Sunday, June 27, 2010

He Came, He Made the Sale, He Survived

The anticipation.

The excitement.

It's almost too much to bear.

Where could he be?

Finally, the moment of truth is about to arrive.

The choice.

The transaction.

The pure...


J O Y.

What would summertime really be without sticky, brightly colored ice cream on a long, hot afternoon? Their joy was so sweet that Mommy didn't dare whisper one word against that jingle-playing man. Today, all grudges were ended, all transgressions forgiven. For what mother could dislike a man who brought her precious children such sweet memories?

Friday, June 25, 2010

How Can There Possibly Be an Appropriate Title for Such a Random Series of Thoughts?

I am not really the kind of person who lies awake at night worrying over the state of the environment, but I am a little concerned that my family is going to be solely responsible for the extinction of oxygen-giving trees. We have been consuming what seems to me a terribly large amount of toilet paper over the last few months. It seems like I just blink and it's time to buy another gigantic package of ridiculously expensive paper that will only be used for a split second, and for a very undignified purpose, before it's sent away to destroy the earth. This could be the very reason that God has chosen to give me three sons. If there were any more girls in this house, mankind might be wiped out in a matter of years.

In other, more serious matters, I may have to hurt the ice cream man. Did someone come up with the idea of an ice cream truck only to torment mothers on a budget who try to get their kids to eat at least one nutritious thing each day? And did they further decide to bring about our insanity by only driving through the neighborhood during naptime and dinner time? You would think, somewhere in the ice cream truck manual, it would recommend that they time their visits a little more appropriately. I'm also thinking that kids are now secretly implanted with a microchip in the hospital at birth that detects ice cream truck music from up to a mile and a half away. We were driving down the highway last week, going at least 55 mph, when we passed an ice cream truck, going the opposite direction at at least 55 mph with its music on. Thanks to the doppler effect (or whatever you call that), we heard approximately half a note of his annoying little tune. Chris and I froze with dread, but were both thinking that, surely, our children could not have noticed. Jack's little ears perked up and he said, "I just heard the ice cream truck. Can we get some ice cream?" We were in shock and awe, as well as being completely convinced that somehow, at some point, our children's brains had been secretly programmed with ice cream truck radar. Oh, the horror of it all.

Speaking of our jabber-jaw Jack, he is now the proud recipient of a swimming lesson graduation "SAR-tificate." After two weeks of morning lessons with a bunch of 3 and 4-year-olds, our 5-year-old graduated with flying colors. He can't actually technically swim, but he will finally put his head underwater voluntarily and can kind of swim underwater a little bit. Baby steps. It's all about baby steps. He really has improved a lot, but that could be because we spend at least 10-20 hours a week in the pool. Maddie is a regular little fish and can swim all the way across the pool unassisted, which is more than I can say for my pregnant self. I'm pretty sure everybody at the local pool would know who you were talking about if you mentioned the pregnant woman in the pink and white polka-dot swimsuit. I feel just a tad conspicuous, but at least for this one summer, I am not preoccupied the whole time we're swimming with sucking in my tummy. I can proudly let it all hang out, hoping that no one asks my due date and finds out it's still four months away.

Below are a few pics of the next Michael Phelps (sans marijuana allegations, of course), all taken with my new handy-dandy lens. You will notice Jack's beautiful "spoons" that he is making with his hands (as opposed to "forks"), in preparation for his dash across the pool.

C'mon. Look at that form, people. Obviously, I cut his head off on purpose, so that you could concentrate on the amazing lines of his torso and legs.

And, finally, I will praise God for getting us through one week of no husband or daddy around and ask His strength and grace to do it one more time next week. I would also ask that you all say a little prayer for me as I step out in faith to teach a class this summer at the Lovelady Center. I have felt for the last couple of months that the Lord wanted me to do it, and at the end of April, I felt like He gave me a topic for it. However, as all good Christians do, I hesitated and delayed obedience. Oh, good Christians don't do that, you say? Okay, then how about typical American Christians? Will you give me that? Anyway, I finally got up the guts to call and set it up, and I start on July 6. The Lord has really impressed upon me that this is something that I need to do completely in His strength and power, totally by faith. Yes, I should be living my life like that on a daily basis, but, let's face it - I don't. I am a planner and preparer and stresser-outer. David Platt says it better than I could ever hope to in his new book, Radical.

Surrounded by the self-sufficiency of American culture, we can convince ourselves that we have what it takes to achieve something great...we can mimic our culture planning and programming, organizing and strategizing, creating and innovating - all in an effort that will show what we can accomplish in our own ability...But there is another way...Instead of asserting ourselves, we crucify ourselves...Instead of dependence on ourselves, we express redical desperation for the power of his Spirit, and we trust that Jesus stands ready to give us everything we ask for so that he might make much of our Father in the world.

Why would we ever want to settle for Christianity according to our own ability or settle for church according to our resources? The power of the one who raised Jesus from the dead is living in us and as a result we have no need to muster up our own might. Our great need is to fall before an almighty Father day and night and to plead for him to show his radical power in and through us, enabling us to accomplish for his glory what we could never imagine in our own strength. And when we do this, we will discover we were created for a purpose much greater than ourselves, the kind of purpose that can only be accomplished in the power of his Spirit.

So, I am praying, seeking God's guidance and power. I want it to be said that He has done a mighty work and spoken His Word to these ladies. I am timid, not that smart or creative, and not really looking forward to doing this from a human point of view. However, I do ask and expect that the Holy Spirit will prove His presence and power for six Tuesday mornings this summer and, if nothing else, my faith and boldness will be strenthened for his glory. I pray that I may decrease and He may increase.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Post in Which I Use the Words Sweat and Torture 257 Times

I'm at a loss. We've been so busy and it's been so long since I've blogged that I've forgotten what's kept us so busy. I'm getting flashbacks of Vacation Bible School, sweating in a garden, and lots of swimming. Right now I'm so stuffed with enchiladas and turtle pie and high on my great bunco victory that I can barely think. Funnily enough, people want to claim that bunco is a sin because it's gambling. I think the real sin going on that everyone overlooks is the gluttony. Husbands think we go with great determination to claim a victory and win a prize. What they don't know is that we're all winners...of a night away from bath time and a yummy dinner and dessert that we didn't cook (except for that one month when you're the hostess). The record-breaking six buncos to pull out first prize was just the icing.

I'll attempt a quick recap before the events of the past couple of weeks have fallen out of my tired brain forever. VBS was great fun, except for giant ball time. For those of you unfamiliar with giant ball time, it is some sort of twisted effort to have fun which is actually a form of torture for grownups. Close your eyes and invision a huge room with rows of chairs, in which are seated hundreds of children with a smattering of adults. Add some loud music and two ginormous inflatable balls being hurled randomly through the air, constantly ramming unsuspecting adults square in the head. If your head is not being targeted by the deadly ball, your feet are being trampled by children determined to be the next person to touch the deadly ball. Really, pure torture. When another adult comes up to try to have a short conversation with you, you must attempt to talk intelligibly and look completely calm while your brain and total attention are actually on the location and velocity of the giant balls being hurled violently around you. The stress is just too much. By Thursday, I was finding some very important tasks that simply had to be completed in our classroom so that I could avoid this horrid experience without appearing to be avoiding it. By Friday, I was wishing I had brought a steak knife with me to VBS. Pretty sure that's frowned upon. Let's just say, I would rest much more peacefully if someone were to sneak into the storage closet which houses the ginormous balls with a sharp object in hand and put us all out of our misery. Oh, and there were kids and crafts (which held a close second place in modes of torture available for adults at VBS - lots of modeling clay and paint) and Bible verses and lessons and goldfish. You know, all the vital ingredients that make VBS what it is. Overall, it was a fun week that was unfortunately overshadowed by large, scary flying objects.

Here are Luke and his friend Katherine on the one day he was not too sick to attend VBS. If you ask me, I think it was all an act to stay as far away from the giant balls as possible.

And below is the best picture I have of our little corner of Saddle Ridge Ranch. Pretty cute if I do say so myself. (The little cowboy ain't too bad, either.)

Each day of VBS was followed by a trip to the local pool, where we desperately tried to stay cool. I'm pretty sure that if you aren't near a pool, summertime in the South is just torture. Of course, it is not as horrid a form of torture as giant ball time. I had a momentary lapse in judgment toward the end of the week and decided to plan a fun family outing with Nana and Papa to the Botanical Gardens in a city about two hours away to see a lovely treehouse exhibit, the only problems being that it was approximately 117 degrees outside and I'm pregnant. The gardens were beautiful and the treehouses were fun, but for some strange reason, we were pretty much the only people there. I can't imagine why.

Seriously, though, I think something is wrong with me. I hate being dirty and sweaty. I'm not talking about a normal hatred of physical discomfort like most people have. I'm talking about an absolutely distracting disgust which pretty much ruins any fun that I could be having in the situation. When your eyelids are sweaty and your arms and neck are caked in a horrible mixture of dried sweat and oily sunscreen and your legs won't come uncrossed because they are glued together by sweat and then you're forced to ride for two hours in a cramped space in the back of a van with other sweaty people...that's just about unbearable to me. I think I could be diagnosed with a serious psychological problem it's so bad. For about 75% of the trip my thoughts were focused on when I could take a shower and put on clean clothes. Imagine the agony of spending 365 days a year on an island where all you do is sweat. I might very well end up on the brink of insanity. I'm already pretty close. Trust me.
Here is Jack, covered in sweat and with hot, red cheeks. Still handsome, though.

And here are the three amigos, just after we'd arrived and just prior to being covered in sweat.

At least I got this cute picture of my little growing weeds. Notice the soaking wet heads, created by a sprinkle of water which was attempting to wash the sweat away. One day they can look back at this photo and remember the day their parents took them out in scalding hot weather and made them climb, play, and run without a drink of water until they almost passed out from a heat stroke. Ah, memories.

(Please forgive the lack of proper spacing below. Blogger and I are having it out, and I'm not winning.)
So, this week, my goal has been to sweat as little as possible unless I would have immediate access to a shower and clean underwear. So far, so good.
In non-torturous news, my wonderful brother and his wife are moving to our neck of the woods by the grace of God. We honestly never expected God to allow us the blessing of living in the same city with them, but He has and we're so excited. The kids have come up with a plan for sleeping arrangements when their aunt and uncle move in with us, which they think is a perfectly wonderful and logical solution to their housing dilemma. I could use a live-in nanny.
The watermelon is still being consumed like crazy in our house in an effort to focus on the good parts of a southern summer. My tummy is growing bigger by the day, it seems (maybe I'm growing a watermelon in there), and the weeks of freedom and fun are flying by. Before we know it, the kids will head off to school and we'll begin serious preparations for their baby brother. You know, we'll have to buy some diapers and hang some shelves from the ceiling to put his clothes on. Then we should be good to go.
Seriously, despite the elements of torture and the profuse amounts of sweating involved so far this summer, it's been great enjoying our laid-back schedule and lots of fun family close to a shower as possible.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Busy Little Bee

We've been such busy little bees the last week that I just can't find time to blog. And the even greater dilemma is that we've done so much, I don't know where to even begin when I do find time to blog. I'm in the middle of preparing for a dinner for the girls in our Sunday School class tonight and a baby shower here tomorrow night. My aching pregnancy back is not helping me get things accomplished, which is why I'm sitting at the computer now taking a break from standing. I'm also trying to appreciate my two wild, healthy boys who are currently "napping" in their room. Funny though, how noisy napping can be. I'm just not quite sure that anyone is ever going to get any rest when we put a third boy in that room. Heaven help us...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Free at Last! Free at Last!

The past two days I've experienced freedom...freedom from diaper changes, whiny kids, cutting food into bite-sized pieces at every meal, wiping ketchup faces, giving baths (okay, I am usually free from that if Chris is home), cooking, and breaking up fights. The house has been quiet, clean, and calm. Time has been abundant, as has been sleep. There can only be one explanation for all this...weekend at Grandma's!

Our three lovely children left Thursday morning for a two-day stint with Grandma and Grandpa. In short, they were off to be spoiled and stuffed with candy, while alternating between watching tv and playing at the park all day long. They were blissfully happy, so, being the gracious mother I am, I just had to let them go and choose to be happy for them. I know, I know. I'm always sacrificing for those three.

The majority of the first day, I spent slaving away in my Vacation Bible School room at church, reveling in the fact that I could spend 7 1/2 uninterrupted hours accomplishing something. Funny how I seem to really get things done when 75% of my time is not spent chasing a wandering two-year-old. Nana and I worked our fingers to the bone while only bad-mouthing our vacationing teaching partner one or two times all day. Saints, I know. Hey, it's hard work assembling an entire ranch and enough craft supplies to entertain 15 demanding children for five days in a row. We may not be the most dynamic teachers on the hallway, but we're sure gonna have a cute room and lots of things for the kids to take home (which their parents will then spend all afternoon figuring out how to throw away without the kids noticing).

After all that back-breaking manual labor, I was just plain pooped. I parked my very sore back and tired feet on the couch, looked as pitiful as possible, and let Chris cook us dinner. I was pretty thankful to be able to come home and crash after a long day, as usually I would just get to come home and work some more, making an already long and tiring day almost unbearable. Thanks, Grandma! After a few hours, I suddenly remembered what we did with all our time before we had children. We watched a lot of tv and I read a lot of books. Of course, I was able to remember that so quickly because that is exactly what I did for the rest of the night. It was very surreal, like I had traveled back in time eight years. And, yes, I enjoyed every minute of it.

A damper was put on the whole experience, though, as we had made a very poor choice of Netflix movies for this particular occasion. We watched Everybody's Fine, which, if you haven't seen it, is basically a movie about how a recently widowed dad kinda screwed up when his kids were little and now they're not close to him, lie to him, and generally just don't care to spend time with him, which leaves one lonely, sad old man with a good many regrets. About 3/4 of the way through, Chris and I were wondering if 9:30pm was too late to drive 2 1/2 hours to pick up our kids and immediately start being better parents. There's something about seeing parents of grown-up kids thinking nostalgically of days gone by, when their kids were young and sweet and loved them so much, that makes me want to hug and squeeze and kiss and play with my kids for about 15 hours straight. Of course, once I actually have the opportunity, I lose that resolve in about 15.7 minutes.

So, once we made a pact to be the world's best parents and never squander another opportunity to smother our children with love, we went to sleep. The strange and satisfying thing about this sleep was that it was not interrupted at 6am by someone tugging on my arm saying "Cereal" or by a little monkey climbing on my head. I was actually a little disoriented when I woke up, turned over, and saw 8:30 on my alarm clock. My brain was in overload, thinking "Where am I? Who am I? Am I late for something? Did someone kidnap my children or are they unconscious?" Then the realization hit me that I was child-free and had just enjoyed over eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, and I just smiled and basked in the moment. Once we got our lazy selves up out of bed, we did a lot of time-wasting, followed by a little exercise, neighbor-meeting, and yard work. When my back had had all it could take and my stomach was screaming, "You're pregnant! You can't go this long without eating!", I headed inside to get cleaned up. Then we found ourselves wandering aimlessly, wondering what in the world we were supposed to do next.

Why is it that pretty much everyday of my life I say to myself, "If only I had more time, I could do...." but then, when that time presents itself, that whole long list of things I was going to do with it has vanished out of my head? So, we headed out of the house rather aimlessly, and ended up at Lowe's to get an estimate on how much it will cost to complete our next big home project. After being quite disappointed at the price tag which, at $400+, was about $395 over what we actually have on hand to contribute to it, we moseyed on over and looked at grills, which are also about $395 over what we'd like to spend on one. So, I made myself feel better by buying some pretty new lantana to bring home, sit in my basement, and use as a topic of nagging until Chris plants it for me. I supposed I could plant it myself, but isn't that what a husband is for? To plant and water the flowers so that I can later look at them in satisfaction and think what a lovely homemaker I am for beautifying our home both inside and out?

We had found out that it was National Donut Day, so we had to do our part as patriots of this great nation and head down to the local Krispy Kreme to claim our free, hot, fresh donut. Then it was time for a quick refresher course for me on how to drive a stick shift car, which Chris recently purchased. That went fairly well, considering I didn't kill the engine or run into anything while trying to shift gears, so we celebrated by eating dinner at Taziki's. Yes, we actually got to eat out without taking five potty breaks, wiping 30 dirty fingers, saying "Be quiet and eat" 57 times, or ordering chicken fingers just so we could be economical and share food. It was quite delightful, and we found a new little restaurant that we like and will return to in 2017 when our kids are all out of town at the same time again.

Okay, I haven't even gotten to the eventful day yet and this is going on way too long, so I suppose I'll just have to summarize or risk losing all 7 of my blog-readers for good. On Saturday, we got up earlier and went to Pepper Place Farmer's Market, where we pretended to be well-to-do artsy people who know what to do with all the fresh, organic fruits and vegetables they were selling there. After purchasing our first peaches of the summer and some green tomatoes to fry up for dinner, we headed to Aldridge Gardens. We then continued our little charade as 'over-the-mountainers with our first child on the way' as we strolled through an art festival in the gardens. Since we were exploring how the other half lives, we made our way to Whole Foods, where we walked around and marveled at how much money some people spend on groceries. All this time, I'd thought I was high-fallutin' going to Publix (where I penny-pinch and try to save as much as I spend) while Publix is only high class compared to the Piggly Wiggly, evidently. We ate a yummy lunch at Newk's, where we finally found a family on the other side of town that had more than two children and one dog. Seriously, I had no idea you were supposed to put smocked clothing and monogrammed bibs on your children to go have a sandwich on a Saturday afternoon. So, Geranimals are out?

To end our 48+ hours of fantasy life, we went to the much-talked-about Yogurt Mountain. Let me say that this place is just tricky. First of all, they name the place Yogurt Mountain, so, before you even go in, you are subliminally expecting to consume a mountain of yogurt. Then, you actually go in and are immediatlely faced with a choice. Do I get the giant cup or the enourmous cup to put my mound of frozen dairy in? Hmmm, I guess I'll go giant. Next, you are faced with the task of choosing how many and which of the ridiculously large choice of flavors you will put in your giant cup. Of course, you have to get a sampling, which quickly fills up the bottom of your monstrous container. Being that it's self-serve, you aren't faced with the deterrent of having to shamefully ask another human being to fill up your monstrous cup. That might keep the amount of yogurt down a little. But, no. It's just you and the yogurt machines, so you pull those little handles to your heart's content. The choices have not ended. They have just begun. You must then decide which of the 153 toppings you will put on your frozen yogurt. This can be quite stressful because, while you want a sampling of so many, you still have to be sure that if they all end up mixed up in the bottom of your bowl they won't be a disgusting combination that ruins your whole experience. So, like any pregnant woman, I went for the chocolate. When I finally decide I can't add anymore and still maintain my dignity, we head up to the cashier. This is the really cruel part. You have to set your containers on this scale and then nervously watch the digital display go round and round, wondering what horrible figure it will come up with, since you pay by the ounce. Now, let me say that my and Chris's yogurt was on the scale at the same time since we were paying together, so I'm pretty sure it was all due to his yogurt that our dessert cost about the same as the lunch we'd just had.

Once we paid our enormous amount of money for a dessert I really could have fixed at home, we yanked our bowls off the scale and ran out the door before anyone could see how much we'd gotten. I comforted myself with the fact that I was pretty sure only Chris, the yogurt girl and myself had seen the final weight of our purchase, and surely yogurt girl has seen worse. Surely.

After we made complete pigs of ourselves, it was time for the best part of our two days of freedom. The end. The moment where our lives are made complete again when we retrieve a minivan full of tired, spoiled children who we just couldn't wait another moment to hug. It was smiles and hugs and thanks for Grandma and Grandpa (who I'm sure were very relieved to head home to a house with no munchkins) and smooches and squeezes for the three people who give our lives meaning. And we gladly headed home to endless days of diaper changes, whiny kids, cutting food into bite-sized pieces at every meal, wiping ketchup faces, giving baths, cooking, and breaking up fights. Because what are rare weekends of freedom really for but to remind us that it's all the days in between that are really the special ones.