Sunday, December 30, 2007

Contaminated Cake + Holy Sleigh + Church Tantrum = Undeserved Gift

Last week, Challi and I corralled our collective three boys into the car for travels to Lolli and Pops' house, with plans for our hubbies to join us there on Christmas Eve. Armed with I Spy books, toys, snacks, and the trusty DVD player, we settled in for a long winter's trip. And all went well.

Until about 5 minutes after pulling out of the driveway....

Park pinched Kage, who started to sob, which in turn caused Krew to fall to pieces. After Challi warned Park to keep his hands to himself, he, too, began to howl, giving his cousins a run for their money as the winner of Cryfest '07.

Needless to say, by the time we reached our destination 5+ hours later, we were all feeling the Christmas cheer.

I awoke the first morning at my parents' house (a good 4 days BEFORE Christmas) to find Park standing near the Christmas tree, clutching a gift in each hand with his eyes fixed firmly on the window. After I asked him what he was doing, he simply replied, "Waiting." With some further prodding into the purpose of his vigil, he informed me, "I'm waiting on Baby Jesus. Lolli says we can't open presents until he gets here. I guess He's riding in Santa's sleigh."

Clearly all of those scriptures from the 12 Days tradition worked wonders on his understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.

So, to pass the time until "Santa brought Jesus", we baked a birthday cake for Him on Christmas Eve. And although I'm certain that God didn't mind that two snotty nosed little boys were licking their fingers repeatedly as they stirred, Challi and I were cured of any cake cravings we otherwise might have had. Or maybe the fact that the entire bottle of sprinkles used to decorate the cake was the same pile they had previously decorated the floor with led us to eat brownies instead.

Perhaps the highlight of Christmas Eve happened during the service at Lolli and Pops' church. It all started with the pastor innocently inviting people to come kneel at the alter in prayer and/or the Lord's Supper. Since this particular service is always a family one, young children are welcome to walk up and stand beside their parents.

And that probably works very well for people with children who enjoy standing still for long periods of time.

Row by row, we took turns making our way to the front and against my better judgement, I begrudgingly took my wiggle worm with me so I could partake in the ceremonious meal with my family. Mistaking the warning bells ringing in my ears for mere jingle bells that shook in accompaniment to Oh Come all Ye Faithful, I walked head on into the ensuing disaster.

As we neared the front, Park spotted the drum set he had his eye on the entire service and saw this as the perfect opportunity to make a clean break for it. The death grip I had on his hand was to no avail. However, as he shot forward, I did manage to successfully tackle him with a quick scoop around the waist, setting the score at Mommy: ONE, Park: ZERO.

But unfortunately, the victory was short lived.

He burst free in a last ditch effort and made it 3/4 of the way up the stairs to the stage before I wrestled him to the floor. Upon impact, he plotted a quick getaway by crawling under the pew on the front row, hunkering down in a position that has no better description than that of a limp dish rag. Giving me no choice but to snatch him up by the leg and drag his 35 lbs of dead weight into plain view of the entire congregation, I carried the kicking and screaming heap down the center isle and out the back doors of the church.

During the commotion, it appears he managed to snag my cracker, leaving a trail of Holy Sacrament crumbs behind us. Somehow I'm pretty sure this isn't what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you..."

And then I proceeded to give thanks for what I vowed would indeed be Park's last supper.

But, as Mommy's often do, I quickly forgot the previous night's fiasco when I saw the joy in his eyes as he turned the corner to see what Santa had left for him under the tree the next morning. Park loved every moment of Christmas this year. In his own way, I truly believe he grasped that we were celebrating the birth of our King. And although his young mind couldn't quite comprehend the entire meaning of it all, he witnessed the love of his family and came to understood that Christmas is a very special time. As he danced and squealed in delight, painstakingly examining every inch of each toy, he repeated over and over, "This is for ME?? This is REALLY for MEEEEE??!!"

And can I be real with you for a moment? When I think about how Jesus gave His life on that cross, I find myself having the exact same reaction that Park did on Christmas morning.

"This is for ME?? This is REALLY for ME??!!"

I don't deserve it. I have failed Him so many times. I have sinned repeatedly. I have fallen short of His Glory. I have been unworthy of His forgiveness. I have caused Him too much pain.

Yet, despite it all, He chose to die for me.

And alongside my sin, the image of Jesus riding in Santa's sleigh, eating contaminated birthday cake, while watching Park throw a tantrum in God's house reminds me that His grace truly is UNDESERVED.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Tall Order That Fell Short

Seeing as I'll be soaking in some family time for the next week, I wanted to wish y'all one final, very Merry Christmas.

And give you a laugh (at my expense) as a parting gift.

A few days ago, I bought Park a yogurt off the dollar menu at McDonald's, while he took a break from climbing on the germ infested apparatus dubbed a playland. When the cashier handed me some change back, I glanced down on the counter to see the clear container of donations toward the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Recognizing a beautifully teachable moment, I crouched down to hand our leftover coins to Park. While doing so, I told him that this "special piggy bank" was for helping children in need. I reminded him that Jesus asks us to take care of both the poor and sick. Finishing off the little sermon, I explained that we could honor God with our small offering.

Because it was around noon, the fast food joint was packed with people who had a small window of opportunity for a lunch break under the golden arches. Not very many of these fine folks were in the mood to wait around on our little learning experience, so I did my best to hurry Park along.

He was quite hesitant to let go of his shiny treasure, so I reminded him that God loves a cheerful giver. I promised that I would clap for him as soon as he dropped them in the bucket.

Feeling pretty proud of myself for the outstanding parenting moment, my Mommy ego was in full bloom. I was all but ready to pat myself on the back as soon as I heard the clank in that little can. Reluctantly, he had departed with the dimes, but upon doing so, the realization of the finality of his decision became more than his little 2-year-old heart could take.

And right about the moment I began clapping for him, all eyes and ears turned our direction in time to hear him scream,


Um, yes, I'd like some fries with my humiliation and formerly super sized ego, please. And can we get that to go?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

12 Days of Christmas, CONTINUED

My last post discussed how the impact of our 12 Days of Christmas family tradition extended far beyond the holiday season. And judging from most of the comments (wanting me to get to the nitty gritty details on gift suggestions with correlating scriptures) the 12 days of Christmas is also extending to another post. And I must warn you it could be a very long post, at that, so continue at your own risk.

And yes, y'all had much better manners in your comments than I implied above , but I just wanted a reason to use the phrase "nitty gritty".

I'm so excited that many of you are making plans to bring this tradition into your own homes. I just know my Grandma is sitting in Heaven tickled pink right now. The following are the requested suggestions, so feel free to steal them verbatim or just use it as starting point and add your own creative flair. And if you come up with some really fun ideas, be sure to spread the love back this way, too.

Here at Holding Little Hands (and family), we are all about avoiding reinvention of the wheel.

And I apologize in advance that most of these gifts tend to lean more on the male dominated side, although I would assume it never hurts for a girl to know how to use tools and play swords. Grandsons are plentiful to my parents at the moment.

Yesterday's gift was definitely worth seeing for yourself. Now, typically I wouldn't get within 100 ft of a snake, much less take a picture of it. But, for y'all I made an exception because what kind of a bloggity friend would I be if I denied you a look at this cute little creature?

You ask and I deliver.

This lace up toy came with a scripture found in Matthew 10:16; Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wise as SNAKES and as harmless as doves.

And although nothing impressed Park more than the snake, Chris and I really loved the gift that came with 1 Peter 1: 4: For God has reserved a priceless INHERITANCE for His children. It is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled beyond the reach of change and decay. Lolli and Pops made a donation into Park's savings account, but you could also adapt it by giving coins or a piggy bank instead.

Another present was a Rudolph book, explaining how this famous reindeer and his misfit elf friend, Hermie, overcame incredible odds to make their place in history. The verse used was Luke 1: 35-37; The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...for NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE with God.

Hermie has become a dear friend of Park's, even though he calls him, "Kermie". But considering a pig and frog fell in love, I'd say the Muppets overcame some terrible odds of their own.

Blocks worked perfectly with Psalm 127:1; Unless the Lord BUILDS a house, the work of the builder is useless. Another Scripture that you could use for a similar gift is is Romans 14:19; Let us aim for harmony for the church and try to BUILD each other up.

A children's praise and worship CD such as Praise Baby highlights Psalm 33:1 Let the Godly sing with joy to the Lord, for it is fitting to praise him. You could even adapt this to give musical instruments such as the Bee Bop Band by the brand name "Parents". Park got this for his first birthday and still beats it mercilessly to this day. Love this little toy, even if it did come from Target. (See Well Documented History of Bitterness That I Need to Let Go Of if you're confused:)

The movie Pinocchio or a Pinocchio toy is a good reminder of Psalm 34: 13 Then watch your tongue! Keep your lips from telling lies.

Tennis shoes fit nicely with 1 Corinthians9: 24-25; Remember in a RACE everyone RUNS., but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

Pajamas go in hand in hand with Psalm 3:5; I lay down and slept. I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.

A tool set fits 1 Corinthians 15:58; So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's WORK. for you know that nothing you ever do for the Lord is useless.

A sword and shield or anything castle/knight related can illustrate Ephesians 6: 10-11; A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's ARMOR so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the devil.

Sippy cups work well with Psalm 14:5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my CUP of blessing. You guard all that is mine.

What kid wouldn't love a Dr.'s kit, right? And it takes on new meaning when paired with Psalm 147: 3-5; He HEALS the brokenhearted, BINDING up their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension.

A toy tape measure or even plastic measuring cups are cheap and easy to put with Matthew 7: 1-3; Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Whatever MEASURE you use to judge others, it will be used to MEASURE how you are judged.

Truly the possibilities are endless.

During your devotional time throughout the year, as you mark your favorite scriptures in the Bible, look for keywords or phrases that could be illustrated with a small gift. If you file these ideas away as they come to you, next year's Christmas shopping for your 12 Days, will be a snap! Also, a Bible dictionary or good concordance is helpful for this project, as well, as this website.

And remember, don't stress yourself over the enormity of the present, or lack thereof. The amount of money you spend is completely irrelevant. The true gift is the legacy of faith that you are instilling in your children. And years down the road, (well, let's get real...even next week) they won't remember what you bought, but they will never forget the truth of God's word.

In keeping with the theme of the tradition, I feel it would only be fitting to close with a scripture that correlates with this post.

Proverbs 22: 4; Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

*I hope you and your family have a very Merry 12 Days of Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

12 Days of Christmas That Extend Far Beyond

*Updated: Per your comments, in the next day or so, I'll try and post several more of the verses and corresponding gifts to give you more examples.

Although I can barely see straight after 2 insanely late nights of viewing links off of Boomama's Christmas extravaganza, I somehow found myself using the majority of Park's nap time to go right back at it again.

It seems to be some sort of a sickness beyond my control.

But, peeking in on all the festive decorations and creative ideas for making memories did get me thinking about one of my favorite childhood traditions. My Grandma started something wonderful that my parents have decided to pass on to their grandchildren, as well.

And for anybody out there looking to help your children (or grandchildren) keep their eyes on Jesus during the midst of a toy frenzy laden Christmas, this may be a tradition you want to start for your own family, too.

Beginning 12 days before Christmas, my Grandma sent us a gift each day.

And although we loved getting a dozen presents before Santa ever arrived, what actually came in the packages paled in comparison to the significance they carried. Grandma would write out corresponding Bible verses on each and every present. The gift always highlighted the concept of God's message. Each item functioned as a tangible reminder of not only the the purpose behind Christmas, but His perfect will for our lives.

My sister, Challi, and I always marveled at how the packages came, regardless if the mailman did or not. We even wondered if an angel was helping Grandma get them to us in such a timely fashion. Turns out Grandma was a sharp woman who enlisted my dad to receive them all ahead of time and put them in the mail box himself.

Grandma wholeheartedly placed her trust in the Lord, but not so much in the postal system.

On Christmas Eve, the last present would arrive and, each year, the final gift remained the same. Inside were all the coins that her and Grandpa had collected throughout the year. The verse always spoke about the true inheritance of God. Some years, she would remind us of the danger of storing up earthly treasure. Others, would highlight the importance of giving to others what is already His.

The message was always straightforward, delivered in love, and sent to remind us of the unchanging love Christ has for his children. And as Challi and I matured each year, the truth in the scriptures she wrote on those packages were etched on our hearts.

Today's 12 Days of Christmas gift for Park (and his cousins) was a precious animal flashlight. The verse on the package was Psalm 119: 105; Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. And as he played in every dark nook and cranny he could find, I overheard him whispering, "God's light is shining!"

Ah, yes it is, sweet boy.

It is shining through your grandparents, great grandparents, and the legacy of faith they represent in your heritage. His light will always be there, illuminating the road in front of you. And as you learn to navigate your way in this dark world, I am trusting that the truth in those scriptures will be etched on your precious heart, as well.

And unlike the batteries in your flashlight that you have somehow already managed to run down, God's light will never disappear on you.

*For more tips from the holiday edition of WFMW, check out Rocks in My Dryer.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas at Our House

I'm so excited to join BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes this year. Last year, I loved seeing all of your houses decked out in festive fun, but I must admit I felt a little bit like a peeping Tom. At that point I was simply a directionless lurker, hopping from one unsuspecting person to another, yet having no blog to call my own. So, this year, it gives me much joy to be able to invite you inside and assure you that lurker or not, you are a very welcome guest in this home!

Previously, I posted about how one small trip to a Christmas wholesale store with my friend Bridget caused me to catch the vision of the transformation that needed to happen in my holiday decor. And although hubs and I've been paying the price of cleaning up massive quantities of sparkly goodness, we have certainly enjoyed every bit of it.

So, come on in, but be sure to dust the glitter off your boots as you leave to make sure you don't track it back to your own house!

Here is the entry way table that houses a picture frame for each of Park's Christmas card pictures from his previous two years of life. I plan on framing them each year as a tradition.

From the entry, you land in the living room where most of the Holiday decorating is housed:

And here is a closer look at the tree, which is decorated in all shatterproof ornaments, seeing as we live with the most endearing little two-year-old tornado you'll ever meet. Whoever created shatterproof balls for the Christmas tree was either a mother to boys or just an angel sent from heaven!
And a close up of the mantle with stockings that I will someday have monogrammed :

And here is the sentimental tree that Park has dubbed his very own, encircling it with his GeoTrax train to mark his territory:

The living room opens up to the not so festive kitchen. The table does have a holiday center piece, but I have to confess that I made it out of a vegetable tray. Next year I would like to find a table runner and possible add some more decorations to the kitchen, but my first goal is curtains! We built the house 6 months ago, but I haven't seemed to get around to that just yet.

And the tour would not be complete without a view of the Nativity collection, although I'm hesitant to call it that when two of the three are actually toys:) However, they celebrate our Savior just the same and remind us that "Without Jesus in the Nativity, Christmas just becomes lots of ACTIVITY."

I hope you guys enjoyed the quick peek inside our home. But for those of you who live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area or even Miami, I would love to invite you to come spend your Christmas at Our House. May Christ continue to take the "reign" long after the Christmas season fades and all the decorations are put away.

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

To visit more places, click BooMama's Christmas Tour Of Homes

Saturday, December 15, 2007

We'd Get Stung at The Singing Bee

I gaze upon the stage of our church and see some of my very closest friends from our worship team using their beautiful voices to glorify the Lord. I hear the sweet melodies bursting forth from their powerful pipes and I pray that my squeaks somehow sound just as glorious in the Lord's forgiving ears.

Singing has never been a strong point for me.

And I'm thinking that God may have NOT given me that gift for a reason. It seems I have a special talent for butchering the words to any song I come into contact with. When I hear a song, I lack the deciphering ability to understand and/or remember what the piece is actually saying. Instead, my own version of it seems to conveniently stick in my head.

Let me give you an example.

In the early nineties, Reba McEntire came out with a very famous song entitled, "Fancy". It was the summer before my freshman year in high school and we listened to it repeatedly in my small town. I knew every single word by heart.

Or so I thought.

One day I was singing along to the song at the top of my lungs in the front seat of a friend's car, when she turned to me and said, "Seriously? You really think that is what it says?"

It seems that I had somehow twisted Reba's "Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down" into "Here's your one dance Fancy, don't go to town." And sadly, my mishaps are not just limited to the Country genre.

I've embarrassed myself in everything from Christian music to Rock 'n' Roll and back again. And I guess it's true about misery loving company, because upon marrying Chris, I realized that we are kindred spirits in this department. Although, he can carry a tune quite nicely, the actual lyrics he sings are so far off that the song almost becomes unrecognizable.

Or unbearable, as the case may be.

So, it comes as no surprise that Park is lyrically challenged, as well. After all, we really didn't give him much of a fighting chance.

I didn't even bother to correct him when I heard him singing, "Old McDonald had an arm, Eli, Eli, O", because really what's the point? And I even kept a straight face when he belted out his own rendition of, "Mary had a little lamp whose fleas was white as snow."

But I just couldn't hold it together when I heard his attempt at one of my favorite worship songs. The lyrics were written (or at least I think they were), "I love you Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you, oh my soul, rejoice." Chris and I often sing this over him as he falls asleep and have prayed that it will one day be the cry of his precious heart.

At decibel levels matched only by that of a freight train, he joyously sang, while waving around an imaginary sword:


Even though I laughed myself to tears, I lifted my imaginary weapon and rejoiced alongside Park. Because, truth be told, those sweet little words sounded as glorious to me as they did to the Lord's forgiving ears.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm Going to "Excel" Next Year

I must confess that Christmas cards beat me down.

Now, I love the whole idea behind them and adore receiving them, but somehow it is this activity that threatens to steal my joy each year. Upon conducting a scientific evaluation of why this seemingly mindless task creates so much annual stress, Chris has come to a definitive conclusion.

"This area of your life is screaming for organization."

Upon conducting my own evaluation, I decided those who are not directly responsible for addressing mass quantities of Christmas love should tread lightly when proposing change to the system of the one who's in the trenches of the insect-laden licking.

Just in case, let's say, "that area" of my life isn't the only thing that can scream.

But, after hours of struggling through scraps of return labels that may or may not have been torn off Christmas cards I received last year, I've come to the realization that no, in fact, this does not constitute having an "address book". Nor do the 10 random pages of scribbled addresses that were left over from my baby shower 2 1/2 years ago. Or the desperate search through my saved emails where I vaguely remember Betty Lou sending me her new address after moving to Youwon'trememberitnextChristmasville.

If you think I'm exagertaing, check out Exibit A.

After soaking up the infuriatingly correct words of hubby, I'm starting to realize that piecing together my Christmas card list should not be equivalent to a scavenger hunt.

Although I do love a good scavenger hunt.

Time to reclaim my sanity with a new system of peace, love, and goodwill to men. This is the last year I will rely on my ancient ways because I'm throwing caution to the wind and joining the ranks of the 21st century with a little thing called an Excel spreadsheet.

Doing his part, sweet Chris has volunteered to turn my scraps of chaos into a beautifully groomed, alphabetized, well-oiled machine. Come December of '08, I'll simply add any new Christmas card recipients because, of course, I'll have already updated the list throughout the year as people have moved.

Because I'm organized like that.

Although I have not technically used this new creation just yet, let's just think of this as a What WILL Work for Me Wednesday post. With a few quick keystrokes I'll have a master address book that I will print to labels, which in turn, I'll peel and stick to my Christmas card envelopes.

And with that unnecessary stress eliminated, you'll find me singing Joy to the World with a clear conscience.

Click Rocks in My Dryer to find more WFMW ideas.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Come On Over, the Party is Just Getting Started

Approximately six years ago I had a wonderful idea to throw a surprise party for Chris' 23rd birthday.

Because I wanted it to keep it intimate, I only invited everyone he worked with, his entire family, my family, and all our closest friends.

Somehow anyone who lived within a hundred mile radius made the cut.

I believed this would be the perfect gift because there is nothing he enjoys more than being in the company of those he loves most, as well as perfect strangers. The man is a people person for crying out loud.

Well, hindsight's 20/20.

Everything went very smoothly up until the moment I saw the look of sheer horror in his eyes as he realized he had been tricked into attending a celebration of his life. He might be the only surprise party recipient in history to slip out on his own bash before the guests.

Although meticulous with every detail, I had failed to think through his disdain for anything being "all about him".

Which can be a small problem when you are the guest of honor.

Somehow, basking in the limelight has never come easy to my sweet husband. He loves to socialize, but resists being the center of attention. And as frustrating as that can be for a wife who ADORES birthday festivities, his humble spirit is actually one of the qualities I admire most.

I often marvel at God's creativity, simply by looking at all the unique qualities in Chris. Although athletic, hard-working, practical, organized, and aggressive, he is equally as artistic, creative, tender, inquisitive, and evangelical.

And were it not for his strong calling to the ministry, he also has the gifts to be a photographer, financial planner, carpenter, artist, architect, chef, or even a designer.

The man has some serious skills!

I especially love how all those characteristics have translated into one pretty amazing husband and father.

And as much as I would love to publicly celebrate hubs with a huge party on his birthday, five years of marriage has taught me not to repeat past mistakes.

So, Chris, since a surprise party is off limits, I thought I would go with something a little more subtle this year.

Think of it as a compromise.

Welcome to your very own "private" Happy Birthday Blog Party, where you aren't physically the center of attention, but your life is celebrated all the same. Even if it is by people who stumbled upon this blog by googling "toddler poop". I'm sure they are still really nice folks.

And although, technically, it is still a surprise party, this time you have permission to leave before the guests.

Happy Birthday, my love!

*As a rule of thumb, I don't usually post pictures of smelly fish on my blog, but I'm sacrificing for your birthday. If that isn't true love, I don't know what is. (And because I know you so well, I want to clarify that I was talking about my sacrifice and not your relationship with the fish:)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

So, it appears as if Park did not get my "Affinity for Inanimate Objects" gene.

Rest in peace alongside the sassy leopard toaster, sweet Frosty. I hope your untimely death was not too painful.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Little War Paint Goes a Long Way

UPDATED: Clearly I missed that this was the "What Do I fix" edition of WFMW. Please forgive me and do not assume that I feed my family red lipstick. Nor do I endorse that you should try to, either. Can I just blame my mistake on past sleep deprivation and be done with it?
When pregnant with Park, I often daydreamed of tenderly tucking my sweet little baby in for the night, while singing softly as he or she magically drifted off into peaceful dreams. After all, that is exactly how it happens in the commercials. One quick flip of that little Ocean Wonder light show and "Junior" is snoring before you can even say Fisher Price.

Maybe if we would have named Park "Junior" things would have turned out differently.

After nursing, rocking, jiggling, walking, pacing, shushing, swinging, bouncing, driving, and finally pleading with him, my precious baby boy still remained wide eyed and bushy tailed. When I did finally manage to wear him down enough that he gave in to some shut-eye, he often awoke upon laying him down on any surface other than my chest. Many nights I groggily planned out the invention of a "breathing" bed, one that would feel exactly as if he were laying on me, yet I would be sleeping peacefully elsewhere.

But then again, one would actually have to have brain cells to create such brilliance and unfortunately, all mine were eaten up by sleep deprivation.

So there I was, for months on end, trying everything under the sun to get 3 consecutive hours of sleep. And the months stretched to a year before the child mastered the concept. And after 2 years on this earth, he still seems to have some selective memory on occasion.

Reliving those early days almost makes me too tired to get to my point or remember if I even have one.

Ah, yes. Dark circles. That is where I was going with this.

So, dark circles were becoming a way of life and it wasn't pretty. If there is anything worse than sleep deprivation, it is looking worse than you feel.

Miraculously, in my sleep starved state, I remembered an old trick I had relied upon heavily in my college years. After all that late night studying, AKA going dancing and eating tortillas with queso into the wee hours, I found myself in need of some serious under eye repair. And according to Plato, "Necessity is the mother of all invention."

And here my parents thought they wasted hard earned money on my Liberal Arts degree.

It turns out that the secret to ridding yourself of those unattractive dark circles is quite simple.

Get more sleep.

But, just in case you are in the same sinking boat as me and a good night's rest is not in for your foreseeable future, find comfort in what I'm about to share. Take a tube of red lip stick and apply it like war paint under your eyes.

Now stay with me, ladies. I promise the lack of sleep has not made me totally crazy.

Gently rub in the war paint with a sponge, being careful not to smear it to other facial regions, especially since you may be mistaken for Rudolph during a season such as this. Next, dab a light liquid concealer over it. Complete the look by brushing a smidgen of powder over the aforementioned area.

Now you may feel silly applying the war paint, initially. But, think of it as a battle cry. No longer will we be prisoner to the hideous dark circles that once came with the territory of newborn mothering. It is time we unite and take a stand. Stretch marks may be out of our control, but tolerating black eyes is a thing of the past.

Remember, the concept may take some time to perfect, but the results are well worth the effort.

And, truly, that goes for Mothering, as well.

Now off you go to Rocks in My Dryer for more Works For Me Wednesday wisdom:)

Monday, December 3, 2007

She Went Out in a Blaze of Glory

Many years ago I remember saying goodbye to something that had been a part of our family for as long as I had been alive. I sobbed inconsolably, begging my parents not to get rid of her. In the midst of my grief, I convinced my sister to join forces with me. Wrapping our arms around her lifeless body, we would not allow her to be taken away without the fight of our young lives.

But our parents got rid of that old washing machine anyway and replaced her with a shiny new Whirlpool without so much as a backward glance.

And next went the couches.

Thankfully my parents had learned enough at that point to realize that not allowing Challi and me to say goodbye would be a really bad idea. So, before my uncle could whisk them off to a new home far away, he was instructed to bring the tattered couches by the dance studio where we were attending ballet class, to allow final farewells.

My uncle, father to three rough and tumble sons, was quite miffed at the whole teary scene. But to his credit, he did not crack a smile as I promised my beloved love seat to sit on the floor for eternity as not to betray her by placing my backside on our new plush sofa.

Unhealthy attachment to inanimate objects? Debatable. But Traitor? NO WAY!

So, it should come as no surprise to those who know me best that I bid farewell to my toaster tonight with a heavy heart. Given to me by my thoughtful Mother-In-Law five years ago, I have tried for months to hang on to my sweet appliance, despite the fact that she will only toast about every third try.

It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, as it has been touch and go for the last week. Her weak flame flickers ever so slightly, causing my spirits to soar as I think maybe, just maybe, she has some life left in that cute little box of hers. I wait with baited breath and a rumbling tummy, hoping against hope. But as the black smoke infiltrates the kitchen and the sizzling sounds of fleeting electricity screech in my ears, I come to the sad realization.

Tonight she has heated her last waffle.

But with age, comes maturity. Unlike my past behaviors, no longer will I wrap my arms around her and drag my feet about letting her go. Somehow, inconsolable tears and begging Chris to let me keep her just doesn't seem like a viable option.

So, instead I'll simply say rest in peace, my fashionable leopard-print appliance.

After I promise her to eat plain bread for eternity rather than betray her by placing my slice in another toaster, that is.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Sound of His Voice

After I posted Kelly's Quiet Sacrifice several months ago, many of you have been joining me in prayer for my precious friend with 2 small children, whose husband is currently serving in Iraq. As the Holidays are approaching, I know this is an especially difficult time for those with loved ones away from home. In the midst of this trying season of life, Kelly continues to rely on God and look for opportunities to grow in her faith. She wrote about something God has been teaching her and I hope you are blessed by it, as well. In her own words:

A few days ago I got a call from my husband.

For most people, this wouldn’t be anything more than a normal, every day event. But for me, whose husband is deployed in the Middle East for a year, a phone call is anything but normal. I know that he can’t call very often, but that doesn’t keep me from waiting and hoping and praying that he will. Each time it rings, I answer the phone wondering if it will be what I’m waiting for: the sound of his voice.

My husband’s voice. That voice that I know so well. That voice that tells me if he’s happy or sad; if he’s doing okay or bummed out; if he’s staying strong or growing weary. That voice is so important to me, because in our situation, the words don’t always communicate exactly what he’s thinking or feeling.

This is due to the fact that the location from which he calls is not at all private; instead, he calls from the middle of an “office” occupied by many other people. In fact, the room formerly played the roll of bathhouse, and so, as you can imagine, the acoustics are phenomenal (which is great if you’re belting out the second verse of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in the shower, but if you’re trying to have a personal conversation, it is less that preferable.)

By the time you consider security concerns and the “there-are-twenty-other-sweaty-Army-guys-listening-to-every-word-I-say-so-I-can’t-exactly-profess-my-unyielding-love-for-you” factor, our conversations can be less than worthy of a Shakespearean poetry award.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t tell that my husband loves me, or that he misses me, or that he’s sad. I can tell all of those things not so much by what he says, but through his voice, because I know him – we’ve been married for over 7 years -- and that makes all the difference.

My ponderings on the sweet sound of my husband’s voice led me down the path of thinking about hearing God’s voice. And I thought, “Oh, God’s trying to teach me to listen to His voice.” But the more I thought about it and tried to complete the metaphor I was sure God was painting for me, the more confused I became. We don’t really hear the voice of God so much anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe that God speaks to us in many ways these days – through Scripture, through His Spirit, through other believers – but I don’t think that many people actually physically hear God. They don’t look down and see God’s caller I.D. on their cell phones. (And by the way, if you do, would you mind forwarding that number to me please?) So as I thought about it, I decided that maybe God wasn’t trying to compare hearing my husband’s voice to hearing His voice.

And I was about ready to chalk it all up to me being a former English teacher just trying to find symbolic meaning in everything, when it hit me.

I might not hear God’s voice. But you know what? He hears mine. He knows it. Each time I pray, He can tell if I’m happy or sad, if I’m doing okay or if I’m bummed out, if I’m staying strong or growing weary. Just like I wait for my husband to call, God is waiting for us to talk to Him. He loves us; He loves for us to tell Him what’s going on in our lives, to share with Him our hurts and our happiness, to ask Him for help and direction and wisdom and hope. But unlike the phone calls with my husband, our conversations with God are private and personal and can be as long or as short as we like.

Through all of this, I realized that God doesn’t just want me to come to Him with a quick list of everything I want, but He wants me to talk to Him, to have a conversation with Him. He wants to hear my voice. Can you believe it? God knows my voice! The Creator of the World picks up His phone when He knows I’m on the other end of the line. He doesn’t just let it go to voicemail, He picks up and listens. And it doesn’t matter so much what I say, or if I get the words exactly right or say things in the right order, because God knows me, and that makes all the difference.

So I encourage you to make that call. Pray. Talk to God. He’s waiting to hear your voice today. He wants to know what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling because He loves you and He loves the sound of your voice.

And don’t worry if it’s been a while since you’ve talked. After all, He’s known you since before you were born.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Spy A Peaceful Car Ride

Park has never been a huge fan of the car. Something about being strapped down and forced to stay in the same place for long periods of time just doesn't appeal to him.

I can't imagine why.

And as unappealing as the car is to Park, hearing hollering and whining for long periods of time while trapped inside a moving vehicle with the culprit of such behavior is equally as unappealing to his mommy.

I can't imagine why.

Although Park has become 100 times more pleasant to travel with as he gets older, I still like to keep some secret tricks up my sleeve for emergency situations (AKA when he reverts back to his former car-loathing self.)

After art class at Grandma's house one day, Park came home with a token item that has saved me some major sanity when he is stir crazy while traveling. The token item is now a permanent fixture in my console, just waiting to be whipped out while stuck in traffic.

Grandma, being the brilliant woman she is, made a little flip book of clip art pictures attached to a string. He wears it like a necklace and uses it to play "I Spy". He gets so involved in searching for all the items in his book that he forgets to be miserable. And I, in turn, forget to spend all my time passing back snacks and toys and remember to concentrate on the road.

And for those of you who have never had the privilege of riding with me, it will suffice to say it behooves all other drivers for me to FOCUS when behind the wheel.

In his "I Spy" booklet there are common things you might see while on the road such as flags, birds, trains, airplanes, trees, trucks, tractors, and so on. You can get as creative as you want and for older children, you can even have them make their own books by drawing the pictures or cutting them out of magazines instead of using clip art. Or for those of you as crafty as I am, you can pass this task off to an unsuspecting Grandma and just pray for the best.

"I Spy" a mom who hopes this trick saves you some sanity, too.

P.S. If the above suggestion doesn't help, please feel free to use my emergency plan B, which I reserve the right to fall back on at any time. Plan B is as follows: Pop a movie into the car DVD player and don't beat yourself up over it. And if you don't own a portable DVD player, may I suggest you put it on your Christmas list this year.

Head on over to Rocks in My Dryer for more Works for Me Wednesday tips.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For the Family

For all of you people out there related to me that have been patiently (ha-ha) waiting to see Chris' message from this weekend, WAIT NO MORE. Although the church was generous enough to provide us with DVD's to pass on to his "Family Fan Club", I thought it would be faster and easier to let you know that it is posted online until Dec. 2.

Click here to go directly to it. Our Senior Pastor does an intro, so don't think I've sent you to the wrong link when you see him instead of Chris at first.

(And of course any non-family members reading this are welcome to view it, as well)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Thankful Heart, a Big Win, and a Full Belly

Thanksgiving was a little different for our family this year.

Normally, we load up and head down to my sister and brother-in-law's lake house just outside of College Station. It is a central meeting point for family and most importantly, close proximity for all of us to go see our beloved Aggies whip up on those dreadful Longhorns in the most anticipated football game of the season. We also find time to ingest mass quantities of food and enjoy each other's company, while soaking up life outside city limits.

Thankfully our Aggies found a way to pull off a win without the presence of my family this year, though. After Chris was asked by our Sr. Pastor to preach the weekend after Thanksgiving, we moved the party to our house instead.

My parents, sister, brother-in law, nephews, cousin, in-law's, and even a few neighbors were able to join us. We were treated to seeing Pops celebrate his 6oth birthday by pretending to be a bucking bull, while throwing off grandchildren who squealed in dare devilish delight.

Watching Park and Krew repeatedly scream, "Down,Set,Hut...GO AGGIES!!!" in their 2-year-old voices, while dashing madly throughout the house with a football, was another highlight of the festivities.

Never mind that we were actually watching the Cowboys at that point.

And I must say that it was very enjoyable to forgo the enormous packing job that usually takes place before we travel out of town. Not to mention that watching the Aggie game from our living room afforded some of us the opportunity to scream at the television and throw things, as need be, in the privacy of our own home.

And although Chris still strokes out over Aggie play calling, he did turn over a new "feather" this Thanksgiving in respect to his culinary abilities. Helping our family join the ranks of the deep South by learning to deep fry our turkey this year, he was so proud of his creation that he could hardly stand it. I'm not sure he stopped smiling through the entire process. And knowing that I was not allowed to lay a finger on the pre-cooked, foul creature left me giddy, as well.

As an added bonus, he was able to display his new found expertise twice in one week, since we also had a Thanksgiving gathering with Chris' family the weekend before. Adults enjoyed spending precious time together, while the cousins played until they couldn't find the strength to play anymore.

And since I somehow felt the need to put my Christmas tree up around Halloween, it was very convenient to use as the backdrop for our newest and most dreaded Thanksgiving family tradition.

The Christmas Card Photo Op.

Although I had some serious doubts at first, our feeble attempt at posing 6 children, ages 5 and under, dressed in their matching flannel Christmas pajamas in 90 degree heat, somehow resulted in a beautiful photo.

As long as we aren't planning to mail them out to people who can SEE.

The really impressive part is that all the cousins are still alive and relatively in tact. Well, with the exception of Park's backside, which may have suffered a swat or two after shoving cousin #3 off the brick fireplace and onto the wood floor around picture attempt number 2,452.

All this to say, I'm once again reminded of how much I have to be thankful for this Holiday season. First and foremost, I have a loving Heavenly Father that gave His only Son, so that I could live with Him eternally. And as much as I loved the Aggie victory, that yummy deep-fried turkey, and the joy of time with family, they pale in comparison to an infinity with the One who loves me most.

I hope your Thanksgiving reminded you of the same.

And although I'm not exactly sure how I managed to fit football, fried turkey, rogue children, and a salvation message into the same post, let's just roll with it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Banana Fanna Fo Fanna

Someone should have warned me that saying toddlers are "picky eaters" is the understatement of the year. I would have felt more adequately prepared if I had known that was simply a nice expression for "may love what you fix one day yet spit at it the next."

Park has gone through many dietary phases. At first, he would eat any and everything placed in front of him, but then the downhill slope began. It got so bad at one point in his toddlerhood that it seemed the only foods he found appetizing were any morsels he found on the floor.

And after he thumbed his nose at a nutritious dinner I spent an hour making one evening, I MAY have inadvertently tossed various pieces of the meal on the ground for him to stumble upon. If you are silently judging me right now, it is quite possible your child is still an infant or yet to be born, because I feel certain that anyone who has raised a toddler has reached a similar low point.

Or at least I'll tell myself that.

To make matters worse, what about certain advertising campaigns that are sweeping the nation, petitioning our children to hold out for ice cream and popsicles?

Now don't get me wrong, there is a special occasion place for such sugary goodness in the lives of our kiddos. But, I have a strong-willed son that, given an inch, yanks and pulls to go the full mile. So, I found a compromise that works for our family.

Enter Banana Pops.

In case you were wondering, I used all caps to give them a more sophisticated feel. Did it work?

These frozen goodies are cheap, nutritious, low maintenance to make, and loved by all ages.....husbands included. It doesn't get much better than that. Instructions are as follows: Peel banana, half it, stick a popsicle stick in each piece, and freeze.


And here you people thought I couldn't cook!

Now, if you're wanting something with a little more umph, the same song second verse goes like this: Before freezing, dip the banana in carob (found at most health food stores) and then roll it in wheat germ.

And the best part is, you won't even have to throw it on the floor for your kids to eat it.

(Click on over to Rocks in My Dryer for more Works for me Wednesday tips)

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Not So Greatest Show on Earth

A few weeks ago, Park and I sat outside on the patio in a deep discussion.

"Park, what do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked. I half expected he might say a fireman, since he loves the lights and sounds of firetrucks. Or perhaps a construction worker based on his obsession with all the "worker men" that continue to build new homes in our neighborhood. I also would not have been surprised if he had said pastor, since he daily tells me he wants to "work at church like Daddy."

However, his response caught me off guard. With his sweet little forehead scrunched up deep in thought, he replied, "Well, I probably be a clown, Mommy."


Now, as a former admissions counselor and teacher, I firmly believe it is never too early to educate through the exploration of career options. Therefore, when I heard the circus was coming to town, I knew this was my chance to put my money where my mouth was.

Upon arrival, we were immediately greeted outside the gates by Peppy the Clown. And equally as quickly, Park changed career paths. It seems that Peppy was a little too, well, peppy. In an attempt to share his zest for life with Park, Peppy smiled his huge clown smile and screamed out, "Howdy, Little Man!"

Park screamed, as well, but his sounded more like this... "NO NO NO NO SCARY CLOWN! I Not Like Clowns! Help Me, Hold Me, Daddy!"

See what I mean about the importance of options?

Thankfully the show was a bigger hit than the clowns. His little eyes danced in amazement as elephants pranced around and stood on their hands. He watched, mesmerized, as the lions and tigers dutifully followed orders and acrobats performed death defying stunts with no safety net. It was a magical night for a two year old.

And fortunately, Park's parents were able to watch the show through his eyes, as well.

Because if we would have used our own eyes, Chris and I would have seen a scantily clad Delana the Delightful Dog Trainer prancing her 10 "fabulous" animals around, while one lone pup performed all the tricks. And we would have gotten some good laughs at how the climax of the music seemed to peak about 5 seconds before the tricks actually took place.

We may have also recognized that the animals were better trained than the people. Plus, we would have felt really sad for the poor acrobat that performed an unplanned solo as her fellow compadres did a portion of the routine she had forgotten.

But any way you look at it, it was an evening filled with precious memories that none of us would trade for a million bucks. Which, ironically, was the same price we paid for a corndog. And as an added bonus, Park discovered another interesting career option.

"I be a pony and give rides when I big, Mommy!"

Looks like we'll be buying tickets when the rodeo comes our way.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Creature Named Boy

Something about just having a sister does not adequately prepare you for raising a boy.

I'll never forget the first time I went home with my college roommate. She has two younger brothers that she is crazy about and when she went off to Aggieland they missed her dearly. Upon entering their living room, she was greeted with a pounce to the floor. One brother poked and tickled her mercilessly, while the other held her down in a choke hold. And when the duo finally emerged and turned to meet "the friend", they found me crouched in a corner with a look of sheer terror in my eyes.

Clearly, boy love was foreign to me.

But not anymore. Thanks to Park, I now realize that nothing says I love you like a good body slam. Boys are rough and tumble. A sweet kiss is not complete without a debilitating head butt. It comes with the territory that flying objects will whiz past your head and laying on the floor automatically qualifies you as a human trampoline.

Without a brother, I had no manual to prepare me that bugs would someday be sacred and tractors could be worthy of delightful squeals. There was no way for me to know that mud puddles are made for jumping in or that dirt is a way of life.

Part of my role as a mother is to soften rough edges and cultivate a need for intimacy in Park. Teaching sensitivity and gentleness encourages him to value women and empathize with others. And sometimes I must gently remind him of the different ways to play with Mommy verses Daddy.

But I've also come to realize that the the other part of my role is to allow rowdy, rough behavior and insane risk taking.

The very nature of a man craves adventure and excitement. The fearless spirit that leaps off jungle gyms will someday be unafraid to protect a wife. The adventurous spirit that spontaneously throws himself into mud puddles will accept the challenge of securing provisions for his family. The conqueror of bugs will captivate his kids for Christ.

Things I all too often mistake for aggressive behavior or lack of impulse control are simply the fingerprint of the Creator, who chose to make Park male.

What an amazing God we have, equally equipped with both feminine and masculine qualities, himself. Creating men and women in His own image, He was intuitively aware that one could not prevail without the other.

And in that uniqueness, more of Him is revealed.

The foreignness of boy love has faded away. And in its place is an overwhelming appreciation for the gift of raising a son.

And that's the dirty truth.

(Already a dirt lover at the ripe old age of 8 months)

No Comment

I feel the need to give a shout out to my technologically challenged mom.

The poor sweet woman has been trying for the last 4 months, which would be the entire time I've had a blog, to leave a comment. It has become her personal mission in life.

Yet, try as she may, the whole creating an account thing is blowing her mind, what with the point, click, and crazy password issue and all. I've tried to assure her that leaving an anonymous comment and signing her name would accomplish the same purpose, but she feels it would be "too impersonal".

And although there have been multiple phone conversations attempting to walk her through the process, I fear comment capability is nowhere in her near future.

So, Mom, I want you to take a step back. Remove your hands from the keyboard. Yes, the same hands that are tirelessly typing out precious comments as we speak. Ones that never quite reach being read by the Internet community because the account you think you've created does not actually exist.

Recognize the significance of how far you have already come.

No longer does email elude you. After years of struggling, you finally have the knowledge of how to reply on your own without any prompting from me. And that is BIG for you. You can't control the fact that technology continues to expand at lightning speed, not allowing you time to catch up.

Realize that your voice on the other end of the phone each day far exceeds any comment you can (or can't, as the case may be) leave. And rest in the fact that I already know how much you love me, how proud you are, and how much you enjoy reading Park stories and seeing his pictures. Mainly because you've told me countless times.

I'm simply amazed that you can actually navigate through the World Wide Web to find your way to my blog. The fact that you had me save my site to your Favorites tab is completely irrelevant.

What you lack in skill, you more than make up for in heart.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spray 'Til Your Heart is Content

If this were going to be an ad for the idea I'm about to introduce, it might read something like this:

Tired of the outrageous smell of toddler poop?
Longing for the days before solids were introduced?
Want the benefits of potty-training without all the work?
One quick spray and all your troubles melt away.
Try our Diaper Area Wash:
It's designer perfume for your baby's bottom.

And although this product has a fantastic variety of eclectic usages for both children and adults alike, let me share the secret as to why this is a coveted item in our household.

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless because you know who you are, introduced me to this product after making the alarming statement that she only bathes her kids twice a week.

My mouth dropped open.

"What about the horrible poopie odor that remains on their bums, even after cleaning with wipes? How can you stand to change the diapers of children who have lingering feces stench caked on their backside? For the love of all things Downy Fresh, help me understand how this is possible!" I screamed.

Does it go without saying that holding my tongue has never come easily?

And with the wisdom only a veteran mom can have, the three words she spoke next revolutionized my existence. (Or at least my son's bottom.)


Simple, but brilliant. Embarrassingly enough, I actually went home to discover that said diaper area wash already resided in my cabinet.

Given to me as a gift, I had somehow skipped over reading the "AREA" word and mistakenly assumed its purpose was to aid in washing cloth diapers. I arrived at this conclusion after ruling out that this product could be intended for washing disposable diapers.

Because clearly, that would make no sense at all.

And since I wasn't using cloth diapers, I promptly stashed it with all the other baby products I had registered for and yet had no idea how to use.

The moral of the story is check your cabinets, folks.

But, in the off chance that you don't have it and need to purchase some, click here. Or, as my ever adventurous Mother-In Law pointed out, you could also make your own. The ingredients include water, witch hazel, calendula, aloe vera, tea tree, and an essential oil (such as lavender).

After single-handedly ensuring the world has a better aroma, I feel my work here is done. And besides that, after typing the word poopie (and yes, spell check, I realize it is not a word) a dozen times, there is really nowhere for me to go from here.

But you, on the other hand, can head on over to Rocks In My Dryer to find the links to more Works for Me Wednesday tips.

Happy Spraying, Y'all!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Price I was Willing to Pay

*Warning: If you are the type of person who is upset that the radio is already playing Christmas music, this post might very well send you over the edge.

It started out very innocently.

Bridget reluctantly asked me to join her and Sarah on a trip to a wholesale store that was opening its doors to the public for a Christmas extravaganza. In all fairness, they were hesitant to allow me to accompany them because they have known me long enough to realize I don't have the shopping stamina it takes for such an outing.

In fact, I vividly remember taking a trip to Canton (a flea market on steroids) with both Bridget and Sarah several years back where I ended up sitting down in an open field begging for mercy.

"Please just leave me here. I can't go a step further. If you force me to look at one more thing it might send me into a Sensory Overload Induced Coma!" I pleaded, hoping that my creative medical terminology would sway them to take pity on me.

Exchanging looks of disgust, they reminded me that we had only been there an hour and I had nothing to show for it. Not to mention we had driven 2 hours just to get there and planned to "stay 'til our cars couldn't fit our packages." Then and there they promised I would never get a shopping invite again.

But this time, I somehow made the cut. Quite possibly because they have both had children that have eaten up all their memory capability since the Canton Disaster, but either way, I was in.

However, after Sarah had to cancel last minute, I believe Bridget feared the trip might be a wash. After all, she was forced into shopping with the same girl who believed simply having a Christmas tree was going "all out". This does not impress people like my mom, sis and Bridget who believe holiday decorating is not complete until every inch of house partakes in the festivity.

Boy, did I surprise everyone, myself included.

Upon entering the Christmas haven of beauty, it was as if something or someone took over my body. Surrounded by endless rows of designer ornaments, beautifully woven ribbon, and insane amounts of sparkly goodness, I was ready and able to endure the shopping marathon. No more sitting the bench for this girl, I was in the game. Once I caught the vision of the transformation that needed to happen in my holiday decor, there was no stopping me.

Bridget created a monster.

So much so, that in my living room, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree currently resides.

Let's just take a moment to let that fully sink in.

Still 2 weeks to go until Thanksgiving, and yet my house already holds massive volumes of Christmas cheer. And as if that weren't enough, Chris, Park and I spent Friday night scouring the town for a second tree that can hold all sentimental ornaments. In my new-found holiday decorating obsession, all homemade ornaments or those with the ugly factor have been banished to a separate existence.

As it turns out, I'm not only an overly-anxious decorator, but an ornament snob, as well.

And although I had some serious reservations about bringing in so many sparkly items that would require mass quantities of cleaning due to extreme glitter shed, Bridget dismissed such notions with a flick of her hand.

"That's a price you've just got to be willing to pay," she explained.

Considering I've still got over a month left for possible Christmas decor additions.....

Well, let's just say , if Sensory Overload Induced Comas do, in fact, exist, you may want to steer clear of our house until the New Year.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Losing the Blanket of Protection (& Other Linus Lessons)

In my pre-child days, when I was the perfect parent who knew everything about raising children, I was a little put off by Linus and the whole unhealthy attachment to his blankie thing.

And considering that by the first week of Motherhood, I had already gone back on everything I said I would "never do when I have children", it's only fitting that a lovey entered the picture.

In the early days, Park had 3 blankies that I tried to rotate. Careful to give each one equal opportunity at winning his affection, I was buying into the plan that he should not get overly attached to one in particular. Just in case, bite my tongue, something bad should ever happen to it.

And although genius in theory, I gave up after a single Bear Lovey swooped in and stole his heart.

The lovey in question became a trusted companion, while the others were left by the wayside. Even, Car Lovey, who is deemed acceptable while inside a moving vehicle, is carelessly tossed aside when Bear Lovey is offered as a viable option. (Are you feeling the creativity of the blankie names yet?)

Time for Plan B.

Ask the sweet friend who purchased Bear Lovey as a baby shower gift to reveal the name of the store where I could find an "in case of emergency" duplicate.

Mission accomplished, store name in hand, and off I went to pull the fur over my son's eyes retrieve the twin bear.

Slight problem.

Who knew a blankie could feed a small village? My heart stopped and I passed out when I learned the value of this tiny treasure. Let's just say Bear Lovey did not come with a small price tag, folks.

Moving on to Plan C.

Guard Bear Lovey with my life and never let her out of my sight.

But even so, I couldn't protect her. Her once elegant texture is now weathered and worn. Her soft velvet fur is matted by the tongue of a sweet boy that strangely takes comfort in licking her. Her body, once sewn tightly to its pristine white blankie, hangs tattered and dirty from being drug through each new adventure.

The ironic thing is, these two have bonded best in times of turmoil. Park finds little use for her when wrapped in my comforting arms or basking in my attention. But in the still of night, while alone in his bed, she means everything to him. In a position of desperate need, their relationship is strengthened. When I leave him in the church nursery or when he is upset that I have told him no, her ears sacrifice their fur to ease his sorrow and share in his trials.

Regardless of her current imperfections or her past price tag, Bear Lovey is trusted, treasured, and relied upon because of her scars.

Thanks to some help from the Holy Spirit and the Bible Study I'm taking, I've come to realize, it is neither feasible nor necessary to guard those things most precious to me. As much as I want to protect the people God has entrusted to my care, the reality is, it is through the pain that they will come to rely upon Him.

Part of intimately belonging to Jesus is sharing in His suffering, and without it, the relationship is incomplete. And though it does not come with a small price tag, difficulties strengthen faith. Through the scars we come to REALLY know Jesus, so we can trust, treasure and rely upon Him with all our heart.

And as much as I want those I love to be free from suffering, I'd rather them be in the Desert with Him than in the Promised Land without Him.

Maybe poor Linus deserves an apology.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Grinch That Stole Daylight

Oh, my dearest Mr. Fall Daylight Saving Time, where do I even begin?

I feel like we have tried to accommodate you in every way possible. We open our home and allow you inside each year, no questions asked. Our clocks bow down to your every wish and command. We even overlooked your tardiness when you decided to arrive late this year.

Yet it seems you have become downright underhanded, sneaky and greedy. Your name implies that you are wholeheartedly devoted to saving our time, marketing yourself in a manner that suggests we will "gain" an extra hour of sleep upon your arrival.

However, in stark contrast, your reality steals hours of outside play and special evening walks from our family.

But even that just wasn't enough for you.

This year, you have taken it a step further by robbing us of beloved sleep, as well. Since your arrival, Park's semi-reasonable 7:45 am wake up time has morphed into an unbearable, middle of the night 6:15 am.

I hold you fully responsible for this disruption. And despite my futile efforts to black out his windows and cling to the darkness, it's as if you penetrate his very being and he is unmistakeably aware of your unwelcome presence.

And if Hubby wasn't such a morning person, willing and able to play in the wee hours of dark thirty, I'm not so certain I wouldn't just sell our clocks and forget I've ever met you.

At least until Spring.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Extreme Husband: Landscape Edition

I read a magazine survey, recently, that said 95% of women wish their man would do more around the house. Apparently, the stereotypical male relies on his wife for the majority of things.

My hubby, on the other hand, takes self sufficiency to the extreme. Being waited on and catered to makes him nervous and uncomfortable. His motto tends to be, "Why would I want anyone else to do for me what I can do myself?"

And truthfully, there is not a lot he can't do. Cooking? Smack your lips kind of good. Cleaning? Not a nook or cranny left untouched. Organizing? To the point of arranging the canned goods in alphabetical order.

Honestly, he is so thorough and efficient at any and everything that it sometimes just gets on my nerves.

Upon arriving home from the honeymoon, I was determined to do everything I felt a "good wife" would do. And I am domestically challenged, so it was a true labor of love. I made beds, I cooked, I did dishes, and so on and so forth.

But, each day I would notice more strange happenings. For example, one morning, I noticed that the bedspread seemed straighter and smoother than when I first had made it. The next day, it seemed like the leftovers were seasoned better than my original creation. I began to fear I was losing it, imagining things to be different than they really were.

Until I discovered the truth.

Everything changed on day 20 of our marriage when I caught him in the act. He was secretly reloading the dishes I had put in the dishwasher an hour before.

The confrontation went down.

"Chris, if I didn't know better, I would think you are going behind me and re-doing all the housework I'm doing. If you are going to come behind me and re-do things, darling, I would just assume to not even do them in the first place."

"Britt, that would be so great. I really would love for you to just let me do this stuff, baby, and sneaking around behind you just takes too much energy and makes me feel dishonest."

My feelings were actually hurt for about .05 seconds before the reality of it all sunk in.

And then it was as if the pearly gates had just opened up and the angels were singing me a private concert. What a beautifully glorious day that was, when I realized I had just married my father, the kind of man who gets up early to make sure your car is warm and gas tank is full. And scrubs toilets better than June Cleaver. Could it really be possible that I could be both born into and married to the last two men on earth that thrive on housework?

Thank you, Mom, for giving me the gene of good taste.

And so, the marital roles were established and agreed upon. He did everything, and I fully appreciated and adored him.

Now fast forward, 5 years later.

I am a stay at home mom, so obviously things have shifted a tad. He still helps tremendously, but I have tried to step it up in the inside our house department. Although he still handles all bills, loves to cook, is the sole vacuum user, and does his share of deep cleaning, I try to limit his role to only taking full responsibility for the outdoor endeavors of home ownership.

And that's probably a good thing since I'm not even sure what those endeavors would be.

But needless to say, Chris is not the stereotypical man when it comes to the domestic skills side. So, imagine my shock when I arrived home from a week at Resort De Grandparents to find this:

Where was my husband and who was this impostor that had greeted me and Park in the driveway?

As it turned out, there was no time for dishes and laundry because the landscaping had received an unexpected Extreme Home Makeover. And when hubby tackles a task, he means BUSINESS. Entire flowerbeds were overhauled, dug out so deeply that we now have the option to someday bury ourselves in our own front yard.

No, sir, there is nothing halfway about my Chris.

Apparently, he took my tree post very seriously, considering our backyard has now been transformed into a full-fledged forest. He planted a total of 12 twigs trees or at least green leafy things that seem to aspire to be trees someday.

But my biggest bewilderment at this point are the cone-like items that are occupying our yard. Upon examining them closely, I have discovered that I indeed have no clue as to what they are, but they bear a terrifying resemblance to this:

Except they are around the neck of the smallest saplings I have ever seen, which hubby meticulously transported from the yards of his sweet parents. Do you see the striking similarity?

Apparently, in a moment of pure gardening selflessness, Chris decided to forgo things such as eating, sleeping and clean underwear to ensure that the people who live in our house in 2107 will not suffer the same treeless existence that we are.

What that magazine survey did not reveal was that the five percent of woman who don't need their man to do more around the house, actually need him to do less in the yard.

Hopefully, project "Landscape Overhaul" may distract him from reloading the dishwasher behind my back, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Airing Dirty Laundry

Last week, Challi and I decided to throw caution to the wind and take our collective three children on a 6 hour road trip. Did I mention that those three children are ages 2 and younger? Fun times in the car. But, we have done it before and will do it again because when we have a goal in mind, we'll stop at nothing to reach it.

Especially when that goal is getting to our parents' house, or as we like to call it, Resort De Grandparents. Chal and I spend blissful days of sleeping in, seeing movies, shopping, getting much needed haircuts and massages, and other wonderful endeavors that require babysitters who enjoy our kids as much as our kids enjoy them.

It is a win-win situation for everyone.

We've often joked that when the grandkids are around, Lolli suddenly loses the desire to eat or sleep, for fear she may miss out on some precious time with them. And Pops begins to lose his mind, throwing money around and saying yes to any and everything. Well, everything minus changing dirty diapers and Park's creative finger painting on his wall, that is.

There is something so precious about watching the joy your children bring to your parents and vice versa. And there is something equally as precious about watching that scene unfold from your rearview mirror as you and sister peel out for some getaway time.

As usual, many precious memories were made on this trip. And as much a I would love to share about the church's Fall festival, the playgrounds we visited, or the play dough we made, I feel like it would be a disservice to everyone if I did not use this opportunity to relay Challi's embarrassing moment.

What's a little sister for, right?

So, Chal and I loaded up the oldest boys in the double stroller for a walk in the neighborhood one evening. Shortly thereafter, a truck pulled up beside us. There was a young man driving and a man in the passenger seat, as well.

"Excuse me ladies. Can I ask y'all a quick question," the driver said, and without waiting for a response, he continued with , "Do you ladies like to eat?"

Now about this time, I noticed the deep freeze in the back of their fiery red pick-up truck and realized we were about to get a spiel on why we should buy their frozen meat. As I braced myself for the lengthy roadside presentation we had unfortunately stumbled upon, my sister was preparing to embarrass herself.

"We are actually in town visiting family and besides that, we are happily married. Thank you for understanding," Challi tells the driver, in her charming It's Hard For Me To Hurt Someone's Feelings Southern accent.

I see the men exchange confused glances with one another and suddenly they both smile, as if to say, "Surely she did not think we could possibly be interested in them." Hardly able to contain their laughter, they muttered a brief, "Thank you for your time," before speeding away.

Somehow, she had misinterpreted their feeble attempt to interest us in buying raw meat as an attempt to lure us out on a dinner date. Double stroller, and all. I burned more calories laughing than I ever could have walking.

Challi took it all in stride, seeing as she is no stranger to embarrassing situations, and all. Several months ago, while pregnant with her youngest son, Kage, we were at a children's shoe store. The sweet young girl helping us was making conversation and asking about Challi's due date. The two exchanged pleasantries and discussed various pregnancy topics before Challi proceeded to ask about the girl's due date.

Now, I kid you not, this girl was no where close to being overweight. In fact, she had a very shapely figure and flat little stomach. You could see the look of bewilderment in this girl's eyes as she looked back to see if there was possibly someone else Challi could be talking to that was standing behind her.

No such luck.

After finally realizing she was indeed NOT pregnant, Challi fumbles out some type of apology and we promptly exit the store. Somehow in her mind, sister thought the girl had said something about not being too far along. We blamed it on pregnancy brain, but now I'm not so sure.

At least my sister has given me plenty to laugh about while I'm unpacking suitcases and doing laundry.

Goodbye Resort de Grandparents and hello Casa de Reality.