Monday, June 29, 2009

First Date

When Jeff made plans with Julia to attend Christ Chapel’s Daddy Daughter Dinner Dance, a giant void was left in Brighton’s internal continual calendar. This year Brighton clued in quickly that he would be at home with me so his need for a plan erupted. As he began forming his ideas and trying them on for size, out loud, I suggested something from his top 3 before I got trapped into something that required tokens. Just as I figured it would, when I mentioned going out to eat, the idea produced bright eyes, a big grin and visions of chips, salsa and Sprite. Perfect. Not long after his mental calendar square was filled, he had the typical little brother notion of keeping our “date” a secret from his sister, tormenting her with whispers in my ear every chance he could.

Once we got Julia all dolled up for her time with Jeff, Brighton was more than ready to crunch his first tortilla chip. With money for dinner heating up his pocket and a Tigger style step, he walked in and said, “Brighton—for two.” (I called ahead and put us under his name just so he could do this.) The hostess seated us in a two person booth facing each other. Time with just B is rare so I just sat and listened to all his words. He was flourishing in the freedom of talking to his excited heart’s content with no worries of interrupting anyone. I find his strings of thoughts intriguing. Sometimes it takes me a few minutes before I figure out why his little mind takes him in a certain direction and sometimes I realize the string has broken and he is on his way down a fresh one.

About half way through our quesadillas and fajitas, Brighton said, “I wish I could sit WITH you.” I smiled and explained how he WAS sitting with me and how the booth was made for only two and how there wasn’t room for both of us on one seat. His face suggested I was wrong. He proceeded to scoot as far over as he could to show me there was plenty of room for the two of us. He went on making his case with pleading eyes and beckoning hands. He had me. So there we were in a booth for two sitting side by side, making it work. After another quesadilla disappeared, he looked up and asked, “Can I sit in your lap?”

As I have said before, because of all his practice, he expresses himself very well. At five, he is transparent and experienced when it comes to telling you how he feels. That particular Friday night, knotted all down his strings of words were sweet expressions of love for me and thanks for things I do. Yes. More gratifying than I can communicate here. I got to be his object of affection in our two person booth. His cup was full and it all splashed out on to me. Most of his "splash" I will tuck away just for me, however, there is one I will share. “Mom, you know what’s more fun than playing the Wii? Getting to be ‘just me with just you’.” Colossal. Ginormous. H-U-G-E. Good answer. Great night.
Here are a couple of pictures of Jeff and Julia on their way out.

The Lake

The Lake ...............with friends. Need I say more??

This pair seemed to have made it in front of my lens more than anyone else! Does ANYONE wonder why??

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3 The Survivor Celebrates!
This one reminded me of a picture in one of our Nursery Rhyme books-- Rub-a-Dub-Dub.

The biggest load "Big Bertha" has ever carried!
These are the ones who played the hardest and made it fun for everyone.
These are the ones who divied out Doritos, Chex Mix and Oreos, applied gobs of sunscreen to several different sizes of people (just not enough), made sure our chairs stayed in the shade, scanned the scape for slithering creatures, and laughed most of the afternoon.
Last-- This was Brighton's idea and it worked! If you look closely, you can see him WAVING at us!! Now he is telling everyone he can wakeboard.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Years Down

Year two complete. Good thing is Julia still likes me and I am in for another year--excited, actually. I am grateful to say, we finished 1st grade. I remember hearing a joke a while back—something like, you know you are a home schooler when someone asks you what grade your children are in and, to you, there really isn’t a clear cut answer. You find yourself thinking, “Hmmm….. she did some ___ grade work, but we haven’t started ____ that some other kids did.” That’s me. For this season, I am a home schooler and I am such a newbie. However, one thing I am beginning to figure out, as long as the Lord leads me to do this, I will always feel like a newbie because every year is so different. Once you feel you have ironed out the learning curve, it kinks up again. We will always have new material to cover and new books to read. Their minds will be constantly maturing while mine will be slowly deteriorating. Our relationships will look different at various ages. Preferences will change. Moods will swing. They will become more and more independent and I will be needed less and less. What worked for Julia may not work for Brighton. It is a constant evaluation, a moving target, and a perfect platform for lots of prayer.

The love that I have for getting to do school at home will always be for the same reason. Nothing trumps the time I have with Julia (and next year B). I believe this will be the resounding reward each year. I have memories of significant conversations that, I have to wonder, would I have ever gotten to enjoy them had I not said “yes” to this mysterious, if not strange, way of educating children? Would I know when too much is too much? Would I know she likes a challenge—even if she balks at it, even if it is more than I think she can handle? Would I know she releases stress in the purest of forms? Would I know that “time management” isn’t her strong suit? Would I be able to pick out an armful of books that I know will cause her to drop everything and begin reading immediately? Would I know that I am raising a daughter who I may one day describe as a “dreamer”? Would I know her spelling tendencies with certain sounds? Would I know that she blooms like a hibiscus in June with a little back rub and some affirming words? Would I know how much of her thoughts are consumed with her friends who don’t know Christ? Of course, I cherish all that I am learning about her and have to say, I am thankful it is me who has discovered these things and not someone else. God knew the blessing these things would be to this Mom. Furthermore, in His sovereignty, He knew that Julia needed a mother who knew her in a different sort of way.
On to more practical things, just like last year, it was the books that we enjoyed the most. There were books we read that neither one of us will ever forget. Times that I couldn’t keep reading just so I wouldn’t lose it only to look over and see the tears falling from her brown eyes. Times that we laughed at the rabbit trails of dialogue between a brother and sister- mostly because it sounded so familiar. Times I had to stop reading all together because I realized it was too much information. Times we had to set the book down and wonder at the details of the smallest creatures of God’s handiwork. Times we had to literally run out the door to pick up B, because we succumbed to “one more chapter”. Times we stopped and re-read just so we could enjoy the part one more time. Times we didn’t want the book to end because we enjoyed the family so much. This year, the reading really clicked for her. I loved walking into a room seeing Julia's hands and attention wrapped around a book of her own. I think I can safely say, if we didn’t read, I don’t think we would enjoy school at home. It is the reward of the morning for both of us after pluses, minuses, graphs, maps and 2 letter phonograms!

It seems like we took less field trips this year which is neither good nor bad but we saw Charlotte’s Web and Frog and Toad All Year Long at Casa Manana, Madeline’s Christmas at the Dallas Children’s Theatre. We spent some “Christmastime” in the 1800’s in Dallas Heritage Village experiencing a colonial atmosphere decorating the school house with paper chains, visiting the blacksmith, the print shop, the potter and the general store where the popular items were bamboo flutes and tiny clothespin dolls. We survived the Pilgrim Party with only minimal blood shed with what seemed like 100 children, but they sure did look cute in their Pilgrim and Indian attire. During Christmas break, Julia and her friends performed a casual concert for the parents. Some recited poetry or Scripture and some played newly learned pieces on the piano and miniature violins. And how could I forget, Mr. Slim Goodbody at Will Rogers! You need to see this guy dance around in his veins, organs and bones body suit----an experience you won’t forget!
I think the best thing we added this spring was nature journaling which is simply sitting, feeling, observing and recording sights, sounds, textures and smells. Both Julia and Brighton enjoyed seeing how things literally transformed around us in the short span of a month. We recorded these things in a book and drew the things we found and saw. Julia drew flowers, ferns and bugs and Brighton tended to draw rocks………..and more rocks. It became something I anticipated and I found myself doing it without Julia and Brighton a time or two.

My rookie season starts all over again this fall as we add Brighton and all his wonderful boyness to the mix. During our last couple of months of school, I tried to remind Juila daily that next year our school “twosome” would become a “threesome” and that the Lord would help us all figure out how to learn and have fun together. I am certain the learning experience will better us all if for no other reason than we will talk to our Father more- our perfect Parent and Teacher.
Home schooling was never my idea and definitely no desire I ever had until He led me to do it. Now, my enthusiasm for it is strictly God given and I thank Him often for it. I can’t imagine tackling this for any reason other than He put it on my heart in a way I couldn’t say “yes” to anything else. I don’t know how long He will ask me to do it. I don’t need to know that right now, but I do know that one day when I look back on my parenting years, this season will shine brightly in my memory.

Next year's class......

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Circle Unbroken

June 23rd, 1966

Dear Children,
This is my last desire that you children stay together on this last little earthly business of mine, loving one another better than you ever have and prepare to each meet this day with complete trust in Jesus Christ, my Savior and yours. If Daddy is left, take care of him because you know I loved him. May this bring each one of you closer to the “Cross” is my prayer for you. I’ll be waiting to see you in Heaven when the circle will never be broken.
I love every one of you.

These words were read before grace last Saturday at the Annual Speir Family Reunion. “You children” refers to Jeff’s mother, Betty and her three siblings: Lavonne, James and Sandra. As the sun hit its lunchtime place, the long awaited food was spread and all 37 of us were gathered from the four corners of the never ending Georgia yard. Uncle James got everyone’s attention and pulled a paper from his pocket. He told us about the letter written by his mother and also about the generations recorded back to the mid 1800’s so the family wouldn’t forget. As the words were read, children tried to stand still, a baby squirmed and I watched those four faces, brothers and sisters, remembering, loving, missing and honoring. They are doing it—the “stay together” part of their Mother’s letter written some four decades ago--- year by year, June by June.

Uncle Lavonne, Betty (Jeff's Mom), Aunt Sandra, Uncle James

A family reunion. Even with the bad wrap reunions get, this one has managed to survive. Personally, I like them. Where else can you see that many family members at once? On neutral territory. With lots of yummy food. A mess of cousins for playmates. All sorts of news to discover. A chance to play Smash the Egg. And lots of delicious food. (Did I mention that?) I like this get together in particular because there in the land where the tea flows sweet from the pitcher, no one asks me to “say that word again. It’s SO cute,”, the desserts are ALWAYS homemade, little girls always don something smocked or trimmed in grossgrain, the barbeque is pork and “chipped” (the right way), the cakes come in multiple layers, and other grown women, besides myself, refer to their fathers as “Daddy”. Refreshing as the scent of a magnolia bloom. However, the main reason I enjoy the Annual Speir Family Reunion is I married into a pretty neat family.

The beautifully written letter from Mrs. Florence Ethel Reese Speir, in its kind and gentle tone, tells a loud tale that has been retold in each of her children’s lives. Her prayer for salvation has been answered, they have remained close, and I know they took good care of “Daddy”. This is a sweet bunch of folks who even this weekend, went out of their way to love on me and encourage me. Even though one told me that he would “only say it once”, I won’t ever forget what he took the time to say to me. From where I stood, I heard many life giving words spoken to needy and eager ears of the younger generation. I think it is part of who this family is, therefore, we all are benefitting and learning from it.

To see these brothers and sisters together enjoying one another makes me wonder about their “Momma”-- her parenting, her prayers and her purpose of writing those priceless words. For someone who has trouble keeping things short, I appreciate the length of her “last letter” of sorts. At that point in her life, she knew what mattered. They listened, took it to heart and followed through. Because of Mrs. Speir’s desire, Julia and Brighton know most of their aunts, uncles, first, second and third cousins by name. MOST. There are a lot of them. They get the experience of being loved by a large family, seeing a family that is committed to each other but much bigger than that, witnessing brothers and sisters honoring a generation before who is waiting ever so patiently to have her “circle” unbroken again.

(The picture at the top is Mrs. Speir holding Betty (Jeff's Mom) and her brother, Lavonne at Jacksonville Beach in Florida.)

Do you really want me to explain this?

Maybe I should-- egg on head, held by a pantyhose cap. Object: to smash the egg of your opponents with rolled up newspaper.

Caroline and Julia celebrating their victory in the egg toss. A miracle.... truly. Technique? Think bowling with an egg

Spouses are in this picture-- minus one who couldn't come!
(Aunt Rachel, Barrett (Jeff's Dad), Aunt Phyllis)

Enthusiasm for the sponge relay--Lisa, were you a cheerleader in high school?

Surprised, anyone?

Jeff "schoolin' " his 11 year old cousin, Nick.

The proud winners of the egg/spoon relay - Maria and Millie (It took a soon to be Auburn graduate and a 16 year old pilot to do it, though!)

Last and truly "least", the newest member of the Speir/Webb clan. "Tucker" Congratulations, Tyler and Kimberly!

(Just want all of you Speirs to make a mental note that I did NOT misspell your name once! Proud?)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Silly Sadness

For those few deranged people who have ever thought I had some depth of character, some rich wisdom to share, this confession will certainly make that fuzzy vapor of an idea fly like sand coming off of a shaken beach towel. I had Brighton’s hair cut yesterday and now every time I look at him, I mourn. It’s gone- all 2 pounds of it. Even his new blonde highlights which had just emerged during our two weeks of swimming lessons. Granted, he needed it cut, a little. With his baseball hat pulled down low like he likes it, he was verging on a blonde imitation of Hannah Montana’s dad. Was this my intention, that his neck which hadn’t seen the sun for months be exposed and naked? Absolutely not, but his hair needed taming, sort of. Being the polite person that I am, I even told Miss Pro Cuts that I knew she was the “hair cutter” (probably not the best description) and I wasn't, but “remember that hair looks longer wet than dry, so be sure to keep it about right here,” as I traced the bottom of his eyebrow and ear. I did everything short of taking the clippers in my own hands to ensure “too short” would not be in my description and those two words are all I can think of when I see it. I know. I know. It will grow.
A silly sadness. A meaningless mourning.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Weeknight 10:30: A sink full of dishes exposing hard evidence of uneaten dinners, shoes and random toys decorating the kitchen floor, candy tin opened on counter, seemingly half empty, chunks of play dough making new patterns on the breakfast room floor, papers, stencils, and PERMANENT markers hiding the kitchen table, an open bag of new toys once saved for a rainy day, and even bedroom furniture resting in strange places. This is what we walked into one night last week when we returned home. The mass of clutter was no warm welcome and no, nothing in me wanted to spend the next 30 minutes cleaning it all up but I was out of sorts about something far more than a house in disarray. I had my time to fume and mutter as I picked up, put away, rinsed, wiped, crawled, swept, and finally bumped into surprise furniture in the darkness. However, when I lay my head on my pillow, I had sensible words for the situation that explained my level of frustration and disappointment. It wasn’t so much about the stuff everywhere, but about the several reminders of broken rules and poor choices the kids made out from under our authority. Yuck. Who wants to talk about that? When I told Jeff, his response was, as it always is, sound and challenging, “They have to want it for themselves.” “it” – two skinny letters standing in for a monumental goal of parenting. So that is what I had to chew on as I fell asleep....... and it became like a piece of meat full of gristle. My thoughts went where they often do- sometimes constructive, sometimes not. How, as a parent, do I help in creating that desire- to obey when authority isn’t hovering? What things have I done wrong that would cause them to SEEM not to care how we would respond to what we found? To SEEM not to care if they obeyed the rules or not? Needless to say, sleep did not come quickly. Partly, my heart was still pumping pretty good from all the cleaning and partly, because I could answer the second question far more easily than I could the first. Do I have too many rules? Am I too hard on them? Do I give them enough freedom? Do I express love to them more than I correct them? I am squirming in my seat as I type. Lord, help me.

The Biblical principle is we obey because we love and Jeff and I did not feel loved when we came home that night. We both feel this biblical principle is critical, so critical that each kid has been able to complete the verse almost as soon as they could speak. It is not about doing the right thing because “I said so” or because you get a piece of candy, but because it is your opportunity to express love whether it be to your parents or to the Lord God. So, the big question is, how can I encourage, even more, this heart matter of obedience? How do I cause them to want ‘it’ for themselves?

Obviously, lessons are learned best by being modeled and there go my thoughts. How do they see my obedience to the Lord? Out of love or out of obligation? With joy or much grumbling and complaining? Do they see me willing to seize difficult opportunities to obey just so I can express love for my Father? For Jeff? How about just simple daily opportunities? Have I modeled it that pitifully or have I even modeled it? Maybe they don’t see it in me often enough? Maybe I don’t see it in myself? Maybe. That’s MY problem and I can guarantee you, I am thinking about "it" more than ever.

The next morning I found their rooms looked even worse in the morning light. I woke them up determined not to let on that anything was bothering me. (Jeff and I wanted to talk to them together.) Before she was out from under her pink covers, Julia said, “What’s wrong, Momma? You act like something is wrong.” Then she quickly added, “We had so much fun with the babysitter last night!” Um-hmm. After they were dressed, Jeff had them come down and sit on the couch in his office. He was pulled forward on the edge of his recliner and I sat on the hearth. By the looks on their faces, they knew we weren’t about to tell them we were planning a trip to Disney World or getting a puppy. Jeff started out well going through the previous evening very systematically and letting them know how disappointed we were about their choices. His innocent mistake was in asking them to tell about the night. And so the drama burst forth from expressive eyes, passionate, loud voices, waving arms, pointing fingers……..and then, apprehensive grins. Grins?????? Confused, I looked at Jeff. Confused, no more. Jeff couldn’t keep it together. He was trying his darndest to cover his smiling mouth with his hand but his eyes told his story. He was LAUGHING!! Laughing. I was not. Even Julia said, “Daddy, we can’t take you seriously with you laughing like that!” Brighton was intrigued, turning up his expressive meter, not helping the giggling matter at all. Jeff tried to recover a couple of times, but each time, the “crack up” would erupt. You know the kind that you try to hold back in the middle of church? He couldn’t help himself. I left the room hoping maybe that would help. Next time I walked by, he had them both in his lap, doing what he does best- loving completely and thoroughly, mess and all, gently pointing them to Christ and His ways. Somehow, all frustration dissipated. The most important thing was that they felt loved, inside secure and defined boundaries, learning "it" bit by bit, hug by hug.

Lord, show me how to create an environment that spurs them on to obedience even when no one is looking. May they learn to base their decisions on what YOU would desire. Help me to not set too many rules or to say "no" too often, creating an atmosphere that craves rebellion. May my love for them be expressed in countless ways through the day whether it be in disciplining and training, in putting up their laundry, or in cuddling on the couch. I pray that my love for You would be the motivation for all I do and that this would be the lesson my kids learn. May I be prudent and careful to consider my steps when it comes to modeling your ways for my kids. My need for wisdom is great so may I fear You more and more.
(The heart above was sewn by Julia from scraps of dress materials from her sewing class.)