Friday, April 29, 2016

Transition from anger to peace

I stood at the kitchen island hand mixing a flourless chocolate cake. I had been rushing around all afternoon making sure every detail was just right. The seasoning on the chops. The made-from-scratch mac-and-cheese. The chocolate cake and homemade, warm caramel topping.

I whisked six eggs into the chocolate and sugar one at a time. The whisk hit the bowl in the same rhythm as Isaac's furious angry tapping upstairs. He had been at it for almost two hours without the telltale transition from angry tapping to the smooth tapping that indicates that he's worked through whatever it is that is bothering him.

Whisk. Whisk. Whisk.

Check the caramel.

Stir the cheese sauce.

Back to the cake. Mix in the melted chocolate and butter.

And then it hit me, mine has become the story of the prodigal son.

I kind of understand the story that I hate. Because I do. I hate that story. I always have. I never understood why that son was able to take advantage of his parents and the other son was home working and worrying without reward. It is my second-least favorite story in the Bible.

How dare those parents--that father--give him his inheritance and then a party when he squandered it all? I never understood.

I stopped as a sob caught in my throat. I leaned the whisk on the edge of the bowl, and I leaned onto that beautiful kitchen island. I hung my head. And I tried to pray.

How did we get here? I couldn't find the words. The pain and the ache this child has caused us over the years, and I'm still hand-mixing a chocolate cake. Because it would taste better that way. Because I want his first meal at home after getting kicked out of another group home to be just perfect. For him. For his siblings. For me.

The day came flooding back. The trip to the bank to transfer a few hundred dollars into a bank account with just his name on it. Isaac's multiple walks to try get himself together. His angry questions about why Isaiah is making some of the choices he is making.

The angry tapping.

And the love.

It doesn't matter how much ache and hurt he causes, I still love this child. This man, now. He's a man. I love this man-child. He's made it very clear that he doesn't want to come home--even if we opened the doors to that. He has been anxious to prove that he can do things "on his own" for years. And he's trying. He's looking for a job. Making grown up decisions and grown up purchases. He's trying. I want him to succeed. I ache for him to keep his head in the game.

I asked Tim to tend the cheese sauce and the caramel.

I tip-toed upstairs and knocked on the door to the kid cave/tap studio. Usually, I would just walk in and watch Isaac dance for a while. It's one of my favorite things. But that day, he needed space. He was working trough the anger and abandonment and confusion he was feeling about his brother.

"Yeah?" I heard through the door. "It's Mama," I answered. "Can I come in?" Quieter, he said, "Yeah."

I opened the door and clung to the doorknob with one hand and the door frame with the other--not even taking a step into the room. He looked at me as sweat dripped down his face onto the towel he had draped around his neck. "How are you doing, BabyBoy?" My nickname for him since he was four.

"I'm okay, Mom," he answered. "I'm hearing a lot of angry tapping," I replied. He schulmped into a tiny chair that we've had forever. Since we had a "kids table" at big family meals. It is too small for him. And in that instant, I saw the four-year-old boy who came home with his seven-year-old brother so many years ago. He stared at the floor picking at his skin. I started to cry.

My mom, who had been driving back from a silent retreat for more than eight hours, offered to come over. She doesn't really like it when her kids or grandkids are struggling. I asked Isaac, "How would you feel if Mimi came over for dinner, too?" He stared at the floor. I continued, the tears pouring, "You can ask her about not talking for three days, and maybe you won't feel so anxious about seeing your brother."

His eyes met mine.

I could read everything there. The pain of the abuse. The pain of the lost time. The pain of trying to love when it is not returned as expected. "Yes," he said. "That would be really good."

His demeanor physically changed. There was relief and a softness came over his face. "Okay, BabyBoy," I used the private nickname again. I started to leave the room. "Mom," he called softly. "Yeah, Bud," I said. "I think I'm done tapping for today."

Dinner was okay. Not perfect. Despite his anxiety, Isaac was his usual funny self. At one point after listening to my mom tell stories about the venue and the drive and the retreat, Isaac, who was having a hard time wrapping his brain around the idea of being silent for three days, asked his Mimi, "So you must have a lot to say now!"

There was a lot of laughter. Mom shared some pictures. Isaac focused on answering questions about school, talked about hating reading Romeo and Juliet in English class, and occasionally snuck a glance at his brother. After mom left, we played a few rounds of UNO. Isaac and Esther-Faith were exceptionally competitive with each other. There was smack talk and tongue spitting and flying cards.

And Thursday, we took Isaac to his counselor. He was all levels of dysregulated, and we needed some help. He still has a lot of hot, angry questions, but he is becoming an expert at knowing when he needs a break. When he needs to work through something. And he does. He angry taps until it starts to feel better. Then the tapping transitions to smooth, easy, happy tapping.

I am proud of both of my sons. They are on very different paths because they have made very different choices.

And I'm starting to understand pain and boundaries and lost and found and forgiveness and grace.

And I'm learning about the transition from anger to peace.

To read the parable of the prodigal son, see Luke 15:11-32.

© 2015 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cooking class

A few weeks ago, Esther-Faith's class was given a writing assignment. They were told to write about their favorite foods. 

At parent-teacher conferences, Esther-Faith's teacher told us how every child wrote about doritos or ice cream or oreos or some kind of junk/fast food. Then she pulled out Esther-Faith's essay and started giggling as she handed it to us. Esther-Faith wrote: 

Imagine this: you are about to take a huge bite of a super juicy piece of steak. "YUM!" But not just any steak, flank steak! It is super, super juicy and super chewy, too. My first reason is how tender and juicy it is. I know its tender and juicy because I LOVE the pinkish red inside. Which is medium or medium rare. Along with the first reason, I really like the tender and juicy middle of the steak and the hot outside. It has a salty taste to it. It sort of breaks in the mouth. To close, this is why I like flank steak: it's very tender and juicy. Also, how and crispy on the outside. It kind of melts and breaks apart in your mouth. The End. 

That was a proud parenting moment for Tim. That his kid wrote about flank steak. You should have seen his face. I think he put that essay in the safe.

Esther-Faith loves to cook and bake with us. Whenever we're in the kitchen, she wants to be there with us. She wants to help and learn, even if she isn't going to be eating whatever it is we're cooking. 

And she likes to share her knowledge.

Williams Sonoma has an American Girl Cookbook Club. We'd never been, but decided to give it a try last night. There were five little girls there--each with a guest. We made spaghetti and meatballs, cheesy garlic bread, and s'mores cupcakes. 

Esther-Faith was beyond excited. She clapped with the presentation of each ingredient. She raised her hand at every question, even if she didn't know the answer. 

As the night progressed, I realized that she HAS been paying close attention when we cook. She knew how to tell if the cupcakes were done. She understood how to tell if the pasta was al dente. She understood measuring and fractions. 

She doesn't eat tomatoes, so when it was time to plate the meals, she said, "Is there an option for white sauce? A simple b├ęchamel?" And then she proceeded to tell them how easy it is to make said white sauce, announcing the ingredients and measurements and instructions. Butter, flour, cream and/or wine, and maybe some parmesan cheese.

They were a little taken aback that I let her make that sauce almost completely by herself. And peel potatoes, marinate flank steak, mix ebelskivers (they were impressed that she even knew what those were), and so much more. 

But, I do. She does. She's actually pretty handy to have in the kitchen--both because she requires only a little bit of guidance and she wants to be there with us doing and learning.

We had a blast at Cookbook Club, and she can't wait to make s'mores cupcakes for her brother again. 

And flank steak for her dad.

So, we kind of make the same faces.


And again.

Whisking the dry ingredients for the cupcakes.

Telling everyone what is what.

Filling the cupcake papers.

Waiting her turn. (Perhaps, not her favorite activity.)

Watching the double boiler melt the chocolate.

Decorating the cupcakes.

The finished cupcakes.

She doesn't each chocolate, but she DID snitch
a couple of marshmallows. Actually, when she was
done decorating, she shoved them
ALL into her mouth!!

© 2016 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Tap Festivals, far-away cousins, and hard questions

The kids have far away cousins who they don't remember. They know their names, and they know where they live, but they don't know their cousins.

We are planning a very Big Trip this summer so that Isaac can participate in his first Tap Festival. Isaac has decided he might want to pursue a career in tap dancing, and this festival is a first step in seeing if he has what it takes.

I think he has what it takes.

So does his dad.

I'll miss him when he moves to NYC. Or LA. Or Chicago.

But he's good.

And dedicated.

So dedicated.

He practices two or three hours a day. Every day. He has downloaded 50 Gene Kelly songs, and he's trying to learn the steps that Gene did. Sometimes, he taps so hard and so long that the lights flicker on the first floor of our house.

Every day I walk around the house when he's done practicing and I straighten the pictures.

One of my absolute favorite sounds in the whole world is listening to him tap. Even when I have no idea what I'm listening to, I love to hear it. He practices hard. He is dedicated and persistent. He wants to get better.

Now, if I could just get him to feel comfortable performing...

As we plan this Big Trip across the country for a Tap Festival, Esther-Faith has been asking all kinds of questions about her cousins. The other day, we saw a gorgeous picture of her youngest Texas cousin in the swimming pool.

Esther-Faith stared at the picture for a long time. Zooming in and out. Checking out the smile and the eye color. And then she asked, "Does she have Spina Bifida?"

I stared at the picture on my phone, wondering what she really wanted to know.

"No," I said cautiously. "She doesn't."

Esther-Faith took the phone from my hand and looked at the picture again, "Do any of my cousins have Spina Bifida?"

She watched my face. I'm always wary when she watches my face. I've been told that everything shows there.

"No, Esther-Faith," I said. "They don't."

I waited.

She looked at the picture again.

"Is that okay?" I asked her, wondering what she was feeling.

"Yeah," she said, flippantly. "I just wondered."

And the subject changed. And we heard Isaac curse a missed step in the studio down the hall. I watched her face as she found her place in the book she is reading. And I wondered about the experiences my kids are having. Not another one of their cousins looks like them. Their skin or abilities.

And they don't seem to care all that much. Esther-Faith and Isaac are awesome to each other. They have sibling secrets that I don't even know. They genuinely cheer for each other. And I think they genuinely despise each other sometimes.

But in their differences, they have have found solidarity. There is absolutely nothing they won't do for each other.

Tomorrow, Esther-Faith heads to the hospital for day-long appointments. Isaac is nervous for her.

Tomorrow, Isaac takes a vocab test that he's been pretty anxious about. Esther-Faith is nervous for him.

Tomorrow, at the end of our days, we will have Friday Family Fun Night (FFFN). And they will not care that their family is so very different from other families. Because to each other, there is nothing different.

Esther-Faith is who she is, and Isaac loves her just as she is. Isaac is who he is, and Esther-Faith love him just as he is. We'll make homemade cookies, order in pizza, and play a board game.

And it will not matter that their cousins are all alike each other, and not a one of them is like Isaac and Esther-Faith.

© 2016 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Overheard at the HennHouse: Pie Edition

Me: (patiently eating my dinner)

Tim: I wish I had some pie.

Me: ...

Tim: Pie sounds so good.

Me: (chewing)

Tim: I wish I had a pie.

Me: (slamming bowls and whatnot around the kitchen)

Tim: (standing thisclose to my face) What are you doing?

Me: giving him the silent treatment. Because, dishes, flour, sugar. PIE.

Tim: (not leaving me alone) You don't have to make pie.

Me: You told me a dozen times that you wanted pie.

Tim: That doesn't mean you have to make one.

Me: I'm making two.

An hour later...

Tim gets his SECOND piece of pie and goes to the table.

I make Isaac some whipped cream for his pie (the old fashioned way. you know, with cream and sugar)

I come to the table to sit with Tim.

He LITERALLY has crumbs all over his face.


Me: (dumbfounded) What. Just what?

Tim: (giggling uncontrollably) You sat down too soon.

Me: For what? To see that you've put your face IN THE PIE.

Tim: ...

© 2015 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Faith like a mustard seed

When Esther-Faith was hospitalized five days after her birthday in 2010, one of Tim's colleagues brought some gifts to her and me in the hospital. For Esther-Faith, Joe brought a stuffed animal and to me he brought a necklace.

It was a simple silver chain with a pendent onto which a mustard seed was glued.

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

I wore that necklace every day she was in the hospital. I didn't take it off. I have been known to be a little superstitious. Maybe that was it. Maybe I ran out of energy to pay attention to my jewelry as I slept at home every other night and the hospital the other nights. Maybe I needed the reminder that faith is more than a word. Maybe I needed the reminder that tiny things can have a big impact. Whatever it was, I wore that necklace until I brought my girl home from the hospital.

At some point during the three weeks she was inpatient, the mustard seed fell off. It didn't change my faith that something small can actually make a big difference.

My dad visited Esther-Faith towards the end of her hospitalization. It was his last trip anywhere before the hospitalization that proceeded his stay in a nursing home, and then his death. They read books and played games.

I remember standing at the foot of her bed fingering the necklace and the spot where the mustard seed used to be as my dad and Esther-Faith leaned into each other and prayed.

Tonight as I was organizing and purging, I ran across that necklace. It is tarnished now. And still missing the mustard seed, I don't really have a reason to keep it.

But it is hanging with my other treasured necklaces--the one with Tim's badge number engraved in it. The soccer ball necklace that I wear for all of Isaac's matches. (And all of Liverpool's matches.) The necklace with the little yellow flowers and the quote from my favorite novel etched into the metal. The pearls I wore at Tim's brother's wedding--a gift from his bride. The butterfly my niece bought with her own money to give to me for Christmas. The stunning and unique necklace Tim gave me for our fifth anniversary. And the matching necklace to one that my daughter has with the word "magic" on the pendant. A memory from our trip to Disney.

I have quite a few treasured necklaces. Not a one of them is worth a lot monetarily, but to my heart, they are priceless.

And that is where the mustard seed necklace hangs. With the other treasures. It is not worn anymore. But as the celebration of her first decade on this planet approaches, I am reminded of the faith I continue to have in the God I serve, the medical professionals I trust with my daughter's care, and the belief that something small can make a big difference.

Whether it is a mustard seed.

A necklace.

Or an almost 10-year-old redhead with a fiery personality, fierce loyalty, and immense love.

© 2015 Karin Shirey Henn, all rights reserved. 
Copyright notice: All content, including writings, artwork, photographs, or videos, posted on this blog is original to Karin Shirey Henn and the HennHouse unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission.