Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

“Noel”. The other night as we were closing the pharmacy, one of my technicians asked me what “Noel” meant. This professing Christ follower of 26 years was found embarrassingly stumped. Noel. While two of them waited for an answer, I quickly ran through in my mind the words of the carol, you guessed it, The First Noel, and still came up ignorant. Although too late, at my first opportunity, I Googled “noel” as fast as my fingers could punch the keys and this is what I found. Noel refers to “the Christmas celebration or a Christmas carol”. According to the beloved carol, the angels were announcing to a world that a “celebration” was in order. The Savior, OUR Savior, had been born! “Noel! Born is the king of Israel!” So “Noel” my dear family and sweet friends! We send these greetings as we begin the most spectacular celebration of the year. For those of you who are interested, here is our update.

Julia, who will be 7 in January: I love her affinity for a good book or story, her great affection for her “Daddy”, her desire to get the full experience in all she tries, and that, one day, she wants to move to the woods, build a log cabin and play her guitar. (Brighton insists that he would have to go with her because “girls can’t carry logs around on their backs”.) What I learned new about her is that she wants “abyss-like” darkness to sleep, likes to take her time, prefers the outdoors, and values deeply her friendships. My favorite thing about her right now is her adventurous personality which is expressed in her desire to try new things, some of which turn out fine and some of which cause her to end up in my lap.

Brighton, who just turned 5: I love his enthusiasm for life, his ego-centric prayers like, “Don’t let the mosquitoes get on my birthday cake.”, the intensity with which he plays T-ball and soccer, and that he still loves his blanket. What I learned new about Brighton are the ways his little planner brain manifests. It might be in placing his clothes on the floor for the next day in the shape of a “little boy” complete with underwear, or in making his lunch for school, or in asking, “What car will you pick me up in?” if we’ve asked him to leave something in the car he really likes, or the thing that at times drives me to pray, in his consistently asking, “What are we having for breakfast (lunch, dinner)?” Also, I was shocked to learn that he possesses a surgeon-like ability to play pick up sticks and that he has a knack for picking out baseball chants on his keyboard. My favorite thing about him right now is that he still wants to live at home after he gets married so he can talk and have coffee with me at night and I can tuck him in afterwards.
Jeff continues to enjoy his full time role with Tarrant Net (www.tarrantnet.org) and his work with a 3 year old church plant in Keller (www.visitacf.org). We are often reminded of Candleridge days as we see entire families changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am into my second year of home schooling and truly love it. My favorite part, besides getting to see the “I get it!” look, is that we have been able to read so many wonderful books. I am also getting to re-learn (learn?) history right along with the children. I enjoy my time with them but on some days I find myself longing for a nap in a dark, dark room, wishing for a full-time cook, pining for a strong cup of coffee, or seriously hunting for my well hidden dark chocolate. I get the coffee and chocolate more often than I get that nap which, after all things considered, is a toss up.

May your “Noel” be full of moments of worship and praise of the “Babe in poverty” whose “blood hath mankind bought”. “Noel! Born is the King of Israel!!”

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Dozen a Day


A few weeks a go, some friends and I got to be part of a group to preview an Imax film about Vincent Van Gogh. As the film concluded with the documentation of the latter part of the artist’s life, I learned how frantically he painted. He was known to have turned out 70 oil paintings in 70 days in the last year of his life. After seeing his huge, gloppy brushstrokes up close for the first time, I couldn't imagine how much paint he must have dipped into during those 2 months. Thankfully, nothing about this man reminded me of my son EXCEPT his frantic, in our case, drawing. On any given day there are at least a dozen drawings around the house, mostly on the kitchen table and on my desk. However, one Wednesday night after work when I was turning back the covers of our bed, tucked under my pillow, I found a Christmas picture of a tree with ornaments and the beginning of the attempt to write "I wish you a Merry Christmas.” (He made it to “u”.) Sweet dreams,for sure. His pictures are typical 5 year old material- not amazing- just abundant. Every time I go to “print” something on my computer, I hear the familiar “beep, beep, beep” because there is NO paper in my printer. I gave up on the "save a tree" thing months ago. Brighton is not "green". The "other side" does not interest him at all. He likes his paper crisp, white and very blank. He is getting a reem of paper for Christmas!
Most of Brighton’s drawings are of maps and roads which have become three dimensional at Miss Barbara’s adding road blocks, stop signs, and cars made of toothpicks and pasta wheels. He also loves to draw football fields with either the letters “TCU” on the fifty yard line or since our October trip to Greenville, South Carolina, the diamond “F” for Furman. Some of my favorites are the Statue of Liberty, a pirate boat, me holding him as a baby(at the very bottom) and the lay out of our November Pilgrim Party complete with seating arrangements and turkey.
Here is one he actually did in art class at Science Etc. It is a favorite because of the story he told that goes with it.



The pirate ship is on the left, with flags and people. I think you see the fish. Do you see the key sort of floating in the air? The door on top of the water? Here is the story: The pirates dropped the key to the treasure chest (on the bottom right) and they are hurrying to try to get it before it goes through the door that opens to the pathway that leads to the deepest part of the ocean where the treasure chest is! I loved that.
Here is his first of many nativity scenes. There are a few stars but there is certainly a special one. Don’t miss the moon. I like the road with the middle markers. The shepherds had it easy in this story. Baby Jesus is in the right place. I am not sure why Mary and Joseph are so far removed but at least Joseph is really happy.


I love that he draws. I think what I love the most is to find out what he's thinking about- not that he doesn't tell me a thousand times a day, but it is fun to see how he "sees" what he is thinking about. You can bet the first silent treatment I am given, I will promptly hand him a clean , very blank, fresh pad of drawing paper and hope he remembers.

Even though I sort of look like his favorite monkey named George, I like my big smile.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Necessary Confidence


If you like to write, it takes time, as all things do. It also requires a mood, energy and sometimes even an atmosphere. Over the last couple of months, I have had all of those things, but not ever at the same time. I would have something floating around in my mind I would like to have seen processed through my fingers on to the screen but each time either the almighty list or my pillow would win out. Stiff competition. Today, I think all the “planets” (those being kids, Jeff, a block of time) have lined up correctly and so now my trouble is which floating subject do I rescue from never being expressed??? I know it matters to no one else but what therapy it is for me to think through it and see it on my screen!
I think most pressing to me would be Julia. True to the female species, our relationship is multi-faceted. I know I am in critical years (if they are not over already) of laying a foundation for our relationship from which I hope to benefit for years to come. I know the fruit I want to see years from now, but getting there, the “how to”, is proving the most difficult thing I have ever set out to do. Wow. I never knew it was possible to have so many parenting questions in the span of a day. I have always been a second guesser, always questioning my decisions, and I am learning in parenting there is no time for that personality quirk. If I second guess myself, I wind up looking like a dufus TV parent and if I don’t, I wind up apologizing a few minutes later. So my thoughts go, is she behaving like this because I am her mother AND her teacher, because she feels I didn’t spend enough time with her yesterday, because that cough is more than an aggravating allergy, because we haven’t had enough foursome family time, because she hasn’t gotten to play with her girlfriends this week, because we have been traveling a lot lately, because I need to switch from math to spelling “right now”, because her brother awakened her too early, because she is six?? I know I need more confidence-- to take hold of it. Confidence in what the Lord has called me to do. Confidence in the fact that God has equipped me with all I need to do this job in a manner worthy of His affirmation. Confidence in the awesome fact that I am the mother He hand picked for her.

Over the last month or so, we have been in, what I can’t describe any better than, a funk. Nothing has been much fun. She and I seem to be butting heads on everything from 8+3 to what is for breakfast. Sometime in October, reading time during “school” which is normally the highlight of our morning, started being rushed and brief because of the trouble we were having earlier in the school morning. I began to let my mind wander to thoughts like, “Am I really supposed to be doing this?”, “Is this really good for her?”, “Do I know what is best for her?”, “Am I going to know when to give her more freedom?” She and I have prayed often asking God to help us to obey Him, to understand each other and to make good decisions. Thinking that she and I just needed some time to reconnect and enjoy each other, I had my sights set on the Mother Daughter weekend which was a couple of weekends away.

A few weekends ago, we made the trip to south Texas with our dear friends Nikki and Atlee. I rode down with lofty expectations for the weekend thinking that on the way home I would feel as if I were her “favorite” person again. Before leaving home, I had resolved to be a “Yes Mom” (within reason) while at the retreat—letting her make her food choices and picking her activities for Saturday. I was feeling responsible for some of our “troubles” and therefore, had been feeling insecure in my parenting abilities. I thought maybe allowing her more control would help our situation even though it had backfired the weekend before. (I allowed her to make her food choices while lunching at a friend’s house. After her barely eaten lunch plate was taken from the table, she was given a choice between two desserts. She chose one, finished it and then politely asked for the second choice, finished that and politely asked for a second helping of the latter! Hmmm…..) I was excited about listening to the speaker for the retreat expecting God to use her to untangle this knotted parenting mess out.

When it came time to sign up for activities, I let her choose: rock climbing, horse riding, and the Giant Swing. Perfect. When it came time for the Giant Swing, she began to ask if she and Atlee could do it together. Oh my. This swing is “giant” in every sense of the word. Once your harness and helmet is strapped on correctly, you are literally hooked to the swing. You are pulled up into the tree tops about thirty feet in the air and then released causing you to free fall through the woods and then swing back and forth until you stop. Julia is adventuresome but not quite “fall from the sky” adventuresome. She had no idea. I knew she didn’t. In attempts to change her mind, I first started with the, “I want to do it with you!” routine, then went with the “Nikki wants to do it with Atlee.” bit, and then, my last resort, the, “I don’t think you two weigh enough to do it by yourselves.” half truth (I used “think”)--- all the time Nikki looking at me like, “I want to help but I am enjoying watching you try way too hard.” None of this ended her begging which turned into crying (????) so finally, I just put my size 9 parent foot down and said, “No. You and I are doing it together. No more discussion.” When it came to our turn, a half pouty Julia and I climbed the contraption to get into the swing. Once harnessed in, I asked her if she wanted to go all the way to the top. We had watched most pairs stop about half or three quarters of the way up. She wanted to go all the way to the top……of course. Well, once up there, I didn’t have time to breathe much less say, “You ready?” or “You doing okay?” before the swing was set free and Julia was released into the rush of her 6 ¾ year old life. An unanticipated, unfamiliar, unwelcome rush, I might add. Her little bottom had slid off of the swing seat leaving her feeling VERY airborne. She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t cry. She was in shock. When she found her tongue, all she could say was, “I don’t like that. I don’t like that.” Over and over and over. I tried to comfort her as best I could swinging through areas meant only for birds and squirrels but once her feet were on the sweet ground, she burst into tears releasing the stress the best way she knew how. As I held her, I also held my tongue. She calmed down after several minutes and enjoyed the rest of her fun filled day. It wasn’t until a full 24 hours later did she say she MIGHT try it again when she was “bigger”.
On the drive home, I didn’t have the “reconnected” feeling I had hoped for on the drive down. There had been no major revelations during our sessions- no unknotting of my own messes. Thankfully, we had loads of fun and I could be somewhat satisfied with that. It wasn’t until I lay in bed that night praying about the next school day did the Lord remind me of the swing incident. It was such a simple thing but it was as if He wanted me to realize that I had known what was best for her when I needed to make a quick decision. He was reminding me of a small "something" on which to build my confidence and to depend on Him in these moments that are "historically" known to throw me for a loop. Small thing but big encouragement. He’s given me what I need. It is there for my taking. “ ..being confident of this, that He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
And I am confident that it will take every available minute until then.


Grandparent info:
These girls had a ball and are counting on next year already.
The weather was amazing that weekend as you can see the wading in the water in the afternoon and then the wearing heavy coats that night on the hayride. I was proud of her making it to the top of the rock climbing wall. She made sure she rang the bell and then repelled down beautifully! The highlight of the weekend may have been getting to have her fingernails and toenails painted any color she wanted. She picked several colors, of course.
These two girls enjoy each other so much and I couldn't be more thankful for their friendship. Atlee is a sweet girl in every sense of the word.... just like her momma.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Barney-que


I bet this won't surprise you, but I don't "do" silliness very well. Some people pull it off producing loads of laughter but I wind up looking, well, silly. When my kids enter that domain, they might get a laugh from me or it just might send my eyes rolling. Well, here's a "roller".

For some reason I haven’t figured out yet, we headed to Wal Mart yesterday.... Saturday. Not just any Saturday, but a Saturday just a couple of weeks before Christmas. We made it through the experience injury free, in under an hour and miraculously, with only one trip to the bathroom. As we were walking to the car, Juila began to sing what I, for a split second, thought was a familiar Christmas carol. Instead of the words I have always heard her sing, this is what marched uncomfortably into my ear, “Joy to the earth! Barney is dead! We’re bar- be- queing his head!” Got to love that, right? Okay, harmless, I know, but coming from my daughter’s mouth, it sounded a bit too barbaric. I knew exactly from whom she learned it because I had been serenaded with a strange little rendition of Jingle Bells last week. This “Joy to the World” variation was merely music lesson #2 from another little girl. Got to love that too, right?

The only person who (secretly) enjoyed this incident was Jeff. He never was a big Barney fan.