in confusion. I locked the door behind them.

And they tell me I’m not fun!

The Dramatic Child:

Isaac (2-year-old)- “I want a yogret.”

Me: “Ok, you can have a yogurt in a minute. Let me finish putting the dishes away, ok?”

 I-“I want a yogret now!!”

 Me: “Honey, hold on. Mama’s almost done.”

 I-throws himself down into a prone position, screams into the floor, kicks his legs, cries hysterically, spits all over the floor and rubs his face through it.

T- “Isaac, you wanna come play with the trains?”

I-“Yeah!!!” (Jumps up as if nothing’s happened.)

The Utter Ridiculous Child:

T- “Mom, please take me to the park to ride my bike!!”

Me- “Taylor, there are a lot of hills and it’s almost dark. We’d have to rush the entire time without any stops or they’ll shut the gates on us and we won’t be able to get back out. And you always need breaks, remember?”

T- “No I don’t, Mommy, please! I really, really, really want to ride my bike on the smooth roads!”

     I finally agreed because I wanted to get some exercise anyways. We arrived at the park and were a total of 30 feet into our 2.5 mile walk/bike ride.

T- “Mom, I HATE this! (sobs) I want to quit! (gasps) Will you push my bike and hold my helmet? (flops to ground in “agony”) PLEASE, Mom, I really, really, really want to go back home!”

Me- “Toughen up, cupcake. It’s gonna be a long ride.”

She sobbed for exactly 2.5 miles.

      My husband wants to send them all to the gynecologist to have their ovaries removed because he fears their menstrual cycles have all synced up. And I, the only one with actual working ovaries, am in full agreement. God help us if this summer doesn’t end quickly because these children… they’re flipping nuts.

     I feel the need to say that I love them… but those of you with adolescent girls already know that this is not a necessary clarification, so I’ll just let it go. Bless you, parents of teenagers. Bless you for your patience. Bless you for your strength to not smother them in their sleep. Just… bless you.

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