Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Chick-fil-A First 100 Promo

After one failed attempt, and then a beautiful story of our redemptive God at work, Bret and I went to another Chick-fil-A grand opening yesterday morning. (If you don't know about their grand opening First 100 Promo event, you can read more about it in my post about the failed attempt.)

Bound and determined to not have a repeat of last time, we arrived in the parking lot at about 5:45 am. Now, the official rules state that the first 100 customers get the Grand Prize (the 52 free #1 combo coupons). But, the line cannot start more than 24 hours before the store opens. In the event that there are over 100 people at that point, a raffle is conducted. Everyone is given a number, and the first 100 numbers drawn are officially the first 100 customers -- regardless of who actually got there first.

So, we pulled up at 5:45, and were greeted by throngs of people running back and forth to their vehicles with sleeping bags and pillows and tents. It was mass chaos. Apparently, a couple of groups of people had gotten there as early as 5pm on Tuesday (the store doesn't open until 6am on Thursday). No one seemed to have read the rules, and they had started a list of their own, which they were saying you had to sign...people were scrambling to make a line...those of us who knew the rules were beginning to panic that the official rules would not be followed...you get the idea.

Finally, at about 5 minutes to 6am, the Chick-fil-A staff came out and lined us up. There was still a lot of confusion and some tempers, but long story short -- the official count at 6am was 120 people. So, even though we were among the first 100 people there, we were each assigned numbers and were entered into a raffle for a chance to be in the official first 100. Then they would continue to draw numbers until everyone there had been given an official place in line.

Bret was #57 drawn...I was number #110. Bret was guaranteed a Grand Prize (assuming he stayed for the entire 24 hours, and didn't break any rules), and I was invited to stay just in case enough people dropped out that I was able to move up at least ten places in line. And, I would be entered in a drawing for a few extra prizes at the end. So that's what I did. Even though I was pretty sure that there was no way that many people would drop out even if it rained, and even though it was taking quite a bit of work to not be discouraged by the fact that it wasn't working out like we had hoped when half the reason we were doing this was to donate half of the coupons to a food pantry. Besides, Bret and I were in the same vehicle, and I was stuck there anyway!

So we set up our canopy, unpacked our stuff, and began the 24 hour stent in the parking lot. We were not allowed to go back to our vehicles, and we were only allowed to go into the store to use the restroom. Here's how our day went:

5:45am - We arrived

6:00am - In the official line, we are number 95 and 96. The raffle begins.

7:04am - Bret's number is drawn. He's #57! (Yes, apparently it takes a very long time to organize a raffle...)

7:20am - I'm #110. So we wait in another line to get officially signed in, and then go set up our stuff. (Ours is the big blue canopy.)

9:00am - Our first official line check. (There are several of these throughout the day, just to make sure that everyone is still there and no one has tried to sneak out...)

10:00am - Free chicken biscuits!

11:15am - Bret catches a quick little nap.

12:30pm - Line check and free chicken sandwiches.

1:15pm - Thought I'd lay down for a little nap.

1:24am - Just kidding. It started raining. Gotta help Bret zip down the sides of the canopy to keep everything dry. Some of the kids and people without tents were running around playing in the rain and splashing in the puddles, having a blast. How can you sleep through that?!

2:45pm - It's stopped raining. I try that nap again...

4:15pm - Woke up. That's right. An hour and a half nap in the middle of the day, no kids fighting and waking me up. Awesome!!

5:30pm - Line check, and free #1 combos for dinner -- in the restaurant with the a/c! -- for #'s 1-60.

6:00pm - Line check, and free #1 combos for dinner inside for #'s 61-120.

7:00pm - The DJ arrives.

8:15pm - We are told that there's a couple here who have been to 41 grand openings. Forty-one! That's 4,264 coupons for free #1 combos, valuing over $25,000. Good grief. Just how much chicken can a person actually eat, anyway??

8:45pm - The games begin -- scavenger hunt, hot potato, wet t-shirt contest (a race to get a knotted, wet, and frozen t-shirt untied and on), hula hoop, limbo, etc...

9:15pm - Gametime pauses for a line check and free chicken nuggets.

9:45pm - Bret plays hot potato, wins a CFA cow for the boys.

11:00pm - The DJ leaves, things start to settle down.

11:30pm - Free ice cream sundaes

12:00am - Everyone goes inside for announcements, a pep talk, and a trumpet serenade from Dan Cathy (the owner) himself. We also learn that the camera crews that have been there all day are actually from ABC World News. They will be airing a documentary about the Ten Commandments soon, and will be spotlighting Chick-fil-A for their observance of the Sabbath. Cool.

1:30am - Things begin to settle and get a little quieter, we zipped up our canopy and laid down for the night.

5am - Dad calls, did we know there's a strong band of thunderstorms with 50-60mph straight-line winds headed right for us? Ummm...no, actually. We'll do what we can. Thanks! We start packing up and securing our things.

5:30am - It begins to lightning. Everyone is called inside.


5:45am - The realization is made that this is a really big storm system, and that everyone needs to get the tents and canopies out of the parking lot and into their vehicles before 6am. More hustle and bustle and chaos.

6:00am - Everyone is in.

6:01am - The strong winds and horizontal rain begin...but so does the Grand Prize Party! (And another trumpet serenade from Dan Cathy.)
6:10am - We learn that all of the "over 100's" people will be getting 52 coupons, too!

6:15am - We run to our truck, through the rain, clutching our 104 coupons.

7:30am - Home, shower, nap...work for Bret, pick up boys for Rachel

11:42am - And on a side note, a very special new little friend was born this morning, as well! Hudson Andres Chappotin.


Tomorrow we will be going to Harvest House, a food pantry here in Burleson, to donate half of our tickets. That's one of the reasons we did all of this. We've met some people who never get to go out to eat, and realized what a wonderful gift it would be for someone to allow them to eat in a clean, delicious, kid-friendly restaurant for free.

For this reason, we were really hoping to have some other people come with us, so that we could donate as many coupons as possible. But, for various reasons, it didn't work out. We were a little bummed, but -- making lemonade out of our lemons -- Bret and I were kind of excited about the opportunity to get to just hang out with one another. And even though my tummy is a bit angry with me for consuming nothing but bread, water, fried chicken, and sweet tea for 24 hours, it was lots of fun, and I'm so glad that we did it! I really feel as though God rewarded our persistance. Thank you, Lord.

post signature

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Spooky Dooky Party

You read it right. We had a "Spooky Dooky Party."

We had our friends Rylie and Grace over the other day, and the kids decided that we should hang bats from the ceiling. And then they decided that we should hang signs that say, "The Party Is Here" everywhere. And then they decided that we should turn off the lights and everyone should howl like a coyote.

And the name that was unanimously chosen for this party? Spooky Dooky. The best part was, to my knowledge, "dooky" was merely a rhyming nonsense word with no other meaning attached to it. Ahhhhh...innocence!

post signature

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Night Date Night

A couple of years ago, Bret and I decided that we should have a weekly date night. Nothing too extreme -- usually not even going out. Just a night that we committed to really trying to get the kids to bed early or at least on time, have a "grown-up dinner" together at home, and then try to set aside the laundry and the dishes and the cleaning and the books and the papers and the computers in order to just spend some time together.

I'm proud to say that we have done this consistently for at least two years now. But, as things like this do, we have lately allowed it to be just dinner and have talked ourselves into allowing work on Date Nights.

So, a couple of weeks ago, we recommitted to taking Date Night back to the original idea. As a part of my recommitment, I have decided that if the laundry and the dishes aren't done before dinner, it will be fine for them to wait until Tuesday morning. (This is a big sacrifice for me, I hate waking up to messes!) Also, there will be no blog posts on Mondays -- unless I'm able to post something before the kids eat dinner. (Which, let's face it -- probably won't be happening often!)

So here's to Date Night! Tonight's plan was for Bret to grill, and for us to then play some Guitar Hero on the Wii. But, today was rainy and gloomy, we both have killer headaches, and the kids have just not been very cooperative. Plan B -- black-eyed peas and cornbread, chocolate cake (from the freezer, hooray for leftovers and freezers!) and coffee for dessert, and a grown-up movie from Redbox!

post signature

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Joey's Egg

Dad needed a little help with a couple of projects that he's working on, so we made a quick little trip to Glen Rose last night.

Conner and Micah were too funny. They knew that BooBoo had some Mr. Jim's cheese pizza waiting for them, but they just had to go check the chicken coop for some eggs before they even went in the house. They just really needed some scrambled eggs to go with their pizza! :) And yes, they did find four of them...and yes, Dad was just busting at the seams, he was so proud.

But not to be outdone, Josiah had to join in the fun. When he got around to checking, there was one little egg there waiting for him.

His egg, however, did not make it long enough to find it's fate in the frying pan...

I love days that are relaxed enough so that we can just let them be kids, let them turn everyday objects into science projects, let them teach us to slow down and make some memories.

post signature

Friday, July 24, 2009

He Speaks

I have recently entered into a season of Spiritual Discernment with a few other people, regarding some very specific issues. We've reached a crossroad in some areas, have an opportunity to re-think some strategies, and have been given a chance to dream again.

I know, I know -- I'm sure several of you are saying, "Spiritual Discern-what? What in the world is that? I mean, it sounds good...but how in the world does a person go about doing something like that." I know you're thinking it because I was too a few months ago.

But then my much wiser and more learned husband walked me through the process. We sat down with some friends, came up with a specific question that we wanted God to answer, and came up with some very specific spiritual disciplines that we participated in over the next week -- all the while intentionally listening to God for an answer. Some of the things we did together, some of them we all did, but each at his own time and place -- together but apart.

And let me just tell you that it ended up being of the most powerful spirtual experiences I've been through. Four of us started the week off with some pretty differing opinions as to the best answer to our question. But after a week of being in communion with God and one another, we ended on the same note. Without talking about it a whole lot during the week or sharing too many specifics -- just enough to be in communication and encourage one another to keep pressing on -- we all ended on the same note. We were each able to revel in an amazing and overwhelming sense of satisfaction and peace with the decision that was made. There was no doubt that it was what God was calling us to do.

So we are trying this again. This time with a different group of people, regarding a different question -- but all the while listening to God with a discerning ear. I was so encouraged by our initial meeting, excited about the process that we came up with, and look forward to participating in something like this with some new people.

So far this week has been really good. I've participated in some creative spiritual disciplines, uniquely tailored to suit our purposes. And as a result I've had some amazing communion with God. I can't wait to see the end result of this process. I'm not sure what it will be, but there's no doubt that it will have God's fingerprints all over it.

I just thought I'd share one of the first things that I stumbled upon, that's grounded me during this first week of spiritual discernment:

"I ask -- ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory -- to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the imensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him -- endless energy, boundless strength!" --Ephesians 1:15-19, The Message

That's been my prayer this week, and I see, feel, hear, and know that it is beginning to be answered. God speaks. And it is good.

post signature

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Than Just Brothers

The past several days have been a little rough. Everyone's been a little more high-maintenance than usual, no one's been sleeping as well as usual, and of course there has been plenty of fighting and bickering and whining and crying.

But then, when you're least expecting it, you find yourself behind a scene like this:

I love that they're more than just brothers. They're friends, and I pray that it stays that way.

post signature

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My New Look

So what do you think?!

I. Love. It. Love it!!

In case you missed the buzz: Heather won the blog makeover contest from Redbud Designs, and generously gave me the prize. Sharon and I have been in communication over the last several weeks. I really didn't have much of an idea of what I wanted, other than something mostly little-boyish, but with a little bit of something girly-girl for me. (Well, and the obvious -- a title, caption, pictures, etc...) Sharon took that and ran. I think my favorite part is that little butterfly on the title banner, made out of hardware.

If you're interested in having something like this done for your blog, I'd highly recommend Redbud Designs. The process was easy-breezy, Sharon was great to work with, and I'm telling you, the woman had to have read my mind -- even though even I didn't really have any idea what was lurking in there!

So really, tell me what you think. I wanna know! :)

post signature

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marker Meals

Josiah got ahold of some of Conner's markers today. He of course, had to stick them in his mouth...
...and did you catch that in the second picture? Yes, that's right. He's actually biting of the ends of the markers, chewing them up, and swallowing them.I'm pretty sure that it was only two that he ate...today, anyway. I just can't keep the kid off the table, so there's no telling how many more marker meals are in his future. I guess we may find out just how non-toxic a "non-toxic" marker is...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rain!

It rained today. Not just a few sprinkles, not a violent storm. Just rain. Just a good, soaking rain. Exactly what we needed.

Joey had the marvelous idea of going out to play in it. He played and got plenty wet. But Conner and Micah were too busy try to catch the raindrops to do much playing...
When it was time to go inside, I got everyone cleaned, dried, and dressed in at least undies/diaper. Then they ran off to play in Joey's bedroom while I fixed lunch. A few minutes later, Conner came running into the kitchen, excitedly telling me that they were still cold since they had been wet, but that the Blanket Festival was a great way to warm up. I had to come see:
It was nearly every blanket in the house unfolded...but it was great. That kept them entertained long enough for me to fix lunch and then some! :)

We had a really fun morning, and I couldn't help but have a heightened awareness of our Almighty Creator.

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
He bestows rain on the earth;
he sends water upon the countryside.
--Job 5:9-11

Thank you, Lord for the rain.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Baby Teeth

I'm learning more and more about why, in his marvelous wisdom, God gave us two sets of teeth.

Only God would realize how hard bottles and binkies and thumbs are on teeth. And how bad parents would be about remembering to get all of those little teeth brushed each morning and each night. (Especially when we're talking about 50 little teeth here!) And how many times the owners of the little teeth would fall asleep before they got brushed. And how there would be no way the parents would wake them up just to brush the teeth when they fall asleep before the brushing. And how hard it is to learn to brush your teeth well. And how hard it is for parents to find that line between encouraging independence and making sure that the little teeth are brushed well. And just how many times those little teeth would get bumped, chipped, knocked loose, or knocked completely out while the owners are engaged in the business of play.

And only God would come up with the wonderful idea of giving us all two sets of teeth -- one to practice on and grow up with a litte bit, and one to carry us through the rest of life. Honestly, sometimes I wish He would have given us a set or two more, but He didn't ask me. And no matter how good of an idea I think that may be sometimes, I don't pretend that God doesn't know better than me!

So, after a visit to the dentist last week and an opportunity to see some xrays, my fears have been confirmed. I learned that Micah has hit one of his little teeth a few times too many. And there is no way that little tooth is going to make it another three or four more years until the permanent one comes in. And Conner still has at least a year to a year and a half before his front two permanent teeth come in. And more than likely, I will have two prematurely seemingly perpetually snaggle-toothed children. And Joey is well on his way to following in his brothers' footsteps.

As they all sleep with un-brushed teeth yet again, I have found great peace and comfort in the fact that God is so incredibly wise, already taking care of that, forming new little teeth in their gums as we speak. When Micah's little tooth does come out, it's probably still going to be hard on me. I'm sure will make it through that, too though. But seriously, if Joey knocks out one of his teeth before Conner and Micah get their permanent teeth in, and I have three prematurely snaggle-toothed kids to cart around...well...I think we may have to move to the mountains and join the hillbillies. CPS will probably come to investigate, and I will probably feel like the worst mother in the entire world. Lord, please spare me that! :)

Now, if I can just get them to settle down a little bit and keep from knocking out the permanent ones...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

School Supplies

I'm a nerd. I get excited about school supplies. I love new markers and crayons and spirals and glue. Nothing can motivate me as I start a new project quite like the purchase of a couple of "needed" things from the school supply aisle.

With that said, I've been looking forward to buying school supplies with Conner for years now. Not the frenzied and crowded week-before-school-starts-and-the-aisles-are-so-full-of-stressed-moms-and-tired/excited-kids-and-so-disheveled-that-you-can't-find-anything shopping. No way. I'm talking about the 38-days-'til-kindergarten-starts-(yes, we're already counting down)-hit-the-stores-before-much-anyone-else-does-so-that-you-can-take-your-time kind of shopping. That is what Conner and I got to do today.

And let me just say, that as excited as I was about this, I just about had my heart broken. I never asked Bret if he wanted to do this with Conner. I never had to. We both knew that this was something that I wanted to do, and that Bret would chill with the little brothers while Conner and I went on a little school supplies shopping date.

But as I talked up the shopping trip, and finally got Conner, Mr.-I-Hate-Running-Errands excited about it, he immediately said, "Oh good. I can't wait 'til Daddy comes home and I get to tell him what we're gonna do tomorrow." :( I told him that would be fun, but that Daddy needed to take care of Micah and Josiah so that we could go, just the two of us. He was very disappointed. "But I want to go with Daddy. It's more fun to go places with him." :(

And can I blame the kid?! No, not really. I do get to take them to fun places all the time. But even so, it's not as fun when I take them because I nearly always have all three kiddos -- which includes Joey. That often limits the cool factor of the things we get to do, as well as the amount of time we get to spend doing it. When Daddy takes them places, he tries to be real intentional about making it a cool thing, something that just Daddy and said kid get to do. Which is great. I want them to do those kinds of things, and I'm so glad that they get to. It just makes me a little sad to know that I'm the boring one...

I dropped it for the rest of the afternoon. But when Bret got home, Conner ran to his Daddy and told him that they were gonna go get school supplies in Daddy's truck, just Daddy and Conner. I could see the shock on Bret's face, as he made the quick glance in my direction to see if this was, in fact, the case. I just shrugged my shoulders. They talked about it, Conner didn't change his mind, and I insisted that if he didn't want to go with me, I certainly didn't want to make him.

Then my Super-Hubby/Dad came up with a great idea. He could take Conner to Academy (one of two "man stores" that I don't get to go to very often) to get the backpack. And then I could take him to WalMart/Target for the other stuff. That sounded like a deal to everyone.

Until this afternoon when it was time to go. Conner just wanted to stay home and let me do it all. He didn't want to come do it if Daddy wasn't coming. :( Then Bret asked if they could go get the backpack first, and Mommy's stuff could be second. Once again, Bret's quick thinking saved both the day, and my increasingly fragile feelings regarding school supplies and my relationship with my oldest child. Thank you, Babe.

So they went to Academy, and Conner came home the proud owner of an Incredible Hulk backback -- which I was pleasantly surprised to learn cost only half of what I was expecting. And my nerdy self was loving that it matched the Incredible Hulk lunch box we already have!
But you guessed it -- when it was time for us to go to WalMart he changed his mind again. He said he'd rather just stay home with Daddy and let me go. :( So I pulled out the best of my Mommy skills...and bribed him with a slushie on the way there. Perfect. Sonic (and our monthly Sonic card donors), I love you.

The shopping trip itself was everything I had hoped it would be. Conner helped me read the list, find the stuff, make sure it was exactly what we were supposed to get. And I mean exactly. When the list called for a 70-page spiral notebook, you'd better know that no cool 80-page spiral would work -- even if it had Batman on it. That was 10 pages too many. So we searched and searched for the 70-page variety, and when the only ones that we could find had flowers on them, Conner was prepared to accept that. After all, it had to have 70 pages. But thankfully, I have no shame. We dug and dug and dug until we found one with a dragon. The best of both worlds. It looks like we've got a good start on the whole "following directions exactly" thing!

So thank you, Bret for being so sweet and creative and flexible in order to make my nerdy and quirky little dream come true. And thank you, Conner for accepting my slushie bribe and making such a sacrificial shopping trip with me. And thank you, Micah and Josiah for taking such wonderfully long naps this afternoon so that it could all happen peacefully. Today was a good Mommy-Day. Now if I can just keep myself out of those brand new shiny and perfectly pointy crayons...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Conner Cuddles

I got Conner Cuddles tonight.

Ever since Conner was about two, he's had this way of cuddling. He sticks his left thumb in his mouth, and with his right hand he rub/pats me. He has several favorite places to rub. They are a bit unusual -- but they are, according to Conner, the softest skin. The skin between my thumb and forefinger, my eyelid, my ear, the skin under my chin, or (when I was pregnant, especially) my belly button.

To be honest, this cuddling has often been a little bit uncomfortable for me. Just kind of weird -- and let's face it, anytime a preschooler has their hand anywhere near your eyeball it's a bit scary. It's been more work than I care to admit, but I've learned to love those strange little cuddles. (All but the belly button ones, that is. I really don't like those very much!) I've known since the time that they started that uncomfortable as they may be, someday I would miss them.

Well, Saturday will be one month since Conner stopped sucking his thumb. It's been hard work for him, he's been going to sleep with his hands trapped between his legs or underneath his bottom so that his thumb won't wander into his mouth. But going to sleep this way means that I don't get my cuddles. And I didn't realize how much I was missing them until tonight.

Tonight, Conner was having a bit of a hard time going to sleep. I was lying in bed next to him, he was turned away from me with both hands underneath his tummy. After a few minutes of tossing and turning, I decided to just go. As I got up though, he said, "Please stay Mommy. Let me cuddle with you for just one more minute." How could I resist that? And then he rolled over and started rubbing my ear with both hands.

I know, I know...it sounds so strange. But after tossing and turning for awhile, he was asleep less than a minute after he started rubbing my ear. It was beautiful. I think he'd been missing them too. I unashamedly admit that I soaked those strange little cuddles right up. I miss them, and he totally made my day by giving me that gift.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Egg

We went to Mom's and Dad's last weekend. There's always something cool and exciting going on there. We just never necessarily know what it's gonna be...


Well this time, we had to go straight to the chicken house. Even before we got to go in and go potty. It was later in the day, so it had cooled down to "just" 102 or something, and we stayed out and explored for a little while.


It's been about time for these chickens to be laying for several weeks now, but so far nothing. Dad's had plenty of time to rig up an easily accessible nest for them, and Mom was very excited to show it to me.


She was just telling me how they've been checking for eggs diligently, but nothing yet. Micah wanted to see what we were looking at, and Mom decided to humor him, let him look, explain what would be there someday.But lo and behold, Micah found the very first egg!!But, while everyone knew that this was very exciting...it became obvious that we didn't all know why this was exciting. Eggs that come from the store are for eating. Eggs that come from chickens turn into baby chicks. Apparently, with these obvious facts came the conclusion that this type of egg was neither of those. It didn't come from the store. The mama chicken wasn't sitting on it. But it was an egg in the chicken coop. This must mean that we're supposed to throw it on the ground for the chickens to eat. You know, like the kitchen scraps and the quail eggs.

After a few times of hitting the ground and being pecked by the chickens, The Egg had luckily not yet broken, and Conner and Micah seemed to finally understand. Then Joey got ahold of it......and it still survived! This was one special egg -- we simply must scramble it for breakfast in the morning!

But it was not time to go back inside yet. First we had to catch a chicken and pet it.The rooster was a little mean and agressive though -- and a little scary. (Look at Micah.)So we decided to go visit the more friendly, much younger chickens. Then the next morning, we got ready to cook The Egg. Since it was the very first one, it was pretty small, and Dad had warned us that it might not even have a yolk. But it was perfect. We were so excited! Conner and Micah gobbled it right up.
And the best part? "That egg was really good. But I'm still hungry."

"Yeah. We need to go out and find some more."

Yeah, that broke Dad's heart! :)

They didn't find any more, and BooBoo had to just scramble some eggs from the store. But they were still good. And so is this memory.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

So THAT'S Why I'm So Tired!

My cousin's wife, Crystal, posted this article on Facebook. It's a "Dear Abby" kind of letter. All Crystal had was a photo of it, and I know it's kind of hard to read. I couldn't find an actual link or anything. BUT, it was good enough that I thought I'd type it up so that you can see it good enough to read it..."Dear Carolyn: Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): What'd you do today? Her: Park, Playgroup...

OK. I've talked to parents and I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please, no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners... I do all those things, too. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day and why don't moms have time for a call or email? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events); I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy, but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth? Is this a contest ("my life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids, and all us child-free folks have the same question. --Tacoma, Wash.

Dear Tacoma: Relax and enjoy. You're funny.

Or, you're lying about having friends with kids.

Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them.

I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom-friends are either lying or competing with you is disingenuous indeed.

So, because it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, cleaned, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms, carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving the books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired, or bored, any one of which produces checkout line screaming.

It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends. It's resisting constant temptaion to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.

It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything -- language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.

It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first ten minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you, or marvel at how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a good effort to understand or keep your snit to yourself."

I guess that is what I do all day everyday, times three. No wonder I'm tired...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Blessing of Cross-Dressers, Cross-Eyed Preachers...and Cookies

Yesterday, we distributed cookies at a nursing home. It was a children's ministry event, meant to expose our kids to a little bit of outreach, hoping to bless some other folks while we were at it.

Please do not be offended by my brutally honest recollection of the event. The entire thing has ended up being a quite meaningful spiritual experience to me, and to share it in a way that you might even begin to understand, I have to lay it out the way it really happened...

With the triple-digit heat we've been having, I've been doing my best to not turn the oven on during the day. It gives the a/c a little too much to keep up with. Soooo...it was ten o-clock Thurday night when I started baking cookies...and then nearly midnight by the time I got around to wrapping them individually.

As I sat there wrapping and taping, enjoying a quiet house and the opportunity to hear myself think, I couldn't help but think that those Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies looked really good -- but they still needed something. I then remembered some ribbon that I had leftover from a bridal shower a few months ago, and decided that it would be awfully cute to tie a little bow around each cookie.

But then as I got it out, being ever-frugal, always looking for a way to save a few more pennies, I gave it a second thought. These were homemade Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies, for crying out loud. Did they really need a ribbon?

And then I thought of my sweet MeeMaw. She spent awhile in a rehab center several months ago, and I knew that it would make her day even that much more to receive a cookie with a cute little ribbon tied around it. So I tied the bows. And I trimmed them, and I fluffed them. I made sure that each one looked good enough to give to my MeeMaw. Even though we wouldn't actually be delivering cookies to her the next day, for me this had somehow turned into a gift for her, a ministry in her name.

On Friday morning, I told Micah and Conner what we would be doing that afternoon, showed them the cookies, and did my best to prepare them for a visit to a nursing home. They have had the blessing of being in relationship with some older family members, including MeeMaw, so I wasn't that worried about this freaking them out too much. (If you haven't ever taken a child to visit the elderly in this type of setting, you may not know that taking a child to a nursing home can really be pretty scary for them.) I found that my boys though, were actually pretty excited about this, and honestly, that made me very proud.
We were some of the first people to there, so we went ahead and walked up to the shaded porch to wait for the rest of our friends. There we were greated by a man named Andy. Andy was missing at least four of his front teeth, and had apparently had a stroke or something of that nature, the combination of which made him extremely hard to understand. But he was very friendly, loved my boys, and seemed to want nothing more than for someone to take the time to talk to him, for someone to listen to him, to be understood.

So I employed my dusty and crusty speech pathology skills, mustered up a lot of patience -- and between that, Andy's broken speech, his sign language, and the grace of God, I was able to give Andy the gift that he seemed to be longing for. Andy had been there for five years, went to a church in Forth Worth that had a wonderful steeple, and really liked my shirt with a little hummingbird on it. He wanted to know if I would bring him a shirt with a hummingbird on it, too. (I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was actually a maternity shirt that I'm still hanging onto! ;) Instead I promised to think of him the next time I saw a shirt with a hummingbird on it.) Then Conner and Micah gave him a cookie.

By then, the rest of our friends had arrived and we proceeded into the building. As we waited for a few minutes to receive some last minute instructions, I showed my boys off to some of the sweet little ladies just inside. Then we were greeted by another man. I wasn't able to catch his name though. He was too busy telling me to watch out for the resident cross-dresser. Apparently there was a person who lived there who had his hair cut like a man, combed it over like a man...but painted his fingernails. My new friend thought this was extremely funny, and I was given instructions to watch for this cross-dresser, and then give him a report on my way out.

Then we were off down the halls, giving cookies to anyone and everyone that we saw. Conner was excitedly handing them out, Micah was dutifully following his big brother around, and Joey was securely strapped into the stroller.

It wasn't long before we found ourselves in the dining room. There we found some very friendly folks sitting around a table. Conner even got a few hugs as he presented his cookies. We stopped to talk to them for a few minutes, and then as the group was on our way out of the room, I ended up at the end of our little line, bringing up the rear. Everyone watched as all the kids paraded out the door, and then they asked me if we were a daycare group. I explained that no, we were not a daycare group. We were a church. They began asking questions, and I was able to tell them a little bit about Christ Journey.

Then a man in a wheelchair, with very thick glasses that magnified his crossed eyes wanted to know if we were Protestant or Catholic, did we believe in Jesus Christ as our Eternal Savior? Then before I could even asnwer, he launched into a mini-sermon of sorts, quoting scripture, insisting that once we receive our salvation, there is nothing we can do to ever lose it. He began to get excited, raising his voice, waving his arms, his already-magnified-eyes becoming even larger.

I stood and listened nicely, worried about my kids who had gone on with the group, and waiting for a break in the sermon to politely excuse myself.
Eventually the other residents and therapists in the room were began to get visibly nervous. They wanted this man stop talking so that I could catch up with my group. There were several times that they tried to help me out and break in and interrupt, but this man wasn't stopping for anything!

In the middle of this emotionally heavy and increasingly uncomfortable sermon, a woman came up behind me. I am still unsure as to whether she was a resident or a therapist. But either way, she whispered to me how proud she was of us, and told me that she would rub my shoulders while I listened.

As the sermon went on, the arms waved more, the eyes got bigger, the rubbing became more intense, and I began to get more and more uncomfortable. I finally interrupted the man, and even though he never did completely stop talking I thanked him for sharing, and told him that it was obvious that he had done a lot of studying. (Very careful not to agree or disagree, or say anything else that would launch another sermon!)

I then hurried out of the room, anxious to see if Conner and Micah were still with the group and doing okay. The woman who was rubbing my shoulders, however, followed me. She told me that she was just so proud of us, she would just rub my shoulders while I walked. Sweet...but a little weird for me! About that time I ran into Becca, who had sweetly noticed that I was gone and had come looking for me. She was obviously confused by the "attachment" on my shoulders, and not knowing what else to do, led me to the rest of our group.

At that point, my new friend finally excused herself. I thanked heard and then I heard Micah looking for me, obviously getting increasingly worried and anxious. I grabbed his hand, gave him a hug, and he immediately relaxed. Conner was busily looking for someone else to give cookies to and hadn't even missed me. But sadly, everyone had gotten a cookie (or three!) and it was time for us to go.
I learned on the way out that while I was being preached to and rubbed upon, apparently there was some other excitement going on. A woman had heard the kids, come out into the hall, and dropped her drawers. That's right. Pants down to the floor, nothing on underneath. Thankfully, our kids were all too busy handing out cookies to notice, and it was just a couple of the other moms who got an eyeful. And thankfully, the nursing staff knew her well enough to know that this was something that she does sometimes and jumped right in to take her back into her room. I think I'm glad that I was getting preached to...

I looked for my new friend-of-the-cross-dresser, ready to tell him thanks for the warning, but that I had missed the show. But I didn't see him. I looked for Andy to make sure and tell him bye. But I didn't see him either. I left with all kinds of mixed emotions about the visit, but among the strongest was a need for closure. It was a little weird, and I wasn't real sure what it meant or what to do about it.

Then we went to a retreat this weekend. City on a Hill is a retreat "rooted in equipping and sending participants to live out the mission of God. As ambassadors of Jesus empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, we shine the light of God. We are a city on a hill, and we cannot be hidden." There was all kinds of good stuff going on, but I just couldn't shake this nursing home experience.

Then we spent some time in Mark 14:3-9. It's the story of Jesus' anointing in Bethany -- about the time that Mary poured an alabaster jar of perfume on Jesus feet, and then proceeded to wash them with her tears and her hair. If you're not familiar with it, (or even if you are) take a moment to read it.

The phrase that stood out to me, that I couldn't shake, was after the woman was rebuked by the chief preists for being foolish and wasteful. Jesus declared that "she did what she could." And then it all clicked. I received the closure that I needed for my nursing home experience. As is often the case, we went out to bless someone, and we were blessed immeasureably more than we could have ever blessed them...

So often, I feel like there's nothing I can do. Everywhere I go, I have three small children with me. Having a conversation with somone, even just over the phone, is often difficult. Running into town to drop something off for someone takes me about three times longer than it would a "normal person" without kids. At Christ Journey, we're often encouraged to meet people, to be in relationship with them, to show them Christ, to live life with them. I want to do this. But it feels like everytime a try, I end up chasing and disciplining my own children rather than talking to anyone else.

I've now been reminded that I am the woman who anointed Jesus -- only I usually don't even have an alabaster jar of perfume. Often the only thing I have to offer my Lord is salty tears and dirty hair. But my Almighty God sees even that as "a beautiful thing (v. 6)."

I may not have been able to give Andy a hummingbird shirt, or listen to as much of the sermon as my new preacher-friend would have liked. I may not be able to give as much money to as many good causes as I would like, cook as many meals for my sick and hurting friends as I would like, meet and talk to as many people or touch as many souls as I would like. But I can tie pretty ribbons around cookies, take the time to listen to and understand a lonely man, endure funny stories and crazy sermons and uncomfortable massages. My new friends at the nursing home saw these things as a beautiful gift. And so did my Jesus.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Conner's "Cool" Pose

"Don't I look cool, Mom? Take my picture, this is my 'cool' pose."

"It's cool because my hat is kinda to the side like that."

And not to be outdone...Micah has one, too...

Thursday, July 9, 2009