Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This Child of Mine

She’s asleep in my bed. Her 4 foot 6 inch frame seems teeney in our king size bed. She obviously enjoyed having more room than in her twin bed because she has more books spread out everywhere. Sleeping in our bed seems to be the thing she has looked forward to the most this weekend while Jeff and Brighton are on a Father Son retreat. She didn’t have a long list of things she wanted to do while the masculine forces of our home were down in Grapeland, Texas at Frontier Camp. In fact, once she said, “I just want to hang out with you and when we feel like doing something, we can just be creative.” I laughed. I
had to. She knows me well, but not well enough to know that all my “creativity” comes after much brain stretching and energy draining deliberation. Most of this happens early in the morning while she is still slumbering or at night once she is tucked up in her room. And then, if it is not written on an index card, you can forget it ever being thought of again. Her plan to “just be creative” might have sorely disappointed her. In a round about way, I managed to pencil down a plan on a clean 3 1/2 x 5 without her clueing in and thankfully, it

After we spent a few hours with friends at the museum Friday afternoon, we headed to dinner. Her next words were music to my ears. “We ARE going to eat Mexican, aren’t we?” She gets it honest..... or maybe she's just well-trained. After our order was set before us at Mi Cocina (which she chose because she has “never been there before”), she squeezed a lime on her guacamole like a genuine senorita. She might like it as much as I do.

One of our penciled in plans was to start Anne of Green Gables. Actually, I had that one in Sharpee black but she didn’t need to know that. On Friday night, between the two of us, we got a hot fire going, gathered our snacks around us and opened the classic penned by L.M. Montgomery. Say what you will, but I have been waiting for the moment for years. We read to our heart’s content enjoying Anne’s
charming discourses that move from topic to topic faster than a thirsty hummingbird. We are just getting to know this unforgettable character and Juila is completely sucked in. So is her Mom.

At about 10:30 we mustered up some discipline from somewhere and closed the book leaving “Anne with an e” in good hands with the Cuthberts on Prince Edward Island. We got shoes and coats on to take a walk around the neighborhood which thrilled her to walk in the dark. To my surprise, Julia said she missed her brother. She said she missed his being with us and all his questions. Hmmmm. Here’s what I think-- I think Miss Anne of Green Gables reminded her of Brighton with all his meandering marathon monologues.

When it was time for bed, she was adamant about calling Brighton. She was truly sad that he wouldn’t be upstairs with her. These were her words, “I miss his ..... his talkativeness.” I would have never come up with that one for her. Never. Once on the phone with him she admitted, “I miss you, B. I am headed up to bed and I don’t want to go without you.” He must have tried to comfort her because then she said, “Yeah, but that’s two whole nights.” It did this Momma’s heart good to know she genuinely missed her little brother.

Before we left the house on Saturday, miraculously, after her Daddy’s birthday AND Valentine’s Day, she FOUND all her money! She had a whopping $8.24 to spend and it was already getting warm in her purse.

We met a sweet friend, Alyssa, for lunch at the Kimbell and at one point in the conversation, Julia announced, “I don’t find this conversation very interesting at all.” Thankfully, Alyssa is a good friend who knows the art of navel gazing is not part of our school curriculum . (Maybe I model it, but never would I teach it!) I gave Julia the “the look” which, evidently, communicated plenty and she decided to listen (or pretended to at least) whether she liked it or not. Alyssa, in true form, was quick to engage Julia and the next thing I knew Julia was telling her about a new expression she had learned from the book The Railway Children. A “first-class shindy”. If you are a person, you have experienced one.

I think she must have planned out her purchases for the day with her resurrected money while Alyssa and I were talking of things not “interesting” to her. Being careful to add up her total, she purchased four post cards in the museum gift shop. When the clerk gave her total, which included tax, Julia’s pigtails whirled around at me. I had not told her about “tax”. Her only knowledge of “tax” is pre-Revolutionary War and King George so I briefly explained it to her in current terms and what do you know? She didn’t like it. Next stop, Half Price Books. On the clearance shelves, she found 3 great books for a dollar each. She did NOT forget to ask me, “How much tax do I have to pay?” She let go of the quarter a little more easily this time but not without a roll of her eyes. The Boston Tea Party was making a little more sense to her.

We ended the day with Anne.....and chocolate popcorn and Pink Lady apples. Thankfully, Marilla Cuthbert's heart is softening toward this precocious child. Matthew Cuthbert’s heart didn’t have a chance but to be invaded by this darling red head. He was the one who picked her up at the station and for the next 8 miles, she genuinely charmed him with her zeal for all things new and promising.

And for the last eight years, this child of mine, has softened my heart like nothing else. First time Moms don’t have a chance as we look in their tiny faces and hold closely our little bundles from heaven. Julia Karis Sanders, no doubt, invaded my heart and lodged herself in somewhere deep I didn’t even know existed. Like Anne, she has been described as “precocious” and before her brother grabbed the microphone from her, she filled our home with one rambling paragraph after another. A couple of years ago, a fellow parent, a Dad, actually, wrote us a note to tell us he found Julia "charming". As any good parent would, we agreed with him wholeheartedly. And like her new-found "friend" from the pages of a book, her excitement is contagious as she anticipates just about anything, whether it be a pink cookie or a weekend with me.

This child of mine, who finished off the guacamole, bought art post cards and books with her money, rolled her eyes at her total, and got lost in a story about a girl named Anne, is curled up asleep in my bed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Nearly a foot of snow threatened the execution of heart infused parties all over Fort Worth last Friday. Thankfully, because our hostess had power and because the party was late in the day, most of us were able to make our way to celebrate God’s gift of Love.
Our brilliant party giver, Elaine, came up with the idea of having “autograph books” for the children to sign instead of signing individual Valentines. This was a new idea for the kids and we weren’t sure how it would go. A friend of mine had secured a cutesy book for Julia and I had the job of “masculinizing” a little journal for Brighton. As most things I do, I used what I had and gave all of two minutes to the task, hoping for a, say, ten minute impact. I had written inside the cover, “Brighton’s Valentine Book ‘We love because He first loved us.’ I John 4:19” I signed it and I had Jeff sign it so he could see the purpose of the little book. Right in line with B’s grateful bent, he loved it. In the two hours we had at home before leaving for the party, he asked me to read all of the above four times. He put it down once to feed Gabriel but other than that, it was tucked under his arm or in his hands looking at that front page.

Elaine prepared a lovely party for us. After treats and, for many, their first game of Pictionary, Elaine explained the idea of the autograph books to the children. At that point, we just sat back and watched. There were a few moments of awkward silence and then, of course, the girls started toward each other with grins holding books and pens out. I watched to see what Brighton would do. He stood for, oh, maybe twenty seconds and made a bee line to the Moms. “I want you to sign my book.” These gracious ladies helped him get warmed up. He stood patiently and watched every swish of their pens, flashed a smile and was off to the next one seated.

He had not been approached to sign anyone’s book yet, so I knew we had that bridge to cross. I had talked with both of them about some things/phrases they could write in their friend’s books, but I still didn’t think B really understood.

From across the room, I heard him ask, “Mom, what do I write?” He was standing with his good friend Naomi, who had asked him to sign her book. These two have all their classes together at Science Etc. “Whatever you want to write, Brighton. Just be sure to sign your name.”

“Mom, tell me. I don’t know what to say.” He was looking a little frazzled. Having the predicament of a loss for words was quite unusual for him.

Trying to keep it simple and help him out I said, “Just write, ‘To: Naomi, Love, Brighton’”

He looked at me like my nose had fallen off. “What?” I asked. He looked at Naomi who was waiting patiently listening to our exchange.

He looked back at me, “Okay, Mom, but I am NOT going to write ‘Love’”.

You think he missed the point?

That's Naomi's Mom laughing at B's honesty!

Some of the sweet ladies I get to hang out with!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's This Here White Stuff Called?

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't post snow pictures? I haven't read the news, seen the paper or even looked on the internet but we've got lots of snow here! When I look outside, it's hard to believe in just a few short months we will be hitting triple digit temperatures and craving Sonic drinks every afternoon. We awakened to this coating of white and it hasn't stopped falling from the white masses above.

As most Texans or Southerners, in general, we aren't equipped with the right wardrobe for these every three to four year spills of snow. There is no option of matching or looking cute. You just put on layers and hope for the best. Keeping Julia and Brighton warm and dry was impossible so every time they came in, a change of clothes was needed. I now see how handy a mudroom/mudspace can be and how mine is NOT. Bad location. There were puddles inside my front door all through the day.

The kids had fun in spite of near frost bitten fingers and wet feet. The highlight was getting to throw snowballs at Jeff and helping him (watching him) build a tremendous snowman!

Snow is still falling. Morning should be beautiful.

Don't miss our cowboy's gun on the left.

Our smallest helper.......

I love this view of the trees in the spring so now I have this to look forward to if it ever snows again!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No-Effort Parenting (A classic case of Love and Logic)

I had done it again. Company was coming for dinner--- soon---- and I had waited too long to get it together. I was zipping around the house looking at all the things I had wanted to do and at the same time choking down the reality that those things weren’t going to happen. By that point, I was hoping to at least change my clothes! It was T minus 30 when the phone rang. I looked at the number and I panicked. It was our neighborhood gate. Our friends, Remey and Kollin, weren’t supposed to arrive until 7:30! Why in the world were they so early??!! You just don’t show up that early unless you are ready to perform the last minute pick up, clear kid’s dinner table, check the powder bathroom, put out the appetizer, light the candles........ I picked up the phone and instead of hearing Remey’s sweet voice I heard, “This is Officer So and So with the Fort Worth Police Department. I need for you to let me in your neighborhood.” My first feeling was relief that I had a few more minutes so I turned my attention to the voice on my phone, who was NOT expecting dinner in a semi-orderly environment. As I gathered my wits, I had him repeat who he was. With all my superior investigative experience via “crime TV”, I wasn’t about to let him in our gate without some convincing and concise information. I was protecting the entire neighborhood! I asked him what residence or who in our neighborhood he was trying find. He clearly said, “The Sanders” and I thought, yeah, right. Our names are right there on the little device outside the gate, but why this impersonator would have scrolled all the way down to the “S’s” and not stopped up top at like “Andersons”, I didn’t have an answer for that. Not knowing how to ask him for our first names without sounding like Barney Fife, I did what any sound minded investigative wife would do. I stuck the phone in Jeff’s face. In 2 seconds I mouthed to him my 30 second conversation with this “thug” at our gate. Jeff listens for a minute and I am waving my arms with wild eyes reminding him that “he doesn’t know our first names!!”. Way too quickly, I hear Jeff say, “Okay,” and then, in disbelief, watch him press the buttons to let the “bad person” into our neighborhood. Before I could go into all my objections, he held his hand up and said, “It’s the police. I heard the scanner.” For just a minute Jeff and I stood staring at each other trying to figure out “the policeman at our gate” scenario. Then, in a flash, I saw a wave of understanding wash over Jeff’s face and he yelled for Brighton. I rolled my eyes.

B was torqued because two of his favorite things were going on: one, we were having company for dinner, and two, we had a friend over. At the speed only a 6 year old boy can reach indoors, he came running around from the kitchen to the foyer. The look on his Daddy's face brought him to a crude halt, “Sir?”

Very sternly, Jeff asked, “Brighton, were you playing with the phone earlier?”

Bingo! I was on Jeff’s page. All was clear. Bring on Officer So and So!

“Yes, sir. No, sir. I mean, I put it down when you told me to.”

A voice from the kitchen, “I told you not to do it, B!!” (Aren’t sisters great?)

Jeff asked, “Did you dial 911?”

That brought on “the look”-- the one that says, “I did it, but I don’t have time to weigh the pros and cons of telling the truth”. Nevertheless, “guilty” was stamped on his forehead, on his cheeks, his nose, eyelids, chin etc.

In true form, here is what he came up with, “I dialed a lot of numbers.”

Jeff opened the door and the police car was in front of the house. I have to say, I have NEVER in B’s 6 short years seen his eyes nearly pop out of his head. They came close one morning when I offered Pop Tarts for breakfast. Anyhow, this amusing face was quickly replaced with a look I know I have NEVER seen on this child’s face and that was TERROR. Sheer. And, no lie, this was his one and only question, asked at a magnitude of sound that interrupted our entire neighborhood’s dinner, “IS HE GOING TO TAKE ME TO JAIL???!!!!!!????”

While silly pictures of that danced through my head, compassion returned to me from somewhere and I got on my knees in front of him and gave him a passionate “no”, just like you would have. Well, he took off running and locked himself in our bedroom. (This is where he runs to “run away”. Thankfully, it’s not far.) I guess he didn’t believe me or I hadn't mustered up quite enough passion.

When Jeff called him, he emerged from my room, tow head down, hands in pockets and feet shuffling.

He looked about 3 standing in front of the man whom I had pegged only a few minutes before a criminal.

Officer So and So had Brighton admit his guilt and to B’s credit, from a tear streaked face, he immediately apologized and asked for the policeman’s forgiveness. The officer explained to Brighton how important it was to save “911” for real emergencies. To my relief and disappointment, the policeman turned out to be a big teddy bear..............with cool police stickers. I wasn’t sure how I wanted him to handle it. Sure, I wanted Brighton to learn his lesson that playing with the phone and “crying wolf” was NOT cool or smart, but then I didn’t want him to think for a minute that he wasn’t safe and secure in our home. However, I quickly confiscated the stickers. I wasn’t ready for “reward”.

Once our front door was closed and Office Teddy Bear had driven away, his adrenaline release came again in the form of tears. After much comforting by Jeff AND me, these were Brighton’s last words on the subject, “I am NEVER going to drive!!”

So, the visit from the policeman made quite an impression on Brighton and hopefully some changes when it comes to how he thinks about our phones. I could be wrong but I am guessing this is where we are on the other side of the “911 event”--- he will never make needless 911 phone calls and I will be driving him around on his first date.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

From the Backseat #11 "Geography Problems"

I don’t know about yours, but my kids have a mental block when it comes to differentiating between cities, counties, states, countries and such. Only a couple of years ago, if I asked Julia what city she lived in, she would answer, “Texas.” Every now and then she would say, “Tarrant NET!” On our way to Branson last spring, Brighton, our household’s only TRUE Texan, asked this, “Is Missouri in the United States of Texas?” These absurd questions and answers drove me to draw something resembling a chart, using that term loosely, from the classic, Concentric Circles of Concern. The chart goes from our cul de sac address to the outermost unknown galaxies. It may sound impressive but picture loose leaf college-ruled notebook paper marked up with a No. 2 pencil. While I thought it was a grand idea, just short of a moment of genius, it has only been semi-effective.

While taking Julia to ballet a couple of weeks ago, I made a quick call to TJ to see how she was faring with her four children on the road trip to New Mexico......by herself. Before I could hit “end”, Brighton’s questions started. First, we had to straighten out the mix up of what kind of skiing they were up to. With our chilly weather, water skiing just wasn’t adding up. He knew I had spoken with her during breakfast so he began pondering the idea, out loud, about how long she and the kids had been in the car. “Were they still in Texas?”, “Were they still in the United States of America?”, “Have they had a Blizzard yet?”, “What movies have they watched?”, “Do Bran and Hud get to play their DS’s in the car AND at their Grandmother’s?” Whoa--- the teacher in me backed up-- “still in the USA?”

I looked at him in the rear view mirror. “Brighton, they are driving to NEW Mexico. You know, the state beside Texas.”

“Oh, okay. Well, Mom? What’s wrong with the OLD Mexico?”