I sit on Efrem's bed and have a spoonful of granola. Efrem's head rises and he looks at me sleepily. Silas snores quietly next to us. I want the boys to keep me company while I finish my breakfast. In ten minutes I have to leave to catch a train. I talk with Efrem as he comes to his senses, then slide over and rub Silas' back. 

"You boys need to be good while I'm gone." I say. "Try to help mommy out a little extra." 

Silas' response is hilarious, "Okay, I'll try and eat as much spaghetti as possible." 

I guess that's how daddy helps out around the house, at least in the eyes of a six year old. I finish my breakfast and they get out of bed. The boys crowd around the sink as I brush my teeth, trying to savor our moments before I left. 

Efrem decides to make conversation, "Daddy, where'd you buy that toothbrush?" 

I can only mumble back, because I can't talk while I brush my teeth. It's a running controversy at our house, whether it's better to brush your teeth with your mouth open or closed. May brushes mouth open, I brush mouth closed, mainly because if I try the former toothpaste falls all over everything. She is somehow even able to keep the suds in her mouth under complete control. 

Read more: Spaghetti, Toothbrushes and Coffee Gaskets

A slug oozes across our floor

Our new apartment has spiders, lots of them. One evening while we were closing the shutter in the boys' room we noticed a fairly large garden spider had made a web across the top quarter of their door. I didn't mind him, but May made me clear out the garden of the big imposing ones, including our doorman. She has mentioned to me quite a few times how spiders drop down or scurry off every time she opens the doors that lead outside. 

Just the other day we had yet another type of visitor. We like to open our bedroom doors to air everything out in the mornings. As I went to close the door in the boys' room I saw that a brown slug had ventured inside and was speeding his fastest for the refuge of Efrem's bed. At least he couldn't scurry as fast as a spider, but have you ever picked up a slug? They're nasty! Bleck. The following day May and the boys were out while I was working on the computer. I heard what sounded like footsteps in our apartment. That's strange, I thought, there's no way May could be home by now. Subconsciously I assumed I must be hearing a neighbor upstairs. When the noise persisted I turned around to see a cat had wandered into our house. We stared at each other for a few moments in mutual surprise. He was fairly calm until I got up to help him out. At that point he ran into a room that didn't have a door open, jumped onto a heater and started flailing wildly at the closed door. I opened up another nearby and he bounded out and scurried through our hedge. 

That night, Superman came flying into our living room. "I want a storm trooper mask," he said. And daddy, I want a darth vader mask too. And can I have a light saber? Ah, you've got to love visitors.

Efrem looking cute with his blond curls

 

"Mommy, help!" Every parent knows what it's like to rush to their child in the middle of the night. Efrem was still asleep, eyes closed, sitting up in bed. What was wrong?

The day we got back to France we did a final walkthrough of our apartment. Talking with the owner in the parking lot, Silas and Efrem were playing rough. Suddenly Efrem was flat on the ground, blood in his mouth. His one remaining front tooth and the tooth next to it were loose, bleeding. His gums became bruised a dark purple. Efrem has already lost one of his front teeth. Losing the last one would be tough, since his adult teeth won't come for another three or four years. Staggering from jet lag, May took him to the doctor that night. Still concerned, I took him to the dentist the next day. There was nothing to do. Only time will tell if he loses it. Sometimes it takes a month or two for the root to die, or it could recover. A major difficulty - Efrem sucking his thumb.

We still had some of the "icky fingernail polish" we used to help Silas stop sucking his thumb. After Efrem was asleep, we put some on his thumb nail to make sure he wouldn't revert back to it. That's when we heard his cry, "Mommy, help!" He had his first taste of the icky polish. He was calling out for help from the same person who'd applied it.

That funny situation made me think about my own prayer life. How limited my perspective is. How immature my prayers are to God. All I want is deliverance from my present struggles, but God can see the ripened fruit at the end. I writhe and whine while God patiently tries to remove a sliver or simply keep me from hurting myself. He sees the healthy, holy person I am to become. May I break out of my self-centeredness long enough to get a glimpse too!

Hand holding a baseball

 

Sometimes life throws you curveballs. I've had a few lately, like our neighbors cars blocking the way for the truck during our move, one of our moving helpers getting stuck in the elevator, and the faucet to hook up the washing machine leaking. I felt pretty self conscious randomly buzzing people asking if they happened to own the grey Renault parked out front. We had to call a repairman for the elevator. I have no idea how I'm going to fix the faucet - and we'd really like to do some laundry. But that's what I do, whiff at curveballs. I tore a huge gash in our linoleum moving our refrigerator, whiff. Our phone doesn't work at either apartment now, whiff.

May deals with the stress by working harder. That makes me stressed. I've got to sit and do nothing, or write, or watch a movie, or sleep a long long time. I don't know when that's going to happen. Our living room is a jumbled mess, filled with boxes and haphazard furniture. My clothes are all sitting in a suitcase. This is only a phase, normal will come.

Where does my help come from? My help comes from the maker of heaven and earth. My muscles are so sore it hurts to stand. I'm sleeping poorly even though I'm beyond exhausted. Does God ever feel sore or get tired? Nope. He's holding every molecule together at this moment, listening carefully to every prayer, hearing expectations, shouldering every complaint. He never needs to sleep, provides life to us, and is certainly capable enough to help me repair a leaky faucet. I say this because I have an abhorrent fear of plumbing and of trying to find things in foreign countries.

Korean temple and a seafood shop with aquarium

 

Korea is amazing to visit. I'd never been to Asia, it was as amazing as I'd imagined. Pictorial writing is so different than roman characters. One evening we got into a taxi and told him the name of our hotel. He didn't seem to understand, so we handed him the name and address written on a piece of paper. He looked at it for a long, long time. What's the problem, we thought? Then we realized that it was written in roman characters instead of Korean ones. We did a lot of pointing during that cab ride.

Then there's the food. We really like Korean food. Some restaurants had large tanks with fish swimming around. Above the tanks their many fish dishes are displayed. Now that's fresh! But the cold lunches and dinners provided for us wore on after a while. Desserts really aren't a priority there, and my western tongue really needed some sugar. After one lunch, May and I finished the rice and meat, looked at each other and said - I'm still hungry! We walked across the street and bought a waffle with whipped cream on it. Then we had two ice cream cones. Dessert is the most important meal of the day, and we'd been missing it.

We had one morning to explore, so we walked over to a Buddhist temple. There was a service going on, with people bowing down and up, down and up as the priest chanted. Three golden statues gazed blankly at the worshippers. In one temple thousands of little green statues were lined up behind the buddhas. On one hand, the unhurried focus is admirable. How difficult it is in our Western World to set aside time to give something our full attention. On the other hand, how lifeless those statues are. How much more worthwhile those prayers would be if they were directed to Christ.

Efrem on his pushbike

 

"Is Efrem with you?"

"No, I thought he was with you."

We looked behind us at the enormous playground with kids playing everywhere. He had to be there somewhere. A quick search, a second more careful scan, another look showed no sign of Efrem.

Panic struck.

May and I took started running all over the park. What could have happened?! We were frightened. Could he have gone to the other bicycle course? You run down there and check. I'll look on the playground again. Minutes crawled by with still no sign of him. We were right by the merry go round when we told him we were leaving. He was on his little bicycle, which he can go really fast on, by the way, and then he was gone.

Then a lady who saw us searching approached, "There's a little boy by the exit over there." I ran over to find Efrem, on his bike by a different exit. What a relief. In the span of five minutes we went from pure panic to heartfelt relief. I tried hard not to let the emotions flowing through me taint what I said to Efrem. I said I was so happy to see him and asked if he was scared. His response was, "Yes, where were you guys?" It was tough on him too.

We followed up that incident by stressing the importance of staying beside mommy and daddy, especially when we're leaving. We also talked about what to do if they're ever approached by a stranger. This past week an English couple had their four year old girl taken while they on vacation in Portugal. It could happen to anyone, as scary as that is. And as a parent I know that we would go to any length to save our child from harm. Maybe this is how God felt when we, his children, were stolen from him by Satan. He relentlessly pursued us and went to great lengths to save us. God created emotions, he feels them too. Jesus wept, and so do we with those parents who are still searching for Maddie. May they find her soon.