Friday, September 28, 2007

The Big Apple

This past spring for Mother’s Day, Jeff gave me a card stuffed with a homemade CD. When I slipped it into the CD player, I heard Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind. In fact, every song on it was about New York. Our 15 year anniversary was coming up and a trip to New York City would be our present. My efficient (and wise) husband took care of a couple of holidays with this one! We had spent one night there on our 10th anniversary in route to somewhere else and “caught the bug” so we made plans then to go back one day.

For the first time, we asked my parents to come and stay with the kids and they happily obliged. They began scheming and planning to make the visit unforgettable for Julia and Brighton and let me tell you, it was tempting to stay and experience Camp Nanna and Papaw. Once the children caught wind of all the big plans and taste bud delights, they couldn’t wait for us to leave the house.

Just short of sleep deprivation, Jeff and I squeezed every minute we could out of our time in New York. Just like the first time I visited this super energized city, I kept bumping into people because my neck was craned upwards taking it all in. We walked block after block enjoying lots of street vendor pretzels and watching people try to ‘earn’ money in very interesting ways. We enjoyed quite a few slices of pizza, drank coffee almost every chance we got and did lots of window shopping. Then we toured on the Grayline and walked some more. We happened up on the Today Show filming outside and found out that Giada from the Food Network is as beautiful in person as she is on her show. In Central Park, after trying to calculate how much that plot of land is actually worth, we ate lunch in the Crystal Room at the Tavern on the Green which has to be the one of the loveliest rooms I have ever seen. (Dozens of bejeweled chandeliers and a mass of floral lanterns strung through the trees that tower over the glass room- birthday lunch anyone?) We got the FULL experience of Chinatown— there is definitely another entry there. (I know you are on pins and needles.) We got last minute tickets to a Broadway show and a “locals” tour by a family friend which was definitely a highlight.

One night as I was trying to fall asleep, I was thinking of the excitement of our day, all the things I had seen and thought how much fun this city would be with the kids 10 or so years from now. I began thinking of all I would want them to see, but then I started thinking about all the things I WOULDN’T want them to see and THEN, I was like, why in the world would I want to bring them here? I thought, well, I could say, “Look at all the trees in Central Park that God made. Oh, and there is a bird on the street bench.” I began thinking about all that I liked about the city and realized ALL of it appealed to my flesh—the big city, the energy, the lights, the food, TV show sets, the bargain shopping of Canal street, Times Square with its bigger than life ads, the cool stores, movie scene locations, Broadway shows etc. I am truly not trying to ‘overspiritualize’ this whole thing, but as I lay there thinking of all this, it made me sad that it all did appeal to me and I loved being there in the midst of it all. The Bible is clear on this. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does--- comes not from the Father but from the world.” I John 2:15-16. Sadly, my eyes were opened once more to the affections I have for the things of this world and how comfortable I can be in it. I was reminded of what a long way I must have to go in loving God, His ways and His kingdom.

Do I want to go back? Sure. Take the kids? Absolutely. There is depth to this busy city that I want them to experience. We want them to see the Statue of Liberty that represented freedom to so many desperate people, visit Ellis Island to ‘hear’ those stories, see incredible God-inspired art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, enjoy a Broadway musical, see Ground Zero and so many other things. I know they will be distracted by many of the same things I was but my desire for them is that it would not hold their attention long because of the amazing God they have come to know and have experienced for themselves. And as for their Mother who knows this good God and has certainly experienced Him, I will pray that the “Apple” won’t seem quite so appealing next time and as my neck cranes upward it will be for a far better reason.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"The Lake" ..... Then and Now

We are at the lake- Eagle Mountain Lake. The kids call this a mini vacation and to them, it might as well be Disney World. Since we only started coming this past spring, it is a very new adventure for our family. Jeff bought his brother’s old boat which, for him, was a dream come true to have his very own boat. He reminded me of a 16 year old with his first new car— washing, tinkering, buffing, installing etc. Even though I teased him plenty, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him (since I didn’t know him when he was 16).

As I watch the sheer delight this short 30 minute trip brings to Julia and Brighton, it reminds me so much of my own childhood. Our family spent weeks at a time in a little 800 square foot (and that’s debatable) cabin. If that wasn’t tight enough for a family of four we almost always invited the Bowers to squeeze in with us. The week just wouldn’t have been the same. My experience at the lake these days is much different now that I am a parent, but the memories are not so much different than the ones made on Lake Sinclair.

Rooms divided by army blankets, indoor/outdoor carpet, the old Larson, the leaning boathouse, picnic tables, painted trees, tender feet on rock pathways, a screen door nipping at my heels, Mrs. Bowers’ and Mom’s homemade snacks, Daddys making breakfast, smokestacks, Blake’s water related near death experiences (I still wince at flashbacks….), the outhouse, not ever being quite brave enough to jump off the boathouse, parents playing bridge all day and all night, wobbly docks, teasing Mr. Bowers about his snoring, sunburn (who ever put on sunscreen ‘then’?), Mark always being up for a movie in town, learning to slalom, sulfur water, quadruple layered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the deli (and the cute little toothpicks on top), skiing all day, hand signals, me being the only girl (Paula, you didn’t come NEAR enough for my liking!), pre-breakfast ski runs, ravenous snacking, best friends earning Merit badges, an amazing diving board, Moms with no make-up and Dads with scruffy faces, the boys ALWAYS trying to get the old black and white TV to work, waking up to the smell sausage and bacon, Brian’s perpetually sunburned nose, churning dirt, sun kissed lake water at dusk, a rope swing, fans constantly whirring, the clothesline, a pistol-packing momma who happened to be a neighbor, learning to play Spades, fearing what lurked beneath the water, a tin boat with a hole (and a bucket!), Blake’s bullying me, Brian loving to ignite fireworks, Mark always being the patient one to untie the knots in the ski rope, middle of the night visits to the outhouse praying that you wouldn't step on, run into or, heaven forbid, sit on some deadly pestilence, merciless teasing, hitting mud at 30 mph, swimsuit clad kids bathing on the dock, dreading the walk ‘up the hill’ with post-skiing noodle legs, being awakened by the early morning catch, and the word ‘bored’ never crossing our minds.

A one room cabin, bunk beds, hot chocolate, boat trailers, Superman throws off the back of the boat, pink cheeks (even with the sunscreen), breakfast outside, squeals on tube rides, camp fires, giddy children, shooting stars, big swings and books, picnic tables, James Taylor tunes, “Miss” Joan, miniature life vests, s’mores, lake beaches with fossils, echoes, Monarch butterflies and milkweed, microwave dinners, early morning snuggles, a slamming screen door, boat-dried hair, rainbows and a heart shaped puddle, an outhouse, grilled cheeses from Sonic, an intertube nick-named Big Bertha, a movie screen, Chex mix, lumpy mattresses, nature hikes by hand-drawn maps, adventurous friends, no bed time, Jiffy Pop popcorn, new insects, same sun kissed water at dusk, foxes, deer, and hawks, and kids so tired they can’t even speak.

I realize this writing will mean something to about, oh, maybe 9 people? But these memories are good and they are strong. How much I would have missed out on….. how much I accomplished because of 3 patient boys cheering me on..... how much richer those times made my life. I want times like this for Julia and Brighton and look forward to the day we may find our “lake family” with whom to make some of these memories. I want these pockets of time to be a treasure to them as they are to me. My “then” list is much longer than my “now” list but I know that won’t always be the case. In the meantime, I am all about adding to the list, so if you ever want to come help us, just give us a call!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sweet Chirps

After dropping off Brighton at Tree Frog school, Julia and I were on our way home to begin our school day, when she said, “I love this time.” My feel-good emotions rushed and I said, “What, honey?” wanting to hear it again and to make sure I heard every word. “I love this time with you right now,” she said again. I am thinking, wow, this is getting sweeter by the second, so as any good parent would, I continued to explore her little mind and said, “Why?” expecting words that would have the potential to carry this mom for a few days. That familiar thinking look spread over her cute face and she said, “Well, you know, Brighton is just a ‘talk bird’.” Yes, 'talk bird'. I don’t know where she came up with that description, but I knew exactly what she meant. Just in case I didn’t, she explained further, “When Brighton is with us, I don’t get to say NEAR as much as I want to because he talks ALL THE TIME!” (Emphasis hers!)

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I have a sweet husband. It’s the day before my birthday and I am at a bookstore where it is, compared to my alternative, quiet. God blessed me with a husband who knows how to celebrate and make a special day just that. Jeff has taken the kids to buy presents for me- you know, the kind the only a mother can appreciate. So as I enjoy the sound of a few rustling pages, he is navigating a big buggy through Target and Costco with 2 excited kids powered by IHOP pancakes and maple syrup.

I love birthdays. But the more of them I have, the more reflective I get- mostly reflective on how much closer the number is getting to 40! There are so many things these days that remind me that I am not 21 anymore. Things like the clothes I wore in high school showing up on young clerks at Anthropologie. My technicians at work not knowing the late Princess Diana used to be called Shy Di (much less watching the wedding on television). What appears to be Christmas wreaths slowly forming around my eyes. My nephew being my old high school’s quarterback and my niece wearing make up. Babysitters calling me Mrs. Sanders. Working with fresh out-of- school pharmacists who really still do know everything. Preferring quiet restaurants . Ads with words like repair, “anti”, diminishing, and smoothing capturing my attention. And my favorite……..hearing comments like, “You look great for 36!” Birthdays will do the trick too. I know 37 is not old, but it depends on who you are telling, doesn’t it?

I know the Lord ordained all the days of my life and that they were written in His book before one of them came to be. I would never want to go back to where I have been. He has a purpose for me at this age just like He did when I as 15. My greatest concern at 37 is that I would be wholeheartedly participating in His purposes for me in this season with a hard working, devoted husband, 2 precious little ones, an amazing extended family and the best friends on the planet. Jeff recently read a book by John Piper entitled Don’t Waste Your Life. You can just imagine the content. Wasting my life.......... now, THAT is a horrifically tragic thought and just the kind of thing that could keep me awake at night. Nothing I lose as the years tick on could ever compare to that kind of loss. May my pages in His book, however many there be chosen, be exactly as He intended them to be.

"He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Thirty nine inches tall, blonde hair just covering his eyebrows, big dark eyes, the cutest little nose you have ever seen and a mouth, well, a mouth that can spew out more words than a passionate politician. Truly. I am amazed…….everyday. When I get him up in the morning, all I have to do is touch the doorknob to open the door and he starts talking, mainly in question form, with a grin on his face, like he’s been practicing or something. His most popular question is, “Where are we going today?” and second place goes to, “What’s for breakfast?” since that is the only meal he thinks is worth eating (and of course, snack, which, to his dismay, only comes once a day). I’m not sure which is my favorite- his questions or his statements, which also come in multiples. He is very particular about how he wants me to listen. If I don’t stop what I am doing and, at the least, LOOK his way, he will tell me to do just that. If I happen to give him the patronizing, “Uh huh”, he will call me on that as well. I think after he got the “uh huh” response one too many times, he came up with a new no-fail strategy. With brow furrowed and finger out, he says, “Mommy, I’m telling you sumfing!” THAT turns my ears on and filters off. And, heaven forbid, if I find myself at a loss for words?? He can help me there too. His most requested responses are, “Right, Brighton!” and running a close second, “Good job, Brighton!” (If you are not careful, that first statement can get you into a lot of trouble—like the whole family winding up at Chuckee Cheese or some other place that food was really an afterthought.)

So why write about this today? Today was Brighton’s first day of Zoo School. It’s really the first “extracurricular” thing he has ever done without his sidekick sister Julia and it’s also an experience that is his alone. (Julia never did Zoo School.) She and I picked him up at noon and after they were buckled in the backseat digging out the lunches that she had packed, I found myself COMPLETELY enjoying the conversation between the two of them. Julia, in true form, wanted to know all about his 3 hours there and she listened intently- believing EVERYTHING he said. (I need to verify the “baby dinosaurs” and petting the gorillas with the teacher.) And then the question came, “Julia, what did you learn in school today at home with Mommy?” Simple enough, but what joy it brought to
my heart, that he had been thinking of her and wanted to know about her
I do love all his questions AND his statements. Sometimes I wish I could store them up for a time when I hear I will be trying, in vain, to pull them out of him. It’s late. It’s time for the “Mommy check” upstairs- the one time I can turn the doorknob and walk into a quiet room. In just a few minutes, I will notice how tall he looks sprawled out on the bed, how his room smells wonderfully just like him, how many cars he put in his bed after I tucked him in and how I can’t wait to hear what he has to say tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Power of a Hat

My Julia has had a gazillion photographs taken of her by me, her mother, the cheapest photographer I know. Sometimes I get the picture you have all seen kids take—the smile that looks like, well, not a smile at all—just a curved line of lips with squinted eyes and then, sometimes you get the stuff happiness is made of. Mind you, these are on her schedule only. You get no forewarning.
One weekend in May, we took one of our “mini vacations” to Eagle Mountain Lake and as we were putting the last things in the back of the car, Julia grabs my hat and starts a photo shoot—without camera and photographer (hardly anything frustrates me more). I scrambled to dig to the bottom of the trunk and pulled out my camera to catch, what turned out to be, some really great pictures.
Same thing happened a few weeks later on St. George Island while vacationing with our extended family. I took her down to the beach to take some pictures and a few minutes into it, she asks for my hat. I gave it to her. She put it on and it was like a switch was flipped and off she went. What she calls herself doing, I do not know. What I do know is that she is good at it. As her mother, of course, I think she is adorable yet at the same time I can’t help wonder what does this little switch means 10 years from now. I know I don’t have to figure that out so for now I have chosen to remember that she is 5 and is completely enjoying being 5.

A Rainy First

Covered (sort of) under a lady bug umbrella, Julia and I took Brighton to his first day of Tree Frog school. He was sporting his Yankees jersey (with the all important number 2 on the back) and his pinstripe shorts. With a big smile and open arms, Mrs. Windsor greeted us as we pushed through the double doors trying to stay dry. Julia made sure Brighton knew where to hang his bag which contained a paint shirt (washable paints do NOT wash out), an extra outfit for an almost 4 year old’s worst nightmare and his Velcro Spiderman wallet. The room looked like an African village just waiting for the natives to bring it life. Twelve, all under 4 feet tall, arrived quickly. Brighton sort of waved goodbye, completely distracted as he took in the room.

When we got home I gave Julia her Kindergarten 3 ring binder, decorated with all the things that make her tick right now. It will keep all the work she completes this year. All morning she was giddy with excitement about starting school which, in turn, made my confidence soar. What a gift to me! I got a call from Jeff who has cheered me on all summer (not to mention worked on the room all summer) and a hot custom-ordered Starbucks at my front door with a sweet note from TJ. (Who does that?) I think the morning went well. It flew by! She wanted NO PART of sitting on the floor with me. She wanted to sit at the desk! I gave her the choice of improving her manuscript letters or learning cursive. You guess what she picked!

I can’t believe my 8 pound baby girl that I met in Louisiana and brought “across the border” as fast as I could is ready for school! I remember her turning pages of board books with her fist at 4 months old wondering what kind of student she would be. She talked in paragraphs plain as day way before she turned 2. By NO means is she of the genius type but she is an active enthusiastic learner. I never dreamed God would entrust to me, for a time, her education. Of course, I want her education to be excellent and for it to be strong where mine was weak, but oh how I want it to go far beyond words and numbers. I have high hopes for these pockets of time with her to lay a strong foundation to prepare us for the “whatever” that is ahead of us. I pray God would set off sirens all around me if my focus ever becomes purely academic. Julia deserves ever so much more.

Monday, September 10, 2007


6 days before my 37th birthday this pharmacist trained stay at home mom will don her imaginary wooden apple necklace and tackle her first day of homeschooling. (My fingers even have hard time typing ‘homeschooling’. Microsoft Word spell check doesn’t even know what it is!) I awakened early with the same butterflies that had been fluttering all weekend. I have washed my face and tried to concentrate on a couple of passages of Scripture. I reviewed one verse in a new context-- James 3:17 The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. If only I could impart this sort of wisdom to Julia…

Last week, I decided to start reading the Old Testament—from the back. I have started so many times from the front so those books are well worn paths in my heart and mind. However, when I am in the minor prophets, I feel like I am in some remote part of East Asia or IKEA maybe. As I was reading through Zephaniah—actually now that I have looked, Zechariah (see??), I came upon the well known phrase ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit’ says the Lord Almighty.” (4:6) Well, there’s my verse for this new undertaking. Plain and straightforward but nothing simple about it in my opinion. I truly don’t want any of my power nor especially any of my might to be behind this precious time I am setting aside for my eager to learn/ eager to please 5 year old who today is now a kindergartener! May I allow His Spirit to do this work He clearly called me to do 6 months ago.

For a girl who likes to be ahead of the game, I am starting very late. I don’t like feeling behind, in anything, so waiting has been hard. This is our first day at home without Brighton who will spend the morning with the whimsical Mrs. Windsor at Tree Frog school. Jeff (and I) thought it was important to start the first day with just Julia and me.
So right now it’s T minus 75 minutes. I am excited. I am nervous. I am sad. I am thrilled. I am yielded.