Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Photo Shoot

The girls enjoyed using their recital garb to dress up and have a photo shoot.

They got to wear a tiny bit of make-up.

The rugged outdoors proved to be a surprising setting for such glitter and glam.

Meanwhile, the future accountant took notes and crunched numbers at the table inside.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Help Yourself

For the past couple years of parenthood, I've just barrelled through - praying a bit, but ultimately hoping sheer work and determination would prove effective.
(not so much)

Two months ago, I was about to quit. I rarely feel this way. I have not been a perfect mom, but dang it, I dare you to try to find someone who gives it more effort! But a series of events concerning my kids stopped me in my tracks. I left for mother's day weekend at my mom's and just committed to pray while I drove. I thank the Lord that he heard my cries and provided a fresh new path.

It started with a book I had seen several times, but dismissed due to the title alone - "Have a New Kid by Friday". My repetitive reaction was, "What EV-er!" But when I confessed my plight to my cousin, she encouraged me to read it. I did. In one night....like all night...finished it around 4:45am. (I'm a nerd!!) It was filled with practical verbiage for the day-in-day-out interactions with your kids.

But the convicting tone in its premise that "if you want to change your child, change your attitude"....nelly. I wept. I asked forgiveness. I memorized the phrasing so that I could go home and implement the no-nonsense approach. It wasn't all new and amazing...some of the concepts were already in our repertoire, but Philip read the main chapters in the following two evenings and we united, renewed and inspired.

We rocked the kids' world with kind consistency and unwavering standards. The improvements were remarkable...after some difficult days. At one point in his frustration one child blurted, "MOM! Why are you so NICE? I hate it. What did Grammy do to you while you were gone? Brainwash you??"

Hilarious. No, Abba Father just plain washed me:)

Last week, I finally received a book I ordered before Mother's Day. My college friend suggested it in response to an earlier plea for help and prayer. "Parenting is your high calling and 8 other myths that trap us in worry and guilt" AGAIN a title that was not luring me right in. But AGAIN, perfect in God's perfect timing.

Now that we had our household lovingly managed again, it was time for God to liberate me from my own hard work. "I'm trying so hard to stop trying so hard" was my struggle throughout the book. It's not one of my favorite books ever written, but for me in this specific succession of God's provision and equipment, it has been a perfect fit.

We are not promised success. We are not promised happy and respectful children who make the right choices all the time. (Have you ever read in Judges about Samson...think of his journey through the eyes of his parents.) Therefore if parenting is our highest calling, there is a huge chance we're going to fail.

BUT if loving God with all our heart is our highest calling, then regardless of our children's lives, we can hope to stand before Him having "well done".

I smile at God as I realize that the New Kid by Friday book was really how to be a New Parent by Friday. (The New Kid was just a perk:) BUT just in case I were to board the USS "It's all about me"....He followed up my first session parenting crash-course with the truth that it's really still all about Him.

"I have a new peace and new strength - and a new companion for the journey. God is here with me in this beautiful everyday riot of my house and my heart. He is with me as my redeemer, my sovereign,and also as a parent himself, a Father who has revealed his own tender, hurting, hope-filled heart. Parenting is so much less about me and so much more about God! This is God's holy enterprise - and wondrously, joyously, I get to be a part of it." - Leslie Leyland Fields

***There is a little bookshelf at the bottom of this blog page where I keep a record of what I'm reading. Scroll down and see! It's really cute:) A couple of you have asked for specific book reviews... I haven't forgotten. "There-a-comin!" Thank you for your patience and trust:)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Kissed an Older Man Today...

Philip turned 40 today! Why do I love him so??

1. Blue eyes...can't get enough of 'em.

2. Accented slang...he talks like a hick, and ironically, I dig it.

3. Friendly...he's just a really friendly guy.

4. Strong hands...he refused to use the bar of soap in the hotel because he couldn't wash his hands with "something that snaps in half every two seconds"...brute?

5. Affectionate Dad...all the kids bask in his tenderness.

6. Hard work...he possesses not one ounce of laziness.

7. Home Run maniac...that boy got skills.

8. Blossoming musician...he has always had a song in his heart, and after years of my "nearness", he can actually sing on key.

9. Fixer-guy...I never pay a repairman, rarely a mechanic, only seldom a plumber. I tell ya - the boy got SKILLS.

10. Optimist...things in Philip's world are either "all good" or "awesome".

11. Provider...I never have to wonder if we'll have what we need. PTL

12. Chatter box...he uses twelve thousand minutes and 1700 texts per month just making people feel known and needed.

13. God lover...though I truly feel loved by Philip, I always have the sense that he loves Someone else more...and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Counting the other 27 reasons that are way too private for a blog...
That puts us at 40 fabulous reasons why I love Philip!

Thank You, God, for Philip. You bless me every day with new oportunities to grow and love and be loved. Thank You, thank You!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fear and Faith

I John 4:16-18 "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."

Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Psalm 34:4 "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears."

Psalm 91:1-5 "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust...He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of the night..."

Proverb 3:24 "...When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared."

Isaiah 12:2 "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Psalm 125:1 "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore."

Brotherly Love

Over the weekend, my middle brother, Josh, earned his PhD. The most touching moment of the weekend happened as soon as we arrived. Josh showed us the first few pages of his dissertation. It was a preamble of sorts where he acknowledged all the people he considered influential in his quest for this achievement.

Here is my favorite paragraph.

"To my brothers and sister: You are a dream team of siblings, and to be called your brother is a high honor. Cari, your wit is your charm; how remarkable that a woman so brilliant and beautiful could be such a fun girl. Tim, you are a true Renaissance man. Your insights into so many aspects of life flow with the continual freshness of a mountain spring, and those of us who are close enough for free refills are blessed. James, the way you enter the world of everyone you talk to is magnetizing and inspiring. To know James is to love James, and to have met with you is to be edified."

Incredible? James commented to me after reading it, "I think I kind of like myself now:)" Personally I felt like I had never been described in such kind light. What a feel-good way to start the weekend! I DO have super brothers...of whom Josh reigned as chief this weekend. My brothers are the best. I am a happy girl to be known so closely and yet loved so deeply...despite my inadequacies and undeserving ways.

Since Tim is scheduled to earn his PhD soon, there are rumors of a celebratory sibling road trip. I asked if I had to have a terminal degree to participate. The long pause and blank stares assured me that no amount of education could compensate for my anatomical shortcomings. It's a brotherhood thing. I wouldn't understand. They DID, however, welcome any home baked snacks I might be able to provide. "You could be with us in the FOOD, Sis!!!"

Punks. Really wonderful "lucky-me" punks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY Monday, May 23, 2011...

Outside my window...humid breezes fill the darkness

I am remembering...how much fun we had in Georgetown over the weekend.

I am thankful for...crushed ice from the refrigerator.

I am creating...a plan for caMP3 - our first summer music camp for grade-schoolers. So excited! (tiny bit frightened, but it's a good frightened)

I am going...to watch Landen's first game of the season tomorrow night.

I am reading..."Parenting is Your Highest Calling' and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt" by Leslie Leyland Fields.

I am hoping...this sore throat is better by morning.

On my mind...how cute I think my husband is. How funny I think my kids are. How good God is.

From the learning rooms...We've gone "back to the basics" on several fronts as we conclude this year. Filling in the gaps & checking off the lists.

Noticing that...I haven't walked in several days. I feel sluggish and bleck.

Pondering these words..."Be quick to listen and slow to speak."

From the kitchen...Leftover grilled burgers and baked beans. Yummo.

Around the house...Mom is resting in her Queen Suite here at Johnson & Johnson hotel. The kiddos are asleep and Philip and I are clocking our daily electronic electives:)

One of my favorite things...is how Elizabeth answers, "Oh, ok." to so many things. Cutie.

From my picture album...Mari Alice's patio art.

To participate or simply enjoy more daybooks, visit The Simple Woman.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Glory Be

It all started when my friend who cuts my hair had the nerve to birth a baby.

She willfully made herself unavailable to oversee the maintenance of my hair.

(ok, so it's not her fault...in fact, she comes back at the end of this story and redeems the entire situation...)

For most of the spring, I have been growing my hair out. Despite the less-than-pleasing Sunday morning results, the effortless weekday ponytails were a time-saving treat. But my brother is graduating with his PhD this weekend, and I felt I should honor his accomplishment with a bit of a trim. (it's all about me, really:)

Saturday, I was able to secure an appointment at a reputable salon, where I have enjoyed occasional beauty treatments over the years. I told the "stylist" that I needed a "trim", that I don't style my hair everyday, and that being able to put my hair in a ponytail was "really important" to me. We agreed I just needed a bit of a "re-shaping".

She was sweet, and kind, and talkative . Her own hair was quite cute and her general appearance was a lovely blend of tidy and trendy. However, we apparently had a MAJOR break-down in communication.

From my front-facing vantage in the pump-it-up swivel chair, things went well. My bangs were good - not a lot of change. My sides seemed to lack sufficient layers , but, you can't judge until you have a chance to style it yourself. I never really saw the back.

Until it was too late.

There are few scenarios in life that render me speechless - incapable of sharing my honest opinion. Off the top of my head, (no pun intended) here are three: when a mom just giggles at her tantrum-throwing toddler; when someone smokes their cigarette near my lunch plate; and when the stylist hands me a mirror, reveals my fresh new mullet, and says, "What do you think?"

Gulp. "Oh, yes. It IS much shorter."

She happily agreed, "I took a lot of the weight off!"

Had she been referring to my belly or arms, and not the crown of my head, we'd be best friends today!

I paid her. Oh dear myrtle, I paid for this.

We parted ways and I assumed that whatever I had just seen in the double reflection was a grave styling error, or a difference in products, or the result of excessive teasing with hairspray. I pacified my anxiety with a big clip and the hope of a prompt shampoo.

After several more inspections at home, I began to come to grips with the harsh reality that I possessed three or four separate and painfully distinct hair-cuts: my crown has cut very similarly to my mom's...just a couple inches long, the bottom layer of the back lay resting at my shoulder blades, the sides along my face were all one length cropped just above my shoulders, and my bangs survived as a remnant of the spring - reminiscent all things reasonable.

A not-so-excellent adventure: Bill or Ted, you pick.

Bon Jovi?

No. Do you remember Elly May from the Beverly Hillbillies? Filmed in the 60's she had a bouffant on top, but she still managed to tie a long, curly ponytail behind each ear. Yeppy-doodles. Pinned the tail on the critter!

In total, somewhat uncharacteristic vanity and emotion, I literally cried myself to sleep that night. As I showered the next morning, I prayed for a miracle. I tiny little miracle for restoration. Nope. Just the opportunity to blow dry four separate lengths of hair...and then stick it back in a clip.

Those side dog-ear things were grace. Not kidding. They allowed me to pull all my hair up from the sides and back and twist it into a clip, cleverly disguising the crown of bed-head sprigs throughout two worship services and a choir meeting.

Monday morning, I texted my postpartum pal. I told her of my plight. She felt my pain and agreed to meet me that afternoon to "look at it". From my description, she could not make any promises concerning a solution.

She mercifully diminished her grin as I walked in the door. She brushed; I whined. She comforted; I laughed. I described; she laughed. While the giggles subsided, the verdict was reached.

As I had assumed, the only means of restitution was a "greater sacrifice" of hair. She had to crop and chop until the back made more contextual sense. She layered the sides and blended my bangs into the new do.

She was the miracle I prayed for. Sweet friend.

The kids LOVE the new summer crop. Philip is not a fan. He can say it's cute, but we all know the truth. He stated the obligatory: "I'd think you were beautiful no matter what." psh.

Now. The previous [ridiculous] paragraphs are filled with earthly perspective and discontent. It was real. The earthy discontent. The ridiculousness.

I think of all the women who did not have to struggle with extremely bad hair this weekend. Not just the cute girls who seem to sport perfectly sleek coifs at all times. But my friends and sisters who don't have to worry about bad hair, because they have no hair. Chemicals and disease wage war within their blood stream and cute hair has been the first of many casualties.

Moreover, this sequence of events causes me to consider the journey toward inner beauty. Sometimes, through negligence or maltreatment, horrible missteps are taken. It is a possibility to just to hide it, ignore it, wait it out, and deal with it later.

A better, less comfortable, more presentable option might be to "reshape" some MORE. Let Someone with a truthful eye and skillful, merciful hands cut and sculpt and shape and shave.

Though you never wished for this particular outcome, in light of recent mistakes, the redeemed version is quite preferable - more livable in the long run.

God, forgive my vanity. Forgive my covetousness and ungratefulness. Thank You, for friends and family who love me and look at me through Your loving mercy. Thank You for miracles of every kind. You are wonderful!

"There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed...What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs...are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Jesus, in Matthew 10:26-31

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day[s]

Today I returned to my "real" life.

Last Thursday I drove to my mom's house in Missouri. I kissed my family goodbye and sat all by myself for 7 hours. The next thing I knew, I was hugging my mom and moving into my weekend hideaway.

Mom and I spent three solid days eating out, sleeping in (well, I did:), shopping, and finishing some organizing projects. Countless calories, substantial slumber, bounteous bargains, profuse productivity. Huge fun!

I also had the pleasure of visiting with cousins and aunts - some of my favorite women on earth.

While I was away, Philip and the kids played and watched baseball, cleaned the house, went to parties, played in the sprinkler, watched more baseball, went to church, shopped for groceries, and bought a mammoth gas grill.

The inside joke is that Philip soothes his loneliness with "consumer therapy". Several big-ticket items in our home can be traced back to being purchased while I was absent or incapacitated in some way. There is the flat screen tv from Elizabeth's birth, and the Cadillac of a vacuum cleaner from Mari's hospital stay. Last fall when I was on bed rest with back problems, I think he bought a pick-up.

Last night I returned to a lemony-fresh home, a hickory-smoked patio, and a happy family digging into a huge platter of hot, juicy meat. Pretty good stuff.

Thank You, God, for Mom. Thank You for a WONDERFUL weekend away. You knew how much I needed some extended quiet time, and You provided. Thank you for my sweet family. Thank You for a victorious day as we reacquainted ourselves with a routine and recommitted ourselves to all that You've called us to. To You be the glory!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Calm Within the Storm

Is it weird that I love rainy days?

"Yesterday was plain awful", as orphan Annie would sing. So perhaps any kind of day would have seemed good for the sake of improvement. No matter, today was wonderfully peaceful - cool and refreshing in many ways. Some people move to sunnier climates to combat depression, I think Seatle or London might serve me well.

Why do I love to be home so much? It's roomy, but not fancy; maintained, but not emaculate. It's not trendy, but it displays the things that make me happy. It's not spacious, but it holds the ones in whom I delight.

Tour of Gratitude for tonight...

From the garage: countless pairs of shoes - some for play, some for work, some for simply looking lovely.

From the kitchen: the yummy smell of breakfast food prepared in time for dinner.

From the dining room: that big beautiful bowl in the center of the table that holds far fewer apples and none of the bananas from earlier this morning.

From the nook: I'm thankful for the junk. There, I said it. The constant shuffling of papers to and from piles, the neverending transitions throughout the day from cluttered to tidy - all the many indications that several active people enjoy sharing this space.

From the living room: the host of wii characters that represent guests in our home from the last year or so. I can hear Mari cheering for the animated baseball game, "Good job, Abby! Way to smack the ball, Uncle Josh!"

From the hall: a well-worn path that registers productivity.

From the hall bathroom: six soapy scrubbies that wash away the wear of the day.

From the pink room: an extra large mirror propped against the wall - smudged with fingerprints - reflections of fun.

From the green room: hmmmmm. (I'm consciously dismissing the overall aroma of that boyish place to think of something lovely.) Ah, yes, the bottle of Adidas body spray that covers a multitude of funk.

From the purple room: my ceramic baby plate and cup set...establishing my own antiquity.

From our bathroom: the silver cake pedestal I use to hold my earrings, pedometer, and perfume...and two bobbie pins. When it's time to wipe off the counter, I just lift the whole platter and voila'!

From our bedroom: the little corner that houses my sewing machine that Philip bought our first Christmas. The gift that keeps on giving:)

From the patio: two wooden rocking chairs - ever available to host comfy conversations and breezy laughter.

Thank You, God for rainy days and clear perspective.