Here's what 18 years has made.....

So much fun to fit into one weekend and I don't even know how to describe it but through pictures.

First, let me say that though I love my job, I also love a good day off.  And I took that day last Friday so I could go to Kid 1's game.  Which was at a totally weird time - -at 11AM on a Friday morning.  And about a thousand miles away from where they usually play.  But it was the kids' State Fair day so there was no school and I guess that's why the daytime game.  I guess if you don't get the high schoolers early on a day off, maybe you won't get them at all.

So here we are - Kid 1's cheering section, complete with family from North Carolina and a cousin from Austin.  I think he was the only player with those kinds of visitors - so please, Kid 1, never tell us that you were ostracized, neglected, and unloved.

And that day at the game we experienced three of the four seasons of weather, missing only an ice storm for good measure.  But it rained and got cold, then hot, then some more rain with on and off again gale force winds.  This picture was during one of the bigger gusts.  I think my hair was about to blow off but I got to love on my boy for a second post game so vanity aside, I'll take it.  I think this is the time I should use a hashtag something like #MamaLovesNumber50

Then we made our way to the State Fair of Texas.  Was this my second or third visit this year?  I don't remember.  But seriously, who can ever get enough of Big Tex?

And on Saturday we had a family wedding - Fireman Dave's niece -  and that was fun, too.  And here are some cousins at the wedding.  Three belong to me.  Can you spot them? 

I do have to tell you that when the couple had napkins engraved with the words "mischief and merriment," they really meant the mischief part because whether they knew it or not, they had a trick cake... a cake that turned lips and teeth black, the color of the frosting.  Fireman Dave may or may not have been the only one besides a two year old to fall for it, but thank goodness for some abrasive paper towels in the bathroom to work his face back to normal.  I do not have pictures of this and for that he is thankful.  However....

I think this picture was taken before cake. 

Oh, and a couple of weeks ago we celebrated 18 years of marital bliss  marriage. So in honor of that I thought I'd throw out some TRUE or FALSE questions....

1. Romance and flowers and saying things like teen girls dream of saying to boys and I don't really know why,...... such as, You Complete Me...... is the key to long lasting relationships.

I say False, though Fireman Dave did surprise me with some pretty fancy flowers this time around. I think in the movies the girl would be wearing something cute or maybe even quirky... I'm thinking something  involving a skirt and a slightly mismatched sweater with some worn, but well thought out boots.  Oh, and she would also have the perfect look of surprise in her eyes upon floral gifting and receiving.  I happen to get that look of surprise and joy each and every time I come home to find the laundry already folded.  But that day, to highlight that romantic floral gesture, I was wearing a wet sports bra, and had come home late because I stopped to eat lunch with a friend.  But when I found the flowers on the dining room table, I still loved them.  And y'all, my husband's floral arranging skills never disappoint.

2. Dramatic dates and share  worthy pictures taken to mark every occasion are the key to long lasting relationships.

I say maybe because I would never turn down a good date if I were indeed offered one - but a giant no on the pictures and share worthy need for attention.  But y'all, for this anniversary, Fireman Dave was working.  And yes, we are still a 2 car family with three licensed drivers and a learner in the house - so for our date, I went by the fire station, picked him up and we did the station grocery shopping at the ALDI  in less than 30 minutes.  Sort of like speed dating, but with food choices.  It was super fun and I got some things for myself while I was there. He tried to trick me into choosing the ice cream flavor that they guys would like with lunch and I declined, stating that I still want to be the one that people like when she shows up for holidays and such.  That and I can't handle insults and criticism. 

3. 24 hour and day 7 day a week togetherness is the key to long lasting relationships.

I say a GIANT NO to that one. No, make that a giant NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Everyone knows that I adore our every third day apart and having the entire bed to myself plus the house full of just me and the dog for a bit while the boys are at school. I enjoy together, but not glued together. That goes for everyone. 

4. Having everything in common makes for long lasting relationships.

Maybe. Maybe not. I wouldn't know since Fireman Dave and I have only certain things in common... our top two being Mexican food and our children. Other than that, the list is pretty spotty, but we each value the other's list for what it is.

So I thought I would go on a bit about what makes a relationship work for long periods of time.  But then I couldn't get the words out. Number one  - because I'm certainly not an expert on relationships of any kind.  Especially marriage so don't even look for those clues in here.  And Number two - my mind has been on other things.  

This past Friday evening while we were still at the Fair, Kid 3 found out that one of his friends from school had been shot and killed.  This was a 15 year old boy.  I wrote a post about it for another publication, and you can read it HERE.  But let me just say that I have tried to explain life and death and heaven and hell to a 14 year old boy in the last week.  And I've tried to do more listening to see if I could hear the sounds of grief getting quieter as the days passed.  And now will be the time to start introducing the idea of choices and consequences, in the context of life and death decisions, and how we decide to do that as parents can surely make or break the lines of communication.  So for now, I am just kind of sitting on those thoughts and words till I can get them right.

I talked to a friend at the gym today who is having some parenting issues of his own.  And I found myself just freely speaking out my thoughts about it  - like I know what I'm talking about.  Then I decided that it may be easier to parent someone else's kids through a tough time given the whole objectivity and impartial evaluation of the facts sort of thing.  Really I probably just need to not talk so much.

post script - to be truthful, we did go out to eat the night before our actual anniversary date, and tried a new Tex Mex restaurant in our very own neighborhood which is all by itself exciting and I might have to contain my enthusiasm for chips and salsa since it is so dangerously close to home now. And for the occasion I got to put on some cute clothes and throw the low carb plan out the window in order to celebrate 18 years.

Here's what 18 years has made..... 

Howdy Folks from Big Tex....

Here's me and Fireman Dave and our annual selfie with Big Tex.  We also took one in front of the fountain and the Ferris wheel but my eye looked like it was doing something weird so you can't see that one.

And if you've never been to a real barn raising.... you can mark that off your list right now.  Sort of.  Because HERE is a picture of what's happening in our backyard.

This is the out building that Fireman Dave has been working on tirelessly for the boys.  The big plan is to move the old couch, the video games, ... the general loudness out there and re-claim my den for family TV viewing.  When you can't quite make a whole house remodel happen, just do a backyard alternative instead.  That's kind of the Fire-family's budget minded motto.  But it's really not my deal at all, and I'm just watching it happen.  Do I think it the most logical plan?  I'm remaining silent on that.  

In other goings on,   

First, let me say that the Walters family has had a bit of drama of late, more of the don't share on the internet type, but what I've taken away from it is that no matter what is going on with our kids, no matter where, a mom will drop what she is doing, watching, reading or even eating, to take care of that kid.  And yes, Kids 1, 2 and 3, I always will.  God willing.  The love I have for my kids when their hearts are breaking, breaks my own.  But it is in those times that I know my full purpose on this earth has always been for me to be these boys' mom.

But THE absolute joy of my week has been my friend Loyce in Uganda.  And when joy is so big, it has to be shared.  Y'all, I needed a little laugh and smile this week, and without even knowing it Loyce came to my rescue. I bought her a little gift way back in July when Fireman Dave and I went to Fredericksburg, but I waited to send it till I had some other things to send with it.  What I have learned about the international postal system is that it is not cheap, so no you cannot send yourself wrapped as a gift to anyone outside of the United States.  It is also hit or miss on when or whether your mail will actually arrive at its destination.  I mailed a package to Loyce in early August, containing her gift and two letters that I had written over the summer.  When the package didn't arrive by the last week of September, I sent her a separate letter to let her know that I still think she's awesome.  THIS week, the September letter arrived on Tuesday and the August package finally arrived on Wednesday and Loyce got to be surprised at school by our mutual friend and all around amazing person, Vornita, not once but twice.  Here are a few of those pictures.

But Y'all, it gets so much better.  I had already asked Vornita to make sure Loyce had her needs met and even beyond that, I asked for her to get a few special things for her as well.  School tuition and supplies are fun and all, but nothing compared to snacks, new dresses and new shoes.  And today this is what I got pictures of....

Surprise Loyce!! 

I tried to share a video link from Facebook with you.  Gosh I tried, but gosh, I also finally gave up.  It's a video of her getting her new dresses and shoes and she is as silent and expressionless as a statue.  But her classmates and their reactions?  Y'all.  Just Y'all. 

What I've learned about Loyce is that she is a bit on the shy side, a bit camera shy and a tad reserved.  But give a girl a new dress and she becomes a princess.  Then she becomes a superstar - how about a superstar princess?  And that smile?  No I mean, really - THAT SMILE!  How can I love this little girl so much from so far away?  I think it's a God thing.

But as I watched the video of her receiving her new things, my heart felt so much appreciation for what I have and have always had.  She was pretty silent as she opened the package - honestly I'm not sure she has ever had a brand new dress before - but listening to her classmates ooh and aah over a dress made my heart confused about whether it should break or throw a party.  Seeing how excited a child gets over  things that my own boys take for granted  makes me feel so many different things - so much so that sometimes I have to look away.  Maybe that's the biggest problem - that we have the option of looking away.

Right now I'm in a place where I don't want to look away.  I want to see her house and her family and her busy at work making brooms.  I want to see her in her school uniform  and her report card to see her grow both physically and in opportunity to better herself.  I want to keep giving to this little girl so that she can feel a hint of a question in her heart asking why a stranger all the way across the world wants to send her things.  I hope one day she knows that it was because I want her to be reminded that she is of value to me and to the God who made her.   

I think my sweet little pen pal came along at a time when I needed to give out some extra love, and I couldn't think of a cuter little girl to give it to.  God fills in the gaps in our hearts,... I've always thought so - and because of exactly that, I'm thankful for her. 

I've been quite frustrated in the mothering department lately.  Save for a few moments of surprise need by my kids, I've felt like whatever I do or say doesn't really matter all that much anymore.  And I'm not talking about the million times I tell the boys to take out the trash.  I'm talking about the importance of faith and family and looking beyond today to what each of us can do to influence a better tomorrow  - whether that be for ourselves, for each other, or for something greater than ourselves.  But the most pressing topics around here only seem to be - Do we have any chips?  Where are all the towels?  It's been two minutes since I texted Princess C and I might die soon... see how my hand is already twitching from withdrawal?  

Y'all, I know all about how families are destined to grow upward and outward, but my hope was always that when that happened, that the roots of us would stay strong.  Today I'm feeling a little sad about my roots.  So I am extending this to you, ... my thoughts, hopes and prayers for you if you are in a similar place.  And my admiration and respect if you were at one time, and made it through.  I tend to lean to toward to the lonely side of things - it's a Kristi specialty, and being a fire wife where I spend a whole lotta time alone sometimes makes those thoughts echo in my own mind.  

But when I get like this, I write to my blog.  I write to Loyce.  I plan my next adventure.  I'm getting excited about what that might be. 

post script - Did I tell you that Loyce speaks 3 different languages?  And that English is her weakest?  It is.  So we have that communication gap, along with the time gap to learn about each other.  But my commitment is to regularly remind her that she is in my thoughts and that those thoughts are of love for a sweet little girl far away.  If you ever want to join me in writing to her, her family, or would like to help another child, please ask me how.  

Time to let it go, Kristi

Here are the top things I have learned as a blogger in my years on the job...

1.  I can pour  my heart and soul into a post and feel like the world's greatest person and no one will care.  Really.  No one. 

2. I can sit down and write a post in a matter of minutes, just something off the top of my head... and it will get shared a million times and I stand amazed at how easy it was.  Or not.

3.  Topics people tend to be most interested in on my blog - interpersonal relationships such as that time last week when I was at Kid 3's football game and no one would sit with me.  People also enjoy a good story about Kid 1 and Princess Chatterbox, tales of public school and learning challenges, or in other words, How is Kid 3 doing in math class this year, Kristi?  And I know I will forever get record setting readership if I say that I tripped and fell down or had a fight with Fireman Dave.  Go figure.

So thank you to all of you who shared my last post about our kids attending our neighborhood public school.  It went internet crazy and I've since been contacted by several individuals and organizations that have expressed interest in that post and I feel sort of blogging famous.  At least I did for about 5 minutes.... now I just feel like me again.  Especially considering Kid 3's math grade. 

General Updates..... 

Today I drove through a bucket of nails on our street.  Because you know,... every now and then there's just a random bucket of nails in the street.  So I'm hoping the gods of automotive care are protecting my tires as we speak.  And there is still a sailboat in our driveway.  But now it is being propped up with a Black and Decker work bench because that makes it better.  

Went to Kid 1's game as I do every week... but this time there was rain,  a cricket invasion, and finally a skunk.  It was like the 3 plagues of football revelation so we left when the smell started to permeate my hair. 

In kid news - Kid 1 went to the Homecoming dance last weekend and looked so handsome and had so much fun that he forgot to come home on time.  This, opening an entirely new chapter of the Harlequin romance novel known as Kid 1 and Princess C Take on Their Second Year of Love.

And Kid 2 was feeling a little teenager-ish yesterday and pointed out how I seem to edit all our family photos to make myself look better than I actually do.  Which is really not something a man should ever say to his mother - or to any female on the planet if he ever wants to live a peaceful life.  We are now working on repairing our relationship and hoping to salvage some of the pieces.  

And Kid 3 is playing football for his middle school and giving all the attention he should be giving to math, science and all other subjects requiring his brain, to his athletic improvement.  It looks like it might be another long school year.

Fireman Dave is finishing out the month of September as he started it out... working.  If there was a lifetime achievement award given for number of overtime hours worked in a month, he would win by a mile.  I on the other hand, seem to daily lose the battle of house cleaning, cooking anything that didn't start out frozen and/or in a box, and the keeping of my children.  I did however just purchase the cutest pair of Reebok Classic tennies off of a resale fashion site and I feel like a success in life because of it.  Can't wait to dress cute and look adorable when I fail at all my home and parenting tasks.

And just an fyi...  if you actually know me and have seen me in the past few days.  I had my final dermatology appointment that I gifted myself earlier in the year.  In short,.... on the road to looking fabulous, I have to go through several days of really ugly to get there.  So yes, I feel fine, nothing tragic happened, and Fireman Dave wants me to let everyone know that I feel safe at home.

Y'all, September was hard on us all.  Was it for you, too?  I've pretty much just tried to get through each day and find a place to nap whenever possible.  But I made a decision a few days ago that I hope will change some of the stress of late.  I sent a text to Princess Chatterbox and asked if she would like to get together one day after school or even just sit together at Kid 1's next game.  I knew I had to do that, and the thing is that I've known it for a long time.  I've prayed about it over and over and the answer I always got was a heaviness in my heart about the whole thing.  I think for a while I wanted to blame it all on the youth in the situation, but maybe it just took some time to remember that I was young once too.  Y'all, one time I went over to a boy's house and knocked on the back door.  I chose the back door because I had been over to his house a couple of times before and we always used the back door.  But me being from the part of town I lived in, that whole choice of entrance doors was totally foreign  to me so I just assumed the back door was how everyone went into that house.  His mom wasn't very nice about it all and I could tell in multiple ways that she, at that very moment, had just labeled me as both brazen and ignorant.  I vote ignorant, but that was a long time ago and time to let it go, Kristi.  But she made me feel like I had committed a thousand sins of guest etiquette, and I still remember it.  Anyway, little things like that kept coming back to me.  And the answer was that I should be a help, not a hindrance in the growing of a quality adult.  

So I invited her.  And I told her that anyone who is important to Kid 1 is important to me, and how I really do want to get to know her better.  The olive branch of friendship has been extended, and I hope that it reaches straight into my heart and softens it a bit to make this work.  

Maybe that's the answer to the prayer I wasn't expecting to get.
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