Sunday, December 27, 2009


Christmas Letter 2009

As I write here at home, Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away and this time next week, Christmas lights will be a blur in my periphery. The children are excited about Thanksgiving festivities with friends and Brighton is especially excited because he thinks Friday is Christmas.... mostly because Friday is when all the decorations emerge from the attic. Although I think he’d be terribly disappointed given the fact we haven’t started shopping. Nevertheless, the season of the most celebrated Birth is here and I consider it one more opportunity to help our kids “get it” and one more opportunity to “get it” myself.

Here’s our update:

Julia, who will be 8 in January, still has a thing for books. I find it hard to fuss about the crumbling mountain of them by her bed or all the random places about the house I find them turned over holding her place. She’s a nature girl in the sense that she loves being out in it and doesn’t blink at picking up a Daddy Long Legs- or any multi-leg creature. She continued ballet and sewing this year and added a drawing class taught by a good friend of ours. For her second grade year, she didn’t miss a beat sharing her teacher with her brother. She has been his biggest encouragement and mine! If I have learned any thing new about her this year it would be that she keeps me guessing. Just when I think I have her pegged, she surprises me completely whether it be with belting out Take Me Out to the Ballgame for a crowd of friends or not wanting to make a simple phone call! My favorite thing about her is that she literally whistles while she works and has a better attitude about doing tedious jobs than I do! Just today she said, “Mom, if we do this together, it should be fun!” And then the whistling began.

Brighton, who just turned 6, is everything I have said about him before but just a year older----more practiced, more refined, more obvious. Whereas Julia can’t wait to have time alone in her room in the afternoon, Brighton thinks you might as well have told him to go play in a dungeon full of hungry rats. He craves company, a play mate, a companion..... at all times. “Room time” is the longest hour of his day which incidentally makes my hour seem like a vapor. His desire for company is endearing with family and friends-- young and old. He’s the best greeter around and if he zones in on you, he can make you feel awfully special. He enjoyed his first year of coach pitch baseball and his second year of Upward Soccer. Drawing is still his default and I have quite the collection of “B” originals. What I have learned new about Julia’s little brother is that he is the clone of my brother when it comes to aggravating a sister. He is relentless in his pursuit and comical in his tactics. (Pray for Julia.) My favorite thing about Brighton are the words with which he chooses to express himself- especially when expressing love for his family. He picks just the right thought and phrases it in such a way that I come close to offering Coke and ice cream for breakfast.

Jeff’s work with Tarrant NET continues to go well and he enjoys his role in the local church in Keller. The highlights of his year may have been helping coach Julia and Brighton’s sports teams.

One day a week, I am still a pharmacist at Walgreens. As far as my other days, I am in my third year of teaching at home. My class size doubled this year to a whopping TWO kids -a Kindergartner and a second grader and I am learning more than Julia and Brighton. If I can discover a cure for the rampant, and evidently highly contagious, disease of pencil dropping, I might survive this endeavor.

My prayer for my family is that Christ would not be a blur in our periphery this Christmas, but the One upon whom we focus ALL of our attention. May you and I find Him “more than enough” this glorious season. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Elves, Ears and Dreams Come True.....

Every day last week seemed to belong to Margo Dean and the Ballet Concerto Company as rehearsals started on Sunday and ended with a 3rd performance on Friday night. Julia’s class, chosen to be elves, was the youngest to be included in the original ballet written and choreographed by Mrs. Dean. I had been witness to the jolly steps of the routine all over our house, but none of those private performances compared to Julia decked in all of the elf “get-up” doing those same little dances. The shoes, the hat, the green glitter eye shadow, the exaggerated eyebrows...........oh my. All she needed was a wooden toy and a little hammer in her hand. Almost every performance, her class of elves sat side stage and watched the ballet. The beauty and grace of the professionals and older students of the studio captivated them Thursday morning, Friday morning and Friday night. Julia didn’t want to miss any of the ballet, any time it was performed. As I sat in the audience Friday night, I understood. It was lovely from start to finish, although I enjoyed my elf the most.


On Saturday, we crossed a milestone. After much deliberating, we allowed Julia to have her ears pierced. Somehow over the last few months, Jeff and I reported different ages to her regarding when she could get her ears pierced. Nikki’s daughter, Atlee, was getting hers pierced for her birthday so Nikki, TJ and I thought it would be a fun memory for them to do it altogether. With that in mind, the memory was more important to me than the age I had chosen. My Mom was coming in town and she happens to have the “guns” to do ear piercings for the drugstore. Timing was perfect. We planned a secret piercing party at Nik’s house Saturday at 4 and it was a surprise in every way.

Here are their faces when we told them.

Julia and Basden couldn’t hold back the giggles and Atlee was very tentative.

Julia shocked me by offering to go first not knowing it was about to be the longest 15 minutes of her life. She sat in the tall chair as we all hovered around her trying to figure out the “guns” (we had two so we could do both ears at the same time), cleaning her ears, admitting how nervous we were, practicing our “aims” so we made sure we didn’t “get them in crooked”, dropping the tiny earrings on the floor.................she finally burst into tears to release the stress. Using the word "gun" didn't help, I am sure. Standing behind Julia with his hands on head and shoulders, Jeff loudly, only because there was SO much commotion, reminded us that our “patient” was sitting right here and we needed to show a little confidence. Yes sir. I was a mess on the inside. I remembered how much it hurt. My Mom never was successful at piercing mine. She finally did it while I slept. I was nervous for Julia. I was nervous that I might “shoot” crooked or too low. What if she twitched and the gun got stuck? When Tj and I were finally aimed and ready, Julia announced, “I want Nanna to do it!!!” I’ve never moved so fast in my life- neither had Nanna. Mom hopped up there and took over like she hadn’t taken a 15 year hiatus from piercing ears. 1-2-3 pop! Done. Tears. A look in the mirror and a big grin.

We did a little better on Basden. Jeff said he was shocked she went through with it after all the talk of crooked holes and the puncturing wind pipes. Mom gave me the gun back and TJ and I did the 1-2-3............pop..3.....3....pop on Basden. Tears and then the magic mirror.

Atlee wanted no part of it. Jeff said she was the smartest one in the whole bunch.

Dreams Come True
A few weeks ago, Brighton was looking through one of his Curious George books for the thousandth time, he came from behind and asked, “Mom, will we EVER get to do this?” Not turning around, “What, sweetheart?” “This!” Moving around to the front, he held the book high opened to a very festive page. It was George and the Man in the Yellow Hat riding in a decorated horse drawn sleigh. The sleigh was decorated for Christmas and the snow had covered the ground. I stared for a minute, thinking to myself, now SOME of that might be possible. “It looks really fun, Mom. Do you think we will, EVER?” I smiled and said, “I hope so, B. I think it looks really fun too.” I made a plan.

After the “piercing party”, we dashed downtown to catch our one-horse open sleigh............ well, carriage. It’s Texas. We had kept it a secret until we were about to climb into our carriage. He was practically speechless. First, he had to clarify that we were actually going to ride and not just sit in it for a minute, then every few minutes he would break his awed silence and say something like, “This is SO fun!!”, “I LOVE this!”, “Look at that!”, “I can’t believe we are doing this!” and my favorite, of course, "You are the best Momma ever!" My left arm would get a squeeze from time to time but he was relatively quiet as he took it all in.
There’s one more dream coming true this Christmas at the Sanders’ house.............stay tuned. All 4 of you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stick Breaker

A couple of Saturday mornings ago while I was stirring pancake batter waiting on the griddle to heat up, Jeff was busy in the den making a fire with Julia and Brighton skipping around his feet. Over their happy chatter, I heard some loud snaps and then an adoring daughter’s voice. “Daddy, you are REALLY GOOD at breaking sticks!” From my stirring station, I could not see them but I couldn’t help but to participate from a distance. With a convincing, matter of fact tone, I said, “Did you not know that Daddy is the BEST stick breaker in ALL of Tarrant County? C’mon.”

All was still and there came a sudden hush. I stopped stirring. They took the bait.

Julia’s wide eyes zoomed in on her Daddy, “Really, Daddy?? Are you really?”

I peeked. Both kids were STARING at their Daddy with reverence and awe. I began to stifle my laughter-- still at a distance.

Jeff, matching my pokerface and taking on a very Herculean posture, “Oh yeah,” head nodding, “I have a trophy in my room to prove it.” Brighton perked up. Trophies are a BIG deal.

Snap! Another broken stick over the knee with a little added drama and maybe even a grunt for impact. The kids were gawking at him and his handiwork, now clenched in his large fists. As my suppressed laughter threatened to ruin this fun, I retreated to my spot and began pouring out batter.

Bait swallowed, Julia asked, “Daddy, HOW did you win?”

Jeff, aware of my enjoyment, held his head a little higher, flexed his "power" as Brighton calls it and announced, “It must have been my form and the intensity by which I broke the stick.” My head hit the island to muffle my laughter in the sleeves of my sweatshirt. I lifted my head for air and through tears I saw them gazing in silence as Jeff stuffed the kindle in the fireplace. Brighton's focus slowly moved to the pile of unbroken sticks.

Seconds later they made a bee line to the kitchen to tell me the incredible news, not remembering I was the one who had reported to them. So while flipping pancakes, I got a great show from Brighton as he tried his hand at his Daddy’s award winning skills of stick breaking.

I had no idea my kids were so gullible.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Not Perfect, but Amazing

Let me get the easy part over with first--- Happy Birthday, sweet friend! I wish I could say I came up with this incredibly thoughtful idea but you know me better than that. Here is the first contributor to your "blog tour" and here is the second. I don’t think I have ever had more trouble getting my thoughts together than I have in writing a little something on you. It didn’t turn out so “little” and I know that doesn't surprise you either. You, my simple and easy friend, suddenly became very complicated.

Most of you who will read this know the birthday girl pretty well, but for those of you who don’t, she knows everyone on the planet so there are throngs of people who could write books about this special gal. But for a few minutes, you are stuck with me, my perspective, my experiences, my completely biased opinion on my friend TJ.

Almost 10 years ago on a weekend retreat, I met her best friend from high school, Heather. After only a few hours with her, she said, “You have GOT to meet my friend Tonya. You two would just love each other.” (Incidentally, you can always tell from what stage of life someone knows her: “Tonya” high school and before and “TJ” college and beyond.) Heather’s mother in law, Mary Ellen, set up a lunch date at Great American Subs on Camp Bowie. For those of you who know TJ, you remember when you met her for the first time--- unpretentious, big white smile, focused brown eyes, and laughter that spills out easily. I left lunch feeling as if I had known her all my life and that is how

we carried on from there. I had a new friend.

TJ and I both have brothers so we know what it means to tease and to be teased, so I am hoping Trey, Chris and Luke did their job well and conditioned her to grin as she reads the rest of this! If she doesn’t..............guys, it ALL your fault.

She’s bossy. Just the other day, we were headed somewhere with a few friends. My plan was to sit in the back giving her the front. I was settled IN the seat with all my stuff around my feet (a trick I learned from her). She exercised her “I have been a mother longer than you” voice telling me she was sitting in the back and my determination evaporated. The next thing I knew I was robotically moving to the front and giving her the back seat. I think she even moved my feet companions for me. Oh and when eating out with her don’t go to the restroom before the waitress takes your order. When you return, she may have already ordered your meal for you---one to share with her.

She gets around. I can’t say I have ever been with her ANYWHERE that she has not happened up on someone she knew. This person may be from Spanish class in high school, from college years at Baylor,

from her Kanakuk days, some random girl she met at the park 10 years ago, someone from time served in the college ministry at Christ Chapel, from her parent’s work or church, or HER former preschool teacher’s husband’s mother’s sister. It is mind boggling. I am convinced if we ever get to make a trip to my obscure hometown in South Georgia, she will run into someone she knows.

She’s nosey. You’ve been in a conversation with her only to find that when you walk off or

hang up, you know nothing more about her but she knows all about you whether you had planned on it or not. That first day I met her I remember telling her my life story, and leaving knowing only that I really liked her, nothing more. I’ve seen her perform this bait and switch on close friends and countless unsuspecting bystanders. (I’m on to you, girl. It’s taken me 9 years, but I am on to you.)

She’s a know it all. You know what I am talking about. She’s a

wealth of information. We need a TJ Hotline, don’t we? I will never forget when Julia was born in Louisiana and TJ had a newborn of her own (boy #2). I bet I called her a bazillion times with silly questions like, “Can I give her a pacifier?” or “She’s crying before nap time is over. Should I pick her up?” (Mind you, Julia is only hours old.) She answered EVERY phone call, validated all my absurd questions and gave me great advice. I honestly think this was a crossroads for her as far as a friendship with me goes. If I were her, I don’t know that I would have hung in there. Two and a half years later, she gave me the crash course in “potty training in a day” while on my 15 minute drive home from Walgreens and it worked! However, I think her most valuable counsel comes when she speaks of relationships. I may get solid advice from personal experience or the sound of her voice reading a Psalm over the phone.

She’s a busy body. Now those couple of words say a lot. First thoughts: She knows what is going on in the lives of the people she cares about. This takes a lot of energy. It may manifest in a quick phone call or email to check on something she knows I am working on, to see how an activity or meeting went or to check on how someone is I am concerned about. It may be a note to one of my children telling them how proud she is of an accomplishment. It might even be my favorite Starbucks drink at my front door to spur me on in a new endeavor. Almost eight years ago, she made the trip all the way to Shreveport just to check out our new baby girl, saving Julia from forever being scarred by a car seat incident. Second thought: She is the mother of FOUR darling kiddos. Her body is busy. I would be in a padded cell donning a straight jacket if I had to keep the schedule she keeps. The pace is not always easy for her, but she gives herself to it without grumbling or complaining. (Well, 99% of the time. Remember, she’s amazing, not perfect.)

She’s chatty. How I thank God for this! I have been in so many situations with her that I have just not had it in me to carry the conversation in the group. She can always do it, do it well and actually enjoy it! I, however, stare, listen and marvel at her. A couple of years ago, she was my sidekick of confidence when I spoke at a luncheon in San Antonio. When my mind was reeling with “What in the world am I doing here?” and “They should have asked TJ to do this”, she was cool as a cucumber talking for the both of us. She’s the one you want at a dinner of strangers, a small party, in a just plain awkward situation or anywhere for that matter. This alone is worth keeping her around.

She’s a mother hen. Few people love their family the way this girl does. It is inspiring and refreshing to any who get to watch her up close or from a distance. Before I had children, I remember thinking how easy she made this mother-thing look. I knew it wasn’t but I wanted to move through it as seamlessly as she did. Her methods and her devotion are well worth emulating. She gives herself to mothering Branson, Hudson, Basden and Esther wholeheartedly and it is lovely in every way. I am eagerly waiting on a book penned by TJ on her paramount investment of motherhood.

And just a few more things.......She likes to draw attention to herself in ways like wearing T-shirts that say things like, “I love my husband.” She’s self-absorbed in the sense that she examines herself continuously, desiring to stay in the will of her Father. It could be something as small as what she will consume that day or something as significant as how her children will be educated year by year. She’s my kind of fashionista hunting for a Ross or TJ Maxx in cities like San Francisco and Chicago. We have “twinkie” clothes in our closets-by accident, of course- and do our darndest not to show up at the same place with them on. She’s an interrupter when it comes to someone making self-deprecating remarks. She infuses the air with encouragement.......ALWAYS. She is also quick to use her delicate skill of interrupting if the topic of conversation begins to go south.

Well, that's about it, for now. The day I met her at Great American Subs, yes, I had a new friend but I had no idea what a treasure she would be to me. I thank God for making sure our paths crossed, and crossed and crossed and keep crossing. She's stuck with me.

Okay, girl. I am done. Happy Birthday! Knowing Corbin, he's probably got you a slot for sipping extra hot decaf hazelnut mistos with Belle, Cinderella and Snow White in the castle's parlor complete with wedding style cake and ice cream and candles that shoot off fireworks after Tinkerbell flies in and lights them with her sparkly wand!