Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Holiday Pep Talk

I need a little pep talk.  The holidays are coming.  Without them, I am sure you, like me, have lists growing like weeds inside your head.  With them, you wonder if weeds can choke out weeds.  I believe they can, but with a little forethought, can we decide what chokes?

Thanksgiving is next, but I’ve “missed” Christmas before.  How?

I executed Christmas without actually experiencing it. I decorated my house for the celebration of His birth. I talked about Him. I listened to songs about Him. I saw things that represented Him in my home. I made a cake for Him. I even read about Him.......to my children. However, I don’t think I ever really entered in. I didn’t make time to enter in, to ponder, to reflect. And I regret it. Immensely. I feel I suffered the consequences for days before I realized my sin. I made my choices every day, the main one being execution instead of experiencing which forced me to land on the other side of Christmas empty.

What will I do next year? The thing is, there’s no magic formula. There is no “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” list I will check off next year and how absurd would that be anyway? It’s my choice of how I spend the hours that make up the season. It’s my choice whether or not I want to include the “execution of Christmas” on my list of “pass on’s” to my kids instead of the “experience of Christmas”.”

So that’s my pep talk to myself~ three years ago.  And I’ve gone back to it often to remember how empty just the execution can be.  All the pretties, all the the work, all the food, all the activities/traditions-- hollow and unsatisfying without the experience of Him.    “Better” always looks good to me-- and fun-- and do-able, even special,  but I’ve got to choose the best over the better.

As my list, the execution, starts forming, may it not choke out the experience of Him this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

The Scent of Fall

When that first cool front blows through, it's like someone opened a window right when you thought you might suffocate.  The fresh air, the breeze, the chill nipping at your skin-- delightful.  When this happens, the kids know the pumpkins will be on the porch soon and the house will be sprinkled with leaves, nuts, gourds and glorious orange.  And then they smell it ~orange peels and cloves~ simmering on the stove.  You can't welcome the fall into your home in any better way.  Try it!

Start with the peel of one orange, a tablespoonful of cloves and 2 cups of water in your smallest pot.  Bring to a boil, uncovered and simmer, uncovered.  Change it out every 3-4 days as your family enjoys oranges.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

B's 9th Birthday Letter

Dear B,

I sit here thinking of you, that your big day is tomorrow, the fact that the Amazon order I made last week with your EVERY present hasn’t even left the warehouse, the reality that I am sitting here writing you a letter when I should be at Toys R Us.........and, do you wonder, I don’t know where to start.

You are one year older, a few marks higher on the pantry door, and your personality, larger than ever.   All of your pants are just at the “not quite right” length.  Your limbs drank in the sun and water of the summer.  You found your biceps the other day while goofing off with me on the couch-- and you really have them!  So proud you were.  Just like you are filling up your clothes, you fill our home with loud, boisterous boy-ness.  I remember once you came home from a short trip with Daddy and the moment you came in the back door, all of YOU filled the house.  In less than 30 seconds, Emily texted from upstairs, “B’s home!”  Don’t ever think about thieving.  You’d be terrible at it. It’s shockingly obvious when you are away from home and you are sorely missed.

You still have words to fill every minute of the day and can dish them out double time when you are excited about something.  It’s awe inspiring.  Just the other day, I strategically waited to tell you about Big Tex burning down at the state fair after all school work was complete and we were in the car with no other distractions.  I don’t think live eye witnesses could have answered a fraction of your questions.  A loss of words?  If you don’t know the word you are looking for, you aren’t afraid to try to put one together-- or at least take a stab at it-- which have produced genuine chuckles from all of us.  How I am wishing I had written them all down.  The only one that is coming to mind at the moment is “The Limestones” for “The Flintstones”.
One of my favorite exchanges I heard between you and Julia a few months ago was this:

You:  “I forgot what I was going to say.”
Julia:  “That’s really sad, B.”

Surprised by her empathy, you looked at her with a question on your face.

Julia:  “Well, for someone who likes to talk as much as you do, that must be awful.”

My favorite days are the ones, of course, when you and Julia can’t get enough of each other.  Love is in the air and all is right with the world.  I take a deep breath and enjoy every moment-- the hugs, the kisses, the “let me do that for you”, the breakfasts in bed, the gentlemanly manners, the shared spaces on the window seat, more hugs...more kisses.....And then, Julia reminds you of one responsibility and you have had your fill of her.  During breakfast prep last week, I came in on you emphatically telling her, “Juila!  Wait! I can’t do all that!  I am NOT omnipresent!”  The tone intensifies, tears may be shed, but then, it’s over as quickly as it started and the next thing I know you are wanting to buy her something with the money burning a hole, no, a crater in your pocket.

Still, your philosophy on money is simple.  Spend it.  And it seems not to matter on what.  Just make an exchange at the store for any random junk that in two weeks, unbeknownst to you, will be buried in the depths of the trashcan and you will never even miss it.  Saving, and we have cast a vision for that, is a blurry concept.  WHAT you are saving FOR changes every time you want to spend and your spend envelope is empty. However, I must say, buying things for us brings you great joy.  I love how you think of things or see things that make you say, “Mom!!  I KNOW Julia would LOVE this!!  Please. Can I buy it for her?”  The only problem is you rarely have enough for what you want to purchase for us.   I’m not worried about you, your future wife, mortgage etc.  You’re smart.  You’ll figure it out.

I can’t write to you without writing about your Dad.  It’s hard to think of you very long without thinking of him.  He LOVES to be with you and he invites you to be his sidekick every chance he gets.  He PREFERS this because he loves you.  Seeing the two of you having fun together almost makes my heart burst.  He made the decision a long time ago to be a “present” dad, one that engages his kids’ hearts.  Sometimes I wish I could hear the conversations you have together driving from here to there-- all that Jeff is tilling and planting in your heart.  He understands you-- parts of you I can’t “get” -- so he’s able to coach me when it comes to you.  You need to thank him one day because you and I are better together because of your Dad.

I love your hair--- again, I can’t write about you without writing about that wonderful mop that sits atop your head.  After you begged me to cut it short, we did because of the epic dramas performed each morning before leaving the house were more than I could handle.  For about 2 weeks, the epic dramas were reduced to a high school one act play.  Your dad finally told me I couldn’t touch it anymore and you now are solely responsible to lay it all down.  This task alone could prepare you for college.  You are blazing your own trail with a brush and gel-- against your natural part.  Only now can I consider the buzz and sleep at night.

But there is so much more to love about you.  I love your smile.  I love your shape.  I love that you are competitive.  I love that sales clerks or people behind a desk don’t intimidate you. I love the cards you make, the songs you play on the piano and the candy you leave for me on my desk.  I love your Lego creations, the pictures you draw, and the way you arrange your stuffed animals.  I love your passion, your affinity for food, and the prayers you pray.  I love that you are sentimental, that you want to keep everything “forever”, and that you ask me to put on Bach when doing school.  I love to watch you pitch.  I love how you open presents.  I love to watch you sleep and I love to watch you wake board. I love how you make eggs any chance you get.  I love to watch you concentrating and trying your very best.  I love how you laugh when I tickle you. I love to see you all tucked and combed in your school uniform and I love to see you after a game in your dirty baseball uniform.  I love to see you read.

B, you keep me on my toes.  You keep me crying out to God.  You keep me humble knowing that we all need Jesus.  I take great comfort in knowing that God is the keeper and shaper of your heart.  With His love, He has wooed you to Him.  You said yes two years ago.  You are His.  By His grace, God may use your Daddy and I to help shape you, but ultimately it’s up to Him.   My prayer is that all your passion and intensity and urgency will be routed into one powerful river of glorifying God in your own unique way.  I’ve learned more about grace parenting you than in any other season of my life.  You ask for it quite often and so do I.  We are both learning the extravagance of His grace and the comfort of being covered by it every moment.  My prayer is that falling into His grace will be second nature to you-- never running from Him after your failures but running TO Him as fast you can.  He’ll be waiting for you.  Always.

I bet you’d really appreciate it if I stopped and made a run to Toys R Us to save your birthday from being a disappointing fiasco in the morning over pancakes.  So I will, but not before I say, you, Brighton, are a BRIGHT light in our family and I am reminded of that every time you smile-- and every time you make someone else smile.  I love you and I am proud to be your momma.

Goodbye eight, Hello nine!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making Thanksgiving Memorable

I always welcome the splashes of orange that fall and Thanksgiving brings, especially around my home.  I usually think of my house, in terms of colors, as a day at sea on a stormy afternoon.  I have plenty of blues, greens, and tans, but most of my cabinetry is black, thus the stormy day.  So when I pull out the orange, it dances on and brightens up this slightly neutral palette. Come September, the more orange, the better.

As moms ~and wives~ we love making memories for our families. Whether it be a silly Friday tradition or serious contemplation on Good Friday, we want our families to experience the significance of life and the celebrations that come around once a year.  We want them to remember special times together and enjoying God's presence in our homes. Thanksgiving gives plenty of time and space for this.

I’m not sure how it happened but Thanksgiving has become almost as talked about as Christmas at our house.  That’s a BIG almost.  {Surprises wrapped in colorful paper is hard to beat with kids.}  However, the couple of boxes from the attic with all things “harvest” crammed in, ushers in an air of excitement for all of us.  It conjures of thoughts of the long weekend, friends around the table, the yummy food, state rivalries in football, sale circulars, neighbors in our back yard, the parade, and the official kick-off to the Christmas season.  What’s not to love?  I’m wishing it were all this week!

Cooking with a friend is always more fun.  Atlee and Julia-- making Thanksgiving dessert

As many responsibilities as kids bring, they truly make everything more fun.  I found that mine were very curious about why we celebrated Thanksgiving which gave me great excuses to purchase a basketful of books on Squanto, the Pilgrims, the Mayflower etc.  My kind of fun!  Of course, we have our favorites.

The First Thanksgiving- Hayward (A reader)
Pocahontas and the Strangers- Bulla {chapter book}
The Pilgrims of Plimoth- Sewall
Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving- Metaxas
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims Man- Bulla {chapter book}
Squanto and the First Thanksgiving- Kessel
Three Young Pilgrims- Harness
The Thanksgiving Story- Dalgliesh
The Story of Priscilla Mullins – Leininger
If You Sailed on the Mayflower- McGovern
Across the Wide Dark Sea- The Mayflower Journey- Leeuwen
On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship's Apprentice and a Passenger Girl- Waters
Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl-Waters
Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy- Waters/Kendall
Pilgrim Courage: From a Firsthand Account of William Bradford- Smith, Meredith {chapter book-- certain passages}

Wednesday night before the big day, we invite our neighbors to the backyard for caramel apples and s’mores.  The kids make the invitations, I copy them on the copier and they deliver them a couple of days before.  It was just a simple thing we could do to get to know our neighbors better and touch base with them without constraints of bedtimes and work the next day.  We hear whose coming over for Thanksgiving, where some are going, the recipes that failed and the ones they can’t wait to try.  Some years we've sat under blankets on the back porch attempting to stay warm and some years we have run the fans.  It’s easily one of the most favorite things I host.

If you eat at noon, Thanksgiving morning is busy.  When the kids were really small and not able to help in the kitchen, I had to come up with things they could do.  We aren’t ones to miss the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade so we’d turn that on and sit them down with two activities which they still enjoy.  The first one is to make a paper chain as a count down to Christmas.  Scrapbook paper, scissors, tape and/or a stapler-- done.  The second one is popcorn strings to decorate our kitchen.  A bowl of popcorn, thread and blunt needles.  In my house, it’s a snack and a craft. With the distraction of the parade and an activity to do, this keeps them occupied for a better part of the morning..... and they love it.

After visiting with friends or seeing a movie, the day ends with gratitude.  On a 4x6 card, we write each other to say how they are thankful for each person in our family.  We place the card under their pillow and it’s a perfect way to end the day and fall asleep, with three cards saying why someone is  grateful for you.  We each have a small book in which to keep them and I tell you, these are treasures.  The awkward block letters, the phonetically spelled words, the things they think of to write..... seeing those grow into good manuscript, cursive handwriting, words and memories from their hearts, true appreciation.  Treasures.

I'd love to hear how your family celebrates Thanksgiving.  As you've read, our traditions and ideas aren't earth shattering or even original, but it's the memories around those things, the fact that we are all around the house together that makes these times meaningful.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pericope: Hometown

pericope {puh-rik-uh-pee}- noun.  something taken from a whole

It’s a gift for me to get to visit where I grew up.  I know everyone doesn’t get to do that-- to spend the weekend in the home that holds childhood memories, to sleep in the bedroom that once burst at the seams with dreams, to go to the church where I grew up, was baptized and married.  And to top that-- for my children to get to explore the same woods I did,  attend the same hometown events I did,  know the adults whose fingerprints are all over me, walk the same dirt roads as I did, and sit in the same pews as I did.  Yep, in my book, that’s a gift.

My Alarm Clock

If I had slept with my camera, I would have the first picture for you, but I didn’t, so I don’t.  First morning in Soperton, I was awakened by my brother’s face two inches from my face.  He had already opened the family drug store and took a break to come just outside the city limits, down the driveway and harass my sleepy family.  So as he sat on the other bed in my room, he saw all of my 42 years and talked about the plans for the weekend and together, we anticipated Hunter’s big night on the homecoming court.  It made my day, just like it would 30 years ago, when he’d sit on my bed at night to talk.

The Garden

Daddy saved the kids and me four rows of beans to pick for Sunday lunch.  Growing things excite children and mine are no exception.  We picked a “mess of beans” and they couldn’t resist pulling off a few bell peppers, eggplants and jalepenos.  Each had healthy helpings of green beans after church on Sunday.  They were better because they had picked them.

The Cousins

On Friday, we found out it was “black out” night at the homecoming game and I had only packed red Treutlen High School shirts.  The drugstore prints up t-shirts so the kids picked out new Treutlen shirts.  Brighton was very specific in designing his-- most importantly with “DENNARD” {my maiden name, his cousins’ last name} and #13 on the back {RJ’s number when he played TWO years ago}.  I think they were both proud.  Yes?

Crouched on the sidelines with my camera by my sister in law {Hunter’s mother}, they called out “Hunter Dennard”. I jumped up like an idiot and my battery went dead.  I missed the shock and unbelief photos but recovered with a spare and got a few.  So I was genuinely thrilled for her and very proud, but at the same time wondered what Julia was absorbing.  What did she think as she watched little people and big people line up to have their picture taken with the 2012 THS Homecoming Queen, her cousin?  What did Julia make of all this?  What should she?  We’ll have that conversation soon.  Maybe what I loved most about the night is that less than an hour after the game was over, Hunter showed up at Mom and Dad’s house in sweats, salon fixed hair piled up in rubber bands on top of her head to hang out with all of us.

The Country

There's something about a late Sunday afternoon, a pick up truck and land to drive on.  My family has some extra land further out in the county than where we live and they affectionately call it the Ponderosa.  I call it their playground.  We all had our turn riding on the sacks of corn for the feeders in the bed of the truck.  I loved seeing RJ challenging Brighton to "get up under it" {the bags of corn} and work his muscles and Brighton trying his hardest to show his cousin he could really help.  
We grow pine trees, not cotton, but we got to stop and let the kids pick some, then seed it.  It still amazes me that a majority of my closet grows from a plant.  Oh, and as proud as I am of Georgia, I love seeing my boy in his Texas gear in Soperton.

The Celebrations

Thanks, Lynn for the crowns and decorations!!

My parent's turned 70 a month apart and as we have celebrated many milestones over the years, this was no exception.  My brother cooked the low country boil, I did what I was told, the best bakers in town brought the desserts and the sweetest friends showed up to with classic stories to tell.  It was the best kind of party.  Unlike me, Blake is never at a loss for a spoken word and one of the best things about him, he doesn't mind speaking his heart.  What dad doesn't want to hear a son say, "I go to work with my best friend every day." and you run a pharmacy with your son? 

The Time Capsule on the Second Floor

My room and my brother's rooms are still full of the stuff we left when we left for college.  I've filled a few garbage bags of stuff through the years~ and burned a few~ but Julia and Brighton still manage to scour around and find things.  The robot 2-XL hadn't been plugged into a socket in thirty years and after getting warmed up on a Lionel Ritchie 8-Track, 2-XL's sports edition 8-track quizzed B just fine.  And how about those boots Julia found?  They scream 1983, don't they??  That's because they are.  

The Fun and Foolishness

TOUCHDOWN!!  In boots!


Just when you don't check to see if your camera is on the right setting, you miss some of the best pictures of the weekend.  This impromptu game of football was almost as exciting as Hunter's winning homecoming queen.  RJ and Hunter vs. Blake and B-- and no one will admit losing.  Winning in our family is second only to eating. 

I wish you could come and ride through the pine trees with us in the pick up, eat a home cooked feast around my Mom's dining room table or a meal at the pond house prepared by the men or taste a 15 layer chocolate or caramel cake for the first time~ and hear some of the stories you couldn't help but enjoy.  You'd like the family pharmacy, too because you'd see some things you'd want to take home and meet some really special people.  As for the game of football in Momma and Daddy's yard--- just don't plan on winning unless you are on my team.