Let Him love you

My 11-year-old has suffered with migraines for a couple of years now. Unfortunately, she inherited this from me. (Ironically enough, chronic migraines started for me immediately after her birth and have lessened over time but never stopped.)  As a fellow migraine sufferer and mother that shares oh so much DNA and personality with this child, I can relate to so many details of how and what she feels during a migraine. At least I can draw from my own experiences to figure out specific ways to help her that she cannot communicate to me.  One day recently, she had been suffering a lot with  the “knock-you-flat-on-your-back” kind of migraine, complete with full force nausea , that lasted all day long.

Let me back up and tell you just a little about this dear girl. She is normally very independent and self-sufficient.  She has been fixing her own hair for school since she was six years old.  Now at 11,  she wants to do her own pedicures instead of letting me because she can paint a chevron design better than I can. (She tried to break this to me gently. And after seeing her completed toenails, I knew she was right.) Besides being independent, she also holds her emotions tight and doesn’t show affection often. She gets tense when you hug her, so for the most part, we don’t hug often. When we do, you can be sure it is with her permission or initiation. So I have this independent, responsible and non-clingy child who is capable and functional beyond her years. All these things can add together to make us both feel in many ways that she doesn’t need me.

But I’ve noticed how being in intense pain changes this girl.  Many of you that have migraines know about the unbearable pain that can render you completely unable to function. The generally independent spirit that can take care of everything becomes unable to control or take care of anything.  So I find my girl relates to me differently in these moments. She lets me help her wash her hair and gently brush the tangles out. She asks me to rub her head, and lets me rub her feet.  And even more amazing to me is that she does all this while staying relaxed and doesn’t tense up on physical contact. She’s given in, and she’s letting me love her and take care of her. These moments are so highly uncommon and they are of course precious to me. These are the kinds of things I haven’t done for her in years. She even let me paint her toe nails.  Okay, so painting toe nails wasn’t actually necessary, but once I figured out that she would let me do stuff, I took a little advantage because it was like “Hello, mommy/daughter moments of years past that I thought were long gone!”  There’s something about giving up your need for control and managing your environment that’s so freeing.  And that’s what I saw in this limp and relaxed little girl as she let me love her and care for her in ways that I normally don’t.

Looking at this child is so often like looking in the mirror. Sometimes I love how I see God reflecting himself in the same ways through my girl and I, but other times the image I see can be frustrating and painful as it reveals things that I need to work on. This particular look reminded me of how I interact with God in my own times of pain when I am forced to relinquish all control. Like her, in those times, I can’t be independent. I can’t do the things I had planned or feel I should, and I feel the frustration that I’ve seen her struggle with. My mind says,  “What if I lay in bed all day and don’t get to check anything off my list? What about the closet I was going to reorganize? We’re out of milk too. And I’m supposed to be buying green paint for Lydia to start a project after school.  What if my family has to microwave frozen corn dogs for dinner because I can’t get up to make the chicken enchiladas I had planned?” And then God says, “You’re right. Today will accomplish nothing that you had planned. But it will accomplish everything that I had planned.”  And if I can relax and resign myself to that being my day, I can let Him love me. And I wonder, do I also feel that I don’t always need God in much the same way that my daughter doesn’t seem to always need me? In times of pain, sometimes all you can do is sleep, pray and listen to music. The way God meets me there in those times is so tender and real. The way he slows me down, and the way he reminds me of his love and special care for me is a gift I could not have received outside of those circumstances. It’s something I would not have stopped to look for or experience if I had felt well enough to choose the course of my day.  I see him express love and care for me in ways that I don’t normally let happen or slow down enough for. And I can imagine the joy that God must feel in those moments, because as a parent I’ve felt that joy also.

There will be times in life when all we need to do is to let Him love and care for us. Maybe it’s through physical pain, a season of unbearable grief or a struggle that seems impossible. You may have even unconsciously fallen into the pattern of “not needing him” like I sometimes do.  But let Him take care of you through these times. Let go and let Him love you in new and precious ways.


Science Fair Camp

Every year, it comes up in mid-science project (meaning, at midnight the night before) that we should have the kids do their annual science fair projects in the summer when we have more time. And the thought leaves as quickly as it came. Summer rolls around and we opt instead for the beach and sleeping late and total laziness. Because it is called summer, right? However, my situation this year caused me to reevaluate. Sometime in the spring, my friend Jennifer and I decided that this would be the year we would make summer science projects happen. She is responsible for facilitating two little scientists, and this year for the first time, we are responsible for three. Three science fair projects. Do y’all get the magnitude of what I was facing? Since in my past experiences, it has taken a minimum of one adult per child to facilitate and make sure actual work is taking place, and since there is no guarantee that Nathan will even be in town in the weeks leading up to said science fair, and since no one has volunteered to adopt one of my three kids for a few weeks to manage their project and bring our responsibilities back down to a more reasonable “one adult per child” ratio, I knew I had to have a new and elaborate plan this year. And there is basically no one in the world other than Jennifer that could plan and implement with me the type of logistics, schedule, and sheer craziness that would need to happen. So we decided to pool our combined nine years of science fair project management and overall mommy awesomeness to create a plan.

We looked at both of our calendars and figured out when we could do this. We got right on looking for an idea for all three girls. By June 1, the girls were doing their experiment. Take a moment to take this in, my friend. June 1. School wasn’t even out yet as we started an assignment for the next year. Be amazed please. For the next six weeks, they measured their hair and our hair and did various hair treatments and recorded data. It was a lot of trouble, and we managed to do this junk even while on vacations. This was all timed to be completed by July 13 because…….wait for it……July 14 is when we started our week-long Science Fair Camp. That’s right. We set aside this week to come together for a half-day each day and knock these five projects out all in one big swoop.

So on Monday July 14, we came together at Jennifer’s house armed with five display boards in the colors the kids had chosen, printed card stock, colored paper, glue sticks and bottles, scissors, a paper cutter, an Ipad, two laptops and a desktop. And also cheese balls, Capri Suns and cookies, because these things are very important. As I pulled up to Jennifer’s house and started unloading my ridiculous assortment of supplies, she said, “Are we sure we want to do this?” We practiced repeating “It will be worth it. It will be worth it.” But in reality, neither of us knew if this would be the best idea ever or a huge disaster.

Science Camp Day 1:

My kids were actually a little excited. I had done my best to build this up, which was hard to do sincerely because I really had no idea how great it would be. But they were surely more excited about science projects than they ever had been before. The boys had an idea but had not yet started their experiment. So Jen took supervision of the boys in the kitchen as they got going whipping up a tasting experiment while I got the girls organized planning the color schemes of their boards. We found that having all the supplies right there together and having them working on the same thing, like preparing the titles for the board, really streamlined the process. What didn’t streamline the process was if we left the room for thirty seconds to share an interesting personal story with each other. Nope. That resulted in a cheese ball fight. As in, throwing cheese balls at each other and them landing all over the floor. Sigh. Also, let me be clear, they worked at the same time but did not make decisions together. No one chose the same way to do their letters, colors or fonts. And even though we only had two different experiments total, they each individually were typing up their thoughts and analyzing their data to make it their very own. While Jennifer took the boys driving around to do their experiment, the girls all got busy typing up info for their boards and notebooks. We finished the day with all experiments done, titles for the boards finished, and with the girls started on their notebooks. And Jennifer and I both stood in amazement that it seemed this was gonna work!

The girls hard at work on Day 1.
And working not as hard.

Before the day ended, however, I checked at home and discovered that I only bought four project boards instead of five. Nathan stepped in and took Abby to Walmart to hopefully find a board. We HAD to have the board to make science camp work, and I did NOT want to drive to Tyler before science camp the next morning. But Walmart didn’t have even a plain board in the right size. This was going to complicate things but not make it impossible. And also Jennifer did go to bed with a migraine, but is any of this really shocking? I mean, really, we’re talking science fair projects here.

Day 2:

Abby began preparing stuff for her board and looking at the size of the other boards to figure where she would arrange things since she didn’t have her board yet. Lots of progress happened, but there were a few holdups and things that slowed us down. We brought two computers from my house but were never able to make them work with the printer. So this delayed things for Sam and Lydia. We also found that the glue sticks worked the best for sticking things onto the board quickly and smoothly. But it would take like four glue sticks per person, and we had only scrambled up three total. The other kind of glue wasn’t producing the neatest results, but it worked.  About two hours into this second day, Jennifer’s little scientists were done. As in,  missing some pictures that needed to be printed, but totally finished other than that. Lydia was close to finished as well. This threw us off.

Science camp was supposed to go a half-day for four days. Friday was reserved as a fun celebration day, or a day to add extra time if needed. We hadn’t considered that by day two, people would be finished. What? Our idea had worked too well it seemed. Because it was only my kiddos that were still working, we decided that we would do our own science camp just for my kids at my house the next day, and then come back together for fun celebration Thursday or Friday.

Boys going over their data on Day 2.

Day 3 (just for the Payne kids)

They were bummed. They wanted to be with their friends like on the other days and any remaining enthusiasm was gone. We started at the designated time and tried to keep the schedule and everyone got to work. The work seemed slower and it was easier to get distracted. It was also easier for me to get distracted with another task and not stay in “science project” mode. All that slowed things down. We also found that when it was just my crew, the scientists got more whiny, and the mommy wasn’t as nice. But somehow despite these things, after three hours, Lydia and Sam were both done. Abby’s work was the slowest, because this was the first day she actually had her display board and because she worked more art into her project, which added time. And when the other two finished, they did things that distracted Abby and made it harder for her to stay focused. It was much more tempting to give up for the day and put things off. But I refused to let that happen, and after five hours or so, we had all of them complete. Five science fair projects, not due for several months, all finished.

Abby giving her project board a little extra flair on Day 3.
This sweet girl made us a cake for Day 3. But since we didn’t meet together, they ate it without us because that’s the kind of friends they are.

What we’ve learned:

  1. Science camp is the best idea everWe are geniuses. Basically, end of story. But here’s a few more things anyway.
  2. We need more glue sticks. Next year, tons of glue sticks.
  3. Getting every device to recognize the printer is a must. Which means I will have to ask my husband to help.
  4. No child left behind. Next time, science camp stays together until the last project is finished. We will cheer on, encourage and support our friends and siblings. We’re  all in this together.
  5. Blocking off the time made all the difference. It kept us from distractions or procrastination. And because each family was expecting and counting on the other to be there, we weren’t tempted to postpone or bail.
These happy campers finished the week all smiles.

The week turned out surprisingly well but nothing like we had expected. In keeping with that theme, it was 70 degrees at the end of the week. In Texas. In July. So our end-of-camp tubing on the lake celebration didn’t seem as fabulous an idea as it did before. Everyone was finished with their projects by Thursday, but it was below 70 and rainy that day. Friday it was clear but still about 70 degrees. But we  were all determined to celebrate our accomplishment and end our week with a bang, so we took the five scientists tubing. And we brought along hot chocolate to warm their shivers. It was the perfect quirky celebration to the end of Science Camp 2014.

A cold but super fun celebration on the lake.

Can you steal this idea? I totally think you should! Plan your own science camp. And if you don’t, just know that in a few months when you post on Facebook about the misery you’re experiencing over science fair projects, I will be commenting “WE DID OURS IN THE SUMMER.” And feel free to imagine my sing-songy, braggadocios tone if you read those words.  I will feel your pain, but I will just not be able to help myself.

We were running out of project storage space.  So Sam enjoyed burning all the past project boards. And also this will keep me from selling them online which has been very tempting.