Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The Aaaahhh Moment
We started planning it last night - today would be a big day for the five of us. Sarah and I would take the three kids, and leave the house. Drive away. All of us at once. We were headed for big places - Wendy's, Kohls and Target. Whippee, seriously. Thinking I might be getting a little cabin feverish, Sarah decided I needed an outing.

Right after morning nap we loaded everyone up. Bottles, blankets, toys, diaper bags, shopping lists, shoes, sippees, etc. etc. etc. Emphasis on etc... We pulled up to Wendys. The man taking the order must not have said anything when Sarah gave him our very long order; nobody was hangin' their head out the window when she pullled up to pay. (As in, "how many kids does that lady have in her car?") Soon as everyone had something they could pretty much feed themselves, we headed to Kohls. Sarah, like the head of a little army (which is what she sort of is) handed out food, instructions, and with one big bite of her own sandwich was off to shop. We did okay. I didn't end up outside the car with the kids locked inside, so we did okay. With Sarah back at the car we were off again, this time to Target. That great store that has enough groceries in it to justify regular trips there; also enough fun stuff to make you look forward to going there. Before she headed into Target she loaded the DVD player, gave more instructions and was off. When Caiden explained the movie was "just a little bit scary" I told him he could turn his head because Grammy is technologically challenged and if I shut it off it will not come back on. Sorry - you're just gonna have to deal with it. (This is what REALLY happens when you leave your children with your parents.) The 19 month old, by the way, was mesmerized - seemed to love the scary parts. Maybe the thumb and blanket took the edge off. I found myself wondering how many other families sit in the Target parking lot dining and watching a movie. Sarah seemed happy to have had an outing when she came back to the car. At least she had enough bags it looked like she'd had fun. Good for her - I'm thinking she's pretty due.

So off to home, it's now naptime, we tuck in the kids, unload the car and all the junk it took to take them for essentially a ride since we never got out. When we pulled up in the driveway I was truly content to just have left the house; it was a nice change of scenery, and a new appreciation for what going to Target involves for me vs. my daughter. (Reminder to self - do not EVER complain about shopping alone. Ever.)

Sarah's husband got home and dinner was in the oven, so I opted for a walk around the neighborhood. With her IPOD in one hand, and my cell phone in the other in case I got lost (I truly have NO sense of direction), I had a fabulous time just walking through the neighborhood. I saw Americana at it's best. Lots of culdesacs with pick up basketball games, kids on hot wheels, a few teens smoking and I resisted stopping to tell them how much it was going to cost them if they kept this up for the rest of their lives.... the neighborhood pool was full of families, runners, bikes, etc. Listening to Bebo Norman at a noise level that threatens my future hearing, I felt right with the world.

I came home to sit down to dinner with this sweet little family. Listening to them get a 4 year old to eat green things brought back memories from about 15 years ago. Then Sarah told me, "Mom, you need a bath." She laughed when she explained it didn't reflect my personal hygiene but rather that need girls have for long, hot soaks on a regular basis. This sweet daughter went in and cleaned the tub! This daughter who gave birth three weeks ago, and has had her hands full since then. I was horrified, but she insisted. She'd lit candles, set out bubble bath, etc. I used up all the hot water, read a magazine and drank an ice cold diet coke. Whatever savage beast I may have had when I went in was soothed when I came out.

So a great day - in every way possible. But the aaahhhhh moment of it all, when I told her she was the one who needed to be soaking in tubs, taking walks with a girlfriend, etc. and she said the best part of the day was spending the afternoon with a friend, and that friend was me. It just does not get any better than that. Seriously.


  posted at 11:42 PM

Monday, May 29, 2006
Gifts without wrapping paper and bows
Last night Sarah and I ordered a pizza, with toppings we chose. We sat in the middle of her big bed and watch episodes of a Lifetime movie. The baby slept, woke and nursed, slept. I sat and sorted family photos to give to the kids today. Nobody phoned, or stopped by. It was quiet. We stayed up a bit late, just enjoying being together. Chris had taken Caiden on a camping/fishing trip 2 hours away. Even when he realized they couldn't find the tent he still took him. I said to him, before he left, "You know your ears are going to fall off in the next 24 hours." He smiled and continued packing. He had stopped on his way home to pick up Caiden - dropping off diet coke and chocolate for us. Father of the year.....

Before I went to sleep I sent an email to my sweet husband back in Pennsylvania. Just a reminder that I miss him. The family dog came upstairs and settled in beside me. We slept til the sun woke us up this morning - Grayson, the 19 month old, the dog and me. We started our day with breakfast and his favorite baby praise dvd. Praise God - I was able to figure out the three remotes and it worked! He's been with me enough days in a row that he recognizes me and is willing to settle for me for awhile.

I checked email and had an email from my husband telling me starting his day with an email from me was a nice surprise. It's almost 10 am and Sarah and Addison are still asleep. In spite of Grayson making car noises and riding his big wheels around the living room. All the other kids and their wives are coming over later today. We're going to celebrate Leslie's 25th birthday - with gifts wrapped, squiggle bows attached. Caiden and Chris will come back with the stuff that camping drags home. The house will be crazy, messy, full - in a good way.

Right now, drinking coffee reheated from yesterday, watching this tow-headed toddler playing, and knowing my daughter is still asleep - the last 12 hours feels like a pile of gifts without wrapping paper and bows.


  posted at 10:44 AM

Saturday, May 27, 2006
Chicka Chicka 123 & Eternity
Last night I got to tuck in Caiden. That includes reading the book of his choice. His Papa and I gave him Chicka Chicka 123 a few years back, and it's a favorite. Sarah has the rhythm down better than I, but we have fun giving it a shot. So I read the whole book, and at the end is a two page spread of all the numbers 1 - 100. I asked Caiden, "which number is yours (age)?" He pointed and said, "the four." I said, "do you know which number is Grammy's age?" I ran my finger along all the numbers, down several rows to the 50. I said, "the 50." He responded appropriately - "wow." Then he ran his finger along the rest of the rows, all the way to the 100. He told me, "then you'll be 100 then you'll die. And go to heaven. And I'll miss you." So I said, "but you'll be 54 when I'm 100 so we won't be apart too long." He said, "but it's still going to be along time to wait to get there." Made me wish I had the heart of a four year old who longs for heaven to come quickly.


  posted at 11:49 AM

Monday, May 22, 2006
Middle Man

Before he was born she asked me, "do you think I could ever love this child as much as I do my first? What if I don't?" I assured her, she would. I knew because I am a mother of more than one.

I am a middle child. I have a middle child, Leslie. She says we middle kids "get the shaft" a lot. Being middle children we're usually okay with that. Growing up with three in front of me and two behind was a comfortable place to be. I learned from the mistakes of the first few, and didn't get spoiled like the ones behind me. I usually had somebody to play with (albeit it army in the woods), and was okay when I didn't. I got hand-me-downs, life lessons, somebody to stick up for me at school. I didn't have the same expectations put on me as the older ones; and when I hit the same heights, I was applauded, where it was expected of them. Our kids have an ongoing argument - who does Mom love the most? This Mother's Day I finally settled it - I bought them each a t-shirt which read "Mom always liked me the best." They're all my favorite. First, middle, last.

Caiden is not only the oldest in Chris' and Sarah's little family, he's our oldest grandchild. (Four's not old but you know what I mean here.) We have been amazed at everything he does; his drawings are on our fridge, we've boasted about him to friends and neighbors. We are highly amused by his daily antics and tolerant when he's not so amusing. Phone conversations are a highlight for us, even if we don't quite get everything he says. He is our delight.

But this middle child, this little man - being under two, he talks only a little. We don't have phone conversations, yet. We love him the same - knowing the buddies we will be someday is good enough for now. There's also no doubt their newest addition, precious Addie will be another apple of our eye. Jeremy and Leslie will welcome Jack into the world this fall. The great thing about grandchildren - the more the better.

We were there, last week, when Chris and Sarah brought Addison home from the hospital. Daddy had Addie (don't you love the sound of that), and Sarah walked ahead slowly. Caiden ran to his mother and greeted her with all the exuberance of a four year old.

Grayson waited. It was one of those times when time stops. You just know - remember this. They collapsed together onto the sidewalk, not even making it into the door. The sun was on their hair and faces as they melted into one. They didn't say a word. He had all he needed, his thumb, his blanket and his mother - all to himself, even if for only a moment. I wished she could step outside herself and see what they looked like. I wished he could see the love his mother had for him.

Right then this little mother was completely fulfilled holding her middle child. I already knew, but then I saw - she has more than enough love for all three. We have no favorites, at least not the more noble of us.

For GrayGray, being the middle man - not a bad place to be.


  posted at 9:24 AM

Thursday, May 18, 2006
Attaboy Dan
It's been almost a week since this photo was taken. He realized our world went topsy-turvy on us with the arrival of Addison. Still, I'd like to tell you about MY boy. I had four brothers - I wanted my daughters to have a brother, and since they came first, big brother was out of the question. Still, Dan managed to do all the awful things brothers do: be dirty, smelly, have icky friends who are dirty and smelly. Taunt, tease, tickle. Bring creepy creatures into the house. Be gross at the table, whether there is a dinner guest or not. Actually moreso if there is a dinner guest. Brothers are good that way.

He was noisy, easily-frustrated. He was crazy-competitive. He created enough havoc in our house to keep us all on our toes. He made family vacations interesting. He went to the emergency room more times than you can imagine for injuries you can't imagine. He made me read a lot of books on childrearing. Some twice.

We sat through hundreds of basketball, football and track events. Many were not fun, for him or us. Some were memories in the making. He often had to stay afterwards to apologize to a coach or referee. We had to make him do his homework, his bedroom should have been condemned. We just closed the door. You pick your battles. We were raising a man, not a neatnik.

He was such a handful, but I saw his heart. It was / is big. And soft. He loved every cat he saw, and most dogs. He loved junk food in large quantities; anything healthy - not so much. Most of his best friends were not ones we would have chosen. They were usually the underdogs with more disagreeable traits than he had. He did and does love his sisters. He's insanely protective of anyone he loves. He drove us nuts. He stretched the daylights out of us.

When it came time for college he decided he needed to go far away. He is quiet and shy and said he'd come home too often if he chose somewhere near. So he went 1200 miles away where his sisters are. Both his sisters got married in college. He swore he would not do that. He said, "it makes you too poor." That was before he met Janae, a beautiful, 5'11" Texas native. They married a year after they met. I told him, "the first year is the hardest. The next 60 something will be easier." As a married man/college student he worked full-time and went to school full-time also. He went over a year without coming home to see us and his dog.

Last Friday MY boy graduated from college, with more than a 3.0 gpa. He was asked to speak the night before at the college's Candlelight Service. Since it was the college president asking he couldn't say no. He is not a speaker - he's quiet and shy. It was a big stretch for him. He told his classmates they are all freshmen again, not knowing much and needing to listen. We busted our buttons with pride. For stretching himself. For pulling it off. For the man he's grown into.

Our kids have a running debate over who is my favorite. Dan insists he is because as he puts it (a little biology lacking here) he was in the womb the longest (think egg...). I don't have a favorite - we moms know they're all our favorite. He IS my favorite boy on this planet. I'm crazy about him. I don't think I could do the whole thing twice, but I'm so grateful I got to do it once.

Loving this boy - he wore me out - he won me over. He deserves an 'attaboy'.


  posted at 1:12 PM

Splish Splash!

I don't remember most of the Mother's Day gifts I've given to my mother. Hopefully she does.

I spent this Mother's Day in Texas, with all three of my children. That is a gift in itself. It's a gift that they thought so too. Each of my children and their spouses made me feel loved and appreciated, which was amazing in light of the week we all had. I'd told Sarah I'd love red crocs and somehow in the middle of a week that included childbirth, she got them for me. Dan and Janea gave me Burnt Toast by Teri Hatcher. I suffer from Burnt Toast Syndrome and can't wait to read it. So I don't want any of my children who read this to feel I preferred one gift over another - how silly. Moms don't work that way. We love homemade ash trays, when we don't smoke, for pete's sake.

But this gift - it wiped me out. After a week of sleeping all over the place (that sounds bad, doesn't it?), we ended up at Leslie and Jeremy's house. Leslie is my middle daughter. She and Jer are expecting their first baby in late August. The last time I saw her she had the flattest little tummy. Not so much now. (I got to feel the baby kick!) This week she and Jeremy drove all over the Metroplex, gave us their bed so we could have much needed deep sleep. They never complained, once, during the week. They told us several times, "this week isn't about us. Sarah and Chris need you. It's Dan's graduation. Don't worry about it." I would have gone home thinking they were wonderful with no other gift than their graciousness toward us and their siblings. (Leslie tells me it's 'middle child syndrome'.)

But this is what I woke up to on Mother's Day. A hot bubble bath, with candles, with classical music playing, with fresh roses, with a mug of coffee by the tub, with two new magazines chosen just for me. And no clock. Can you imagine - getting out of bed and getting into the tub? When did any of us ever do that? Sometimes, when I stay up too late or miss CSI I get a long soak, but to have a hot bath drawn just for me, right smack in the middle of the morning? Wiped me out. She told me "I thought it was what you needed." A gift I will remember, whether she does or not.

PS to our blogger friends - we're praying this upcoming baby is less traumatic in its arrival. Don't want to scare you all off!


  posted at 9:34 AM

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Chicago! Chicago! My Kind of Town...
Most of you who landed here have likely spent time at my daughter, Sarah's site also. (If not, I'm the mom so I'm likely not very objective, but she's worth reading.) If so, you already know about Addison, early birth, heart issues and the DNA scare.

The entire time we were in Dallas, from the birth, through the issues that seemed to come up by the day or by the hour, I felt like I was holding on. I felt like I was holding my finger in a dam - ready to break, spill over and wash me away. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. My mother put it so well - she said we can either "brace for calamity" or let Him embrace us. I did some of both.

When my husband and I left Dallas we didn't have an answer on Addie's DNA. Sarah and Chris had been told it could take up to two weeks to get results. Two weeks?! Waiting is hard, sometimes harder than knowing. I'm not very good at waiting, but who is?

Monday we flew home to Pittsburgh. We went through Chicago, where we had a layover. When we booked the flights we were given a choice of a 23 minute (are ya crazy?) layover or the 2 hour one. I chose 2 hours. We sat in the middle of the concourse, packed with people - reading, sleeping, eating, kids running around, cell phones, laptops - people. My husband and I chatted awhile, had a snack, read awhile. I got out my calendar, looking ahead to see what the week held. I realized I didnt have a pencil for my calendar so I headed down the concourse in search of one.

I found one inside the second bookstore and walked to the counter to pay. My cell phone rang. It was Sarah. We talk about 99 times a day, (or we did before she had #3. I suspect our phone time just went down the tubes.) So I didn't expect anything big, just chitchat. She said - "do you want a late mother's day gift? We got the DNA results."

I held my breath. I told her "I can't breathe." In that moment I knew their lives/our lives might change forever. Time stopped. Terrified to hear the answer, I turned around and walked away from the counter for a bit of privacy. You don't expect to hear 'lives might change forever' news in airport bookstores. She said, "It's all good. The doctors told us to grow her and enjoy her." I fell apart. Those tears that you can't talk through. Those tears that don't make noise. Those tears that make your face look awful in seconds.

After a moment I whispered something, I don't remember what. We hung up. I turned around and walked back to the counter, paid for my pencil. I couldn't talk to the clerk. He took my money and never said a word. I suspect he's seen that happen many times.

I walked back down the concourse, and through broken words gave Sarah's dad the news. He just wrapped me in his arms and held me. When I came up for air I looked a complete mess. Those people all around us had no idea. I was celebrating in Chicago. It'll always be 'my kind of town.'


  posted at 9:33 AM

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
How Sweet To Hold....

After last week's rollercoaster I have so many stories I want to share. This one is bubbling up inside, and won't go away til I do....

Over twenty-five years ago, as a young mother of one daughter (Sarah) I went to a Bill Gaither Concert. Of all the songs sung, one stuck with me over the years. Maybe because I was a young mother. I absolutely cannot sing. It's a stretch to say I make a "joyful noise." These are the lyrics I found myself singing over and over last week:

"God Sent His Son, They Called Him Jesus;
He Came To Love, Heal And Forgive.
He Lived And Died To Buy My Pardon;
An Empty Grave Is There To Prove My Savior Lives.

How Sweet To Hold A Newborn Baby,
And Feel The Pride And Joy He Gives;
But Greater Still The Calm Assurance:
This Child Can Face Uncertain Days Because He Lives.

Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow
Because He Lives, All Fear Is Gone
Because I Know He Holds The Future
And Life Is Worth The Living
Just Because He Lives"

I sounded awful, out of tune, didn't get all the words right. I sang while blubbering. I sang with quiet tears running down my face. The "This Child" WAS this child, Addison Elisabeth. Singing this song over and over was about as close to praying as I could get. Romans 8:26 says "for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." Psalm 139:13-16 comforted me deep in my soul: "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!" This scripture I knew by heart. I better understand this week why we are to "hide His word in our hearts."

Reciting Psalm 139, I knew God didn't get distracted for a moment, too busy to tend to the details of knitting this child in Sarah's womb. Holes in her heart, and whatever else might be her "inward parts" were no accident, but rather His hand fearfully and wonderfully making her.

I'm not sure men would understand this, but I believe women will. On Mother's Day I finally got to actually hold this little girl. I'd been singing about it, albeit it off-key, all week. Sarah asked me if I wanted to change her outfit. (She has a LOT of outfits!) When I took off that little diaper and saw her little bum I was struck - SHE will be a mother someday. She will bear children and love them as her mother does her, as I do my daughter, as my mother does me. The comfort that washed over me is indescribable. It was, seriously, the most moving diaper-changing experience I've ever had.

This Child Can Face Uncertain Days Because He Lives.


  posted at 3:05 PM

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Enough Manna for Today
Sarah and Addison came home together yesterday; a miracle in itself. Tonight Don and I are heading to the beginning events for our son's graduation. Actually Don is, right now, in bed trying to recover as quickly as possible from stomach virus. He hasnt had stomach virus in at least ten years - why this week?

I assume Sarah will, when she gets some time to catch her breath, right after she gets some sleep, catch you all up on what the situation is with this new precious baby girl. Until then I'm just going to go to today's events and not worry over tomorrow.

I've always been struck by the story in the Bible - the Israelites were told to gather manna for one day - not two or four or the week. They could only gather two day's worth when God ordered them to take a day of rest. I'm grateful to worship a God who knows we need rest. I'm trusting this week that God will provide the manna for today, and I'm not going to worry over tomorrow's manna. He is faithful and He will do what He has promised. That's a promise I can sleep on.


  posted at 6:09 PM

Monday, May 08, 2006
Superman and Wonderwoman
This will be a day-by-day account of caring for our grandsons, while their parents are busy bringing their sister into the world. We were only given 48 hours notice we would have this assignment; I'm not sure it would have mattered if we'd had 48 days. We could not have prepared. We've forgotten! (That should encourage some of you - you'll forget how hard this was when you're finished doing it. Or those brain cells will have died, never to be resurrected.)

Don and I usually start our day quietly. We wake up to an alarm clock that rings at least 7 hours after we've gone to bed. The day starts with devotions and coffee that was made with a timer. Dog out. Paper in. Finish off remaining coffee and read entire paper. Then we're dressed, breakfast, off to work, appts. etc.

Here's what we did instead. After a fitful 5 hours at best of tossing and turning, fighting pajama pants and the heavy duvet , I woke up to a little boy holding his blankie and missing his mommy. Sarah said he was to stay in bed til at least 8 am. I didn't have the heart to send that innocent little face back to bed. I suspect he'd been up quite awhile waiting. I started the day asking Caiden what he would like to wear. (First note: don't ask...). He chose his Superman costume, cape included. Sarah's note said cartoons, yogurt, juice. Cartoons aren't always on the menu; I think my daughter knew we needed help. Last night we mentioned to Caiden we should go out for pancakes this morning. I thought it would fill the time waiting for this baby; waiting hours feel twice as long as regular hours. (Second note - don't tell a four year old anything more than 30 minutes ahead of schedule. They will dog you tirelessly asking, "is it time to go yet?") Sarah had left directions to most of the places we might need to go. No IHOP. No problem. Caiden said he knew the way. Cade is four. After explaining to him he might want to change because people couldn't know he was Superman, we managed to get both boys dressed. We were, by then, an hour behind schedule. Not good. We do at least remember schedules are a holy thing with children. Sarah left the booster seat Cade graduated into. Thirty minutes later Don had it out of the box, put together and we were off. Partway down the street Don said to me, "Do you realize we're taking directions from a four year old?"

He actually knew the way. Spoken like the pastor's son he is, he said "It's the same way as my church."It was. I ordered breakfast with heavy protein, suspecting I might need it. Trying to entertain the 19 month old I scribbled on the menu with provided crayons. Caiden, seeing my efforts, suggested I might need to practice; the point being to stay in the lines. I don't think this day is going to involve a lot of staying in the lines...

We trashed the booth we ate in, left a tip that reflected apologies and were on our way. Our original plan was to run errands after breakfast but since it was now lunch and 30 minutes after morning nap we headed home. Don could run errands later. He might be happy to run errands - alone. Back home we put in the video Sarah left as a treat for Cade. No luck. We're clueless as to how to run the DVD player. By now Cade must be wondering, "why did they leave me with these people?"

After a few fretful hours (it felt like 8) we got the phonecall - baby is here; she and Sarah are fine. Sarah had been given some demerol and something for nausea so she was groggy. After talking over the details of birth, as only women can do, I handed the phone to her father. After congratulating her, he asked the all-important: how on earth do we play a DVD? Amazingly, she was able to tell him. Young mommies are made of tough stuff.

So Papa is off at Target. He told me he'd be back in four hours. I have two hours of bliss, commonly known as afternoon nap. I understand, again, the dilemma young moms face on a daily basis: do I clean house, eat chocolate and veg out, or take a nap? I need all three. I also could use a Wonderwoman Costume.


  posted at 4:19 PM

She's here!
Mystery baby (still dont know her name yet) was born at 12:34 (cool time we think) at a whopping 4 lbs 10 oz. Sarah said she apparently has okay lungs since she wailed when she was born. Mommy and baby are worn out, so its the first of many naptimes. But they are fine, and for that we are thankful. So thank all of you out there who covered them in prayer. I'm grateful we worship a God who hears through cyberspace.

In the meantime Papa and I are very challenged here with the two little boys. Can't wait to share our experiences - just this morning was a blogpost full. All you young mommies - put your hand over your shoulder and give yourself a pat on the back. I forgot how hard this is - how does my daughter even talk on the phone to me? xoxxo


  posted at 2:49 PM

Sunday, May 07, 2006
I Need to Talk to Papa

A few weeks ago my oldest daughter and I were on the phone talking. We talk almost every day. (thank you God, for unlimited minutes.) Generally our conversations are about a bunch of nothing, which is nice. We used to talk about doing her homework, her wardrobe, her boyfriends, her allowance, etc. Now we talk about whatever strikes us, and in normal tones, so it's nice.

My husband was out of town that day, traveling on business. At the end of our conversation I could hear Caiden in the background, saying something over and over (as only a 4 year old can do.) Sarah said, "Caiden says he needs to talk to Papa." So I told her, call him on his cell phone. He might be in range.

That evening when Don phoned home I asked him if he and Caiden had talked that day. "Oh yeah, we talked." I asked him, "what did you talk about." Don said, "Really I don't have any idea. I got some of it, but he just went on and on." Don laughed about it and I could tell in spite of the lack of discernable communication he'd enjoyed talking to his grandson.

The last time Don and Caiden were together was in October. Caiden loves loves his grandparents on both sides. He prays for them, remembers things about all of us, and loves us with the simple, accepting love of a four year old. If they all like us as much as he does we've got it made.

So this morning we're headed to Texas to spend a few days of quality time with our grandsons. We're also attending our son's graduation, and we get to hold a brand new granddaughter very soon. I get to spend Mother's Day with all three of our children. We get to see our other daughter, Leslie's, very pregnant tummy. It was flat the last time we saw it. We're over the moon about every single one of these events.

But I want to enjoy the pureness of this - yesterday Sarah told me Caiden was gyrating and wiggling all around the house; she asked him what he was doing. He said, "I'm doing the Papa and Grammy" dance. I could go into all sorts of allegorical stories about needing to talk to our Heavenly Father, dancing before the Lord. But I won't. Right now we're going to drive to the airport, enjoying the simple fact that somebody loves us so much he dances when we come to see him. "How great is that?", as Caiden would say.


  posted at 8:10 AM

Saturday, May 06, 2006
Her Children Rise Up and Call Her Blessed

She was 15 years old and had just finished 8th grade. He was 23, out of the merchant marines. When her father deserted the family they gave her away. Her mother, unable to care for her and her siblings, sent her out on her own. She needed a father and a home. I believe she found both when she married my father.

She had her first child when she was 17. And her second, 10 months later. By the time she was 24 she had 6 children. We were born so close together I don't remember having babies in our house. I do remember mountains of cloth diapers on the couch. She taught herself to drive when noone else would. She somehow cared for us, kept us fed. I remember cornbread and milk for dinner, potato soup by the gallon. We would lay out the entire loaf of bread and put the entire package of bologna on it. The sandwiches would be packed into paper sacks for tomorrow's lunches. Breakfast every morning was an entire box of cereal with an entire gallon of milk. Mountains of pancakes were a Sunday-before-church treat. I truly did not know what "leftovers" were. We were allowed to adopt stray dogs now and then, and I expect that's where the leftovers went. We had skinny dogs. I didn't know people drank orange juice for breakfast, or had fruit sitting out in bowls as part of their decor. When we were sneaky and ordered ice cream bars from the milkman she didn't scold us and somehow covered it. With no training, my mother somehow stretched the budget and made sure there was enough of whatever we needed. I felt safe, loved, content.

The laundry had to seem endless - everything was cotton. A ceiling fan in the hall of our home in southeast Texas provided little relief. If the heat didn't get you the humidity would. Ironing my father's cotton uniforms must have been brutal. My four brothers each had two pairs of jeans and one pair of tennis shoes. It was only as a teenager, getting two new dresses to start school, that I began to realize we might not have as much as others.

Being late for church every single Sunday destined us to sit in the front row. I can now imagine the magnitude of the task of getting us there at all. One bathroom did little to accomodate modesty. The built-in cubby in the hall held a big black, rotary dial phone. Conversations were short - our small home did not give us the luxury of privacy. One TV, with aluminum foil covered rabbit ears, sat in the living room; the bookshelf my father built contained games we shared. There was no toy box - individual toys were a rarity. We did have nightly neighborhood games in our front yard - red rover, hide 'n seek, crack the whip. It was safe to stay outside past dark, catching fireflies in jelly jars. We spent days making clover necklaces on blankets or drawing and cutting out our own paperdolls. There wasn't much materially but we had a richness to our life that I felt deep inside.

Mom somehow bought us World Book encyclopedias and we spent summers going over the spelling lists for our grade. I now realize the sacrifice that represents. They were likely purchased with grocery money that was already stretched too thin. We were likely unenthused about this venture, yet she made us do it. We were allowed to build forts over the clotheslines. Surely that meant mountains of laundry later. We took one family vacation in my 17 years of living at home. Sandwiches brought from home were eaten in the back of the station wagon as we drove along the highway. Camping in a tent with 5 siblings seemed an adventure to us. I now know there was no money for a hotel for us. That vacation is still a wonderful memory. I treasure the one photo I have from it.

Mom made us all finish school; for some she literally wrote papers, knowing that was the only way they would graduate. She dumped water over some to get them out of bed and on the bus. Some she threated - she's little so I doubt she could have enforced it, but we believed her. Her determination was not to be trifled with.

None of us went on to college, but amazingly, she did. With a deep hunger for learning she went to enroll in college and realized she needed to pass a GED. So she did. She was self-taught from reading; nothing was a struggle except the math she'd never learned. I still regret not realizing the magnitude of her graduating from community college. Not attending the ceremony. The photo of her in her cap and gown enforces the knowledge of what I missed. Why didn't I come home for that? Was I busy with babies myself? She went on to get her degree in Psychology, and an LPN degree. Being committed to having all my own children, her grandchildren, graduate from college has hopefully made up to her for not attending myself.

The only splurge I remember my mother making on herself was an old manual underwood typewriter. She joined a writer's group and would meet with them once a month. I can only imagine how that must have watered her soul. How it kept her going through the barreness of her life.

She moved us 24 times in 17 years. Somehow we always felt safe, loved. I did not realize we were short on money, because she was long on love. Through conversations we've had, now that I am an adult, I am more aware of the fullness of her journey, the sacrifices she's made. The dogged determination it took just to make it. Now in her 70's she has been through more than most people will experience in their lifetime. The losses she has suffered have not caused her to give up when most would. She still treasures life, stops to smell roses, has a wonderful sense of humor (she can't tell a joke!) She makes great guacamole and likes hot salsa. She is still an avid reader. At 72 she is attempting to write in a blog, Another Fork in the Road. She's struggling a bit with the mechanics of it all, but will get it. She always does. Reading anything she writes gives you a sense of someone whispering "stop, listen to this. This is a gift." She is passionate about deep conversations, politics, religion, and good books and her adult children. We still feel her deep commitment to us. She still stands by each one of us, nudging us on to the next thing, cheering for us - "you can do it!"

I've always yearned to meet Ruth Bell Graham. I imagine the stories she could tell. I will likely never meet her. If I was told I had one day left and could talk to her or my mother, there is no contest. I'd ask my mom to make us a bowl of guacamole, I'd make the margaritas, we'd tear open a bag of chips and we'd talk. I have been immensely blessed to be her child. She is my hero. I leave tomorrow to be with my daughter Sarah. She is having our third grandchild, a daughter. I sense the journey continuing. I am rushed in getting ready to leave, so this isn't perfectly written. She will see the flaws and excuse them. A week from now I will be busy helping care for this newborn, so I wanted to take time now to tell her - Thanks, Mom. I love you. Happy Mother's Day.

"Her children rise up and bless her; many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."


  posted at 8:27 AM

Friday, May 05, 2006
Slidin' Into Home!

My oldest daughter Sarah has a saying regarding raising children - "Don't start what you can't finish." She could better explain this to you. I've learned it means, in part - don't let my grandson run in the mall because he can't run in church. Don't let him scream at the top of his lungs to hear it echo outdoors because he can't scream indoors. It's complicated. Mostly I realize I have new rules to learn as a grandparent. But it's a good rule. I should have followed it myself 30 years ago. I started a lot of things I later didn't want to finish.

My husband and I have spent 30 years raising children; after Sarah married, 7 (or is it 8?) years ago, we were still in the muck of it with another daughter and a son. A week from today our son, the last one, graduates from college. All three kids are married, all three finished college. I think it's just about a done deal. We're finished.

When they are young they need you to make them eat vegetables and do their homework, sing them to sleep, apply multiple bandaids (with designs of course.) Read their favorite books over and over, make costumes. Sit through their games, even when they don't get to play. Clean up throw-up, adopt stray dogs, braid their hair, wash their little league pants every single day in the summer. They need you to teach them how to save and give their money, to put up with difficult people. How to apologize to teachers, coaches, siblings, neighbors when THEY are the difficult people. How to draw customers to a stand selling warm, watered-down koolaide. (You will not only pay for this koolaide; you will be their best customer.)How to be on time for the bus, to study for the SAT, to sort through dates as a process to finding that someday mate.

They need you to introduce them to God. They need you to show them how to make Him part of their daily lives, through word and mostly example. They need you to love them when they are completely unloveable. When they don't deserve it. To love them when they push you away, and be there when they come back.

They need to be shown how to manage their time; how to deal with the consequences when they don't. How to know when someone is a good choice for a friend. How to say goodbye to friends when they move, and pets when they grow old. How to be brave enough to go to school the first day. They have no idea you're at home praying someone will be kind enough to ask them to eat lunch with them. How to like they way they look, how smart they are, what they are good at. How to accept what they don't look like, that they aren't brilliant, and that there are many things they will never excel at.

For those mommies out there who are sleep-money-humor deprive, I hate to be the one to tell you: When you're finished raising them, they will still need you. Just differently.

When they are grown they will need to use your cell phone minutes to "vent". They will need advice on buying cars, homes, and how to sell those cars and homes. They will ask for help identifying chickenpox over the phone, how to stretch holiday money, deal with in-laws. They will need advice on making career moves, and knowing when to make a change. They will need help when their spouse has PMS or wants to fish more than they think is necessary, or stay out late playing poker with buddies. Or buys too many purses, clothes, makeup, hair products. They need you to recognize them as full-fledged adults and enjoy them as such. Someday they will need you to help them say a final goodbye to you.

The great thing about grown kids is they also need someone to just be their friend. Someone to discuss favorite TV shows, sports teams, to go on vacation with and they actually look out the windows instead of reading a book or listening to headphones. They will spend their vacation money and days to come see you. They ask for your recipes, decorating tips, they admit they were difficult and laugh over it with you. They will miss you! And tell you so. They will call just to say "how are you doing, what's up?" Anyone with a 12 year old boy or 15 year old girl will be amazed by this, and hopefully encouraged.

When our first child went off to college we set a goal to have it all paid for when the last one walked across the stage. Dan graduates a week from today. I'm about to write the last check for the last loan for the last class for the last degree. We're slidin' into home and man, what a game it was! Now comes the best part - sitting in the bleachers together.


  posted at 10:23 AM

Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Blessed by a Full Quiver
I really tried today. I got up, before the clock went off, and hit the deck running. I made phone calls, did some paperwork. I checked my calendar, grabbed the CD's for the library. Laundry was going when I left the house. After Bible study I ran to the library. Then the gas station. I think that's where my plan began to fall apart. My cell phone started ringing the minute I pulled up to the tank. You cannot pump gas and talk on a cell phone! My sweet husband, calling from Timbukto, Kentucky. Trying to discuss finances when the phone keeps cutting out is frustrating; trying to pump gas, while discussing finances, while the phone keeps cutting out is really frustrating.

An hour later I'd talked to 2 of my 3 kids and recalled my husband three times. He was by now in Timbukto, Illinois with annoyingly similar reception. Our son had a major car repair issue and needed his input. I was the go-between. I don't do car repairs. Or gas grills or snowblowers. Why are husbands always out of town (or the country) when you really need them? Does anyone else feel this way? (I can hear you screaming Amen out there!)

I intended to eat healthy today. I intended to make a healthy salad at home. By the time I finally got off the cell phone and actually had gas IN my car, I was starved. Burger King is next to the gas station. Onion rings are hard to resist when you're starving. And tired. And frustrated. Back home, I was again determined to make progress on the looming to-do list. I walked in to a message from the library, the CD case was empty. Back to the library.

Obviously no time to walk the dog, as I'd intended. Maybe he'd like a car ride. I drive one of those evil, gas-guzzling SUV's (Please cut me slack here - we live in Pennsylvania and actually need SUVs!) Our dog has lost some of the spring in his step, so I now realize I can lift 80 lbs. I didn't know that. After the library I head to our local coffee shop. A double cappuccino caramel latte. This was a strategic move on my part - buying it might buy me a few more hours of energy. Back home - more phone calls.

So its midnight and this day is officially over, never to pass by again. The car repair issue is relatively resolved. I've talked to all 3 of my kids, again. And my husband, again. I tried, really tried to be very productive. But people, not tasks, got the majority of my time today. I dearly love every single person I spoke with today. That's something to be thankful for. And I am. But the double cappuccino has worn off. The list is still looming. Thank you, God that tomorrow is a brand new day.

"It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For he gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the (wo)man whose quiver is full of them." Psalm 127:2-4


  posted at 11:54 PM

Monday, May 01, 2006
A Blue-eyed Bosnian & My Dream Home

We spent yesterday performing the annual, much-dreaded ritual: spreading a mountain of mulch over all our beds in the yard. When we bought this house 10 years ago there truly was not a single flowerbed, no shrubs, no curb-appeal. Since then we've managed to convert about 1/4 of the lawn to curved spaces that hold peonies, black-eyed susans, lilac bushes, coneflower, hostas, herbs, hydrangeas, etc. My husband is an enthusiastic fall-leaf-raker; with the leaves he removes, much of the mulch goes also. Consequently every spring we replace it with a new mountain.

It's a truly awful, back-breaking job. Because we are 55 and 50, and because college is paid for, and because our strapping son is 1200 miles away, last year we started hiring help. Anyone over 5'8 and 150 lbs is a possible hire. This year's recruits were one of our pastor's sons and their foreign exchange student, Alan. Alan is going to prom and needs to pay for his tux. When we phoned and asked if they were interested, the $10 an hour was all they needed to hear. They arrived in a convertible with pitchforks and shovels protruding - kind of an oxymoron* I thought.

We tried to put the boys at ease, make light conversation. When we took a much-needed lemonaide break we asked Alan how life in America was different than Bosnia (I know nothing about Bosnia except it's been a site of civil unrest for years.) Alan has such beautiful blue eyes you tend to stare at him. I expect he had no trouble finding a date for prom! He told us there is a big difference between the food Americans eat and what they eat in Bosnia. He said, "food in Bosnia - better, but not so much. Food in America - so much, not better." He told us Bosnia is a poor country, that families tend to wander and separate, going off to a better life. He said the family he lives with (our pastor's family) is "very religious" and they are very close together. He told us nobody, nobody is overweight in Bosnia! His father died when he was only 12 and he hasn't seen his mother in a year. In keeping with how he was raised, he has decided to stay here in America, looking for a "better life." His mother will stay in Bosnia. After visiting him here she prefers her home.

He worked like a machine - we had to insist several times that he stop and take a break. His work ethic was something to behold. At the end of the afternoon I asked him if he was tired (I was whipped!) and he said, "not so much." He gave me a big smile and I gave him a check.

The HGTV home was given away this past weekend. I'd entered almost every single day. I marked the announcement day on my calendar. Somehow I began to believe there was an ever-so-slight chance I might win it. My husband explained, if I did we'd be in trouble financially, trying to pay the taxes on it. Still I became so entranced with it I really started to envision us living there, in North Carolina, nowhere near family.

After spending an afternoon with Alan I realized I expect large servings here in America - large servings of not only food, but of material things. My home NOW is lovely, it has that nice lived-in feel. Our grown children have moved away but they call it home still. My grandson knows we store his blue plastic swimming pool in the shed. He knows "our" groundhog lives under the shed. Our son's sports awards are on the basement wall. (His bedroom is MUCH cleaner now...) Our daughters' wedding gowns and barbies are stored in the basement. I have wonderful girlfriends who come for lunch and conversation. Our dog, Elway, has gone from puppy to prime in this backyard, with dead spots to prove it. Our shrubs have grown big enough to string Christmas lights on them. The lilacs will bloom any day now and I can cut some to bring inside.

I already have more than adequate servings of every single thing I need, and most of what I desire. I need to live like I'm in Bosnia -"better, not so much" rather than like a typical American "so much, not better." The money we paid blue-eyed Alan was a small price to pay for a reminder that I don't really want to move to far-off North Carolina, away from children and grandchildren. So hats off to Donald G. Cook, the winner of this year's HGTV Dream Home. I'll stay right where I am. I already live in my dream home.

*Def. of "oxymoron": acutely silly; opposite or contradictory ideas.


  posted at 12:47 PM

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