Friday, May 22, 2009

Candid Conversations With a Three-Year-Old

Ever wonder what goes through the mind of a three-year-old? Sometimes, when they speak, they make you laugh. Sometimes they make you cry. Sometimes they make you proud. And, sometimes, they make you sigh. We've always known that Lauren understands a lot -- more than most little kids do (or should) at their age. In fact, one thing is abundantly clear: Lauren is not sitting idly by in the hospital wondering why the wall is blue, oblivious to everything. The other day, Cristi had a philosophical conversation with Lauren -- just out of the blue. I thought I'd share it with you.

[One morning in the playroom]

Lauren: Who works in the cath lab?

Cristi: Dr. Hanna. (Lauren's cardiologist)

Lauren: Who else?

Cristi: [Pauses to think]

Lauren: Does Robert's (one of the older boys she knows on the ward) doctor work in the cath lab?

Cristi: No. He works in the operating room.

Lauren: Can he fix my heart?

Cristi: No, but he might help when you get your new, strong heart.

Lauren: Will he put it in my back?

Cristi: No, it will go in the front.

Lauren: Oh. I'll lift up my shirt for him in the operating room!

[An hour or so later, as Cristi is putting Lauren down for her nap]

Lauren: Will you go with me to the operating room?

Cristi: Yes, I'll go all the way to the operating room with you.

Lauren: Good! [Pauses] I'll cooperate! (We tell her she has to cooperate when she goes to the gym, or Mommy will have to leave)

[Later...back in three-year-old land...]
Lauren was pretending to play Rock Band in the playroom. She pretended to turn on the TV, open the X-Box, and put the imaginary disc in. Then she got the drumsticks, sat down, tapped the sticks while saying, "1-2-3", and then proceeded to sing a song: "Merf, Merf, Merf".

Then, Cristi and Lauren were playing Dora Candyland. She got tired of playing with just the two player markers (Lauren, not Cristi!), so she kept making up new players (Tico, Benny, Backpack, etc.). Cristi said she must have had about 10 imaginary players on the board that they were trying to keep track of! Imagine how many times that many players could hit Queen Frostine and have to go back to the beginning! Talk about a never-ending game! Of course, at that age, it's way more about the playing than the winning.

Well, there you have it: A three-year-old's mind at work. One moment, happily pretending that she's a rock star -- another moment, clearly spending significant brain cells on the implications of her "unfortunate incarceration" -- who's involved, how it works, what to expect, whether she'll have to go through it all alone...I'm awe-struck. What an amazing little girl!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Living the Dream of a Prom Queen

Last week was a busy week. In the first three days, I had already worked about 36 hours, trying to get ready for my big briefings that begin the process of building the Air Force budget for 2011. The days were long, I needed more time, and I was about to go crazy. But in the middle of the busy-ness, I got to take a little time out for a really special night with my daughter. Last Thursday was "Prom night" at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Cristi asked me to come up, wear my Mess Dress, and be Lauren's date. Now how could I turn that down?

About 3 years ago, they began having an annual prom for the kids who were stuck in the hospital and weren't able to go. They open it up to all the kids, though, and really make a big deal out of it. I took up a formal for Cristi and the dress Addison wore as a flower girl in Cristi's sister's wedding for Lauren. It was perfect! The hospital spent the whole day getting ready for it. On Lauren's floor, they transformed the playroom into the 6 East Beauty Salon. They had a stylist there, so Lauren got her hair and nails done. She knew how to show it off, too. She even asked one of the nurse practitioners if she was going to the prom and what she was wearing. She replied that she thought she'd wear what she had on (a very stylish shirt/slacks combo, which she wore to work that day). Lauren gave her a look that said that was clearly not appropriate! Talk about a diva! I was amazed, wondering where she learned such behavior! I think it must be from her sister!

The entire floor went down together. We quite literally paraded down the halls to the elevator, IV poles, heart monitors, and medical staff all in tow. Even with all the added gear, it was quite a site to see with all the kids dressed up in their best clothes. When we arrived downstairs, we got to walk down the red carpet with photographers taking pictures and people cheering the kids on. They transformed the cafeteria into a dance floor (not unlike they did for Cristi's and my first two proms together) and had a DJ there to get the kids and adults moving together on the dance floor. Just imagine teens, 3-year-olds, and AF majors raising the roof, doing conga lines, and line dancing. pictures...You'll just have to imagine that!

They even had local media there covering the event, and before we knew it, we had been volunteered to get interviewed. I could tell you all about it, but I'll just let the story speak for itself (click here).

Unfortunately, I had to drive back home that night so that I could be at work early the next morning for my briefings. Just a short trip, but one well worth it! Enjoy the pictures!

Lauren and her cardiologist, Dr. Hanna

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action! (or, Playing Jesus)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in something really moving: a musical called Imagine. Now, I'm not an actor. I never took Drama in school. The closest I ever got to theater was playing in the orchestra for high school musicals (different from High School Musical that your tween knows and loves). I do love music though, and I'm passionate about worship, so I impulsively tried out for a role in our church's spring production.

Imagine is an original musical, written by one of our members, that traces church music back from the very beginning when, Jubal, the father of music, is mentioned in Genesis 4 down to today's contemporary Christian ubiquity. The 60% of our family still living in DC all decided to take part. In fact, we all had to try out -- yes, try out...all of us. The kids tried out for their song-and-dance number first. Addison's done choreographed numbers before, so dancing wasn't a big deal, but singing in front of everyone made her nervous. Brennan on the other hand went up there and belted out a song fairly well for a kid with no training, but then looked like the quintessential football player doing ballet when trying the choreography! It was comical! My audition didn't go so well either; you'd've thought that I got dared into doing "Born to be Wild" at a Karaoke bar. Thankfully, the director was "taking" everyone. We were just trying out for role placement. The next day she called me with my "assignments: Among other things, I got to be...wait for it...Jesus! My heart sank. How can I play Jesus? I mean, He's like...God!

The rehearsals started the next week. That left our weekends in the dust: Every Sunday for 3 hours. Sunday was no longer a day of rest. And, as we got closer to the show, I kept taking on increased responsibility. First, it was leading the chorus during the music portion of the rehearsal. Then, it was helping with the set. Forget a heart transplant. The show must go on -- especially since Cristi was coming to town for the Saturday night performance (we had a wonderful hour-and-a-half together, by the way)!

Actually, helping with the set turned out to be both fun and educational. I showed up and asked how I could help. The next thing I knew, I was climbing 20-foot ladders hanging lights from the ceiling. Yes, Karin had hired someone she knew from local theater that had been doing lighting and sound for 30+ years! I had no idea you actually had to "focus" the lights -- who knew? Who knew I'd have to wear makeup, too? Foundation, blush, lipstick, and a makeup beard! I even learned how to put it on myself (except for the beard part; I had people assigned to dress me in my Jesus garb and do my makeup during quick-change superman drills) and impressed a couple of the teenage girls. Of course, I'm not sure that's a proficiency they should be looking for in a guy...

Finally, after a grueling last week of rehearsals, opening day arrived. I had so much pent-up energy, and despite seeing it several times in rehearsal, I couldn't wait to see how the show "came off". It was a kind of paradox of feeling, actually. I wanted to see the show so that I could imagine what it must have been like to have witnessed all those scenes. Yet, at the same time, it was incumbent upon me and the rest of the cast to bring it to life for the audience -- so that they could imagine!

Well, since many of you couldn't be there, let me walk you through several of the scenes, and let you imagine what it might have been like...

Imagine being in the fields with the boy David as he played with his friends and sang traditional Jewish songs...

Imagine the dedication of Solomon's temple -- all the grandeur of the temple itself and the pomp and circumstance of a dedication ceremony driven by the awe and passion of a people who realized they were taking part, not just in a historical moment, but in a moment that had God's undivided attention...

Imagine the temple being destroyed -- a time of such despondency among the priests and the people that the splendor and orchestral majesty seen in the temple dedication was ordered replaced with monotonic chants...

Imagine Martin Luther telling the people how stupid that was -- that God gave us the gift and beauty of music and that we should use it for His glory...

Imagine Handel writing the Hallelujah Chorus, going several days without food, and then hearing it performed for the very first time...

Imagine slaves singing a spiritual, not only as a cry to God, but also as a call to assembly and escape...

Imagine a white church and a black church in the same town that finally come together, breaking down age-old barriers...

Imagine a large gathering of Christians all lifting their voices together in high-energy praise...

Imagine what Heaven will be like...Imagine all the kids running to Jesus when they see Him for the very first time as all of Heaven sings, "Worthy is the Lamb! Praise the great I AM!"...

Unfortunately, this word picture paints but a fraction of the full canvas, but I hope you could see just momentarily in your mind how powerful some of those moments through the ages must have been (or will be, in the case of Heaven). I'm humbled to have been a part of it -- especially humbled to play the part of Jesus -- one that I'm certainly not worthy of. I have to tell you, though, that it lit up my heart to see all those kids running toward me. Imagine what that will be like...

All good things must come to an end, though. And, after the last show Sunday night, we had to take down the entire set. That was fun in its own right, though. I volunteered to take down lights (since I help put them up). This time, it wasn't the ladder, though. Yep...I got to drive one of those scissors lifts. Drove it all the way from the parking lot, into the church building, and up and down the aisles taking down lights, poles, cords. I felt like a little kid! I mean, who'd'a thunk that you'd get to drive a scissors lift at church?!? I think I need one of those at home!

Later that night, I finally made it home, crawled into bed and went to sleep. It seemed just a short time until the alarm went off for Monday morning. Alas, all good things must come to an end...