Thursday, December 15, 2011

Loving her

There is little obvious to love about her. Her hair is unkempt, her teeth visibly rotten, her shoulders hunched, and her language often foul. This is what I used to see when I looked at her.

What, I wonder, is there that's obvious to love about me? I imagine myself at my worst. Hair unwashed, breath in need of improvement, pajamas with holes and stains in them, and no makeup on the blemished and wrinkled skin of my face. Not much to look at.

Maybe that's not where the value lies. If I look deeper at her, the other girl, beyond the physical appearance, what do I see? Poor choices. A history of drug and alcohol use. One child taken away by social services years ago, another in her care struggling, lagging far behind his peers. An abusive husband. Public assistance.

What if I look deeper at myself? I must look pretty good. My children may wear wrinkled clothes, but I'm in no danger of being declared unfit. I've never been addicted to a substance, and I chose wisely when saying "I do."

But, is that what's really there? I may look good on paper, but if the invisible deeds of the heart were brought to light, I know what you would see. What He can see. Selfishness, laziness, pride, deceit, obstinance, vanity. If you were a fly on my walls, you would see me speak too harshly to my children, put my own desires above those of my husband, lack gratitude, and be overly critical.

Really, what is there to love about me? I dare say not much more than there is to love about her.

I've prayed for the past year or two for God teach me how to love. He has been teaching me that He is love. Given that He said those exact words in the scripture, this should not be a revelation, but it has been. God is love. God elevated two commandments above all others: love Him and love each other. So what, He asks, if you love those who are nice and clean and smart and educated like you? Even the sinners do that.

Through praying, studying, and even reading a particular blog**, He began to make me understand that if I want to experience God more, I need to love more. That's where He can be found.

And that's where she comes in. About a year ago God told me to love her. Not just to tolerate her or be nice to her. To love her. It's taken many forms over the past year from providing transportation since she has no car, to inviting her and her son to come over and play with our dog, to helping her with groceries. I've talked to her about God, and she's made it clear that she does not believe. She does not care for God or Christians or anything about the church. That's okay, I told her; God loves her anyway.

A few days ago she was at my house needing help again. To her credit, she filed for divorce and got a protective order against her abusive husband. But now she couldn't pay her rent, and she was about to be evicted. She was told that day that the check she received from SSI the week before, a mere $350, was all she would receive for the entire month. There would be no second check. She was expecting a second check. Unable to pay the rent or buy any Christmas presents for her five year-old son, she was understandably distraught.

In keeping with what I believe God has asked of me, I helped her, with my husband's blessing. But, as I've done several times before, I also prayed for her. I closed my nose to the lingering smell of cigarettes and probably pot, and I hugged her, told her God loved her so much, and I prayed that He would show Himself to her and give her strength. She did not welcome it, but wanting the financial help, she tolerated it.

Today she came over again. You won't believe it, she said. The day after you prayed for me I got a call, and I'm getting a second check after all. I can buy Christmas gifts for my son. I can't believe it. They told me the day before that there would be no check, and then right after you prayed, they said they are sending me a check. Keep praying, she said.

And I will. Because we are really not that different, she and I. We are both flawed and blemished souls greatly in need of help. And, thankfully, mercifully, loved by a great, great God.

(**Jennifer Fulwieler, at Conversion Diary, wrote an amazing post about this subject a couple of years ago, but I could not find it to link to. So, I just linked to her blog. Pick a few posts to read; you won't be disappointed.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Their teeth have been brushed. Covers have been tucked, heads kissed, and quiet prayers whispered. They lie sleeping now on soft mattresses under plush comforters in a warm house.

I'm tempted to write about how blessed I am. How blessed we are. And I feel blessed, I do. But I pause. I hesitate because I'm just not sure that's how this whole thing works. Am I more "blessed" than another because I live in comfort? I've never been comfortable using my level of comfort or contentment as a gauge of my level of blessedness.

So maybe instead of writing about how blessed I am, I'll just write about how grateful I am.

Grateful. It seems far too simple a word to convey the well of unspeakable, bursting-from-my-soul thanks for these precious gifts I could never deserve. I'm grateful for food on the table. I'm grateful for a roof over my head and favors from friends and a job I enjoy.

That can't possibly be the same word I use to convey how I feel about the little pieces of my heart that live and sleep and love and laugh (and argue and whine) here. The lives - the souls - that have been entrusted to me.

Maybe there really aren't words. I tuck them, I kiss them, I stroke their hair, and breathe in the scent of them.

And I thank God that He knows my heart and doesn't need my words.

Because I'm speechless.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Three examples of why it's great to have a daughter

1. I know more about what Lauren has done in the past four weeks of school than about what the boys have done in several years. Boys have two responses to the question of what they did at school each day: "Nothing" or "I don't remember." Lauren tells me who said what and when and how and what they were wearing when they said it. Apparently, I will have to just wait a few years to find out what the boys did in each grade.

2. I love shopping for all of my kids, but girls clothes . . . they're just cuter. Plus the reaction when I give them something new is so much better from a girl. For instance, I went to Elmira, New York on Saturday to do some shopping and brought home a shirt for Josh and some hair clips for Lauren. Joshua's response: "Cool." Lauren's response: "Ohmigosh! They're adorable!!"

3. When Ethan came down with a 103.2 fever tonight, I asked Lauren to go upstairs and get his pillow so he could lie down on the couch. When she brought it down, she said, "Mom, anytime someone is sick, you should send me to get their pillow because I bring them something special, too." She had brought him a stuffed animal. Once I got him all set up with his pillow and blanket and movie, Lauren sat on the end of the sofa and said, "I'm gonna sit here so I can see the movie and so I'll be close by if Ethan needs me."

There are not words for how thankful I am that God blessed me with a girl.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friday Morning: Why I Should Have Stayed in Bed

6:00 ... Wake up

7:00 - 7:45 .... Wrangle three feral children into clothes and backpacks and send them off to school

8:00 ... Leave for court in a neighboring county about 40 min. away for a hearing at 9:00. Having never been to said court before, I want to give myself plenty of time.

8:10 .... Notice I am almost out of gas. Decide to stop in next town which is about halfway to my destination

8:30 ... Stop for gas. LOCK KEYS IN CAR like an idiot.

8:35 ... Discover keys locked in car, along with cell phone and briefcase. Panic. Go into convenience store and ask to borrow a phone and a phone book. Call police station where nice lady tells me she will contact the officer and send him right over. (The police will still get keys out of locked cars in small-town America.)

8:40 ... Realize I left my wallet on the counter in the gas station. Thank God when I realize it is still there.

8:45 ... Man in van pulls into gas station and asks me if I'm the lady waiting for the police officer to get my keys. When I say yes, he says that the police officer is at the elementary school doing a presentation and will not be able to get to me for another 45 minutes or so. Thank kind man for coming over to tell me instead of just leaving me waiting. Another high-five to small town America.

8:48 ... Call attorney friend who has office in the town I am stuck in to see if she is going to court today and can give me a ride. She is not but she is on her way to said town (she lives in the town I live in) and will be glad to give me a lift. It will take her 20 minutes to get to me.

8:49 ... Call my secretary and have her call court to let them know I'm going to be half an hour late. Random woman at gas station counter overhears me and offers to drive me to court. (Have I mentioned small towns are sometimes great?) Being desperate and deciding she does not look like a psychopath, I gratefully accept her offer.

8:50 ... Call attorney friend to tell her never mind. She tells me her secretary - whose office is 2 minutes away - is already on her way to get me. Thank random, kind gas station lady for the offer.

8:52 ... Friend's secretary arrives and drives me to court.

9:10 ... Arrive to court only ten minutes late. Apologize profusely to judge whom I have never met. Borrow legal pad and pen from court administrator since I left everything in my car. Thank God that I remember my client's name.

9:40 ... Finish successful hearing. Try unsuccessfully to bum a ride back to gas station in neighboring town. Call super amazing secretary friend again. She comes back to get me.

10:00 ... Arrive at gas station to find my car still at the pump and locked. (The amazingly nice store clerk had said she would watch for the police officer and move my car to a parking space once he opened it.) Gas station clerk is not there so Renee (secretary) takes me back to her office to make phone calls.

10:05 ... Call police station and speak to nice officer who apologizes for not being able to get my car open. He says he tried everything and couldn't get it. Renee calls someone else who agrees to meet us at the gas station and give it a try.

10:10 ... Renee takes me back to gas station to meet rescue man. Rescue man spends about five minutes working on it and gets the vehicle open!!! Ask man how much I owe and he tells me to go ask Dawn at the garage where he works down the street.

10:13 ... Arrive at garage and discover I left my wallet at Renee's office when we went back to make the phone calls.

10:16 ... Retrieve wallet for the second time that morning.

10:20 ... Go back to garage and pay TEN DOLLARS for rescue man's services. I'm really happy with small town USA today.

10:25 ... Go to florist and have flowers sent to attorney friend and Renee for turning their office into my personal taxi and rescue service.

10:30 ... Head back home to crawl under my covers and hide.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

To Lauren

Dear Lauren,

I know what it's like to grow up wishing for a sister. I, too, grew up as the only girl with two brothers. And I'm glad, because as a result, I totally "get" you. There are so many things about your brothers that they got from Daddy, but you little darling, you're all me. You're as pink and sparkly girly as they come . . . but . . . when your brother needs someone to have a light saber fight with, you're all in. And, I must say, you make an adorable Darth Vader.

You are a walking dichotomy of two different girls: the one who wore her purple frilly skirt and sparkly gold hairclip to gymnastics this morning and the one who rides through the galaxy with fierce determination to stop the Jedi forces . . . on her pink bike with the zebra-print seat.

Once the jedi rebellion has been quelled, you take a little time out for silly tricks. Excuse me, I meant super-amazing-never-before-seen bicycle tricks.

It would be impossible for me to name even a fraction of the things I love about you. But your tenacity, your feisty-ness, your amazing ability to hold your own with those brothers of yours without sacrificing a bit of your sparkly, princess girly-ness. That's at the top of the list. Ride on, Darth Lauren. The world is at your fingertips.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A letter to my children

Dear Joshua, Ethan, and Lauren:

You're sleeping now, but in the morning it's going to happen. I wish I could stop it, save all of us from it, but I'm powerless. It's inevitable. The alarm will go off, and you will have to get up for school.

I know it seems like a cruel, heartless trick for me to come in your room at 7:00 every weekday morning and drag you out of bed when you clearly like to rise at 7:00 only on weekends, but nevertheless, I'm your mother, so I must. In the interest of retaining that last tiny little sliver of my sanity that seems to be holding on despite all odds, I have just a few requests for you.

1. I will not let you wear raggedy gym shorts to school every day. Deal with it. It's not like I make you wear a tie and wingtips. Believe it or not, cargo shorts and a nice t-shirt is not exactly formal wear. You are not the only kid in school not wearing basketball clothes, and even if you are, I don't care. Be glad you don't attend a school that requires uniforms, and be glad that your mother has not begun requiring you to wear uniforms despite that . . . yet.

2. Socks. They have seams at the end. Well, not all of them; they do make seamless socks. But, I've bought them for you more than once, and you hate them for some inexplicable reason that makes as much sense as hating polo shirts. So you're going to have to deal with the seams. You can try wearing them inside out as you often do, or you can adjust and manipulate the sock to your heart's content. But you may not - under any circumstances - take the shoe and/or sock off once it is on. I don't care if you think there is a rock the size of Gibraltar in there, there is not. There never is. So, when those shoes get fastened onto your feet, you take them off at your own risk. Your momma might get all crazy up in here, and if you miss the bus because you were "fixing" your socks again, you just might not make it to next year.

3. Lauren. Dear, sweet Lauren. Your underwear are not falling down. I do not know why every pair of pants and leggings you own makes it feel like your underpants are falling down; they are not. You pull them up until they are three inches higher than your pants, and still you insist they are falling down. They. are. not.

4. Here are your breakfast choices: oatmeal, waffles, eggs, toast, and cereal (we have the same five or six kinds of cereal we have had virtually every morning of your entire lives . . . you're not going to conjure up Lucky Charms by staring at the pantry for ten minutes). That's it. If you could begin making your choice while you're getting dressed or brushing your teeth - or even while you're walking to the kitchen - it would really speed things up. There's no reason to wait until you've looked at everything in the kitchen and asked me if you can have a yogurt pop or ice cream or a tootsie roll pop instead. Here are the cold, hard facts: the answer will NEVER be yes. So, let's not waste precious, possibly bus-missing, minutes have this conversation again.

5. Ethan. When you have your backpack and jacket and shoes on, and it's time to walk run out the door for the bus, you're going to get thirsty. How about getting a sip of water sometime before then. Just a suggestion.

6. If it's library day, don't cry to me that you "never had a chance" to read your library book. Don't ask me to read a 50 page chapter book to you at breakfast. It is your library book. With the exception of Lauren (and even she is getting pretty good), YOU CAN READ. Read your books sometime before 7:30 the morning they are due. And do not get mad at me when you don't have time to read it then.

7. There are three of you. There are two bathrooms upstairs. All of you will need to go potty. And brush your teeth. And comb your hair. If your sibling is on the toilet, perhaps you could just wait a moment or two before bursting in to brush your teeth. If your sibling is brushing his teeth, perhaps you could go pee in the other bathroom instead of yelling and crying that he won't get out because you have to go potty reeeeeaaaally bad. And perhaps - just perhaps - two of you could be in the bathroom at the same time without killing each other. Really. I'm fairly confident it won't cause sudden, painful, and immediate death if your sister combs her hair while you brush your teeth.

8. Joshua. You're not riding your bike to school. Period. I don't care how cool the bike rack is or how you're practically grown. It's not going to happen. Go ahead and get over it (again) the night before instead of in the morning.

But, hey, at least we have only 168 more school days to go. This year.

With never-ending love (even though I think you're determined to send me to the loony bin),


Thursday, September 8, 2011

A glimpse into my thoughts . . . you've been warned

I've heard there are people who get in bed at night and go to sleep. I am not one of those people. Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE to be one of those people. I look forward to bed like some people look forward the season premier of their favorite t.v. show. When I sit at my desk in the afternoon, or when I'm folding laundry, or when I'm trying to muster the energy to exercise - or even grocery shop - I dream of bedtime.

But when it finally happens - the kids are asleep (for now); the kitchen is clean (enough) - the thoughts begin.

So, instead of just lying in bed keeping all these thoughts to myself, I thought I'd share them with you. You can thank me later (or not).

1. Yesterday Lauren asked if she could paint my fingernails. She picked out a deep shade of sparkly teal that she had chosen from the drugstore earlier, and I indulged her, knowing I could just remove it later. Of course last night I forgot about it. I remembered it when I was handing a cashier some money today and noticed that my fingernails looked . . . well, blue and like they'd been painted by a 5 year-old. Tonight, however, I remembered that I needed to take the polish off. Unfortunately, I also remembered that I used the last of my nail polish remover last week.

2. I haven't shared on here or on Facebook until tonight that my father-in-law has a malignant tumor on one of his kidneys. They found it in late July and scheduled surgery for today as it is apparently a slow-growing and usually contained type of cancer. Unfortunately, they were not able to do the surgery because a few days ago they informed him that he is not in good enough physical shape for surgery. He is 71 years old and has out-of-control high blood pressure, severe fluid retention, and diabetes. Please pray for him.

3. I am finding it harder and harder to get involved in debates like I used to. I have always loved a good political or theological debate. Actually, to be honest, I love to debate about anything and have been know to fight (almost) to the death over grammar and punctuation. Lately, though, the political and the theological fighting just leaves me drained when I'm not even engaged in it. I read newspaper columns and magazine articles and blogs, and I'm just saddened and exhausted by it all.

I have come to the realization that I would rather be known as someone who loves all the time than as someone who is right all the time.

4. Allergies. I hate 'em. Would any of my doctor friends out there be willing to come hook me up with a couple of i.v. drips? I could really use one to dispense a constant dose of Benadryl and another some caffeine to counteract the drowsiness caused by the Benadryl. I should need it only for another month or so. I hope.

5. We have three cats. How did this happen? Honestly, I really enjoy them and love the fact that three cats are waaaaaaaaay less work than one dog. However, we have one very whiny cat who meows all. the. time. And it's not just any meow . . . he does this vibrating trill first. Like he's a Spanish cat who's rolling an "r" for a second or two as he works up to the meow. He meows in the morning. In the afternoon. In the middle. of. the. night. I have to close him in the bathroom at night or else, just as I've finally gotten to sleep at 1 or 2 a.m., I will be suddenly and rudely awakened by "rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr meow!"

6. Speaking of cats, we have had the third one for about 3 or 4 weeks now and still have not named him. We just call him little kitty. Any suggestions? He is black and grey tiger striped, and our other cats are named Dr. Flufferson and Nacho. So, of course his name has to go with those names. Since they are so alike and all.

7. I almost wore boots today because it was chilly this morning and I was wearing a dress that I normally wear boots with in the winter. I had to stop myself, though, as I remembered how long I will be wearing boots once winter actually arrives. By April I will be loooonging to wear anything other than a boot. Please, I will implore, no more boots. So I am holding off and will not wear boots any sooner than absolutely necessary.

8. If people would not watch Toddlers and Tiaras, it would not remain on television. I am really tired of people getting all up in arms about how awful those mothers are (and I agree 100%) but then watching the show about them. Same with Jersey Shore. Such trash is on only because people watch it. Stop watching it.

9. I love to watch Food Network even though I've never heard of most of the ingredients they use. Especially on Iron Chef. I think my only chance of winning would be if the surprise ingredients were sugar, flour, and eggs.

10. I keep meaning to lose weight, and I keep gaining it instead. Maybe if I just decide I'm going to gain 10 pounds, the opposite will happen? But maybe not if I can't quit the sweet tea. It's just so good and it tastes like home!

Alright, I will let you escape now. Spending more than a few minutes trapped in my mind is probably more than anyone can take. Which is what makes my poor husband such a saint. At least you can just stop reading my blog; he's gotta listen to this for the rest of his life! Someday I will write a post just about the things I've said (or done) that have mortified my spouse. That one will have to wait till I have more time. A lot more time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A random recap of Labor Day weekend

Yesterday I was down for the count. After carrying home the half-ton typewriter that Josh bought at a yard sale Saturday, I awoke Sunday morning barely able to get out of bed. I have a bad S-I joint anyway and am long overdue for another steroid injection, which is the only thing that gives me relief. Had I thought through my plan, it may have occurred to me that I should not carry that extraordinarily heavy object a half a block to my house. But, hey, this is me we're talking about. Thinking things through ahead of time is not my strong suit.

Fortunately, I woke much better today. David had done a really good job of stepping up the day before, so I didn't want him to have to run the show again today what with the fact that he's still recovering from knee surgery and all. The truth is we were a pretty pitiful pair. I mused this morning about whether this was a glimpse of what life will be like when we're 80 years old and struggling to get each other out of bed!

Anyway, we ended up having a very nice, mostly lazy, Labor Day Holiday. Watched Phineas and Pherb Second Dimension on Disney this morning, which I will admit I enjoy just as much as my kids do. Did a little laundry and vacuuming then made the kids a quick lunch before one of their friends came over to play. Lauren, upon hearing that today was a holiday, expressed utter disappointment when she learned that she would not be receiving gifts or having turkey for dinner. So, I let her choose what we would have, and she requested steaks, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob. She and I set out for the grocery store to obtain the ingredients, and we both forgot the corn. Nevertheless, it was still a great dinner which ended up being shared with some favorite friends.

The soundtrack of the afternoon was one I never tire of: children laughing, music sounding from the ipod speakers, games being played, banana bread baking (though I guess that's more of a smelltrack than a soundtrack), and unexpected guests joining us because they know they are always welcome and wanted.

This Labor Day was a picture of the difference between a labor of obligation and a labor of love. I hope yours was, too.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A treasure

Today was yard sale day. Not for us but for 207 other families in our town and the surrounding areas. (Yes, apparently, there are 207 other families here!) Each Labor Day weekend we have Town Yard Sale Saturday, which creates chaos in our streets rivaled only by town festivals and town parades.

I personally have never had it in me to hold on to every piece of junk I've ever owned in the hope that someone will pay me a dollar (or a quarter) for it after I spend days sorting, organizing, and displaying it. However, I do set out annually to see if there are any bargains to be had. The kids grab their money and come along, finding something they must have at virtually every stop. I don't pay much attention when they carry on about how much they have "always wanted" the piece of junk they spotted fifteen seconds before. We have so much junk in our house already, so even a dime is really too much for a castaway happy meal toy. Free? Still too much.

Today, however, Joshua set his affection on a most unusual object. A dirty, dusty, non-working antique Remington typewriter. He was completely overcome with desire for this device. At only $7, cost was not really an issue, but my aforementioned aversion to adding more junk to our house was. I sometimes dream of throwing away everything we own just so I can see all of the floors and walls again. So, I told him no. "But, it's like a treasure, mom! It's so old . . . an old treasure! Please!" No.

We walked along to several other sales, and he still could not stop talking about it, so I finally told him that if it was still there when we came back (it was right near our house), I would think about it. "Mom, can we please go back now?" he pleaded, "My stomach is flipping because I'm worried it won't be there when we get back." He maintained that he'd never wanted anything so much in his life, despite my reminder that he had known of its existence for only thirty minutes. At every intersection, his face would fall and his entire body follow suit when he saw that I was turning a direction other than toward our house.

Eventually, we headed home and went to check on the typewriter as promised. It was still there, but where before I had given it only a cursory glance, this time I really looked it over. It was dusty. Dirty. A little grimy. Heavy, very heavy. I said no. I explained that it was just going to take up space and be of no use. He argued a little but mostly accepted my answer.

When we got home, though, he started to cry. I implored him to understand that it was just not a good purchase. Had he noticed that no one else had bought it either? "That's just because they don't have any imagination!" he replied, channeling a male version of Anne of Green Gables.

Finally I told him to go ask his dad what he thought about it. David, apparently having more insight into the heart and mind of an 8 year-old boy than I, told him he could buy it. Which is, of course, what I really should have said to begin with. It was, after all, seven dollars. His seven dollars. We headed back over to the sale (together because it would take both of us to carry it home), and he paid the lady his seven dollars. (By the way, I stood there for a minute afterward to talk to a friend, and someone else tried to buy the typewriter literally two minutes after we purchased it . . . whew!)

As I watched him later attacking the machine with a cleaning rag and a bucket full of soapy water - for an hour - I couldn't help but think that I had almost deprived him of this joy. For no real reason. I didn't want to have the junk sitting around. It held no value to me. I saw nothing in it. But to him - to him - it was a treasure. Who am I to say it's not?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pure randomness

I really want to get back into the habit of regular blogging, but I can't seem to find the right thing to write about lately. So, here's a little of everything to jump start me.

Lauren's latest phrase du jour is "a little help here??" For instance, as she's trying to open the refrigerator door while holding the orange juice, she turns to me and says, as though she is an adult, "Um, a little help here?"

Joshua is trying so hard to grow up. He has been begging me lately to let him ride his bike with a friend to a little store in town that sells ice cream because the neighbor kids are allowed to do so. I've told him no way, no how. He keeps trying different angles. "Mom, we won't go down Main Street, and we'll cross at the light." "You let me ride to the high school, and that's even farther." (It's not.) So yesterday, he comes up with, "Mom, you're going to have to trust me on my own someday, you know." Yes, Josh, someday I will. But not today.

He's "training" to run a 5k on Saturday. Our library has an annual 5k/Fun Run in August, and last year the kids all participated in the Fun Run. This year Josh has decided he wants to run the "real race," and he's a pretty good runner for an 8 year-old, so I told him he can give it a try. Today I showed him a map of the route and told him I would drive along next to him if he wanted to give it a practice run. His response in a completely deadpan voice: "I can't believe you're letting me do this race, but you won't let me ride my bike to the corner store."

We took the kids to see the movie Zookeeper tonight. (Just to clarify, it has a few inappropriate parts, so this is not a recommendation, just a story. But it was funny. Also, consider this a spoiler warning.) So opening scene of the movie is Griffin (Kevin James) proposing to his girlfriend. She says no and then there is an embarrassingly awkward encounter with a mariachi band that he had already hired to show up right after. Fast forward almost two hours to nearly the end of the movie. She proposes to him five years later, he says no, and she had hired a mariachi band to replicate the one he hired when he proposed. The humor, obviously, was in the irony of the situation being completely reversed. I think it was a little lost on Ethan, who laughed and said, "The band finally caught up with them." Because, you know, the mariachi band had been hot on their tails for five years.

David is having knee surgery in the morning. He tore his meniscus practicing for the alumni football game this summer. Of course, he'll tell you it tore because he spent the day staining the living room floor and not because he was playing football. The fact that he got injured playing high school football at age 35 was purely happenstance. So, anyway, say a prayer for him tomorrow. He's not the surgery pro that I am, so he's nervous about it.

I really hate when The Daily Show is in reruns.

I survived an earthquake today. Though I first blamed it on the kids, yelling, "Whatever you're doing, stop it! You're shaking the whole house!" Who'da thunk it was an earthquake in north central PA?

I went back-to-school shopping for the kids yesterday and enjoyed that it felt appropriately Fall-like at 67 degrees. Summer is pretty short here, and so is Fall for that matter, but I love the chill in the air nonetheless.

In six days, I will send all three of my children off to all-day school for the first time. I can't imagine what it will be like to have a quiet house from 8-3 every day. I'm willing to find out, though!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Defining me

A few months ago in church I joined everyone in singing a familiar old refrain: "I've got a river of life flowing out of me." You probably know the rest about making the lame to walk and the blind to see. I sang the familiar lyrics as I probably have a thousand times in my life (though not likely in the past decade).

Later, though, I began to think about what I had sung. Was it true? Do I have a river of life flowing out of me?

I have the Fount of Life within me, no doubt. The water is there . . . but does it flow out of me?

Usually not.

More honest lyrics might be any of the following:

"I've got a river of criticism flowing out of me"
"I've got a river of judgment flowing out of me"
"I've got a river of selfishness flowing out of me"

Really, that song could go on all night. The things that flow out of me are endless, but unfortunately, not a lot of it is Life.

In the past few weeks, I've tried to be conscious of that, and another truth has taken hold along side it. How should people know that I'm a follower of Christ? Because I wear a cross necklace? Because I don't smoke, get drunk, or hang out in night clubs? Because I don't swear? Because I don't gossip? Lie? Cheat? (Note: These are hypothetical examples, not necessarily fact-based.) What should be the defining thing about me that tells people I'm a Christian?

John 13:35 answers the question: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if ye love one another."

When was the last time you heard someone say, "Oh, she must be a Christian. She's so loving?" We have become so defined by what we oppose that we have entirely lost what we are supposed to be for.

Jesus didn't oppose much. Except hypocrisy. And judgment. And pride in one's own works.

Jesus was for us. He loved. Everywhere he went, he loved. He healed, He delivered, He restored. And in case we might miss the point, He spelled it right out for us: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul; this is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:38-40)

So many things He could have said were most important, but He knows that all the outward deeds, the works, the performances spring from the one place: our heart. Until our hearts are filled up with His love, none of the rest matters.

Let's be people who are known for what we DO (love) rather than people who are defined by a list of things we don't do.

I don't know about you, but I want a river of life to flow out of me. That will happen when I care more about demonstrating Christ's love to everyone around me than about making sure they know what I'm against.

"A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lauren's Preschool Graduation

So after only three months of no posts, I'm back with a photo post. You know, I had rather given up on ever blogging again, but Facebook is just not sufficient to mark the my baby girl's passing from pre-school into real school. Plus she's cute, so how can that make for a bad blog post, right?

The ceremony began with a performance by the Animal Mania Company (aka the preschoolers), so the kids were to arrive in costume. Here's Lauren as an adorable lamb, minus the headpiece, as we headed off.

The set that the staff had created was amazing and began with each child's own personal star outside the theater. (Lauren's is at the bottom, but I wanted to show a section of the wall.)

Lauren and her two BFF's performing "Baa, Baa, We're Lambs" to the tune of "Barbara Ann."

Next was the cap and gown ceremony. To the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance, each child begins the journey down the aisle alone so mom can snap a picture, and then the child's family joins them halfway to walk to the front with them for their "diplomas" and a framed photo of the child in cap and gown. (Her amazing teacher took them ahead of time during practice.)

After the brilliant musical performance, the cap and gown ceremony, and a reception afterward, it was time to head home. But not before Daddy gave Lauren flowers, which I think may have been the highlight of her night. At least judging by the size of the smile and the gasp when he handed them to her.

You did great, baby girl. We are so proud of you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why I cannot homeschool

I remember when Joshua was two and I naively thought that, one day, as he got older, the questions would end. I was wrong.

The following conversation took place on a car ride yesterday during which we were talking about wanting to climb Mt. Everest some day:

Josh: Mom, could a really, really fat person climb Mt. Everest?

Me: Probably not, because you have to be in really good shape to climb such a big mountain.

And because if he scraped a really sharp rock, it might poke a hole and he would shrink?

Um, no. An overweight person is not full of air like a balloon . . . it's fat.

Mom, I wish that could happen so I could be really, really, REALLY fat and then poke a hole in myself and fly up through the air like when you let the air out of a balloon and it goes all over the place.

Yes, that does sound fun.

Mom, do you think if I was as big as 100 trees and was full of air and you poked a hole in me, I would fly up as high as the top of Mt. Everest?


So, really, how does one answer such a question? I am not a stupid person but must plead ignorance on the force created by the release of air in a person the size of 100 trees. I'm pretty sure we never addressed that scenario in physics.

This is why I don't do homeschool.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. It's starting to dawn on me that my kids are not going to grow up as Southerners. This morning Lauren asked me if she could watch a particular show, and I said, "I reckon." Her response: "Mommy, does that mean yes?" Surely if she had lived in the South for more than three short years, she would know this.

2. When I was putting the boys to bed a few nights ago I asked Joshua if anyone in his class talked about having crushes on other kids. (I read something about this the other day, and it got me curious.) He said yes they do.
"A has a crush on C."
"Really?" I asked. "And do you have a crush on anyone?"
"Blech!!! No!!!!" (much to Mommy's immense happiness)
"Have you heard of anyone having a crush on you?"
"Yes. M, A, J, D . . ."
I interrupted him. "All of those girls have crushes on you?! How do you know this?"
"Because they tell everyone."

I have to admit he's awfully cute, but still I was happy when he told me that he does not like any of the girls and that he's never getting married. Fine by me. :)

3. Lauren bought herself a new Webkinz pet yesterday. Because my kids are like the U.S. Congress when it comes to money . . . if they have it they must spend it, and they must find a way to spend more than they have.

So, she picks out this adorable peacock:

Pretty, no? She decided to name her "something beautiful that starts with P." She eventually settled on Penelope Paris Peacock. "That is a really pretty name, Lauren," I told her, and she replied (of course), "And she has really awesome fighting skills!"

What could be more important in a pretty pink and purple peacock?

4. I think I am a hazard to my health. I don't know how it happens, but I have an impressive ability to hurt myself in ways no one else would ever think of.

Today as I was eating lunch, which is apparently something I need to practice, I cut the top of my mouth on the corner of a corn chip. David was walking by as I said, "Ow!" He commented that he hears me say "Ow!" almost every time he walks through the room. "Well, stop walking through the room," is what I thought, but what I said was, "I can't help it. I cut my mouth on a chip."

He didn't seem to understand how that can happen. Which leaves me little hope that he's going to understand how I hurt my finger when I misjudged the dimensions of the door frame and smacked my hand up against it in such a way that it caused my diamond ring to press against my knuckle and actually break the skin. Ouch.

Or how I hurt the outside of my arm by scraping it on the nail that sticks out of the wall on the stairs. Again. So what? I don't know how I manage to lean against the wall every time I walk up or down the stairs. Apparently, I need guardrails.

5. Lauren's preschool class had their Valentine's Day party on Monday. Here are some pictures to fill up another QT.

6. I really must figure out an easy way to make a collage so I can put multiple pictures together. (In case you didn't know what collage meant.) Anyone have tips for me? (Lenae? How about you? I know you do this and have absolutely nothing better to do with your time right now, lol.)

7. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend. And check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Photo update: the lazy blogger's best friend

So, here's what we've been up to since I last updated with photos.

Lauren's preschool had "Crazy Hair Day:"

We've had a lot of snow and ice the past month. Shocking, I know. (For perspective on this snow pile, see the top of the stop sign barely sticking over the mound.)

Who needs to hang Christmas light icicles when you can have the real thing?

Next on our list of 101 uses for icicles . . . swords

. . . and popsicles . . .

Shadow has become sort of trustworthy upstairs lately, so Lauren loves playing in her room with him. He's makes a great sous chef.

Isn't he cute when he's not destroying our home?

Joshua's cub scout pack had their Pinewood Derby wherein they build cars out of, um, I don't know . . . pinewood? . . . and then race them in a nail-biting, exhilarating series of races. (Sadly, Josh was the only one there not in uniform. How did it not occur to me that he should wear his uniform? Oops.)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

59 things I love about my mom

In honor of my mom's 59th birthday, 59 things I love about her:
(Disclaimer: the following list is in no particular order and lacks parallel structure.)

1. Her undying devotion to her family
2. Her tenacity
3. All the times I found her sitting on the sofa in the little living room with her coffee and her Bible
4. Her willingness to get in the trenches
5. That she went on every field trip
6. That said field trips included driving all the way around the state of GA with a van full of 7th and 8th grade students . . . I bow in awe
7. The way she stepped up and created a youth group when we were teenagers
8. How she opened our home to our friends
9. That she got involved in everything we did growing up
10. Her willingness to let part of our yard be turned into a swamp for mud wrestling
11. How she's met with the same three women to pray for her children for the past 21 years
12. That she'd rather cut off her arm than miss a phone call
13. Her presence with me during the birth of all of my children
14. That I know she'd do absolutely anything to help me
15. The way she stayed at my house for a few nights when I came home with each of my babies even though we lived in the same town
16. How she let me live on her couch when I could barely function from morning sickness
17. Her love for her children
18. Her love for my children
19. Her love for my dad
20. How she models a great marriage
21. Her inability to sit quietly in the passenger seat of a car
22. That she has become willing to sit in the back seat with a book instead of in the front where we might kill her
23. That she continued to let me drive as a teenager after all of the things I backed into or rear-ended
24. That she loved my friends and loved having them around
25. Letting us take friends with us on family trips to the beach
26. Taking us so many places when we were growing up
27. That she always mispronounces the word "prescription"
28. Her aversion to change . . . at least that never changes
29. The way she would stop at Burger King to get me and Jen a chicken sandwich after we'd had her paged at the grocery store
30. How she regularly left money at a grocery store so that a poor family we knew could buy groceries
31. How she did this so discreetly that I didn't know about it until I was much older
32. Her generosity
33. The way she loves to give gifts
34. How she forgives
35. That she has been to my house in Pennsylvania five times since I moved here less than two years ago
36. That she took care of Joshua so I could work part-time when he was a baby
37. The way she made "helping with her grandchildren" her priority
38. All the times she met me in a parking lot so she could sit with the kids in the car and I didn't have to drag three kids (ages 3 and under) into a store with me
39. Her love of Country's salads and unsweet tea
40. That we love to go to movies together
41. The ways she says almost every movie in the world "started out a little slow"
42. How she can't help commenting on movies as we watch them and still loves me if I yell at her for it
43. What a loyal friend she is
44. That she gets me a chocolate raspberry truffle ice cream cake from Brusters for my birthday every year
45. Her love of reading - I'm sure I have her to thank for mine
46. That she was a stay-at-home mom and never gave us the impression that she was missing out on anything else
47. For sticking up for me
48. For being my biggest fan and cheerleader
49. How I knew she was praying for me during every law school final exam
50. For reading my blog and telling everyone else to :)
51. The way she admits her mistakes and gave us the freedom to do so
52. That she rearranged her schedule to stay in Pennsylvania when Ethan had a bike accident
53. That she sat by my bedside and took care of me after my surgery
54. How she allowed my boys to move in with her afterward while I was recovering
55. Her tirelessness
56. The way she can never sneeze only once . . . I inherited that, too
57. Her strength of character
58. How she taught me by example

Happy birthday mom. You're my hero, and I love you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Creative thinking from a 6 year-old boy

My kids and I often pass time in waiting rooms and such by playing the "animal alphabet game." You go through the alphabet one letter at a time and when it's your turn you describe an animal that starts with that letter.

Ethan's description for the letter E: "It's big and gray, and if it was in a butt-fight, it would win." (In case you can't figure it out, the answer was "elephant.")

A butt-fight. No mention of a trunk. Or ridiculously large ears. Or a love of peanuts or enormous feet.

Just a butt-fight.

I've decided I want Ethan on my team next time we play Taboo.

Monday, January 31, 2011

It's a slippery world out there

It's no secret that I am accident prone. Some would call me a klutz, but I prefer "gracefully challenged." As Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld said, "You can't have some grace; you either have grace or you don't." I don't.

Prior to moving to the frozen tundra of northern PA, my biggest challenges were things like curling irons, hot stoves, curbs, corners, and furniture. All of which may sound pretty innocuous to you, but trust me, with depth perception like mine, they are perilous indeed.

Now that I live in Siberia, my well-being faces a new threat on a daily basis: ice.

Oh sure, all that snow looks pretty and fluffy. And it is. It's what lurks underneath that causes me lacerations and abrasions and contusions.

A few weeks ago we managed an unprecedented-in-January four straight days without snow. This was a welcome occurrence but would have been even more so if it had been ice-free as well. As it was, the kids decided having an ice skating rink for a back yard was awesome. That's because they were not the ones who had to take the dog out. Thrice in one day I was pulled off my feet and left with bruises on knees, hips, and buttocks. Mine, not Shadow's.

Then came Saturday when I decided to brush some snow off of a cooler I was putting in the van. At least it looked like snow. Upon forcefully swiping my hand across it, I discovered it was actually ice. One large finger laceration later, I will not make this mistake again.

Tenacity is one of my strong suits, so despite a brief consideration of hiding in my bedroom until June, I've continued to venture out into this treacherous world of mine.

At least until yesterday. Here's what happened:

The setting: the church parking lot
The time: 11:10 am
The characters: trust me, I'm the only one necessary

As I was rushing to exit the van because I was running late for church, I stepped quickly out of the driver's door. My first foot hit the unseen ice right outside my door, and before I could stop myself, it came right out from under me as the other leg floundered uselessly beside it. I landed on my hip, which managed to slow my fall but not stop it entirely. Once my hip slid out from under me, my upper half continued down, down, down until it was brought to a halt by the van. I managed to smack the side of my head on the bottom of the doorframe - the place where you step into the van. As if a battered hip and a headache were not enough, I lifted my head to discover that my ear was bleeding because I had somehow managed to fall in such a way that I smacked my ear on the edge of the van.

Who manages this type of trauma in a 2.5 second period?

Me, that's whom. Which is why if you're looking for me before summer, you'll find me in my house. Behind the couch. With cushions barricading me on every side.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ten things I never really wanted to be . . .

but have nevertheless become:

1. A northerner

2. A mom who yells at her kids too often (because there is an acceptable amount, right?)

3. One of "those" moms who sometimes wears her pajamas when she drops her daughter off at school (though only in winter when you can't tell because of the boots and heavy coat anyway . . . right?)

4. A person whose dog barks at 7:30 every morning probably waking up sleeping neighbors

5. A person whose yard is perpetually full of poop from the aforementioned dog

6. A working mom

7. A grown woman who doesn't balk at wearing Transformer or Hello Kitty band-aids

8. A completely out-of-shape person who justifies her sweet tea and baked goods habit with plans to work it off the next day . . . starting tomorrow . . . or maybe the next day . . . ok, starting now . . . or . . .

9. Someone who complains about always being behind on the laundry . . . and the mopping . . . and the dusting . . . and we won't even mention the state of my van before I was forced to clean it out this morning.

And last but not least

10. A blogger who rarely updates her blog and then apologizes in every post about how she never updates her blog and then promises to do better.

See what I have become?