Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pizza by Candlelight


Last Thursday night, we had the absolute pleasure of hosting 5 sweet girls for Julia’s 6th birthday. (One little boy named Brighton was also in attendance.) “Pizza by Candlelight” was our home made theme that said it all. Six little “chef-ettes” carefully constructed their own pizzas making flowers and hearts out of pepperonis and Canadian bacon. Then they ate by candlelight in our dining room-- 25 “candlelights” to be exact. Jeff prayed before they tasted their personalized pizzas and one friend asked him to tell the story of how Julia was adopted. Julia was delighted to be the topic of conversation so Jeff told the familiar, ever exciting story of how she came to us. Twelve little ears tuned in to his abridged version and to our surprise the youngest of our guests piped up in disappointment, “Oooohh, that was TOO short!” (T- you’ll have to fill her in one day!) I enjoyed watching them play “Grapevine” around the table with secretive smiles and furrowed brows. The candlelight was perfect for highlighting faces turning into darling young ladies. After cupcakes, requested by Julia, the Italian music bouncing off the walls gave them the perfect idea of dancing and dance they did! Over and over and over. Julia enjoyed every minute of her birthday. (She even got have her Nana in all the way from Georgia! )
The pictures say all that I cannot!




My big brother and his family's yearly celebration of their Yellow Rose of Texas ..........all the way from Georgia! When she thanked him on the phone and told him the roses were pretty, I heard him say, "Not as pretty as you."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Letter to Julia, 2008


(My much admired friend, Nikki, wrote a letter to her precious girl last month on her birthday. This is just one more great idea I have borrowed from her.)

My dear Julia,
You will be six today. When I awaken you in less than 2 hours, you will untangle yourself out from under two blankets and a quilt with a sleepy grin knowing today is special. If I could only make you understand how special. Today is significant, not only because you are 6, officially in 3 hours, but because now we have had you as long as we waited for you. There is no measuring “how worth the wait” you have been. Six years ago this morning (at 6:45 am), your Daddy and I were fully dressed and perched on the side of a hotel bed in Shreveport, Louisiana ready to “take off” as soon as we felt it wasn’t too early to get to the hospital. With diaper bag packed with stuff we wouldn’t have needed in a million years, cameras loaded and ready, and prayers uttered with every breath, we headed for the hospital to begin one of the most thrilling adventures of our 30 some odd years.

So, today, you are six and this momma who wondered if she would ever get to experience motherhood is, OFF the charts, in love with you. From the times of singing the “Julia song” to you in your nursery to, now, reading in the window seat, you have stolen my heart again and again with your big brown eyes that have a vocabulary all their own, a smile that rivals the sun and cute mouth that surprises us almost everyday by what emerges from it.
This morning before we burst into your room to begin your big day with Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I want to make some notes for you, Daddy and me about this last year.


You kicked the year off with the most significant event of your life, past and future, by being baptized. Your Daddy got to do it, I took pictures through blurry eyes, and Brighton just wanted to “get in with ‘dem’ and swim”. You lost your first tooth (we are at 3 now) with your new grin reminding us of how exciting that milestone is. You sewed your first dress (pink, of course) with the amazing Mrs. Cox and therefore were in your first fashion show. At barely 5, you walked the “T” like a pro, looked adorable and were praised by Mrs. Cox for your impeccable hand-stitched hemming. You highly anticipated your 2nd ballet recital and danced gracefully for both performances. I secretly marveled at how beautifully you held your hands and fingers through out the dances… something I had always wished I could do. Daddy got our family a boat this year and your reaction almost matched his excitement. Your enthusiasm for all things boating made the trips completely enjoyable, whether the boat worked or not! You have 2 more weddings under your belt, one of which you turned into the Dancing Queen, twirling the night away with a boy your Daddy likes to call “twerp”. ; ) As far as our biggest change this year, you have been a great student…….if only I were a great teacher. You have been more than patient with this first year teacher.

Last night, I had to pick out your presents from several I had accumulated for “now and later”. As I sat on the den floor, surrounded by some of your favorite things, I asked your Daddy which ones to wrap for your birthday and which ones to hold on to for later. His response was a typical one from him. “Wrap them all…………. she’s cute.” His affection for you is heart warming from anyone’s angle.

So how did we get to the point where I am vacuuming sewing notions from your bedroom floor, sitting across from you at Ruffino’s watching you properly cut into a pickled beet topped with goat cheese, hearing you say you want “plain” underwear and “plain” sunglasses “like yours”, seeing you finally fit into my old ballet costumes, depending on you when I am pinched for time. Thank you for being such a joy, for bearing with me in love, for loving me in spite of my failures, for being a good big sister to Brighton, who adores you and for caring about what God thinks. You are a jewel, little one and I am so proud to be your Mother.
(The picture at the top is one from the summer on St. George Island -- my favorite shot of the year.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

From the Backseat #2


Last Friday, we were on our way out to dinner as a family. Jeff had returned home from being gone a few days and, needless to say, everyone was MORE than ready to escape the confines of the house “happy as a family” as Brighton likes to say it. Dinner or no dinner, I was thrilled just to have someone else to respond to the children’s questions and comments. Jeff has always been better at this since he has a higher tolerance for silliness and words in general. (Quantity of words, I should say.) Unfortunately, “irritated” became the buzz word in the car. Julia and I were re-hashing an embarrassing moment from earlier in the day when she referred to one of my dear friend’s 19 month old as an “irritating little girl”- with my dear friend present. Yes. Awful. (And, friend, I still just cringe thinking about it.) Julia did not mean it as horribly as it sounded. Really. She had been a huge help entertaining our sweet little friend and I think Julia was getting weary of picking up a toy she kept dropping. I think she also wanted to try out a word that, sadly, she hears her mother use a lot. (I am working on that.) So after that discourse, explaining one more time why that wasn’t appropriate to say about our friend, Brighton decides to try out “irritated” on his own tongue. So he says, “Mom, I get irritated when those big kids talk bossy to me.” Fair enough. Doesn’t bossy always result in irritation? I asked him which big kids. He answers, “ALL of them.” To him, “big kids” are anyone taller than he is. So, that’s just about everyone at this stage of the game. He goes on, “It hurts my ‘fellings’.” He pauses, then says, “Actually, it hurts my whole body.” Well said, I thought. I knew exactly what he meant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

8 Hours a Week

Pharmacist. Druggist. "Pharmist". Pill Pusher. Drug Dealer. Idiot. Impossible. Dumb blonde. These are just a few words my customers have used when talking to me, about me. A couple are very normal and used often. A couple are attempts to be cute. The last few are for making a 23 year old pharmacist’s skin thicker. (A couple, I couldn't mention.) That’s how old I was when I got my first full time staff pharmacist position. I worked for a retail chain which has now gone the way of many—bought out and taken over—which at the time had bought out a couple of independents in a suburb south of town. The majority of customers we inherited were retired and being introduced to the new wonders of insurance with “prescription coverage”. They also were absolutely spoiled by the previous owners. The “regulars” didn’t take too kindly to the sights or sounds of what looked like, to them, children running around behind the counter and telling them this or that was different and this drug wasn’t covered on their insurance or that the insurance was requiring their doctor to change their prescription to a different medicine. I think I cried almost every day that first week and boy, did Jeff get a couple of earfuls when I got home. After a few months, my skin had almost reached the leather point and I only cried a few more times in my 5 year stint there. I know all jobs are unique and have their little quirks and perks but every Wednesday, well, it actually starts sometime on Tuesday, I start to psyche myself up for this interesting 8 hour slice of my week. Here is why.

Customers
I am with a different company now, but it is still retail. Along with the medical aspects of my job, stir in some colorful traits of the general public. I hate to say it, but when someone comes in to get their prescription filled, I have a secret label for them. One can be a “waiter” who waits while I fill. One can be a “starer” who stares a whole in my head until I am finished. One can be a “honker” who actually honks their horn in the drive-thru (not good, I assure you). A pretty good label to get is a “drop off-er” who leaves the prescription and then comes back at a designated time. The one label to aspire to receive is the “call in-er” who actually calls in their refills a day or so ahead of time. These guys are my favorites. But all in their own category are the“leaners”. They just about push me over the edge. They lean over the counter to get my attention or to simply wait for me to finish their prescription even if we have told them it’s going to be 30 minutes! I politely say, “It’s going to be a few minutes, sir. We have some chairs over there, if you would like to wait more comfortably.” This is code for, “Please sit down. You are driving me crazy.” My Dad, who is a pharmacist as well, coined a term long ago that I didn’t understand until a few years into this occupation myself. Get this-- “wall-bangers”. He would tell you this label sticks on the person that when you try to explain something to them you might as well be banging your head against the wall. Enough said.
Last thing—I have often wondered where in the world some of my customers have stored these bottles of medicine they bring to me for refill?? In the floor board of the pick up? Did it fall into the compost pile? Were they buried in the backyard for safe keeping? You just can’t imagine…………… WAY beyond hand grime. (FYI—Federal law requires all pharmacies to refill medicines in new bottles. After seeing some of these bottles, it makes complete sense.)

Questions
For a few years the most popular question I was asked was, “Are YOU the pharmacist?” Thanks to 10 years of side effects of the sun and gravity, I NEVER get asked that anymore. So now the most popular question I get asked is, “What can I take for my allergies?” Every Wednesday, all day long, all year long. The symptoms vary, but not much. The 2nd most popular, I think, would be, “What is this?” followed by the pulling up of an arm sleeve, pants leg or worse, a shirt. Cheap, no, free medical evaluation at its best. Some things I have seen are utterly unexplainable. Some things have caused me not to eat anything the rest of the night. Some things have caused hand washing episodes like you’ve never seen. Some things have caused psychosomatic itching all night. Sadly, some things have caused me to wonder if the child is being taken care of properly. Every now and then, someone will throw a question into the mix to break the monotony but mostly its just rashes, ringworm or runny noses.

Pharmacists
I wish I had counted how many different pharmacists with whom I have worked. Retail, especially the company I am with now, really keeps them moving around. I have worked with some (and across the street from some) who have helped me tremendously…. especially when I was 23 and had nothing but book knowledge. I had one partner who has become one of those treasured friends for life. Had it not been for Kathie, my first job may have driven me to quit pharmacy altogether. I had one partner that we had to have arrested because of stealing and other unlawful practices. My present partner won the Texas Lottery ($36 million!!) in 2001 with his staff in his own pharmacy. My favorite partner to have is one fresh out of school because they are the walking talking resource books. They know everything that I used to know and now have to look up. But it turns out to be a great trade-off. They have the skinny on the top 200 drugs memorized and I have the practical experience they need like- don’t even attempt to bring something to eat for lunch that is intended to be eaten hot (it will never happen) and how to perfectly time your trips to the bathroom when you aren’t needed and how to dodge questions like, “What aisle are the panty hose on?”, “Is there any more of this in the back?” and “Can I get a rain check?” This is survival, let me tell you. Brand spanking new pharmacists used to intimidate me until I realized what job altering information I had to share!
Lastly, there are a few things that can make a perfectly good day a really rotten one. (Obviously, the unforgivable AND unforgettable would be a misfill which thankfully is very rare.)

Getting to work to find out a tech called in sick.
Running out of Z-paks in January—or any month of the year, really.
Having to run the cash register more than 3 times.

Having to put up the order.
Having ANY kind of computer problem
Running out of ANY form of hydrocodone any day of the week.
Being called an idiot, impossible or a dumb blonde.

So, there’s a glimpse—believe it or not, much edited as to not blow anyone away with my sarcasm and cynicism I try to keep in check. Will you laugh if I say, I appreciate my job? I do. There are days I feel I have genuinely helped someone and those days are just fine. For the other days, my skin is thicker and I think I understand people better. Things just don’t bother me the way they used to……………… or could it be 15 years of inhaling all that pill dust?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sleep(???)over


By the sweat of her 5 year old brow, Julia earned 100 tokens for doing chores around the house. One hundred is a special number because with 100 tokens, she can redeem the grand prize of inviting a girl friend over to spend the night. Once earned, there was no question for her of WHO to invite—her “long time” friend, Atlee. I couldn’t have been more delighted with her choice. It was a “first” for both of them and Julia anticipated the sleepover to the fullest—planning out their every minute together, quickly realizing they didn’t have near enough time together! However, Brighton wasn’t really sure how he felt about all of this time together..... which didn't include him. (His first response, a few days ago, was throwing his coat on the floor.)

May I not forget.........
A miniature suitcase stuffed with all things practical and special
Two girls as hyped as I have ever seen them
Sad little brothers
Whispered words between moms……..something about a plan B, just in case
Reading books to each other with rousing plots like “the fast cat was last” and “fun in the sun”
Silky pajamas
The "deal"-- "You tap me if you wake up first and I'll tap you if I wake up first!"
Politely procrastinating the “tuck in” time
Determined to stay up until “1 o’clock”
Giggles, giggles and more giggles
Best friends
Rapidly disappearing pancakes
Tents for tea parties

The last time I lingered at their door wondering if I should just say, “Lights out,” and do the tuck in, Julia smiled up at me and said, “Can we have a girl privacy conversation?” What does that mean at almost 6 years old??

And as for their 'play' the next morning……………
Pet Shoppe? Polly Pockets? No. With trashcans on their heads they explain to me, “We are on a journey. We are moving to a different land. We heard that armies were coming from the south and we must leave before they strike us.”
“What is that on your head?” I ask.
“Poor buckets.”
“And what is a ‘poor bucket’?”
“It has all kinds of things in it that the poor people might need as we travel on our way.”
A few minutes later, I hear voices of desperation saying, “We must make it to the ‘Apossa’ Cave. They have a hospitality room where there are no guards!” The armies from the south must have been close!
And Brighton’s given role in this drama? The milk man. (At least they included him.)

Our first sleepover experience was perfect—due to the sweet girls who tried ever so hard NOT to sleep.
(Taken at 1:45 am-I think they made it to 1!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Loaded Question


He asked me tonight. I wondered when it would come but I didn’t expect it tonight. Dinner dishes were in the dishwasher. A third tooth had been pulled from my almost 6 year old’s (still) pretty mouth. My capable kids had managed their way into their pj’s and we were settled on the couch reading the depressing plight of Poor Mrs. Quack. Even though Brighton asks to do this often, he sometimes can’t just sit still and listen. Tonight was one of those “sometimes”. He was slithering around between the couch and ottoman raising his head between my propped up legs and feet. As the description of the Ally the alligator got his attention, he climbed back up on the couch to see the illustration and then rested his mop of hair in my lap. When we finished the chapter, he sat up, rubbed my stomach and said with a little sparkle in his eye, “I think there is a baby in your tummy.” I laughed and said, “No little babies in my tummy, honey.” Then it came—surprised but definitely anticipated. “Mom, when I was a little baby, was I in your tummy?” I knew he would ask me one day. I just didn’t know when, so tonight was the night. To catch Julia’s eye, I looked to my left where her sweet face was resting on my shoulder. She smiled as if to say, “Go ahead. It’s okay. I already know what you are going to say.” I took his little chin and said, “You, Jeffery Brighton Sanders, were born in my heart and THAT makes you very special indeed.” He seemed to actually stop and think about that one, not realizing that I hadn’t really answered his question. In just a few seconds, he placed his little hand on my chest where my heart is and gave me a Brighton-sized grin. His sweet gesture reminded me of last spring when he stole my heart, for the zillionth time, as he touched the middle of my chest and declared, “Mommy, I love your heart.”

I know he doesn’t “get it”, but neither do I, really. How is it that the God who controls the clouds, who spreads out the skies, who makes lightening flash, who gives orders to the morning, who knows the way to the abode of light, would hear mine and Jeff’s prayers for a second child and proceed to move on the heart of a remarkable young woman to place her first born with us? That, I don’t get. The only thing I “get” is that God is good and faithful even when I am untrusting and clueless.

One day, our B will know the full story (and FULL it is)…….whenever we feel he is ready. Adoption will be no surprise to him because that is a very ordinary word around our house. However, my prayer is that he will come to find out that there is nothing ordinary about the way our extraordinary God brought him to us --straight from His heart to ours.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

T.M.I.


My husband is definitely one of those New Year’s “resolutioners”. Frankly, resolutions wear me out. My thoughts in the past have been, I’ve tried my darndest all year long so what’s the point? My neat little list would wind up being the same every year. Plan meals, get in bed earlier to get up earlier, eat together more often, exercise more consistently, be more intentional with the kids and on and on the monotonous check list goes. Every January Jeff takes a couple of nights during that first week to get away in order to pray and plan for the coming year. At first I almost used to dread our conversations upon his return because he would be all refreshed and excited about his time away and what the Lord put on His heart. What I would hear was a longer to do list and a higher expectation I felt I had to meet. (This was NEVER the case— huge consequences of the “it’s all about me” syndrome.) However, since I have an amazingly patient and persistent husband, I almost enjoy this time of thinking through things. There is hardly a better time to make changes, re-evaluate and regroup personally, as a couple and as a family.

All of that to say, I have done a little of that while Jeff is away even now. Not fun in some respects because of how it spotlights how poor my follow through was since last January or how I am still wishing a few habits and attitudes present in my life were foggy, faded memories of someone I used to know. Sadly, that person is still alive and kicking. In my hideous pride, I ask myself, how can this be? How can all this time with Him, all these Bible studies I have done, all these years, all this memorization, all this praying not have changed me more than this??? Don’t forget I said “hideous”. Maybe repulsive is a better word. I just want to scrape it off of me as I type it. I have certainly talked to the Lord about this and of course, Jeff and a couple of friends I hold in high regard. What I seem to keep coming around to is the catch phrase “T.M.I.” – too much information. I have all this great information stored in a couple of pounds of gray matter but what benefit is it if I don’t intentionally put it into practice, complete with feet, hands, mouth and heart?

The other night we were reading the wise man/foolish man parable (Matthew 7:24-27) to the kids and the question was presented, “Why did the foolish man’s house which was built on the sand become destroyed in the storm?” Our 5 year old didn’t blink and said, “Because he didn’t put God’s word into practice.” Well, there you go. Yes, I know it’s verbatim from the text but I can’t say I would have answered like that, but that’s exactly it. I keep thinking if I read this or that, do this Bible study or that one or memorize this verse or that passage then maybe I can get over these humps that seem to have grown into imposing mountains. T.M.I., for me , has turned into N.E.P. (not enough practicing). I have heard Jeff say many times, “serving Him is knowing Him”. And to that I add and knowing Him is loving Him. Let me read that backwards. If I love Him, I must know Him. If I know Him, I must serve Him. How is that for elementary? So then, I have to ask myself, why is it not just an outpouring from my life? Serving Him. Sure, I serve my family but yet sometimes, not with a sweet smile on my face and sometimes, with a personalized agenda that makes it worth absolutely nothing. If I can’t get it right at home, is there any value to my service outside these walls? Most likely not. So there lies my hopes for 2008--that my loving Him and knowing Him would compel me to serve Him starting with my family. I could only hope that sometime between the laundry and the picking up of toys, a couple of little people who happen to live with me might be spurred on towards loving Him, knowing Him and serving Him because of an unprecedented work that the Lord does in their mommy’s heart.

Note: Before I posted, I sat down to start reading some books I had picked out to begin reading on for a while. One is a pick that I bought several years ago and could not finish it. I had labeled it “too intellectual” for me. I hadn’t forgotten my not rising to the challenge and so I found it in my lap tonight. Here is an excerpt from the introduction of Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. “Individual Christians still hear Jesus say, ‘Whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like those intelligent people who build their houses upon the rock,’ standing firm against every pressure of life (Matthew 7:24-25). How life-giving it would be if their understanding of the gospel allowed them simply to reply, “I will do them! I will find out how. I will devote my life to it! This is the best life strategy I ever heard of!” and then go off to their fellowship and its teachers, and into their daily life, to learn how to live in His kingdom as Jesus indicated was best.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Remembering Christmas 2007


It’s all down. No more red and green in my house. As much as I love putting it up, I love the way the house “feels” when I take it all down. It’s as close to the feeling of “minimalist” as I ever get. My love of pretty things, sentimental things vetoes the minimalist idea in my house. Since I know 2008 will be here when I awaken in the morning and Christmas will officially be over, there are things about our Christmas I’d love to linger over a while. It slips by like dusk to dark and these things I don’t want forget.

Sweet prayers from a 5 year old thanking God for sending Jesus as a baby and asking that Celebrate Christmas would change people’s lives
Brighton NEVER forgetting to pull a link off the chain or read from the “door book”
Learning that Julia’s favorite home made Christmas candy is “Aunt Patsy’s White Chocolate Candy” and Brighton’s is “Chocolate Drops” dropped on a twisted pretzel
Jeff almost seeming to enjoy watching me shop for myself, from my Mother recovering from knee surgery—patiently, too
Brighton doing his cave man dance for Celebrate Christmas viewers when we did the family scene
Finding out that wrapped presents will stay wrapped when you put them under the tree a few days before Christmas
Watching brother and sister exchange gifts
Julia being so excited about being in Celebrate Christmas even though the weather was COLD—on anyone’s thermometer
Not “rockin’ around the Christmas tree” nearly enough
Hearing Brighton’s loud exclamation of “Oh my goodness!!” as he unwrapped packages and running to put presents “where ‘dey’ belong”
Being proud of their thankfulness
Brighton being so excited about the “road trip”
Julia saying that her favorite gift was getting to see all her family and cousins and proceeding to name every one
Brighton being hit hard with a fever right as we started opening presents at Nanna and Papaw’s and giving in to sleep in the middle of the floor
Julia not keeping her big new cool Pet Shoppe house because "the one I have now holds all of my pets just fine".
Jeff going to great lengths to make sure I got anything he had heard me so much as mention
Brighton, when given the choice between sleeping in a pack and play or on a pallet at Meema and Doodle’s, choosing the pack and play……….hands down
Being struck by the conversation in Soperton around the dinner table—words that just don’t show up around my dinner table – bobcat, truck bed, drainage ditch, coyotes, duck hunting, deer blinds, beggar’s pasture
Brighton saying once he woke up from his fever, “Can we do Christmas again?”

There is one more thing that happened just today that I thought was interesting. When I went upstairs to get the kids up and ready for our sad day of taking down decorations, I asked them to pick out 2 things that they were ready to “pass on”. To my surprise, it went well—mostly chalked up to “I am too big for that” or “That’s a baby toy” but a few things shocked me. I then began replacing the “baby” toys with their new Christmas plunder. Once they finished breakfast, instead of making a bee line back upstairs to play with their newly acquired stuff, they made tunnels, bridges, tents, homes and roads with the lids to all my Christmas storage boxes. This eventually turned into “dog show” where Julia was, of course, the owner and trainer of a “2nd prize winner” dog by the name of - what I heard- “Lotka”. (When asked where the name of her prize winning dog came from, she looked at me as if I had lost MY mind and said, “You know, like pancakes.” Happy Hanukah?) My point—they never went upstairs on their own accord. I don’t think I need to comment on that much, but it struck me as funny. All the shopping, all the lists—I should have known. Their toys will certainly be played with…. often, but today they chose each other and their own imaginations.

All this is insignificant to anyone else but us—or maybe just me. Next year I will be taking a Christmas road trip with my husband of 16 years, an almost 7 year old and a 5 year old. How is that possible? May I not forget these sweet times with little ones under our roof nor miss any opportunity to make it special for them. And most importantly, may our Christmases always point them to our good God who gives us EVERY reason to celebrate.