Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Why

It was a yucky day in the Sanders’ School at Home yesterday. There is no way else to put it. I had been looking forward to our Monday all weekend. Last week our 2 days together had been cut short by unavoidable things so I was excited about Monday when I knew Julia and I would have a good 2 ½ hours to spend together. My idea was to do a simple math evaluation just to review and to boost her confidence before we proceeded with our day. She has excelled in math, not because of my teaching, but because she just happens to be good at it. Yesterday, you would have thought she had never counted to 5. I have to tell you, all sorts of things went through my head of what might be wrong with her. Did she have a high fever during the night that erased all memory of numbers? Has my 5 year old been sucking on some recalled toy made in China? Have I repeatedly exposed her to mercury infested fish? Everything just short of visitors from space raced through my mind. What has happened to her brain this morning? I kept looking at her, studying her for some clue, waiting for her to burst out laughing to tell me she was “just joking”—she never did. After about 30 minutes of keeping my cool, I patted her on the back, smiled and said, “I think you need a 5 minute break. Why don’t you go upstairs and rest on your bed?” Without a word, she went. I set the timer and worked on dinner for our company that night. Second attempt. After 30 more minutes of her erasing, shrugging shoulders, not remembering how to write the number SIX (!!?!!) and my keeping my cool, I patted her on the back a little firmer, forced a smile and said, “You need another break. Go upstairs and lie down and think about how to write the number six.” Again, she went. I set the timer, walked into my closet (so she couldn’t hear me) called Jeff and heard myself say "yes" when asked if I wanted him to be pulled from a meeting! As I dissolved in my closet, Jeff offered to come home to try to get to the bottom of it. I told him no, that I wanted to be absolutely sure she was doing this on purpose and really hadn’t just forgotten the basics of addition for some freak reason. Third attempt. When she couldn’t recall the shape with 8 sides even after telling me the sea creature with 8 legs was an octopus, I waved the white flag. I surrendered. I lost and she won. My irritation was no longer hidden behind pats and forced smiles. No yelling, no tears, no brash words, but she knew I was upset and I told her why. She had wasted our entire morning with this crazy charade of hers. I told her I loved being home with her, loved teaching her how to read and do math, loved reading all sorts of books and poems to her on the window seat but not with someone who wasn’t putting forth any effort. I said boat loads in my monologue on the way to pick Brighton up from Tree Frog School including that there were lots of other things “mommy” could be doing this morning but she was my choice. This was her only question- her only words the entire way to Boland Street, “What kinds of things, Mommy? What else could you be doing?” Poor girl. She listened to a list a mile long. (Words like nap, friends, and coffee just flew out of my mouth!) Bad statement, bad question. However, before we got out of the car, I made sure she knew I would pick her ANY DAY of the week to spend my morning with and I felt very blessed that God had asked me to be her teacher and that I wanted to do it.
Unfortunately, the charade played on through Daddy’s inquisition and investigation and she suffered the consequence. Her choice. But before our dinner company arrived, she had completed the math work perfectly as I knew she was capable of all along.

So what of this? What am I thinking today? I wish I had prayed more through the whole shenanigan. I wish I had picked her up, snuggled with her, prayed with her and asked her was there something she needed to talk about. I wish I hadn’t allowed my flesh to take control and wield the face and voice of frustration at her. I wish I would have stood stronger while my daughter tried to see how far and how long she could push her mother. (a pitiful 60 minutes) I wish I could have seen that her charade was only one of her ways of finding out how securely she was woven into this family God hand picked for her. Her intentional rebellion was her way of testing where Mommy and Daddy stood with her. This isn't the first or the last time we have stared rebellion in the face. It’s not cute at 5 and it will certainly be full blown ugly at 15. God knows best, doesn’t He? Each week His Divine wisdom in having her home with me is ever so evident. The sweet thing is He doesn’t have to show me these things but He has been. When He asks His followers to do something, hopefully, we do it and we may never know exactly why. His gracious gift to me so far has been allowing me to see some of the “why” of His asking me to carry out this particular task.

(I respectfully told Him the “how” would be nice, too.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Monsters and Moolah

Today after I got the kids up from naps, I took the opportunity to clean their bathroom. Yippee. It is a Jack and Jill so they share the toilet. I know, poor Julia. Who knows what goes on in there bacterially speaking? Anyway, Julia went on downstairs to see Jeff and Brighton stayed to talk. Love that about him. As I was cleaning the big white Petri dish, he announced, “God is with me ALL THE TIME!” This new realization is important to him right now since his imagination conjures up all sorts of hooey. Matching his enthusiasm, I said, “You are right, Brighton. Isn’t that just the neatest thing?” “Yes, Momma. That means if when I am in the bed at night when it is dark outside and I look under the covers and I see the pink eyes that I see in the dark and I am scared, God will come in my room and get that monster and take him and ‘thwow’ him in the “Twinity Twail” water and he will be gone forever and I won’t see his pink eyes under my covers in the dark anymore!!” Amen.
Later (and totally unrelated), as he opened his belated birthday card from PaPaw and Nana, Jeff made a big deal over the check so he ran over to me waving it in the air. I said something about how fun it would be to spend it, trying to help him understand the excitement regarding the rectangular piece of paper his grandparents had sent. In the midst of looking at the card and reading the card, Jeff put the check in his pocket. Once Brighton realized it was out of sight, he started asking, “Where’s my ‘spend it’? Where’s my ‘spend it’?” I could completely relate.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Brighton was born in Austin during football season so we have thrown a UT football tailgating party since shindig #1. Growing up in SEC country, I have had to learn the difference between an Aggie and a Longhorn. Then there are Red Raiders and another one I always forget. I have accumulated some things of this strange orange color adorned with the longhorn silhouette and actually like it because it matches the pumpkins I always have outside this time of year. ; ) Some die hard fans let me borrow some really neat stuff too.

When I awakened Brighton on the morning of his birthday which was Wednesday, I told him he was four years old. He sat up straight and said shaking his blonde bed head, “You mean, I am not ‘tree’ anymore?” I assured him he was four and he proceeded to get dressed by himself “because I am four now.”

I began making his cake yesterday- the caramel cake- and it almost did me in. 5:00- first batch of icing burned. Called Mom and she adjusted the boiling time. 5:45- second batch didn’t burn but was cement after cooling and I was supposed to add 10X sugar! Called Mom and she said add water to break it up. 8:30- added 10 X sugar. Something was terribly wrong. It looked like Play Dough just before drying out. Called Mom- more water. 8:45- began to ice cake and was about a fourth of a cake short. Took a break. 10:30- 1st half batch- burned again! 10:40 2nd half batch- fine, just a different color than the 2nd full batch. Oh well.

Five of the roughest and toughest little boys in Fort Worth along with Moms and sisters helped us celebrate Brighton’s fourth birthday today. Nothing makes Brighton happier than to have friends over. Actually, you don’t even have to be his friend. The UPS man will get quite the same response. He LOVES company. As we were waiting on all his friends, he was trying to "help" me in anyway possible to get the ball rolling. He disappeared for a while and reappeared in the kitchen carrying underwear, pants, socks and shoes. (At this age it ALL has to come off to take care of certain situations.) He said, “Can you help me put all 'dis tuff' on? I’ll still be four, right Momma? But will you help me and I will still be four?”

I thought the party went great. Boys are really easy. We had them throw a little football between the “goal posts” in order to win a prize. Here were the prizes. (Thanks, Miss Sue!)

After the “team picture”, they just started running in single file line all over the yard.

About half way through the party as I was in the kitchen taking “Dino Nuggets” out of the oven, he stuck his head in the back door and with a grin only he can give said, “Thanks for my party, Mom!!” That was all I needed. I checked later with Jeff to see if this had come from the “Daddy-prompter”. Negative. Brighton delighted in everything about his party and I so enjoyed watching him. He took great pride in serving his friends his “birfday” cake. He loved all his toys and gave sweet hugs to the moms. The way he whacked the piƱata would have made any Momma proud. So good bye, my little “tree” year old and I look forward to every day of your being four.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


When I left my hometown in 1988 for the University of Georgia, I left behind people whom God had used tremendously in my life. It never occurred to me to pray for someone else in Athens who would do the same thing, but God knew best, as usual, and to my complete surprise and delight, He did just that.
Like any good Southern Baptist girl, I showed up at 9:45 for Sunday school at the most recommended church my first Sunday in town. I remember when the college teachers were introduced being drawn immediately to one particular lady. When she spoke, you sat a little straighter and felt relaxed at the same time. You could hear the authority of God in her voice and the deep love she had for her Savior. I didn’t care what year she was teaching- freshman, sophomore, junior, senior- I was going to be in her class and that is exactly what I did—all 6 years through pre-pharmacy and pharmacy school. (Quite a rebellious act for me.) Mrs. Summey was sort of a mix between my two mentors from home and I followed her around whenever I could. God blessed our relationship and I was able to spend time in their home and with her two young kids, Lance and Melissa. There I got to see first hand how her love for Christ was lived out with her husband Jeff and her children. To be there was an opportunity to see the hands and feet of Christ as she served her family and me.

Some things I remember from that Sunday school class are statements like: “Wear white and keep it clean.”, “The secret of living is bearing fruit. The secret of bearing fruit is abiding in Jesus Christ. The secret of abiding is being willing to obey Him. The secret of obeying Him is loving Him. And the secret of loving Him is knowing Him.”, “If we act, think, smell, dress, talk, eat and drink just like the rest of the world, we have nothing to offer it.”, “Two reasons to obey Him: One, so you can be a target of His blessing and two, so you can give Him the pleasure of bestowing the blessing.” There are many notes in the margins of my Bible but these are the ones I think about the most. She is also the who had me tell the whole class where I saw myself in 10 years and after I did, she asked me, “What if only one of those things happens? What if none of that happens? What will you think about God then?” Those questions prepared me well for something I never expected to encounter a few years later.

Before I got married, I asked her if my gift from her could be a letter- a letter about marriage and her advice to me as a new wife. Without having a family at this point, I had no idea what an enormous thing I had asked her to do (the sacrifice of time and energy this would take), but of course, she did it and I don’t think she left anything out. That letter is a treasure to me and I have referred to it many, many times. During our first year of marriage, I remember calling her about a situation and not being able to hold it together on the phone. She dropped everything, got in her car, drove 4 hours so she could spend the day with me. By the time she left that night, ALL was well because she counseled me with God’s counsel and loved me with His love.

Just this August she sent out an email telling her friends and family that she had breast cancer. These words were in that first email. “All of the details of life are dove-tailing together as only God can do. It is SO exciting being a part of His world. (emphasis hers) I face it with complete confidence that God goes before and after me in every step He leads us to.” Par for the course for Mrs. Summey. I wasn’t surprised by her reaction. Inspired but not surprised. This is who she is.
We have gotten a few updates including one that said her body had reacted horribly to the chemotherapy – only the 2nd dose of it. She was hospitalized for a week because of her body’s response and this is what she said about coming home. “The gray haired old woman returned to Green Valley Farm about 5 p.m yesterday - no gray hair, but older than ever. As I descended in to the farm, I had one of those brief conversations with the Almighty related to this old place. He knows that I view Green Valley Farm as the nearest I've been to heaven on this earth. So I did ask when he decides to take me home to Him, could he just give me a direct flight from here to there. There is NO place on the face of the earth I'd rather LIVE OR DIE than these acres of the southern Appalachians. Thank you for allowing me to come home this week.” (again, emphasis hers)

Today was a treat for me. Lance and Melissa, her children, came through town on the way to the airport. I got an email from their Mom this week and this is what it said, “Melissa is about to implode with the anticipation of hopefully seeing you Tuesday. She is a remarkably strong young, Christian, but still imagine how stressed her days are with my diagnosis. Please just love on her and reinforce her foundation.” Her words struck my heart unexpectedly-a mother’s wish for someone to comfort her daughter. I had been given a charge of sorts and I considered it a great privilege. Lance was bigger than Jeff, now wearing the same kind of football ring Jeff used to thump Lance on the head with when he was only chest high. Melissa—I was stunned how much she reminded me of her sweet Mother. Oh my. I enjoyed just watching her face as she talked because of all the ways it reminded me of Mrs. Summey. So here I was with these 2 amazing young people and I do mean amazing. Their hearts are set on serving the Lord in any capacity He asks, just like their parents. Melissa just returned from a year in China, teaching English and loving her students with the love of Jesus and chomping at the bit to go back as soon as she can. Lance is about to start an intern in Washington D.C. with Bread for the World with all intentions of changing communities everywhere. They spoke tenderly and lovingly of their mother and spoke maturely of the challenges of the cancer and the hard hitting chemotherapy. Their trust in the Lord flew like banners over their heads and I was so encouraged.

As I sat there I realized I was witnessing and experiencing Mrs. Summey’s fruit- the fruit of her labor of all these years raising her two kids. Her God-loving and God-fearing children were sitting around the table with Jeff and me at Starbucks. Oh, why didn’t I pay closer attention back then? THIS was her reward of not growing weary in her well doing, her harvest of not losing heart in doing good.

Mrs. Summey (I still can’t call you Melanie.), I love you and am praying for you to see many seasons come and go on Green Valley Farm. And by the way, your fruit is beautiful.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Yesterday is over and words fall completely short to describe how I feel. Actually, words really can’t explain any truly important part of yesterday, but for some reason I feel I need to make an effort. To make it harder, I must remain vague in order to protect those treasured things of the deepest parts of the heart.
We caused some one great pain yesterday and she responded beautifully. It was a detailed picture of grace and beauty that I will not soon forget. There has hardly been a decision more prayed through and probably never a decision that has hurt in such a tender place. As God kept affirming this decision, we plodded on knowing we would obey. With obedience would come much grief, but as we all know, with obedience also comes great blessing. One of the sweetest blessings of yesterday for me was I got to see more clearly than ever, the gentle hand of my Savior on a young lady’s life. I am still in awe of Him because of what I saw in her. I saw her choose to be peaceful, choose to be fun, choose to be respectful, choose to be submissive, choose to be generous, choose to set aside her own desires for the good of someone else, choose to be honorable, and the most important choice I thought she made was that she chose to love. You can find her on the high road for that is the one she took. God's Spirit with her was evident and her life is marked by Him in countless ways.
I am forever grateful for this young woman for we are connected like few women are. But even the connection we have on this earth can’t compare to the one God has given us as sisters in Christ. My prayer for her is that as she continues to make these Spirit led choices that glorify our Father so incredibly that she would be overwhelmed by His graces, mercies and blessings. She is STILL on my short list of heroes.

For we who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory which is from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Birthday Cakes

We are entering the season of birthday cakes in our family. I am feeling the pressure. I know. Big deal, you say. Well, you are not me and it is enough to cause this girl some anxiety. You see, I come from a long line of amazing cake makers-by birth AND by marriage. I know. It’s sounding sillier by the sentence, but in my family you must learn how to make cakes because you could never defame the family’s name by, heaven forbid, purchasing a cake from a bakery or let alone a grocery store! It just isn't done. (I grew up in South Georgia. Does that help explain anything?) So, every family member has their own favorite pick and as sure as you get called ‘honey’ in my hometown, you get to indulge in your cake on your birthday.

My Mom always made a strawberry cake for me on my birthday. It's one of those tastes and smells you can recall any moment you think of it. The real strawberries keep the cake moist so when you put it in your mouth, you almost hate to swallow it. When Julia came along, I thought her birthday would be a GREAT excuse to experience the cake again. With Mom 1000 miles away and a husband who doesn’t do 'bake at 350 for 10 minutes', I don’t get the strawberry cake anymore so I make it for Julia. She loves it because one, it’s yummy and two, because it is the only color in her rainbow.................PINK! (My 15 year old nephew prefers this one too, but don’t tell anyone.)

My brother’s pick is a Lemon Cheese Cake. No cheese here, but a cold, tangy, melt in your mouth layered cake. You won’t find this cake in any bakery. And don’t try to order one. You will take a home a cheesecake flavored with lemon. This one happens to be my Mom’s favorite too, but sadly, I don’t ever remembering her having one unless her dear Mother,Ju Ju, came to town.

My Daddy’s is Japanese Fruit cake—not the kind that gets passed around every Christmas, but one with actual cake layers, raisins, nuts and coconut. The layers are alternated, plain and spiced, but Daddy requests all spice layers and that, of course, is what he gets. (His mother started granting that wish.) I never have developed a taste for this one, but it’s a staple in September and again at Christmas.

My Jeff is partial to caramel cake and he would choose his Mom’s caramel cake any day. It’s wonderful. (Even though she has been a city girl most of her life, she grew up in South Georgia too!) In my family, Ju Ju is the famous maker of the Caramel Cake. Julia was my grandmother and the memories of eating ANYTHING in her kitchen are worth re-living. Now, if you never had Ju Ju's Caramel Cake (and you see it's in capital letters- it deserves it) you never will have it quite like it is supposed to taste. She had the touch and those genes didn't quite make it to me! This icing has to be boiled, cooled and re-boiled and of course she NEVER timed it. She said she did, but we think her clock was in another time zone. Without SPECIFIC instructions, my brain is like a machine with bolts and springs coming loose and popping out everywhere. My Mom does an unbelievable attempt. Almost the exact replica- so much so she makes 2 every summer to take to the beach and we (I?) hide pieces to make sure we (I) get our (my) share! (Back off, Bill.) Since Jeff’s Mom has the dibs on her son’s birthday cake (and I could never duplicate hers), I make him a cake with chocolate icing between the layers and caramel icing on the outside with chocolate drizzle. I have tried to woo him with chocolate and presentation.

Okay, last one. Brighton loves caramel cake (not capitalized). So basically, his cake is an attempt at the impossible but one we love to try to emulate as we remember our sweet Ju Ju. And besides it tastes like no other cake. As Charlie's small and funny little sister Lola would say, it’s very completely the wonderfullest and most extrememly delicious cake ever! (Her favorite and her best!)

The problem is I am now the one making these cakes for my family and therein the pressure lies. Next week is the week I ‘attempt the impossible’. THE caramel cake. The one with the icing that is always guess work (bolts and springs). Boiling, cooling, and re-boiling. I have another problem. My Mom isn’t coming. First birthday she has missed. She is having knee surgery. I told her that her excuse was lame. Somehow the last 3 years in all the hustle and bustle of her helping me to prepare for and execute B’s party, a caramel cake has appeared on my counter. Voila! There it would be. She can whip one out like Rachel Ray whips out a meal. Uttering a prayer of gratefulness to God under my breath, I would thank her and move on to balloons or brownies.
So, there will be no magic this year. No amazing cake makers in my kitchen or cakes appearing on the counter. Just me. The torch has officially been passed. My hand has been forced. I will get it done. I must. It may be lop-sided and the icing may fall off of the sides, but I will make a good Ju Ju effort and my son will have a ‘birfday’ cake.

Yes, I just wrote a blog entry on birthday cakes. I can’t believe it either.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Altar

Six years ago today Jeff and I sat down at a picnic table at the State Fair of Texas and asked God for an answer. We were in the unusual situation of choosing between two young ladies, one of whom we would take the journey of adoption and receive their baby as our own. About a week before, we had learned both girls had chosen us and submitted their paperwork within 24 hours of each other. (evidently, unprecedented at Gladney- the 24 hour part) We began to pray maybe like we never had before. Now the choice was ours and we were desperate for God to make His will known. This wasn’t which house to buy, which job to take, which church to join—this was which child God had planned to be ours.
Before we left for the fair, we met our caseworker for breakfast. She needed our decision. She, being sympathetic to our predicament, brought pictures of the girls with their boyfriends in hopes that it might help us. (This is not done in a normal situation.) My heart did flip flops as I looked at these two young darling girls, one of whom had called me and one who had not. One was the classic Barbie doll and one had dimples and was cute as a button. One boyfriend seemed thick skinned and one looked like a good old boy. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” I Samuel 16:7. I remember asking God how we could know their hearts especially if we couldn’t talk to all of them?? We asked our caseworker if we could call her by 2:00 and let her know and she said sure.
Our day at the fair is a little foggy in my brain. I can’t imagine either one of us was very good company to the other as we knew the decision was inevitable and no answer had been given. I remember wishing to meet a girl with one of their names or seeing her name on a name badge or better yet, if Big Tex would just say her name as we walked by. God can do that, but rarely does He choose that. It’s too easy and I think He misses the conversations with us.
When it was almost 2 o’clock, we sat down at a picnic table and prayed- one more conversation He wanted to have with us on this particular matter. Jeff prayed. I prayed. When we finished, we both just knew. Her name came out of our mouths almost instantaneously. We called our caseworker and she started the chain reaction that would lead us to the most amazing tangible expression of His love we had ever known in our married lives.
The rest of the day was much more fun- funnel cakes, the Ferris wheel, frozen lemonade, shows, corny dogs, cars, crafts. For us it was certainly a time to celebrate. We have visited that bench a couple of more times with our girl and this Friday we will do it again. An altar of sorts—the kind that makes you remember His goodness, His faithfulness, His desire for relationship with us and His desire to give good gifts to His children.

“You have turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12
October 2007 Trip

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Boy and His Dad

I learned this lesson a few years ago. God made sure of that. How did I forget so soon? When Julia was 14 months old, Jeff went to Uganda for about 3 weeks. I hadn’t had so much trouble with her before or since. There were moments I wondered who she was. There were several incidences and episodes over those days, but the one that is burned in my memory forever is a plane trip to Savannah, Georgia. As soon as the wheels were pulled up under us she began crying, flailing, screaming, foaming, screeching and didn’t stop until her head sort of crashed into my hands asleep as the wheels hit the ground. There was one dear lady on the plane that didn’t glare a whole in my face. Even crying myself didn’t get me any pity from the other spectators. To sort of crown the whole nightmare, when I got off the plane my parents didn’t even see me! I walked right past them and waited on a bench for an hour. When we finally found each other, I remember telling them through tears that I was driving home because at least then I could strap her to the roof. In the moment, THAT was the level of my frustration. However, I found that the next morning, she was my favorite little girl again. When Jeff returned 2 weeks later, Julia was back to normal as she found much security in her Daddy being home. This was a significant realization for me as every now and then (when I was irritated with Jeff) I would have these delusional idiotic thoughts that I could do this thing on my own. (Young and VERY stupid, I know.)
Jeff was gone all week this week and Brighton and I had an interesting time. When I would talk to Jeff at night, he would ask about the kids and in every conversation I found myself divulging incriminating evidence against Brighton. “Brighton was really just a whiny boy today.” “Brighton couldn’t do ANYTHING by himself today.” “Brighton disobeyed me some today,” and so on. Jeff would remind me he still might be a little sick and I would agree and buck up for the next day. Every morning when I would get the children up, B would ask if Daddy was downstairs. Sadly, I would tell him no and remind him where Daddy was and that he would be home on Friday after we got back from story time. Almost every afternoon, he would ask one of my favorite questions (truly), “Are we going to eat happy as a family tonight?” He uses ‘happy as a family’ anytime he means all together. I ALWAYS hate saying no to this one but I had to keep saying no, but would try to comfort him with “Mommy, Julia and Brighton will.” It never brought the desired response to his sweet little face.
Jeff returned yesterday and was welcomed by a committee of 3 in the driveway. Brighton ran back in the house to grab the homemade cookies we had made and plated up for Jeff. I noticed, then, how excited he was. As we went about our afternoon, I was walking through the house, hearing a very familiar sound that I realized I hadn’t heard as much this week. Brighton was chattering away to his Daddy in the next room. It hit me then. He’s has been missing his Daddy. I walked into our bedroom where they were and I heard Brighton say, “We are ‘dangerous’ boys, aren’t we, Daddy?” (Maybe I can explain that term another time.) “We sure are, Brighton. You and me,” Jeff confirmed.

The weekend is moving along and Big B has stuck closely to Jeff when possible, making it visibly evident he is happy Daddy’s back. The security that Jeff's presence brings to our home can't compare to even 1000 days of my undivided attention. A boy needs his Daddy. Jeff is now home and all is right in Brighton’s world again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One Month In

Okay, so we are a month in to the home school thing and I am really not sure how we are doing. A couple of things I have learned: One- there are a few days out of the month that don’t mix real well with home schooling. Two- I am a pharmacist and not a teacher. I heard dreaded words from my sweet daughter today. It’s hard to type them because she hit me where it hurts. She said, “I wish you were more fun like Mrs. Windsor or Mrs. Barbara.” Now for those of you who don’t know Mrs. Windsor or Mrs. Barbara, she might as well have been wishing for, say, a mix of Mother Teresa and the cast of Sesame Street. Not kidding.

In a couple of home school articles, I have read the analogy of a getting going is sort of like the take off of a plane. It’s a slow start but once you “take off”, so to speak, it’s a pretty smooth consistent ride. I guess I feel like we are still putting fuel in the plane or worse, packing our suitcases...... buying our tickets?? Or maybe for us it may be more like a bumpy uncomfortable horse ride and I am still taking riding lessons. Nevertheless, I do love it. Spending time with her has been such a delight. I have to say, she is a sweet gal, not to mention an eager learner. She wants to do a good job and wants to be affirmed in that by seeing it reflected in my face and hearing it in my voice. Unfortunately, she hasn’t seen or heard it as often as she would like, I am sure. I lost my voice last week so I whispered all morning and she whispered too… all morning. It was a pleasant day (try whispering in frustration). We may do that more often. I have asked forgiveness a few times for my lack of patience. (She includes "patience for Mommy" in her prayers.) On the mornings Brighton joins us, I feel sort of like an incompetent ring master at the circus- poorly directing a mere 2 rings. Last week I made sure they both knew I wasn’t trained as a teacher and I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I was trying. I told them if they would hang in there with me that I might get better at it. They are holding out hope for their mother.

Julia’s favorite time of the morning, and probably mine too, is reading in the window seat in the kitchen. We are slowly but surely making our way through Thornton Burgess’ The Bird Book enjoying busybody Jenny Wren, nosey Peter Rabbit, mean old Bully the English Sparrow and a whole host of interesting characters in the Old Orchard. Phonics is going well, again, slowly, partly because of her wanting to learn cursive and partly because I am not absolutely sure of the teaching method (we have back tracked some). We were whizzing through math until I caught wind of some other little girls learning to count money. I caved. I had to start it too. I really didn’t see I had a choice. The moms were talking about setting up a little store in which the girls could shop. (I had to get her READY to shop, for goodness sakes.) I won’t go into detail but by day 2 on money there had been tears, 2 (!!) frustrated parents, apologies and 1 little girl feeling “anxious” (that’s her word for it). Two days later, she gets it. Where did my patience go again? She’s sharp. She will get whatever I am teaching her if I just give her time.

So, when I said yes to home schooling, I knew it was more about me than it was about her. One short month has made this clear. God is going to do His work in me one way or another. HE is who I want her to see in me and when there are times that she doesn’t, I pray I will be the first to admit it and make it right. It’s truly not about what she learns this year or any year for that matter. As the Lord goes about His purposes in me, I get to have an up close look at my vivacious little girl. I can learn when she needs pushing, what furrows her brow, what makes her eyes twinkle, how to relate to her when she gets her “sass” on, what makes her ‘anxious’, what she looks like when she ‘gets it', when she needs a hug, what gets her excited, what stumps her, when she needs space, when she needs cheering on and most important of all, when she needs me to just be Mommy. Mother Teresa and Big Bird just wouldn’t do.
“The goal of [my] instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith.” I Timothy 1:5 God, let it be.

Julia's Quick Tour of the Learning Room

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Big B, Little B, Sick B

I secretly like sick children. I don’t WISH them sick. I just kind of enjoy them when they are sick. The only problem is that you can’t take them anywhere (school!!), but nonetheless, I love the ‘glaze’ that comes over them that makes life seem to go a little slower. Julia and Brighton are RARELY sick, but along with the rest of Fort Worth, we have all had something around our house. Unfortunately, little B has had the worst of it. Poor guy. I have joked that his cough sounds like he’s been smoking all his life and he looks like he has a hangover.
I don’t freak out when the kids get sick. I am a pharmacist, right? I know how to dose OTC’s by weight with my eyes closed. Well, Friday night when B laid down, his breathing sounded like Darth Vader choking on a kazoo. This upset me a little. The only comfort I had was that Jeff didn’t seem to be concerned and Brighton could talk just fine. So fine that he told me in between his crude Star Wars sounds, which medicine tasted the best, which one tasted the worst, which one was spicy, which one he wanted in the morning (‘stwawbewwy’), thank you for the medicine, thank you for holding me, thank you for praying for me, thank you for reading me a story and with a fever of 103, “Momma, I think I will feel better in the morning.” He managed to do what he does best (talk and charm), so I decided we didn’t need to load up for the emergency room. (I did turn on the baby monitor for the first time in months and hardly slept for listening out for Darth Jr. upstairs.)
As his cold has continued, I have kept observing him trying to get a feel for how he is doing. We’ve had the normal, “What are we doing after nap, after breakfast, after school etc?” and the often heard, “Momma, Julia messed my question! She ‘unrupted’ me!” And just tonight he enjoyed his chips (and salt), quesadillas and flying paper airplanes with 3 cute little girls at Mi Cocina so I believe he is pulling out of it. (You think?) So in a couple of days, his little voice will be back to normal, he will breathe through his nose again, his naps won’t be as long, and his eyes will shine brightly. And I will be thankful ‘Big B’ is feeling better.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Purse Parody (just for you KB)

Before I left for New York, one cute friend asked me if I could get her a certain Gucci bag from Chinatown. She made sure she showed me the EXACT bag before I left because she knows I am extremely remedial when it comes to purses. Admittedly, it stressed me a little knowing I had to find THE bag—not just any fake Gucci but a certain style of pseudo-Gucci. Getting back with that bag became somewhat of a focus for me. I didn’t want to let her down and I also wanted to show my friends (you know who you are), who hounded me about my own bad purse, that I knew a good looking fake purse when I saw one.

Can I interrupt for a minute and tell you about this group of friends? This is the greatest bunch on the planet. We ALL love to find bargains, but we all define “deals” differently and have different opinions on what should be purchased only at bargain price. Paying full price for anything may call for comments like, “Who ARE you?” or “What were you thinking?” or “Bad day with the kids?” Also, no one in our group can just say, “Thank you,” when complimented on a top or a cute skirt. No. EVERYTHING has a story behind it and because you were complimented on it means you finally get to tell your bargain story about it! One friend’s latest shopping adventure landed her 15 items for 80 bucks! (I heard this only after telling her I thought her top was adorable.) But see even this might not be considered a bargain to our Minnesota friend. Okay, back to the purse hounding. Not ALL of them ragged me that night. Only one friend (SW) ranks purses at the level I do, but even she has been known to carry some pretty snappy end of season bags. One friend (LB) bought me a new purse the next week. After they laughed, a couple of friends (TW, NA) called to see if I was okay with the purse parody. I was fine, really. After 2 years, I have all but forgotten it.

Jeff and I met up with a friend, Drew, who lives in the city (not to mention a rising Broadway star!) and who knows Chinatown, mainly because he has a very hip mother and sister. As we came up the stairs from the subway, he said “yes” to a man who had uttered only a few words under his breath, “Chanel, Gucci, Prada?” (Why so quiet? I thought.) The little man took off about 20 feet ahead of us down a side street off of Canal and we obediently followed being careful not to lose sight of him. (He walks awfully fast, I thought.) He unlocked what looked like a salon of sorts. (Weird time of day for it to be closed, I thought.) He held the door and let us in. (This salon needs some real work, I thought.) He starts down a never ending hallway, turns a corner and unlocks another door. (Strange, I thought.) We walk into a small room and he locks the door behind us. (VERY strange, I thought.) But as I turned around, I couldn’t believe it. There it was---the bag that looked just like the one my friend had shown to me! I was so excited because my mission was almost accomplished and my friend would be so happy! I decided to try to call her from this hole we were in to make absolutely sure this was it and to my shock she answered! (Who EVER answers right when you need them?) I described the bag trying not to seem overly excited in front of the seller and then quietly asked my friend what was her highest price. After I was sure I had the right bag, I was putting my phone back in my purse and I heard her yell, “MAKE SURE THEY’RE G’S!!!!!” I didn’t know whether to grin or be offended- like I didn’t know it wouldn’t be cool to bring home a purse with ‘Q’s all over it. I decided to grin and thought of our fashion conscious friend who mistakenly got home with Kade Spate hand bags once. Drew quietly asked me if I wanted a purse because if we bought more than one, we could get a better deal for my Fort Worth friend. Oh great, I thought, now he tells me. I am still carrying the brown leather bag I bought at Sam Moon 2 years ago (a step up from my last infamous Target bag) and now I need to pick out another one! As I looked around this 10 x10 room, I was completely sucked in by this covert operation. Under pressure, I debated, compared, changed my mind a couple of times and wound up purchasing TWO bags, plus the BIG Gucci!

Now, the integrity of my Chinatown rendezvous wasn’t questioned until days later, when I could do nothing about it. This put me in somewhat of a tizzy wondering what I thought about it all. Did they do returns in Chinatown? (Ice cubes in you know where) Well, I could throw my new stylish imposter purses away, but I am really not into wasting money. Saving it, yes. Wasting it, no. My tizzy was over.

The hand bag escapade is complete and my friend has her big sassy Gucci along with many other ladies she sees around town, she tells me. Lastly and to my satisfaction, my friends (KG) can no longer parade about the room carrying one of my purses and laugh………..unless 10 years (1 year??) from now they find I am still carrying my Canal Street purses which will force them, once again, to take drastic measures.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Cinnamous Piwates"

When I picked up B from Zoo School today, I could tell by his face he was about to erupt with news. “Momma, I saw a big snake and then we went to see ‘piwates’.” (An anaconda had visited their classroom today and the second word is pirates.) I didn’t quite get the ‘piwate’ part but I pressed on with the anaconda which was exactly what Mr. Michael had said when I picked Brighton up. He went on to tell me that it was “big and scary” and “cinnamous”. ??? Julia translated for me, as she has been all his talking life, “Mommy, I think what he is saying is venomous.” Emphatic shakes from his big blonde head and wide eyes were confirming she was right, so we practiced saying ‘venomous’ a few times. He mentioned the ‘piwates’ a couple of more times, but I wasn’t sure where they fit in to zoo school. Anyway, we parked the car to get out because today was “Home School Day at the Zoo” complete with an educational presentation after lunch. As soon as he heard we were headed into the zoo he started asking if we could we ride the train. ( I think it must torture him every week at school when they walk through the zoo and he can’t ride the train.) I met up with a sweet friend to eat our lunches and to go to the presentation. After that 20 minute deal, Brighton was begging to ride the train. I said we would, so on our way we were passing the reptile building that has all these glass cases with amazing live reptiles. All of the sudden, Brighton piped up and said he wanted to show me the ‘piwates’. This I had to see. He got all of the little girls’ attention that were with us and said we were going in here because he had something to show us. I was proud—my almost 4 year old leading us all in, holding the door for all the girls and ladies, wanting to show us something he learned at school today. Like a tour guide, he marches us straight to a certain case, hops up on the bench so he can reach and points carefully to a red sticker of a skull and cross bones (to indicate “poisonous”) and then scoots over to the next case and points to the same sticker. He looks at all of us with a serious face of warning and says, “Piwates! They can kill you. They are ‘cinnamous’!”

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Who's the Boss?

Early on, Julia took care of babies. We never had tons of baby dolls because she had one in particular that made her very happy, aptly named “Baby”. “Baby” has been very loved-so much so that her clothes have been washed from hand grime gray to kind of white so many times that they are falling apart. Well, when Brighton came along, she saw all her dreams within her grasp. For awhile she tried to care for both Brighton and “Baby”, but just couldn’t juggle the double duty with her hectic schedule. So as “Baby” took the back seat to her little brother, I found myself reminding her quite often that I was the Mommy and she was the sister and the helper and THAT she was. Sometimes I felt like she was an octopus handing me so many things to make him happy, to make him smell better, to plug into his mouth etc. Until he was 3, he called me ‘Momm-a’ and Julia ‘Momm-y’.

As the years have passed, Jeff has discouraged her (forbidden may be a better word) to play “baby” with Brighton. You know the drill. Big sister says, “I’m the Mommy and YOU are the baby.” Everyone knows who gets the raw end of that deal. We don’t want Julia to always be in charge of Brighton, something we fight almost every day. We want Brighton to be confident in his desire to lead and for them to learn to work things out without her having the upper hand every time. So as we were patting ourselves on the back for such ingenious, wise and intentional parenting, thinking ahead for our future big boy, Julia was coming up with her own strategic plan. Julia’s plan B: Dog and Owner. Brilliant. Picture: Brighton on all fours, tied with an old scarf at the wrist (threatened the wacker if anything is ever tied around ANYbody’s neck), fetching a shoe, barking and, you won’t believe it, eating Cheerios out of a bowl that sits on the floor. He’s a good doggie. He goes wherever his wrist is pulled. When he is in character, he is also known to lick.

Just yesterday we had a breakthrough, sort of. As she was “owner” and he was “good doggie”, Brighton had had enough. Enough pats on the head, enough fetching, enough “walking” on our brick floors, enough Cheerios. He rose up on his two feet, untied his leash and said as emphatically as a little brother can, “I am NOT the doggie ANYMORE. I am NOT playing with you ANYMORE.” Julia said, “Well, little doggie, I am the boss and we are still playing.” He caught my eye in the kitchen and then looked at Julia and said, “NO! I am the boss……….. because Mommy said I was!” Exactly………..