Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Backyardigans


We’ve had a few of those amazing Texas days over the last 2 weeks. Tiffany blue skies, temperatures in the 70’s and a breeze just to remind you that it’s not yet spring. I have let the kids take full advantage of the fresh air and to their delight, shooed them outside every afternoon. I love to sneak out and find out what they have discovered and how they are entertaining themselves. One afternoon, 4 other kids from our cul de sac found their way to our backyard so that day I figured I better sit on the back porch to make sure no blood was shed or worse, feelings hurt. I found myself thinking about Jane Goodall, you know, the lady who studied chimpanzees in their habitat all her adult life. Pretending to read, I tried to remain anonymous and blend in to my chair as I observed them play and work things out for themselves. A couple of things learned: blood will be shed if 3 or more are gathered in the name of “play” and I am not Jane Goodall. They totally knew I was there. Not because I didn’t blend in but because I could not keep my mouth shut. Oh well. It was MY backyard………..
One day both kids ran in and found me at the computer. Their hands were black with dirt which was falling with every step and with each excited wiggle. They opened them up to reveal little worms they had unearthed. Can you even guess Julia’s next question? “Mom, can we get a little box and keep them for pets?” Pets. I bet you can guess my answer.
I have found Brighton threading Hot Wheel tracks through car door handles making ramps and courses even Evil Kenevil wouldn’t have attempted. They play school quite often with you-know-who as the teacher. Her stick to point “things” out is as tall as she is. She stands way up on the fire place to wield her authority as her pupil sits on the ground. They made a “sculpture” of junk from our garage- thanks to a Georgia O’Keefe class Julia took at the museum last week. At least they didn’t paint it black. I have found Julia in her apron hanging “dress up” clothes on a string tied between two trees. Once I walked out to tell them to come wash hands for dinner and they had tied their bikes to the wheelbarrow which had been filled with the same junk that made the “O’Keefe-ish” sculpture in hopes of pulling it behind them. Since they had tied the string to the wheels, they didn’t get very far.
Okay, so just yesterday, I walk out to check for signs of life and here is the picture: Julia, with her head covered with a kerchief, sitting in a miniature lawn chair perched in the front of Brighton’s extra large wagon and Brighton, with much groaning and effort, pulling her around the backyard. All she needed was a canopy to cover her fair head. I asked them where they were going and she said, “Africa”. Breathless Brighton chimes in, “It’s a LONG way.” So I asked, “What are you going to see there?” “Lions and tigers and elephants and giraffes”, she said as she was being pulled away from me about to turn the corner into our front yard. “And some people, too”, she called over her shoulder and then added with a wave of her arm, “I am going to share the Gospel!” and with that she was out of sight. Then I heard Brighton drop the handle and say, “We are HERE!” None to soon for him, I am sure.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Planting and Dancing


I skipped town last weekend leaving in my wake an “after party” house complete with decorations half up and half down, a kitchen that had produced a lunch for 20 that morning, and a desk whose piles rivaled the Appalachians. To get to the “rendezvous point” on time, I had to leave it. Yuck! (Did I really think if I got it back to normal that it would stay that way while I was gone?) Miraculously, once in the car with friends, I never thought of it again. Several of us headed to Dallas to a conference put on by Wholehearted Ministries (Sally Clarkson and friends). Once all of us were there we made up a pretty diverse group—home schooling Moms, preschool Moms, public school Moms, thinking about home schooling Moms--- that had the same desires for their children: to raise them in a way that caused them to love the Lord Jesus with wholehearted devotion.

I am famous for thinking a conference was super but then not being able to remember anything except that, for the time I was there, I was really encouraged and inspired. There is too much to rehash here so here are just a couple of things I’d like to ponder and practically put to use in our home and in our parenting.

The first star I see in my notes is by this sentence, “When God gives us time to ‘plant’, we better 'plant' because autumn is coming and we won’t be able to plant anymore.” Mrs. Clarkson told about a time when she had highly anticipated a day by herself. Each of her four kids had all-day activities and she had her every minute planned out. Just as she had sequestered herself in her cozy bedroom with a favorite book, her 18 year old boy came home from work unexpectedly and asked her if she would like to spend the day with him. After seconds of bitter disappointment, she hopped up and took off with her son. With joy, she made the most of the day ending it with a conversation of telling him all the things she was seeing the Lord do in His life and what she believed she’d see as time ticked on. She, by being willing to forego her own agenda, had earned the right to speak into his heart and life. Many will recognize that as a Young Life concept, but when you apply it to your own kids, it fleshes out a little different. In the midst of interruptions of our lives, the planting can happen.

Since my kids are young, six and four, I feel like I have plenty of time to plant, but do I? When will someone else’s seeds mean more to them than mine? Will there ever be a time when what I have planted be choked out by something else? And how long will the Lord leave me here to do this planting? Too often, I think I’m clueless I even missed a time I could have planted some fruitful seed in their tender hearts. Therefore, my new prayer is that I would recognize and welcome (that’s the key) these times as well as plan to do a little “gardening” with my kids and pray that God will cause the seeds to grow.

The next section of my notes looks like a constellation---- LOTS of good stuff scripted just for me. (I actually think Jeff slipped it to Mrs. Clarkson somehow.) First star: “Submitting to joy requires a mindset and a spiritual choice.” I have GOT to choose this joy instead of all my “Martha-ish” choices. To be joyful sometimes will require me to nix a lot from my almighty list. She reminded us that every season has its limitations and nothing is more important than knowing your limitations in different seasons. If I am “going and blowing” beyond my limitations (a.k.a. God’s boundaries for me), I don’t have His blessing and I will miss what He had planned for me otherwise—not to mention a miserable and neglected family. After we know our own personality, our children/husband and our own limitations, only then can we align our priorities well. Another star is beside “A simple life makes more room in my heart for the JOY of Christ.” Don’t we know this to be true? A complicated, busy life seems to be the norm……… what everyone expects you to have. To me, it’s nauseating and believe me, to my own fault, I am often nauseated. I pray earnestly to figure this one out. Mrs. Clarkson said that keeping peace, joy and simplicity in our home was worth any and all sacrifices, encouraging us to do whatever it takes to make this happen. Something tells me my own agenda will suffer most and rightly so.

She ended her final talk with a darling children’s book called, My Momma Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray which portrays a mother of a young girl who literally danced together through each season. They found something to celebrate and enjoy as each season took its turn displaying its uniqueness. Mrs. Clarkson was asking us to do the same. As I have thought about it some more and read the book to the kids a couple of times, I am challenged to rejoice in all the different seasons as a mother, embracing all the Lord uses to finish His good work in me and in my children. It’s a choice-- a choice I want to make. May He do this in me.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Too Much of Something


Last week, “Aunt Nini” invited the kids over to make Valentine’s goodies, a highlight of my kid’s week for sure. Mine too! I was thrilled- one, to have a couple of hours at Starbucks with a good book and two, to have them spend time with someone whose devotion to the Lord is so evident and contagious! Aunt Nini is a lady intent on participating in the Lord’s work, on caring beautifully for her aging mother, on loving her own grown kids, her grandbaby and three other sweet kids she adores and serves as “Zsa Zsa”, so, for my kids to get to have her alone was indeed a special treat. I was escorted out the front door as quickly as I dropped them off. “No Moms allowed”, I was told. After a good cup of coffee and several chapters, I got the call to let me know they were finished baking.

I was greeted by apron-clad Aunt Nini and kids who seemed to have a few extra bounces in their steps! Sugar, perhaps? Their first question from suspiciously sweet looking mouths was, “Can I have a cookie, Momma?” I was hardly comforted by Aunt Nini’s comment made with rolling eyes and a chuckle, “I am not sure how many they have had. Several, though.”

Her sister Lynda, who has always been so sweet to my kids was there and so as I was catching up a little on Janina’s life, Lynda was letting Brighton look over her shoulder at some old photograph albums Janina was going through for one of her never- ending projects. Something definitely caught Brighton’s eye from these black and whites of the fifties because we heard him say, “Wait! Go back! Go back to that picture of that ‘meeting’.” Lynda obediently did as he demanded. (Where do their manners go in situations like this?) There it was. The familiar scene. A group of people, men in coats and ties, women in cute dresses, sitting around a long rectangular table. As he came around the chair and put his face ever closer to the picture, he looked up at Lynda and said, “Where’s my Dad in that meeting?”

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Abyss


I crawled under Brighton’s bed the other day. The black hole in B’s room. Wow. Unbeliev-able. With my face crammed in the carpet filling my nose with under-the-bed-carpet-dust, I discovered everything I once thought was lost. (Unfortunately, neither my keys nor my memory card was among the serious plunder.) I counted the pieces I found…..27. Twenty seven pieces of “things” that are kin to toys stashed away in his closet. It was Christmas for B all over again. Pirate ship canons, swords and shields for knights, a stop sign, a yield sign, farm animals, Leggo pieces, a construction barrier, missiles, a canteen, a canoe paddle, (all the above no bigger than your pinkie) used up stickers, dried up Play-Dough, train track, view master discs, books, book pages (ugh!!), Hot Wheels, Hot Wheel tires, a mini baseball helmet, library book inserts (what ARE those for, anyway?), Nerf bullets and some unidentifiable objects which landed in the trash. Moms of girls, keeping up with Polly Pocket accessories is a breeze compared to ALL the debris that comes along with boy toys! I know why all this turns up under there. My boy loves his bed. I give him free reign of his entire 10x12 space during “room time” and when I go up to check on him, where do I find him? On his bed surrounded by toys that would work much better on the floor. Remote control cars just weren’t made to maneuver quilts and pillows. Race tracks don’t stay snapped together over a mountain of covers. Action figures even in all their glory cannot stand up on a blanket. It’s his preference of where to play and it isn’t a battle I am choosing. Sometimes when I am downstairs where it is relatively quiet, I can hear the larger “things” sliding down between his bed and the wall—a new addition to the abyss under the bed, not to surface for quite some time. It used to really bug me. Poor Julia—I practically had an inventory sheet for her to fill out after each time she played to make sure we had all pieces in their proper places. (We never did find the yellow pony’s hair brush.) As for Brighton, I just gave up on the “pieces”. If I asked him to go under his bed to rescue his stuff, he would look at me with a face of fear and tell me it was “too dark under there”. As for me, I am not motivated to wedge myself under there except about once a month…. or two. This way I make sure it’s really worth the trip and I come out from under there……….a hero.


Notice my attempts at saving things from the Abyss- the "wedge" (pillowsham) between the bed and wall............it doesn't work.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Jeff-ology


My Jeff has a birthday today. I am married to a man in his 30's for one more year. I always have trouble figuring out what to get him because we've just had Christmas and I seem to use all my best ideas then—which aren’t very great in the first place. If I do find something fun and exciting, he usually winds up buying it before I can give it to him. I tease him about the things he wants. They start at something cheap he can pick up for himself at Wal-Mart and then jumps to a Best Buy or Lowes purchase which would tempt me to open up (another) credit card account just so I could get the discount and then cut the card into pieces. I am never very confident in what I have wrapped up but Jeff is a gracious receiver (as long as it fits and doesn’t make him look like “Omar the Tentmaker”) and he seems to genuinely love whatever he opens. So today, at some point, he will “open” this post. I have made a list of things I have learned about him and come to love about him since his 24th birthday during our first interesting year of marriage. Will he genuinely love it? I don't know. A few hours will tell. Here goes.......
He is MORE than handy around the house. In our first house alone, he painted EVERY wall, refinished kitchen cabinets, laid linoleum and carpet, painted porches, hung wallpaper, changed out light fixtures, hung moulding, painted kitchen appliances and hung shutters. I found him just as comfortable with computers, wires, TV’s and stereo equipment. As the daughter of one who has trouble working the remote control and alarm clock, I was in shock after the first week of living with him. So, in my mind he is a mix between Carter Oosterhouse and a member of the Geek Squad at Best Buy. (By the way, Jeff, you are MUCH cuter than Carter.)

He loves a celebration and will pitch in to make it happen. As his wife, I feel VERY celebrated and appreciate the effort he makes in order to see all our celebrations happen throughout the year.

He is able to lead well in many arenas but most importantly, he never neglects his leading and shepherding of us.

His ability to bring order and peace to any situation, whether it be in our home, in a meeting, with friends, during a church service, amazes me. For me, when he is present, all is well.

He challenges me on a regular basis as part of his role as my husband. It’s never fun, but I have learned to appreciate and value it. He is intent on "washing me with the Word". (Thank you.)

He doesn’t mind vacuuming or using anything else around the house that has a “power” button.

He dreams big……….. bigger than my cautious heart ever thought about. Thankfully, he takes seriously his marching orders from the Lord praying for me all the while.

The grace of God flows easily from his heart to mine. His capacity to forgive and extend grace far surpasses what I or anyone could deserve.

He can preach. He is absolutely my favorite preacher. I miss hearing what God lays on his heart week after week. However, I do enjoy getting to sit with him in church from time to time.

If he stops by the store- Sams, Costco, grocery, Lifeway, Lowes etc.- he ALWAYS calls to see if I need anything.

He is a great communicator and if someone were to look under any of our rugs, they would find nothing but dust. At our house, everything is out in the open because of Jeff.

His love for coffee compels him to make it at least twice a day and his tolerance to caffeine is impressive. He also prefers a “drinking buddy” so I have learned to like it (especially when he makes it for me for he is WAY more liberal with the calories) and I am beginning to hold my own with the caffeine.

He just might be more competitive than my big brother. This is still a toss up since I have not fully recovered from all the “in your face” tauntings from Blake. To our credit, we have learned to play on the SAME team when we play cards……..a turning point in our marriage.

He is an excellent daddy. His parenting of Julia and Brighton is beautiful and strong in every way. The kids exuberantly anticipate every Wednesday night because they get him all to themselves.

He hates shots, enjoys getting the mail, reads fast, keeps up with old friends, loves the lake, doesn't require much sleep, likes James Taylor, will go to great lengths to have an orderly garage, thinks I am capable of anything, cooks a mean turkey, loves the smell of leather, doesn’t mind a chick flick every now and then, reads people like a book, never complains, prefers to stay up late, and eats just about anything I prepare. He is a great shopper, my biggest fan, a super gift giver, impressive at Galaga, not bad at Ms. Pac Man and terrible at Jeopardy. He has a great laugh, a dislike for dancing, a "thing" for watches, a soft spot for single Moms and little girls named Julia Karis, big (and valuable) opinions regarding decorating, Fair skills (can actually win things at the Fair) and the best “salt and cinnamon" hair I have ever seen.

Jeff, you are more than I ever dreamed of all those years in my pink second story room in pine tree country. My cautious heart never could have come up with someone as wonderful as you. What I love the most is that God has your heart more completely than I could have hoped for in a husband and friend. Your steady walk, your ability to dream, your passion for others to know Him, your focused efforts to see the Church working together drives me to want to know Him, serve Him and love Him wholeheartedly.

Happy Birthday.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

"Name on the Board"


I have a question for all my teacher friends out there. What in the world happens when you have to write a student’s “name on the board”? I had no idea the gripping power of those 4 simple words. In our “learning” room, where we have school, we have 2 chairs from IKEA. The chairs were exactly what I wanted— right size, right colors, right price, right “look” etc.--- except one fancy feature. They spin. Yes, ’round and ’round and ’round. When I purchased them, I thought, every swivel/spin chair has the option of becoming stationary, right? Spin, spin, spin. (I have to mention the loud THUD it makes when the back of the chair is abruptly stopped by the edge of the desk!) Well, during school time, it seems this is my biggest battle with Julia. Do you know that children use about 95% of their brain power to spin a chair ’round and ’round? And the last 5% is used wondering if they are doing something wrong and how they can stop the spinning chair? Needless to say, the chairs are a HUGE distraction. (But did I mention how great they look in the room?)

Back to my question. Sometimes during our school time, I mention things to her I hear other moms and teachers say about their school and the way they do things. “Name on the board” just happened to be one of those interesting tidbits I thought I’d try on for size and boy, did it fit perfectly. Her cute lip quivers at the mention of her “name on the board”. Really—quivers. What do you teachers do when you write their names on the board? Is it written in some cryptic Gothic script with blood dripping from the letters and little beady eyes peering out from the “o’s” and “a’s”? (Can you teach me?) Does it mean their school fate is doomed to being sequestered in a tight locker somewhere down the hall and fed lunchroom toast and tap water? What about this consequence to poor behavior makes a little lip quiver?? I am curious about the secret power it commands. Since I have realized what fear this expression puts into my gal, these 4 words will be reserved only for behaviors MUCH worse than spinning in the chair—as evil as it seems at the time, I will refrain ................or get a new chair.