Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Bird

November. My favorite month of the year. My favorite boots become a wardrobe staple once again, my crockpot use is on overload, I rediscover the fact that I really do like to bake after all, the trees are red and orange and yellow...it's one big pile of happiness. And my house? It loves Thanksgiving too. ;)
Or maybe it doesn't have a choice. Whatever. November is the month I try to make all about being thankful. That moment we pause and breathe for a bit....because we can. 
So I decorate big for Thanksgiving, keeping Christmas at bay for just a little while longer....not because I don't like Christmas. I LOVE Christmas. Also? I love this bird on the mantel, who I'm pretending is a baby turkey. ;)But I don't love that Thanksgiving is seemingly skipped over. It's important to be thankful. Purposefully thankful, and while it's something we try to work into the every day, we forget all the time. The toy catalogs are arriving in our mailbox daily...corners of pages are folded, gift wishes are circled and starred. I can't do much to stop that....well, I guess I could, but I won't. I have happy childhood memories of doing the same thing when I was a kid....going through that giant Sears catalog page by page. :) I don't want to squelch the magic of wishing and giving, so instead I spend this month trying to instill thankfulness into the hearts of our boys, so that when Christmas comes, it hopefully carries over.
I'm stepping things up this year. Getting a little more aggressive in the purposeful-ness. I downloaded this leaf template at www.marthastewart.com, then traced and cut about 25-30 leaves using basic cardstock. 
Then at dinner last night we took turns writing things down...serious thankfuls, silly thankfuls...all important though. 
Then I tied all of the leaves to this Blessings garland that is across our mantel this month.
My hope is that it will serve as a reminder of all we have to be thankful for...we've learned throughout our life together that there is always something to be thankful for, even if you have to look a little harder sometimes. While sometimes it's easy to think of something, it's during the times that are harder that I think we appreciate our thankfuls all the more. 
So even if you're one of those who are already full speed ahead into Christnas decorating, take time this month to remember what Thanksgiving is all about. It's more than pilgrims and Indians, the big, stuffed bird and pumpkin pie, and gearing up for Black Friday (which I love, btw)...take time to pause and breathe a little before then. 

*Disclaimer for all my non-crafty friends:  I'm a decorator. This kind of stuff is fun for me, and I love any excuse to decorate our home. BUT....there are other ways to do this. Make a list of thankfuls. Do a paper chain. Stick the leaves to a wall in your home. Or? Just talk about it at dinner, in the car, wherever.  How you do it is irrelevant. :) Happy November!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Love and Loss: A Summer Forever Etched in My Memory

This morning my dad called to check in, asking if we were going to actually slow down for these last couple weeks of summer.  I laughed and told him that yes, we had very little planned for this week and next, and that that was probably a good thing.  It's been a whirlwind of a summer, and although that wasn't my plan in the beginning, I'm so glad things worked out the way they have.
 Very early yesterday morning I watched as this girl, one of my best friends in the world, drove away, her minivan loaded down with luggage, crafty gear, and her 3 darling (and very sleepy) little girls, headed back home after spending a week here with us. I'm grateful for the sacrifice (of time, car mileage, and money) she made to make this happen.  I love that our children love each other like brothers and sisters.  I love that we are making memories with them, memories that they will carry into adulthood.  I love that Amanda understands as I do that we have to make the most of the moments we are given....and as overused as YOLO has become, that we share that theme when it comes to how we do life, and the experiences we want our families to have.
 Yes, it's been a fun summer.  A summer full of travels and family and friends.  It hasn't been a restful summer, but after a weekend of reserved downtime where I actually did nothing, I realized that I don't do well with nothing.  I truly do thrive in the chaos. I'm happier when there's a plan....when we're busy.  At the same time, I know the importance of quiet time....of being still. Sometimes during the still moments God shows us things that are we need to do differently.  Sometimes then He calls us to do something new...something that may seem scary.  So I think I use the busyness to avoid that.  It's unwise, so I'm working on being ok with the quiet, and the realization that God also uses those times to just let us rest and reflect on the good.  I'm learning to treasure those moments and crave them as much as I do the crazy-full-scheduled times. To find the balance between the two.  I have a ways to go with all that....but we're getting there. (**case in point: right now I'm blogging, and my house is in desperate need of cleaning.  You can call it procrastinating, or you can call it getting some much-needed downtime. It doesn't take away the fact that my house is a wreck, but I'm realizing that sometimes some things have to take a backseat.  Sometimes it's more important to sit here snuggled with my littlest guy while he has some chill time too.  Pretty sure I'm not going to regret this:)

Late Saturday night I received a text from my sister that my favorite radio jock had passed away very unexpectantly.  I'm heartbroken.  That may seem silly because I never had the opportunity to know Kidd Kraddick personally, but it's not silly to me.
 This guy has made a mark on my life.  He was a forerunner in my "Be the Good" lifestyle, and one of the inspirations for why I do it. I've listened to him since I was 11 years old.  I literally grew up with him as a staple in my morning routine.  Kidd was the funniest person on the radio. He and the rest of his morning show crew played a part in naming Hunter. After Harrison's insistence that our 3rd have an "H" name like he and Hud, they were talking about what a "hot" name Hunter was, and I was sold.  Lol...we had already chosen it, but that was good confirmation, right? ;) When we moved here over 3 years ago, I was so thankful to be able to listen to his morning show online each day.  I found comfort in all of their funny catch phrases...."Boogaloo!" and "Love yours!" (when a caller would say "love your show!), "Have a good circus!" and the thing that was said at the end of every show: "Keep looking up, because that's where it all is." It gave me a feeling of normalcy when so many things didn't feel normal yet. Especially during those first several months when I was so incredibly homesick, he made me feel like we were still home. It truly helped me adjust to living here, and I will forever be thankful to him for that. 

Kidd was also one of the most generous people I've ever had the opportunity to learn from.  His Kidd's Kids charity (you can learn more and take part here) has sent thousands of disabled and terminally ill kids and their families on an all expenses paid trip to Disney World for a magical week free of hospitals and tests and scary stuff every year for the past 21 years. He made a difference in so many lives....he taught me the importance of doing all I can to help others.  To not avoid difficult things...to face them head on.  To look at (instead of trying to avoid) people who are hurting, to smile and sincerely show that I care. To do what I can to help.  This is huge.
 Realizing today that he's brought another lesson to the surface, one I would rather not have to reminded of.  Life is short.  No one knows how much time we have.  This is the second reminder of this reality I've had this summer...two lives cut short. That in itself breaks my heart. We have to make the most of all of our moments.  To make our mark here.  It's why we are here.  When you stop to think about the scope of that responsibility, it's overwhelming.  Makes me want to shut down, crawl under my covers, and hide.  So I don't try to think too hard about it, instead trying to stay in tune with Jesus and trust Him to show me, one thing at a time.  Making myself be quiet, to listen for His voice...to make my walk with Him the priority. To take care of and love my family hard. To stand beside my husband and be a true partner in the ministry that God has called us to.  To make time for friends that need encouragement.  To push forward with this Save the Storks ministry that has quickly become near and dear to my heart.  To realize when I need to rest, to shut out the world for a bit, to give into my introvert-ness and not feel guilty about it. And to be on alert for when other opportunities arise that I can help with. If I can do this with the half the amount of humor and compassion that Kidd Kraddick did, then I think it has to be good, right?
 For these last couple weeks of summer we're going to make the most of our moments.  I'm not quite ready to have 7th, 4th, and 1st graders just yet.  We've got more pool time to have,
 more dreams to pursue,

 some football to play,
and yes, it's already time to hit the ball fields with this group of boys again.  Love this baseball family. :)

I encourage you to do the same...to treasure the moments that make your family yours. Listen to what your heart says....find your thing and do what you can to help make it better.  Just as important? Let yourself mess up.  Don't feel like everything has to be just right. Be quiet. Be funny.  Live big.  Love bigger.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Freeing Up the Gypsy

It's been another gypsy summer for us. Suitcases left in our bedroom between trips, waiting to be filled up again. Or in other words, I just didn't feel like lugging them back and forth between there and our basement every time. ;)  It's been a happy, busy kind of summer, spending most of it in other places, away from home.  We've loved every minute of getting to travel, seeing places we've never seen before, with people we love very much.  Living away from our family and lifelong friends is hard, and I've learned how important quality time really is.  We don't kid around any more....taking advantage of opportunities to see each other, to travel together, to make quick weekend trips to celebrate milestones, watch baseball tournaments, to allow for an anniversary getaway....yes, quality time has taken on a whole new meaning for us now.

It's also been (another) summer of life lessons for me. Something I have fought, and am still fighting a little....but slowly learning the beauty that lies within feeling completely free on the inside. Worry and fear have been a lifelong struggle with me....I'm a helicopter mom, a worried wife, a nervous Nellie in the truest sense of the word.....and it's what I dislike the most about myself.
Earlier this month my mom and I took the boys to Florida.  It was H3's turn for the summer-after-kindergarten-trip-to-Legoland (a Mimi and Papa tradition). :) We spent a few heavenly days in a hotel on the beach (my version of heaven on earth). The timing didn't work out well with my Dad's work, so I ended up going with my mom to take the boys.  An unexpected vacation for me, and although I was bummed for my dad that he didn't get to go (they would have had so much fun all together), I was thankful for this extra time with my mom.  And although it rained on us during most of the week (which provided some of the best moments of the trip, oddly enough) we were blessed with a few hours of sun on the day we'd set aside to spend on the beach. In between building sand castles with the boys, and playing in the water with them, searching for shells, I had a few moments to relax in a cozy loungechair and reflect.
My favorite thing about the ocean is watching the tide come in. I'm amazed by how the water knows when to stop. I love how it washes everything away, smoothing out the sand....making everything new again. Ready for fresh footprints. More sandcastles to be built. Little treasures left behind for us to search for...each shell prettier than the last. 

So I sat and took in all of this, watched my boys happily playing, and felt the most relaxed and worry-free that I have in a very long time. And even when that was interrupted by a minor emergency (Hud got cut by some rocks),  even that was somewhat miraculous when a total stranger stepped up to help me while Mom ran to get band aids. God was smiling on us....reminding me that while He's controlling how far the water comes in, He's also giving us some gorgeous sunshine, while at the same time showing me that there are still good people in the world who are willing to drop everything to help when they see a need. 

He's the ultimate multi-tasker.  :)

And yet, even as I'm reminded of all of this, I still try so desperately to hold on to everything God's given me....to control, to check and double-check that the people in my world are ok....so much so that I'm consumed with worst-case-scenario when I can't. At some point after becoming a mom, I convinced myself that responsible parenting = control-freak parenting. That if I wasn't worried that I obviously didn't care. 
There's got to be a happy medium here. Somehow it has to be possible to be caring and responsible without letting the worry of what could go wrong completely consume me. Anyone out there want to help a girl out?!?

And so my greatest fear is that my ridiculous worrying is going to ruin these boys that God, in all His wisdom, (I keep reminding myself of this) blessed B and me with. God picked me to be a boy mom. To raise these 3....these amazing, sweet, rambunctious, hilarious, creative, testosterone-fueled little men-in-the-making...into just that. Men. 

I really don't want to mess that up.

I've had opportunities to be pushed out of my comfort zone a few times this summer. Most of those times involved our oldest. 

He's been a world traveler this summer...going to London with B's mom, staying behind with baseball friends in Tennessee while B and I traveled back and forth to be there for his games, flying by himself to Texas and back for extra grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins time...yes, plenty of opportunities for me to come to grips with the fact that I can't always be there to hover and make sure he's ok. 

Was I good at it? Nope. 

But I got better. Or rather, I'm getting better. 

I found myself checking in less than normal (for me) but more like a normal person would ;) as this summer has gone on. More proof? Hud is finally going to play tackle football this season...something he's been asking to do for a couple years. I kept using the excuse that he needed to be older, but who am I kidding? I needed to trust. 
I'm still trying to figure out that balance of responsible parenting vs. relaxed parenting. I have a ways to go, and any advice/prayers/wisdom would be greatly appreciated and taken to heart. 

But if there's anything I have truly learned, or rather realized through all of this, it's that I learn more and am so much more in tune with God when I shut off all the background noise. 

After this weekend, I'm taking an indefinite break from the internets. ;) I miss the stillness of sitting with a good book. The pure happy on my boys' faces while we play a game or watch a movie together. And I'm never going to find any real fulfillment from how many "likes" I get on a Facebook post. I'm tired of letting my phone run my life, and we only have about 3 weeks of summer left. Gotta soak it up. 
                 (Mimi and Harrison:)

There's this 1000 piece Coca-Cola puzzle sitting unfinished on our kitchen table right now. At this rate we're never going to have a meal at that table again if we don't knock this thing out. And then we will have to glue it together to hang on the wall, because this thing is going to take a village to finish, and then we're going to celebrate big. A glorious reminder that we're not quitters. That we can do hard things. ;) Hopefully for me it will serve as a reminder of what I learned this summer. 
I have some quiet moments on the porch with my Jesus to catch up on, some friends to meet for coffee, some scrap booking to do, a couple books to finish, some phone conversations with loved ones to have, and some evenings of cozy talks with the hubs on the couch to enjoy. 

The suitcases are back in the basement. The memories are filed away in my mind and heart (and hopefully soon, in our family books too). Ready to make the most of these next weeks....letting my boys be boys, sitting back to watch God work....trusting He will show me in the quiet places just how to be the wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend He wants me to be. The one they all need me to be. 

Freed up gypsy? Here I go. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

For Love of the Game

This week the boys and I are in Texas for Spring Break.  Our break is late...really late.  But the nice thing about that is that we're the only ones here that are on break now, so no crowds anywhere.  Looking forward to a fun week with family and friends...missing B and wishing he was here with us. 

It's been awhile since I've really felt stirred up about anything.  Since I felt that I had anything to write about.  But being back in our home state this weekend, surrounded by the near-constant news stories about opening day of baseball and all the Hamilton drama...well, let's just say I'm feeling inspired. ;)  Typically I'm itching to be at Opening Day for my beloved Texas Rangers.  This year I was okay with not being there.  Not to say I liked missing the game...I love every chance to be at the stadium.  It's magical. But this time was different.
Baseball.  It's in our blood.  Both sides of my family~ my Dandy (who, if I could brag about him for a minute, was asked to come to the St. Louis Cardinal's spring training to pitch. His father's negative reaction led him to join the Army instead...which was a blessing b/c it led him to meet my Momo, marry her, and start a family....but seriously.  How cool is that?!?) grew up playing with his brothers on their farm.  My dad? Amazing.  My cousins on both sides? Studs. :) Brian's dad played on a championship team, and it was B's favorite sport to play growing up (and still is now)....he's greatness too.  I have many happy memories of backyard ball games with my family, and played softball growing up.  So yes...it's in our blood.  And while we have never forced our boys to love or play it, I think it's just "in" them too.  They can't help it. ;)

When Hunter (pictured here at age 2) heard the news that his favorite player (Josh Hamilton) had accepted the offer to play for the Angels, he was heartbroken.  Yes, my 6-yr-old sobbed.  For him, it was personal. At first he was angry at him, but after a few days to process the news, he came to me and said he was going to be ok with it. Then a couple weeks later he asked if he could have an Angels shirt (with Hamilton's name and number on the back) and hat for his birthday.  It was the only thing he asked for.  As his parents, and fellow fans, we too were sad. We wanted Hamilton to stay with the Rangers.  And buying that shirt for Hunter felt weird.  And wrong. What were we supposed to do?  Tell him no, that he wasn't allowed to be a fan anymore?  That would be ridiculous.  So...a couple clicks later on Amazon, and his gift was on its way.  When Hunter opened the shirt and hat on his birthday, he lit up. He wanted to wear it right away.  And I watched him, the one who had so passionately mourned the loss of his baseball hero to another team, make a complete turnaround.  

And something clicked with me.

 As a mom, it's my job to teach the boys a never-ending list of things.  How to choose right from wrong. The importance of loving and accepting others. How to share, to be hard workers, to be kind to everyone, to always do your best. To forgive when others say or do something wrong or hurt us. To be patient. And the list goes on and on. And on. 

What blows me away is how very much they continue to teach me.
 Tonight we were watching the 3rd game in the Rangers/Angels series.  Hunter was sitting front and center,and I was just a few feet away from him. I watched as he saw Hamilton come up to bat.  Hunter sat up straight, his face lit up as Hamilton squared up to the plate.  And then I watched that same little face fall as he started to listen to the (ridiculously loud) booing come from the television. He didn't understand what in the world was going on, and you could see the hurt and confusion on his face.  He just wanted to watch his favorite player hit the ball.  That was it. He has no idea what is being said in the papers, online, on Facebook....he just wanted to watch a ballgame. And as his mom, I wanted to protect him from the ugliness he was watching on tv. I wanted to help him understand why it was happening....but I found it hard to put the right words together.  How exactly do you explain to a kindergartner that a bunch of grownups are saying a bunch of dumb, mean stuff to each other, and the fans at the game wanted to make sure Hamilton knew that he was unwelcome there?  I wasn't sure, so I smiled at him and told him it was okay to cheer for Josh and hope he crushed the ball. 
 My personal feelings? They go something like this: It's tough to be a Josh Hamilton fan right now. He has said some stupid stuff in the past several weeks. His filter needs some work, and my honest opinion is that he needs to close his mouth, because it's just making it worse.  And while I agree with some of what he said, it doesn't mean he should have said it.  That whole "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" saying? That one's important to remember, no matter what. At the same time,  I'm embarrassed to be a Ranger fan...more embarrassed of that if I'm being honest. The words that were being shouted at him, the signs in the stands that I read...they were brutal. My hope for these games was that the fans would be inspired to cheer as loud as they could for the Rangers.  Not that they would throw the very things Josh Hamilton probably hates the most about himself right back in his face. Not that they would show more passion than I've ever seen at any other game, in effort to make the guy they've turned against feel unwanted.  He got the message, I promise.   What bothers me the most was the example that was set for my boys tonight as they watched the game.  

Do you know what inspired me tonight though? It was after Hamilton hit a double and later was standing at 2nd base, talking to Elvis Andrus.  It was obvious that all of this nonsense hadn't impacted their relationship.  That to them it was all part of the game...part of their job. I know I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it was clear that they were having a moment.  Something I hope encouraged Josh's heart. And Elvis' too...I'm sure it was distracting and disheartening for all of the players to have to focus on the game with that going on.

And watching that took me back to what Hunter had taught me back in January. 
Change is inevitable. Unfortunately, so is disappointment. How we handle that disappointment?  That's huge.  Learning to let things roll is something I'm striving for.  Passion is important.  Being passionate about a sport, a hobby, a team...that can be fun. But being passionate about giving grace and kindness and love?  Even when it's hard and it doesn't seem deserving?  That's what it's all about.

Yes, I love this game.

And yes, I'm somehow managing to be a Texas Rangers fan while at the same time being a Josh Hamilton fan.  

Even if it is a confusing feeling right now....lol

 Because he's a great ball player.  One of the greatest of all time.  He's not perfect, and there have been times he's choked when we've really needed him to pull through.  There are so many more great moments though, and I'm choosing to remember all he did to help make his time with the Rangers incredible. But it's his story of grace and forgiveness that made me a fan 5+ years ago, and I'm not about to jump off the bandwagon because things have gotten complicated.  It's my hope that he turns things around and uses that for good again, no matter what uniform he's wearing.

But no matter what, at the end of the day....

.....it's just baseball, right? 


And to quote the great Ron Washington, "That's how baseball go."
So let's all take a deep breath and move on.  It's time.

For love of the game.  Yes.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Freshening Up

Yesterday the renovations on the inside of our house were finished, and we are so excited, and so happy with the results.  When we moved into this house 3 years ago, we were in love with the floor plan and the neighborhood, not so much in love with the inside of the house.  But B and I are a good team, and thankfully we have very similar taste, so deciding what we wanted to do was easy.  Being able to implement those ideas required patience, but it was definitely worth the wait.
We had the hardwood floors replaced (Hi Addy!;)

The counter tops were replaced with a solid surface material called Hi-Macs, and we re-tiled the backsplash ourselves.  B and I had a cute little helper. :)

 Last, we had the cabinets repainted.  When we painted the kitchen green after first moving in, it was with the intention of painting the cabinets black.  This before pic is not great, but hopefully you can tell that they were a natural finish, which wasn't the look we were going for. 

 I have to admit that the kitchen is my new favorite place to be now. :) 

 Spring is trying to make itself known here, but winter isn't ready to let go yet.  I thought maybe making a little something new for the front door might inspire the seasons to get themselves straightened out.  We'll see.

For those of you wondering about our Be the Good challenge, please know that it is still on.  Because I'm a dreamer and my dreams aren't always all that practical, we had to scale things back a bit.  Instead of one day full of acts of kindness, we decided it was best to do one thing a month.  That way more of us were able to participate, and we get to spread the love on a regular basis.

For this month's project, we decided to feed our little birdie friends.  This winter is holding on for dear life, and we thought maybe those little guys were needing a little extra help. 

Last Friday several of our group got together outside and made these bird feeders out of apple slices, peanut butter, and birdseed.  We then took them to a nearby park and let the kids run off some energy while decorating the trees with their feeders. :)

Hopefully the local birds have full tummies now. :) We'll be planning our April project soon.

Last Saturday was opening season for baseball....how much we love this time of year. :)
And then we headed to church for the big Outdoor Expo that my hubs heads up each year...so fun!
This year the head football coach for the Georgia Bulldogs, Mark Richt, was the guest speaker, and the boys (especially Hud) were so excited to meet him.  Coach Richt has a wonderful testimony and it was so cool to hear his story.  Made us love those dawgs even more. ;) Hud was able to get his football signed and it now proudly sits in a special display case on his dresser. And now his questions about starting tackle football in the fall have gotten a little more persistent. ;)  I think it's time.