Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas in Pictures (San Antonio Style)

A Texas Tree

Sweet Sisters

Kate and Jack (My Two Middles)

I ALWAYS tell them the Greatest Gift I could ever give them is the Gift of  Each Other

Brotherly Love

My Two Boys

The Z Three

Gorgeous Girls

Mama and Daughters

Merry Christmas!

What did Santa Bring?!

Mama and Baby BOY 20 Weeks

Stocking Time

Traditional Ornament from Grammy

Beautifully Handsome Boys

Cowboy Jack

Pirate Jack

Sweet Kate


Shamu at Sea World

The Girls

The Brother
The Boys

Love Bugs


Emma, Kate, and Jack in San Antonio, TX for Christmas 2012

For our family, the end of 2012 was magical. We had decided several months ago that we wanted to take a family trip over the holidays, so we began planning in the late days of summer where we wanted to create a little bit of family magic to close out our year. One of my very favorite holiday memories from before the days of Boss, and children, and responsibilities, was when my own little immediate family of four traveled to San Antonio, TX for a festive Christmas on the River. I can remember clearly all of the twinkly lights that lit up the city that particular year and I can also remember the specific meal that our family had on Christmas Eve. We sat out on the patio of the Lone Star Cafe with views of the river below us, wrapped in warm blankets, surrounded by heat lamps helping to warm the chilly night sky. But what I remember most about that night was feeling happy. Things were not perfect in our little family growing up, as they seldom are, but in that particular moment, on that particular night, they were.  And I knew right away that if we were going to travel over Christmas this year, that I wanted to create that same magic for my own children. So on December 20, 2012 our family (including my parents) set out in a twelve passenger van San Antonio bound.

We arrived in San Antonio after two long days of travel, excited to see where our Christmas adventures would take us! And boy, did they take us far. We dined outside on the river, wrapped in the very same blankets I can recall from my teen years, and we enjoyed looking at all of the festive trees and lights placed along the River Walk. We decorated a little white, twinkly Christmas tree for our rental home, made cookies for Santa, dined and walked the River on Christmas Eve, and stayed up late so that Grammy could read us the Christmas story. And Christmas morning did not disappoint! We spent the morning opening gifts (some favorites being brown cowgirl boots and a diary for my oldest girl, a new holiday Cabbage Patch doll for my youngest girl (goodness gracious, they still smell the same as they did when I was a child!), and new cowboy boots and a Thomas the Train set for our little guy) and enjoying our traditional Christmas brunch, and later that afternoon my brother and his wife were able to stop by and enjoy an evening meal with us. After not seeing my brother for almost two years, it was certainly great to see him face to face! The day after Christmas found us at Sea World, and the day after that my most favorite Auntie and her kind hearted husband came to spend the remaining two nights of our trip with us.  All of it was wonderful, every last bit of it magical. Memories were made that I hope to carry with me for years to come.

My brother mentioned to me while we talked that if you only read my blog and did not know my family in real life, that the things I choose to write about make our lives seem perfect. Perhaps even too good to be true. And that simply is not true. Far from it, in fact. Our trip was magical. But it was also filled with a stomach virus, a mouse in our vacation house, some family bickering, visits that were too short, and a few expectations that went unmet. But those things? Those things are simply a part of life. Every one's life. Life happens to each of us (even the unwanted aspects of life), and I learned a long time ago that it is not what happens to us that matters, but rather what we do about it. How we choose to see and respond. So those pesky parts of the trip? Perhaps we will laugh about those things in the days to come (our children were tickled over the idea of a Christmas mouse!), and the rest we will just sweep under the rug. Instead, when I see Christmas 2012 in my minds eye, I will see my daughters laughing, skipping, and holding hands as we explored a city that was new to them. I will see my little boy all dressed up in his cowboy hat and boots, pretending to be a real life cowboy. I will see my mom crying as she witnessed the tender way that Santa talked with my children. I will see the way that Boss caught my eye on more than one occasion as if to say, ' Can you believe that all of this is ours? How did we ever get so blessed? ' And I will see the smiles of my relatives whom I love, but don't get to see near often enough. I know there were so many this season who's arms were empty, and I will forever be thankful that mine were full for another magical season.

Thank you, God, for this life you have given me. Thank you for family, and friends, and laughter, and memories. May I always remember that all good gifts come from you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So Very Thankful

Dear Sweet, Beautiful Baby,

Our house is quiet tonight, your daddy and your siblings having already gone to bed. So I sit here alone, with you, Christmas lights twinkling through the outside window. I know that you are awake, too, because I can feel you tap dancing inside of me. According to the world wide web, it is much too soon for me to be feeling your movements, but I have been feeling you move now for weeks. I like to think it is my own special little gift from God after my miscarriage last winter. When I feel your little taps, I know you are alive and well, and that makes my heart so very full.

We are 15 weeks along now on our journey, you and I. For awhile I did not let myself get excited about you. I loved you, certainly, but it felt like too much to ask for, too much to hope for, that I might one day get to hold you in my arms. But then weeks passed, and more weeks passed, and I kind of feel now like we were meant to be, you and I. So now I hope, I plan, and I dream. I can't wait to know who you are, who you will become. I can't wait to watch your daddy lay eyes on you for the very first time as tears roll down his cheeks (your daddy is a crier in delivery rooms). And my heart longs for the moment when all FOUR of my children are finally together. Feeling blessed doesn't begin to describe it.

But for now? For now, we wait. We talk about you, we pray for you, and this year, especially, we are most thankful for your precious life.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Costume Cuteness

Minnie Mouse and her Hippie Sister

Super Jack

Flower Child

Minnie Mouse and Daddy

Ring Toss

Peace Out, Baby

Super Sweet and Sparkly

Ready to Save the World

Heading Home

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Life Lately

So lately, the words just aren't coming. And it's certainly not because I don't have anything to say. I am fairly certain that I always have something to say! Yet, I sit down to write and the words don't come tumbling out as they usually do. Just as the world around me is beginning to turn inward as the weather cools, my thoughts seem to be turning inward as well. So I remain quiet, letting the thoughts soak within. And I think that maybe sometimes, the sitting quiet can be a good thing. Even when there is much to be said.

Life is good here on Fieldcrest Lane. I have so very much to be thankful for. I see tragedy all around on a daily basis, and the thankfulness for the life I lead multiplies. I have a husband who works harder than anyone else that I know. He loves me in spite of my imperfections. He still wants to take me on dates and he never leaves in the morning without kissing each of us goodbye. I lie in bed and listen as he makes his rounds and my heart feels happy. I have an older daughter who is brilliantly smart and witty. I enjoy the person she is becoming, growing every day before my very eyes. She is a wonderful, helpful, servant to her siblings. I am blessed that she loves and enjoys serving our family. My younger daughter has twinkly eyes and a contagious laugh. She makes our home happy and cheerful! She is a snuggler and is always good for a hug. And my son, oh my goodness, has he ever stolen my heart! He is such a funny little guy! Yet he still needs to hold a hand to fall sleep, just like his mama did at his age. And now I have a fourth little pumpkin who is never far from my heart or my prayers. We are now in our ninth week, one week farther along than we made it in my pregnancy at the beginning of this year. And I am starting to allow myself to hope that just maybe I will be holding this little one in my arms next May! And add to the blessing of my family a warm house, food on the table, and good friends, and life on this earth just doesn't get much better than that. But it can still be tricky.

To be honest, I feel a bit lost. When I entered my thirties three months ago (it gets easier to say all of the time!), I held a different plan for my life in my head and in my heart. We had said goodbye to the dream of more babies grown in my womb, and we were ready to say hello to the dream of serving foster babies. And while I am UNBELIEVABLY thankful for this new life... now what? What is our family supposed to look like now? Can I possibly do both, mothering my four as well as those who are in need of a mother? Does God want me to step forward in faith? Or is this new little pumpkin pulling me back in for another season? I don't have the answers, so I wrestle with the thoughts. And that is where I struggle. With releasing my life to God no matter which direction he takes it, yet still humanly clinging to the hope that he chooses a direction I like. But I suppose that's not really releasing then, is it?

Last week my children visited a corn maze with their grandparents, a favorite fall activity in our family. I was feeling a bit nauseous that afternoon, so I sat on a bench where I could feel the breeze while the rest of my family ventured inside. But it got me to thinking. In a corn maze there are many twists and turns. So many different directions one can choose to head off in! Sometimes you get it right and find yourself someplace new, yet other times you look up only to discover you have backtracked and you are in the exact same place that you just came from. So you have a choice.You can sit there, refusing to move forward in case you get it wrong, or you can get up and try again. Working with the turns, putting one foot in front of the other, never giving up until you reach your goal.

After about an hour had passed I began to hear my children's voices, so I began to call out to them, to urge them forward.

This way, kids!

Mama is waiting for you!

You can do it!

I am so proud of you for all of your efforts and for never giving up!

I kept calling to them until they began to stumble out of the maze red faced, stained knees, yet still smiling. They had not given up, even when things had seemed difficult, confusing, and unclear. They pressed forward until they reached their goal.

And isn't it that way with life? So many different directions we can head in. So many dreams, different ways of doing things. And sometimes life can get confusing. We think we are heading in one direction, only to look up half way through our journey to see that we are right back where we started. Or perhaps we aren't back where we started, but we are in a different place all together than we thought we would be. And we find ourselves with the same choice. Sit down and quit... or keep going? So tonight I choose to keep going, even though I have no clue the direction I am headed. But I picture my Father's voice cheering me on, so I step forward in faith, trusting he will clear a pathway through this crazy thing called life.

This way, Kendra!

I am waiting for you!

You can do it!

I am so proud of you for all of your efforts and for never giving up!

Can you hear him shouting the very same to you? I bet if you listen closely enough you can hear him calling you a step forward each day of your journey, too. Carefully guiding us all along the pathway home. So don't give up! And don't give in. Just look up, and keep pressing forward.

Well lookee there. Turns out I did find a few words, after all.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Life Story: The Early Years

I don't remember much about life before the age of seven, but my memories of those early years are happy ones. I was born to a dad, a mom, and an older brother of nearly four years. I was also born four weeks early, which seems funny (and a little bit ironic), because as it turns out, I have never arrived early for anything since! I am a perpetually late person (a fact which drives Boss crazy), but I suppose that I just couldn't wait to get a jump start on life. I also know that I was very much wanted. My parents were a bit older when they married and it took them a few years to get their family started. My mother had a miscarriage shortly before she conceived me, and I have often wondered at the thought that if she hadn't miscarried that particular child, then I would not exist.

My parents named me Kendra after my father, Ken. Kendra Leigh Ellis. The truth? I have never liked my name. And even to this day, I dislike introducing myself to others. My favorite name as a child was Tasula, and I spent many an hour dreaming about what it would have been like to have had a beautiful name like Tasula. Or Leslie. I was a fan of Leslie, too. My mothers other name choice for me was Summer, but she finally concluded that Summer Ellis sounded more like the name of a terrible disease, rather than the name of a little girl, so Kendra eventually won out.

When I was two months old my family moved over seas to Saudi Arabia. My dad was in oil, and when the opportunity arose for the transfer, my parents decided to take it. I admire that about my parents. They weren't afraid to take a risk, to leave behind everything that was comfortable and familiar, to chase opportunity and the life that they desired. They just packed up our family and we went. Or maybe they were scared. But they didn't let fear stop them, and that is what I admire the most. (I can't tell you how many times I have allowed fear to stop me from chasing my dreams.)

My mom likes to remind me that I spent my very first Christmas, December of 1982, in a double wide trailer, our Christmas tree a piece of green and brown felt that she attached to the wall. And you know what? Even though I don't remember that Christmas (obviously), that is one of my very favorite stories from my childhood. Because it speaks of simplicity and creativity. Two things I think every heart longs for, whether that heart belongs to a one year old, or someone who is thirty. We may not have had much that first Christmas we spent in the desert, but together, it sure did seem like we had it all.

My other preschool memories include typical childhood activities. Swimming, eating pizza at the snack bar, eating Popsicles (a lady sold them in ANY flavor you could desire in those little paper water cups that were shaped like a cone), playing with little friends who lived down the street, Daisy Troop, and holidays. Holidays were a BIG deal when I was small. Halloween, especially. We would plan our costumes weeks in advance (my mom would dress up, too!), and then the whole elementary school would have a huge parade. Holidays have always held a happy place in my heart.

Apparently, we took AMAZING trips during the early years of my life. Pity that I don't remember a thing about them. We visited Egypt, Africa, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Hawaii (twice), New Zealand, Singapore, and I am sure many others that my brain is having trouble recalling now that I am thirty. Want to know what I do remember about those trips? Souvenirs.That's right. Apparently, I was a souvenir junkie. And my most treasured trip souvenir? A hot pink fanny pack with black palm trees from Hawaii. Yes, please. And every year we would come back for a re pat to the United States where we would visit extended family and shop for things we could not buy in the desert.

Other random things I recall from my early childhood in the 1980's? Tee ties, those large plastic ties you could wear on the end of your shirt. Slap bracelets, Keds, neon colored striped socks, our tiny church that was made up of other believers. And I can't forget the homemade birthday parties! My mom would do it all. The cake, the games (duck duck goose, pin the tail on the donkey, jelly bean toss), and we ALWAYS had a pinata. My mom rocked it in the birthday department.

We moved back to the States in 1989 right after I had finished Kindergarten. I was seven years old. My family took one of the last flights out before the fighting in Desert Storm began.  People in the compound where we lived were beginning to practice drills that involved gas masks, so I believe my parents decided that it was time for us to go. My mom and dad wanted to live anywhere but in Texas, so we headed to Atlanta Georgia, where the next part of my story picks up. Although that is another story for another day.

I once read somewhere that childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons, and for me, I can honestly say that was true. I may not remember much, but when I close my eyes and travel back in my mind, I can feel the comfort, protection, belonging, and innocence. Everything that a young child should feel. So I thank my parents for that. For my strong, happy, carefree beginning in this world. Because foundations are important. They set the tone for the entire structure that is being built. My parents gave me the right footing on which to build my life, and I now strive daily to do the same for my own precious children. I want to give my children the best of the very best. I want to give them this great, big, amazing world right at the tips of their fingers. I want to cook them delicious homemade meals, to surround them with rich books, meaningful music, wise conversation. I want to lead them on adventures, to inspire creativity in their souls. I want their months to be filled with memory making, each season of their lives steeped in tradition. I want to serve them the good life on a silver platter, complete with a bright red cherry on top. Except for the fact that I don't like cherries. So at our house, life would simply be topped with hot fudge. But whatever. You get my point. I want to make this season of my children's lives beautiful. Just like my parents did for me.

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again. ~Elizabeth Lawrence