August 14, 2016

Mr. Personality

Jacob.  Jacob is....

Jacob is something.

If there was ever a picture that captures his personality and who he is, it would be this one.  Eyes full of silly, wonder, and mischief.  The cutest grin on the face of the planet.  He's up to something, wheels turning, mind racing, pondering what kind of trouble or havoc he can create in his little world. 

Jacob experiences his world with his entire being.  He runs the fastest.  Screams the loudest.  Smiles the biggest.  Cries the hardest.  Laughs the longest.  I have always seen this light in him, something bright and big that gives me a glimpse into the man he is going to be someday.

I've been vocal with my friends about what a challenge he has been to raise and mother.  He has a fiery, emotional personality.  He is passionate, stubborn, and strong-willed.  He can be explosive and raging angry.  And he is precious, affectionate and adoring.  He knows how to work his big blue eyes and convince me to give him anything, which is why he may be accustomed to having a popsicle for breakfast from time to time. 

And we have had to grow together.  I have had to learn how to help him calm down and teach him how to do it himself.  How to deal with him in a quiet and persistent kind of patience.  I've learned that sometimes we have to get to a quiet space away from a situation so he can hear me, hear himself and find some peace again.  I've learned that he has to get out and have plenty of physical activity if I want him to be able to listen and still when needed.  Some days are better than others, and some days I completely fail him and I lose it.  Jacob has the ability to bring out the very worst parts of me and I hate that.  I hate that he has to know me in these places.  I hate that he is like me in these places.  That his rage, his anger, his explosiveness comes from me.  That some days, I discipline him for the very things he has seen me do.

He is a challenge and he is hard.  It has made motherhood feel hard and I have envied my friends whose children have more even temperaments and better manners.  I have the child that may punch yours in the stomach if they take his toy.  I have the child that might say shit because he heard it in a movie and yes, we let him watch a movie that had the word shit in it and now you know that because he's three and he's cussing.  I have the child that doesn't like to share.  I have the child that squirts an entire tube of toothpaste all over the bathroom sink.

And I have the child that is the source of deep, from-the-belly laughter in our house.  Who reminds me that discipline is always followed by hugs and kisses.  I have the child that invites me to embrace the world and to live life more fully than I would if he weren't in it.

Jacob.  Jacob is.....

Jacob is something.  And I'm glad he's mine.

August 3, 2016

It's August

It's August already.  I'm not ready for it to be August, because if it's August then that means it's nearly September and if it's nearly September then it's practically fall.  And if it's practically fall then it's time to think about Christmas and if it's Christmas.....didn't I just wake up from Christmas?

It's August and I still feel like I'm missing this chunk of my life that was consumed with my illness and surgery and recovery.  So much of me has wanted to close this chapter on my life that was my diverticulitis and my bowel resection as if it never happened.  But people keep reminding me of it because I look "so amazing" and then the medical bills that still keep arriving in our mailbox reminding me how expensive all of this was and has been.

It's August and we didn't get to have a family vacation this year and I've been pouting about it.  I took the week off of work this week and it's been a bust.  It has reminded me that I'm not up for the stay-at-home-mom life and I feel like I've been nothing but a disappointment to my boys all week because some of the fun things have ended up falling through and we have no money to do anything fun and it seems like all the fun things to do take money that we don't have.  Because medical bills and debt.

It's August and I feel lost.  We left our church and it broke my heart to do so and it's exhausting to be looking for some place new.

It's August and there are school supplies in my dining room.  Because it's almost time for second grade and another year of routine and homework and learning new things and figuring out new schedules.  There are still school clothes to buy with the money we don't have.  Because medical bills and debt.

It's August and it looks like more change is on the horizon with jobs and work and childcare arrangements.  And all of the possibility of change makes me tired.

It's August and I'm struggling.  I'm discouraged and I'm having a hard time.  I'm using new things in the place of old addictions and I'm frustrated that I continue to find small, little gods to fill a void and a chasm inside of me that can't be filled by anything or anyone but Him.

It's August.

July 24, 2016

Avengers Assemble: Another Birthday

When Tommy turned 5 and I planned the epic Star Wars party of a lifetime, I told him that year we weren't going to do any big parties until he was 10.  We had plenty of big parties every single year of his life up until that point and I thought we could think of other fun birthday things to do.

And last year we didn't have a party.  We went to Six Flags for his 6th birthday and ate pizza and cupcakes with some friends after church.  I did good for a whole year.

But then, his birthday was coming up and I got the party itch and I just had to scratch it.  I sort of talked him into an Avengers party.  I mean, he loves all of those supeheroes, but maybe not nearly as much as his mama.  But he said he knew it would be fun because I throw the best parties ever - and that made my party-throwing heart just beam with pride.  So, I set off on my Marvel loving ways and began planning an epic Avengers party for my seven year old.

What's great about him being seven, is that he can totally help with party decorations.  
 Like any party planner, I scoured Pinterest for ideas and made some fun superhero paper lanterns.
The Thor paper lantern was my favorite since I got to put a red cloth napkin on it as a "cape."  I'm only slightly passionate about party decor.
 My awesome friend Lindsey made some cookies for the party.  The Ironman hands and Captain America shields were my most favorites!

 I made cupcakes and had some of my favorite Tommy pictures on display.
The great thing about this party was that we had so many toys and costumes that I basically had party decor covered.  Between our superhero action figures and the outfits they dress up in all of the time, I had almost everything I needed.  I displayed all of our costumes on the wall and I thought this was such a fun backdrop!

Pinterest showed me how to make a shield out of strawberries, blueberries and marshmallows to look like Captain America's shield and I loved how it turned out!
 I made "Hulk's Power Punch" and "Gamma Ray Grapes."
And cheese squares with pretzel sticks as "Thor's Hammers."
And pizza - Tommy's favorite.
Only a really big nerd will understand the reference to the "Sha-warma" pizza.  Again, I had way too much fun with this party.
 I thought it would be fun to do a couple of games.  I had this brilliant idea of letting the kids smash a bunch of ice cream cones like Hulk.
And it was brilliant, except for the fact that it only lasted about 2.5 seconds and the game was over!  Kids definitely know how to Hulk Smash!
 Our dear friend, Uncle Nate, volunteered to be the bad guy so all the kids could work together and capture him.
 We had a pinata which sadly broke before we even let the kids hit it! But there was candy in the end and the kids didn't seem to mind!
 Tommy's best buddy Matthew that lives down the street.  It's great having a best friend that only lives a few doors down!
And his "best girl" Callie who gave him a Star Wars blanket for his birthday, which is his new favorite thing ever.  But mostly because it was from her. 
 My big boy has come a long way since his first couple of birthdays where he would burst into tears when we sung Happy Birthday to him. 
 And he scored with some super awesome presents - Star Wars and superheros alike.  His face says it all.
I may have broken my "no parties until he's 10" rule, but I mean, you only turn 7 once right?  We all had a great time and I have officially decided that someone needs to throw a superhero party for me.  I think a grown up version of this would be so fun!
Happy Birthday to my big boy Tommy!  I still can't believe you're seven years old!  I hope you always remember how loved and treasured you are to us and that you have these fun memories to look back on for always!

July 7, 2016

July Adventure

Having boys means that almost everything can turn into an adventure.  I've learned a lot about adventure and exploration from Tommy and Jacob.  On the 4th of July this year, we met up with Todd's long time buddy Richard and his family out at a campsite in Kerrville, and spent the day in the sunshine on the river where adventure was waiting for all of us. 
 
Both Tommy and Jacob thought tubing on the water was pretty much the best thing ever.  That is until Richard took out his canoe and they got to ride in a real live boat and rowed down the river together.  Jacob acted like the captain and directed all of them on where they needed to go.  Tommy spent the day scouring the shallow waters for treasures like rocks shaped like the Millennium Falcon and lost snorkels.  He held tiny frogs in his hands and tried his hand at skipping rocks.  I'm not a huge fan of rivers and lakes and swimming with living creatures, but my boys don't seem to mind the fish or slimy mud.  I had to let myself relax as they tripped over rocks or nearly fell out of tubes and realize that all of the falls and scrapes that come with days like that are part of adventuring.
Part of the day was spent at the pool which is more my speed with it's clear waters and lack of living things and all.  My oldest will now get into a pool since he's tall enough to walk in it, and was brave and put his head under the water several times.  Teaching him how to swim and being patient with his fear of deep water is an ongoing challenge, but I can see where he is trying and he wants to break through and figure out how to do it.  And my other son was angry that I wouldn't let him go into the water on his own, completely unaware that he needs to learn to hold himself up.  He was jumping off the sides of the pool into our arms and takes on the pool with fearless abandon.  They continue to be completely opposite in personality and my mother's heart hopes that as they continue to grow up together tat they will learn from on another's fears and struggles, goals and accomplishments and build each other up.
We ate hot dogs and got a little sunburned, because sunscreen, no matter how many applications, still loses to south Texas sunbeams in the middle of the summer. 
 And of course, a 4th of July celebration wouldn't be complete without a little saber fighting.



On the way home, we found this cute car shop that had an old time gas station out front for fun photo-ops.  Never one to miss a photo-op, I asked that we turn around and get a few fun pictures.


July is notoriously hot in our neck of the woods and after a full day in the sunshine, we opted to watch fireworks from our living room sofa in our pajamas and the comfort of air conditioning.

Perhaps every year that we celebrate the birth of our nation, don our red, white and blue outfits and pop fireworks, I grow more grateful for our country, our freedoms and the blessings we have because we live in America.  I'm thankful that our day included long time friends, sunshine and adventure.

June 22, 2016

Short Stories

YARDWORK HARDWORK.

In all of the years we have been married, I have never helped with the yard.  I'm pretty sure it's partially because I was traumatized as a child by having to pick up smelly, rotten pears in the backyard anytime my dad needed to mow.  The only thing I hated more than picking up gross pears was when I had to scrub out the cat pan.  Ew.

But, Todd and I had a pre-marriage agreement, that all yard work and grass mowing was in the husband department.  I would make sure he always had clean underwear and dinner to eat and that occasionally I would dust things.  But killing bugs, taking out the trash and anything to do with the yard was his domain.

However, with how awesome I've been feeling lately, I offered to help Todd with some front yard maintenance.  We needed to weed out our shrub area and wanted to plant some new bushes to spruce things up a bit.  Tommy even helped and we got to reinforce lessons about working hard without complaining and having a good attitude.  I heard myself say all of the things that my dad would say to me when I had to pick up those damn pears in the backyard of my childhood house.  Full circle moments.

We worked and toiled all day - taking some popsicle breaks and a nap right in the middle of our project, because it's blazing hot in June here which is probably why do what we did in a sensible month like March.

But it felt good to help.  To move my body and dig and lift things and sweat along side of my husband.  Not because I had to, and not really even because I wanted to.  But because I could.


BETTER.

Someone called me "tiny" the other day and it felt weird.  I am far from tiny.  I am still overweight.  But I am smaller and can officially buy clothes on the "normal sized" parts of the store.

For me, the most drastic thing hasn't been my waistline or weight loss.  It's been in my health - how my body feels, how I am moving it, and what I am actually desiring to eat.  I want vegetables.  Pizza has lost its appeal.  I eat fruit for dessert on purpose.  When I have a sweet tooth, I eat a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and it's completely satisfying.  I've been working out - walking and attempted jogging.  Light weight lifting, crunches, squats and lunges - trying to both strengthen and push my body.

I've had several compliments on my appearance.  Some of that feels good, and some of it doesn't.  i try to filter things and let them roll off of me as any mention of my size in the past whether positive or negative has been triggering for me.  I've heard things like, "Wow, I know you went through a hellish ordeal this year, but man, you look fantastic!"  And I just say thank you.  Because yes, I did go through a hellish ordeal and I do look a bit fantastic.  But, how I look isn't even the point.  It's how I feel.  It's how much healthier I am now.  It's about my changed perspective and how I'm finally caring for my body with better nutrition and exercise.

Yes, I look better.  But I feel better.  I eat better.  I move better.  I am better.


FACES IN A CROWD.

We sat in a new church on Sunday morning.  There were chairs instead of pews and they had fun flashy lights when the music played and there were silly videos for announcements.  Our boys had a great time in their classes and Tommy is already asking to attend their VBS program next month.  My skeptical eye looked over their statement of faith for any potential doctrine issues that we don't agree with.  Other than one set of familiar faces, we were surrounded by strangers.  We were greeted as visitors and met with kindness.

But I sat there feeling sad.  Wondering if this place would be or ever could be home for us.  Recently, we made the decision to leave our church body that has been home to us for nearly seven years.  Things happened as they always do, and we have chosen to keep our reasons private.

Nevertheless, we are finding ourselves in this new space of starting over again.  We keep in touch with some of the friends that moved on and left the church before we us, and some of those friendships are long and lasting.  But they have and will continue to shift and change as life does with relationships and communities.  It took us over three years at our church before we really made friends.  At our peak there, we did life with several families and it was glorious.  We felt like we were wanted, like we belonged and had a purpose.

Now, we are new again.  We feel a little lost and quite alone, hoping to meet some new friends and families to do life with again.

But for now though, we are mere faces in a crowd.


PHONE CALLS AND HOSPITAL STAYS.

"You're calling me?" Sarah said answering her phone.

"I think we should probably know by now, that if we are calling each other instead of texting, something is probably wrong or we have bad news." I said choking back tears.  Remembering my call to her last December when I was sick and new something was terribly wrong.

"Uhoh.  What's up?" she asked.

It's funny how accustomed we are in this day in age to text.  For me, it's weird for anyone to call me unless it's my Grammy or my 74 year old boss who doesn't believe in text messages. And especially with Sarah and all of the life we have known together in the last several years, phone calls usually mean big or serious news:  Engagement.  Pregnancy.  Cancer.  Death.

We had some scary news on Father's Day.  Todd's dad went to the ER having difficulty breathing. As it turned out, he had some large blood clots in his lungs and for two days straight, we really didn't know if he would even live.  We were all nervous and scared and preparing ourselves for the worst.  He is planning to retire this year, they are building a new house, and his daughter (my sister-in-law and one of my best friends) is getting married.  It's a big year for him, for our family, and we don't want to imagie any of that without him.

Thankfully, it looks like he is on the mend and blood thinners and doctors did what they do best and were able to heal the scary things that were threatening his life.  The doctors are calling him a walking miracle because a clot of that size that passed through his heart into his lungs should have been fatal.

Sarah came to sit with my boys the evening I called her so I could go up to the hospital and take dinner to my family who hadn't eaten all day.  I sat with my mother-in-law and told her some silly stories about the boys while she ate her dinner so she could have a break from her tears and worries.  Todd took the week off of work and has been up at the hospital as soon as I have gotten home from my job.  It's only Wednesday but it feels like the longest week ever.

I found myself out loud in prayer this week, pleading with God. Asking Him for another miracle, another blessing, another place for Him to please come through and make things go our way.  I don't always pray out loud - I mostly journal and talk to Him through my writing things down.  But, just like Sarah answered her phone and she knew I was calling because I probably had bad news, God was right there to pick up and listen.


THE GIVING TREE.

It is my favorite childhood book.  I can remember sitting on my Grammy's lap listening to her read with her warm, soothing voice.  I would reach up and touch her cheeks and call her skin "fluffy."  Something about the story and those quiet moments with her put me at calm and rest.  Those sweet moments of story telling are some of my favorite memories of her.

Last week, she came over with the book as a gift for me, knowing the treasured memories we had together.  And I asked her to read it to my boys because I wanted them to have the same memory of her - her fluffy skin, her easy voice, the kind of calm that settles over you when you hear the tale of The Giving Tree.

And for a moment I was five again.

I've had her apples and swung from her branches, and she's given me so much to build a life and home of my own.  Grammy was and is and always will be, The Giving Tree.

June 13, 2016

Big Days

Some say that your wedding day is the biggest day of your life.  And it is a big day.  It's the merging of two lives into one.  A huge commitment of forever to another person without any kind of real guarantees for the future except for invisible promises and a faith in God that He will hold you together.  You say your vows in hopes that you can live up to them.

It's been ten years since our big day.  Ten years feels like a milestone.  An accomplishment.

Like we made it to double-digits in marriage and we need a trophy, or a blue ribbon, or at least a Target gift card to replace wedding gifts that have broken or are rusting and worn out.

Before I got sick this year, our plan was to take a "tennymoon" road trip to Colorado, just the two of us.  Stay in a cheap hotel and see the sights and go on some grand adventures in the mountains.  But because of medical bills and missed work, and you know, LIFE, our big together trip didn't get to happen.  We ended up splurging what we had in savings for a weekend beach getaway instead.

We got to eat in restaurants like grown ups without having to pour salt on the table for our three old to eat to keep him quiet (and yes, we really do this) and we got to have conversations outside of the subject of all things Star Wars.  We ate shrimp and took "fun" naps and went shopping and walked on the beach and made out in the pool.  I read a book and drank a coke ICEE and wore a dress for the first time in a very long while.  We celebrated each other, our love, our making it through so many bad things and so many good things.


Looking back I would say that some of the biggest days of our lives had nothing to do with our wedding day.

The day we found out we were pregnant with Tommy.  Buying our first home.  The birth of our first son.  When I stepped out in faith and quit my full-time job.  The day I decided I didn't want to end our marriage.  The day Jacob  was born and our hearts were so full we thought we might explode.  The time Todd left his job in North Dakota and we stepped out in faith once again about what life was going to look like.  The life-changing sickness I went through this year.

And those are just the monumental things.  Because there are a thousand day-to-day things that make up a beautiful life together too.  Like dinners around the table as a family, the date nights that end at the grocery store, the knowing glances we share when our boys bring us joy.  Nights spent around the fire pit talking and making s'mores, playing outside in the rain and countless light saber fights in our living room.

Our wedding day wasn't the biggest day of our lives.  It was the beginning of something.  It was the prologue to our story which has held so many big days.  And even more smaller ones that has somehow made up one very big something.

Happy Anniversary sweetheart.  Here's to the next ten!

May 18, 2016

The Family that Sings Together, Stays Together

I come from a singing family.  I mean, we are basically the modern day Von Trapp's, except there are more of us and we a lot more showy-offy.  Every last one of us is musically inclined in one way or another, and for as long as I can remember, our family gatherings have almost always included music and a time of singing.  Some of my most favorite family memories are tied to music - times spent in worship around a guitar, watching musicals together, or sponteanously breaking out into harmonies together.  In the past, we have even put on family Christmas concerts where we all sang together, in trios or duets and invited people to hear us sing!  See?  Showy-offy.

Over a month ago, my cousin Aimee had the brilliant idea of hosting a family karaoke day, where we could all get together and sing our favorite songs from Broadway musicals.  Because we are a singing family, we have all grown up with a deep love for musicals.  Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, West Side Story, Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Carousel, Grease, The Sound of Music, The King and I, My Fair Lady and Calamity Jane are just a few family favorites.

We all got together over the weekend, to show off our musical chops and sing together.  Some of us had practiced pieces and others were done off the cuff. And when I say some of us had practiced, I most definitely mean myself.  It was a hilarious, sweet, precious, fun time together.

My Poppy is the patriarch of our family.  I think we all see him as the cornerstone of our extended family and all of us have been shaped by him - his faith, his character, his correction of us, his love, his spiritual guidance.  And of course, his musical talent.  He is 82 and still has an incredible voice. He started us off with a performance of Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific.
And then he sang When I Fall in Love (not from a musical) to my Grammy and we all teared up at the sweetness of the moment.
And then we cried our eyes out when he started dancing with her.  Almost 60 years of marriage together....
The day was sweet.  Reconnecting with family and enjoying one another without the distraction of a holiday or a birthday.  I loved it.  I sang Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera and perhaps won the award for loudest-singer-ever afterwards.  And Tommy and I had rehearsed Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music and sang it together.  I got a little choked up with emotion - seeing where my Grandfather's legacy is being passed down to my own children.  And Tommy can sing for real ya'll.  I was so proud of him.

There were plenty of shenanigans on Saturday.  My sister knows every single word and lyric to Officer Krupke from West Side Story by heart and impressed us all with her incredible theatrics.
We all took turns, singing, laughing, entertaining.  I wondered how we had never thought of doing something like this before!  One of the highlights was singing Summer Nights from Grease all together as a family and then listening to my cousin Jon and Poppy fumbling through the words of Oh What a Beautiful Mornin' from Oklahoma!


.
We ended our time together in worship.  It felt fitting to close like that after a day of fun and silly together
Days like that day remind me of how grateful I am for my family.  We aren't perfect and we certainly all possess our own measure of dysfunction.  But, we all know the Lord and our hearts are knit together in a special way - much because of the music we enjoy. 

Karaoke day 2.0 will happen again in December when my Aunt and Uncle and three cousins can join us for Christmas.  Time to start practicing!