Thursday, March 27, 2008

Becoming Tooth Fairy

I was the “Tooth Fairy” again tonight—for the 6th time over the last few months. Coming down the stairs after my secret duty was finished, I had one of those I-am-really-a-Mom moments. I am not just pretending or playing house. I’ve been one for 6 years now but every now and then I am blindsided by the reality of it. I think why I was struck so this particular night is that I am actually getting pretty good at being the Tooth Fairy---stealthful almost, not interrupting her slumber in any way, not even when I trip over her Crocs or books. This time I didn’t debate all night about how much money to slip under her satin covered pillow and I knew exactly how many times to fold the dollar bill so it would fit perfectly into the little pocket on her Tooth Fairy pillow. I even pressed the miniature tooth between my lips so I didn’t misplace it in the dark while I performed my undercover task. After slipping out the door into the hall, wishing for the hundredth time I would remember to WD-40 the hinges, I thought, “How did this happen? I am 37 and I am doing the Tooth Fairy thing without even blinking.” This is big stuff and it’s completely real.

Then I thought of Julia’s reality—this is what “six years old” is made of: wiggling teeth with her tongue late into the night until she falls asleep or until it comes out, developing new ways to eat her favorite foods, being so excited about yet another gaping hole in her mouth, waking up to money under her pillow, having people notice her toothless grin, hearing words come out of her mouth that don’t sound quite like they did the day before. Very big stuff and very real.

I only get to leave money and Trident under their pillows for a short time, never again to play any sort of fairy. I don’t even know how long teeth will be falling out, but I know there will be an end to this charade soon. I am finding out all too quickly, every season comes to a close. It is only on the other side do I realize how quickly. No more worrying that I will forget to do my duty before I turn in for the night, no more searching for 1 dollar bills at 11:00 pm, no more sneaking around in the dark, no more reaching under the pillow wondering how far in did she place her little pink gingham pillow, and no more early morning excitement about such small treasures. That may be the worst of it. I don’t think there is a barometer that could contain and measure “6 year old” excitement. So for a few more weeks, I get to hear lispy words with a runaway tongue and for a few more years, I get to tip toe around in the dark slipping dollars and gum under pillows. I am Momma. I am the Tooth Fairy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Certain "Well Done"

It was almost 2 years ago that I first heard her name picnicking under a pecan tree with 2 of my favorite Moms. “Betty Cox”—even typing it now makes me want to sit a little straighter. My friend Jessica told me Mrs. Cox teaches little girls how to sew. My curiosity peeked because Julia had expressed some interest in sewing and according to Miss Barbara, she had a knack for precise stitching. I thought a sewing class might be a good fit for her as well as give her a chance to learn a life long skill. However, this is what hooked me and reeled me in with no trouble at all. She has the girls memorize scripture and rewards them monthly for it. Before our lunch ended, I got her number and called her on the way home. After being on a waiting list, we finally got a call from the efficient Mrs. Cox telling us when Julia’s first lesson would be and what sewing supplies she would need. I followed Mrs. Cox’s instructions to a T, even allowing Julia to pick out her own fabric. (which may have been one of the hardest things I have ever done) Julia was just weeks shy of 5 when she had her first lesson. I took her into the little house trimmed in blue on El Campo and felt much like I did when I used to walk into my sweet Grandmother’s home- completely comfortable but almost as if it were sacred ground. This was her beloved space……….so many memories sitting around, hanging on the wall and, the ones I couldn’t see, waiting to be retold. We were welcomed by a beautiful lady dressed in cute jeans, a stylish top and dangling miniature spools of thread for earrings. So THIS was Mrs. Betty Cox. I loved her from the start.

As the weeks went by, I found out it was a perfect fit for Julia. It was truly the highlight of her week. Once when I visited for a bit after a lesson, I got to see the reward chart for the girl’s Scripture memory. Tacked to one of her kitchen doors is a poster board with a carefully constructed chart with each girl’s name. If they say their verses at the end of the month they get a red star by their name and if they can say it at the end of the second month, they get a gold star and 2 dollars out of a jar from Mrs. Cox’s kitchen. She feels like if they know it for 2 months, they know it for life. If you look closely at her chart, at the very bottom, you will see something a little strange. It’s my son’s name. No, I haven’t signed him up for sewing.  Mrs. Cox has a small dish of candy that the girls get to dip into before they leave. Brighton, who can smell high fructose corn syrup a mile away, figured this out by the second week and strategically stood with his nose practically in the dish until Mrs. Cox saw him. Being the lady that we love, she told Brighton if he said a Scripture verse, he could have a piece of candy. Without batting an eye, he turned and gave a wonderful “Big B” version of I Corinthians 13:4 and "kind of" following. The noble Mrs. Cox melted and now, Brighton works on his memory verses, on Mondays only, and gets gold stars by his name and candy in his mouth.

One of my favorite Mrs. Cox stories is the time our babysitter, Remey, who is in her early 20’s, picked Julia up from sewing. She had Brighton with her so they both went in. Of course, Brighton was on Mrs. Cox’s heels, ready to say his verse and when he did, she led him to the candy dish. She turned and asked Remey if she had a verse and then she could have a piece too. Remey said she really wanted a piece of candy, so she pulled a verse from the recesses of her mind and found herself reciting it so she, too, could dip into the dish!

One of my OTHER favorite things she does with the girls is that while each child takes their turn on the sewing machine, which, by the way, has sewn over 2000 dresses, the other little girls sit around the table and learn to engage in “ladylike” conversation while they work on embroidery or other projects. At the end of her second year, Julia has finished 4 pillows (one that she made specifically for my bed), 3 dresses, a rag doll with clothes, a stuffed animal (cat), bedding for a miniature Moses basket, 2 embroideries and most importantly, memorized several passages from God’s word-all because Mrs. Cox asked the Lord how she could continue on in ministry after retirement and being widowed.

Every Spring for 25 years, Mrs. Cox and friends organize a fashion show so the girls can model their creations from class. Last year as I sat through our first fashion show experience, I saw everything from the traditional calico, knee length, puffy sleeve dress like Julia wore, to beautifully custom designed evening dresses and Renaissance gowns. These 17 and 18 year old young ladies had taken their skill seriously and were amazing at it! On Monday night, Julia modeled her third dress stitched partly on the machine in Mrs. Cox’s lap and partly by hand. Of course, we were proud and had a ball watching her but it was just as fun to see all of her dear little friends parading about in their own spring fashions! There is hardly anything more pure and lovely than the world of little girls!

(Julia's "fashions" from last year and this year!)
Mrs. Cox’s heart is big. Her love for these girls is obvious as she hugs on them and encourages them in their level of skill. When any of the girls has a birthday, she pops popcorn and they go around the table and give each other “imaginary gifts” by naming something that they might like to wrap up for the birthday girl. As she introduces each girl during the fashion show, she will say something personal about each one. Even bigger is her love for Christ and her trust in her faithful Savior. The evidence of her faith is all over her and is such a natural part of her exchanges with me. She knows Him and I can’t imagine the pleasure and the sweet aromas she must bring to Him. I know He can't wait to tell her face to face, "Well done, my faithful servant."

It is still Julia’s favorite activity and I think I know why. It’s the sweet lady who lives in that little house trimmed in blue.

Julia's darling "school mates" and one proud brother-- all dressed in dresses made with Mrs. Cox

Grandparent info:
Brighton got confused and thought the fashion show was going to be a puppet show and was sorely disappointed.
I wish I could say Brighton was there to support his sister, but when he got wind that cookies would be served afterwards, his only concern was "how long is it until the cookies?".
However, he did enjoy walking down the "runway" with Julia afterwards.
Oh- I dropped by my Mom's group afterwards to say hi only to find out one of the Moms in my group used to take lessons from Mrs. Cox!! Ouch!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

From the Backseat # 3 "Happy Sunday"

I found out it was hard to explain “Good Friday” to a 4 and 6 year old. To quote Brighton, “Things are just complicated on this big ball.” (I have no idea where he heard that, but he knows when to say it.) We have talked about Easter on and off for the last month- seeing the gobs of stuff in the stores, hearing about it in church, reading about it at home. One particular conversation in the car last week came about because of our morning devotional which happened to be about Good Friday. The “good” just wasn’t connecting with Julia’s understanding of the word. I explained how on the particular Friday Jesus was crucified, it was the darkest of all dark for those who had followed Him and believed Him to be the Messiah and so it was given a special name, “Good Friday”. I told her of the somber mood many people take on that day and the solemn services churches conduct, including our own, but what Christ did for us was “good” in every way. Innocently, she looked in my rear view mirror, cocked her head, wrinkled her nose and said, “It sure wasn’t ‘good’ for Jesus.” Honest 6 year old observation. She went on, “If we HAVE to have a Good Friday, then we MUST have a Happy Sunday!” And so, a “Happy Sunday” we will have. We hope you will too. Happy Easter. Happy Sunday.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you BELIEVE this?" John 11:25-26 Yes, sir, I do.

Above picture: A happy Julia- Easter 2004

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The other day after the kids had spent some time in their rooms, I was picking up the library that often decorates Julia’s bed and the area around it and I noticed Brighton’s constant flow of words had drifted into the hall and landed on someone else. Evonne was “caught”- caught by Brighton’s list of questions and comments and she patiently indulged him as she came in from being at work all day. I moved into the hall to say hi and heard some of their exchange. Brighton was proudly showing her his shorts which were reversible nylon Nike shorts and as he said all day, “like Dad’s work out shorts”. He showed her the logo and the letters and she came up with the word I had been looking for all day- the “swoosh”. As we were about to head downstairs she asked him if he could show her some of his work out moves. He thought for a moment and said, “Ooohhh…………" taking on an "after Simon" posture, "I just don’t have the moves like my Dad.” All I can say about that is, you have no idea how funny that is.
Picture: April 2007- before he had "real" work out shorts
Note his expression and his shoes-- almost always on the wrong feet. At least now, one year later, he actually cares.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Speaking in a Different Tongue

For a person who values, no, treasures, quietness, I have two very verbal kids. To this first-time parent’s amusement, Julia spoke in paragraphs early on. (I didn’t know it was early at the time.) Way before 2, I could understand every last syllable she uttered and believe me, there were MANY. My listening abilities were stretched way beyond what they had ever experienced in my preceding 31 years. Then along came Brighton and, well, we wondered if he would ever crawl, much less walk and talk. Once he got his land legs, his mouth began spewing all that he had been wanting to say and couldn’t. Let me just say, he had storehouses slam full. After passing Toddler Talk Brighton’s Way 101, I remember being struck by how different his questions were to the ones I was used to hearing from Julia. I truly thought she had left no stone unturned, no thought unspoken, no ponder unpondered. Enter: just a little bit of testosterone. Brighton came up with a completely different set of questions which he asks whenever he likes. It is like he is looking out someone else’s car window at a strange planet Julia and I have never visited-though it is becoming more familiar to us now. He asks about the bridges, the roads and every street sign. He asks why God made all the buildings so different. That boy can point out ANY car that is like a friend or family members. He knows who has which tires. TIRES. He even knows what kind of car he wants when he "gets old" which seems to me, at this point, it will look a lot like Ramon's from Pixar's Cars movie. Nice. Road work paraphernalia is among his favorite things to inquire about. Things that speak warning or caution are most intriguing. He also knows when we are about to pass any sports stadium or practice field and then proceeds to ask all about the sport and “ ‘foo’ plays there?”.

The other day, just he and I were having a snack together and he began asking about outer space and how it was dark and why we couldn’t go there. Again, another subject never touched by Julia. It was early in the day (in other words, I had plenty of words left in me) so I started telling him all about astronauts. We even googled a few on the computer- incidentally finding out that “space” people really like Obama. Of course, I told him when he grew up he could study and train to be an astronaut and then learn to fly a rocket. So he asked, “Then I could go to outer space?” “Yes,” I told him anticipating another question by the look in his eyes peering out from underneath his hair. “Momma, would you go with me?” “Of course, Brighton.” (What else could I say? He’s 4! I am supposed to go everywhere with him!) Here’s my favorite part and why I am actually writing this, “Momma, when we go way up into outer space, will you hold my hand?”

You know the answer to that one, too. What sweet days I am in right now. I’d just soon keep him beside me in that swing up there with all his boyish questions ……….. and now, that picture is already 2 years old! He loves me and even really likes me right now. When he thinks of doing something dangerous, he still wants Jeff or me with him. When will all his “boyness” kick in and do these “dangerous” things without us or worse, without telling us? Now, when he thinks something, it just escapes his mouth with no filter at all. When will the filter be put in place and I will long to hear just one question in the car? Maybe it won’t. Maybe it will. In the meantime, I am going to hold his little hand every chance I get.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

His Own Cone

You know how there are just some people that enter your life in seemingly random ways and their impact on you is far from random? Intentional acts of love, calculated words of encouragement, works of service that go far beyond “babysitting”. This is “Jona-anna”, as Brighton calls her. I don’t even remember who gave me her phone number, but call her I did, and am I ever thankful! Joanna was my “Wednesday girl” for 2 years meaning she would keep Julia and Brighton when I would put on my ugly shoes, support hose and dowdy white pharmacy coat. She would PLAY with them, I mean, really PLAY with them, bathe them, get their dinner ready and like I said, do other things few babysitters do every Wednesday before Jeff came home. Because of the myriad of things she would accomplish during her 4 hour stay, I dubbed her “Joanna the Jet” but I really think she is nuclear powered. To ice this darling cake, she was purposeful in how she dealt with the children’s conflicts and acts of disobedience. She would find out how we handled things and then re-enforce our way. In the process, her education and character taught me a few things too. To say my kids love her would be like saying Pooh kind of likes honey....... a horrific understatement. When she got her counseling job late last fall, we lost her on Wednesdays. A sad day in the Sanders' house. I can’t tell you how many times Brighton has asked, “Momma, is Jona-anna finished with her job yet?” Obviously, he thinks it is temporary. She is now married to Nathan and they are expecting the first Baby Estep in September!

Of course, we still get to see her every now and then and today was one of those days. But today was extra special because her sister, Tanya, and 4 month old Noah came for a visit. Not to show off Noah, though he had his rightful moment, but to drop off a very interesting something that was all Tanya’s idea. Now, we’ve met Tanya ONCE. I have heard about her and have admired their sister relationship through Joanna’s stories. Tanya read the story about Brighton and his affection for orange cones. Since she and her husband were coming to visit Nathan and Joanna, she went to her local hardware store near Houston, bought one, and brought it to our house today! Who does that?? Joanna’s sister, a (once) DeHoyas girl. I was delighted but not surprised to find this thoughtful sweetness and a pinch of mischievous fun in Tanya because I have seen it so many times in her sister.
Needless to say, Tanya made his day.
A prized possession from a new friend
Silly String- mischievous fun, compliments of Jona-anna
This orange cone was plenty clean so I said "yes"!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Changing Landscape

Two teeth gone in one day. She pulled one in the morning before the sun came up and she pulled the other out with a little extra nudge from a friend that night. How often does the tooth fairy secretly lift the pillow of a sleepyhead to discover TWO teeth? A rare find, indeed! Now that the teeth are gone, the windows in her smile are numerous, allowing for a nice airy breeze. What I treasure most about her new smile is that she is clueless of how………., well, how UNIQUE it is. Even when the top one was almost sticking straight out when she talked and smiled, she had no idea she looked like she might could build a pretty good dam. When my camera comes out, as it often does, there is no turning of the head, no covering of the mouth, just a big wide beautiful grin. Since this whole teeth pulling process started, her only complaint has been that she can’t eat apples very easily. I can’t help but think of all my complaints, even with each tooth present-- hair that prefers a ponytail, crow’s feet (just how many “toes” does a crow have???), coffee stained teeth, larger than life pores, eyebrows that are full-time maintenance (thanks, Daddy, to the latter two)--- and this just from the neck up! How wonderful it would be not to have the knowledge that these things are subpar and just give the world a full face smile every time. With Julia, she’s actually proud of her gappy grin. Of course, Jeff and I think it is adorable but each time I see the new landscape of her mouth, it reminds me of how quickly things are changing.

That very night her front tooth came out, she was with some of our friend’s kids. Once we picked Julia and Brighton up, celebrated her tooth and loaded up the car, she got real serious and started this conversation.
“Momma, why does [friend that is a boy] pick on me all the time?”
“What do you mean, Julia?’
“Well, he just teases me a lot and when he saw my ring, he said I was engaged.”
“Oh, honey. He just likes to play with you and make you laugh. His daddy is a big teaser.” (I am not wanting to get into the flirting/ “because he likes you” thing.)
“Well, I don’t like it," she said adamantly.
“It’s just like when Daddy teases you or PaPaw or Uncle Blake. They just like to make you squeal and laugh. You know how they do.”
“Oh, no, Momma. It’s not like that at all. It’s completely different.”

How does she know???? She’s 6!! To this kind little boy’s defense, about a year ago, I observed Julia flirting (there is nothing else to call it) with him. We talked at length about it afterwards and I remember being relieved to figure out that she really didn’t know how her behavior was coming across. Who knows how our little friend teased Julia Saturday night, but I thought it was interesting and intuitive that she put him in a different category than her Daddy. I can only hope that this was our first of many “boy” conversations. I want to know everything that crosses that girl’s sweet mind about boys.

Things are changing—her relationships, her thoughts, her responses, her preferences and the one that is easiest for me at the moment, her smile.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Hiture Naking"

We did some glorified camping this weekend at Camp Broadway in “our” 1 room cabin on Eagle Mountain Lake. The kids think its “ours” because we pick the same cabin every time we come. Since our last trip was in September, this one-nighter was highly anticipated by the 2 short people in our house, making their verbal lists several days ahead of all the things they wanted to do and even EAT while we were there.

Last year, we introduced them to nature hiking which received mixed reviews in 2007. Julia loved it, picking up everything from “acorn hats” to bird feathers. Brighton, who was 3 all summer, just had a hard time keeping his Crocs on his feet along the trail. (I know, not the best choice of shoes. My fault completely.) I also think the woods freaked him out a little, towering over him on all sides. However, now that he is all of 4, it seems this is his favorite memory, but here is what he calls it. “Hiture naking”…….every time. I know it’s just a slip of the letters, but it sounds a little racy to me. "Hiture naking".

In attempts to make our first nature hike a little more dramatic, Jeff and Julia began imitating one of their favorite TV hosts Jeff Corwin —sneaking quietly through the woods, searching carefully about for wild creatures, causing my too-old-to-hold-your-hand son to reach for mine. To our amazement, my Jeff spotted a gray fox crouched in the brush just far enough away to feel safe and close enough for us all to see it. It tolerated our intrusion long enough for us all to get a good look and then turned its head baring its rust colored breast to head deeper into the woods. Very cool.

Julia’s simple maps of the campsite have now turned into “treasure maps” and Brighton thinks EVERY map must have a Pirate symbol and an “X” to “mark the spot”. All throughout the walk, Brighton looked for a literal “X” on the ground and Julia just knew someone had been digging for the loot at the least little indention on the trail. Saturday morning we decided to indulge them and bury some treasure which consisted of a small Hot Wheels toy and doll house accessories. After clues that were just short of jumping on it, their search was over. You would have thought it was the lost City of Gold. I adore their gullibility at these ages with responses like, “How did they know there would be a girl and a boy?” Who is “they” in their little minds anyway??

For Brighton, I think more exciting than hunting for buried treasure was what he spotted in the bed of Miss Joan’s truck. (Miss Joan runs the camp.) Orange cones, the kind that have the power to stop traffic. His dream come true- to touch one. Of course she let him have them for our short visit and he played with them the whole time—blocking the road, setting them up around the fire so no one would come too close, putting them in front of the stair to remind us to watch our step, placing them where Jeff was painting so we would remember not to touch. When I went into the cabin to start their “night cap” of hot chocolate, this is what I found:

Ever seen THAT in your whole life? So his next question was, “Can I sleep with the cone?” Even though we try to make these times at the cabin “yes” times, we had to draw the line at a huge dirty orange traffic cone in his bed. The picture I would have like to have gotten was the little guy getting it up on the bunk bed.

So, it was a good first trip to the cabin for 2008. Beautiful weather—should have taken the boat, but in Texas, how can you know? Memories made, treasures found and sleep lost. Oh, and Julia pulled out another tooth. That makes 4.

Grandparent Info (like all the rest of this wasn't): That night we went out and when we picked up the children from Miss Carla, she had lost one of her front teeth! Two in one day! She said our sweet 18 month old friend knocked it out. (Hadn't gotten to tell you that yet, T!) It couldn't have taken much since it was just barely hanging there!