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Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde

Our good friends, Anne and Thomas live not far from us here in the Neustadt and we are so thankful they do!  Anne took it upon herself to take Olivia and Chris to school while first Randy was gone for a week for the men’s retreat and then when I was gone for the following week during the ladies’ retreat.  That means 10 days of taking two sleepy kids to school at the crack of dawn in the cold!  Well, somewhere in there, Anne told Chris and Olivia that she would be taking them to the Dinosaurier Park which is about an hour’s drive away, so during the fall break, the big day came.  Here were my instructions to my children:

1) Do not ask them to buy you toys 2) Do not throw fits–be polite and 3) Do not walk away from the group.  If you see something you want to look at, ASK first!  I made sure to re-iterate this last one about three times as they walked out the door.

So, as I sent them off for a day of fun, I was pretty confident the day would go well.  They both behave when we are on outings together as a family, so I had no worries.  *I hear chuckling….who’s chuckling at my naivete?!*

When Anne rang my bell at the end of the day, she mentioned first that they fell asleep on the way home and were still sleeping out in the car and that since they weren’t there to hear, she would take the opportunity to tell me up front that Chris ran away at the end of the day.


I just stood there looking dumb.  Then she told me what happened: Chris asked her (actually both of them asked her I found out later) if she would buy him a dinosaur (rule-breaking #1) and when she said no, citing that she had already put a lot of money down for the tickets, he got mad at her (rule-breaking #2) and then ran away (rule-breaking #3).

Great.  Just great.  She then proceeded to tell me about how she freaked out and she, her husband, Olivia, Anne’s sister, Anne’s sister’s daughter and husband and two kids…all split up to go look for Chris in a huge outdoor forested park for an HOUR.  Just when they were about to go home.  Wonderful.  He was found and was very repentant and though Anne couldn’t find it in her heart to gripe him out, her sister did, for which I am thankful! 🙂

I played dumb when I brought them in and asked them how their day went.  Great!  Wonderful!  Look at our pictures!  And then after those remarks and after some looking at pictures I asked “and did you follow the rules of behavior I mentioned this morning?”  Immediate guilty looks appeared and they exchanged the classic sibling look between them “uh-oh, what do we say?”  After a few minutes of coaxing I got it out of them.  Well, to wrap this up, Chris colored a picture for Anne, we stopped and bought some flowers and then we all trouped up to Anne’s apartment where her sister still was, as well, and Chris apologized to everyone in the apartment individually.  It was a good lesson all around and from his behavior, I’m pretty sure he felt relieved that everyone was not mad at him anymore and that he had ‘made it right’ receiving forgiveness and hugs.

So ends the story of Mr. Hyde…

Two days later, we’re milling around getting ready to sit down in the big room at the church building for Sunday morning worship.  It usually goes something like this…Olivia finds someone (anyone) who is not a member of her family to sit next to and behaves well, singing songs and generally enjoying herself.  Chris tries to look up the songs in the book, but usually gets bored quickly, asking after every song if it’s time for bible class yet and tries to ignore Alex talking to him so he’ll get a “star” for good behavior.  Alex wiggles, talks, whispers and generally causes a scene unless he’s having and unusually good day or he’s extremely sleepy.  I was interested to find Chris helping Randy pick out songs just before worship and surprised when he was perfectly attentive during the singing, looking up songs, trying to sing them all; and then I was even more surprised when I said “time to go to bible class” Chris said “I’m staying to sit with Daddy during his sermon.”  I debated…do I say “be still, be good, why are you doing this?  just come with me anyway?”  I just looked at him and said, “okay, but if you get bored, come on back to the kids’ room.”  What? Chris is always the first one to shoot out of his chair to escape the boring sermon 🙂

After bible class at least three people from the church made a point to go up to him and say that he behaved very well during worship and that they were very proud of him.  I asked Randy how he did. “Fine.  He paid attention, didn’t fidget and looked up each of the songs.  When he was tired, he yawned loud, but he wasn’t disrespectful.”  I asked Chris what the sermon was about. “It was about God.” Okay.  Good.  ?

So there’s the story of a surprising Dr. Jekyll who, without any prompting floored everyone with his wonderful behavior after just a few days of the worst behavior he’s every displayed.  I’m not sure what to think of these Jekyll/Hyde moments…it’s easier with Alex because I can predict the fits with regularity.  At least he’s consistent….



A day with a Superhero

Chris downtown Dresden, originally uploaded by carrollers.

What does a superhero do when he goes out on a date with his mom? He goes shopping apparently 🙂
Well, what can I say? I’m practical. I used our day out together to get him a pair of much-needed shoes. And since I know Chris is picky, I decided to let him in on the deal. 🙂 In all fairness, I DID ask if he wanted to go to a number of different places, but for Chris, he doesn’t care WHERE he goes — most of the time — he just wants you to be there WITH him. He wants some one-on-one time.

Chris was a little under the weather today so I kept him home simply to keep him from going to swimming lessons. As I contemplated the day of doing laundry and cleaning with Chris underfoot, I realized an opportunity has arisen–a day simply with him. That doesn’t happen very often with three kids in the house!

I decided first things first–where would he like to eat? Either Burger King or McDonalds, he said and I sighed inwardly. Fast Food is something of a novelty here, since I just named the two chains that we have in Dresden. Well, I guess three since KFC has recently made it’s arrival. I knew this was a nice treat for him, since they’re downtown and we don’t often go to either one of these “restaurants.” 🙂 Since it was his choice I even let him look at the different toys the two places offered before he decided. Am I a good mom or what?

But before we went to lunch we picked out some running shoes in Deutschland colors. Chris is a Deutschland fan, which to him amounts to wearing a combination of black, red and yellow. So black, red and yellow sneakers it was. He demonstrated how fast he could run, by running up and down Prager Strasse at the speed of light.

Then, because he’s outgrown all his baseball caps and the weather now permits said hats, I let him pick out a ball cap. We went to H & M, which is the best place in Dresden for a variety of ball caps that appeal to 6 year olds. I see boys running around Dresden with army green or brown beat-up looking hats. Not for Chris. He went straight to the bright blue one with a red Spider-Man on it. Spider-Man is Chris’s first superhero love. He discovered Spider-Man when he had an potty ‘accident’ when he was 2 1/2 and I ran into a store and bought him the first set of underwear I laid eyes on…Spider-Man underoos. He looked down at the underwear and said “Who’s that?” I said, “That’s Spider-Man.”
And that’s all it took. Though he knows Superman, Batman, The Green Lantern, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and Wolverine and on and on….. it’s always been Spider-Man.

We then went on to buy gifts for Alex and Olivia who both have birthdays coming up (perfume and lip gloss for Olivia, a flashlight and mini-transformer for Alex) and then ended up at McDonalds. Randy taught the kids “20 Questions” as a game to keep them occupied when they have to sit somewhere for a while (i.e. car, doctor’s office, restaurant) and Chris loves it. No sooner had we sat down than he said he wanted to play 20 questions. “I’ll think of something….it’s a thing!” And on it went for about 20 rounds. But I didn’t get tired of it. I love watching him use his mind. Sometimes he’d sit for 5 whole minutes chewing his burger to think about a really good question to crack the answer.

My favorite moment was when I said, “Okay, I’m thinking of a person.”
He said, “Do they live on an alien planet?”

Happy Birthday to My 6-Year-Old

I have a 6-year-old son today!!!

He can transform even the most difficult transformers, leap off the top bunk without getting seriously hurt, yell louder than any kid I know, sticks up for his siblings on the playground, annoys them at home, is a good big brother and a pesky little brother, has a memory like an elephant,… the heart of a lion and hugs like a tiger! Happy Birthday, Christopher!

Chris Transforms Acid Storm

Chris LOVES the Transformers right now. When he wants me to play “Transformers” with him, he usually has to transform them FOR me, because I cant’ figure them out. This is the hardest level of transformer that he owns and I was so impressed with how he confidently transformed the thing that I thought I’d video it.


Christopher Marcus CarrollOkay, I’m going to preface this with saying that I might type the word “Christ” instead of Chris at least once.  I’ve done it before by accident and been called on it, but I truly don’t mind.  No, I’m not being arrogant about it, but it reminds me of the meaning behind the Greek name “Christopher” (Christophoros) which is “bearing Christ.”

Chris turned five in January.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t celebrate right away, with so many different things going on at once, and we didn’t want to have to cram his birthday in amongst other stuff going on, so we waited until February to celebrate.  He had a transformer party and invited 5 boys to come and play transformers/hot wheels/dinosaurs/knights and whatnot.

So what can I say about my eldest son?  What can I NOT say?

The stats:

Born January 18th, 2004  at 5:00 a.m. on a wintry and snowy day.

The middle child with a sister who is 20 months older and a brother who is 27 months younger.

White blonde hair since the minute he was born, blue eyes, a large noggin and a long, wiry build 🙂

He goes by “Chris,” “Christopher,” “Christopher Carroll” (when he’s in trouble) but hardly ever do we say “Christopher Marcus.”  In fact, I wonder if he even knows what his middle name is.  Hm….

The loudest voice EVER.  As a singer I can safely say that the kid has natural resonance so if he wants to pursue a career in opera he’ll fill the hall–with whatever kind of voice he ends up having 🙂  Since the day of his birth I’ve been astounded at the VOLUME.

He speaks English and German fluently with no accent.

But who is he really? I’ll give it a go:

He’s an Elephant.  What I mean by this is not that he’s big–actually, he’s really skinny because he’s a picky eater.   What I mean instead is that he’s got the memory of Elephant (so to speak…I’ve yet to research that saying).  You tell him and he remembers.  A melody, song lyrics, movie lines, what he wore on his third birthday, a promise made two weeks ago about going out for ice cream after going to the doctor, which by the way happened today, mom… you get the idea.

He’s musical.  I could say this about all my kids, though they’re musical in different ways.  He’s learning piano and I’m repeatedly astounded at what he remembers.  He loves to help Dad sing the boys part in devo songs and remembers songs that we haven’t heard in a long time.  For instance, one day Randy heard him singing “You Fill Up My Senses” in the hall while he was playing with his cars.  We couldn’t figure out where he heard it (since we don’t own a scrap of John Denver) and then we remembered that we had borrowed Steve’s car for a week about 6 months ago and he had a John Denver tape in it that would play whenever we got in the car.

He’s a collector.  Since he started walking, which was at 9 months, he would take a slew of toys to bed and line them up on his pillow.  Now he has large collections of cars, dinosaurs, legos, transformers.  Not overly large, but Chris never forgets a toy, though he carries them everywhere he goes and he repeatedly plays with all of them, so there’s no chance of giving the older toys away.

He’s possesive.  And don’t even think about touching one of those toys without his permission.

His love language is quality time.  But if you volunteer to play with him and his precious toys, then you’ll get the toys and you’ll get his steadfast friendship and loyalty.

He’s protective and loyal and has an innate sense of justice, though sometimes his justice is not the same as everyone else’s.  For instance, he himself can pound on his little brother, but if anybody else tries to, they’re in serious trouble.

He loves to pretend.  He wants to be superman.  He wants to be Optimus Prime.  He wants to be Goliath, or Batman or a combination of several things which makes for interesting costumes.  But he’s also bossy (yes, I know it’s from me) which means pretending usually goes like this.  “Okay, you’re Bulkhead and I’m Optimus Prime and now you say, ‘Optimus I need you to help me get my wrecking ball unstuck’ and now I say this….” You don’t really have a choice in the matter.

He loves his siblings.  Chris has an older sister who looks after him, but he loves to look after Alex in turn.  He has such a strong and one-of-a-kind personality that it’s hard to imagine him getting stuck with a “middle child” complex.

Yes, it’s hard to do him justice in a mere blog post, but I felt I had to try.  He’s come so far in a year in areas such as keeping his fists to himself (okay, I’m kind of joking about that one…), helping without being asked–in fact, being eager to help, becoming a leader at times among his friends, instead of just being the odd man out (something German helped with) and having a little more patience.  I won’t say he’s gotten quieter or that he’s grasped the concept of an “inside voice” because that’s just not true.   All in good time.  Maybe.

At the party I saw all of this come together in a culture all his own that I never experienced as a kid.  He greeted his guests either in German or English according to what they spoke and was eager to give them their gift (we give gifts at our birthdays, like the hobbits 🙂 ) which was a mini-transformer.  I heard him switching from German to English with no problem as he helped them figure out how to transform their robot in record time and then it was off to play.  Though I jokingly set out the tylenol, the party went without incident except for Robin Hood’s sword getting broken (all kids came in costume according to Chris’ wishes) and only one kid getting injured (though how or why I never found out).  They even did well making their own pizzas (with Chris giving instructions, of course) and sitting patiently at the table to eat and wait for cake.  Only one other mom was there with me, but it turns out I didn’t need the tylenol after all.  My little angel! 🙂

Happy birthday, my son, and may you bear Christ in your heart for as long as you bear it in your name.