Monday, November 03, 2014

A 50's Girl and Some Guy from Star Wars

Last Friday was the highlight of the school year for my kids. Field day got married to Halloween and they were quite a pair!


I volunteered to bring the ice chest for Annabeth's class and that meant I was also the Cooler Dragger. Let me just tell you, that thing was heavy with 24 kids' hard plastic water bottles inside. I will not be the sucker who volunteers for that job next year. It was fun to be with her class though. One kid asked me if I was Annabeth's mom and when I told him yes he whispered, "Whoa..."

Annabeth got to be the line leader for the first segment of field day, which meant she and another kid got to hold the class spirit sign together. As it turns out, it's easy to feel entitled to the sign and the first spot in line all day long when you've started the day with such a privilege. I kept having to *encourage* my daughter to take her hands off the sign but she was not really feeling my authority while on the school grounds. I may or may not have threatened to "take her to the bathroom" if she didn't give the other kids a chance, to which she may or may not have responded, "I can't go to the bathroom." What a wonderful parenting moment. 

It was great seeing her enjoy field day with her friends. This was a two hour shindig for the kids and they were thoroughly exhausted before it was over. I worried we might have a long night ahead but Annabeth proved me wrong. Here she is with one of her friend-since-birth, Ellison.


Curtis came to the school for Jackson's field day and I went home and took a nap and some Tylenol.

That evening we had a few friends come over for pizza and trick-or-treating. I am bad about having people over to our house but this is one night of the year when I really like to do it. Our little part of our neighborhood is pretty fun on Halloween. Everyone has front porches and a lot of folks sit outside and pass out candy rather than answer the door. The houses aren't on big lots so it makes the trick-or-treating very efficient for the kids. Normally I station one of my friend's teenagers at my house to pass out candy but this year I decided to man the porch myself. The dads took the kids out and everyone did great. A few of my girlfriends stopped by and we got to chat in between visits from little Elsas and Annas, Uncle Si's and Harry Potters.

One of the things we handed out was little tubes of M&M's from Feed My Starving Children. The kids can fill up the tubes with quarters and send them in to FMSC. The money feeds 63 children. I didn't have that many tubes so I tried to save them for the tweens. When I explained what it was, they acted really interested in doing it. I was actually pretty surprised! It was very encouraging and I hope to do something like it again next year. 

I took pics of the kids when they tried on their costumes for the first time because it's much easier to get good ones at dress rehearsal than at showtime. Jackson was some guy from Star Wars named Boba Fett. I don't even know. It lit up though and he loved it. Next year he's not getting anything with a helmet because he couldn't walk around in it. 



Here's Annabeth in her poodle skirt. No, I did not make this. Thank you, Etsy. 




She immediately started dancing and twirling like you do when you're a girl.



Here they are on the actual night. 


The candy crew. 




Dad/Uncle/Big Brother chaperones. I hate that this is blurry.



Here's Abey after making her rounds. By the way, I bribed her with $5 to get her to wear the glasses. She said it would be an additional $5 if I wanted her to wear makeup. I passed on that one. 




Here she is with Rory Jane, who was an amazing pink ninja.




Maybe it's corny to carve a cross in your pumpkin but I don't care. I was praying that people would sense peace and light when they stepped onto our property. 




Liz and I were the candy ladies. 




All the kids congregated in the living room to go through their candy bags.




They each paid me a Dots tax. I ended up with a lot more than this. 



When the sugar rush began, the mamas escaped to the back patio.




I served hot tea with Wavy Lays and ranch dip. Somehow it worked. Cheers! 



And this is the pic by which I will remember Halloween of 2014. 




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Missing Season of Mentoring

I've been thinking a lot about how eager and willing we are to mentor younger women in their new seasons of life. Entering college, adapting to a career, being a newlywed, stepping into new ministry roles, or becoming a mom are exciting times. It can be fun and satisfying to walk with our younger friends through them. I think women are generally eager to share and pass on their knowledge. I can name every person God used to mentor me through those seasons and I'm really grateful they poured into me. 

One thing I hardly ever hear other women talk about is the end of the season of childbearing. I don't mean menopause because I know for a fact that women like to talk about that. When I was a recent college grad I worked in the office at Living Proof and I got quite an education. But it seems like most women in our culture end childbearing before they truly reach menopause. 

I'm just not sure there's a lot of mentoring in the ending of childbearing. Why do you think that is?  Is it because no one hires a photographer to send out "We're done reproducing!" announcements and no Pinterest boards with great ideas for "We're moving on!" reveal parties? Is it because this isn't very exciting and therefore it's unseen? Maybe it's just too private a matter. (But let's be honest. We get down to the nitty gritty about childbirth. Do we care that much about privacy?) 

Where is the 30-day devotional about this topic? Publishers send me new books every week but I haven't come across this one yet. And I don't remember seeing it as a breakout session at a conference for moms. Maybe it was there but it just seemed irrelevant at the time.

When every mom faces the end of the baby years at some point, it seems strange that it isn't talked about more. If I'm missing the voices that are discussing it publicly, please point me in their direction. I mean that.

I don't know about you, but I need to hear these stories. I need to know what it looks like to move on gracefully even though there is heartache. It would be really powerful to know the stories of the older women in my village. I need to take the time to ask them these kinds of questions: Why did it end for you? Was it your decision or was it because of circumstances out of your control? Did you and your husband agree on when it was time to be done? If not, how did you come to peace? Five years later, did you have regrets? Do you have regrets now? Did it end on a high note or with trauma? Is it even possible for this season to end on a high note? Is this painful for everyone? 

I need to shut my self-important mouth and listen to them speak. 

If you have already walked this path, your wisdom has tremendous value. You may not get an announcement in the mail from the one who needs it, but she will be relieved when you come alongside her share this part of your story. 


Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Saturday in the Life


My girlfriends come to pick me up for a baby shower. On the way out the door I sense I need to remind my husband that when he runs errands with the kids, he needs to take them inside whatever store he goes into. He does not need to leave them in the car, even for two minutes. "But it's not even hot outside!" Suspicions confirmed. I tell my children it is illegal for them to stay in the car and they may need to remind their father. 

The tissue paper in my shower gift is immediately crumpled upon entering my friend's vehicle and "My Brest Friend" peeks out the top. I say "piece of crap" in front of my friend's little girl. I may need a spanking with the wooden spoon we find in her car. I later thank the gift recipient for allowing me to buy something called "My Brest Friend."

After the shower I horrify my children with a date to get our flu shots. The Walgreens clinic is closed but CVS has a "free flu shot" sign. The pharmacists don't seem real excited when we show up. After waiting 15 minutes, I find out the shots won't be free because of our insurance. I say I don't care at this point; I just want to get all three done in the same place. I pay. My daughter begins weeping uncontrollably. An older lady smiles at my daughter's misery and thinks I don't see her. I want to punch her. I do not.

The pharmacist comes out and gives me the first shot. I see someone I know but I don't know if she sees me. I smile like it tickled so my girl will be brave. It did not tickle. My daughter immediately runs screaming through the aisles and I have to chase her down. I have a strange sense that we might be on the news later. Or YouTube. My daughter gets her shot. The screaming is horrible. The promised toys are not picked out because I am shaking from embarrassment and need to leave as soon as possible. I tell the children that now we will have to change pharmacies because they have humiliated me and I can never go back there. They don't really know what that means.

Mom is mad. Kids are mad and sad. 

I cool off and we make our way to a grocery store where we all pick out a treat. Toy is downgraded to candy. Annabeth gets Reese's Pieces, Jackson gets the Hershey Kisses with the caramel center, and I get Dots. Annabeth opens up her big bag of Reese's in the car and 60% of them spill out immediately. I open the window and tell the kids to throw those candies out so they don't later melt and make a mess. I realize the children are pelting the car next to us. 



We go, as planned, to Studio Movie Grill to see Dolphin Tale 2. Fifteen minutes into the movie Jackson thinks he's going to throw up. We all run out and he goes into the mens room. Annabeth and I wait for him. He comes out and says he's okay. We go back in the theater. I hear a woman behind us complain to a server that we have disrupted her peace. I ask for the check and pay for our food in case we have to leave quickly. The woman is still grumbling. A kid behind us spills her drink and it splashes on us. Jackson is still acting weird so we leave. I cannot take another embarrassing scene today. Annabeth does not follow us out and I stand on the side trying to coax her without disrupting the whole theater. She comes. The grumpy lady with no mercy gets up and tells her daughter they are moving. How have we managed to draw so much attention today?

When my son goes to bed he says he's hungry. I want his stomach to rest and I don't want him to eat. I tell him I won't eat again either. (That lasts until 11 PM when I retrieve my Dots from the car.) He's hungry enough to cry about it. He cries harder than I've seen him cry in a very long time. When Beckham died he'd held it all in. I rub his back and I know he's not just crying about food. The stress of going back to school is exiting his body. My happy boy who has been so mopey about third grade. Hot, salty tears are pouring out. It's hard to grow up. When your sister loves kindergarten but third grade is a lot of work and you don't have anything exciting to say about it. It's crappy when you get a flu shot and then have to leave a movie early and then mess up your Lego creation and have to go to bed on an empty stomach because who knows if you have a stomach bug. 

I pray over my boy and knead his shoulders his body rests. 

New mercies will be here soon. 




Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Would You Change Your Journey?

Have you ever heard a person who experienced something terrible in their past say they wouldn't go back and change it? I have come across this statement a handful of times and I've never understood it.  It seems like the power to be able to change the decisions you now regret, or prevent the losses and traumas that pulverized your heart would be an incredible asset.

I wince at every remembrance of our first steps on the adoption path. The footprints on that path don't even look normal because I wasn't walking - I was skipping like a naive child. I wish we had never made that first phone call to the agency or filled out the first stack of forms. It's hard to imagine ever being that glad that we did what we did.

Even so, if God gave me the power to erase it I would experience loss all over again. I would lose the tools I have been awarded on this path. To be honest with you, I don't even know what these tools are called or what exactly their function is. But my instinct tells me they're really valuable. They're shiny and heavy and they cost a lot. Somehow my muscles are even conditioned to be able to carry them without getting tired. I sense they have a lot of potential.

I don't want to give them back.

So maybe that's what it means when people say they wouldn't change their journey. 

Would you change yours? 

Friday, September 05, 2014

Crossing Thresholds

The first two days we had Sailor home, she planted herself on our living room couch and hardly left it. She had decided that would be her home base and she would only venture from it with persuasion. When she did walk around, we noticed she was hesitant to cross thresholds. Getting her to proceed through doorways took us getting down on the floor and calling her name excitedly. We acted like fools, but that is what happens to people when they come into contact with puppies. It's part of their charm.



We have three types of flooring in our downstairs - carpet in our bedroom; laminate wood in our living room, dining room and office; and slate tile in our entryway and kitchen. Sailor hated crossing thresholds so much that she didn't even like to walk from one type of flooring onto the other. She was probably glad when we rolled up all our rugs and put them away to save them from puppy destruction. One less surface change!

It took Sailor about a week to explore the whole downstairs and move through it without hesitation. Now if she needs a change of scenery she leaps from the couch like a deer and runs across the slick surfaces like Scooby Doo. She (almost) owns the downstairs now. We have the upstairs gated off because she's not ready to be trusted there yet, but we've carefully prepared the downstairs so that she can go anywhere and be safe and thrive.

I, too, am a reluctant threshold crosser. I fought tooth and nail for our season with littles at home not to end yet. But whether I liked it or not, the time came to cross the threshold. I have felt the Lord near to me in the last two weeks, as if He were crouching down and calling my name, willing me to walk into the next room. "This room is yours too. Come and see it! Look at the things I have for you in here."

Our whole lives we cross thresholds. We never stop doing it until we cross the last and most important one of them all.* I want to get better at this. I think I will always be the kind of person who has to process big changes deeply, but I want to do it without fear and dread. Hopefully I'm making progress.


God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer's;

    he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:19                                        _______________________________________


Reading "Twas the Night Before Kindergarten" with Annabeth before she went to sleep. 




The first day of kindergarten and third grade. 


Here they are walking into school. I shed a couple of quiet tears when we walked out. Then I had breakfast tacos with two of my closest friends who also have kindergartners and we celebrated, mourned, and did everything in between. 




Curtis told Sailor this was the very day for which she was born. She is such a love.


The end of a successful first day! 



*A wonderful book that has recently helped me through loss and  crossing thresholds of unwanted change is A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. I highly recommend it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Goodbye and a Hello

I'm really hoping this will be the last sad blog post I have to write for a very, very long time. I'm sorry to even write it but it's important to my family's life and I need to record it, if only for us. It will end with something sweet though. 

The day we returned brokenhearted from Florida, we picked up our 10-year-old golden retriever, Beckham, from a boarding facility. I crouched down and gave him a huge hug when they brought him to us. He has a comforting presence. That night he did not seem great. Over the next few days he was breathing really hard and blood dripped occasionally from his nose. We found a spot or two every day, usually where he had been laying down. I was very scared and pleading with God not to take him right now. 

Three vet visits in the next three weeks only amounted to this - diagnosing the problem would be extremely costly and would probably only confirm a diagnosis we couldn't do anything about. He had all the symptoms of a nasal tumor. The vet said they would help us know when it was time to say goodbye. We decided to try an antihistamine and an antibiotic in case it was just an allergic reaction. 

For about four weeks we cherished our beloved friend and watched him very closely. It was hard to watch him decline and live with the dread of what was probably coming.

During that time we visited Curt's family in Missouri. Beckham loves to be with Nana and Papaw and run around with their dog, Silas. He had a great time. One afternoon they wandered past the ten acres of my in-laws' property and made friends with an elderly neighbor. When we finally found him the man said he wouldn't mind keeping him. Of course he said that! Here is Beckham's "Homeward Bound" moment. 


On our way home we spent the night in Irving and got to see lots of old friends. Beckham had a little reunion with Janelle's dog, Jones. The kids asked if Janelle had named her dog after us, which was hilarious. I wished I could know if the dogs remembered each other after 6 years. The kids don't remember their playdates from when they were babies, but they really enjoyed being together. This was definitely a summer highlight. 


A week ago today we woke up and Beckham was clearly very sick and suffering. They say you'll know and it was true. He was dying. A repairman had just arrived to fix our air conditioner and he heard all of our tears and painful goodbyes while he was working in the attic. Curtis and I held each other and cried. Annabeth sang a song to Beckham and included the words "You will see God!" I am tearing up again right now.

Curtis took Beckham to our vet and he went to sleep peacefully. Our faithful old boy was laid to rest under a gorgeous tree on my parents' property. 


I cried so many tears that my kids went into comfort mode. They brought me tissues and cups of water and said, "We're so sorry, Mom." I felt proud of their compassion and guilty that they had seen me cry so much this year. I wondered if they would need therapy because of what a wreck I have been. (I was very sick with Cyclospora for 4 weeks after we went to Mexico. They have not seen me at my best in a while.)

Our house was painfully quiet and still. You don't realize how much you do for your dog until he's gone. After 10 years, it's second nature to open the back door at certain times of day and let him out. To be walking out the front door and look back to make sure he's inside. To step out of bed gently because your big ole bear is probably laying on the floor next to you. I took a bath for practically the first time in 10 years without him laying next to the tub. It's hard, hard, hard with so many reminders all day long. Coming home after we had been out was the worst because he was not there to greet us. I left the dog bowls on the floor for several days because I couldn't bear to clean them out and put them away. We still haven't gone swimming because it's been too sad to do that without him. 



A few months ago I decided that if adoption did not work out for us, I was going to get a lap dog to help keep me company while the kids were at school. I had a breeder picked out and knew there would probably be a puppy born at the end of summer.  I did not expect that our big boy would pass away before that happened. I did a little research one night about the toy breed I was considering compared to the golden retriever. There was just no contest for a young family. Goldens are amazing family dogs. Beckham had been everything we hoped he'd be and more. His patience with and affection for the kids was priceless to us. I realized I was not ready to live without a golden in our home. One day I would like to have a lap dog, but if I'm being honest, my kids are not at a great age for one. 

On Monday my friend Crista and I took our boys to Schlitterbahn water park in New Braunfels. While we were there, my sweet husband was researching breeders so that we could have a little bit of sunshine in our house sooner than later. Annabeth starts kindergarten in a few days and I was dreading being completely alone in my home. And we all needed a dose of sweetness after a very difficult summer. As we were filling up my car in New Braunfuls after a great day, he sent me a picture of a potential puppy that brought happy tears to my eyes. 



We all had so much joy over this picture. It was medicine to some sad little hearts. Yesterday the four of us piled into Curt's truck at the crack of dawn and made a four hour drive into the country. We met this sweet 3-month-old girl in person and fell in love with her.

She sat in my lap and we snuggled for four hours on the way home. She has an outgoing personality and is enjoying the kids. For now she is sticking around the living room and hasn't explored much more the downstairs. I have my phone timer set to go off every 30 minutes so I remember to take her outside. It's kind of like having a toddler again. Also, I feel like I *might* cope better with puppy badness now that I've survived two toddlers. Maybe. 

Ladies and gentlemen, but mostly ladies, here is Miss Sailor Jones.  


A lapdog indeed, if only for a day. 




Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Dream Trip and a Bad Dream


When I was a kid, one of my best friends used to go to Destin every summer. I would listen with envy when she talked about the clear water, the white sand, and finding sand dollars in the ocean. My dad was a fisherman, so our frequent beach visits were always to places like Port Aransas, Texas, that could double as a fishing trip.  There is much to love about the Texas coast (minus this summer's horrible seaweed invasion) but you definitely can't see your feet in the water. I confess it makes my inner third grader unbelievably happy to visit a white sandy beach with clear water. 

Two weeks ago when our truck began the journey down 30-A in Florida, Jackson saw a giant sand dune and said, "Mommy, is that sand or snow?" Exactly!

It was a dream to get to visit Santa Rosa Beach with some of our closest friends. We rented a darling beach house that was big enough for 4 adults and 7 kids. 



Holding to tradition, Curtis made awesome sand castles, Jackson got buried in the sand, and I was inseparable from the boogie board. We learned how to find sand dollars with our feet, which was so fun. I'm highly skilled at finding hermit crabs in Galveston (it usually starts with "Ouch!") but this was more challenging. 



Annabeth really took to the water and spent most of the time riding the waves with her little board. She was very fun to watch, even if she did make me a little nervous. 


Crista and I discipled the girls in the (very complex and gourmet) art of making pigs in a blanket. 


Every day we walked across the street to a place called Pop Stop that had "artisan popsicles." Oh my word, they were so good! My favorites were the banana pudding pop and the cookies and cream pop. I have been longing for this place since we got back home. Here is a picture of Jackson encrusted in sand and with a cookies and cream goatee. When he saw himself in the mirror he said, "Whoa." Hahaha! I think he was embarrassed that he had been seen in public like that. 



Here are our beach adventurers. This was taken after we ate a sunset picnic dinner of meatball subs wrapped in foil. It is already one of the neatest memories of our family's life. 


Crista and me.



Right after we took this I said, "This is probably the last picture of us as a family of four." 


On our third night at the beach, I got a phone call from our adoption agency. I couldn't believe my ears when they said a baby had been born who needed a family. No one else was available to receive the baby at this time. Were we open to him? 

Curtis and I were in shock. We had told the agency we were only open until the end of summer and after that we would be moving on. We really didn't think anything would work out at this point. We left the kids with our friends and went on a walk. We found our faith and let our hearts warm up to this possibility. We decided that we would say yes, give it another day to let everything solidify, and then drive home to receive our new family member. 

We didn't tell the kids what was happening or let them know that we were actually leaving the beach three days early, but I couldn't wait for the moment when they would be surprised with the news. I was told to make a newborn appointment with our pediatrician for right after placement. We had neither named nor seen a picture of the baby yet. The doctor's office asked me the race and I didn't even know how to answer that question. The receptionist had to know a name, and I knew what name Curtis wanted, so I literally named the baby right there on the phone. It was very surreal. By the time we got on the road on Wednesday morning, the papers had already been signed. It was looking like all the chaos and emotional pain of the last year was about to make sense. 

The thing I was most excited about was the potential healing of my spiritual wounds. I had lost almost all confidence in hearing the Spirit's voice. I had stopped looking for the God-connections in everything, which comes as naturally to me as breathing. Some of the dearest parts of me had suffered near-fatal blows on this adoption journey. If this worked out, I would know I hadn't misinterpreted what I sensed to be God's direction after all. It would change everything. 

The drive home was going to be 10.5 hours. We left at 6:30 AM so that I would have a little bit of time to shop for an infant carrier before all the stores closed. The placement ceremony would be the following morning. 

When we had been on the road about four hours, we got word that things were not as stable as we thought. And then when we were too far to turn back around, we got word that it was all over. 


A slap in the face. A punch in the gut. Those things don't sound severe enough to describe how this felt. It was like the enemy custom-designed a plan to see how miserable he could make us before the adoption timer ran out. This felt so very personal. 

I had finally accepted the outcome that we would never adopt and had adjusted my expectations to it when this was dangled in front of my face. And when we let our hearts warm back up, left a dream vacation half-way through, and were too far to turn around, it exploded and left us bloody. I felt like a young woman whose ex-boyfriend talked her into getting back together, proposed, and then left her at the altar. I felt stupid, naive, and very angry. 

When I think with the mind of Christ, I know that we did not lose. We believed God again. We didn't let our comfort or fun sway our decision. We did not operate in fear or self-protection. I know that even if this never, ever, ever makes sense until we meet Jesus, we won the spiritual battle. There will be reward in heaven that the enemy cannot steal, kill or destroy. 

It's been a little over a week since it happened and I'm still sad. I've been surrounding myself with friends as much as possible, but when it's quiet at home my heart is heavy. This journey is over - for real this time. It is very hard for my soul to accept. My subconscious keeps bubbling up hopeful thoughts that the agency may call us again. But we have told them not to. This is the fourth baby we have opened our hearts to. My stubborn self would never give up if my husband weren't saying, "Enough!" I will be glad when acceptance has made it all the way through my being. When you have fought so hard for something it takes a while for your soul to settle down and be still. 

I am thankful that even though it seems like the enemy was allowed to sift us in this process, God restrained him. We were protected from having a child cross the threshold of our door who wasn't meant to be ours forever. I know many people have experienced that nightmare. I myself experienced it during my adolescent years as a brother came in and then went out after 7 years. I had so desired to see the redemption of that difficult experience. 

You know what I learned? I don't get to tell God how to redeem something. He does redeem, but it's on His own terms. Somewhere along the way I made the mistake of thinking it was up to me.