Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Waiting for It to Get Easier

I didn't want to write this post.  A lot of people with better thought out arguments or more researched opinions have already written this post. The news has shifted. Parents who held their children more tightly this weekend quickly pecked them on the cheek this morning as they fell back into the routine of packing lunches, checking backpacks for homework folders, and chastising kids for messy rooms making it impossible to find matching shoes, glasses, gloves, or scarves.

Most of us are ready to move on with our lives.

We are still sad.

We are still angry.

When we stop and think about the 26 people killed, more specifically, the 20 children killed, we can't help but be over come with emotion.

So mostly, we are ready to stop thinking about it.

And I didn't want to write this post.

But here I am.  Computer open. Typing. Maybe because the little four year old boy playing on the floor makes it impossible for me to forget that 20 families are staring at floors in their houses that are void of toys that just last week they were cursing about tripping over.

Maybe it is because I spent 13 years working in school districts, writing crisis plans, and training school administrators what to do in case of various emergency situations.  Like if a shooter enters the building.

Maybe it's because I am one of those parents who held onto my children extra tight all weekend and then gave my daughter a quick peck on the cheek as I sent her off to her third-grade class this morning.

Maybe it's because I keep hoping if I look at this in a different way, if I think of it from a different perspective, if I read enough blog posts, or see enough motivational pictures or scriptures, if I hug my children enough times, or if I just stop and mediate, it will get easier.

Easier to understand. Easier to swallow.  Easier to make sense of something so senseless.  Easier to keep believing in a God who is good and who is big enough to stop someone from walking into an elementary school and shooting 26 people, 20 children, but who did not.

It isn't getting easier.

In fact, the more I look at it, the more I think about it, the more I stare at my four year old, the harder it is to understand.  The harder it is to make sense of anything.

The harder it is to believe.

Weeks like this challenge my faith. They send me running to God screaming "Why?" and "How could you?" and "Where were you?"  "CHILDREN!"

Weeks like this leave me filled with disdain for some of my fellow man and grace and mercy for others. Weeks like this all of the sudden make me think of all of the other injustices in the world; places where children die due to lack of drinking water, genocide, AIDS. Most days I don't give any of these things a second thought.  I flip past any news stories or specials, because come on, they are depressing. And they are  oceans away and have no direct effect on my life.

But this week, when I'm questioning everything that is good in the world, I question all of these things.

And I question God.

And I wait for a voice that sounds like James Earl Jones (because that is what I assume the voice of God sounds like), but the voice never comes.

God doesn't tell me why.

But He does remind me (in a whisper, not a JEJ voice), that He doesn't have to.

Job 38:4-18 (New Living Translation)4 "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. 5 Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying? 6 What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone 7 as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? 8 "Who defined the boundaries of the sea as it burst from the womb, 9 and as I clothed it with clouds and thick darkness? 10 For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. 11 I said, 'Thus far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!' 12"Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? 13 Have you ever told the daylight to spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night's wickedness? 14 For the features of the earth take shape as the light approaches, and the dawn robed in red. 15 The light disturbs the haunts of the wicked, and it stops the arm that is raised in violence. 16 "Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you walked about and explored their depths? 17 Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom? 18 Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know!
I didn't really like His answer. I don't ever really like it when God reminds me that He is God and I am not. But it did remind me that even if I didn't like the answer, He was still God.  He was still in control. He is still here.

It reminded me of all the times when I was a little girl and other kids were mean to me.  My dad would come home from work and I would climb up into his lap and tell him how awful my day was.  Then, with tears in my eyes, I would tell him, "It just isn't fair daddy."

And he would wrap his arms around me and say, "No, baby, it isn't."

And that's exactly what I told God. "Someone walking into a school and shooting twenty-six people, twenty of them little children, God, it just isn't fair."

And as He wraped His arms around me, I heard Him reply, "No it isn't, Kristen. No, it isn't."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Waiting for a Little More Crazy

I've always loved Christmas.

More specifically, I've always loved Christmas trees. Maybe it's because I'm from Montana and there we just call them trees.

Many of my fondest memories of choosing a Christmas tree revolve around my brother, my dad and me wandering through a series of evergreen trees while my we tried to come an agreement on a tree that not only Jason and I approved of, but that my dad, who apparently had better spacial sense than we did, figured would fit into our living room.  This took some doing, as my brother and I are both perfectionists when it comes to choosing the perfect tree.  There is a certain symmetry that must exist on at least three sides, along with a deep green color, and branches sturdy enough to hold lights (the old fashioned giant - one goes out, we all go out- lights), garland, ornaments, and at least four boxes of tinsel. Basically a tree had to be able to hold a family of giant possums on each and every branch to stand up to the kind of decorating it would be subject to at our house.

The biggest argument came down to size.  It went like this. We would find the perfect tree and my dad would (patiently) explain that our house did not have 35 foot ceilings, and as much as he would like to climb 28 feet up the tree to cut off the top seven feet, he was neither a lumberjack, nor crazy, and we were going to have to pick another tree.  This usually went on for about two hours before we finally found one that was closer to twelve feet, which was still five feet to tall, but doable.

I honestly didn't even know they made such a thing as artificial trees until I came to Texas to attend college. If I would have known most 95% of the state had fake Christmas trees, I probably would have ended up in Michigan. As the years went on, I continued to defy the artificial tree racket in Texas and buy a real tree each year.  But something happened to my tree trimming tradition the farther I got from home. I stopped stringing popcorn, and the garland disappeared completely.  My ornaments became color coordinated, and I couldn't even tell you if they make tinsel anymore. My last semester of college, which happened to be the one year I lived by myself, I stood back and looked at my finished tree and thought it was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen.  Mind you, this was before Facebook, before Pinterest.  I'm not even sure if Martha Stewart was a household name.  But I had created this amazing tree, perfectly symmetrical, and not just the tree, but the placement of the ornaments.  The colors and lights (not the outside kind), were all coordinated and just stunning if I do say so myself. And I do.

I loved that tree.

Then I got married.

To a Texan.

A Texan who did not understand my love of real trees. Our first Christmas I had to make the dreaded call to my father telling him that....we had.... bought....an....artificial tree.

To this day it is the only time my dad has hung up on me.

But still, Richie and I made our metal and plastic tree as beautiful as you can make a, you know, metal and plastic tree.  By that time, adding ribbon to your tree had become in vogue and someone made us an amazing bow to top the tree.  We started a tradition of decorating our tree in a different theme each year, to reflect that year in our lives, or you know, just because.  When UNT went to the New Orleans Bowl the first year (oh, how long ago), we did a Mardi Gras tree with masks and feathers.  The year our daughter was born the tree was adorned in all pink.

And then something else happened.

Our daughter grew into a toddler.

She wanted to help decorate the tree.

My tree.

If you have small children or if you have ever seen a tree decorated by small children you know how it goes. First, you put up all of the ornaments that can break, which by this point are most of them, because you have been collecting all of these awesome ornaments for years.  Then, you start handing the small child all of the unbreakable ornaments, which he or she proceeds to hang.

On the same branch.

Every single ornament.

On the same branch.

It doesn't matter if you encourage the child to move to the other side of the tree. It doesn't matter if you pick up the child and physically move the child to the other side of the tree or hold the child up so they can reach a high branch.  It is as if the child is drawn to that one and only branch. So every ornament the child touches gets put on that branch.

Interestingly, if you have two small children, they will both be attracted to the same branch.  I'm not sure why this happens, but it is true.  I have seen up to five children all hanging ornaments on the same branch.

I give props to artificial trees on this point.  Thanks to their titanium innards, their branches hold up to the barrage of ornaments much better than real trees. We have seen it go both ways, as Richie and I came to an agreement in order to save our marriage, which is I get a real tree every three years, or on years when I have a baby.

Once you have children, not only are all of the ornaments bunched up on one branch, but the small children (we now have two), start bringing home "ornaments" they made at daycare, preschool, kindergarten, church, in the back yard, during nap, and anywhere else they have a hook, some paste, and some clay type substance.  I think we have one that is made of used bubble gum and a paper clip that one of the kids tried to pass off as a shooting star.

So as the kids started "helping" decorate the tree, I did what every proud and loving mother does; I waited until they went to sleep and re-decorated it.  I re-distributed all of the ornaments, moving the less desirable ornaments to the lesser viewed side and using ribbon to hide some of the imperfections. The kids don't notice.  The tree looks great.

Everyone wins.

This year is a real tree year in the Escovedo house (every third year - not a baby year) and to my credit, I let the kids pick it (with just a tad of guidance).  And can I just say, it must be in their genes, because they picked an amazing tree. And they are getting the hang of decorating too.  They are eight and four this year and I am to the point where I am starting to enjoy reminiscing as I look at the decorations made in kindergarten and Santa pictures from prior years.

As I sat last night with the Christmas lights on I looked at the tree and then down at our daughter my heart was so full as I said to her, "I think you did an awesome job.  I really think this is our most beautiful tree yet.  What do you think?"

Long pause.

"Anna, what do you think?  Do you not like the tree?"

"It's not that I don't like it. I just think there is something missing mommy."

"What?  What is it?  What do you think is missing? Does it need more lights? Ribbon?"

"Hmmmm... It just needs....I don't know.  Well, it needs more Ryan.  It needs a little more crazy. It just doesn't quite look like, well, us."

As I looked at our beautiful, symmetrical, color coordinated tree, I realized she was absolutely right.

It didn't look like us. 

We are not symmetrical, nor are we ever color coordinated.  We are, well, a little more crazy.

So tonight, she and Ryan got to work fixing the tree.  Out came the foam, scissors, tape, and markers. I watched and they worked carefully putting together ornaments that just a year ago I would have hidden in the back, but tonight I let them proudly hang right in the front where everyone would be sure to see them.

Because thinking back on my childhood Christmas trees, the joy in my memories is not because they were perfect.

It was because they had a little more Kristen.

They had a little more crazy.

I won't have imperfect trees forever, so you can bet your elves I am going to enjoy every bubble gum shooting star ornament while I can.

Turns out, they are priceless.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Waiting to spout fangs

Saturday morning, a miracle happened.  After three and a half months of grueling Texas heat, a cold front blew through, bringing rain and temperatures cool enough for us to give our AC a much needed rest and open up the windows.

As the cool air blew through the house, the kids played in the back yard squealing with delight, and I could almost taste fall. 

Right up until that invisible hammer grabbed what I can only assume was a tent stake or railroad tie and jammed it under my right eyelid and directly up into my brain.

And just like that, my perfect Saturday became a migraine Saturday.  But unlike most migraine days, this one came with an amazing revelation.  As a quickly wrapped a blanket around my head and ran for the back bedroom to shield my eyes from the hideous light of the day star I was all of the sudden struck with the similarities between people suffering from chronic migraines and vampires.

I realize comparison may seem like a stretch for some of you, so cut me some slack and hear me out.  If you have never experienced a migraine or aren't closely related to someone with chronic migraines, this post probably isn't worth the next five minutes of your time.  But, if you are like me and have 3-5 migraines a week, or if you are like my husband and have to live with someone with chronic migraines, keep reading.  If you have seen as many doctors as I have,  you've probably heard stranger diagnoses.

Chronic Migraineurs Vs. Vampires
A completely non-scientific study completed while lying in a dark room after taking migraine medicine in the middle of a migraine. Results should in no way be substituted for actual advice from real doctors or real vampires.

Sleeping Habits
Both migraineurs and vampires prefer to sleep in dark, cold, quiet places. On most days, both creatures will shield their eyes from the sunlight at all costs.  While they are sleeping, they prefer not to be disturbed.  In fact, disturbing either a migraineur or a vampire while they have retreated to their dark, cold quiet place could very well unleash an unpleasant monster on the unsuspecting victim.

Social  Habits
Both migraineurs and vampires tend to feel most at ease when they are around their own kind.  I believe this to be true because it prevents them from having to make excuses for or lie about who they are. And every one around them understands that they may look fine at one minute and at the next they may disappear completely.  Also, among their own kind, it isn't considered rude to back out of a commitment at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances.

Sensitivities While the two creatures do not display sensitivities to the same items, both creatures can be completely disarmed by items that one would find quite simple to make or acquire.  For instance, vampires are thought to be sensitive to garlic, holy water, crosses, and wooden stakes. Migraineurs, on the other hand, can be taken out of commission by the scent of  perfume or a candle. Caffeine, chocolate, weather changes, artificial sweeteners, and the big one, red wine will also completely knock out a migraineur for as long as 48 hours.

Vampires are frozen at the age in which they were created, so some get to keep the good looks of the prime of their lives while others are stuck in a pre-pubesent body and still others would have been ready for the retirement home.  But their bodies become perfect specimens of whatever their age.

I can only speak for myself, but I have had chronic migraines for 8 years and I look like I've aged about 20 years during that time. Many days I could pass for one of the undead - although probably more in the zombie than vampire category.  So chalk one up for the vampires in the win column in this particular category.

If recent teen movies and Ann Rice books are to be believed, vampires have the option of leading a rather long and normal life (now that Abraham Lincoln is no longer tracking them).  They do, however, have to continue the nasty habit of drinking blood in order to survive.  And I am both ashamed and proud to admit I have not seen all of the Twilight movies, but I think they may have some type of werewolf issue to work out. 

Migraines, on the other hand, are not life threatening, although they are, I content, life altering.  This is especially true when they are chronic, which means you get more than a few headaches a week and your headaches prevent you from normal function.  So, we too must partake in our own nasty habits, including regular doctor visits, trying new medications, as they are continually releasing new preventative and abortive medicines for migraine sufferers.  There are also plenty holistic options out there including acupuncture (kinda vampiric), neuro-massage, and herbal therapy.  Make sure you let your doctor know any new treatments that you start.

Going back
There are a few books I've read and movies I've seen where the vampire wants to become mortal again. I've never met a migraineur who doesn't want to give up his or her migraines. And like their undead friends, most migraineurs will pay almost any price to get there.  That is why we try any new drug, any new treatment, this herb that helped our cousin's hairdresser's friend, yoga, green tea, etc.

And if I ever meet some clear skinned, shiny eyed man who promises me my migraines will go away if I just drink a spoonful of a thick red substance, you better believe I would think twice about it*.  And after you've had a tent stake pounded into your eye for 13 days, throwing up until your stomach is so raw you have nothing left to throw up, so you just lie on the bathroom floor waiting to die, you would think twice about it too.

Because getting rid of the migraines would be amazing.

But having fangs.  Now that would be epic.
*Before all of my sweet Christian friends get angry, know that this post was written in good fun.  I don't actually believe in vampires.  I don't desire to become a vampire, and I am not teaching my children that they should wish that vampires would come make mommy's head feel better.  This is my sense of humor, otherwise known as my coping mechanism.  I think when God allows us a time of suffering, he also allows us a time of laughter.  I've been sad long enough.  Time to laugh.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Waiting for God to Show Up

I don't know the average times each person hits rock bottom during his or her life.  For me, it's been just a handful.  I would guess that is probably below average.

The first time it happened I was 15.  My first love broke up with me, and of course I was devastated. I survived it as well as any 15 year old survives heartbreak; a lot of Bon Jovi, raw cookie dough, and hours on the phone with my girlfriends (this was pre-text era).

Two weeks later, he attempted suicide. He took a bottle of some kind of pills and put a knife through his stomach (the details were kind of fuzzy). All I knew was he was in the hospital and I couldn't see him.  Oh yeah, and that my name was in the suicide note.

I know sometimes people say in crisis situations time stands still.  For me, days played out in fast forward.  First seeing the school counselor, then a therapist my mom took me to, non stop headaches, constantly throwing up, seeing a doctor who thought perhaps I had a brain tumor so he ordered a CAT scan. Turns out it was just stress.Writing endlessly in the journal that I titled Suicide 101 (as suggested by the second therapist). Skipping class to sit in the band hall and cry. Then going home to cry more.

Then one night, sitting in church (my dad being a pastor, I spent most of my nights in church), having absolutely no idea what had been sang or said, I just walked out.  Our sanctuary was on the second floor and I walked down the stairs aiming for the biting January air.  It was freezing, but at least I would feel something besides this pain and guilt that left me struggling to breathe.  I got as far as the bottom star and completely collapsed.  Exhausted from not sleeping, my body listless from lack of nourishment, drowning in guilt. And so angry.  So I did what anyone filled with anger would do. I started yelling at God.  "Why?  What is the point of all of this?  I have done nothing for the last 15 years but what I thought you wanted me to do.  I have gone where you wanted me to go, stayed away from things I thought were wrong.  I have shown compassion. Loved.  I have believed in you.  I have loved you.  So why the hell is this happening?  Where are you right now?"

And then, God showed up.

I couldn't see Him.  No Charlton Heston voice filled my ears.  In fact if any one would have walked down those stairs, all they would have seen is a 15 year old crying her eyes out.  But all of the sudden I was crying in the arms of my Father. I had no answers. I had no miracle.  But He showed up.  And eventually I walked back up the stairs and into my life.

The next time it happened was a few years after Richie and I got married, and we decided to try to start a family.  We had an easy (and fun) time trying to get pregnant and it happened quickly.  We were almost through our first trimester (12 weeks) when we went in for our first sonogram.  As I lay on the table, I could see the doctor's cheerful disposition begin to change as she searched for our baby's heartbeat.  She kept looking, but there was no use.  She told us our baby had probably stopped growing at about eight weeks.

But I hadn't had any symptoms of a miscarriage,  I told her. I had no bleeding, no cramping.  Nothing.  This can't be right.  She couldn't be right.  I could see the baby on the screen.  There had to be some mistake.

But there was no mistake.  There was no heartbeat.  And we would have no baby.

Rock bottom this time turned out to be our bathroom floor.  The door locked with me sobbing hysterically and Richie on the other side pleading with me to open the door and come out. I told him I couldn't.  I just knew that somehow I had killed our baby. Something I ate, something I didn't eat.  An exercise I did or didn't do. Vitamins I took. The ones I didn't take. The cross country car trip.  We had our sono too late.  I wasn't sure how, but I was sure I killed our baby.  And I was sure God let it happen.  So I started yelling again. Where the hell was He?  If He loved me, if He loved our baby, why did He let this happen?  God if you are here, why don't you want me to be a mother? Why did you let my baby die?  Why don't I even have the strength to get up off the floor?

And just then, He showed up. 

He cried every tear with me there in that tiny bathroom.  He assured me that my pain was neither in vain nor was it foreign to Him.  He knew exactly what it was like to lose a son. His heart was breaking with mine, but He knew that I would survive this pain, no matter how deep and raw, because He would not let me fail. And eventually, He pulled me up off the bathroom floor and back into my life.

My most recent visit to the bottom of the rock pile was last weekend starting with a trip to the Emergency Room.  Surprisingly that was not my low point.  The low point came almost a week later after an insurance mix up and some communication challenges with doctors and medication changes left me with nothing to treat my migraines. The combination of withdrawing from one kind of medication to start another, while at the same time catching a cold from the kids and constant nausea preventing me from eating for a week -- that wasn't even enough to knock me down (it gets harder to knock you down the more often you are there, I think).

But at some point I realized, even when the insurance and doctors got it all straightened out, I would be right back where I started.  It's like I'm patching a bullet hole with a band-aid. I am not getting better. I spent four days telling myself what a horrible mother and wife I am.  How all of this must somehow by my fault.  Well meaning friends and family often say things like, "Have you tried this herb?"  or "Maybe you should cut out chocolate or try acupuncture?"  And it isn't that I don't appreciate suggestions.  It is just that what I hear them saying is "This is your fault,"  "This is your fault,"  "This is all your fault."

This time, rock bottom looked like a lot like a bench.  I decided to go for a walk Sunday night.  However, since I hadn't eaten in four days, I only made it about a block and a half to the front of our neighborhood.  Luckily there was a bench to sit on since that short walk left me feeling dizzy and nauseous.  As I sat there, once more yelling at God (perhaps when I am at rock bottom, I find it necessary to yell in order to make sure He hears me).  And then, I waited for Him to show up.

He didn't.

I walked back to the house in the throws of despair and drowning in self inflicted guilt ( See the pattern of guilt.  Guilt from the suicide. Guilt from the miscarriage.  Guilt from the health issues..)  Maybe this really was all my fault.  Maybe I had done something so wrong that God was no longer going to show up when I was desperate.

I got home just in time for the kids to go to bed.  Both claimed stomach aches, and I was too tired to argue, so I let them climb into bed with me. Their sweet little bodies pressed up to mine, soft even breaths, and the smell of pineapple shampoo still in their hair, I took a deep breath and wouldn't you know  . . .

God showed up.

"My child," He whispered.  "If you wouldn't have been so hurt all those years ago when your friend tried to take his life you would be tempted to take your own life when your physical pain gets unbearable. Instead, I know, without question, that no matter how much physical pain you face in this life, suicide is not an option for you because you understand the devastation it leaves on the other side.  And these babies you're holding in your arms.  The ones who bring you so much joy. The ones you would give your own life for.  You never would have known them if their sibling hadn't come home to live with me until you join us someday.

I am still here.

I know you don't understand the trials.

I know you are angry.

 And I know you wish your life was different.

 But there is work to be done here. And it can only be done by you. In this time. Exactly as you are."

Wherever you are today.  If you are on a high mountaintop or if you are standing (or lying face down like me) at rock bottom, God is there.  I know some of you reading this don't even believe in God.  That doesn't mean He isn't there. We are never going to understand suffering. Instead, we have to rely on God's character and believe it when He says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jer 29:11

Keep waiting and I promise, He will show up.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Waiting for the first day of school

I love the first day of school. Always have. When I was a student I was always excited.

As a administrator, I was always amazed.

Most people think that all people who work in education get summers off. But really, it is one of the busiest times of the year.

Administrators work to open new campuses or update older ones,  debate the merits of standardized dress and bell schedules. New staff are hired and trained. Existing staff are trained. Computer systems are updated. Crisis plans re-written.  We make sure we have processes in place to handle every new federal and state regulation.

Sometimes it seemed like we will never be ready in time. I recall years when we were opening new campuses and two days before school started there were still construction fences and port-a-potties in the parking lot.

One of my former superintendents always said, "Rain or shine, those kids are coming on the first day of school, and we will be ready."

He was always right.

There is a sort of standing joke amongst school PR pros that the goal of the first day of school is not to lose a kindergarten student. And I can assure you, if you watch the news tonight, some district out there lost one. Of course they didn't actually lose a student. A student got on the wrong bus, or rode home with a friend when he was supposed to walk. And the student was unaccounted for for about 30 minutes.

It happens to at least one district in the area every year.

And every year, the story you see on the 6 p.m. news on the first day of school is about the lost kindergarten student.

So let me tell you the first day of school stories you won't hear on the news tonight.

Over four million students showed up at one of the 1,265 Texas public school districts this morning.

Hundreds of thousands of parents were late to work this morning because they took the time to walk their students to their classes indicating a promise of involvement in their student's education.

Teachers, who have spent hundreds of dollars out of their own pocket and hundreds of hours of their own time preparing for today, welcomed every student with warm smiles and open arms.

Principals who spent the entire summer carefully orchestrating class lists and master schedules had to completely redo their hard work because parents waited until the first day of school to register their kids. Instead of begrudging those parents, each student was welcomed to their new classes with the same affection as the kids whose parents registered last spring.

Hundreds of thousands of students ate their first hot meal in months. Meals carefully planned and prepared in school cafeterias across the state.

Students who don't speak English were welcomed by teachers who are trained especially to make sure each of these students is successful.

Counselors, administrators, teachers and parents sat in conference rooms for hours crafting individual education plans to ensure the success of students with physical and learning challenges.

Librarians opened students' eyes to the wonders of Shakespeare, Dickens, and Harry Potter.

Senior citizens, business leaders, and community members signed up to mentor and tutor students who might need a little extra help.

Thousands of students started, not only their first day of high school, but the first day of college classes, giving them the opportunity to graduate four years from now with a high school diploma and a college degree or certification.

Fifth-grade students started projects that bring history, science, and math to life.

Custodians made 50 year old campuses look brand new.

Maintenance workers responded to calls about AC units, broken locks, and mosquitoes.

The teachers who we always hear are "teaching to the test" spent their entire day, teaching to their students.

Elementary principals spent half of their day consoling kindergarten students and the other half consoling kindergarten parents.

High school bands prepared for competitions.

Pep rallies were planned. For academics as well as athletics.

High school counselors helped kids plan for college.
So did middle school counselors.
So did kindergarten teachers.

At 9 p.m. tonight, thousands of teachers will just be leaving their classrooms because they want to make sure tomorrow is as special as today.

Across the state today, something amazing happened. Over four million students, representing every ethnicity, religion, country, income level and ability level were excited about learning.

Because parents, teachers, administrators, librarians, child nutrition workers, custodians, and bus drivers told them they could learn. And by learning, they could achieve their dream.

And with that, hundreds of thousands of dreams were born, cultivated, and achieved.

So when you hear about that kindergarten student who got on the wrong bus, take a minute and think about all the stories you didn't hear today.

And be amazed.
2012-2013 is going to be fantastic.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Waiting for 57 more

I've made a lot of bad decisions in my life.  But today I celebrate the one I got right.  

Today I celebrate the 13th anniversary of the day I promised to share my life with my best friend.

That wast a great day.

This one is even better.

Today there is no white dress.  No veil.  No line of people with presents (although I'm not opposed to that).  No buffet.  No champagne toasts.  Not even a cake.

Instead there is laundry that needs to be put away.  Bills that need to be paid.  Bathrooms that need to be cleaned.  Kids screaming at each other and occasionally at me. There is left over pizza.  Kool-Aide.  Rice Krispy Treats.

But today there is 13 years of laughing at our own private jokes.  13 years of learning new things about each other.  13 years of bringing our two families together to make one. 13 years of arguments.  13 years of apologies.  13 years of forgiveness.  13 years of saying I love you every night.  13 years of saying I love you every morning. 

13 years ago, we promised to love each other through better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  

Over the past 13 years we have learned that while we might like the times when we are better and richer, and healthy, we learn more, love more, and cling to God and each other far more tightly when we are poor and sick. When things are worse, sometimes we are better.

I have learned that when I am impatient, Richie has enough patience for both of us.

When I an weak, Richie is strong enough for both of us.

When I lose faith, he shares his.

When I want to give up, he takes my hand and refuses to let go. 

When I don't like the woman I see in the mirror, he wraps his arms around her and calls her beautiful. 

When I think I can't possibly love him any more, I see him dancing with our daughter, playing tickle monster with our son, or bringing home the groceries I didn't manage to buy.

Our wedding day was perfect.  

But today is better.  Because today I know that we keep the promises we made to each other. Today I know that I will never again be without a best friend, a confidant, a lover, an encourager, or a man who would gladly lay down his life for me. 

And as we celebrate 13 years of life together, I know he still has another 57 years before his contract is up for renegotiation. 

And I can't wait to see what I will know then.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Waiting for the end

Life seems to go in cycles. You go five years without seeing a person and then run into them twice in a week. Or, as has happened in our life, you go five years without attending a funeral, and then have to attend two in a matter of weeks.

I don't think there is any way to attend a funeral without contemplating your own eventual end. Because the truth is, we are all dying. Some just take a bit longer to get to it.

When you have kids, funerals also make it difficult to escape the discussion of what happens when we die. Especially when you have very curious and observant kids like mine tend to be. Especially the older one.

Facing death is one of the times I think I most appreciate my Christian beliefs.  Telling our seven year old, "Our friend (or grandparent) gets to live in heaven forever with Jesus, and he will have a brand new body and won't be sick or ever get hurt," is a lot easier to say than, "well, they are going to put him in a big box and cover him up with dirt."

Now, please don't get me wrong when I say this, but even if I didn't believe Christianity to be true, I think believing it would make life a lot easier....especially at the end of it.

Hear what I am saying;  I believe Christianity is true.

I believe it is a religion grounded in history as well as science. Over the past few decades, archeological digs have helped prove the accuracy of the Bible. Even many scientists now admit that "something" had to initiate the big bang. Of course growing up I believed in a Christian God because my parents did. Not only did they teach the gospel to me as parents, but my dad was also my pastor.  So I spent more time in church than I did anywhere else, including my own home.

During my childhood and teen years, I was incredibly self righteous and thought I had it all figured out. (Side note to apologize for all of you who grew up under my self righteous glare). Then I went to college. I attended a university bigger than my home town. A university with all kinds of different people from different backgrounds and different beliefs. And to my surprise, a lot of these people were really nice. Really moral. Really generous. And really smart.

How could it be that my religion was right, making all of theirs wrong?

Enter crisis of faith.

College was the first time that I really examined my faith on my own. The first time I looked at the Bible and didn't take what it said with blind faith, but questioned what I read. I talked to people of different faiths, and a lot of people who claimed not to have faith in anything. I compared, contrasted, and questioned. A lot. But for the first time, I didn't just ask my dad for the answers. I searched them out myself.

And at the end of my search, I came back to where I started; believing that Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, lived a perfect life and died for my sins so that I could have a  relationship with him that ultimately brings me from death into life. I discovered there was no way for me to earn this gift. In fact, my self righteous way of trying to keep all the rules (and judging those I thought weren't keeping them as well as I did) was exactly what Jesus died to save me from. His gift was free, and I could never earn it.  Only accept it.

But I digress.....

As I sat in the funeral this week, I couldn't help but think about my journey of self-discovery in college. I thought about all of the different religions and beliefs and wondered how I would feel viewing my friend's death through one of those lenses.

A lens like reincarnation where the afterlife depends on our behavior in this life.

A lens like atheism where the end of this life is simply the end.

And I realized, even if my search for what I believed ended differently, if I didn't believe that a relationship with Jesus resulted in eternal life, at a time like this, I would fake it.

Because otherwise I am not sure how you go on after watching a loved one die. I don't know how you face death if you don't have hope that there is something better than this life ahead of us. Something better for those who have gone on before us.

How does this man's wife of 46 years wake up every day with no hope that he is in a better place?  How does she go on without hope that she will see him again? Sure, she has kids and grand kids who love her, but without hope all she can believe is that someday those kids and grand kids will die too. And that will be the end.

I sat holding Richie's hand, thinking about my kids, my parents, my husband. Without the hope of something better I don't think I could go on in the face of their death.

Not without hope.

I know many people will disagree with this post. In fact, many people probably stopped reading a couple paragraphs in. That's okay. Like I said, I know there are some really amazing, moral, and smart people who don't share my belief system.

I just don't know how to hold on to those other beliefs in the face of death. Watching your spouse, your parent, or your child take their last breath, I think I would prefer to believe Christianity, even if it isn't true, than to believe that this life is all there is.

The pastor said something at the funeral that struck me. He said, "Boyd lived his entire life to prepare us for this day."

Not that we shouldn't be sad or that we won't miss him, but that we know without a doubt he finished well and he is living more fully now than he ever did on earth.

In the face of death, I choose hope. I don't know how to choose anything else. I want to live my life preparing everyone I leave behind for my death. I want them to miss me like crazy. And I want them to know they will see me again. And when they do, we will celebrate for eternity with no chance of migraines.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Waiting for Monday

So yesterday was the day when we all take a moment to recognize the amazing contributions of dads, grandpa's, husbands, and uncles. And as great as that day is, I think that there is an even more important day; today.

On Father's Day we tend to gloss over the shortcomings of the favorite men in our lives. We buy them witty cards, sports jerseys, and electronics to show them our devotion.

And then the day ends, and it is just another Monday.

And it is on this day, a regular old Monday, that I think I appreciate the father of my children most of all.

A regular old Monday where he gets up with the kids (who do not understand they can sleep past 6 a.m. in the summer) and gets them breakfast while I am still sound asleep.

A regular day where he completely ignores the dishes in the sink in the morning and then unloads and reloads the dishwasher after 8 hours of work and an hour commute. All without making one comment about me being home all day and failing to do so.

A regular day where he has to pull a clean shirt off of the floor instead of out of the drawer. Sometimes the shirt is still in the laundry basket, but most likely the kids have used the baskets to make space ships, or boats, or stages. And he would rather me play with the kids and the laundry baskets than match socks or fold towels.

A regular day where he kisses me goodbye even though I haven't brushed my teeth yet.

A regular day where he plays tickle monster with the kids, even though his head and his back hurt.

A regular day when he watches Cars 2 for the fourth time, even though there is a Rangers game on the other channel.

A regular day when he takes out the trash without being asked because he knows I hate to do it.

A regular day when he realizes that the size of the mess in the house and the amount of fun had during a day are directly linked.

A regular day when he gives the kids baths, reads them some books, and tucks them in, because he realizes the number of nights he will get to do this are running out.

A regular day when he goes to the grocery store on the way home from work because we are out of milk and he knows I don't want to drag the kids to the store.

A regular day when he tells me I am beautiful even though I spent the entire day in my pajamas without any make up (and a slight possibility that I still haven't brushed my teeth).

There are no cards, no presents, and many times not even a thank you. But these are the days when I know that the father of my children is exactly the man I want my son to grow up to be like.

The man I want to grow old with and watch open Grandfather Day cards.

The perfect man for our imperfect life.

Every day.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Waiting for Our Father

I am blessed with an amazing dad. One who taught me how to ride a bike, throw a ball, check my oil, and change a tire.  More importantly, one who taught me the value of hard work, honesty, and trust. Some of this he taught with words. Much of it, he taught by example.

So it is a difficult thing for me to imagine not having a strong father figure in my life.

I don't think it is by accident that God is often referred to as Our Father.  Even more intimately as Abba Father, which I am told is akin to calling Him "daddy".  To me, this shows the profound value that God places on the relationship of Father and child.  It also provides a roadmap for how a father should, well, father.

Of course, no one will do it perfectly. My daddy comes awfully close, but he is still human and makes mistakes from time to time. But he must have learned how to father from God, because his father was not one to be emulated.  In fact, when I think of stories about my dad's father, I am in awe that my dad turned out to be even a fraction of the man he is. Growing up in a home of alcoholism, watching his dad step out on his mom frequently, moving in the middle of the night because his dad gambled away this month's paycheck; honestly, it sounds like the backstory of a serial killer. Not a man who grew up to own his own business, pastor a church, and raise (if I might say so) two pretty great children.

My daddy follows the example of his Heavenly Father. He is patient and kind. He shows grace even when it is most undeserved. He is compassionate and generous to a fault. But he also taught us there are consequences for bad choices. I think because he believed in consequences, he also believed very strongly in helping us make the right choice so we could avoid them.

When I moved to Texas at 18, it was the first time I was apart from my dad. I experienced the crisis of faith that most of us do at some point in our lives. I examined my faith for the first time as something that was mine, not something handed down to me by my parents. I tested that faith. And for a time, thought I may have lost it all together.

But that's the thing about something true. It can be tested and tried and at the end of the day, it is still true.

That is what I found about my faith. I found that the reason my daddy is the man he is had nothing to do with his earthly father and everything to do with his Heavenly One. If this Heavenly Father loved my daddy so much that against all odds, He made a man of integrity, strength, and value, I believed He would do the same for me. Not because I earned it. Certainly not because I deserved it. But because before He is judge, jury or king, He is my Father. And He loves me perfectly.

If your earthly father has disappointed, hurt, or abandoned you, there is still a reason to celebrate on Father's Day. You have a Heavenly Father, an Abba Daddy, who is waiting for you to run into His arms. He can teach you, not only how to be a great father yourself, but how it feels to be loved as His child.

To all of you fathers out there, keep looking up. Our future rests in your hands.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Waiting to catch the Roadrunner

My kids have recently become fans of Looney Tunes. Some of you may not know this, but there is a new version, called The Looney Tunes Show in which Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are roommates, Taz is their pet, and Yosemite Sam is their next door neighbor. Crazy right? At first I was totally against it, but Kristen Wiig plays Bugs' crazy stalker girlfriend, which is kind of hilarious.

The one thing this new version of the Looney Tunes did is stay true to the Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner concept, which usually comes on right at the end of each episode. The Coyote still uses ACME products to blow himself up, drop himself off cliffs, and generally fail in every way to catch the Roadrunner. My kids think this is hysterical. Who doesn't? It is classic cartoon violence at its best.

I'm not going to debate the merits or horrors of cartoon violence in this blog post. That is for another time.  Instead, I want to ask a question.

Why the heck doesn't the Coyote give up?

Clearly, he came into old money some time back because he has unlimited funds to buy rockets, jetpacks, Batman suits, earthquake pills, slingshots, and of course birdseed.  According to those rare episodes where Wile E. Coyote actually talks (something my kids hate) he has a genius I.Q., or as he says, he is a super genius.  But if the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results, doesn't that make him an insane genius?  Insane, rich, and genius. I feel like I read about those people in the paper pretty frequently.

Perhaps it is because he is rich and incredibly smart that he keeps on chasing that which will always allude him. (Maybe it is because Warner Brothers realizes there will always be kids laughing as the Coyote falls off a cliff with a sign that says "help!").

But isn't it true that when you have everything you ever wanted, you want the one thing you can't have?

Not to say that the Bible and Looney Tunes are equally reliable sources of moral guidance, but I can't help but be reminded of King David. After years of being chased, threatened, and waiting for the throne, he finally got it. He slew giants. His army was feared above all others. He was always successful in whatever he did.
And then he saw something he didn't have.  Bathsheba.  Only issue was, she was someone else's wife. You can read the whole story here, but is short version is King David used battle, liquor, sex, and murder to get the thing he couldn't have.

A little different, (and more effective) than the anvils and solar powered race cars of the Coyote, but I would argue it is the same concept at the core.

When we spend our days working hard for a paycheck, caring for a family, enjoying our blessings, we don't have the time (or energy) to fixate on the only thing we don't have. When we get everything we ever wanted, we have unlimited time, energy, and resources to pour into our obsession.

I mentioned  I was planning this post to my husband. I told him that I wanted to examine those things in our life that we continue to chase regardless of how many times they blow up in our face (literal or figurative interpretations apply).  He had a completely different view. This could be because he enjoys debating for debate sake.  None the less, he said that the Coyote's "never say die" attitude shows persistence, which he contends is a positive trait to teach our kids. 

Quite a different view from my "give it up and order a pizza" attitude.

So, I am leaving to you. When is enough enough? When do you give up the chasing the uncatchable?

When do you admit the Roadrunner wins?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Waiting for prince....ummmm....whoever.

I have always been a lover of Disney movies. Even so, I used to believe that they set a bad example for us gals. Whenever a princess, a step sister, a mermaid, or basically any girl with power to sing to animals would find herself in some sort of trouble, along would come prince charming (or another perfect prince, Eric, John, whatever the name) and he would save the day and they would live happily ever after.

It isn't even the happily ever after part that bothered me, even though, that is a tough one.  It was the perfect prince, and the easiness with which the princess, stepdaugther, mermaid, etc, snagged him. I mean, I dated. A lot, and not once did I find a prince. Now I could chalk this up to the fact we live in a democracy and I would need to travel across the pound to find an actual prince.  But I think the more likely explaination is that there are no Prince Charmings. No Prince Erics.

But as I sit here watching Tangled with my daughter, I have an even bigger issue with the more recent Disney movies. It started with Beauty and the Beast, kept on with The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and even Cars.

What these movies teach is that you can turn a beast into a prince with your kindness, a snowball fight, some singing dishes, and well, love.

It teaches that the lying, fun loving prince who is broke and looking only to marry for money will have a change of heart after his time as a frog.

A thief will completely change his ways after watching you hit a few guys with a frying pan, dance, and share a moment in a boat watching flying lanterns.

To me, this message is more dangerous to our daughters than the idea that there is a prince charming waiting in the wings. It is the idea that they can take a horrible person and change them into prince charming. If they just love him enough, sing enough songs, and of course, share some kind of dance (dancing seems to be the key).

This isn't to say that people can't change. Certainly they can and do. But falling in love with someone with the idea that you can change them, well, that is even more absurd than happily ever after. If you  look at someone and think, "I could love him if just...." Or "I'm sure that once we are together he will stop...." Well, that isn't fair to the princess or the theif.  If someone has to completely change who they are to earn tour love, they will never be happy. And neither will you.

Because people change because they want to change. Not because someone is constantly nagging them, or singing, or even dancing with them.  I have seen a lot of relationships that start with the hopes of one person changing the other. I haven't seen many of them succeed.

Because whether we marry Prince Charming or the Beast, we should love them for who they are. It isn't our job to change them. It is our job to look at their shortcomings and faults, to see their distinct lack of royalty,  and decide we love them anyway. Just like they are.

So maybe Disney movies aren't the best guide to relationships. Which I guess is why I, as a mom, have to show my daughter how to love unconditionally. I hope as she watches me unconditionally loving her daddy she will learn that she should fall in love with the man who is, not who she wants him to be. And as she watches him love me unconditionally, she should learn that she should never have to change who she is for a man.

Because if he truly is a prince, charming or otherwise, he will love her for exactly who she is. And she will do the same.

That is how I found my happily ever after.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Waiting to graduate from hell

The book of Revelations has always been a little confusing to me so I'm not sure if hell is one big place or if there are personal hells devised to torture us in much more unique and painful ways than fire and brimstone. I'm not planning to ever have first hand knowledge of that one.

But for me, if hell was personal, mine would be middle school. More specifically, I would be stuck in middle school while AC/DC played an endless loop of The Little Drummer Boy. But mostly, it is that awkward, hormonal, mean, and confusing time between 12-15 that makes my skin crawl.

I grew up in small town Montana (there aren't a lot of other options in MT). This meant for the most part I went from kindergarten through high school graduation with the same girls. Girls I considered my friends in elementary school who magically grew breasts and simultaneously forgot that they knew me over the summer between sixth and seventh-grade. My breasts did not get the memo that they should appear until about 4 years later, and even then, it was a meager showing.

What I lacked in breasts I made up for with my good grades,  a talent for playing saxophone, braces, glasses, and a pretty impressive case of acne.


Oh wait, in seventh-grade I also learned to play the clarinet. Surprisingly, that did not raise my stock.

As you can imagine, I was quite a catch. Unfortunately, not many people were fishing for my particular species.

But it wasn't the middle school boys or their lack of interest that made my early teenage years unbearable. Probably because most of the boys were just as awkward as I was. Voice changes, carrying their Trapper Keeper in front of them while walking through the hall (I didn't understand why until college).  Not too many boys hit their stride at 13. Plus, I was pretty sure I was going to marry Kirk Cameron.

No, it was the girls who bloomed early, teased their bangs, put on the blue eye shadow and grew mean streaks. The girls who constantly made me feel like less of a person because I didn't wear designer jeans, have a boyfriend, or drink peach schnapps on Friday nights.  I feared the girls who played sports and got a tan while I did science fair projects and wrote short stories.

As I watched 13 Going on 30 today I was transported back to East Junior High. I was sitting in my backyard, wishing or maybe even praying, that I would magically be sixteen I never wanted to be 30. Even back then, 30 seemed old. But sixteen, sixteen seemed perfect. For crying out loud, they call it sweet sixteen for a reason. Probably because when you are sixteen you are done with middle school. But I had no magic wish dust that swooped me past my middle school years unscathed.

I did something even better.

I survived.

Not only did I survive, I survived while staying true to the girl in the mirror, even if I did hate how she looked most of the time. I didn't stuff my bra, beg my mom for Z-Cavaricci jeans (oh yeah, they were hot), drop out of band or try to be someone I wasn't. Instead of trading in my elementary school friends, we bonded together.  I think maybe we figured it was harder to pick us off if we were in a group.

In fact, my only good memories about middle school involve this amazing little group of girl friends.  The kind that weren't willing to change who they were either. We passed notes, giggled and talked about boys we would never be brave enough to actually meet.  We stayed up all night at sleepovers using Ouija boards to predict our future (don't judge) and eating Cool Ranch Doritos and raw cookie dough straight out of the package (again, don't judge).

Most importantly, we accepted each other.  No strings attached. Those girls, those amazing girls, gave me the confidence I needed to survive my little hell, because they never asked me to be anything.....but me.

There are still times when my insecurities get the best of me. I walk into a room of PTA moms who all know each other or start a new women's Bible study, and I am all of the sudden 13 again, only this time it is my wrinkles and weight that I'm self conscious about. I worry that I talk too much, am too sarcastic, and still don't own designer...well anything.  In an instant I forget that I am a smart, successful, fun woman who married an incredibly handsome man. Every time one of those gals whispers to another, I'm sure they are listing my glaring faults in great detail.

What I have learned over the last two decades is that most women feel exactly the same way. Even the ones with perfectly manicured nails, no stretch marks, and who only wear yoga pants when they are actually doing yoga have some buried insecurities that rise to the surface on occasion.

And just like middle school, this is one of the most important reasons we need friends. Not acquaintances. Not work friends. Not Facebook friends.

Real friends. Friends who love us exactly like we are. Who can laugh with us about our wrinkles, cry with us when our life falls apart, freak out with is as our kids grow into teenagers themselves. Friends who know exactly what kind of person we are, and love us anyway.

Because even though the door you walk through today might be to your office or even to your own house instead of home room, all of us have a middle school day once in a while. And on those days, we are just trying to survive.

So be nice. That girl you really hate, she may be having a middle school day herself.

And when you are lucky enough to find true friends, the kind that stick with you through middle school and beyond, cherish them. Whether they live next door or across the country in Chicago, they will be the reason you survive.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Waiting to be okay with the woman in the mirror

First off, my mom rocks. I think I've established this in several posts, but in case you are new to the blog or don't know my mom, she rocks.

With that said, most of my childhood memories of my mom have to do with her hating her body. She bounced from one fad diet to the next. Took diet pills, and hated shopping because she hated her body. She never went to the pool or beach with us because it meant putting on a swimsuit.

I honestly didn't think her weight struggles had an effect on me either way. I was always pretty happy with my weight. I have come to realize that the reason it didn't affect me is because my weight stayed pretty stable for most of my life. I might have moved from a 6 to and 8. After kids I was a 10 for a while, but eventually landed  on an 8, which I was totally fine with.

Then, at Christmas, we took a family photo and I looked at it and thought "who is that fat girl?" Not just a little overweight, but fat.  I didn't recognize myself. It had been coming for a year. I had been stuck in bed for months and then put on medicines that, instead of helping, made me crazy and gain 15 pounds in two weeks. All of the sudden, I wasn't 10 pounds away from where I wanted to be, I was 40.

In case you are wondering, I hate it.  I hate how I look. I hate how I feel. I hate to look at myself.  I go to try on clothes, and I hate everything. Not because of the clothes or how they fit, but because the body I'm looking at in the mirror cannot possibly be mine. My body is an 8, not a 12. I keep thinking maybe it is one of the funhouse mirrors.  

 It isn't.

My instinct is to complain continuously, pummel my self esteem, and just stay in bed until the weight magically goes away. (fyi, I have not found this to be an effective weight loss strategy).

But then, I look at my daughter. Tall, skinny, perfect daughter. And I realize, someday her body will go through awkward changes. She will be tempted to hate her body, even if she is still tall and skinny. If she has heard her mom talk continuously about how much I hate my body, how can I expect her not to hate hers.

This is not to say that we shouldn't eat healthy and exercise. We should, and as a parent it is my job to lead that charge. But it is also my job to make my kids feel great about themselves. There are times in our lives where even if we eat right and exercise, our body doesn't respond like we would like it to.  If they get sick, or something happens and they aren't the perfect size, they should still feel great about who they are. And if I can't feel great about who I am no matter my size, how do I teach them that they should love who they are, no matter what. 

And it isn't just about them. What about their friends that are bigger then they are? My kids need to know those kids are just as amazing, fun, and delightful they are.

The most wonderful thing to me is that right now, at ages 7 and 4, my kids don't care about size. They think their mommy and daddy are awesome and beautiful (or handsome in daddy's case), even when we feel frumpy and old. I don't want to be the reason that ideal changes. They should love themselves, and others, no matter what the size or shape.

If I am constantly complaining about my weight and that changes my kids' perspecive, shame on me. I can work out, eat sensibly, and even if I have to buy a size bigger, it will be okay.

I want to be the person my kids think I am, and they think I'm beautiful.  I need to think that too, because kids see through our lies, especially when we are lying to ourselves.

I saw a sign in a doctor's office that said "Be your own kind of beautiful." I'm signing up. How about you?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Waiting for Madagascar 3

Every once in a while, a movie comes out that out kids are super excited for. Okay, I admit it,sometimes it is Richie and me that are excited.  Right now the buzz is about Madagascar 3. The first two movies have some of our favorite lines:

"We lost two Captain."   -  "And that's a number I can live with."
"I hope to be a professional whistler. I'm pretty good right now but I want to be even better."
"Remember that time when you bit my butt?"

 And so on. So when I got invited by Crowdtap to host a Madagascar 3 party, I was ready. The kids were excited about the circus theme. Although we had a kit with decorations from the movie, they decided to make their own. Nothing says circus (or makes my daughter more happy) than streamers. Add in some silly string, a guy juggling baseballs, and live performances from five kids under the age of 8, and we had our own circus.

The kids took turns wearing Alex, Gloria, and Marty masks, which they enjoyed most while they were eating their zebra ice cream cake. While the masks, part of the digital party kit sent by Crowdtap were a hit, they were designed for a string to be put through two holes and then tied onto the wearer.  If we were to do this again, I would print the masks on card stock and then glue a Popsicle stick to the bottom to let the kids (and adults) hold the masks in front of their face.  I think that would make it far more user friendly.

Memorial Day provided the perfect setting to kick off summer and to start thinking about lazy summer days at the movies. I'm guessing Madagascar 3 will be one of the first ones we see.  I'm also pretty sure the kids will be ready to put on more circuses for us after they see the movie.

If any of you want to join the fun and have your own Madagascar 3 party, let me know and I will send you the kit. Or check out Crowdtap It was an inexpensive way to entertain the kids, and more importantly to let them entertain us.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Waiting for rain

Last week I posted a blog about God's provison. It was based on a sermon series our church is doing called "running on empty" based on the life of Elijah. I would encourage you to check it out, but if you don't have time, here are the high points.

- God tells Elijah, this guy from the middle of nowhere, to go tell the king that they are about to face a big old drought.

- God then tells Elijah to run and hide by a brook, where God sends him daily breakfast and dinner via a raven.

- The brook dries up.

It is no secret to any of you who know our family, follow us on FB, or read this blog that our family has been in a drought. It started with medical problems, then financial difficulties, topped off with family health problems. We have been in the drought for what seems like a very long time. But looking back, we can honestly say that God has continued to provide for us, day by day. We get enough in the morning to make it through the day. And we have become completely reliant on God to give us enough for tomorrow. 

And every time we feel like we can't take another step, God sends enough.

Today, the brook dried up.

Richie's grandparents have been in and out of the hospital for the last several years. It seems that when one gets healthy, another gets sick. In the last two weeks, both grandfathers have been in the hospital.  Today, the journey ended for one of his grandfathers.  His dad's dad (well, really his stepdad, but the man who raised him) ended his journey through this life and moved to his journey through eternity.

Losing a family member at any time is difficult, but when you are already completely drained, worn out, and just plain weary, it is unbearable.  It is looking at that little brook, your only source of refreshment and the only small hope you have for survival, and watching it dry up in front of your eyes. Praying for rain and finding only dust.

That is exactly how I felt when I got the news of Richie's grandpa's passing. Inside I was screaming at God, "How does this make any sense? How is this fair? We just got a report that he was out of the woods and you take him.  Can't you give us just a little break? Where are you, because if you were here you would know we are desperate. We are angry. We are barely making it. We are scared. We are thirsty and the brook is dry."

Where is the rain? 

I didn't hear a James Earl Jonesish voice (what I imagine God's voice to sound like) telling me it was all going to be okay. In fact if I knew anything for certain, it was that things were not going to be okay.

But when I stopped yelling at God, I was reminded of that same story of Elijah. When his brook dried up, God told him, it was time to move.

As I looked at our metaphorical dried up brook, I got the same answer. It was time to move. Not literally (who would buy our house with all the crazy construction going on behind it). But time to move out of the season where we wondered *if* God would provide for us every day to a place where we *know* He will.

Time for us to move from a place where we feel angry and resentful for what we have lost to a place where we feel blessed for what we have.

Time for us to move to a place where we not only tell our kids that God will provide, but where *we* believe it.

It isn't going to be an easy move. Moving is never easy. When Elijah moved from his brook he faced a hundred mile walk through enemy territory. I imagine our journey will be similar.

It doesn't mean we won't mourn the loss of loved ones or stop praying for miraculous healings.

It means that even in the midst of loss and sickness, we believe God is still good. It means we believe that even though today is hot, dusty, and dry, tomorrow it just might rain.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting for another dent

It is amazing how much I learn from watching Disney movies with my kids. Maybe because we do so much of it these days (go ahead and judge me). Or maybe it is because I am the one who loves Disney movies. As I type, I am watching Cars 2 and Little Man is no where to be found.

The Little Mermaid taught me how to flirt without saying a word (which is why I don't let the girl child watch it). Beauty and the Beast taught me that, regardless of what everything in middle school leads you to believe, smart girls sometimes do end up with the best looking guy in the room, (which is why I do let the girl child watch it).

I'm not sure if Cars taught me anything, except maybe that I should be proud of my small town heritage. And I was almost sure that the only thing Cars 2 was going to teach me was that some movies should not have sequels. And I would stand by that.

Except for one line, right in the middle of the movie. One line that I might not have paid any attention to. I don't want to spoil the movie for you, but Mater ends up being a spy (gasp). As they are fitting him for his disguise, his partner tries to fix a dent so the disguise will fit better. He stops her. 

He says (and I'm paraphrasing because Little Man is back in the room and won't let me rewind), "You can't fix that dent. I got everyone of these dents with my best friend and it is way to valuable."

There is something to be learned from Cars 2 after all!

My childhood wasn't, ummmm, safe. No car seats. No seat belts. No bike helmets. No net around the trampoline, which gave us a clear shot to jump off the roof. Head first. I won't say we actually lit the house on fire. Because I had nothing to do with that. That was all my brother. I did lite him on fire once, but only because he told me to.

So I guess you could say, I got a lot of dents, only we called them scars and broken bones.

Then came high school. And boys. More dents, only this time they weren't physical scars, but emotional ones.

But one thing didn't change. Everytime I got a new dent, I had a friend right there with me. Whether it was the boys across the street helping us make a roller coaster off the back deck, or my best friend in high school crying with me over my first broken heart. My college roommate, the sister I never had, helping get out of an abusive relationship. My best friend since third grade crying across the miles with me over trips to the ER and crazy health problems that only the two of us could possibly understand.

My husband, patiently waiting for me to come back from depression after we lost our first baby.

All these dents, each one made with a friend by my side. Each one special to me. And I wouldn't want any of them painted over or fixed. Because each dent reminds me who I am and how I got here. And more importantly, who I got here with.

Every scar, broken heart, wrinkle, and gray hair (okay, so maybe I do paint over the grey hair), made me exactly who I am. And I've been blessed to have a lot of amazing friends who got me here.

Cars 2 taught me not only to be proud of my dents, but to look forward to them. They are way too valuable to fix.

And also that they should not make a Cars 3.