Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When the Unabomber Came to Visit

I've been wallowing around in random, old memories the past few days. It all started on Friday when I picked the boys up for school and Sam was wearing a huge pair of women's sunglasses, but that story will require pictures that I've got to go rummage around for, so it will have to wait for another day. But the story that goes with the sunglasses led my mind down another path that is also a good story to tell.

We were fresh out of seminary (and by we, I mean Steve, but I feel like I should get some credit too since I was bringin home the bacon.) And we were at our first church, in a tiny little town called Crowell. I had never heard of that town before we moved there, and it is a rare day indeed whenever I mention to someone that we lived there, and they have heard of it too. When it does happen, you feel like you have an instant bond with this person. Anyway, tiny town. About 900 people. Steve was pastoring 2 small churches, and we loved it there. We loved the people, and we still do. Well, one day, Steve was home for some reason, and he got a call from Myrtie, our church treasurer. She was in a panic, and it turns out she had been in the church, all by herself, in the basement, thinking she was completely alone when she went into a room, and there was the unabomber.

Okay, obviously, not really the unabomber, but the dude bore an uncanny resemblance to him. So Steve hotfoots it to the church to save our sweet treasurer from the Unabomber, and he does what any normal person would do when the unabomber is in your church alone, wandering around, looking for God only knows what. He invites him to our home for a meal. Yes, yes he did.
So, Steve and the unabomber show back up at our house, and I am giving Steve the raised eyebrows, are you crazy look, and he proceeds to heat him up a plate of leftovers. We sat down to visit with him because we are southerners and southerners are polite, even to the unabomber, when he is invited over to your house. The unabomber starts talking about how he needs a new comb because he has lice. My eyebrows nearly reach my hairline, and my head immediately starts itching. Steve says that he'll take him to the drugstore and get him some lice shampoo, but says he's got some old combs he can have. The unabomber gets decidedly upset by this, because he needs new combs, dammit! Didn't we just hear him say he had lice? Oh yes, yes we heard. Was he implying our combs would have lice? I didn't question him on it. He also had no place to stay, and I began to shake my head emphatically at Steve just in case he had any crazy notion of inviting lice-infested unabomber to spend the night at our house. There weren't that many motels in Crowell, after all. Thankfully, Steve had more sense than that, and they left as soon as the unabomber had finished his meal to go get him some lice shampoo and get him a room in the one motel in town.
So, all was well, but as Steve left for work the next day, he suggested that I go ahead and lock the doors since the unabomber was still in town, and he knew where we lived. That made me feel a little uneasy, but not that bad. It was later that afternoon when I was visiting with my mom on the phone, and I was telling her about the unabomber when I looked back and saw my back doorknob being jiggled. Then, through the cracks in the blinds, I could see the unabomber!
My heart started racing, and my knees started shaking. "OH my GOD! MOM! It's the UNABOMBER! He's here, and he's trying to get in the house!"
"Well, leave! Get out of there! GO NOW!" I'm sure she was just as scared as I was.
I told her I was taking her with me, so I kept her on the cordless phone and ran out the front door and across the street. We had only been there a few weeks, so I really didn't know any of my neighbors well enough to go ring their doorbells and explain that I was running away from the unabomber. So I just stood there across the street from my house, watching it with concern. Then, I realized that I had left our new puppy in the house, at the mercy of the unabomber! What kind of a mother was I? My mom refused to let me go back in there and get her, and I was too scared to go anyway. So, I was still just standing out there, wondering what to do, when the front door of the house opened, and out came Steve, "What in the world are you doing out there?" he called out.
Oh, I nearly passed out from relief! My knees were shaking so bad, I literally nearly collapsed right there. Turns out, he was bringing the unabomber back over for one final meal before he headed out of town, but Steve was standing to the side of the door, and I couldn't see him through the blinds. I laughed at myself for freaking out, so glad that it turned out to be nothing. And after that, Steve and I came to an agreement that he wouldn't bring anyone else over to the house that he would think I needed to lock the doors from! They could make do with an Allsup's burrito if they had to. One of our first adventures in ministry, and it still makes me laugh!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sail Fail

At supper tonight we were telling stories, and you know how one story makes you think of another that makes you think of another? Well, that happened to me tonight, and I thought of something I haven't thought of in a long time.


After my freshman year in college, I worked at a summer camp for the summer. A recruiter had come to our campus ministry and they needed counselors for this camp where kids got to horseback ride, learn to sail, play on water slides and water parks, canoe, and the list goes on and on. I thought that sounded like fun, so I signed up and my adventure began.


The counselors arrived about 10 days before the campers, and we were trained in that time so we could teach the campers. Now, horses have never been my thing - I'm pretty much scared to death of them. They just seem so unpredictable and you're supposed to be controlling them, but I never felt empowered enough to control this huge beast that was carrying me for crying out loud! By the very nature of that arrangement, it would seem the horse was in control, and that was true for pretty much every horse I rode. So, I knew this was not going to be my favorite activity, but I'm a pretty good actress so I figured I could fake it. It turned out that they had "wranglers" who would teach the actual lessons about horseback riding, and we were just there for encouragement and crowd control. I learned to fake it pretty well, and horseback riding turned out to be not so bad.



On the other hand, I was really looking forward to the sailing part. I have always loved the water, and sailing just sounded so adventurous and exotic. Remember, I'm from Lubbock, Texas - we don't have a lot of water around there. And so I eagerly went to the sailboat training, envisioning gliding across the smooth water with the wind in my hair. I dutifully learned all the proper terms like port and starboard and jib and boom, and happily took to the water for my first try. There was no gliding, there wasn't even any puttering. I would have been thrilled to just drift with the wind, but my boat pretty much went no where. I watched as the other people would glide happily past me, their hair blowing in the breeze, laughing joyfully, and I would try mightily to position my sails in the exact same position as theirs so I could glide happily too. But, alas, there was never any gliding. I figured it would just take a few tries and I would be a pro at this, not to worry.



The first group of campers came, and when it as sailing day, we all went to the sailboats and each of the counselors had about 6 campers that they would take with them on their sailboat. Can I just say there is no pressure like 6 eight year old girls staring at you, waiting to happily glide across the water and you are just sitting, going no where? Looking back, I blame it on the wind. I'm from west Texas, and here you don't have to lick your finger and hold it in the air to know which direction the wind is blowing. It is blowing in the direction that nearly knocks you over. But in east Texas there didn't seem to be any wind, and yet the blasted other counselors would manage to find the minuscule breeze, turn their sails in just the right position and their sails would fill and they would glide quickly across the water, their laughter mocking me as they went past our stagnant boat.



A few lucky times, I managed to catch a breeze, and we would go sailing smoothly across the water. But I could never enjoy these times because I knew what was going to happen. We would run out of lake, I would be forced to turn, and the fun would come to a grinding halt. It was miserable. My campers would look at me expectantly at first, then later with sheer disappointment. They would listen to my feeble explanations of there being no wind and then say accusingly, "But look at Stacey's boat! They're sailing." Damn that Stacey! Couldn't she just fake it for me? But noooo, she had to glide happily across the water, rubbing it into my sorry face that I was a sailing failure. I remember one time the boom actually caught a gust of wind, came flying across the boat, narrowly missed knocking one of the girls clean in the water, but hit me square in the knee, causing it to gush with blood. I was actually thankful for the injury because then the girls felt sorry for me and didn't make me feel so bad that we weren't going anywhere.

Eventually I learned that I was just never going to get the hang of sailing and would try my best to get sailing as my "off" period. I would bribe the other counselors with whatever was necessary if they wouldn't make me go to my place of shame. If I had to go, I would do my best to try to make it fun in other ways, such as suggesting we all jump in the water and then try to climb back on the boat, pretending a shark was about to eat us all. For some reason this was never as appealing as gliding smoothly over the water. I guess there are some things just not meant for land lubbers.

Thank you for letting me share my shortcomings with you. My name is Alayna, and I am a sailing failure.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to get Noticed

So, as I've mentioned in some of my previous posts, we're doing this thing called "Outflow" in our church, and part of it is just encouraging you to notice other people. You know, not being so caught up in yourself, and your own life that you take the time to open your eyes and look around. Is there someone around you who looks down or alone or happy? And is there something you can do about it? Because after you notice someone, the next logical step is caring about that person. And so, in our Sunday School class, we were talking about how it is a part of our culture to mind your own business, and not look like you are staring at someone else.

But that got me to thinking, that somehow, when you have 4 kids, you are exempt from that social rule. Believe me, when you have 4 kids, people notice you. You attract attention everywhere you go. You can see people pointing, whispering, counting, and occassionally, they'll even ask you if they're all yours. I've always wanted to come up with a witty comment to that one, "Nah...we just pick up kids everywhere we go like some people pick up trash." or "They're all mine, except that one (whichever one is acting bad that day) Do you want him?" Anyway, my point is, people notice us, but I realized that what keeps me from noticing other people is I'm usually busy keeping up with all of mine, counting to 4 over and over again, and just monitoring there whereabouts.

So, today was our last Sunday of Outflow, and the day where the church leaves the building and goes out into the community to show people that God loves them by doing practical or nice things for them. So, we had groups that were giving out cokes on the street corner, buying groceries for people who live in motels, giving out coupons for free Dippin Dots, giving out care packages to fast food workers, "buying down" the price of gas at a gas station to make it under $2, and lots more things. And I haven't talked to everybody at all, but here is my favorite story from the day so far.

Steve's group was giving out Cokes to people who stopped at a red light, and after they had been there a while, this lady came back by, and excitedly told them this story. She had been inviting this friend of hers to church with her (not our church) and this girl was really struggling to believe that God could love her. And then, out of the blue, someone gave her this cross necklace, and she had been wearing it, and was starting to think maybe, just maybe, God did love her. And she had gone to church with her friend that morning, and for some reason, she was craving a Coke in the worst way. She even leaned over to her friend and whispered how bad she wanted a Coke, and then as they were leaving church, they stopped at this red light, and a person came up to the window and asked if they would like a free Coke! Of course they said yes, and then she just held this Coke in her hands, that had a card attached that said "This is our simple way of saying God Loves You." Wow! She just looked at it and said, "I guess He does love me after all." Can you believe that? Something so simple as giving out a Coke at a corner could make someone realize that God really does love them and wants to know them? It just gives me chill bumps and makes me want to do nice things for people all the time. So, go out and notice people today! And if it happens to be someone with 4 kids, tell her how nice and well-behaved her kids are, even if it isn't true! I think God might even approve of that little white lie! Okay, maybe not, but be nice to her anyway!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Birds & Bees & Almonds, Oh My!

So last year Levi came home from school and said, "Oh! Mom, Mrs. Riley told me to ask you a question."

"Okay, shoot!"

"How does the DNA get from the dad to the mom?"

Deer in the headlights. Heart rate speeding up. I am so not ready for this! He's only 8! Why am I freaking out about this? I've told countless kids about sex in youth groups, but those were not my children, the same children who I get to see the joy on their faces on Christmas morning when they see what Santa brought them. Somehow knowing about sex and believing in Santa do not seem to go hand in hand.

But then God had pity on me, and Joey came into the room, screaming his head off, with a scraped knee. Thank you God for scraped knees! I took Joey to the bathroom to doctor up his boo-boo, but Levi followed me in there, waiting expectantly for the answer, so I stalled. "Ummm. What IS DNA?"

"You don't know what DNA is?"

"Well, yeah, I just want to see if YOU do."

So, he gave me some explanation, and I finally punted, "Well, it is really very complicated, and I'll have to think about how to explain it and get back to you."

And he never asked me about it again, and I was fine with that. Then, Dr. Leman came to our church, and he was talking about telling your kids about sex, and he said 8-10 year olds think about sex a lot! What? How can they think about it if they don't know what it is? And, he goes on to add, if you haven't told them by the time they're 8, you're behind! I wanted to put my fingers in my ears and say, "La la la la, I can't hear you!" But I reluctantly faced facts, and I bought his book, "The Chicken's Guide to Talking Turkey to your Kids about Sex." And basically, it said you should just be low-key, no stress, no squirmy discomfort when you talk to your kids. Yeah, sure. He called it "Kitchen Table Sex Ed." Part of that sounded good - no Big Talk, where you are both uncomfortable, and when it is done, you can take a deep breath, and wipe that off your list of things to do. No, instead it should be a natural progression, where you and your kids are comfortable talking about all things, and they know they can come to you to ask you any questions they have.

That sounds great! In theory. He said you should use every day objects that you have around the house to illustrate your impromptu talks. For example, whole almonds are about the exact size and shape of ovaries. Hmmm...yes, I can just imagine this conversation. "You know, kids, while I'm eating these almonds, I just can't help but think of...well, ovaries." Yeah, that's a natural conversation that happens every day at our house! On the upside, it could give me some much-coveted time alone - the next time my kids see me reaching for a banana, their eyes would widen with horror, and they would flee the room!

So, one day, I just decided to bite the bullet, and give it a go. Levi & I were eating at Chili's alone, and I brought up his question.
"Levi, do you remember when you asked me how the DNA got from the dad to the mom, and I never answered it?"
"Yeah."
"Well, it's when they have sex. Do you know what that is?" At this point I am having to seriously fight back the urge to giggle like a junior high boy. What is wrong with me?
"Yeah. I looked it up in the dictionary."
Okay, so he has been thinking about it! "Well, that's good. Do you want me to explain anything about it or do you have any questions about it?"
"No."
Thank God! "Okay, great! Well, if you ever do, you can ask me or dad anytime you want." And we will try not to faint or giggle like a little boy. And we went on to order our food, and I felt good that the ice had been broken.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and we are sitting in church, and Steve is preaching a sermon about Gomer, the prostitute. I knew it was coming. Levi leans over and whispers, "What's a prostitute, Mom?"

Oh, dear God! Okay, breathe, breathe, kitchen table sex-ed, I can do this. "It's when people have sex for money."

"Have sex for money, have sex for money," he kept repeating, like he was trying to figure it all out in his head. Just kill me now. And I know this child, I guarantee you he is wondering if this might be a good way to earn that extra money he's always needing. "What is sex again?"
"Remember it's what you looked up in the dictionary."
"I know, but I can't remember now what it was."
Of course you can't! Okay, kitchen table sex ed is one thing, but church pew sex ed is entirely different. I finally said, "We'll have to talk about this at home." And dad can explain it to you since he's the one who's preaching a sermon about a prostitute!

Okay, so here's my thing about Kitchen Table Sex-Ed. The problem is, our kitchen table is full. With kids younger than Levi. Joey is already fascinated with his penis. It's nothing at all for him to just announce proudly to a complete stranger, "I have a penis! Do you have a penis?" Let me tell you, there is nothing that breaks the ice with a total stranger quite like moving past all the normal social niceties right to talking about your private parts. Yep, you're instantly bonded. Taking a 3 year old out in public is not for the faint of heart. So, I'm just thinking that he does not need to be armed with any more info than he already has.

And, yet the awkward "sex talk" is something I would be fine to forego. I remember my mom reading a book to me, complete with pictures when I was probably a little younger than Levi. And what did I do? Run right over to the next-door neighbor to tell her this new and shocking news. It began with, "You are NOT GOING TO BELIEVE what you have to DO to get a baby!" Of course, she didn't believe me because who would do something so shocking and gross? And yet, I had seen the pictures - I had proof. So, I guess if we did go ahead with the awkward talk, we would only have to tell Levi, and he would tell Sam, who would tell the younger ones with great relish and most likely everyone else he knows too. I don't think I'm ready for that. So, for now, I guess we just go on with the waiting. Until the next question comes up. Please don't let it be at church.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Second 911 call

Well, I have officially made my second 911 call since I've been in Midland. I wonder if they've got some kind of file on me now? If they do, I'm afraid it would be labelled "Crazy Lady who keeps calling for non-emergency reasons." I will say, this call was much less stressful than that first call.

Okay, so this was last Wednesday, and I was trying to get my house cleaned. The little kids wanted to go outside in the front yard and play. Our neighborhood is super quiet during the day. We live on a culdesac, and there is no traffic to speak of. However, they are usually not allowed in the front yard without direct supervision. It was a beautiful day though, so I said they could play right there in the yard, and we would leave the front door open. Joey just wanted to dig in the flower bed that is literally 18 inches from the front door, and Lily-Grace was playing with him.

So, all was going well, and I was getting some cleaning done, when the phone rang, and it was my friend. So, while I was chatting with her, I decided I would just go and sit outside with them. While I was on the phone with her, some motion caught my eye, and I looked up and saw 2 Hispanic men running out of the alley across the street from my house, they crossed the street, and kept running down another alley. That is weird. You just don't normally see grown men running during the day who were definitely not running for exercise. But they weren't carrying stolen TV's or anything like that, so I decided to let it pass.

Then, I called Steve to ask him something, and while I was on the phone with him, I looked up and right across the street were 2 more Hispanic men. One of them made eye contact with me, then crossed the street in a run, and disappeared between one of the houses on our culdesac. Okay, this is really getting weird! I told Steve about it, and asked him if he thought it was weird.
"Umm...yeah I think it's weird! Grown men just don't go running around the neighborhood in pairs. You need to get the kids inside, lock the doors, and call the police."

"Really? You really think so?"

"Yes, I think so! Now hang up and go do it!"

So, I hung up, but I calmly swept up all the dirt that Joey had piled up on the sidewalk and thought about my options.

Well, they seem to be gone, so what harm have they done? Maybe they were playing hide and go seek? What am I going to tell them when I call? There were 4 men running around here, and I just don't think that's okay! Yeah, that sounds reasonable. But, what if they had just committed some heinous crime, and as they were running away (because they were so dumb as to have no other get away plans other than foot) that one guy saw me, so they'll be back to take me out later. Yeah, I think I've watched too many crime shows. Also, I haven't taken a shower yet, and I really don't want to talk to cops when I look this bad. But, on the other hand, they're cops, they're used to dealing with people at their worst.

But, what finally cinched it for me was the thought that what if they had robbed somebody's house or committed some other awful crime, and the police came around asking questions later to see if anybody saw anything, I would have to say, "Yes, I saw 4 men running from their house, but I didn't call because I hadn't showered yet." So, I bit the bullet and called 911.

"911. Do you need an ambulance, fire truck, or police?"

"Umm, well, I don't think so..." and I went on to tell him the whole story. When he asked if I wanted to talk to a police officer, I told him only if they really thought they needed to. I resisted the urge to tell him that I was Mrs. Kravitz. God knows that's what I felt like.



Anyway, he said that an officer would be there shortly. And, lo and behold, if the one and only cop that I know in the whole city of Midland wasn't walking up my path a few minutes later with his partner. How peachy! I explained the whole story to them, and they said they had looked in the alleys and hadn't seen anyone. Then they started asking me if they were teenagers. No, I definitely could tell they were adults. I was starting to feel really stupid, when another guy from the neighborhood sees the cops and stops to ask some questions.

"I was just wondering what was going on here. I saw one guy hiding in the back of that red truck over there. There must have been 6 or 8 of them in the alley behind that house."

Hmmm...maybe they WERE playing hide and go seek! I was just relieved that I had a witness, and I didn't have to feel completely like Mrs. Kravitz anymore. But then he goes on to say that he saw a Border Patrol car go speeding by.

"Ohh!" both police officers said. There was a house nearby that was getting a new roof, and the Border Patrol will target the roofing jobs. When they see them pull up, they all flee like rabbits who smell a wolf!

Everyone was relieved the mystery was solved, and the cops went on their way to go deal with real emergencies or eat donuts or whatever! I have to say that there is a part of me that hopes they got away. It seems like they're here working hard to earn better money than they could get in Mexico. On the other hand, I'm sure those 2 guys who ran down my street were hiding out in somebody's backyard. Can I just tell you how freaked out I would have been if we had been playing in our backyard and 2 guys hopped over the fence?!? I can guarantee you there wouldn't have been any second thoughts about whether or not I'd had a shower before I called 911!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Made The Team!

At the boys' school they have a pickle/popcorn day every other Friday where they sell pickles, popcorn, and Capri Suns to the kids to raise money. They like to have parent volunteers come in and pop the popcorn. They also use a phone tree with a recorded message whenever there is an announcement to make. Today I received this phone call:

It was the principal, and she said, "We still need three more people to pop popcorn for tomorrow. The first three people to call..." What? Their kid will get an A? extra credit? You'll get a portion of the proceeds? Where can this possibly be going?

"...will be put on the Popcorn Team." What?!? No WAY! Unbelievable! I wonder if I'll get to start?

Needless to say, I wasted no time in writing down that number and calling as fast as I could, hoping and praying that somehow my call would get through the tremendous volume of callers, each one of us vying for a coveted position on The Popcorn Team.

Yeah, so what if I was always on the B team? Never picked first for playground games of kickball? None of that matters now. Look at me now - First string. Popcorn Team. Eat your heart out, baby!

Tell Us A Story!

Our family usually eats dinner together. I really do enjoy that time even though it is almost guaranteed that someone will complain about what we are having, and there is also a pretty good chance that at least one child will gag while trying to "at least taste" some truly disgusting food - like mashed potatoes. Where did I get these children? I could eat mashed potatoes every day of my life and die a happy woman.

Anyway, supper time at our house is fairly lively and never quiet. We had a friend and his son (who is an only child) come eat with us, and they just sat and watched everything with wide-eyed wonder, and proclaimed, "This is better than dinner and a movie." Thanks, we do what we can to entertain the masses. It's not hard. Well, sometime a while back the kids asked us to tell them a story about when we were little, and so we did, and a tradition was unintentionally born.

Now, I have to tell you that I love a good story, and I realize there is an art to telling it right. I've grown up in a family of storytellers. We used to go to my Grandmother's house at least once a month and have Sunday dinner with all our extended family. And the grown-up table was always full of stories and laughter. As I got a little older, I would sometimes even forego playing with my cousins to sit and listen to the stories. I loved them, and I learned how to tell a good story. A good story does not include just the facts, you've got to add in what you were thinking and feeling and what everyone's reactions were, what made it funny or sad, what makes it something to remember. I remember when something would happen to me, I'd think, I've got to remember this to tell it at Grandmother's house.

Steve told me early on that he would never want to do my grandparent's funerals - too much pressure to tell the stories just the right way! I laughed at him, but he was absolutely right. Whenever there was a story to tell about our life, he might start out telling it, but I usually couldn't help myself, and I'd start interjecting things until he would finally say, "Why don't you just tell the story?" But I've got to say, that hasn't happened in a while - I think I'm starting to rub off on him. And at my grandparents' funerals, I bullied my cousins into getting up there with me and telling the stories ourselves, and I'm so glad we did. It would have been very inappropriate for me to start interjecting things into the stories from my pew at the church, but I just don't know if I could've sat still and listened to someone else mess up the stories!

But anyway, back to our supper table. So, our kids want us to tell our stories. And this is fun, and the kids get a chance to know about us as kids. But when you do this night after night, you start to run out of stories to tell! I didn't think it was possible, but apparently it is. So, last night I had an idea. We would tell a story after they told a story. They can tell a story from school or one of their favorite memories, and then we tell a story. I like this. As a bonus, if one of them tells a story, they all want a turn, and so we can get by with only telling one story a night. And Lily's stories almost always start out as "Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess..." and the boys groan. And Joey's stories start and end with "Um, um, um..." this can go on for several minutes, but he is highly offended if you try to interrupt him. He has the floor, and he intends to keep it!

But Levi's stories are starting to have hints of the humor that we can all appreciate. He's starting to know when something would be appreciated by us all, and it is a tiny little glimpse into the person he will become. And I like it, and it makes me sad all at the same time. They are growing up before my eyes. And so the tradition carries on. I hope we raise four storytellers so someday when they come home, our table is filled with laughter and stories and shared memories. So, don't be surprised if you come over to our house to eat, and you are asked to tell us a story about when you were little. We need some new material!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cancer Sucks

Today was the day we had to take Joey to get his bloodwork done. This is his bloodwork to test his AFP - a tumor marker in his blood. It has been 6 months since we last had it done, and it has been in the normal range for over a year, so I'm sure it'll be normal again. But I just hate that we have to do this. I'm finally to the place that I wasn't sure I would ever get to - a place where cancer doesn't enter into my head every day. It still does a lot because we still have several cancer kids who we keep up with, but it's not an every hour, every day kind of fear that it was for a while.

I took Lily-Grace & Joey in for their well checks today, and while they were checking Lily's blood pressure, I felt my heart rate rise because I know that elevated blood pressure can be a sign of kidney cancer (and I'm sure a lot of other more benign things, but I just know enough to be dangerous!) And it just made me mad that I even have to give things like that a second thought!

On a funnier note, Lily also had to pee in a cup which she thought was just preposterous, but Joey was outraged that he didn't get to pee in a cup too! He was on the way to a full-out fit at not being able to pee in a cup, and the crisis was only averted by me promising him he could pee in a cup when we got home. Thankfully this was something that was quickly forgotten because I really would hate for this to become a regular fun-time event at our house, Oh! Let's hurry home so we'll have time to pee in a cup before bedtime! Yeah, that just doesn't bode well for future social interactions.

And it's also wonderful to have a 5 year old in your life because they'll tell you things that normal people wouldn't. She was asking why we have to get Joey's bloodwork done (this is new because it has just been so much a part of her life that she has never questioned it before - she would take her dolls to get their bloodwork done like other girls would rock and feed their dolls!) Anyway, I explained that we get it done so we know that Joey's cancer has not come back.
"But what if it does come back?"
"It won't."
"But what if it does?"
"It won't."
"But what if it does?"
I came this close to telling her to shut up! Doesn't she know that we live in a certain amount of denial? It makes us happy! I finally appeased her by saying that we would have tests done to find out where it was.
And she said, "And they'll have to cut Joey into pieces?" with a little more anticipation than was necessary.
"No, they will not cut him into pieces!" And thankfully the nurse arrived to end this uplifting and positive conversation.
Anyway, when we get to the lab, Joey immediately starts to cry in the parking lot about not wanting to get his bloodwork done, and couldn't we go to another lab because this one hurts! This was a lot easier when he was a baby and we had to do this every week so he got used to it!

But I am actually very thankful that this is not normal to him, and I pray it never will be! Today was just kind of a slap in the face that we are not normal! You can go along living out your normal life with your healthy kids, and being thankful, never taking that for granted, but one little test can send everything into a tailspin. I'm thankful for the peace that comes with more and more normal tests.

I would appreciate your prayers for a little boy named Carson. His family received the news back from their AFP test that his cancer is growing, and they are running out of options. If you have a minute you could stop by their site and leave them a word of encouragement to let them know you are praying for them. I know it would mean a lot to them.

I will let y'all know when I get our results back, and of course, we appreciate all the prayers you have for us too!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

They Never Tell You Things Like This

(if you came over from our Outflow group, this is not the post you are looking for - go down to the "Blessed" one.)

I'm not really sure who "they" is, but whoever they are, they never tell you a lot of stuff. For some reason while I was driving down the road today and passed a Walgreen's, I was reminded of a story I hadn't thought of in a long time.


When Levi was 3, he got a nasty virus, and he was running a very high fever. And when Levi runs a fever, he throws up. And so if he throws up, he can't keep anything down - even Tylenol that would bring his fever down. Well, his fever was high enough that we really needed it to come down, so our doctor told us we needed to give him a Tylenol suppository.


I will never forget this moment. Here's our poor little child, all pale and sickly, and he was already naked since he had just thrown up all over himself, so we were all in the bathroom, him standing there, pale, naked, burning with fever and covered in chill bumps, shivering, just looking at us. And Steve and I are standing there, holding this little suppository, and just looking from him to each other, like how the heck are we going to do this?


We actually went through some different scenarios, "Um, Levi? Mommy is going to give you some medicine that will make you feel all better, but she is going to have to stick it in your bottom." I could just picture the look of abject horror and the desperate attempts to escape that that would evoke. No, that was not going to work.


It's not like he was a baby, where you could just do it, and it would all be over and he wouldn't even question it. He was 3 now, and he understood things. Maybe we should just hold him down and bend him over one of our laps, while the other one shoves it in, um, I mean places it gingerly in. But then he would think he was getting a spanking for no reason while he was desperately sick, and he would flail and clinch, and make it nearly impossible.


So, there we stood, holding our little instrument of torture and relief, unsure of what to do to make this happen. Finally, Steve had a moment of brilliance that made me question if I really knew him as well as I thought I did - had he spent some time in prison that I didn't know about? I still wonder. He threw a toy on the far side of the bathtub, and casually asked Levi to reach over there and get it. While Levi was reaching over there to get it, quick as lightning, he put that medicine right where it belonged. Levi hopped up quickly, howling, holding his bottom, and looking at us with eyes of betrayal. I have to be honest that I was laughing so hard it made me look extremely guilty, and also made it very hard to comfort the poor little violated guy.


But you know, it worked. He got better, and we never mentioned it again. And I like to think that somewhere, deep in his subconscious, he learned a valuable lesson that will serve him well if, God forbid, he ever ends up in prison!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blessed

I'm happy to report that everyone is well and back at school, and today is my first official day of freedom! It's not that I don't love the little boogers and feel so privileged that I get to stay home and take care of them, it's just that, you know the saying "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"? Well, I need a little absence so my heart can grow fonder. It's true, and makes perfect sense, at least to me. And, I have to tell you, I had to work extra hard to get today all by myself. Last night Levi was having a terrible headache, and went to bed at 7:00. This is not normal for him. And this morning, he said he was still feeling bad, so I told him to go back to bed, and then I walked out of the room and wept real tears and banged my head on the wall. And then I went back in the room and said comforting things to him like, "I hope you are really sick, because there will be no TV and no video games. You will stay in your bed all.day.long."

And then Sam threw in there, "And you won't get to eat breakfast or lunch." And I may or may not have corrected him. So I convinced him to just get up and get ready and go on to school, and I would write him a note that said he could go to the nurse if he wasn't feeling good later in the day. Please, please, let me get no calls from the school today!


So, I got the boys off to school, and I was taking the little kids to their preschool, and I managed to slam Joey's hand in the car door! Yes, I am the mother of the year! So, his poor little thumb was all red and the skin was broken a little, and he was bawling his little eyes out. But we wrapped it up in a wet paper towel, and he managed to recover, and I left, feeling as is I had dodged two major blows. So here I sit in my home...reveling in the silence...ahhh! That's nice.

But this is not at all what I started out here to write. I have a different story to tell. Our church is doing this program called Outflow, that I really love. It's about letting God fill you up so completely that you can't help but overflow that love into other people's lives. So Sunday night we were having this party with a comedian and food and you were supposed to invite people to come who might not have a church home. Well, truth be told, I just don't know that many people who don't go to our church. So, I didn't have a friend to invite, but that was okay, me & the kids were heading up there anyway, and as I was driving down Big Spring street, I see this woman walking along pulling a suitcase behind her. She looks like she could use a party, I thought to myself. But I kept driving, because really, who picks up homeless people with a car full of kids and invites them to come to a party at church? Nobody I know. Well, I got almost to church, and I just had this feeling that I needed to turn around and go ask her. I thought about how Jesus would hang out with the people the rest of society shunned. I knew that I would be miserable for days afterward if I didn't turn around, asking myself, What if?

So, I turned around. Immediately, the kids were asking me what I was doing.
"Well, I saw this lady walking down the street, and I thought I would ask her to go to church with us."
That seemed perfectly fine to them. When I got back to her, she was crossing the street, so I had to go past her, and then turn around to go to where she was going. The kids were acting like we were tracking big game, "Hurry, mom! There she goes! Oh no! I lost sight of her! Hurry! Turn around!" I'm thinking, she's an old homeless person pulling a suitcase, and we're in a car, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to track her down! Nevertheless, the kids were quite relieved when pulled into the parking lot where she was.

Okay, I thought, this could be awkward. I was wishing I was wearing my regular outfit of capris and a t-shirt instead of the cute new top that I had been so proud of. Somehow, I felt like that would help her relate to me better. Oh, who am I kidding? It doesn't matter what I'm wearing, we couldn't be more different!

I finally just took a deep breath, went over there, and stuck my hand out, "Hi! My name is Alayna. What's your name?"
"Lois."
"Hi, Lois! Our church is having a party, and I was wondering if you might like to come with me?"
"Well, okay, but I was just going to run in here and get me some chicken. Could I do that first?"
"Well, there'll be food at the party. Will that be okay?"
"Sure."
So we go back to the car, and I throw her suitcase in the back and introduce her to all the kids,who immediately start to chat it up with her like their mom picks up homeless people all the time. I love kids.
The first thing she tells them when she gets in the car is, "Don't worry! I'm not going to take your mama!" Good to know.
When we get to the party, I'm introducing her to everyone I see, and I have to give people credit, not one person batted an eye. Everyone was very friendly, like it was the most normal thing in the world for the pastor's wife to bring a homeless person to church with her. Maybe it should be.
She helped me get the kid's food, and we all ate, and she was nodding off during the comedian, although he was very funny. She told me about her kids and grandkids and that she had even been to college for a couple of years. I have no idea what happened to get her to the place where she was homeless. It was hard to follow her conversation sometimes, and she told me she had had to see a psychiatrist before. When the party was over, we went back and filled her up a couple more boxes of food to take with her, and she asked if I knew of any shelters where she could spend the night. None of us could think of any. Midland is not a great place to be homeless because there just aren't that many homeless people, and so there are very few places that help them.

I ended up taking her to The Deluxe Inn, and if that was the deluxe version, I don't want to see the regular one! But that is where she said was a good place to sleep. As we were driving there she was pointing out which buildings had good places to sleep, but that she didn't have a blanket and she just got scared sometimes. My throat started to tighten up, to be honest, I'd have been scared to stay at the Deluxe Inn, and this was security for her.

I got her settled in her room, and gave her a big hug and told her she mattered to God. I told her to come by the church tomorrow and they would give her a list of places that could help her, and I would have a blanket there for her too.

I walked back to my car, and took my children home and tucked everyone into their own beds, and the boys said that Lois could have slept in their bottom bunk if there wasn't any rooms at the Deluxe Inn, and I smiled. I'm glad they felt so generous, and at the same time I hope they never do anything to compromise their safety. Although I guess most people wouldn't pick up homeless people that they don't know with their kids in the car, but I never felt unsafe. I know God was asking me to pick her up, and he would take care of us.

And as I looked through my linen closet to find a blanket and a coat for Lois, I saw all the abundance we have - blankets to spare, and food in the fridge, and TV's to watch. And I felt blessed and also guilty. Why do we have everything we need while others go without? I know Lois may have made the choices that put her in that place to begin with, but she is a grandmother who has to find places on the street to sleep, and she is scared. That's not right.

God be with Lois today, and all the people who live on the street that we so easily look away from because we are not comfortable around them. And help us remember that while we may feel so very different from them, we are alike in the only way that matters - we are all your children, and you love us all the same.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hope Thwarted

Today was this

And this


And this
That's right. The first day of their preschool. God bless his teacher. It was also this:

"Take a picture of me runnin, Mama!" That is really all he wants to do. Last night Steve & I got a good 30 minutes of relative peace by having him run laps through the house. Whenever he showed back up, we would just say, "Ready....Go!" And he would take off again. It was marvelous. He never got tired of running, we just got tired of saying "Ready...Go!"
Anyway, preschool. My long-awaited day of freedom, of peace, of uninterrupted sewing or a hot bath or or deep breathing, I don't know! The point was I would be alone. I would drop them off at church and get back in my car giddy with the possiblities of the day. Instead, I got this:

That's right. The last of the mighty have fallen. Last night about 12:30, he came into our room, "Mom, I threw up." I groaned. Even though I knew this would happen, and in fact prepared myself for this reality, that he would not get sick on Sunday or even Monday when everyone else was sick. Oh, no! He would get sick on the day of my freedom. I have to say, by the fourth go-around, I am low on compassion. Did I mention he sleeps on the top bunk? Yeah, I don't think I even have to mention the splash factor. It was beyond words. I gave thanks once again for wood floors and the fact that we had had tater-tot casserole for supper last night, and he doesn't like that. So it was mostly clear and not too stinky.
So instead of solitude and deep breathing I will be doing more vomit laundry, and I think I'll go bleach every surface of my house. There's always Thursday.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Feel the Love

WARNING: Graphic scenes described may be objectionable to some readers. If you are not or have never been a mother to young children, you may want to quit reading. Consider yourself warned.

Wednesday morning, I gave Joey his normal sippy cup full of chocolate milk. He downed it in 2.4 seconds, burped, and threw the whole thing up all over my kitchen floor. I looked at it, blinked, and was thankful that we were still in the kitchen on the tile floor. As a bonus, he managed to not even get any on himself or me. I admit it was strange how there was no warning - no gagging, just a burp and copious amounts of vomit being spewed on the floor, like a baby might spit up, except, you know, much more volume and stinkiness. I cleaned it up, and we went about our day. He acted fine, playing, being happy, just not eating anything for about 2 days.

Thursday night, I went to bed at 10 o'clock, and I think the last time I did that I was 9 years old. At 11:15, Lily-Grace came in, crying that her tummy hurt. She climbed in beside me, and I rubbed her back for a while, and then I decided I would try to take her back to her room. We got to her doorway, and she started to vomit. I just stood there beside her, holding her hair back, and trying to decide if I should risk trying to get her to the bathroom that was a few feet away. Would it work? Would I be able to successfully get her to the toilet before the next wave of vomit came, or would I only pick her up and she would start to vomit on the way there, and I would have a path of vomit to clean up instead of a relatively contained area? These are the thoughts that go through my head while my child is vomiting. In the end, I decided not to risk it since we have wood floors throughout the house. Have I mentioned how nice that is? I give thanks for those floors numerous times a week. However, while it does make for easy clean-up, it also makes for a very high splash-factor. That vomit was all over both of our legs, the wall, the door, the bedside table, and of course all over the floor.

I called for Steve, and we fall into our well-oiled routine. I take the child who has thrown up into the bathroom to clean them up, and he starts to clean up the mess. I love that man. Since she was wearing long pants, I decide we can forego the bath till the morning. I wash her hands and face and feet, get clean pajamas, and take her back to her bed which was still clean. I give her a bowl and a rag, and tell her to please try to get it in the bowl if she has to throw up again if she can't make it to the bathroom, which of course is the best option. Steve has gotten most of the mess, but it still stinks to high heaven, so I get some cleaner and spray the floor to get it a little better. I wash my own legs and feet and head back to bed, wondering how long I will get to sleep before the next episode. I foolishly hope that maybe hers will be as easy as Joey's was, and it will be an isolated incident. Three more trips into her room that night put those hopes to rest quickly. Change the sheets, wash the child, put the sheets on to wash, go back to bed, lather, rinse, repeat. The next morning, Steve found her asleep on the rug at the end of her bed, a small amount of vomit on her pillow. Bless her heart. I guess I didn't hear her, and she was too tired to come and get me. So she has laid around looking like this for the past few days, with occasional bouts of playfulness, just enough so I think she is getting better.

Last night, Steve woke up feeling awful. He never threw up, but I could tell he felt terrible. He has to preach two sermons this morning. I feel just awful for him. I'm praying he gets through it without having to run out in the middle of it. We were all dressed and ready for church this morning, although I wasn't sure if Lily-Grace should really be going, but she hasn't thrown up since Friday afternoon, so I think she shouldn't be contagious. We are about to walk out the door when Levi suddenly grabs his stomach and says he doesn't feel so good. Sigh. At least he made it to the toilet. You have to celebrate the small things during times like this.
I just want to know one thing - how does everyone else get this when I am the one cleaning up all the vomit, cuddling with the sick children, kissing their little sick heads and faces? It just doesn't make sense. Sam & I are the only hold-outs, and I told him to stay strong. We'll see.
I came into my room to eat some breakfast so Lily wouldn't have to smell it - she has been very sensitive to smells during all this, and I feel bad, but it's not like I can tell the rest of the family that they don't get to eat just because Lily can't take the smells. So, while I was eating in my room, Lily-Grace came in there to ask me to please come into the living room so she could sit in my lap. I told her I would come in there as soon as I finished eating. She eyed my food with disgust and walked quickly out of the room. As she was leaving she said, "Brush your teeth before you come hold me."
Thanks. I feel the love.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day of School

It's the most wonderful time of the year! That's right, school starting! And the angels all sang the Hallelujah Chorus, and the world was happy. At least this mom was happy. The boys started back to school today, and they were both excited and nervous. They were going to a magnet school this year - last year was a pretty rough year what with a 6 year old bringing a gun to school in Sam's class, Levi being bullied and abandoned by his one friend, and Sam going through three different teachers. And that was all at our neighborhood school. So we decided to send them to a magnet school in the bad part of town - sounds reasonable, right? But we visited the school, and we were very impressed. The kids all seemed happy, and they do so many neat things like produce a television show for their morning announcements, and learn how to do all sorts of technology things, and there was also a lot of positive incentives that was sorely lacking at our old school. But anyway, I'm not sure who was more nervous today - Levi or me? Bless his heart, if I could've gone in there and made friends for him, I sure would have. I've been praying for weeks now, "Please, God, please - just one good friend, that's all I ask. Just one good friend." I mean, who wouldn't want to be friends with this kid?




He exudes coolness. I mean, peace and Tech, what else could you ask for?

Thankfully, he got into the car this afternoon and announced that he had 2 1/2 friends. That is 1 1/2 more than he ever had last year. And there was a good part of the year where he had none. He did some complaining about the teachers being mean, but I have heard that the teachers are really good, so I tried to encourage him that all teachers are mean on the first day. He said he was also confused a lot. This is the first year for him to switch classes, and so he's got to get used to that. He just likes to know exactly what's coming and what to expect, so that will come with time. This is the child who wakes up every morning and wants to know exactly what is planned for each minute of the day. And he's asking me...the person who would rather not have a plan at all. When we went to Meet the Teacher, they were talking about a math game that they needed to play at home on the computer every week, and he started to freak out! What is this Math Mania? What if you won't let me on the computer? I swear I could see his heart rate rise, and his pulse start to race. Chill out, dude. We'll figure it all out. No worries. To which he replied, no comprende.

Then, on the other hand, we've got this dude:




Who was absolutely fired up to be the new kid in school, who revelled in any extra attention that might come his way, who when school was over, he wasn't sure exactly where I was supposed to pick him up, so he just started walking in the neighborhood (luckily I found him before he got too far!) while his responsible older brother was stressed out and worried that he couldn't find him, asking all the teachers where Sam was. Not a care in the world. He struggled with reading last year, but told me his new teacher told him he was a perfect reader. His teacher is cousins with London from Suite Life with Zach & Cody (if you have never seen it, count yourself lucky!) and London always says, "Yay me!" in the show. So when Sam had to write a paper about his first day at school, he wrote at the end, "Yay, Miss Xiong!" "Do you think she got it?" he asked me. He was so proud of himself for thinking of it.

So, in closing, I think this was a pretty successful day. I won't stop praying, but I feel much better. There is a lot of guilt that goes with moving your child around and taking him away from the only friends he's ever known, especially when last year was so bad. My main prayer is that someday he will be able to look back and say that the moving around helped him to become a more well-adjusted person and not a crazy old recluse who lives in a shack by himself and yells at kids to stay off his lawn.


Here is one more picture of both of them:
And, yes, they wear uniforms at their new school, which I am very excited about! And after supper tonight we went on a bike ride, and just watching them ride their bikes in the khaki pants and polos and bike helmets, I said, "Look! They look like miniature Mormons!"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who's the Psycho?

One day when we were in Ruidoso, we had spent most of the day at the condo, and we were all getting a little cabin fever. So we set out to find a hiking trail. We had been hiking the day before on a trail we had been on before that was really pretty and ran into a little waterfall.


It was a nice easy trail, and Levi and Sam hiked a little further up the river while we stayed behind with the little ones.


Which left us plenty of time to throw sticks and rocks in the water, which for a 3 year old, is pretty much the greatest activity in the world.


And also plenty of time to pose for pictures, which for certain little girls is pretty much the greatest activity in the world.

And we even had time at the end for happy group shots.



So, since that hike had been such a success, we decided to try a different one. We went by the Ranger Station and picked up a map of all the hiking trails, and found one labeled "Moderate" but it was only a mile long, so we figured that would be no problem.
It took us a while to find it - plenty of winding up deserted roads, and when we finally found it, it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but right beside a tent campground, and one guy was camping there. I was pretty sure I saw him cringe when we all unloaded and the kids started running around. I'm sure he was happy to hear us disappear into the woods.

So, since it took us longer than we thought to find the trail, it was a little later than we had anticipated when we started, about 6:30. But we start out happily, taking time to snap a few pictures on the way.
Cool trees:


It's important to always flash your gang signs in every picture. Levi belongs to the little-known Mork & Mindy Gang, they are small in numbers, but very fierce.


Anyway, we are hiking along, and Steve decides to use this as a learning opportunity. "What would you guys do if Mom & I were both knocked out?"

Thankfully, Lily-Grace was up ahead out of earshot or that one comment might have given her nightmares for a month. So we discuss different options, and here is where I realize I may be watching too many of those real-life crime stories, because my main thought is, "What would you do if that guy back at the campground turns out to be a psycho, and he starts to shoot us all?" Thankfully, I did not actually voice that because that would guarantee nightmares for everybody, including me!
Well, it is not too long before the trail starts to get really steep, but it doesn't last long, and pretty soon we start the descent. Did you know that the descent is actually much harder than the ascent? Well, at least it is with 4 kids. Mercy! I didn't know if we were all going to get through that without starting a major collision that would carry us all down the hill in one giant snowball. Joey was still walking on his own at one point, with him & Steve bringing up the rear, when Steve cries out in an alarmed voice, "Honey! Catch him!" And Joey is barrelling uncontrollably down the hill right toward me. Luckily, I caught him and we escaped with no broken limbs. However, in the next 30 seconds, Levi comes barrelling down the hill at me, hollering, "Catch me!" There is a huge difference between a 30 pound child coming at you, and a 100 pound child! I didn't know what to do! At the last second I let go of Lily-Grace's hand and braced my feet and put up my hands like I was playing football! It worked and we didn't all go tumbling down the hill together! I did decide after that, that I didn't want to be in the "catching" position anymore! I also began to be thankful that we had had that conversation about both of us being knocked out as it was starting to look more likely!

It finally levelled out, and I realize we have already been at least a mile, and we really don't know much about this trail. On the map it looked like it could either loop around and bring you back to where you started or join on with another trail that went on for 7 miles. It was getting darker, and I think Steve was getting delirious because he started saying things like, "Wouldn't it be cool if we saw a bear?"

"Um, sure! Better a bear than a psycho with a gun, I always say."

We really didn't know what to do. Should we keep going and hope the trail looped back around or turn back and climb back up that awful incline that we had just come down? Steve thought we should just keep walking for 15 more minutes, so that's what we did, but ultimately we had to turn around and come back the way we came.

Can I just say this girl is a hoss?


She may look like a scrawny primadonna, and that would be true, but she did not complain one bit! She sat down one time, saying she was too tired, and we just said, "Okay, you just sit down and rest, and catch up to us when you can!" And she just hopped right back up and never complained again! (We would have been fine with waiting, but it really was getting dark, plus the whole psycho guy thing was weighing heavily on my mind!)

Let me just say, that was hard! And I was so thankful she was a hoss, because that meant that I didn't have to carry anyone on my back in a baby backpack. Steve carried Joey for a lot of the hike, and I know that was just a leetle difficult.

We finally made it back to the car right before it was completely dark, and I am happy to say we saw neither a bear nor a crazy psycho with a gun. He was peacefully sitting in front of a campfire when we left, probably relieved to see us go so he didn't have to worry about sending out a search party for the psychos who went hiking on a trail when it was almost dark with 4 kids!

We took a picture when we got back so we can remember exactly which trail it was, so we can make sure to never go back again!

Friday, August 14, 2009

See the Resemblance?

We're home now. Ahh...it's good to be home. You know, except for the 4,592 loads of laundry I have to do. Yeah, except for that. So, instead of doing that because really, clean clothes are overrated - just ask my boys. I thought I'd leave you with a little gem from the dad of the kids that my kids befriended at the condos.

You know Joey lost one of his front teeth? I don't think I ever told that story, but it is a story to tell for sure. But for now, just know that he lost one of his front teeth, and the child likes to smile - a lot. And the husband of the food-whiner noticed it, and said, "Aww...he lost a tooth! He looks so cute! He looks just like the joker."

"Wow. How....sweet."

Yes, I definitely see the resemblance.


"No," Steve said, "I think he meant the Jack Nicholson Joker."
Ooh! Well, why didn't you say so? Yes, that's so much better.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Y Chromosome, why?

What is it that comes with the Y chromosome that renders them completely and totally unable to search and find something? What? I need to know. I do not understand this. This is a scenario that is not infrequent at our house:

"Mom! Where is my ________?"
"It's in your dresser, middle drawer."
At this point I assume that the child will go into his room and open the drawer to search, but I am not so sure. I'm beginning to wonder if he just goes to his room, stands in the doorway and expects said item to magically appear in his hand as a reward for walking into his room. Since that has not happened, he is now forced to yell back at me that it is not there.
"Yes it is. You have to look for it. Perhaps even move some stuff around. I know that sounds tough, but I feel sure you can do it."
The same thing goes for food items in the fridge. They want to open the fridge, have the item they are looking for right there in front of them, preferably with a flashing neon sign that says, "Here I am!"
While these things happen regularly in my house, I have become accustomed to them, but something happened this week that I may never understand.
As I mentioned, we are staying in a small condo, with 2 bedrooms. So, I unpacked the 3 younger kids clothes into dresser drawers so we wouldn't have to have 3 suitcases taking up the precious floor space. The second day Joey was in there, and I looked in on him, and saw that he was moving the clothes around. I don't know why, but I didn't really care. It was keeping him busy, he seemed to be happy, and it didn't involve markers, lotion, or water, so I felt like it was a safe activity.

When Sam goes in there the next day to get some clothes he opens the drawer where his clothes used to be, and finds it empty. What would you expect someone to do at this point? I don't know, but I would figure that my clothes had not all magically vanished into thin air and look in another drawer. At the very least I would ask my mom where my clothes were. But, apparently Sam just seems to accept that his clothes are gone and gets some clothes out of Levi's suitcase that is on the floor (I didn't unpack his.) He wore the same shorts he had been wearing because Levi's shorts wouldn't fit him, but wore Levi's shirt, socks and underwear.

I didn't notice it was Levi's shirt because I have recently moved a bunch of Levi's shirts to Sam's side of the closet, and I'm not really sure whose is who's anyway - I just look at the sizes when I put them away. And I didn't notice Sam was wearing the same shorts because they were his denim shorts and he has several pairs that are just alike. So this goes on for 2 or 3 days until one day Levi comes out saying he doesn't have anymore socks or underwear.
"What? I packed you plenty."
"Well, Sam has been wearing mine."
"What? Why?"
Sam answered, "Well, my clothes are gone."
I go in there and find them in the drawer right below where his were. Why? Why don't you look? Why would you choose to wear underwear and socks that are too big for you rather than go to the effort of opening a few more drawers to find your own clothes?
And so now, Levi is in a pickle. While Sam can wear Levi's clothes, the opposite is not necessarily true. Thankfully, he is a boy who has no problem wearing dirty clothes, because Lord knows I do not want to spend my vacation doing laundry.

P.S. Okay, all you people who are sending me messages about writing more blog posts, did you notice two days in a row? Pretty impressive, huh? Now, show me some love by leaving me a comment. It is pretty hard to get motivated to write something when I think 2 people are reading it. You don't have to sign in - just sign in as anonymous and sign your name at the end of your wonderful and uplifting message. Love you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We are in Ruidoso enjoying the coolness of the mountains for a little vacation before school starts, and we are staying at these little condos. Well, the kids met some other kids on the playground the first night, and it has been wonderful! It is amazing to me the camaraderie that kids instantly have. They were all on the playground, and I was sitting on a picnic table nearby to keep an eye on them, and their dad was watching to. At first, everybody was swinging or doing other things, and then Sam says, "Okay! Who wants to do an obstacle course?"
Nobody answers him, but this does not deter him. He just asks each person individually, "Do YOU want to play? Do YOU want to play?" etc.
This was a little surprising to me because I really don't see Sam as a leader, but clearly he was comfortable in this roll. He got everyone rounded up and then set out the course for everyone to follow. That was all it took, and now they are all fast friends.
Scott & Ashley show up at our condo first thing in the morning and ask if they are ready to go swimming, or they come over and watch a movie, or they play in the playground together, or play each other's video games, etc. It really has been nice because the pressure is off us to entertain them every minute of the day - they can always go check on Scott & Ashley.

You know that camaraderie I mentioned with kids? Well, it doesn't always happen with adults so easily. Last night Scott came down and asked if we wanted to go out to eat with them. We decided it would be a good idea since our kids have been hanging out together so much. So we all went to a mexican restaurant to eat.

Well, we got seated quickly and the mom immediately asks them to bring out some of the hottest salsa they have. "Bring out 3 or 4 bowls of it!" she says.
The waiter does that, and they taste them, and proclaim loudly, "This isn't hot! And it is too salty! It isn't even fit to eat! Tell your chefs to make us something HOT! Throw some fresh green chiles in there."

The waiter is a sweet young guy with a nice smile, and he says that everything is prepped ahead of time, "We've got 4 Mexican cooks in there - no chefs! And they barely understand English - I think this is the best you're gonna get."
"This is a mexican food place that doesn't know how to make salsa?"
"I guess you're going to want me to take that off your check?"
"WHAT? You charged us for this?"
"Yes m'am. I have to charge everything that I bring out. But I'm pretty sure I can get my manager to take it off."
"Well, you do that! This isn't fit to eat!"
At this point I pretty much wanted to crawl under the table. I kept trying to smile at the waiter to let him know we weren't all like that without letting her see me smiling at him and risk setting her off in my direction.
Then, bless his heart, he had to come and tell us that they were out of the chicken strips that all the kids had ordered. He looked like he wanted to crawl out of there rather than have to come tell us that.
She flipped! "What? And you're just now telling us!" (It had been about 10 minutes since he had taken our order) I quickly get all my kids to choose something else while she is insisting that he bring her the manager.
When the manager comes, she explains that the salsa is not fit to eat, we don't have any silverware, and now they are out of chicken strips and it has been 30 minutes since we ordered, and he is just now telling us that!
I will have to admit the manager was not very nice, and it got pretty ugly, but I really couldn't tell you details because I got very busy trying to clean Joey's mouth or something like that. At one point her husband was telling her, "Down, girl!"
Finally, thanks be to God, our food came. Joey was sitting between her & Steve, and for some reason, she fixated on Joey and wanting him to take a bite of his hamburger. She kept holding his hamburger up to his mouth, and saying, "Hold this with 2 hands, take a big bite." And, I swear, Joey kept stuffing one fry after another into his mouth to avoid her and looking at me out of the corner of his eye like, "Who IS this woman?" I feel your pain, Joey, I really do.
The poor waiter came by as little as he could get by with, and we ate as quickly as we could, got to-go boxes for the kids to finish up at home, left the waiter a $10 tip and got the heck out of there!
I used to pride myself with my ability to get along with anybody, but I think I may have met my match.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tooth Fairy

This is Sam. He just turned 7. This was him at Christmas - I don't mind saying that I thought he was absolutely adorable and able to sing "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth."



Also? I look at this picture and can not believe how much he's grown in the last 6 months! Stop it! Stop it, I say! He lost another tooth this past June on the way to our family reunion, and it got lost in the car. Sam is usually not one to get too worked up about things, and this was was no exception. I thought about suggesting he write a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining what had happened, but then I thought, why bother? If it doesn't matter to him, it certainly doesn't matter to me!

Plus, have I ever told you that I had a real fear of the Tooth Fairy when I was little? It's true. Scared to death of that innocent little fairy. It totally creeped me out to think of some strange person flying into my room and getting under my pillow. But, the thought of getting a dollar was still pretty good, so I finally compromised by putting the tooth on my bedside table. But then I would lay awake at night with my back to the bedside table and worry and fret about whether the tooth fairy had come or not. And I would try SO hard to get up the courage to peek over and look at the table and just see if that dollar was laying there, knowing that if I could just see it, I could relax and go to sleep. But I couldn't look! What if the moment I turned I would look and see her? The horror! I'm not sure what I thought a little fairy was going to do to me, but I knew that you shouldn't see the tooth fairy - it just wasn't done. I had never heard of anyone actually seeing the tooth fairy, so if someone had, they must not have survived to tell about it!

The last time I ever put out a tooth, I was laying there imagining every sound to be the tooth fairy, and I finally got up enough courage to call my mom, never looking at the bedside table. She came in, and I confessed that I was scared to death of the wretched tooth fairy, and she convinced me to roll over and look, and thankfully there was the dollar. I went to sleep and after that decided all that worry just wasn't worth a dollar anymore. I know, I had issues.

So, anyway, I thought maybe Sam had those same issues too and didn't want to admit it, so I didn't say anything. Well, two nights ago, out of the blue, almost 6 weeks after he lost the tooth to begin with, he casually mentioned that he had put a note under his pillow for the tooth fairy. This is what it said:

Dir tuf fare I lost it. Can you tek tis not giv me mune. Sam Brooks

He doesn't mince words, does he? Let's not bother with little niceties, just give me the money! Well, the tooth fairy didn't respond so I said it was probably because he was so rude and didn't ask nicely. So, the next night, he tried again:

Dir touth Feree can you Pleese giv me munee Sam

Then he drew a heart for good measure and a picture of him holding a tooth with the tooth marked out. Apparently it is just too hard to try to explain everything in writing, and they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

It must have worked for Sam because there was a dollar the next morning, and she left the note. Sam thought probably because it was so big it might mess up her flight patterns. He said I could keep it when I asked for it, and it would save him time anyway because he was sure to lose another tooth, and it would save him all the trouble of having to write such a long, drawn-out note again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Not Speaking the Same Language

Steve & I have decided to "date" our children. You know, where you take them out one-on-one and do whatever they want to do. We've always thought this was a great idea, but making it happen was another story entirely. So, we just decided it would never happen if we didn't plan it. So, we're going to take 2 kids out 1 month, and 2 out the next month, so theoretically, if all goes as planned each kid will get 6 nights out a year with 1 parent. I hope by writing about it on this blog it will give me some kind of accountability so we'll keep doing it.


So, Sam got to go first, and Steve was going to go out with him, but at the last minute, I wormed my way in there! It had been a really long week where I was feeling like I might lose my mind from never having any alone time, and I got to thinking that Steve was going to take Sam and sit in a nice, quiet movie theatre, and I would be here with the other 3 just like every other day. So, I asked if I could go, and Steve saw the desperation in my eyes, and generously bowed out.


Apparently, telling the kids they could do "anything they wanted" was a bit intoxicating to them because they were making plans for dinner, movie, bowling and then swinging by the store for a new video game. We had to revise the plans that they got 1 special thing to do that day, to do together, not go buy a new toy. We did say they could go rent a video game from blockbuster and then play it with the parent if that was what they wanted, and I pray to God that is not what they pick on my night, because that sounds like hell to me.


Anyway, Sam & I went to see Up, and it was such a sweet, sweet movie - we both decided that it was the best movie we'd seen so far in Midland. Can I just tell you how wonderful it is to have 1 child? There was no stress, no arguments, no tantrums, nothing. We sat in the lovely, cool theatre, and we had popcorn (with no fake butter, thankyouverymuch!) and shared some candy, and it was great! So, while we driving home, I thought it might be a good time to encourage Sam, and I told him that one thing I really liked about him was how encouraging and caring he was.


He smiled really big, and then he said, "Once my friend, always my friend!" I couldn't help but smile because that is his Daddy 100 percent. I told him that he got that from his Daddy.


"No, I didn't. I just made it up."

"No, not what you said, what you meant. When you say 'once my friend, always my friend' that's called loyalty, and you get that from your dad."

"No, I've never heard him say that, I just made it up."

"I get that! I'm saying the characteristic that makes you a good friend comes from Daddy, like your blue eyes come from Grammee. It's in your genes."

"Mooom! I'm not even wearing jeans!"

"Forget it, Sam. I'm glad you're a good friend!"
"Thanks, Mom."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Good Story!

Lily-Grace has been very interested in Jesus lately and asking me lots of questions, and today she asked me to tell her a story about Jesus. So I told her the story of Jesus bringing the dead girl back to life, thinking it would be a great story to show how much Jesus cares about little girls.
I ended with, "And then she got up and was walking around and Jesus told them to get her something to eat!"

"What was it?"

"What was what?"

"What she ate?"

"Some bread." Sounded good to me.

"Oh! I know a story about some bread!"

"Great! Tell it to me!"

"Once upon a time...they got some bread and dipped it in some juice. The end."

"That was a great story! Why did they dip it in the juice?"

"Well, they didn't have enough juice for everyone to have a drink, so that was the next best thing!" Sounded good to her!

By the way, I found this site called Awkward Family Photo and I submitted one of my all time favorite pictures there. This one:




And the comments were hilarious! My favorite one? At least she won't be laughing at her one-legged dad anymore! HAHAHA! I never even noticed there was only one of Steve's legs showing in the picture before. That is a truly hilarious site, and if you've got the time, spend some time going there and laughing your head off!

Friday, June 12, 2009

No Shame

Okay, so we've been at Annual Conference all week at our church. For those of you non-Methodists, that is an annual conference (yes, I know, shocking!) for pastors and lay people to get together and vote and take care of business and what not. Well, as a pastor's wife, I'm not required to be at anything, but the first day there were several things that I wanted or needed to be at. And that means that my kids were in childcare pretty much the whole day. It was almost 10 o'clock that night when I picked them up to take them home, and Steve was still up there going to one more thing.

So, Joey has been potty-trained very well for a few months now. He even tells you when he needs to go, which means true potty training to me, otherwise I am just the one trained to take him to the potty every few minutes! So, I sent him off for a whole day in child care without a bag or a change of clothes or anything. Because I like to be prepared that way. When I picked him up he was in someone else's clothes with a pull-up on. Whoops. Apparently he did tell them he needed to go, but not until it was too late, and as soon as his pants were down he proceeded to spray down the entire restroom much to the shock and dismay of the young college girl who was helping him.

So, as we head way out into the far reaches of the parking lot, he starts to dance around and tell me has to go potty. Now! Oh no! All the other kids were already in the car, buckled in. I could tell by the quickness of his dancing that we didn't have time to get everybody back in and to a potty before he let it go. I encouraged him to just use his pull-up, but he wouldn't hear of it. Dadgummit! There is something to be said for the convenience of diapers. So, I quickly glanced around the almost-empty parking lot, and did the only thing I could do. I told him he could go right there. He looked at me like I was crazy, and I probably am. He didn't want to do it, but I didn't see another option. I pulled down his pants and pointed him at the car. Maybe nobody would see us. He was still resisting - and pulling down his pants wasn't good enough - he kicked them off completely, and I finally convinced him to "water the tire." And that boy had to go. He went and went and he went until I was having to back us up to keep it from running on our feet. I guess the relief of releasing all that relaxed him because then he started giggling and couldn't stop, and told me that was fun! I kept glancing around the whole time, praying no one would come out, and God was merciful and nobody did.

So I just thought I'd use this time to confess that the pastor's wife not only condoned but encouraged and begged her child to pee in the church parking lot. Nothing good can come from this I know. I am just waiting for the time I pick him up from the nursery and they have to tell me that he dropped his pants and peed in the playground. As long as he keeps his mouth shut and doesn't say that his mom told him to do it. Because then I will be forced to lie and tell them I have no idea what he's talking about!