the homesick boy scout part 2....the rest of the story.

So the 2 scouts came home today from winter camp.  Stinky, smelling of wood smoke even after their first shower in 5 days.  Gonna take several more, I think, to restore them to like - new condition.  Kid 1 says he brushed his teeth once.  Which is more than zero so I'll give the kid credit for that.  Kid 2 says he brushed - some - but sometimes it was too dark and cold to venture out for dental hygiene.  

And Y'all, Kid 2 stopped crying for home sometime on the second day.  And ended up having a good time.  And Kid 3 passed his wilderness survival challenge and came home wearing lots of leather.  And a neck thing that looks kinda tribal - like this guy...  but he didn't come home naked.  

And the rest of the story......
Kid 1 didn't carry proper scout clothing.... a.k.a warm clothing for the WINTERNESS of winter camp and had to beg, borrow and steal to live.  Kid 2 lost his fork or burned it up in the fire so had to eat with his hands for 5 days.  Much like at home.  And the homesickness?  Apparently prompted questions  from the scout leaders ..... questions to Kids 1 and 2 ..... asking if anything is going on at home that they should be aware of.   Like maybe if we beat them or lock them outside or in any other way demonstrate bad or neglectful parenting.   I guess making sure they didn't need to call child protective services since the kid was obviously having a nervous breakdown on their watch.  

But all are safe and sound in warm clothes at home now.... mom doing laundry and enjoying once again the sounds of video games.  With a tribal warrior and his smoky smelling little brother.  

Life is good.

The Homesick Boy Scout.... (and oh yeah, I got my hair done....)

My husband asked me what I would look like if I didn't do anything to my hair. Because he thinks I'm high maintenance.  And expensive.  And then he asked me what I would look like, say,... if I was a homeless woman.  And I told him I hope I never have to find out,  but hope I'd look like a homeless woman with great hair.    

So I sat at the salon - if you can call it that - with about 100 foils in my hair getting my blonde all shiny again for the new year.... while all around me loud rock music played, album covers plastered the walls and everyone was tattooed and pierced but me.  And the girl next to me wore a belt made of bullets. But my guy does great hair. 

And I was the only one in there over 30, I think.  And the only nerdy one writing in her journal, and the only one that got a call from her crying kid away at Boy Scout camp.  Crying to come home.  The same kid that cried his way through the first month of middle school and managed to bum phones off anyone who would feel sorry for him, including the custodian.  But he finally grew comfortable and accomplished and found what I guess I would call contentment at school.  And he even found out that he likes school dances, which I think is a heck of a lot of learning for a 12 year old boy in a short amount of time. 


And in the last few days he and I were talking about all that we've done over the last year.  So many family trips and places traveled, but even bigger than that is how much growth he's made in such a short time. How far he's come in middle school in just a few months and how much he has matured.  And I told him how proud I am that he was able to get a handle on his fears and worries.   

Then the phone rang.  This time he bummed a phone off a dad at camp.  One of the adult scout leaders who fell for his tears and let him call his mama.  And he told me that the latrine is miles across camp and his tent is really a one man tent that he has to share with his buddy and how he's cold and miserable.  And he made me feel sad right at the time when I was sitting under the hair dryer with a head full of foil.  So his heart broke and my heart broke and I couldn't do a darn thing about it.  Because he's 90 miles away, for one.  And the biggest problem.... when to rescue the kid and when to say no.

Because all his calls from school were of the come get me kind.  Wanting to come home...NOW... right in the middle of math class.  And multiple trips to the nurse with a nervous stomach.  And tears hidden from the other kids, but tears that burst wide open the minute I would answer the phone.  

But I never did go get him from school.  I let him learn the new place and the new bus ride and the new friends and teachers.  And he did.  But I feel different about this one.  Because he's far from home.  And it's cold.  And it's for five days, not just a school day.  But is it right to rush in and go get him because he's homesick?  Or is this a time for him to remember how he managed with the new school and found his courage?  He's surrounded at camp with friends and a big brother (who may or may not be a help in this one.)  And the greatest dad leaders a mom could ask for.  So he's safe and cared for.....  but still cold.

And I thought about it the first day he called.  I thought about how parenting changes as the kid changes.  How I thought it was hard to send them off to kindergarten, and their first sleep away camp.  But all of that is preparing them  - and me  - for the bigger away times in life. 

And I thought about confidence and security and peace.  And I decided I'm not really very strong in the confidence department, myself.  And I do have quite the nervous stomach and a history of other weird things..... and sadly, Kid 2 is a lot like his mama.  But I decided what I do have a bit of is the ability to find peace - either in a situation or in myself when there's none other to be found.  And that's an ongoing lesson for me, too.  And I want that for my kids.  I want them to grow in confidence as they accomplish and experience, but also to grow in peace by learning and trusting who they are.   And they are watching me and their dad and their scout leaders and friends and even complete strangers  - gathering clues about who they are to be.  And confidence is good.  But peace and contentment ... priceless. 

I want them to be able to look beyond circumstance and find the one little piece of good that's there to get them through.  I want them to be able to notice the surprises all around when least expected and when they need it the most.  Because, after all, God likes to surprise.  And I want my boys to find the peace and confidence that comes with knowing the people who love them the most have their best interest at heart.  And that may mean a 90 mile trip to boy scout camp soon for me.  Or maybe a lesson in independence for him as we let him stay and work through it. 

But more than anything, I want them to trust themselves.  I want them to learn and trust their own instincts toward courage, not fear.  Toward trying, not quitting.  And toward finding the positive in every situation - even though they may have to dig deep to see it.

I waited till today to write this.  I've heard from the homesick Boy Scout two days now.  Both calls the same sad story.  But we told him that we wouldn't come get him yet.  That he had to at least try.   And how we really wanted him to look for the good in all of this.  And I got a message last night from one of the leaders that said all is fine. All is good, the text said.  So he's made it three days and two nights.  Here's hoping for more.  One day at a time. 

Christmas isn't the ending of the story. It's just the beginning.

Over the last week I've listened to a friend talk to me about marriage issues and her fears along that road.  And all I can do as a friend is to be the ears that listen, not the voice of truth.  Because I don't have any anyway. 

And I watched my son sit in his dad's lap and cry the heartfelt tears of a child with a broken heart and disappointed dreams as he grows up and sees beyond a child's hope and excitement of Christmas.  But at the same time, I watched that same kid grow in maturity a bit as he discovered that sometimes  dreams have to change, and sometimes the truth isn't what we want to hear - or were ready to hear - think Santa in this case.  But that the real truth lies in the fact that we are loved.  And gifts come from the most unexpected places.  And the most caring places.  And the most loving hearts.  And those gifts can still be that Kindle Fire that you so hoped for, but they can be even bigger.... the Kindle Fire that you've so hoped for - packaged in a gift of love from parents that surprised you after all.  And showed you that maybe your faith in one thing has to change a bit, but that you never have to doubt the faith you have in those that love you the most.  What a Christmas lesson. 

But I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned from Christmas.  Because Christmas isn't the ending of the story.  It's just the beginning.  It's at the end of the year, and there are some churchy reasons for that.  But Christmas in and of itself is a celebration of both an ending and a beginning.  It is the moment the darkness of the world ends and we finally receive the light of God, the voice of encouragement that we've waited forever to hear.  It is the moment that, in the unlikeliest form, a baby, (and a homeless one for the moment, at that), that God shows his amazing love to us.  By becoming one of us.  In the humblest of ways.  In the humblest of places.  That he joins with all of mankind to show that he is with us, and that he will always be with us... and that our journey of faith is just beginning. 

Because for us to really know and appreciate the gift of God's love and salvation, we have to have the first page of the story.  Without that, the ending - Easter - isn't quite the same.  We have to wait on Christ, we have to get to know him and love the Christ child first, to develop the relationship that allows us to feel the pain of loss later on. 

And so at Christmas time, we all go through our holidays in so many different ways.  (One person at this very moment is mowing a yard outside - I hear it and wonder if I should take him some Christmas fudge.)    Some of us are right where we belong.  And others still wondering where we belong.  But the true gift of Christmas for everyone, believers at this point or not... is that it's a gift for all.  Even for those of us in places we don't understand.  Because neither did Mary and Joseph that night in the stable.  It was only with God' perfect timing that their eyes could see the real meaning of all that was happening.  

The Bible tells us that Mary took it all in - the birth, the visit from the shepherds, being a new mom, and for the first time, a new family.  She took it all in and pondered all these things in her heart.  Thinking back on how all that was told to her was indeed, step by step coming true.  In God's beautiful time. 

And the decisions of so many people played a part in the outcomes of our lives.

She didn't see a future in the relationship.  But he did.  He wanted to marry her and raise the baby.  And if she wouldn't marry him, he wanted to raise the baby anyway.  By himself with the help of his family.  But that's not what she wanted for her baby.  So she hid her pregnancy from her friends and family, went away for a while for work, and did the best she could.  It was the late 1960's in a tiny town in the south.  And A + B = BAD NEWS in this situation.   

So she went to the small local clinic and found the answer.  The nurse there knew a family who would be happy to raise the baby - her son and his wife - a preacher and family with 4 kids already.  Kids quite a bit older.  So it would be a starting over for this family at a late age.  But they wanted him. 

So when the time came, the teenage girl told her parents she was sick with a stomach virus and went to the clinic.  Where she stayed for a day or two.  And she had a baby boy.  And I don't know how she felt.  Did she want  to change the plan and keep him?  Or was she so afraid of her parents that she never gave it a possible thought?  Or was she so determined to give him a better chance that she just did what she had to do?  

I only spoke to the mom once.  Years later.  And didn't get all of those answers.... because I didn't know to ask the right questions.  I wasn't a mother yet, myself.  

I do know that she never had any more children.  But the dad did.  And he and his wife have raised a loving, close family.  

After the baby was born, the preacher and his family came to the little clinic in the small Louisiana town and paid the girl's hospital charges.  And carried their new baby home as a precious Christmas gift.  With a new family and a new home in a new state.  The only record of the birth being the receipt for the medical charge.  

And the family raised him and loved him.  His older siblings almost grown and married by that point, so he had lots of help around.  And in 1980 they moved to my city and I met my future husband.  

We became fast friends and lifetime friends.  And 33 years later we have three kids of our own.  

A good story with so many possible endings.  And the decisions of so many people played a part in the outcomes of our lives.  

And I can only imagine the prayers that were said over that baby.  That the right thing happen.  That the right home be apparent and open.  And that the right decision be made to get him there.  It's been 45 years and looks like it all worked out.    

My husband said my new sweater reminds him of Clint Eastwood in The Good The Bad and the Ugly

My husband said my new sweater reminds him of Clint Eastwood in The Good The Bad and the Ugly.  I think he just meant the sweater... not me.  But you never know. And I got home yesterday and he had kid 1 mowing the lawn or mulching leaves with Target bags on his feet.  And I wanted to ask  - but I didn't.  And just wished I had my camera.  He's a funny man.
And I watched my son's first middle school basketball game with a ham sandwich in my purse.  Because he had to ride the sports bus straight from school and  I wasn't sure he ever got to eat anything.  So I brought the sandwich, but not sure how I would get it to him.  I didn't want to be the mom that didn't feed her kid, but I didn't want to be the mom that embarrassed her kid with a sandwich. 

So who am I?  Clint Eastwood look a like?  Nerdy mom that carries ham sandwiches around with her? 

Or maybe I should ask who the heck these kids are and where they came from?  I once saw a t shirt that read, Who are these kids and why do they keep calling me mom?  I get it. 

The teen is at the stage of mumbling and has had a total brain swipe as of late.  He knows nothing - about anything.  Especially if I ask.  Like who wrote those curse words I just found on that note in your trash can?  I don't know.  Who gave you that party invitation I found in the last load of wash?  I don't know.
And the 12 year old suddenly rediscovered his belief in Santa - last night. Even wrote a letter to him.  Because he wants something entirely too large and too expensive at this late date to ask Mom and Dad for... so he's playing the Santa card.  Because Santa is rich and magic and can, without worry, outspend mom and dad every year.  I guess if Santa disappoints, that'll solve all the world's problems. 

And kid 3 has a strange rash.  And he's been speaking in a British accent for a while. With a little French thrown in on occasion.  Makes the brotherly name calling sound so much prettier.    

So the point of all this... no point really.  Mostly observation.  Observation of the day to day.  Some of it worth noting, some not. 

But this I do know... just from observation... Each kid is different.  From the same parents, from the same home, close in age, very close quarters around here,... and they all ended up with distinct ideas and personalities and opinions.  Even opinions on my parenting at times.  

I'm a different kind of parent than what my kids would like sometimes.  And I'm perfectly OK with that.  

And I have a need and a desire, still, to keep them close to me and close to home.  And in doing so, I hope they're seeing the beauty of a home and family, and putting those experiences away for a later day when they're making their own.  

We'll see how that turns out.  

No Gifts for You !

I can be a little like Scrooge at Christmas.  Or maybe more like the Grinch... all green and ugly and ready to steal the roast beast from little children.  At least my husband and boys think so -  because David says every year.... EVERY year, I get all frustrated and stressed about buying the right gifts for the boys.  And then I usually buy a bunch of nonsense useless stuff - like the $278 I just spent at Marshall's -  and my husband said a lot of it looks like girl stuff.  Because this mother of 3 boys is a girl.  And I don't know what 13 year old boys want for Christmas, except for maybe a 13 year old girl. 

So I end up declaring a no gift zone every Christmas.  Because I don't like way the boys start sounding and looking all selfish -  like kids, maybe ??  - and just making lists of gifts they want because it's gift getting season.  

And what have WE done as parents ?  ..... apparently create gift wishing, list making Christmas monsters who want things like giant blingy Super Bowl replica rings studded in fake bedazzles - to be worn on his tiny 10 year old finger.  David and I both think a gold tooth is soon to follow.

So I get all mad that the kids make want lists and don't make giving lists.... and I end up sounding like like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, No Soup for You!.... No gifts for you !!! It's the season of giving, not the season of getting,..... people !  (And really, as far as Seinfeld characters go,  I would much rather be the Soup Nazi than the woman with man hands.  Remember that one?)

But after a little thought I remembered one of the happiest days of the entire year for me as a kid was the day the Sears toy catalog arrived in the mail.  And gosh I loved that giant beauty shop Barbie head - that I used to put curlers in her hair and paint on blue eye shadow.  And I loved my easy bake oven and those Charlie's Angels look alike flare leg jeans.  And I super loved our Christmas tree so full with presents each year.... because I saw Christmas through the eyes of a child, not through the meanie mom adult eyes that I have now.  And growing up, Christmas was one of the things my family did right.  One of the only ways we knew how to show love well.  (That's me on the far right holding my sister's Mrs. Beasley doll that I later sat on and broke. Merry Christmas.)

And in this picture, taken somewhere around 1970 sometime - when we didn't make kids wear seat belts - we were headed over to my grandparents house to open gifts on Christmas Eve.  All piled into the station wagon of Christmas goodness. 

And I wasn't concerned as a child with giving the perfect gift to my loved ones.... not sure it ever crossed my little girl mind.  But yet I expect it to walk right into my boys as if it were natural.  I'm not even really sure I turned into a god fearing, notice anyone but myself kind of girl up until recent years.... possibly a wonderful side effect of motherhood.  But before that, I was as useless as the next guy. 

So I had a talk with the boys last night.  About my no gift proclamation.  And how I've let the business of being an adult make me forget the business of being a kid at Christmas.  And they yawned and maybe listened....

Christmas is the season of tradition.  Of having your favorite ornaments on the tree and seeing the same decorations show up every year.  It's the season of comfort and repetition from years past,  of renewed familiarity with things that we've lost touch with over time.  And yes, the season of getting gifts - not because we deserve them.  But because someone loves us enough to give.  

And maybe my kids don't fully feel the giving spirit right now that I might like.  The giving spirit that I try to force.  But I was a kid, too.  And my eyes lit up at the lights and the gift wrap and the possibility that there might be something for me under that tree. 

Maybe each Christmas as the recipient of gifts useful or not, good or bad, they are slowly seeing that they receive -  not because they were good or bad, and not because they earned any extra favor in my eyes.  But because they are part of a family that loves them no matter what. 

Through the eyes of a child, we can see Christmas as the wonderful season of getting.  And of hoping. And of receiving things that surprise us beyond our expectations.  Of joyful wishes come true.  All wrapped up in a Christmas gift from someone who loves us dearly.  Kinda' like that very first Christmas in a stable, long ago.

Watch me, Mama....

Watch me, Mama....  Kid 3 said to me as he played ping pong at the YMCA last night.  We were waiting for big brother to finish karate class.  I had already been up there for hours earlier that day at work, and now back for the evening  -  But this time I found a cozy spot to read and organize the new year's calendar.  And every now and then Kid 2 would come out of class to get a drink and make sure we were still around - and for me to see him all cute in his karate whites.  Watch me, Mama....

And I watched Kid 3 play ping pong till he told me I had watched enough, and could go back to what I was doing.  I had been dismissed.  But I wanted to keep watching.  Because I caught myself smiling at his effort and his pleasure in actually getting better at the game.  And I think he's kinda cute.  

And later in the evening I sat in my car alone, in the dark middle school parking lot waiting for my oldest son's team bus to arrive home from their basketball game.  I waited almost an hour because I didn't want him to get there and not see me.  Or me see him.  Watch me, Mama.......  

This was the first game I've missed.  But all the way across town, a game, a karate class, one mom and three kids - don't add up to easy.  There's only so much Kristi to go around.  And the basketball kid came home with a busted lip.  (Last year Kid 2 broke a permanent front tooth on another kid's head while playing basketball.  We're crazy that way.)

But I sat there in the dark and had time to think of so many things I've watched my boys do.  And I've kept journals of things they've said.  And volumes of family photo albums.  

Watch me, Mama... I'm new to this world and this family.  Watch me, Mama... I can do so many things now.  Watch me, Mama... my world is growing bigger and I have so many new friends.  Watch me, Mama... I'm growing up and able to venture out on my own.  

Watch me, Mama...I was put here to do something special in this world.  

And I wonder if that's how it all started with Mary, that first Christmas.  Did she hold the newborn baby and know him as hers? Or did she know she would have to let him go?  Did she watch him grow into a young man and hope only the best things for him?  Or did she watch him grow into a man and worry about what the world had in store?  Did she hold her baby that night and want to keep him to herself just a little longer?  Or did she willingly share him with the millions of angels looking on and singing about the birth of a king?

Watch me, Mama...I was put here to do something special in this world.  

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11


Do that one more time and I'll pop both your eyes out.

This is not a Christmas post.  Or an advent post.  Or a happy holidays post of any kind.  This is a chronicle of my day and the way my kids tried to kill me - by making me want to beat myself in the head with a hammer while I baked them chocolate chip cookies.   And knowing my little darlings, they would totally enjoy the cookies while dribbling crumbs over my dead body.

The other day kid 2 kicked kid 3, so kid 3 pushed kid 2  - into the path of an oncoming car in the grocery store parking lot.  A slow moving car, granted, but  the driver gave me one of those...  you're a bad mother kind of looks.  I recognized it. From other times my kids have pushed each other in front of moving cars. 

Not long ago on Facebook there was this adorable video circulating of a mom singing sweetly into the camera while her little boys rough and tumbled all over the place behind the scenes.  And I thought it was cute - but then I thought that my boys could eat her boys for lunch.  And I wish that young mom strength and a quiet place to hide in the years to come. 

Right now kid 3 is mad at me, because I made him get a haircut.  The deal was if he can keep the hair clean and out of his face, he can grow it as long as he wants.  But he's a deal breaker straight from a bad game show.... and lives in his knit cap to hide the grease and whatever else might be under there.  So now he's all coiffed and shorn like a sheep and growling at me every minute of the day.  And poured out his wrath this morning getting ready for school.  I think the Bible says something about gnashing of teeth and wars or something. Or maybe demons ... I saw a vision of the end times this morning with Sam.  
And kid 1 just pinched the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of kid 3.  Don't know why and I didn't ask. 
And kid 1, again,  - not loving math and science right now in school.  But darn that Kindle Fire... it's just so much more fun than school work.  So he's mad at me  because I'm holding the Kindle for ransom. 
And kid 2 ... he's been around.  Didn't quite get his homework all done for tomorrow.  Practicing his Scarlett O'Hara attitude... tomorrow's another day. Just another miserably long day he has to wait for Christmas break.   
So I stepped out on the porch tonight.  In the cold night air.  To breathe and listen to the quiet. And to walk away from the boyish yells of Do that one more time and I'll pop both your eyes out.  
I'm struggling a bit to get through this season.  Not just the holiday season.  That too.  But mostly this season of tough parenting.  And I'm praying to find the beauty in the every day of our family right now. 

But this is my story.  And I write another page every day.  A story worth finishing. 

For your week... may you remember what Christmas is all about.

For your week.... 

May you remember what Christmas is all about.  

Is Santa Real? We're in a pickle it seems... as we say here in Texas

So it's exactly 19 days till Christmas and I have a tree with no lights or decorations and not a single gift bought.  And we're iced in and going nowhere  - housebound with a scared dog and a grumpy 13 year old.  Trees are falling all around us and a power surge blasted the XBOX.  Maybe that's what the kids will get this year for Christmas.  Thank you Jesus for online shopping.  

And yesterday, Kid 3, my 10 year old, asked me in the car... all alone... on potentially dangerous icy streets so I couldn't make an emergency stop at the grocery store or anything.... is Santa real

I was the oldest kid in the history of mankind to see the real Santa.  For who he really is.  Because no one ever properly introduced me.  And he still kept coming each year, but he quit leaving actual presents.  Just a $100 bill in my stocking each time.  And when I figured out maybe it didn't come all the way from the North Pole, I didn't say anything because, heck, it was $100 to just keep quiet.  Maybe that's what I should do with my boys.

The oldest one knows the real Santa.  And he knows Santa is a top secret spy kind of guy.  So Kid 1's not talking because he still wants presents.  And the middle guy pretty much knows because his worldly best friend told him something akin to truth way the heck back in elementary school.  But Kid 2 has both a believing heart and a hopeful heart.  And a thankful heart for sure.  So no matter where the gifts come from, he is a delight to parents everywhere.  I need to online order more kids like him for Christmas.

And Kid 3, who asks me all the time if the tooth fairy is me - is still willing to pull out teeth with no hesitation for some fast cash.  But the tooth fairy keeps forgetting to leave the money under his pillow and has just started leaving it on the kitchen counter to be given out at breakfast.  She may even just tell him next time to go pull a dollar out of her wallet. 

But the question of Santa.  I debated about even bringing Santa into our celebrations when the kids were little. But I decided it's just what parents do.  As Christians we have always taught that the real reason of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  But it wasn't the baby Jesus leaving all those toys under the tree, so no wonder my kids wait and wait for Santa.  And start their list making early.  So did we compromise to bring a little extra joy to the kids? And Santa brings tons of joy  - till it gets complicated. Kid 3 has decided that if he wants something too big for mommy and daddy to give, he'll just ask Santa for it.  Like maybe a new car.  Or a trip to Hawaii. Which I totally wish Santa would bring.  And make it for 5 people please.   But now he  thinks he can just ask for anything and it will be given because it's been given in the past.  And his desires grow larger.  So we're in a pickle it seems, as we say here in Texas. 

So here's what I managed to tell the kid yesterday when he asked me about the big guy. Santa.  Not Jesus.  My answer, however, revolved around Jesus.  And I'm not entirely sure I answered his question.  So he's gonna come around with it again. And I'll be looking for his daddy. 

St Nicholas is the history of Santa.  The Santa we know and visit is the St Nicholas of history that loved God very much.  And he shared this love with others by surprising them with gifts.  Secret gifts.  (Nicholas was born to Christian parents who left him an inheritance when they died, which he then gave to the poor. He became a priest at a young age and was well-known for his compassion and generosity. He had a reputation for giving gifts anonymously, and he would throw bags of money into people's homes - and sometimes down their chimneys - under the cover of night to avoid being spotted.  See the resemblance to our popular Santa?)

So I told Kid 3 that St Nicholas gave to others because we were given the greatest gift of all, the gift of God's son at Christmas time.  And that's why we give to each other at Christmas.  Because God gave to us.  And because those that loved and celebrated the birth of Jesus gave gifts of thought and time and consideration to show their appreciation and love.  Just like Santa. 

And then I stuck in something about how we may or may not believe Santa is a real man that comes down our chimney and leaves us gifts, but that the spirit of giving is in our hearts.  And that we can be Santa to those that we love. 

So did I answer the kid's question or should I prepare and read up getting ready for round 2 ?  A friend of mine told me that her mother promised to pay for her first 10 hours of therapy as an adult, knowing she is responsible for at least that much damage.  But any additional hours beyond the first 10, mom told her, .... you did to yourself

So for Christmas.... maybe I'll put that $100 dollar bill in my kids' stockings with investment advice to save up for counseling.   

I finally get it.... the season of waiting.

We're usually the last people in the entire world to decorate for Christmas.  And today I totally needed Santa's full staff of elves to get it started.  Turns out the house isn't quite so festive when it's just dirty.  It looked like the pig family moved in and rubbed up against all our walls. So husband and I sent the boys off to school and started tackling the season.  And he obviously confused me with a man because he asked me to help him move my grandmother's giant dining table - which slipped and barely missed his foot - by about 1/8 inch.  Lesson learned... I'm not freakishly strong.   And I was glad it didn't hurt him because it would've really slowed down our progress.  And I couldn't move that big table by myself - off his foot.  And I would've felt really bad being the one that let it fall.  And a fireman with a broken foot is not a very good fireman. So many reasons. 

Getting ready for Christmas always feels this way to me.  Pulling out the decorations, checking the lights, and making the fudge.  But we all like that part.   I get so busy getting ready.... and still getting ready... and I never really feel the reason for it all.  Till Christmas Eve.  My favorite church service of the entire year.  And then I remember.  

I grew up in a small Baptist church that didn't observe advent.  So all this prep work outside of getting the tree up was all new to me as an adult.  But as an adult, I finally get it.  The season of waiting.  Waiting for the light to show through the darkness of the world.  Waiting for the light to once again fill the darkness of my heart and remind me that there is a reason not only for the season, but a reason for me to carry it on throughout the year.  It's the light.  Thus, the significance of the candles in the candle light service.  Which just takes my heart to an all new level.   

But y'all, We are to be the grace givers.  We are supposed to be the ones turning the light on every day.  Not running away from people or situations or events that don't fit our desires or needs or schedules.  We are to be the hands and feet of a loving God that can't be here at this particular moment -  because he's busy doing some other great and needed things.  So we are needed.  To show the world the love of a God poured out for us.  And a love poured into us daily, without question or reservation or hesitation of any kind.


Look, they brought their liquor in a jug.

My vertigo has returned with a vengeance.  The kind where I cant walk a straight line, bend over to properly shave my legs or drive in my own lane of traffic.  Kinda like Like I'm driving under the influence - with my three kids in the car. But I'm sadly more concerned with the state of my roughly shaven legs.   

The dizziness happens because I'm one of those highly allergic people - and our Thanksgiving trip thru the wood burning, camo wearing states of Arkansas and Louisiana messed me up.  I'm a city gal that wears stylish leggings to hike a trail and refuses any camp fires near me or my rented cabin.  So know that if you ever invite me over to your house to enjoy a good meal and a bonfire, get ready to give me a high dose of benadryl and drive me to the nearest hospital.

We rented this little place at a state park in southern Arkansas, just outside of Louisiana.  Just the 5 of us, no computer games, no internet, no email, no Facebook and no blog.  Just some bikes, a kayak, and the sounds of my boys playing.  But we did have a TV for the Cowboys game and the Shrek Christmas special.  All of us in our pajamas and squeezed onto the pull out couch bed to watch it.  And we love stuff like that.  I think WE do.  I do.  Let's at least confirm that much.  

And I noticed a bazillion stars in the sky at night.  And I learned how much Kid 1 is enjoying Texas history class this year.  And how afraid Kid 2 is of alligators.  And how Kid 3 can come up with money out of nowhere to buy snacks at the camp store.  And we visited the nearest town of El Dorado, Arkansas where we enjoyed a Friday night at the Larry's Parade of Pizza where I was in awe of the pizza parade concept and the friendliness of Larry.  We woke each morning to the sounds of open season gunshots and I debated if I should dress my kids in bright orange to send them out to play.   And Fireman Dave turned his kayak over in the freezing cold Ouachita River.  Which I didn't even do.  Which obviously makes me the kayak queen.

We also stopped by the Natchitoches, Louisiana Christmas festival of lights which is the cutest place ever.  We stood in the mile long line waiting for our world famous Natchitoches meat pies, took them down to the river for a picnic along with a big gallon jug of what I suppose people thought looked like our own home brew that we share as a family, kids and all - because we heard one passer by tell her family - look, they brought their liquor in a jug. It was water, people.  But throw in my severe vertigo induced bobbing and weaving and maybe we looked like the local moonshiners come to town. 

And for you ladies, if you ever need a little ego boost, a little confidence build in your day to day.... I found the perfect place.  Just stop by the Piggly Wiggly in the little town of Homer, Louisiana and they'll treat you right.  They'll look at you like you're a movie star come to town to buy snacks for the road.  But you gotta walk in there like you mean it... owning the Piggly Wiggly with your entrance.  Like I did in my Hollywood shades and awesome motorcycle themed boots - and then they'll be all amazed at how normal and down to earth you really are buying the Chips Ahoy and that giant box of Cheez-Its. 

And after the millionth time Kid 2 asked where we were going and Kid 3 asked if we were there yet... I caught myself telling them the famous mom words about the importance of the journey, not the destination.   And here's why we do it.  The point to it all.... why we take our little road trips.  As often as we can.  One time not long ago, heading out on another trip, Kid 1, asked, Is this gonna turn into insane craziness?  And I told him, yesYes it just might

And it's worth every single penny of the cost, and every single minute of the work put into saving to make it happen. I've seen how the busy of our days takes a toll on the family.  School and sports and church and music lessons and all that comes with being a kid.  And the influence of the world, and that age in particular, pulls a kid away from his family and into the arms of what is normal and accepted by those they spend most of their hours with each day.  But I'm just not ready or willing to give up on our together time. We were the first strong influence these kids knew in this giant world and I'm doing everything I can to to see that continue.  And big long vacations are fun.  We do those, too.  We took a 10 day trip over the summer.  

But it's these small ones that bring us back.  To together time and to each other.  And we remove the phone and computer and add back in what is most important and we find each other all over again.  All in our pajamas squeezed onto the pull out couch bed.         

If I may quote George Strait on this one.... I saw God today.

Sometimes I write because I have an actual story to tell.  Sometimes I write because there are so many thoughts racing through my head that I can't slow them down till I type it out.  And sometimes writing to me is rest.  A quiet place that is all mine, but I invite y'all in to share. 

And sometimes I write because my heart has felt, or my eyes have seen, or my face has smiled. 

And I see and hear God in so many ways and days and places and people.  In work and rest and searching and stumbling upon.  And I know it's him.  Because I recognize it as the caring work of a friend who leaves me gifts all around -  like friends to bump into unexpectedly, and the beauty of these last fall days whose colors were enough to make me slow down and stare.

Like one of my favorite George Strait songs says, I saw God today

Have you?  I'd love to hear about it. 

My prayer today.....

God you are our place of safety and rest.  Our place of peace in a busy world.  Help us today to see the good news of your daily gifts.  Give us peace in our sleep and waking, and friends to keep along the way.  Help us to carry our thanks with us daily while giving credit to you who made it all. Help us to see the world through your eyes, and know the peace of your presence on this day.  Amen.

Happiest Thanksgiving to you.  I am thankful for you. 

All of Heaven will join in... with a big ol' chocolate malt.

I just made THE. BEST. CHOCOLATE. MALT. IN. THE. HISTORY. OF. MANKIND. And if I ever fall out of the fitness business, I just may have a future in frozen fountain drinks. 

It's a comfort food for me - whose place is definitely on a weekend like this -  where the temperature fell from mid 80's to an ice warning on my car dashboard.  Or following a lengthy stomach virus.   And I totally deserve a reward for surviving. 

For chocolate malts and their place in this world, I am most thankful.  

So the boys and I decided that on this miserably cold and rainy day, and we couldn't muster up the strength or will to go out for Mexican food , which is the champion of cold and rainy day food in Texas, .... we chose the next best thing.  Grilled cheese on country white bread, parmesan chicken noodle soup (which is also THE. BEST.... but I didn't make it.  Just opened it up and heated it, but I can tell you where to find it if you want some.  Or just come over here next time you're cold and I'll fix it for you.   You're welcome.)  And the chocolate malt.  Which my boys proclaimed as award winning and told their daddy that I am the all time best malt maker in the entire world.  Which he always thought he was.... but apparently not anymore.  I feel a malt making showdown coming on.

Gosh, and my youngest son has now been "invited" by the school counselor to join the friendship group.....which if you've ever watched that TV show, The Middle, where the youngest kid, Brick, has to attend social skills class with all the other not quite adjusted kids  - that's what I'm imagining.  Apparently Sam has some other buddies that have been invited as well.  Looks like there's gonna be some lessons about conflict resolution going on.  Could be a direct result of the whole water bottle incident on the playground not long ago. 

And having nothing whatsoever to do with malts, TV shows, or Mexican food..... my middle son has always had a wish to fly.  Not like a pilot  - but like a bird.  So he could go wherever and whenever and see the world.  Or just fly away from places or things he doesn't like - like cleaning his room or maybe math class at school.  And after my little guy got his invitation to the friendship group at school last week, I totally had the same wish.  At the very moment of opening the invitation.  Clicking my ruby red heels together and wishing I could fly away.... from all the eyes at the teacher appreciation potluck that I'm about to host.  You know the one... the one where all the teachers will now know me as the mom of the kid invited to the friendship group. 

(By the way.... this was my weekly attempt at the 5 Minute Friday writing challenge that bloggers all over the world link up to and share their imperfect lives, thoughts, and words, in only 5 minutes.  Today's prompt was the word: FLY.  And when I first heard the prompt, my immediate thought was the hymn, "I'll Fly Away" and it's country counterpart as sung by the lovely Miranda Lambert.  And friends, it goes something like this...  
I'll fly away from it all one day..
  These are the days that I will remember
When my name's called on the roll
He'll meet me with two long-stemmed glasses
And make a toast to me coming home 

Which all of Heaven will join in... with a big ol' chocolate malt. 

They need the mom I am now.

I watch as he makes his way across my crowded classroom.  A little boy, about 3 years old.  His mom has just finished her morning spin class and I'm now working with one of my older adult groups.  We're at our local YMCA, the place to be in the  morning as far as fitness is concerned around here.  And as much of a community within a community as you'll find in this part of town.  A place for fitness, friends, visiting and caring for ourselves and others.

There are about 40 people in the room, but the little guy peeks in.... looking for just the right person.  And he finds her waiting for him every time.  Miss Lilian, who works part time in the child care room at the Y.  And she's this fella's teacher on occasion, for an hour here or there. And he loves her because she loves him.  And each day he wants to give and get his hug - the one just for and from her.  So he wanders through the crowded group of tall people as if nothing is in his way, he finds her in the back corner, they hug, and he's good.  He runs out and can go on about little boy business.

And part of childhood business is loving unconditionally.  They are mirrors of the love that they are shown.  What's put in, comes right back out ten times greater and without reason or hesitation or second thought of who or where or when.  Just love.  Without thinking twice.  

And I love watching this little boy right now in this particular stage.  Because I remember my boys.  Their beautiful sweetness and giving hearts.  But what I see as time passes is how time changes them.  And me.  And how time takes away pieces of the people we were and turns us into someone completely different. 

Our nephew and his wife have four little ones under the age of four and we forget every time they come to visit what that's like  ... till their little toddler storm comes blowing in here again.  My husband said after they left last time, I don't know how they do it....  And I told him, ... just like we did. We were at that same place in time about 10 years ago. 

But parents come with amazing powers of selective memory.  I remember the days of my guys being little.  And I have pictures to prove it.... but I struggle to remember the exact days.   The length and flow of the toddler times.  And the activity level and the running and jumping and climbing and exploring their brave new worlds.  Not that long ago, my house was our babies' new world.  Toys to play and furniture to climb on and a big dog and brothers to wrestle .... and I can see why God lets us keep only some of the memories.  For me, its like the memory of childbirth.  I absolutely remember each time.  And I remember that I was in pain.  But I can't re-live that pain.  The exact memory has faded to only a name.  The memory that I did it... and the memory that I left the hospital each time with a beautiful gift.  

As my kids grow, I remember that I loved them at every age.  I loved their little personalities and the funny things they said and the Spider Man costume that Christopher wore his entire 4th year.  But I remember them as events, and time periods... a place in my history.  I can't bring back the actual moment to moment of those times. As it's meant to be.  My kids need me to be their mom now - at ages 10, 12 and 13.  They need my interests to match their interests and needs at this age.  They need the mom I am now.  For the kids they are now.

And I crazy love the young men they are now... completely new people, though I know they're still mine.  But without pictures to remind me of the messes and stresses, their little selves fade into time periods of my life.  Big lumps of time called infancy and toddler-hood and school days.  I talked to my niece about that recently.  About getting to know the little people she has today.  Because when you look back, it's like our eyes and minds play a trick.  Our kids become the memories of people we used to know.  But I look forward to each day of being mom. In each age and stage.

I have some particular worries today.  Mostly about raising teens and what's normal or not , and right and possibly crazy.  So I'm rolling that around in my head a bit.  

But for these days - past, present and future, I know that what I have is a gift and a blessing. And this Thanksgiving season, I can't say thank you enough.  

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