Thursday, August 30, 2012

Back to School Bling

Kate and Emma

Today the girls and I went shopping for a new outfit for the first day of HELP (our local homeschool organization). Classes start back up next week, and we all figured that a little bling and sparkle were in order. We started our morning out by dropping little brother off with Grammy, because shopping with a boy of any age is not fun, but it is especially not fun if the little boy is two. Don't believe me? Feel free to borrow Jack anytime and see for yourself! Ha!

After Jack had departed, we rolled down our windows, turned up our Kids Bop CD, and turned our car towards the shops. Our first stop was Once Upon a Child (our favorite children's resale clothing store). Both girls found snazzy 'first day' outfits for under ten dollars each. After that, we browsed the baby gear and dreamed about what it will be like when we finally get the call for our first foster baby. (Come on, phone! Ring!) After that, we headed across the street to Target, where both Emma and Kate selected a new pair of shoes (oh my, you should see the one's Kate chose!) and something fun to wear in their hair. We finished off our trip with Icee's, and while we paid my oldest daughter told me I was the best mama in the world. Her words kind of melted my heart.

I am not going to lie. It hasn't been an easy financial transition for us since leaving the children's home last May. Not only did we lose my salary, but we added a house payment and the monthly bills that go along with that. It's been a bit stressful, to say the least, and we have had to reign in our usual spending quite a bit. Boss reminds me all the time that we are trying to do something that is very hard. Most families in the world today are two income families. But we believe wholeheartedly that being home with our children is where I'm supposed to be, so we make it work. For us, that meant that this year our back to school shopping was at a second hand clothing store instead of at Kohl's or Justice. And instead of having a girlie lunch at Olive Garden or Panera Bread, this year our special treat was an Icee. But my kids still smiled, they still got their bling, and with a sparkle in their eye, they still told me that I was the best mama in the world. My daughter's proved to me today that they don't need name brands or fancy meals. All we really need is each other. I am so thankful for my girl's attitudes and hearts, and I am so thankful for the gift of getting to spend my days with them. There is nowhere else that I'd rather be.

*** It might seem a bit silly that a homeschooler would need a 'back to school' outfit, but contrary to popular opinion, we don't do school in our jammies every single day of the week! Though it would be kind of awesome if we did. ***

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Falling in Love With Foster Care

One of our foster daughters. Falling in love with her was easy.
Photo by Heather Matthews Photography.

I remember the exact moment that I first fell in love with foster care. It was the same day that I met a foster family for the very first time, so I suppose you could say it was love at first sight. I was nearing junior high school when the Bryan family moved to town. They pulled up in front of our church in a 15 passenger van and I couldn't help but stare. They had four biological children, four adopted children, and a slew of foster children. And I thought that their family was beautiful, all different ages, different colors, different backgrounds coming together to form one family. My heart changed that day, and it has never been the same since.

The Bryan's had a biological daughter who was my age and we became fast friends. It wasn't long before I was spending as much time as I could at their house, loving on babies, helping to feed and bathe as much as I was allowed. I remember two of their little foster kids in particular, Travis and Ashley Valentine. I remember feeling sad that they didn't have a mommy or daddy to take care of them or tuck them in at night. And while the Bryan house was safe, loving, and warm, it was also quite busy with lots of little children who needed loving, and I remember wanting to run away with the Valentine kids. I begged and begged my parents to go through the necessary training to become foster parents. I promised them that if only they would get the license, then I would love and raise the children! Ha! Funny, but my parents always turned that plan down. So I just spent as much time with the Bryan's as I could, watching them and learning from them as they opened their home to care for and love others.

Fast forward to when Boss and I were first married. We talked long (okay, I talked and Boss listened) about what we wanted our family to look like. We both agreed that we didn't want average or ordinary. We knew we wanted our family to be used by God to help and serve others, in whatever form that took, and for the past (almost) seven years we were able to accomplish that through house parenting/therapeutic foster parenting teenage girls. But now we have started on a new journey. A journey, a dream, that began in my heart so many years ago when I first fell in love with foster care and has grown by leaps and bounds every single day since. And I seriously CANNOT wait to hold that first little one in my arms!

Upon leaving the children's home last May, we opted to still work with their agency through their off campus foster care program, mainly because it would be easier. We already had good working relationships with the employees there. My caseworker was (is) my friend. We wouldn't have to switch any of our files, or lose previously earned training hours, or get new fingerprints. We had a comfortable relationship with that agency and we really wanted to make it work, while knowing that it would be a long shot, as that particular agency is known in our area for serving teens with tough behaviors. And we were now interested in serving little ones. But my boss thought that if we put it out there, letting the surrounding county's know that we had a crib/bed open for a young child/toddler/infant, that perhaps a call would come in even though it wasn't the norm. So we decided to go for it.

We spent this past summer getting our new house in order, organizing bedrooms, completing all the necessary inspections. And then we anxiously began waiting for the call. Our call. But so far, it hasn't come. In the beginning, I felt like a woman who was nine months pregnant, just waiting for the moment when labor would spontaneously begin. Knowing that it could happen at any given moment, but having no control whatsoever on when that moment would come. Wondering every single day upon waking if today was going to be the day. I stared at my phone like a mad woman the entire first week that we were listed, constantly checking to see if I had missed a call. But the call never came, and life went on. And today we are still waiting. And the waiting is getting harder with each passing day, knowing there are little ones out there that need a safe, loving place to rest their sweet heads, while our spare bed/crib sits here empty. So I'm feeling quite strongly that we need to do something, anything, and we are currently looking into other agencies.

I have connected with another private agency in our area that is very reputable and tells me that they get handfuls of referrals daily. I have also looked into switching our license over to our county agency, but so far Boss and I have not made any final decisions. While we have been in the adoption/foster care world for going on seven years now, all of this is new to us, and frankly, it all feels a bit overwhelming. I am told the process of switching a license takes four to six weeks, so if we do decide to switch, it now looks like it will be October (at the very earliest) before we could possibly be listed to receive a call once again. And while I am starting to feel anxious and frustrated, wanting desperately to serve and love kids as soon as possible, I am positive that when we do get our first foster child (and we will), it will undoubtedly be worth the wait. Most good things in life usually are. I completely believe that God began working on my heart all those years ago when the Bryan's first came into my life, creating in me a deep love for children in the foster care system, and I completely believe that He will see us through this entire process until we are serving fully in the foster care world.

If you have any experience with foster care I would love to hear from you. Do you prefer private agencies over county? Pros and con's of both? How long did you have to wait for your first call? And if you have no experience with foster care, we would still covet your prayers. Our family prays daily for the little ones that will come our way, and we are hopeful that one day soon we will finally be able to pray for them by name.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy at Home (Monday)

Image found Here

This picture was written for me. Completely and totally for me. Because here we are, another Monday under our belts, and I am somewhere in the overwhelmed category. Last week was one of those weeks. Nothing catastrophic happened, just another week that was stuffed to the gills with 'to do's'. To be completely fair, most of my to do's were scheduled well before I decided to learn the art of being happy at home, and some of them were simply necessary, but all of them added up have left me feeling a little on the crazy side. These last seven days were spent getting all of our homeschool items organized and our letter of intent into the state, playing phone tag with a new foster care agency and filling out necessary paper work (more on this soon), having a weekend sleepover with some sweet girls while their brother was in the hospital, second shooting at a wedding for my awesomely awesome photographer friend (I felt like a little girl playing dress up in her mama's out of my league!..... but so fun, too!), and having the dreaded money talk with Boss. And now my brain is tired and my bed is calling my name. I had planned on sharing with you our new family closet system (it rocks and has totally saved my homemaking life), but it looks like that will have to wait until next week. I know you will be waiting on pins and needles. The one thing that I will share though, is that tonight, I truly am happy to be at home! And perhaps tomorrow we can find our way back to a routine. Happy Monday, friends.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

30 During 30

Image Found Here

Remember my 30 Before 30 post? I wrote it last April, three months before my 30th birthday. Three months before I was certain that my life was going to change forever. Because I loved my twenties. LOVED them. I met Boss and my children in my twenties, my most favorite people on this planet. So my twenties were the best years of my life, to date. And I didn't want to leave them behind. Turning 30 sounded dull. Turning 30 sounded boring. Turning 30 sounded OLD. And I wasn't ready to be old, so I came up with a list. A list of 30 cool things (to me), 30 important things (to me), that I wanted to do before I actually turned the big 30. I was determined to make the most of my last days in my twenties. A carpe diem sort of thing.

However, as it usually does, life happened. And the items on my list didn't. Not most of them, anyway. But the list never strayed far from my mind, so I have decided that I am going to try and complete it once more. 30 During 30. It still sounds nice, I think. And twelve months to complete the list sounds a whole lot better than three. Because when you are old (like me), you tend to move a bit slower. It's quite rough, this aging thing, but I'm hanging in there. Still seizing the days (though many of them have been seized from the couch this summer, if I am being completely honest), still making the most of each moment, still dreaming big dreams and striving to life the life I have imagined. I'll be sure to keep you posted as I plug along!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tidbits From My Toddler On Tuesday

Picture via Pinterest

Y'all, toddlers are hilarious! Seriously, if you are ever in need of some sunshine and smiles in your life, then you need to get a toddler. And if you don't have a toddler of your own, then borrow one from a friend! Or borrow mine! But you would have to give him back when you were done, because I happen to be fairly fond of him. He makes me smile All. The. Time.

A few Sunday's ago we were in church and the collection plate was about to be passed. I got out my wallet to give the girls their money to put in the plate when it passed their way, only this time, instead of two little outstretched hands in front of me, I found three! Jack had decided that he wanted in on this action! I only had two dollar bills in my wallet, one for each girl, but I gathered all of the spare coins that I could from the bottom of my purse (there were a lot!), and handed them to my boy. Oh, how that boy loves money. Only he doesn't love money for what it can do for him in this world. He has no clue what money can do for him in this world. He just knows that it is really fun to try and shove money in your eye. And up your nose. And down your shirt. And it was really fun to lick and blow on. And it was seriously the longest two minutes of my life, when Jack's chubby little fingers had their way with my coins.

Big sister Emma seemed to notice my distress and came to my rescue. (Eight year old's are seriously great, too. So while you're at it, get an eight year old in addition to the toddler.) Emma started whispering to Jack that he had to be careful with his money. She told him that his money was not meant to be repeatedly dropped on the floor and then retrieved, and that he should take care of his money so that he could give it to Jesus. Over and over, she whispered to him that very, very soon he could give his money to Jesus. And it worked like a charm! The thought of giving his money to Jesus seemed to excite Jack! I could hear him quietly repeating to himself, I give my money to Jesus. I give my money to Jesus. It was seriously precious. He even managed to sit quietly through the prayer, patiently waiting to give his money to Jesus.

Our friend, Mr. Owens, had our row that Sunday, and when he leaned forward to allow Jack to put his money into the plate, Jack looked up at him with the widest eyes I had ever seen! Jesus, he whispered in awe, his eyes never leaving Mr. Owens' face. My son thought that Mr. Owens was Jesus! It was hilarious! I tried to explain to Jack that Mr. Owens was not Jesus, but he refused to listen. His sister had told him he would be giving his money to Jesus, so that is what he did. And ever sense then, whenever we pass Mr. Owens in the foyer, or see him on the softball field, my son looks up at him with continued awe in his eyes and whispers, Jesus! Cute, right?

But there's more. Yesterday we took the children to play by the river and Jack found a coin hidden among the rocks. Kate asked him if he wanted to buy a gumball with his coin (gumballs are one of Jack's true loves), but he told her no! I give my money to Jesus, he said! Melts my heart. So Mr. Owens, it looks like you will be getting a brand new coin tomorrow night at church.

P.S. This is not the first time that Jack has mistaken a person for someone they are not. Several months ago we were eating in Frisch's near an older gentleman who was heavy set. He also had a long white beard and wore red. And Jack insisted that he was Santa! The boy was so excited to see Santa in April, he was beside himself. Over and over, Jack shouted Santa's name. And he may or may not have pointed. It was humiliating, and hilarious, all at the very same time.

P.P.S. Perhaps I could train Jack to start referring to me as Jennifer Garner? If Mr. Owens gets to be Jesus, then I should get to be Jennifer, at the very least. And Boss? I suppose he can keep his name. Because nothing really trumps the title Boss.

Oh, Jack. You make me smile all over my face!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Happy at Home (Monday)

This is where Life on Fieldcrest Lane happens. Home sweet home.

I have never been a homebody. I think I love people and planet Earth far too much to stay cooped up inside for any length of time. It started when I was young. I had a happy, carefree childhood, but my family hit a rough patch around junior high. My brother, my only sibling, left home and then it was just me, mom, and dad. My parents were great, still are, but I was lonely. So I escaped. To the mall, to a friends house, to any and every activity that I could find to involve myself in. Because when I was busy, I didn't have time to think about the hard stuff, the sad stuff of life. So busy seemed better. Busy was more fun. And it was the same for me in college. (I'm not sure why my parents ever agreed to pay for me to rent a place. I was never there for more than the eight hours of required sleep each night!) And my 'busy is better' attitude carried right on over in to my adult life. In the beginning, it didn't seem to matter. When we were first married, Boss was the manager of a Champs Sports store in the mall (and worked insane hours), so when I wasn't in classes, I was there. With him. It was the only way that we got to see each other. I would walk around, people watch, read a book in the food court, drink vanilla Cokes from the Cookie Place as if my very life depended on it. Anything to pass the time. But then, I became a mama.

I had assumed that once I became a mama, that my life would change. That I  would automatically slow down. I pictured myself organized, having grocery days, laundry days, scheduled rest and play times for my children, hot meals on the table each evening. I assumed that because I had always longed to be a wife and mother, my only dream ever being to have a family, that the title of 'homemaker' would just come naturally. Without effort. But it didn't. Because I had never learned how. My mom had offered to teach me a few things in high school, but I always turned her down, too busy being busy. So now as a brand new mama, I found the task of keeping a home overwhelming. So I didn't. I simply did the bare minimum. Boss would wash the laundry and fold it, and then it would sit there in baskets until worn again. I learned to cook a weeks worth of basic meals, but nothing more. And when Boss was at work, the children and I would leave. We would head to the library, the park, the mall play place, a friends house.  It didn't really matter where we went, just so long as we went. Being busy made the days seem to pass more quickly, the tasks of being a wife and a mother less overwhelming. And don't get me wrong! The children and I had fun! Adventures we would call them. It was exciting to see where our days would take us. And that was our life. And it still was up until a few months ago when God began to convict me.

'Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. '
(Titus 2:3-5)

I stumbled upon this verse in one of my readings, and the words busy at home jumped out at me right away. Like a dagger to the heart. Yikes! I was a busy person, all right, but I was not busy at home. At first, I didn't like the way the words felt on my lips, so I ignored them. I moved on in my reading, tried to put the words out of my mind, but they kept creeping back in. For weeks, every time I would ignore the dishes and load the kids up in the car to head out for the day, I would feel a huge sense of guilt. Every time I would spend HOURS chatting at a friends house while the children played in another room, where I used to feel fulfillment, I now felt stomach pains and weariness. Now, every time we would be out all day and then hurry home to throw something last minute on the table (or pick up take out), I knew I wasn't honoring God with my time. And what was even worse, I had begun to see that I was passing my 'busy is better' attitude on to my children. If we weren't in motion, my children weren't happy! And if I dared suggest we stay home for a day, you would have thought I was suggesting torture. And my mama heart began to break, for disobeying God, and for not showing my children what it means to be obedient to God's Word. Something needed to change. I needed to change. And I thought our move, into our brand new (to us) home, would be a good time to start. And while I can say that I have made progress this summer, I am still not where I would like to be.

I want our home to be a sanctuary, our family haven from the world. I want Boss to look forward to returning here in the evenings, after a hard day at work. I want our home to be clean and organized so that we can use it to bless and serve others. I want my children to feel ties to our family home, something I never felt to mine. Most importantly, I want to be the wife and mother that God would have me to be. I want to learn the art of being happy at home. It's one of my dreams that I have decided to turn into a plan.

So here's my plan. Every Monday, at the start of a brand new week of  homemaking, I will post here on what I am doing to continue to cultivate the art of learning to be happy at home. Maybe I will post new recipe's I have tried, or organizational tips I have found to be helpful. Perhaps decorating ideas that inspire me, or family things going on inside of our home. To hold me accountable. To remind me of God's desire for my role as a wife and mama living for him. I have no doubt that the children and I will still go on adventures. It's in our blood. And adventures are just plain fun! But my new desire is to make this new adventure inside of our home, just as exciting, just as wonderful, as the adventures we are used to taking outside of our home. And perhaps a new sort of happiness awaits us. But this time we won't be too busy to see it! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Saturday

image via Pinterest
With summer freedoms coming to a close and hints of fall whispering to me in the air, my creative juices are coming alive. I close my eyes and picture a warm fire, soft music, feet propped up, and me writing. Writing, writing, writing. Lately, it's all I want to do. I write in my head in the shower. I write in my head when I am driving home late at night, the children snug and asleep in the backseat. I write in my head while I should be finding rest. So many thoughts that seem to want to find their way out at once. But alas, there is never enough time in the day to put all of those thoughts to paper. Because in reality, I am not a writer. I am a mother. And mothering takes up most of my time, something I am so very thankful for, but it doesn't stop the words from coming. So I try to find a few minutes each day. To sit, to think, to record the happies, to write what I want to remember. And here is what I want to remember this particular Saturday...

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."

Henry David Thoreau, I think I might possibly be falling in love with you. You penned beautiful words, and I always seem to stumble upon them right when I need them most. So today, on this particularly stunning Saturday, I am going to put down my pen, close my computer, and then I am going to stand up and live. I think taking the children to the amusement park might be in order. Spins, thrills, laughter, fireworks, blue ice cream. If that isn't living, then I don't know what is.

Happy Saturday, friends. Make it a good one!

Dreams Into Plans

I was born a dreamer. But I haven't always lived as one. For many years, I lived only as a survivor. A survivor of broken childhood dreams, too much sadness, not enough laughter. A survivor of low self esteem, of not feeling like I belonged. A survivor of peer pressure, the weight of it all feeling like too much. And then, eventually, a survivor of daily life who turned to food binging, followed by purging, the only way I knew to find release from it all. Those were really dark times, the days where all I did was survive. But finally, when I'd had enough, I asked for help. Thank God I asked for help. Help taught me to move beyond surviving. Help taught me how to turn my surviving into thriving. Help taught me how to dream, something I was meant to do all along. And now I dream as if my life depends on it. Because it sort of does. To me, dreaming means hoping, and hoping means moving forward. And forward is where I want to go, so I keep on dreaming. And someday? Someday I might get really brave and turn my dreams into plans.

* I searched for the source of this picture, but couldn't come up with anything concrete. Nor could I find a name to go along with this spectacular quote. But here is to the author of such a beautiful saying! Thank you for inspiring me with your words.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sweet Sleep (Or Not)

Jack Ryan

My first daughter, Emma, was a terrific baby. She rarely cried, was almost always content to sit and smile, and the thing that made her absolutely GOLDEN was that by seven weeks old she was sleeping through the night (in her own room!) from 7pm until 7am. Golden, I tell you. Naturally, I thought that I was the perfect mother. How else could I have gotten such a perfect baby? And because Boss has always been super awesome, he would agree with me by saying, yes Babe, you are the perfect mother! Perhaps I am imagining that last part, but it feels right to type it.

My second daughter, whom I love dearly, was a bit  LOT more challenging. She never did get that sleeping thing right until she was around three years old.  And because I have always been super awesome, too, I usually blamed Boss for her non sleeping genes. Darn him and his early rising! But Kate, she took early rising to a whole new level. Multiple night wakings, 4am risings, every single day, for three(ish) years.  I read book after book, tried schedule after schedule. She and I even went so far as to move in with my parents for a few weeks when she was six months old, so that we could do the dreaded 'letting her cry it out' without disturbing the rest of the household (we were houseparents in New Mexico at the time). I remember crying to my mom, asking her why Kate couldn't sleep like a normal child. I had dreamed of having a house full of children, but sweet Kate and her non sleeping was making Boss and I change our minds. I shudder now, to think of how dark my thoughts were towards motherhood at that time, but it was where I was at. Those were some hard years, and I just wanted to survive them.

Eventually, Kate turned three, started sleeping decently, and we found the courage to try for baby number three. Jack was what I would call an average baby. We had seasons of great sleep and happiness, and seasons of multiple night wakings and early risings. But the tide always changed, bringing with it sweet sleep when we needed it most. I feel that his first year of life was probably fairly typical. And his second year of life was even better. And as of this summer, for the first time in eight years of parenting, the Z family was all well rested! And it was awesome.

And then came last week. Boss and I went away for four days, sans children, and came home to a different toddler. Well, he's still the same cute, ornery little fellow that we all adore, but his sleeping habits are now a different story. We used to lay him down at night with a prayer and a kiss, and simply walk away. And that was it. Two minutes and we were done. A stress free bedtime routine. And Jack would sleep beautifully for ten hours each night, while still taking a lovely nap each afternoon. But not anymore. Now, since our return, he cries (and cries, and cries, and screams, and cries) when we put him in his bed. We have tried everything, and the only thing that is working is holding him until he falls asleep and then placing him in his bed. And even then, most nights he has eventually been joining us in ours. And naps? Unless we are driving, those seem to be a thing of the past.

But I am not the same mother that I was six years ago. And I no longer feel like I am just surviving. The passing of time brings with it the gift of perspective, and no matter how frustrated I want to feel with Jack, no matter how tired I am some mornings, I know that soon enough this season will pass us by. Just like it did with Kate. I know that soon enough all of our children will be in their own beds, and we will be begging them for a cuddle or two. And if we never have any more children? Then this is it. This is my last cycle of sleepless nights. And I can honestly say that thought makes my heart a (tiny) bit sad. So when my growing son now cries at bedtime, I pick him up, cuddle him close, and go sit with him on the couch until sleep finds him. I brush my fingertips across his eyelids until they grow heavy. I breathe in the scent of his hair, and memorize the weight of his body on my chest. And I remind myself that this season, even in its sleeplessness, is still beautiful. A once in a lifetime opportunity to be the one place where my son feels safe and loved.

I still pray that one day our home will house more children. Our foster license is ready to go, and we are now waiting on that magic phone call. I still hope that I will get the privilege of rocking another tiny soul to sleep. But in case this is it? I soak it all in. And I thank God for the blessing of being a mama.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Making Music That Matters

Emma, Age 8

"Many people measure a man’s power or effectiveness by the noise he makes in the world. But this standard is not always correct. The drum makes vastly more noise than the flute, but for true, soul thrilling music and soothing power the flute is a thousand times more effective. "
-J.R. Miller

Here on Fieldcrest Lane, we have chosen to homeschool our children. Not because we think it is the only right way to educate all children, but because we think it is the only right way to educate our children. For now. Probably for always. But even though we choose to homeschool, we still do allow our children out of the basement from time to time for a little social interaction in this great big world. (Kidding, kidding, our house doesn't even have a basement, so have no fear.) Our children have been involved in dance for a number of years, and Kate has recently taken up soccer. Both girls took art and science classes last year through a local homeschool cooperative, and Emma was in a Musical Theatre production. This year we have joined a second co op, in addition to the one we were a part of last year, and our children are also involved in weekly activities and classes through our church. To say they are busy little bee's would be an understatement.

And yet my oldest daughter still looked at me with tears in her eyes last week and told me that she was sad, because she still has yet to find her 'thing' in life. The 'thing' that makes her so happy, she wants to do/or play/or create it forever. The 'thing' that helps to define who she is. The 'thing' that she is known for to others. So even though Emma has tried lots of different activities, and even found several of them to be enjoyable, she still feels a tiny bit lacking inside, because she has yet to find her 'thing'.

I could have told her to relax, reminded her that she is only entering the third grade, so she has plenty of years left in which to discover her 'thing'. I could have told her all of the areas in which I find that she excels and encouraged her to make one of those things, her 'thing'. But I didn't choose either of those options. Instead, I just pulled her close and held her. I had no words. Because I am 30 years old, and sometimes (most of the time) I feel the exact same way. I think to myself, when I find my 'thing', then my life can really begin! When I find my 'thing', people will admire me more, and more people will want to be my friend. When I find my 'thing', then and only then, can life truly be satisfying and good. When I find my 'thing', then I will find peace, where now I feel a lacking. And I am willing to bet that Emma and I are not the only two people on planet Earth who have ever felt this way.

 I believe that most of us want to be the drummer's in this world. We want what we do in life, we want our 'thing' to be noticed by others. We want to make so much noise, we want to be so skilled at our 'thing', that people can't help but look on in awe and wonder. That, to us, is our standard of success. It is how we measure our worth, how we measure how effective our life is. So we keep on drumming. Trying out more and more things, making so much noise in this world that we exhaust ourselves. I see this already happening with my eight year old daughter, and I know it to be truth in my own life.

That's why I love the above quote. Because while a few of us were born to be drummer's, to live life in the lime light, having the opportunity to change the world through a larger sphere of influence than most, I would say that the majority of us were put here to play the flute. Perhaps we lead quieter lives. Perhaps our sphere of influence doesn't go beyond our family and close friends. Perhaps, to most, we look ordinary. But that doesn't mean that the music we make with our lives can't be just as beautiful or stunning.

I think I will share this quote with my daughter. With all of my children, actually. Perhaps it will be the first thing that we memorize once school starts back up in the next couple of weeks. I want to drill it in to my children's heads, and most importantly, in to their hearts, that their lives matter. That they are each unique, and beautiful, created by God to love Him and to love others in this world. I want to remind them that the only real point of this life is to point to Him, no matter what they do, be it drumming or flute playing. I want my children to know that they most certainly don't need a 'thing' to make their lives matter. They need to know that it is okay if the world doesn't appreciate them, doesn't see them for who they are, instead of only noticing them for what they do. Because God sees. And He hears. too. He hears every single note that we play. All my children need to do, all any of us need to do, really, is to keep making music with our lives for Him. We will write the notes, and He will direct the symphony. And I have no doubt that all of it will be soul thrilling.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Birthday Recap

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

It's no secret that my BIG birthday has recently come and gone, so I now find myself in this new place called 30. And let me be the first to tell you that it still all feels a bit surreal. Very, very surreal. Sometimes, when I'm driving down the road, I glance in my rear view mirror and the sight that I see takes my breath away. Three children in the back seat call me Mama! HOLY COW! That makes me the grown up in this situation! And I'm really just not sure when all of this 'me growing into a grown up, having three children, and turning 30 years old' thing happened. In the blink of an eye, that's for sure. But here I am. And while it still feels a bit uncomfortable at times, while sometimes I want to throw in my apron and take off my heels (who am I kidding? I never wear either!), there really is no place else that I'd rather be at 30 years old. And that feels good.

Boss spoiled me rotten on my special day. I awoke to a decorated house, colorful streamers, balloons, and breakfast in bed! Boss made quiche! HE MADE QUICHE! It was so cute and sweet. He kept smiling, all proud of his homemade quiche. And I smiled because it was delicious. After that I went to a Pampered Chef party with some girlfriends, and my friend Kristin (the Cupcake Queen) brought me Starbucks. We have really only become friends this past year, and here she is, already speaking my love language of cupcakes and iced chai tea lattes! Thanks, Kristin! After Pampered Chef came my 1 hour relaxation massage. It was very relaxing! And then I came home and discovered that Boss had arranged a very special dinner for me with some of my very favorite people. (Have I ever mentioned that we spent Boss' 30th in the ER, because I was pretty sure I was dying of cancer, although it turned out just to be an anxiety attack?) So Boss could have just taken me to the hospital cafeteria and called it even, but he didn't. Instead, he spoiled me rotten and showered me with love, and made this entering in to a new decade thing a little bit less scary. So thank you, Babe. I love you a BIG one!

And a BIG thank you to all of you wonderful people who sent me well wishes, cards, gifts, and hugs. My journey this far in life is only this great because you walk the road with me. So here's to turning another year older! My prayer for this year is that the Lord would mold me more into His likeness each day, that I would use the gifts and resources He has blessed me with to serve others, and that I would continue to dream big dreams, and then step out of the way to watch Him work. So come on 30, I plan on knocking you out of the park! (Pretty good, for a girl who knows nothing about baseball, don't you think?!)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Day at the Fair

Cowboy Jack

Emma, Cousin Claire, Kate

Watching Wistfully



A Boy and his Lemonade



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Magic Moments

After our friend's wedding reception in South Carolina came to a close, Boss and I jumped in the car and hit the road once more. Our destination? Gatlinburg, TN for a little 'us' time. And goodness me, I cannot even begin to tell you how gorgeous the drive was between Ashville, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. Green mountains, rolling hills, blue skies, several tunnels. My body desperately wanted to rest, but my eyes refused. They needed to see the beauty that surrounded them. Boss and I rolled down the windows, opened up the sun roof, and breathed in the fresh mountain air as if our very lives depended on it. The stress that comes with ordinary days melted away with the miles, and all that was left was extraordinary perfection. I did close my eyes at one point, but only so that I could try and capture the moments of that drive forever in my heart. Because that drive, those moments, felt like magic.

We arrived around supper time and quickly prettied up to spend a night out on the town. We tossed around several ideas of where to eat, but as soon as  I saw that roof top dining was available at a Mexican Restaurant, nothing else stood a chance. We sat at a table for two that overlooked the mountains. Twinkling lights danced across the sky. Boss and I shared an order of fajitas. Throughout dinner, Boss would wink at me or reach over to take hold of my hand, but we hardly uttered a word. Our server joked that our food must have been great since there was no conversation at our table. What he didn't know was that after a decade of love, sometimes words just aren't really necessary. Another magic Moment.

The next morning we set off early for a hike up to Laurel Falls. The climb was fairly steep, the trail crowded, but we pressed on. When we reached the top of the falls, my breath caught in my throat. The falls were so powerful and beautiful, yet I was disappointed that there were so many other people around. I had wanted another moment. And because he is amazing, Boss knew that. He asked me if I wanted to be brave and hike off the trail, climb down to the bottom of the falls. I wanted to say no, I don't really do brave, but I said yes instead. Another moment, after all. Boss took my hand like the gentleman that he is and gently guided me down the rocks. Several times he asked me if I wanted to stop, if where we were was far enough, but I always replied keep going until there is not a  single person in sight. Finally, after about a half hour, we stopped to sit on a large, flat, reclined rock. The people were gone, the sound of the falls pounding the rocks all that we could hear. We took off our shoes and stuck our feet in the mountain stream. We reclined against the rock and closed our eyes, letting the sunshine warm our faces. Boss grabbed my hand again. And then he leaned over and whispered that this was his very favorite moment with me yet.

So many magic moments in the span of a single day. Is it selfish to wish for a lifetime more?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wedding Weekend

In case you weren't aware of this fact, the Boss man is a stud. Seriously. We just got home from a little whirlwind weekend away, sans children. On Friday we drove to South Carolina to attend our friend Travis' wedding, where he committed his whole heart and life to his sweet bride, Maria. Boss was in the wedding party, which means that he wore a tux. And when Boss wore that tux, I could not have found  him more attractive if I  had tried. I did not care for the attractive red head that he escorted down the isle, but I promised Boss I would be mature (now that I am 30 and all) and not trip her as they walked back up the isle, though I may possibly have flashed my ring in her direction a time or two and a stink eye (or three) might have escaped, as well. Possibly. The details are all a bit blurry, really, because I can't think straight when Boss wears a tux.

I also looked pretty nice, if I do say so myself. I bought a black dress for the occasion that made me feel smokin' (though my eight year old has since informed me that when she grows up they will not be allowed to say 'smokin' in her family). I told Boss that we should have Dress Up Friday's at our house. You know, some people have Casual Friday's, but really, what fun is that? Dress Up Friday's would be a hit, I tell you. You'll just have to trust me on that one.

Anyway, back to the wedding. I love weddings. I really, really love them. They always make me cry in the good sort of way. At this particular wedding, it was the dad's speech as he handed his baby girl over to her groom that got me. A real tear jerker. When I am at weddings, I always think about my own wedding to Boss, and the nine years that have passed since then, and I think about how it all does really just keep getting better with time. Not easier, necessarily, but better.

The reception was beautiful. It was at an old plantation house. Perfectly southern and charming. The tables were set up under a white tent and they had a black and white checkerboard dance floor that was TO DIE FOR. Seriously, when I saw it I almost swooned right there on the spot. Come to think of it, if I had swooned, that would have been a very southern thing for me to do! I will keep that in mind for the next southern wedding that I attend. It really was the most beautiful day, and I had fun celebrating the new marriage of our friend's, while thanking God throughout the day for the marriage that I share with my own groom. It was a perfect start to my new decade.