Sunday, July 29, 2007

Top Five

Some very exciting things that happened today:
#1 Mari took 5 steps from me to Philip
#2 Meg and Lauren came over and we hurried real quick to learn the harmonies to a song and then drove real quick to sing it at church. Big fun!
#3 James cleaned the hall bathroom. PLUUUUUUUS!
#4 Ardyn and Ashlin rocked the world singing a duet in church tonight. Completely cute!
#5 (this one is really tomorrow) My BFF Rachel is coming to visit in the morning. She's bringing her 2 boys and we should have nothin' but fun. James and Philip agreed to watch all the kids tomorrow evening so we can go have dinner and actually carry on a complete conversation. I'm so glad she's coming. As Ardyn would say about Abby, "I've been her friend my whole life."

Make a great day!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two Decades of J-Dub

James is no longer a teenager. He's 20 years old. Based on the Luke's time frame for meaningful milestones, he can officially date girls now. That ship has sailed, buddy. doesn't seem possible. I can remember being on a youth mission trip in Mexico the day he was born. I called home to check on mom about 9pm and there was no answer...I knew my parents had no late-night social life, so I assumed they had gone to the hospital to give birth to my new Home-Ec project! I cried when I realized I missed his birth. I missed him...and I didn't even know him yet.

He was such a pretty baby. Dark, plump, and smiley. His first year of life was my first year with a driver's licence. One day I was running an errand in the "good times van" with James harnessed into his new, plush car seat. His seat faced forward, positioned on the captain's chair closest to the big sliding brown door. I say "positioned" because "secured" would be inaccurate. As I came to an abrupt stop at a red light, the car seat tipped forward until it rested on the front passenger seat. I saw it lunge forward in my peripheral. I panicked, thinking James had been thrown to the floor. I quickly pulled into the next parking lot available. I threw open my door, darted around the van, and frantically opened the sliding door. There he was. Safely suspended over the walkway between the two seats. He dangled his feet over the expanse as though he were seeking thrills at a theme park. With his chubby fist clinched around the straps of his 5-point harness system, he giggled. I set the car seat back into position and tightened the seat belt strap. Then as he looked at me with those innocent ebony eyes, I couldn't take it. I just started bawling. I unstrapped him, held him close and pledged my undying devotion to his health, well-being, and life-long pursuit of happiness.

His second year was our family's first year in Washington State....which turned out to be my only year in the Northwest. I have sweet memories of coming home early in the afternoon from my lightly-loaded senior year to share ice cream and silly stories with "Jamey". There is a photograph of him and me on my first day at OBU. Mom was behind me and as James hugged my neck, she captured his saddening sobs. She was so thoughtful to keep us in close communication despite the 2000 mile gap. Mom would send pictures, artwork, and even tape-recorded messages from James to me at college. All the girls on my hall anxiously waited to hear the next "adorable thing my baby brother said".

By the time he entered Kindergarten, we were all living in Texas again. It was that year that he announced his name would then be "James"...not the babyish name "Jamey". It tickled me that he thought he was so grown up. That wasn't the last time I'd be tickled in such a way ;) He proudly served as the ring bearer in our wedding. During the rehearsal he was sorely offended when he found out the rings tied to his silk pillow were from the aisles of Hobby Lobby. "You can trust me!" he pleaded with me at the back of the church. Philip and I looked at each other and as we looked into James' eyes, we recognized the resolve in his countenance. We cautiously tied a couple thousand dollars worth of jewelry to a beautifully embroidered pillow and offered what would be the first of many opportunities to successfully handle responsibility. He came through like a pro!

The next year, I remember looking across the funeral home to see a little 7-year-old perched on one of the sofas near a lamp. He was dressed like a little man. He was calm. He listened patiently as people shared memories and stories. He would have to wait a lifetime to see his dad again. He was smiling as he chatted with folks, but the brightness in his eyes to which I'd grown accustomed had darkened a bit.

He was able to come with mom to stay with us after Landen's birth. His famous quote concerning my culinary technique: "I love to eat Cari's can really tell she uses her brain when she cooks." He held baby Landen with great confidence. It's amazing that he and Landen share the same age span as Luke and Mari Alice. The rest of his school years were spent in B-town. We were limited to phone calls, the occasional letter, and seasonal visits. Ranger games every summer, Cowboy games in the winter, Spring Breaks and family fall vacations to Missouri. I missed a lot of his everyday life. But by most accounts, those were the "punk" years...Lord bless my mother!

It's been two years since he moved his stuff into our dining room and started sleeping in the bay window. Though he was committed to those drafty accommodations indefinitely, the Lord saw fit for him to have his own room. James was such an encouragement during that transition. Philip was working hurricanes when he wasn't ironing out the details for a new job. I was house hunting, and packing, and trying to remain calm. I remember James said to me one day, "God knows where we're gonna live. He's not gonna hide it from us. He's not worried." Well stated! The week before we moved into this house, Philip and I found out we were expecting Johnson #7. James' enthusiastic involvement over the next several months kept the morale high, and childcare costs low.

We are so blessed to have him in our lives. He's so awesome with our kids. In so many ways he is helping to shape their lives. Mari is apparently musical because James sang to her played the guitar to settle her down on datenites. From her time spent with James, Ashlin has learned the discipline of truthfulness and the value of a vigorous laugh. Ardyn never tires of James' presence, though she is quick to take advantage of his overnight travels as she camps out in his "comfy, cozy bed". With James, Luke finds comfort in his genetic potential and basks in the reciprocity of quality time. Landen has discovered the secret to being completely cool: start with a limitless wardrobe, establish a personalized gesture of greeting, and ultimately don't worry about what anybody else thinks about you. Together, James and Philip have agreed upon the importance of focused attention during conversation and the peaceful, easy feeling of a good, growly, bear hug. I'm not big on the hugs, but I know that he brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes 'cause we're laughing so hard....other times because his sensitivity to God's Love is sincerely sweet. Thank You, God, for James.

There you go, a whole, entire blog about James.....Happy Birthday!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lookin' Up

This week has been emotionally challenging. Not because of any outside stressor, probably due to hormonal imbalances that tend to wrap up the end of each month. (I see the pattern in my blog, too) Anyway, yesterday morning I actually cried out to God for help....literally cried. The straw that broke the camel's back? Brown stuff smeared onto the "looker-ation" towels in the hall bathroom. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world who apparently know that I have a lot of emotions riding on the tidiness of one towel rack. So I CRIED out for relief. pitiful. But God heard my cries. Even when I don't make sense, when I'm irrational and my priorities are out of whack.....God cares for me. He showered me with mercy then wrapped me in His peace. (The smudge was verified non-organic when the cocoa-pebbles culprit confessed, and with Tide and God, all things are made beautiful in due time) Pooey on the powers of this dark world.

We swam yesterday afternoon. Huge fun. I taught the "American Crawl" to some, then just motor-boated around with Mari. She LOVES water. Ashli swam without floaties and by her own estimations only drowned twice. Ardyn's proficiency is allowing her to brave the deep end with the big kids. She joined Landen, Anna, Luke, and Luke as they perfected their implementation of the dreaded "Simultaneous Cannonball". Every time they surfaced, they wanted me to describe how high the splash towered. "Incredible! But I think you can get it higher!" was my repetitious answer. (There was no tower to speak of, but I wanted them to keep themselves occupied) After a couple hours, we came back inside and collectively munched down a 212 oz. bag of animal crackers and 7 or 8 bottles of water. Season 1 of Brady Bunch had arrived by mail so we officially chilled until Luke and Anna's dad came for them and it was time for me to start dinner.

Datenite is this evening. PLUS! I think we'll do our ol' standby: Dinner and Browsing in Longview. James hasn't been home much in the past couple weeks, so the kids will really enjoy making up for it. We are so blessed to have him here. I think he's gonna get kicked out of his room at least two nights next week in order to accommodate out-of-town guests. He's cool like that and it will be fun to visit with visitors!

Thank You, Lord for hearing my cries for help. Your omnipresence is one of my favorite things about You. Thank You for being near and I pray that you will bind (you-know-who) from my house and my life. You have won the victory! Help me live victoriously. I want to stand firm.
Thank You for all the little children in Thy tender care. Thank You for the sunshine and swimming pools. Thank You for family and friends.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blogger Phobia

Last night, I suggested that Philip and I drive over to Shreveport for datenite. He still had a Bass Pro Shop gift certificate from Christmas to spend, and I needed to get out of Dodge-- so to speak. As we left the driveway, he asked, "Are you sure you want to drive all the way over there? We can do it another time." I smiled and assured him it was fine. Over the next hour as we ran some pre-date errands, he asked three more times if I was SURE I wanted to go to Bass Pro Shop. Finally, it dawned on me. I asked him point blank: "Why? Are you afraid I'll blog it?" He gave me a playful grin and reluctantly replied, "Yes, yes I am!"

For the record: We had a great time walking through Bass Pro Shop. We ran into some friends and visited for quite a while, then he found some fun gadgets that totalled 19 cents less than his gift card. PLUS!

Monday, July 16, 2007

What would you suggest?

I want to receive a digital camera for my birthday. Actually, I want the camera to go on the financial record as my birthday gift, but I wish to receive it ASAP. Many of you seem to own digital equipment. I am interested to know what features you deem most useful and therefore important, or what hassles you encounter as you upload or get prints made. I don't want to spend a ton of money a: there is no ton to spend, b: Our country dial-up may not be conducive to fancy bells and whistles.

Any wisdom?

Jennifer who?

I guess I know too many Jennifers....I went to your profile and there was nothing. Are you the friend of my cousin, or the sister of my friend, or the friend of my friend, the sister of my other friend, my friend from out of town, or a new friend in town? We're going to the library tomorrow and I'll check their collection of billiard books, and perhaps I can bring resolution to this mysterious metaphor. Thanks for thinking about it. You're cool.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Conversation Starter

A while back a friend gave me a sourdough starter. Once every week or two I feed the starter, mix the dough, then bake the bread. It involves a consecutive three-day commitment, and unless I'm baking to give away, I allow the kids to participate. They seem thrilled by the anticipation and inspired by the culinary freedom to create. Last week Luke rolled out his dough and added, garlic butter, shaved turkey, grated cheese, Parmesan cheese, and crushed red pepper flakes. He rolled it all up, placed it in a dish, and called it "Spicy Italian Sub Bread". He has inherited my firm belief that a snazzy name can improve your creation by 40-50%. I restrained myself from offering the more accurate title: "Lunch meat plus what the Domino's delivery guy left". Landen then began to search out a snazzier title. He opened the cupboard doors and started listing potential ingredients..."Honey, raisins, cinnamon, peanuts...chocolate chips! He decided to create "Trail Mix Wheat Bread". Both flavors turned out YUMMEE!

This week, I baked on my own, but the girls watched on. I rolled the first batch out and spread out butter, honey, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries. When I had that roll sliced and in a pan, I started rolling out the next batch. It was intended to be plain ol' cinnamon rolls. I spread the butter, scattered the clumps of brown sugar and then sprinkled the two shakes of cinnamon that were left in the container. I grunted and opened the cabinet with my floury pinkie finger. The girls asked, "What's wrong, Mom?"

I muttered,"I'm out of cinnamon...I think I bought a new one....oh, I did! Praise the Lord!" I sprinkled the spice vigorously. In the same moment, the girls and I noticed that this "new" cinnamon was a couple shades lighter than the old stuff. Ardyn offered a theory: "I don't think that is cinnamon." I assure her it is as I read the label...oh heaven's to Myrtle! I just put Ground Cumin all over my brown sugared bread dough! They didn't believe me. I let them sniff the container. EEEW! I said that cumin is for salsa and other mexican stuff. I start scraping everything off. I had invested two days and a bag of flour, I was not willing for the dough to be wasted. As I got the surface back to it's beginning stage, I asked the girls to smell it and tell me if they could detect any of the nasty stuff. They sniffed as I turned the board around, then they agreed that it smelled fine. I tried again with another helping of butter and brown sugar then let the rolls rise again before baking.

As I was cleaning up the mess and decompressing after the spice crisis, the girls shared commentary. "I've never seen you mess up cooking, Mom, you should have read the bottle." "Yeah, that was your first 'miscake' in the kitchen." If they only knew.... All they need to do is remember back..."Fantabulous Potatoes", "Confetti Spaghetti", "Peanut Butter, Banana Fudge Bombs"....the list goes on. Basically, if I offered a snazzy name, then there's a good chance the dish needed a 40-50% upgrade for one reason or another. And by all accounts, my strategy works: it's been 24 hours, and there are only 2 "Sensational Sweet Rolls" left.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Catching Up

We had a great day of worship today! Good stuff shared in College SS, then lively family praise. I had charge of 4year olds during "overtime". Summer vacations left us running a little low on teachers, so I took the 3's and 4's and sent word to Philip to "come help". James sat with our oldest kids during the sermon, and Philip and I loved on Ashli and all her buddies. Plus on Philip! Plus on James! Minus all you vacationing overtime AWOL's.....casiekilgore..ahem!

Missing the sermon was not a problem because Luke put his keen listening skills to good use. He rattled off the synopsis including scripture references on the ride home. We were officially up to date.

The menfolk raced the rainclouds as they frantically tried to mow before the anticipated daily downpour. Our neighbors are out of town for a while, so Philip told the boys to push mow their lot next to ours. Our other neighbors apparently thought we were exploiting child labor practices and rode over on their respective John Deere's to rescue and relieve our poor, mistreated children. I looked out the window and watched as 3 riders and a walker mowed along in staggered, congruent one of those cingular commercials with the 4 bars in every shot. They knocked out an acre in no time at all. Impressive!

The girls and I listened to music and read books and played cards in the air conditioned house ALL afternoon. We wore ourselves out and needed a 30 minute snooze there at the end. It's not easy being cute AND entertaining.

Let's see....last week....
Yesterday: Haircuts, Football sign-up, luncheon date, and Sunday school fellowship
Friday: School, Grocery run then Mom's Night Out....yipee!
Thursday: School day then went swimming. Huge fun.
Wednesday: Hooray for family day
Tuesday: School day then went to Longview to eat, shop, and see fireworks
Monday: don't remember, I'm sure it was great

Tomorrow will be fun. We'll have our "extra's" and we have a "walk-around-the-block" date at 10 am with even more friends. Philip is chilling out in front of the TV waiting for me to stop blogging. More later...