Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Ghost of This Christmas Past

I sit here on my couch this last day of 2011 still listening to Christmas music and in front of a fully decorated tree. The truth is the tree will stay up for several more days, weeks, or even possibly months. I'm not ready to box everything up and call this holiday season over yet. I am ready for the toys I keep stepping on to be up off my floor and I'm ready for all the holiday snacks to disappear some place other than my mouth, but I'm not ready to say good-bye to the comfort twinkle lights and Bing Crosby bring me.

There is something about December that conjures feelings brought on by memories of Christmases past. One of my sweet aunts sent me a card today telling me about her holiday and how it was nice as she visited with her grandson she sees once a year. I know she was glad he came, but I could read the sadness in the lines she penned. These annual "obligatory" Christmas visits weren't what she wanted for the holidays, and they paled in comparison to the memories brought by the visitor who mingles both great joy and heartache together. Her dearly loved husband passed away years ago and she wrote of how much she missed him. Moving away from the east coast at the age of 19 my memories of him are more like snippets from a child's scrapbook. I see me shutting his hand in a car door, I see myself hiding in his closet playing a game of hide n' seek, I see a black-and-white photo of of him and my aunt standing alongside my mom and dad on their wedding day, and most importantly I see them smiling at one another as they took turns telling me about their trip to Ireland. My aunt's memories run much deeper and I imagine as the holidays approached the ghost of Christmases past presented himself with a bittersweet bow.

This year I was visited by a ghost as well. At first I didn't realize what it was, just a heaviness. I think the fact that there really weren't any deep-rooted memories with mine made it harder to identify. Then out of a sleep I awoke and realized this Christmas I should have been holding a sweet tiny newborn like the Mary from my nativity scene. How could this be? I was over this right? I dealt with my miscarriage months ago.  I grieved, I had moved on...hadn't I? There was joy this Christmas, there was laughter, there were thankful hearts, but the tears over what was lost came once more and a grief sat on my heart over what could have been gained.

Unlike the classic story, A Christmas Carol, the ghosts that visited my aunt and I this Christmas past were welcome reminders.  Reminders of what God highly regards. For my aunt - a love that lasted years, bringing comfort, provision, friendship, acceptance, and being a married woman myself, I know...forgiveness. An outstanding demonstration of covenant love.  For me, an enduring love for a tiny baby that didn't love me back, the promise of eventual wholeness, a grand desire to reunite.  Again, a demonstration of covenant love.  That's what Christmas is, the start of the Covenant being fulfilled.  God coming to meet the law we couldn't by sending his son, so one day we could be together, finally a family.  In the interim, or at least for a few more weeks, I will sip some hot chocolate to "Winter Wonderland" enjoying my tree and friend a little while longer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Christmas Letter

Yuletide Greetings! We hope this Christmas letter finds all of our friends and family well and joyful.

Often, when you are in the throes of parenting, it is difficult not to want to hurry things along or even wish them away altogether. You long to be able to sleep through the night, to discover that if it’s not the kids waking you, it’s your bladder. For diaper days to end and now you are dangling toddlers over toilets in every disgusting restroom in town. For the kids to “get” whatever it is you are trying to teach, but the next subject is even more difficult than the last. Sometimes it’s the little things that you begin wishing away; the three meals a day and not to mention numerous snacks, the independence of little ones that results in half a gallon of spilled milk and cereal all over the floor, or the never-ending mountain of laundry. It can seem a bit much on its own, compound that with jobs and ministry obligations; as a survival mechanism parents often look past today in hopes of a less hectic and frustrating tomorrow.

Talking with a friend before Thanksgiving, she shared with me her decision to purpose herself to slow down and appreciate the holidays individually. No rushing through Thanksgiving to get to Christmas, just enjoying one day at a time. I’ve heard people say similar things before, but when she used the word “purpose” it resonated with me. She was going to “purpose” herself; It was going to be her intention or objective to slow down and enjoy the moment. Wow, a daily choice! It got me to thinking of the other things that Brian and I should “purpose” to savor; the every day, the stages, the interests of the moments, the little individuals gifted to us:

Sadie just turned two and is speaking in sentences, holding her own with her siblings, and totally charming. She loves to draw and the whole world is her canvas, along with our floors and walls.

Vance is three and makes us tired. He is boundless energy with “creative” outlets, terrible tantrums, and sweet kisses. Dinosaurs, snakes, lizards, and crocodiles are what he would love to have for pets.

Keely is five and keeps us guessing. She has tender mother-like qualities, enjoys math and puzzles, and hides everyone’s stuff like a gremlin or pack rat. I think she finds everyone’s bewilderment amusing.

Ryleigh turns seven this Boxing Day. Her love of fashion continues to grow as does her great sense of humor. Her sweet-as-candy little voice is matched only by her kind nature.

Brynna is eleven, has one of the most interesting views of life, and has become a blessing to the family as a mother’s helper with cooking and cleaning. Her interest in animals has her constantly brainstorming pet businesses and fundraising ideas.

Jace has become a young man at the age of 14. His passion for skateboarding and bikes has taken a back seat to animation which he spends most of his free time doing. This year his faith in God has truly become his own and is no longer just something belonging to his family.

The truth is, when our tired bleary eyes clear we will discover that just like Christmas, this chaotic, loud household was over all too soon. This holiday season and coming year we are purposing ourselves to be present in the fun, laughter, and love, as well as, the messy, frustrating, wanting-to-throw-our-hands-up-and-quit moments. Why? Not just because they are ours, but because this is the example that has been set for us. Thankfully, God purposed that his only son would come into our broken, ugly, hurting world, to be present for us, so that one day we can be present before Him. He shared in fun, love, and laughter, but most importantly he shared in the messy, frustrating, wanting to quit moments too. He loves us that much. As you reflect this year may you purpose to find your purpose in Him.

Much Love,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

35 Candles

Birthdays.  The older I get the closer they seem to come.  For the past two years I have used the opportunity of aging to write about what I've become and what I want to change.  This year after reading Annette's birthday post I decided to do 35 wishes to commemorate the big 3-5.

The candles are glowing on a less-than-perfect, perfect birthday cake.  The heat from 35 candles is more than I had anticipated.  And as I take a breath in these are my wishes:

1. I wish that the bath tub no longer acted like an enema on Sadie. Every.  Time.  (Nothing ruins a morning like a turd in the tub.)
2.  I wish I had a camera.  Not a huge, I'm-a-photographer- and-should-probably-be-wearing-back-support-to-carry-it camera, but a fun-colored-rechargeable-number-I-can-throw-in-my-purse-and-turn-out-better-than-a-cell-phone-picture camera.
3.  I wish that my boobs protruded off my body farther than my stomach.
4.  I wish that the kids would listen...and obey!
5. I wish that I had the confidence and repertoire of a porn star. 
6. I wish I could be consistent with the hundreds of chore charts and punishment plans I've created over the years and could have at least have one that is operational in my life.
7. I wish I saw myself as 35 instead of 19. I think if I  truly embraced my age I would speak and act with more authority.  It also wouldn't be as big of a shock when I find new wrinkles or rogue hairs sprouting from places I didn't have a hair the day before.
8. I wish my bladder was bigger and able to hold enough urine to make it through til the morning.
9.  I wish I didn't spend so much time on Facebook.  (Cursed time sucker!)
10.  I wish someone would send Clinton and Stacy from What Not to Wear my way so I could be more fashionable or I would settle for a cute pair of jeans that didn't show my crack every time I sat down.
11.  I wish I got more sleep, had more energy, or liked the taste of 5-Hour Energy drinks.
12.  I wish I could contribute financially to our family.
13.  I wish God would increase my desire for His Word and that my love for the Lord would drive my actions and my words.
14.  I wish I wasn't so lazy.  That I had an overwhelming desire to organize and clean, instead of sleep, watch T.V., and eat.  (Okay...and check people's statuses.)
15.  I wish to travel to Borneo and hold baby orangutans.
16.  I wish God's plan and direction for our family would be obvious.
17.  I wish I would write more.  I love to do it, but sometimes (most times) I lack creative thoughts.  My fear of criticism is pretty great too, so please be nice.
18.  I wish I knew the answer to the million dollar question, "Are you done, yet?"  I truly don't know.  I think we are until ovulation clouds all good judgment and then my desire for another grows...then Vance tantrums and "pouf" it's gone.
19.  I wish I had a house cleaner.  Not every day.  Once a week would be outstanding.  I could even, be ecstatic with every other week...or once a month...or a once  a year.  Heck, one day of my life to walk into my home and see it completely clean would be amazing.
20.  I wish homeschooling was easy and that the decision to do it/continue doing it was even easier to reach.
21.  I wish our family could move to the east coast and open up an adventure family lodge or that we could at least visit our extended family on an annual basis. 
22.  I wish I baked more and ate less.
23.  I wish that the last line of Charlotte's Web could one day be said about me, "It is not often someone comes along that's a true friend and a good writer.  Charlotte was both."
24.  I wish I gave more and expected less.
25.  I wish to win the lottery without playing the lottery or a large windfall without visiting Vegas.
26.  I wish that my desire to teach and affect youth would start with my own children.
27.  I wish I would realize time is not my own, but that I would still be able to get a little time for myself even if that means going to the bathroom without children banging on the wall or kicking the door.
28.  I wish that I would parent Jace and Brynna and their "Do-you-feel-my-gravitational-pull-because-the-world-revolves-around-me" attitude in a healthy manner and wouldn't get pulled into the "I-really-want-you-to-like-me" parenting style.
29.  I wish I would be grateful for the things I take for granted, a house, a vehicle, a pantry with food, and a husband who can fix almost everything.  Speaking of which...
30.  I wish Brian and I would continue to fall more in love as the years go on (16 years so far...Yay!).
31.  I wish I overlooked the mess of life and a desert backyard in need of a pergola and a patio and invited people over more.
32.  I wish for health over my family and friends.
33.  I wish for a haircut, pedicure, eyebrow waxing, and a massage. I'm looking and feeling a little rough.
34.  I wish for chickens and a coop.  I have romanticized farm fresh eggs for so long, I'm sure it will be disappointing and more work than I would like, but I want to find out for myself.
35.  I wish for at least 35 more birthdays.

...and blow...

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's a Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Another school year is over.  I could list at least ten reasons in five seconds of why I hate homeschooling my children.  After two years, I still have not necessarily gotten "the hang of it" or embraced it like so many homeschooling moms. I'm constantly revamping my approach, because I have yet to find one that works well with my laziness.  I hate Math.  I hate threatening the older two with all that they hold dear just to get a journal entry.  I hate that my only escape during the day is urinating, while tiny bodies throw themselves against my bedroom door.  I hate that I may very well be screwing them out of colleges and jobs.

As much as I hate homeschooling, I do love quite a few things about it and I'm sincerely glad I invested in it these past two years.  We have a lot of fun times and I truly love the time spent with my kids. I love the laughter we share.  I love the freedom of flexibility.  I love not having to drive them to school every morning or loading toddlers in the car to pick them up in the afternoon.  I love not packing a school lunch.  I love that they like one another and that they genuinely miss one another when they are apart...well at least some of them do.

My love-hate relationship with homeschooling is leaving me with some big decisions to make about next year, larger than what phonics curriculum to use.  I am definitely homeschooling Ryleigh and Keely, mainly because they are pleasant to teach.  The two older children have been a struggle since day one.  The early foundation of attending public school has left them with a desire for it once again and alas, they have requested to go back to "real" school.  Jace in particular is leading the homeschooling revolt.  He says he is ready.  Nothing against me, or homeschooling, he just wants to be in a classroom setting and have that "experience". Immediately I love the idea, my mind says, "This is great, now I won't have to teach Algebra." The more I ponder it, I hate the thought, "You're thirteen.  How do you know what you're ready for?  I'll miss you."   I've entertained the request.  I've called around to the private schools.  Wow!  Tuition.  Ain't gonna happen.  I've  recorded the mileage and figured out the gas to the school at the Air Force Base and I might as well pay tuition with gas prices close to $4 a gallon. Not to mention the three hours of the day commuting and waiting would take.  If I even let the thought of the local public school in my mind, fear grips me.  It's not South Central, but it's not Mayberry either.  It has it's share of issues like any other public school, but as much as I love the idea of freeing up my day a bit, I hate the thought that they would have to deal with those issues.  I know that great kids have come from our district and some of the best people I know work for the local school.

It's just that as a mom, I can't help the pit that rises up into my throat when I think of the decisions they will have to make.  Sometimes I hate free will.  Couldn't God control us like puppets when it's in our best interest?   And if he's opposed to that couldn't he give parents special permission by overlooking manipulation as a sin and providing a holy magic mind control button?  How is life going to work for them when I, their loving mother, am no longer the main source for information?  I hate the thought that there will be others that could interfere with their moral compass.  That they might follow a crowd down the wide and inviting path.  Youth rarely recognize the power of  their passion, and very few have developed the ability to temper it.  I can imagine what insane and crude things they will see and hear as their peers try to establish themselves and be heard.  How will they handle the kid who thinks they've been wronged and with hatred welling up wants to fight?    Worse yet, I hate the thought of  the pretty girl or smooth talking guy who will win their hearts and cloud their judgment with talk of love.

I'm not sure which side of the line I should be on in this matter of stopping homeschooling, but right now I'm feeling more pulled to the "HECK NO!" side

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sent from my iPhone

I distinctly remember my mom 's inept ability at operating our VCR.  As a know-it-all teenager I felt completely superior technologically and if I kept any of that into my adulthood when trying to help my mother on her computer last year...well, God has completely humbled me.  My hi-tech nemesis? The cell phone.  I first recognized my technological insufficiency, when I was surrounded by teenagers and I pulled out my cranberry colored Samsung flip phone to send a text.  The mere sight of my phone raised some eyebrows and then when I began pushing the number "4" button three times to get to the letter "I," everyone smirked.  My children outright laughed.  At that moment, I knew once again I was becoming my mother in yet another aspect of my life.

In an attempt to modernize, I updated my communicative devices with an Apple iPhone.  How exciting it was to just hit a letter on my phone and it actually be the letter.  I think I've gotten quite savvy, at least by my standards, with my phone; reading with the kindle app, facebooking, taking notes, using the calculator, and of course texting.  And although I will not be classified as a techie anytime soon, I feel I've grown in the area of texting immensely. My biggest problem is my lack of being able to multi-task while using it.  For some reason my brain does not allow me to do anything else while typing on my phone.  If I input a contact, I have to stop walking and devote all of my attention to the recent name and number. If I need to reply to a text, I pause like a deer in headlights holding the phone about 12 inches from my face and "point" out letters with one finger.  Alas, multi-tasking may not be my strong suit.  My friend Cora, explained it best when she said, and I paraphrase, "Mothers can only multi-task mindless acts.  If it requires thought, it's the only thing she can do."

I have proven that this is not only fact in my life, but is also wise counsel.  First, I was texting while toasting waffles the other morning and completely shoved my fingers between the roof of the toaster oven and the burner--ouch!  And then the most convincing evidence came two days later...

Brian had been out of town all week and on the day of his arrival I was taking all six kids to a swimming party.  Getting out of the house is not an easy job, let alone add the need for sunscreen, bathing suits, towels and a picnic lunch.  The stress of the day was compounded when Brian texted me to tell me his ride fell through so he and his co-worker needed to be picked up in Los Angeles.  I told him I would figure it out and let him know via text who would be there, the time, etc.  I arranged for my 20-year-old nephew, also named Brian, to pick him up.  As I was restocking the diaper bag and shouting the needs of what still needed to be done, located, and loaded into the truck to the kids, I forgot the sage counsel of my friend and texted Brian. A quick note was all I sent him so he would know what was in store...not only for the ride home, but for later that evening if you get my drift.  I'm feeling a little smug at this point, things seem to be falling into place, lunch is packed, kids are dressed, and I've stoked the home fires.  Then as I'm walking into my kitchen, my nephew says, "you sent that text to me."  I thought I was going to puke.  He was completely nonchalant, I could have moved on with the day, but no-that's not how I roll.  "Really," I asked.  Like he could have made this stuff up.  "Yes."  My only retort at the time was, "well this is kinda awkward."  "Yes," he said.  Then to make matters worse, I launched into the "well-you-knew-we had-sex-anyway" speech.  Could I make this any worse?  Why yes, yes I can.  Then I feel the need to send him another text.  And by him, I mean my nephew.  Have I learned nothing?!?!  The next one read, "reason #73 why you shouldn't sext: you never know who might get it."  Seriously?  Why do I do say these things?  Most people probably do know who they are sexting, it's only idiot me who can't talk to others while selecting a recipient for their risque dialogue.

As I hung my head in shame, I immediately thought of our VCR and my sister and I trying to explain to my mom how to set the program to record Days of Our Lives.  Duh.  Technological dunce, right?  Irony is the humor of God.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Potential: n., a latent (present but not visible) excellence or ability that may or may not be developed.

From the moment a mother's pregnancy is confirmed, once the shock has worn off and acceptance has settled in, she allows herself to dream of the possibilities and that potential.  At least this is how it works for me. A few weeks ago when I found out that we were to expect baby number seven, I first of all freaked out a little, then became nervous of all the large family naysayers, and then I began the dreaming.  The list of names, began that Brian quickly rejected; the research began for the van we would soon have to purchase; the kids began to discuss how the sleeping arrangements would change; I began looking for maternity clothes at the thrift store.
Because, I know that there is potential at conception

I started to ponder the baby's temperament.  Would he or she be kind and tenderhearted, would they be energetic and outspoken? I wondered if this next baby would have Jace's thick tresses and share his sense of humor and compassion for the less fortunate.  Would it be quirky like Brynna and have her passion for God's plan in it's life?  If it's a girl would they be obsessed like Ryleigh with clothes and shoes and want to be a nurse so they could help mom's and babies?  Could it have Keely's dimples and want to help those who can't help themselves(or who could help themselves, but she won't allow it)?  Would he or she be like my Vance?  (Lord, help me!) Fair-haired with an energy for life that frustrates and makes us laugh all at the same time.   Would it take after our petite Sadie and be content in pretty much any situation? I pictured the mass chaos of Christmas morning this coming year and for the next 20 years from now, and smiled. 
Because, I know that there is potential in every life.

With six healthy pregnancies, I always focused on the excellence and never really worried about the second part of the definition, "may or may not be developed."   Then I began spotting.  I prayed, knowing full well that it was in God's hands.  I know my petition was heard, but the request was not answered.  I was surprised by the great loss I felt.  I thought the fact that I had six others would lessen the grief, but it didn't.  I assumed the fact that I had never held the baby in my arms would make it easy, but it still hurt.  Ryleigh's comment of, "In heaven we will be a family of nine," meant to bring comfort, made my heart even more sad.  Sad, that I won't experience life here on earth with that baby, because my children no matter how crazy they drive me or how angry I get with them, they bring me immense joy.  I hold tight to the belief that God is at work in this situation and to Him I give it so that He can use it for good. 
Because, I know that there is potential in every situation and only with Him can it truly develop.