Friday, December 24, 2010

Homebuilders Class

We have a Homebuilders Sunday School class in this church. I would venture to say that most churches have a class by this name. When you see this name, you know what to expect - young families in the throes of raising babies and toddlers, the moms looking either beautiful and young or exhausted and frazzled, the dads looking young, confident, ambitious. In this church it is different. Sixty years ago they would have looked that way, but now, they are the oldest class in our church, their numbers slowly dwindling as their members die. It is mostly women now as their young and ambitious husbands have already left this world, their ambitions realized or else abandoned. And the women remain, walking slowly, some stooped, some leaning on a cane, some with a twinkle in their still-beautiful eyes, and some with eyes that carry a sadness of untold hurts.

I think about this class. It is a beautiful and rare thing these days in our mobile society - for people to remain in one place so long that the friends who brought over casseroles when your babies were born are the same friends who come to your funeral and mourn your death, and bring warmed-up green beans and corn (as casseroles are just too much work these days for their tired arms and legs) to your funeral lunch to feed your family. Do they remember how they used to go shopping with each other for cute clothes and laugh now at their 20 year-old dresses? Do they get teary-eyed when they see pictures of each other’s great-grandchildren, remembering when that child’s grandmother was a rebellious teenager giving her mother fits? I think about this class, and I grieve that I will never have it. Admittedly, we chose this life, one of moving and new adventures and friends in many places, and roots that are not deep so much as they are wide.

As we move, I am struck by how, at each new place, you are naturally drawn to people who have kids the same age as your own. You have an immediate connection. You can talk teething, potty training, homework, or hormones, whatever stage your child is in. Having 4 kids spread in age from 4-10 gives me a wide range of people to connect with. If my kids aren’t there now, they were at one point or will be soon.

But I can’t help but think about my friends in Crowell who were all pregnant at the same time as me. We had those babies and talked about nursing and sleeping through the night and teething, and we moved before my first one was even potty trained. And then in Denver City where I feel the most loss for a Homebuilders Class - maybe because we stayed there the longest, or had the closest friends, or went through Joey’s cancer together. When you go through something like that with people, you share a history. You never have to tell people about it, in a short, condensed version, because they lived it with you. They prayed and cried and laughed, and showed up with casseroles and chocolate ice cream and margaritas (it’s a good thing we’re Methodists!) It was with these friends that we talked over things like potty training, and first days of kindergarten, and helped each other through the mind-numbing, wonderful, exhausting days of having toddlers and babies and young children. And we would talk about how in a small town everyone else but the parents seems to know when a teenager has done bad things, and we swore that we would tell each other the truth about our kids, no matter how painful or uncomfortable. But even as I said it, I knew that I would not be there when my kids were teenagers. I might hope and even pretend that, but I knew it would not come to pass.
And so now I find myself here - grieving for a Homebuilders Class that I will never have. That ship has long since sailed. I am 3 moves removed from my original Homebuilders. And while it makes me sad, I will move on, never being one to spend too much time on what is lost (maybe to my detriment?) Instead I think about how some friends from Crowell have recently come to visit us at church here in Abilene, and my boys told me once we got home, “These people came up to me and hugged me, and said, ‘You don’t know me, but we love you!’ Isn’t that weird? Weird, but kind of cool too.” And we ran into some friends from Denver City recently, and we were hugging them, and catching up on old times, and Sam said, “I don’t remember you, but I’m going to hug you anyway!” He may not remember the face or the name, but he realizes in some small way that they share a history, that their lives intersected for a time.

And so, my Homebuilders Class may not be one where I get to see them everyday and go shopping with them, and help them pick out new curtains for the living room, and cry together when our babies start Kindergarten and when they graduate from high school. But I guess my class is still here, just spread out over several cities. And so I go on with the sometimes difficult task of sharing my life with new people. Telling the condensed version of my history and listening to theirs. Hopefully getting to share in the part of each other’s lives in the years where we are together. Letting our roots run together for a time, knowing that at some point, we will have to untangle them and move on. Knowing that the untangling part can be painful and usually involves ripping part of yourself off and leaving it there, but also knowing that letting your roots get all tangled up with someone else’s just means you both have a stronger foundation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can't a boy poop in peace?

Yesterday I was letting Joey play on my laptop on my bed while I was enjoying something I haven't done since moving to Abilene - reading a novel. He was playing a Diego game on Nick Jr. when he decided he needed to go to the bathroom. As soon as he got the bathroom, he could hear Diego's cheerful voice, "What color is the hermit crab's shell?"
"Just a minute," Joey called out sweetly.
A few seconds later, "What color is the hermit crab's shell?"
"I SAID just a minute, Di AY go!" Joey called out, decidedly annoyed by Diego's persistence and cheerfulness.
Diego, not one to be ignored, called out again, "What color is the hermit crab's shell?"
"I'm NOT answering you!" he grumbled, "Can't a boy poop in peace?"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Well, I've got a week off from my preschool teaching before my older kids are off from school, and I feel like I've got all this time suddenly! I also have about 10 million things on my "to-do" list, but for now, I am ignoring them in favor of updating this sad little blog that has been totally ignored and mistreated for 3 months now. I just thought I'd share a few highlights from the last few days.

Levi has started sex-ed in school. It has been interesting. Every few days I'll ask him what he has been learning, and my questions are always answered with eye rolls and sing-songy voices, "My growing and changing body" "the male penis" "my vocal cords," etc. But yesterday, I asked him, and he looked absolutely mortified, "Oh my GOSH mom! We had to learn about the GIRL'S body! Gross! Why do I need to know that?? We learned all about how a baby is made. Of course, I already knew (I don't think I ever told you about my exceedingly awkward sex conversation with Levi where I had to bite my cheeks to keep from giggling like a nervous junior high kid, but at this point I was seriously patting myself on the back for having the conversation at all, because at least he knew and didn't have to suffer the same fate of his poor classmates) but everyone else was going, ewww! And this one kid was so grossed out he actually threw up! Really, he left the room and threw up right in the hallway!"
Now, to be fair, there are several stomach viruses going around right now, but that doesn't make nearly as good of a story, as saying that when you learned about sex you actually threw up. That would be a good reminder to that boy when he is a teenager with raging hormones.

Guess what? The other day I spilled a whole gallon of paint in my utility room! Isn't that great? Let me tell you, spilled paint has a way of paralyzing you. You just sit and stare at it slowly oozing its way across your floor, ruining everything in its path (which in my utility room is a shockingly large number of things) and are completely at a loss as to what to do. It all just seems so big and uncontrollable - like you just have to say, "That's it! We're just going to have to burn this room down!"

But I just started throwing rags on it, which did absolutely nothing but ruin the rags, and Steve was just staring at it going, "Think! think! think!" Which apparently, it actually helps to talk to your brain like that, because he came up with the idea of getting a dust pan and trying to sweep the paint into it. Which actually just ruined a broom, BUT it stimulated my brain to think of my Pampered Chef scraper which worked like a charm to scrape all the paint into the dustpan and into a trash can. And then we were able to wipe up the rest of the paint with wet rags.

And we only ruined the broom, one trash can, one dustpan, my jeans, Steve's sweater, Lily's church shoes, one of her teddy bears, Levi's jacket and backpack, and several mismatched flip-flops! Good times! Note to self: setting a gallon of paint on the washing machine is not a good idea - spin cycles have a tendency to move things, if you know what I mean. But Steve told me this was not the most expensive spill we have ever had - I've forgotten all about this, but apparently when I was taking fertility drugs to try and get pregnant with Levi he spilled a whole vial of medicine, which was $150. Now, I'm pretty sure with all the stuff we ruined that this exceeds that one, but I agreed with him anyway since technically he is still responsible for the most expensive spill in our family. (I'm not sure why this is a necessary family record to keep, but apparently we are) And I take comfort in the fact that I completely forgot that spill, so I feel sure that I will also forget this one day.

Hopefully I will not forget it so fully as to ever place a gallon paint on the washing machine again.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I love to run, I love to run, I love to run

That is what I repeat to myself every morning when the alarm goes off at 5:45. A.M. I type A.M. in all caps because it still shocks me to see that number. I consider anything before 6 to still be the middle of the night. I also repeat to myself, "I love to get up early, I love to get up early..." So far, I don't think my body is buying it, but I'll keep trying.

You see, I've decided that I've got to get in shape, and hopefully lose some weight. But I love to eat, and so therefore I've got to exercise in order to support my eating habit. And for me, that means I've got to do it first thing in the morning. Any other time just will not work for me because I am much too good at justifying and making excuses for why I do not need to exercise today. And because I started working at our church's preschool, and I'm pretty sure even 2 year olds would not appreciate the stinkiness of my body after I run, I must get up in the middle of the night in order to exercise and shower before work.

So, I started this Couch to 5K running program. In all honesty, I started it back in May before we even moved. I am now on week 5. I think it's important to take things slow. It started off all innocent sounding and sweet - jog for 60 seconds, walk for 90 seconds. Yes, I like that. I liked it so much, I think I stayed on week 1 for about 3 weeks. And then I would stop for a few weeks and have to start all over again. So, you are supposed to be able to run 3 miles at the end of 9 weeks. Since I have never been able to run 3 miles my whole stinkin life, I don't think it will hurt me too badly if I end up taking 9 months instead of 9 weeks. I've never been one to push myself too hard anyway.

See, before Joey was born, I was running with my friend Virginia, and I lost a lot of weight and was in pretty good shape. And, Virginia, bless her heart, tried to get us on this program then. I told her she was absolutely nuts, that there was NO WAY I could run 3 miles, and I was perfectly happy with our little arrangement of running and walking for 45 minutes that we did - it was not too hard, and most importantly we could chat the whole time which was really my motivation for dragging my butt out of bed anyway. So, now that I no longer have the motivation of getting to talk with a real, live grown-up every morning, I figured I needed some other type of motivation - thus the couch to 5k program.

It is a very humbling thing to be dragging your large hiney around the track, thinking to yourself, just 5 minutes, just 5 minutes, you can do it, and you get passed by a grandma doing her morning walking. (okay, not really, but it feels like it sometimes!) And there will be people who are just running by, seemingly effortlessly, and I will try to motivate myself by telling myself that someday I will run like that - no more huffing and puffing and gasping for breath and counting the seconds. One day, I couldn't find any short socks to wear, and I was all embarrassed by my tall socks that I had to scrunch down, until I gave myself a reality check - come on, Alayna, do you really think anybody will even notice your socks when you are gasping for breath and they are worried that they may need to give you CPR? Nah, I don't think your socks are going to be noticed.

The other day there was this guy who was running with his dog, and running is really not the right term. Leaping may be a more appropriate word. Bounding like a gazelle. He ran on the grass, not the track, and the look of sheer joy on his face made me think of the look I get when I take a bite of warm brownie. I couldn't help but smile just watching him. And I saw him another day, as he effortlessly leaped past me, and he called out, "Good day, mate!" And I smiled again, picturing him running on the savannah with the kangaroos, so graceful was his leaping. I couldn't help but think that this was the way God intended for us to run - loving it, for sheer joy, not for drudgery on a track, but effortlessly bounding through the grass with a smile on our faces. Or... maybe he was made to run like that, and I was made to eat brownies like that? A definite possibility.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

There's a sucker born every minute

Apparently, I was the one for my minute. I know this about myself. I really do, and I try to put safeguards in place so as not to be suckered, but, far too often, people slip through the cracks in my well-oiled armor.

Case in point: Friday night. Steve and I went on a date! I know, right? A real, live date with no kids in tow. It was pretty awesome. As we were leaving, Lily-Grace said, "I didn't know it was your anniversary." That is how often this happens. So, we went out to eat at this wonderful little Thai place, and then we thought maybe we'd go see a movie, but we'd missed all the 7 o'clock movies, and we'd have to put a second mortgage on the house to afford the babysitting if we went to a late show, so we opted for our old stand-by: go to the bookstore. Because we are nerds. We really are, and we're fine with that. In Midland, we'd go to Barnes & Noble, but in Abilene, they don't have one, so we went to Books A Million, which is a store in the mall.

So, we went our separate ways and perused the books and magazines, and about 8:45, we thought we'd head out into the mall to look around before it closed at 9. I guess it's pretty safe for the budget to only allow yourself 15 minutes to shop. So, Steve headed to Best Buy, and I just decided to walk around and look (I just realized that we spent a good part of our date going our separate ways...hmmm) So, I'm walking around, and usually I have one eye on alert for the people with the perfumes and lotions and samples and all that stuff just looking for a sucker like me to walk by. You know, I don't know what to say, except maybe it was getting late, and the shock of just being out without the kids had let my guard down, I don't know, but I was completely caught off guard by the little Israeli guy with the lotion! I know! Don't you know what I'm talking about?? The Dead Sea products where they suck you in with their exotic accents and massage your hands with sweet-smelling lotion and don't let go until you buy something so outrageously expensive that you are mentally flagellating yourself all the way to the car - yep, that's what I'm talking about.

Well, they guy calls out, "M'am? Would you like a free sample?"
"Oh crap!" Warning! Warning! The bells go off in my head. I pick up speed and keep walking, but I make the terminal mistake of looking back apologetically. At which point he calls out, "Can I just ask you one question?"
And I reply, quite rudely I might add, "No!" and keep walking.
And he actually hangs his head in shame and defeat, and I crack like the pussy willow I really am. So, I slowly head back, assuring him that I am NOT going to buy one thing. I think those were the exact words I said, and I even added that I had to meet someone right away, and I didn't have much time. He assures me that is just fine, and then pulls out that sweet-smelling lotion and begins to massage it into my hands and rubs a little buffer thing on my ugly nails to show me how shiny they can be, and I know I am a goner. Seriously, I really think they are trained to grab a hold of your hand and not let go until you have agreed to purchase something.
At one point my phone rings, and the guy (I even found out his name, Jed) is forced to let go of my hand so I can answer. It is Steve and when I tell him where I am, he calls out jeeringly, "Suuuckeerrrr." Oh shut up. He's worse than I am. He shows up and does absolutely nothing to help. I bet when Jed got a look at Steve his eyes lit up and dollar signs went off in his head, because that boy is more of a sucker than I'll ever be.

So, Jed goes back to the oiling and lotioning, and telling me what a good price he's going to give me. And at one point, I even hold up 4 fingers, and say, "Four. We have four kids."
And poor Jed gets all excited because he thinks I have just said I'll have 4 kits. When I have to explain, no 4 children, who we have to feed and clothe. He acts shocked and says he has never heard of such a thing, and says he will just give me his card. Gosh! If I knew it was going to be that easy, I'd have pulled out pictures long ago. But then he says, "Well, what do you like the best?" Why can't I just shut-up? Why do I have to answer? I say the buffer, and because Jed is such a nice guy, he is going to give us the whole set for just the price of the buffer - can you believe it? Suffice it to say, I now have shiny fingernails.

I think I will have to use the buffer to shine up my sucker armor. It obviously has some gaping holes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


So, you know our new house is right across from this great park, right? Well, when we were still in the looking phase of house-buying, Steve was in love with this house, but I wasn't so sure. He was pointing out all the benefits of the house, especially the great park where he would "go all the time to throw the ball around with the boys." And, then when he wasn't sure I would go for it, he said in exasperation, "Alayna! There is a prairie dog town right across the street!" And I looked at him in amazement and said, "Well, why didn't you say so? Let's go sign the contract!" (For those of you who know me well, you'll know it was said with much sarcasm.) And when we finally did buy the house I told him he was going to have to sign a contract promising to play outside with the kids at least 3 nights a week, and he agreed.

Well, this morning, we wake up, and it finally has a coolness to the air, and the first beginning signs that fall may actually come, and we won't be stuck in perpetual summer (the kid's first day of school was a record-breaking 104 degrees!) And so, tonight I got out the contract I made him sign in blood and suggested we all go over for a rousing round of kickball. It took some convincing, but when you've signed in blood, you've signed in blood.

It was the first time the little ones have ever played kickball. That, in and of itself, is reason to play - guaranteed laughs! Here are a few highlights of the night:
Lily's first time at bat (kick?) she let the ball go right past her, but turned around and kicked it behind home plate. That is a great way to insure you get to first base. I highly recommend it!

Joey's first time at bat - he kicked it - it went a few feet, he followed it and kicked it again, and again - he had a great soccer run going. And since Levi was in hot pursuit, he just kept on kicking and running. At that point, Levi felt he was completely justified in tackling him to the ground or else "he would've run right into the prairie dog town!"
Joey continued to struggle with the idea of only kicking the ball once. He just doesn't want to get out, and so if he thought Levi might get the ball, he wanted to kick it again. Or, at one point, since Levi was getting close, he just picked the ball up and ran with it all the way to first base. That completely guarantees you won't get hit with it, right? You know, whatever works. When you are the baby, you can get away with most anything since everyone else thinks you are cute and funny. He knows how to work it.

I am proud to say that my team took an early lead of 8-1. Steve divided up the teams of me, Levi, and Lily-Grace against him, Sam, and Joey. Generally, Levi automatically picks being on Dad's team since he must win at any cost (I can't believe he doesn't respect my kickball skills!) and so, to make it more fair, the team with Levi gets Joey, and so I usually have the 2 middle kids. I have to say, winning was nice. Except for Sam crying that it was so unfair that we had all the good players and wah wah wah!

But all the crying was for nothing since when I announced it would be the last inning, Levi decided to let them catch up to us so as to make the game last longer. In his grand plan, he would let them almost catch up, and get them out right right at the last second so we could still win. Unfortunately, things don't always end up the way you plan! They ended up tying with us, and oh the agony when extra innings were not allowed! Hopefully, he learned the valuable lesson to crush people while you have the chance!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'm Still Here!

Hello, my faithful friends who still check on my blog, even though I haven't written in months! This is one of the many things I would like to get better at! This has been a crazy few months of transition, and we are still in it! We have moved to a new town, Abilene. We have bought our first house:

I love it! I have loved re-decorating, and changing the rooms to be more "us." I'll have to post some pics of that sometime soon.

Steve is the pastor at a new church so there are tons of new people to get to know, and old friends to grieve. There are new joys and new challenges.

The kids have started a new school and made some new friends (Praise God!) I realized when we went to Meet the Teacher that this is the 4th school in 4 years they have been to. Next year will be the first time in 4 years that they will get their class list and might actually know some people in their class. Lily-Grace started Kindergarten this year. Joey just turned 4. For the first time, I don't feel like a "young parent." I feel "seasoned." I hope it is nicely seasoned and not overdone.

Our house is right across from a park with an awesome walking track. The other day I saw two young moms pushing double strollers around with an infant and a 2 year old, and I was instantly transported back to my time in Crowell - walking the roads in town with my friend Crystal and our boys about the same ages. I felt a lump in my throat, and I had to suppress a strong desire to run out and grab the moms, and tell them to savor it - savor the time because it is gone so fast! At the time, I don't remember savoring it. It wasn't nostalgic at all - it was a 2 year old trying to climb out of the stroller and a baby crying, and trying to soothe him with his pacifier, and Oh my gosh! Did my milk just let down and will it leak through my shirt? All the while trying to carry on a conversation with Crystal in a desperate attempt to have a conversation with another adult. It didn't feel special or like something to savor. But now I realize it was.

So, last night as it was bedtime, and I was tired, and sooo ready for them to go to bed, and Lily and Joey started singing a made-up song that went on forever and was really just a stall tactic to put off bedtime a few more minutes, I just sat back and listened...and savored. In just a few years there will be no more sweet-smelling heads to kiss at bedtime and read a story to and sing a song with. So, I savored.

Time is moving quickly and there is much transition right now - I am going back to work full-time at our church's preschool. Teaching 2 year olds. Pray for me. I am trying to be more organized and exercise and get up early and go to bed before midnight. This is a struggle for me. But I constantly have stories in my head that need to be written, and so I will try to find the time for that as well. It helps me to savor.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

West Texas Weather

I love west Texas weather - the saying goes, "If you don't like it, stick around an hour, and it'll change!" Ninety percent of the time you can count on hot and dry. I like hot and dry. And you will get the occasional thunderstorm - also a favorite of mine. I love the way the lightning just puts on a show, and the thunder is loud and exciting. I remember one time when we had our exchange student, Eliska, with us and we were driving in a thunderstorm, and she was just in awe. She said they didn't have thunder and lightning like that in the Czech Republic.

However, my last thunderstorm experience is one I wouldn't care to repeat! Friday, I had some errands to run, and it had been cloudy all day, but no big deal. As any west Texan will tell you, clouds don't mean nothin. So, we get a couple of errands done, and then it starts to rain...a normal, hard, driving pour-down rain, almost like what it would be like standing at the bottom of a waterfall. Now, those usually don't last too long - maybe 30 minutes, so we go along with our errands. One of those is to go to Toys R Us to get a present for a birthday party that Levi is going to. While we are in there, Steve calls to tell me that there is a tornado warning, and they are all in the basement at church. I am in Toys R Us, so what are you gonna do? A car is one of the worst places you can be in a tornado, but I have a feeling this big, warehouse type building wouldn't be much better. So, Joey & I finish our shopping and then join the rest of the shoppers standing in the foyer just watching it rain. And I'm trying to decide what to do. I really need to go get Lily from school. But what if I'm driving into a tornado?

Now, I'm not one to be scared of tornadoes. I've lived in tornado alley all my life, and I remember the news guy on the TV saying, "Take cover! Take cover immediately!" And my dad would just be sitting there. And I would say, "Ummm? Do you think we ought to take cover?"
"Naahh." He'd say. And we never did. But I got to tell you, it was a little different being a parent and knowing that I had one child with me in a less-than-safe location, and 3 other children and my husband scattered all over the town. So, at one point the rain seemed to be letting up, and one other family started to leave, so I decided we would go to. So, I run out to my car, getting completely soaked - like there is water running down my back and into my crack - nice. I pull my car up to the store to go get Joey where I left him with a store employee, and my phone rings. It is Steve and he says that an actual tornado has been seen, and not to leave, and right then a store employee says the same thing. So, we get out of the car and go back into the store to wait.

We wait some more and then the rain has almost stopped. I call Steve and he says that the tornado warning will expire at 2, and so I decide to go ahead and go get Lily-Grace. That's when the fun starts. The roads are a freakin river - like white-water rapids! It is over the curbs, and there are cars stalled out everywhere. There are fire trucks and ambulances and police cars everywhere, and you feel a little like you are in a disaster area. Then, about 2 minutes into our journey it starts to rain hard again, and then to hail. Oh joy. You know they say not to drive into water if you can't see the bottom? I've done it. It ain't fun. I was following this other SUV that was smaller than me, so I figured if he made it, so could I. Unfortunately he wasn't going the same place I was. I finally figured out the residential streets were much less flooded, so I would try and stay with those. At every intersection, I would just look down the streets to see if I could actually see the road, and if I could, it was worth turning down. 30 minutes later, we ended up at Lily's school.

The ride home was worse. If I could've harnessed the tension in my shoulders, I feel like I could've powered a small town. And Lily, sensing my distress, would try to encourage me, "Don't worry, Mama, it's just like we are a boat in the ocean!" Um, yeah, that helps. That was exactly what it felt like though. At one point, we stopped at this intersection where everyone was just stopped on all four sides, staring it down. This particular intersection didn't have anybody stalled out, which was actually bad for the rest of us because we couldn't see how deep the water was. Just about the time I decide I am not going to be the one to brave it, this car, car mind you, not an SUV, not a truck, decides to make a go of it. The water is coming up over its hood! And at about the same time, these 2 guys jump out of their car and start to run into the water to cross the street. And they are falling down because the water is running so fast, and Lily goes, "Mama! What are those guys doing? They're scaring me!"
"Yeah, they're scaring me too, baby." Is this world going crazy? So, it has now been almost an hour, and I guess all the craziness finally gets to Lily because she loses her cheery encouragement when all the water starts to wash up over our windshield when we are going through some deep water, and she starts to wail, "Oh no! We can't see! Dooomm! Dooomm!" At this point I knew we were almost home, and it actually made me laugh. But, I would be very happy if we never had to do that again. I've decided thunderstorms are only good if you are home in a nice, dry house.

I told Steve he had to pick up the boys because I was done, and his 2 mile trek turned into an hour long event too. And then a few hours later the sun was peeking through the clouds and the waters were receding. But doom was still living in my shoulders!


Well, as most of you know, we are moving to Abilene. That is the reason I haven't been on here too much. You know, trying to pack and clean and do all the other normal things that are required just to keep our household running. And, as most of you know, I'm married to a pastor, but what some of you may not know is that a lot of pastors live in parsonages, which is basically a house that is owned by the church. And, I have to say, parsonages can be pretty awesome! You don't pay your own bills, when something breaks, you just call someone to fix it, and the church pays. It's a pretty sweet deal. And most of the parsonages have at least some furniture. That can be good and bad. Sometimes, people in the church get new furniture for their house, and then, out of the goodness of their heart, they donate their old furniture to the parsonage. And we should be grateful for the stuff they don't want anymore and display it prominently in our house to show our gratefulness. Now, I have to say, we have been more than blessed in that respect - that has never happened to us, and people have actually bought new stuff for the parsonage out of the goodness of their hearts.

But, there comes a time when you start to wish for your own place - a place where you can decorate and make changes, and not have to worry if the next pastor or the parsonage committee will like it. And some churches, mostly those in bigger towns, have gotten rid of their parsonages, and instead give their pastors a housing allowance (which is basically just part of your salary that you don't have to pay income tax on, which is nice since pastors are self-employed). So, Steve & I had been saving our money, just in case we were sent to a church that had a housing allowance, so we would have enough money for a down payment. Well, that time has come...we are moving to Abilene, and we have bought our first house. Here it is:

Ain't it purty? Well, we are beyond excited to get there and start fixing it up and making it ours. The people who have been there had a real liking for the color white. As in white walls, white carpet, even white furniture. Now, I have nothing against white. It's just that I live with 4 children who I sometimes wonder if they are really humans at all, but instead some sort of alien life form sent here undercover to pollute our house. They must have received excellent training. So, the white can stay, but it will only stay white for, well, I'd say about 2 weeks if we're lucky, and then it will be a dingy beige color.

So, anyway, the whole point of this post is to say we are becoming excellent DIYers. In our minds. We record all these shows on DIY, and say to ourselves, "Yeah! We could totally do that!" I mean, look at all they got done in 30 minutes! So, we are dreaming of paint and flooring and built-ins, and granite counter tops, and tile, and resurfacing walls and fireplaces, but we are stuck in our reality of not being able to do anything until we close, and that is just a shame to waste all this great talent.

So, that brings me to the point that we have almost zero furniture of our own. So, recently we got my Grandmother's dining table and chairs. Now, let me say, I love this table. Mostly because of all the great memories associated with this table. I can still See Granddaddy sitting at one end, and Grandmother at the other, and all the people I love in between, and there was always lots of great food and even more laughter. But, I also have to say that this table is not exactly cool. In fact, it would go great in this room:

Which is the front room of our house. But, we are on a mission to make that room look cool and modern. So, we started to talk about what we could do with the table.
"Well, we could definitely recover the chairs," I said.

"We could paint it," Steve said.

I looked at him in utter horror! " we could not! Are you crazy? My Grandmother would roll over in her grave. We are NOT painting it."

Then, I was talking to my Aunt Pam, who is my grandmother's youngest daughter, and she said she has seen tables like Grandmother's with the legs and the chairs painted black. Then she added, "But we could never do that because Grandmother would rise up from her grave and haunt us both!" I laughed and agreed. But then at one point, she said we really could do that if we wanted. I casually mentioned it to Steve, but said I still wasn't sure that was what I wanted to do - it made me too nervous. What if it ruined it?

Well, I guess Steve had just had enough of only dreaming of fixing things up because one day he came in with one of the legs completely sanded! I was shocked, but that committed us! So, here is our first official DIY project. Chairs before:

Chairs After:

And the picture really doesn't do it justice! It looks SO good! And Steve has done most of the work - all I've done is recover the seats. We'll be sure and show you the whole thing when we get it into the new house. And I figure that Grandmother would be proud of me, after all I am her granddaughter and can basically do no wrong! Aunt Pam, I don't have a good excuse for you - you really should have known better! So, if Grandmother shows up here to get on to me, I'll be sure and send her your way!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

How time flies! It just doesn't seem like that long ago that I was bringing home a tiny little newborn for his first Easter. And now that little newborn is over 5 feet tall! Ugh! Maybe thinking about all that made me a little nostalgic. I was at the Children's Place a few weeks ago, and I saw those adorable sweater vests and dress, and I just had to have them! I know this is probably the last year I can do that without a major rebellion! It was pushing it this year - Levi took off his sweater in the car on the way home, but I did get my pictures, at least. But don't they look cute? When Levi was about 6 years old, he declared that he hated "the match," and I promised I wouldn't dress them just alike again. I convinced him that this wasn't matching, it was "coordinating" - a small but crucial difference!

We had an Easter egg hunt last week with our church, and last year I just let that suffice, and didn't do another one for our family. Maybe it's just me, but we always had big Easter egg hunts with our cousins, and it just seems anti-climactic do just do one with our family. And in Denver City, we had a fun little tradition of going out to the park with anyone in the church family who wasn't with their families. And so, it seems a little sad to have a hunt with just our kids. But this year, when I was telling Joey that it was Easter, and he asked if we would hunt eggs today, I was feeling that same nostalgia - that maybe we wouldn't have too many more years when they would even want to hunt eggs, and we should hunt eggs while the kids were little.

And so, I grabbed the candy from the Easter egg hunt last week, (I mean really, did we need any more candy? I think not.) and my mom & I skipped Sunday school and filled up eggs in the car. Now, when we were growing up, we always had change in the eggs, and one special egg would have a dollar in it. So, because my mom wanted to contribute, we went ahead and and put dollars in 4 eggs, and I could envision the disaster that would likely ensue. I could just see Joey finding all 4 eggs, and Levi would have a breakdown.

So, we had the hunt, and afterward they were going through their spoils, and it actually turned out pretty evenly. Levi found 2, and Lily-Grace didn't find any, but the other 2 each found one. And I was helping Lily-Grace count her money, and Sam came over and asked if Lily had found a dollar egg, and I was a little annoyed, because I thought he was coming over to gloat, so I said, "No, but she found lots of quarters!" And that seemed to satisfy her, and I figured we averted the tragedy. Then, Sam came over carrying his dollar and said, "You can have my dollar, Lily-Grace, I don't need it." And, Lord have mercy, I teared up right then, and thought, there is hope after all. This is my Easter miracle! Because, seriously, I thought I might have to kill that child during church when he was feeling it necessary to breathe like he was running a marathon and make moaning sounds whenever there was a particularly quiet moment.

And then Levi felt convicted because he was the one who had 2 dollars to begin with, and so he held out his dollar and said reluctantly, "Here. You can have my dollar if you need it." And I know he didn't want to do that, but that's okay. I'll take a moment of kindness however I can get it. Especially considering that less than an hour earlier he had been threatening to kill Sam. So, I realize in the grand scheme of things, that this is a tiny, minute, insignificant little thing, but I'd say something that gives us hope that maybe we're doing okay as parents after all, is a miracle I'll take any day of the week! I hope you had a great Easter too!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bad to the Bone

Yep. That's me. Bad to the bone. And even more bad than me, is Steve. We are two totally cool, tough, and, I'd say, almost scary people. And now we have a ride to match that attitude. Here it is:

Yes, we are the proud new owners of a Bali Motor Scooter. I know, try not to be jealous. The sad thing is, our kids think this is totally cool - they don't realize it is really nothing more than a moped. I used to make fun of people riding those - I'm not sure why, just being honest here.

I'll have to take full responsibility for this purchase. Steve is most definitely not a motorcycle person, and he is really not even a motor scooter person. And, quite honestly, that makes me happy. But last night, we were sitting at our church's youth fundraiser, and they have a live auction. And we pretty much do not participate in this auction normally since we don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on steaks, even for a good cause. But, they put this scooter up there and started the bidding at $2000, and nobody bid. And then they lowered it to $1500 and nobody bid. And then they lowered it to $1400 and nobody bid. And I was feeling bad and somehow responsible, don't ask me why, it makes no sense whatsoever. And the auctioneer was saying how great these things are, and what a steal this was, and I leaned over and whispered to Steve, "Oh, just bid on it! If we start, someone else will surely bid. Or, at the very least, we can sell it!" And so he bid, and lo and behold, no one else uttered a word.

And so we are now badass motor scooter owners, except I'm not really sure a motor scooter can be badass. But, more in keeping with our personalities, it gets great gas mileage! And we were instant heroes with our boys, who stared at us in awe and asked if we really did just buy that scooter and were we really going to take it home, and could they ride on it. And we answered yes to all those questions, except it is currently still at the church since we don't know how to drive it, and Steve said you have to have a special license to drive a motorcycle, and he is nothing if not a rule follower. And so there it sits in one of the Sunday School rooms, and I'm guessing we are going to have to get it out of there by Sunday!

So as we are driving home that night, I decided to look through all the paperwork we got with it, you know, to see if there were any instructions on how to ride it because we really are that nerdy. And it was very helpful. I saw a section entitled "Way of Starting for Engine" and thought that would be a good place to start. Here's what it said:

1. Stand the main stand when starting engine, and make the rear wheel nearly room.
2. Adopt the electric/kick starting. If adopt electric starting, must catch hold of front brake or step rear brake pedal.
3. When driving in winter, turn the key of bank to "OFF" kick starting about 5 times and make into gasoline, then touche' with the electric road, with accelerating and warm up the engine about
2-3 minutes. All are OK.

Okay, no problem. I got it. Since I obviously had a handle on starting the engine after that stellar explanation, I decided to peruse the rest of the manual. Here are some other things I found especially helpful:

- Ride the motorcycle from left side and seat well, the left foot touch with room and avoid to rave. I'm so glad they warned me to avoid the rave. That would be so embarrassing if I didn't!

- Don't add freely gasoline to the turning bar after loosing the rod of rear braking, avoid to happen dangerous. Where can I find freely gasoline? I promise not to add it to the turning bar, I'll keep it strictly for the gas tank!

- Start to parking slowly, and then step and draw urgently the vehicle. Good to know. I'll make sure there is a sketch pad in the scooter at all times.

And last but not least,

- When parking, support the main stand in the little traffic and smooth land, if else happen to accident easily. I have no idea who wrote this, but I'd love to have a conversation with them! I have a feeling it would be memorable.

So as you can see from this highly informative and comprehensive owner's manual we are now completely prepared and all set to embark on our new adventure of owning and enjoying a motor scooter. As long as it stays in the Sunday School room at the church.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


It is fun to watch the differences in our children. Steve & I especially enjoy watching Joey and Lily-Grace interact. They seem to play more together at this age than the older boys did. I think it is because Lily-Grace has the imagination and um, shall we say, persuasion to get Joey involved in her ideas. And you get the added bonus of watching the differences in male and female, and I don't care what anyone says, they are there! Today I was washing the dishes in the kitchen (our dishwasher is out and I realize how spoiled I am!) and Joey and Lily are playing behind me.

Lily-Grace had gone and put on her pink, sequined flapper dress (the same dress she put on when she wanted to impress Levi's friend who was visiting and stood in front of him and began to shimmy her hips. I am not even kidding. I wish I was.) And Joey had dragged in the big old stuffed horse that Levi got for Christmas when he was about 5 - that horse has been through a lot. Lily stood on a stool at the far end of the kitchen and announced, "You come riding around the corner and see me and say how beautiful I am, and we fall in love."

Then Joey replies, as if he hasn't even heard her, "And I am in a horse race."
"You come riding around the corner and we fall in love!"
"And I am in a horse race."
"You come riding around the corner AND WE FALL IN LOVE!"
"And I am in a hor"
"And I"
Sigh. "Fine. But then we ride off on my horse."
"Yes! That is a great idea. We can ride off on the horse together after you ask me to marry you."
So they play out the story according to Lily-Grace's wishes, and I must admit it is making my dishwashing much more entertaining to listen to all this. I'm hoping she doesn't think this will work in real life. In fact, when Joey failed to propose to her like she had instructed, she took matters into her own hands and asked him to marry her. And then they hopped on the horse together and began to ride into the sunset. At which point Joey said in that cute singsong voice kids use when they are pretending, "And let's say that you fell off the horse here and died."
"NO! Nobody dies in this story!"
"Aww, man! This is a boring story!" And so the conflict continues about the age old question - chick flick or action adventure? It starts early. When these two are involved it usually goes the way of chick flick. But, I must say, that Joey does have his limits. Earlier in this play session before the whole horse and falling in love thing was happening, Lily-Grace was being a cheerleader - a very loud cheerleader, and she tried to convince Joey that it was his turn to be a cheerleader. And Joey emphatically told her that boys weren't cheerleaders. And so Lily-Grace turns to me, the dispenser of all knowledge and wisdom (at least for a few more years) and asks me if boys can be cheerleaders. I told her that they can, and she looks at Joey with that triumphant look and says, "See? I told you so! Now, be the cheerleader!"
And Joey calmly replied, "Well, maybe some boys can be cheerleaders. But Not. Joey."
And that was that.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I'm Baaack! My kids are gone to my mom's house this weekend, and it is amazing what a little quiet can do for your thought processes. There are parts of my brain firing that I didn't even know still worked! When you have the time to complete a thought without being interrupted by, "Mom! Tell him it is my turn with that game!" or, "Mom! I'm hungry!" or, my personal favorite, "Mom! Can you come wipe me?" well, when you have that time, it is a blessed thing, a thing not to be taken lightly or for granted.

You see, my mom keeps our kids every year for a weekend for our anniversary, and while our anniversary is not until February 3rd, this was the only weekend within a month's time that we didn't have anything else going on, so this weekend was planned and much anticipated, not just by me, but by the kids as well. Lily-Grace got a cough on Tuesday, and I kept her home from school on Wednesday because my top priority was for her to be well this weekend - nothing should come in the way of this wonderful weekend! Joey especially asked every day if this was the day they were going to GranJan's. And Thursday night I put him to bed with the promise that tomorrow would be THE day - the day of going to GranJan's! And then the unthinkable happened. Joey woke up Thursday night gagging and trying to throw up. This has never happened to me before. The children never wake up and actually alert me to the fact that they are about to get sick. No, I am awakened after the fact by the crying and the unmistakable smell. So, we sat in the bathroom for a while, and nothing happened, so I sent him back to bed with a bowl for him to throw up in, which is a joke, because that would never happen. I mean, he sleeps in the top bunk after all, and why pass up the opportunity to lean over the bed and throw up all over the floor from 5 feet up? But, amazingly, we got through the night with no throwing up, but the next morning, he did, at long last, toss his cookies, except their were no cookies, only chocolate milk. Gross.

And I wanted to cry. And Joey did cry when I told him there would be no trip to GranJan's house. But then I grasped at the crazy thought that maybe this would be a one-time only event and he might perk up and be able to go after all. These are the thoughts of a desperate woman who has also built up this weekend in her mind as full of wonderful restaurant visits and staying up late and sleeping in, and knowing there will not be another opportunity for this before March. And Joey also had built this up in his mind as a weekend of eating junk food and playing games and basically doing whatever it is they do at GranJan's when no kill-joy parents are around. And Joey began to tell me how much better he felt, and he acted better, and we both wanted to believe it, and so I called my mom and told her of the tragedy that had befallen us, but assured her that I thought he was on his way to wellness and basically begged her to take them anyway because I couldn't bear the thought of telling Joey and the other kids that they weren't going after all. It was all for the kids, you know. Nothing at all about sleeping late or going out to eat entered my mind at all. And, of course my mom agreed because I really left her no choice.

And so I drove to Lamesa in the 100 mile-an-hour winds and blowing dirt to meet my mom at McDonald's, and got them all food, and Joey said he needed to go to the bathroom and so my mom took him. As soon as he got in there, he told her he needed to throw up, the little liar! All day long all he had been telling me was how much better he felt! Well, he didn't throw up, and I got them all settled in with food and left as quickly as I could before he could follow through on that idea.

And Steve and I went out to eat at a lovely grown-up steak place, and went to Blockbuster and rented adult movies, and by "adult" I mean nothing of the cartoon variety, preferably with no children in them at all, nothing make-believe, and the punch line is never a fart. And we came home and watched Julie & Julia, and it was lovely. And Steve got up to go to our room, turning out the lights as he went, and it was so quiet. So quiet. Like, it is never this quiet in our house - even after they are asleep because we know they could wake up at any time. In fact, Joey has perfected this method of crying out just as I have either gotten into bed or fallen asleep. And I know that I will have to go in there, lift him out of his top bunk, carry him into the bathroom while he is laying his head on my shoulder, sucking his thumb, and playing with my hair, and set him on the potty. Where he will do his business and I will carry him back to bed, and he usually sleeps for the rest of the night. But I knew that wasn't going to happen tonight. There was nobody to go check on and watch them sleeping, and cover them up and say a prayer over. And I actually felt sad. This is a new thing for me. Honestly, I rarely miss the kids on the few times we are away from them.

I think that as the years go by, I know how fast they are growing up. It won't be long until this will be an everyday occurrence - we will go to bed in a quiet house. There will be nobody to carry to the bathroom as he sweetly sucks his thumb and plays with my hair. And, sure, I'll be honest, I do sometimes dream about the day that I have two loads of laundry a week instead of two loads a day. But last night, in the quiet house, I caught a glimpse of the wonderful life I have. The wonderful, crazy, messy, loud life I have! And I was glad for it. It will all be gone before I know it, and I will miss it and wonder where the years have gone.

But, I gotta tell you, this morning when I was still sleeping at 10 o'clock I loved that quiet house! So, Mom, thanks for giving it to us. Thanks for allowing me the time to have some consecutive thoughts and giving me a quiet house so I could miss the loud one I usually have! I love you! And I pray that you don't get sick!