29 July 2012

Of Finishing the Trip

In case you feel like you were caught in a cliffhanger, the kids and I did survive the latter half of our trip.  We bid good-bye to Virginia and the beautiful family which therein resides.  And after two further days on the road were able to spend a few more wonderful days with my brother and his family.  And because it's just plain easier, here is the photo recap:

- Joey got in a lot of quality cousin time, and many tackles and pokes.

- He also had great tickles from Aunt Kimberly.  Yeah, family is pretty great.

- "How I Spent my Summer Vacation" by Micaiah - this girl is so plugged in, it's ridiculous.  But she did also enjoy spending time with Kylie (who was generally more happy than this).

- Kim enjoyed the boys.

- In the car ride on the way back from Virginia, I noticed in the back seat Micaiah playing with her brother's Transformer and VW Bug, crashing them together.  Meanwhile, in the seat next to her . . .

. . . her brother was brushing her "My Little Pony" and narrating a conversation between "Twirl Heart" and Thumper.

- Later, he and I played a little game.  He would look at me like this.
 I would mimic his expression, and be rewarded with this (and the accompanying melody of his genuine belly laugh).
 Love this boy.

 - Later, all three napped in the car.  Blissful silence.

- Joey then enjoyed more cousin play-time with his brother's favorite, Nella.

- I also had the privilege of spending a few hours playing Zombie with high school friends.  Jen even held Joey (though she offered him gasoline to play with - ok, ok, it was just a playing card, but still . . .).

- I even met my good friend, Jamie's, beautiful daughter, Alexia, who enjoyed playing with Nella as well.

- Emmett made his rounds getting tickles.  From Aunt Andrea . . .

Uncle Andy . . .

And Grandma.

- Grandma and Grandpa bought the kids' favorite story book that they heard during their library visit in Virginia (the same one Emmett began reciting out of the blue on our road trip back to St. Louis).

- Grandma accompanied the kids and I to the zoo, where we survived the 104 degrees and even managed to enjoy ourselves!

- And Joey met a real life penguin.  He may have been less excited than me.

- Micaiah felt the Penguin House was really cold.  And she'll tell you about it if you ask.

- Joey composed his first piano movement.

- Emmett completed his tickle routine with Grandpa.

- Then, sadly, it was time to say good-bye.

- Though even the good-byes turned into play-time as Micaiah and Amie loved pulling their hugs to the ground and dissolving into giggles.

- Good-bye, everyone!

It was a very busy two weeks but, again, we all survived and I was grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time catching up and letting the cousins strengthen their friendships.

28 July 2012

Of Four Years

Four years ago I was tuning into the Summer Olympics - one of my favorite events ever (even more so than the Winter, which are still a favorite, just a little less favorite).  I was very pregnant and begging this baby would come out earlier than planned so as to give me enough time to recuperate before heading to my brother's wedding (the stubborn and punctual little girl waited until her due date - she was not going to do this any earlier than she had already planned).

We watched the opening ceremonies that year with some friends, whose two-month-old baby girl slept on the floor while their four-year-old played in her room.  These were the only two children between us.  It was a low-key and delightful experience.

Four years later, same friends, same house, we strove to hear the announcers over the sound of our own three kids playing with their three.  After the artistic (and, at times, "interesting") portion of the show, as the nations began their parade into the arena, we had to pack up a three-year-old, two-year-old and five-month-old who were all well ready for bed - we wouldn't even get to stay to watch the flame ignite.

Life has changed so much in four years - and, yet, it feels it's all the same.  We watch the events while hearing so many of the same names, seeing the same faces, while also taking part in the joy of new competitors, hearing new stories and watching new moments of history being written.

It's this little thing, this one event, this single thread running through time, that reminds me how quickly life passes.  Some things change, some remain, but still it goes.

Interested to see where and how we'll be viewing these Games in another four years, but for now, relishing the moment before us.

1000 Gifts:
706. An unprovoked, "I love you, Bubba!" from our little girl
707. Emmett telling me, "I want to keep you, too."
708. Cruising the curves of familiarity.
709. Riding off into the sunset to see my man.
710. Small-town street lamps at dusk.
711. An eternal flame of gratitude to our fallen heroes.
712. Clouds like powdered sugar.
713. Little baby, rocking and rolling
714. Growing baby, sitting up on his own
715. The ever-increasing curiosity of a developing baby boy

19 July 2012

Of Our Mid-Summer Road Trip

The children and I have spent an eventful week traveling and spending time with family and friends.  And we're only halfway through our vacation!

Current highlights:

- Dressing like a cow will always be one of the best ways to earn a free meal (and, yes, some people will do anything for free food).

- Apparently when our car warns us of low tire pressure, it's not kidding.  Good to know.  Also glad the ensuing flat tire occurred after we arrived at our first destination and before it really had to be anywhere else for a week.  God is good.

- A day in the car with three former roommates (or, two former apartment-mates and one former replacement for my space in said apartment), with a beautiful wedding for an actual former roommate tossed in the middle, equals priceless memories and a whole lot of laughter.

- Our children had their first swim lessons from Grandma and Grandpa.  This is what hotel pools were made for.

- While a toddler and a pre-schooler can handle two days on the road (with a steady stream of dvd's to speed the time), a five-month old gets a little more bored and a little more cranky (and suddenly a big fan of the paci).

- The hills of West Virginia, and on into Virginia, are gorgeous for scenery, dangerous for motion sickness.

- Babies playing together is always the best (especially when it's cousins meeting for the first time).

- Eating dinner across from Kevin McCallister is entertaining always.

- Watching cousins play is a blast when you pair a set of girls and a set of boys.  Yes, there is bickering, but I love seeing the little competitions, or when Micaiah comes running down the stairs, dashing from her male cousin, shouting, "Ah!  A giant!" and without missing a beat, her brother, who had been happily playing next to Mommy, instantly jumps up, crying, "Grrr!" to join the giant in his tirade.  Absolutely love it.

- Shopping from a street-side vendor is just fun no matter where you do it.  Well, until you realize the sweaty kids would prefer to not be waiting while Mommy tries on a dress in the middle of the outdoor mall, right over all of her real clothes.  If you buy one an owl backpack, she might be more forgiving.

- This little girl, getting a kick out of her birthday present (tossing them behind her head was a favorite).

- It's too bad we have so many reasons to stay in Mid-America, otherwise I'd be heading home and telling Philip to pack our bags.  Charlottesville, VA is definitely the place to live.  

Interested to see what this next week holds (though, spoiler alert, fairly certain Batman might be involved - I can't be left out, even on vacation!).

11 July 2012

Of Her Prayers

I am going to tell you right now (in case you had not yet picked up on it) - I am not one of those moms who has it all together.  I feel I get it wrong so much more than I get it right.

I'm the mom that hears other parents telling stories of their kids pointing to the church steeple and talking about how Jesus died on that cross and realizes maybe I need to be a little more intentional about sharing my Savior on my own personal mission field at home.

Or, rather, that's how it was about a year ago.  In that time I have made much more of an effort.  We read Bible Stories at breakfast - when I remember.  We pray at bedtime - but sometimes in a hurry, and sometimes with repetition.  We take advantage of teachable moments - occasionally, but not as often as we should.

More often I'm ordering the kids to finish their oatmeal so we can get on with the day's activities.  We're rushing to pray so we can turn out the light and enjoy child-free time before bed.  We're too busy scolding to remember to correct with love.

Again, we fail more often than not.

My children are not very familiar with the idea of praying for people because, while I do that in my personal time, I forget to invite them to join me.  We do ask if they would like to pray before bedtime but, while Emmett enjoys repeating, neither are very eager to venture on their own and Micaiah rarely mouths a prayer at all - she's more of a listener.  And we're fine with that, because prayer is not something to be forced.

So, this morning, as we headed to another morning of VBS - no, I'm not teaching because, again, I'm just not that mom; I'm just in the "Moms" class and I drag the kids with me - I was anticipating another Emmett melt-down, which has become his specialty when being deposited into the church nursery.  Its new, really, this separation anxiety, and I'm still learning to deal with being the mother of that kid.  Thus, in a moment only inspired by the Holy Spirit, I actually remembered to make the most of the opportunity and I offered to pray for him as we pulled into the parking lot.

Just as I began, what to my wondering ears did I hear, but a tiny, feminine voice announcing, "No, I'll do it!"

"Okay, Micaiah, you do it," I answered encouragingly, I did not want to break this magic moment, but I also wondered what she would come up with, since I had not exactly announced how I planned to pray for her brother.

"Dear Lord," she began, "Thank you for Emmett."  I smiled and strained to hear because her little voice only seems to be quiet when talking to her Heavenly Father.  After a couple of other mumblings, of which I gathered nothing, I heard her stage whisper, "And what else?"

"Pray that he won't be scared," I urged.

"And please help Emmett not to be scared. - What else?"

"Pray that he would have fun playing."

"And please help him to have fun . . ."

"In Jesus' name we pray," I provided.

"In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen!"

My heart and my face were beaming.  One of the proudest Mommy moments I can imagine - my dear sweet daughter, praying for her terrified little brother (who, by the way, allowed me to leave him with the childcare workers without so much as squeal - he stood cautiously by the wall, of course, but did not verbalize any form of fear).

And as I sat in Bible Study, less than twenty minutes later, listening to Gungor's lyrics, "You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things out of us," I was humbled, knowing this beautiful thing - my precious little one speaking words of strength over her brother - could not come from me - I have done very little to build this heart in her.  And, yet, somehow, God has been glorified.  He has made His way into her speech, into her few but wonderful prayers.  I am but dust, and, yet, He has made something beautiful.

Always humbled by His love and grace.

1,000 Gifts:
695. Her prayers for him
696. Wanting to hold her baby brother
697. Spinning with them in my arms
698. Rolling thunder in the afternoon
699. A severe weather warning lacking the name of my town
700. Not breaching 100 in over three days.
701. Being packed - before the day of
702. Packing
703. Her wiping my kisses - the game lets me offer more to replace those erased
704. Dirt earned from playing hard
705. Welcoming home a weary world traveler

Yeah, they're pretty much the greatest.

Story time with Aunt Dia.  Glad she's home!

Riding on the horsey, who is, apparently, otherwise distracted.

Micaiah's turn to ride the motionless horsey, while Emmett spanks him into submission.

After a friend's birthday party, playing with their "Old MacDonald" puzzles.

09 July 2012

Of Flipping the Coin

I referenced the other day the use of the popular Bible verse, Romans 8:28 ("And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."), to console ourselves that our difficult circumstances will work together for our good.  I pointed out that our circumstances are, in reality, not just for us, but for the purposes of God and, thereby, ALL who love Him, and we may not even be allowed the privilege of bearing witness to His precise purpose.  

What I only just discovered yesterday, though, is how this Truth should not be applied only in the hard times, but also in the good - "in ALL things."

We, as Christians, tend to be quick to tell ourselves, or those we know who suffer, that our difficulties are for His purpose - but are we just as quick to say the same about the good?  Not simply saying, "Thank you, Lord, for these wonderful gifts," but reminding ourselves that His blessings are also for His purpose?  Thus, saying, "Thank you, Lord, for these wonderful gifts; how may I use them to more glorify you?"

We tend to say our hard times are simply a part of His plan but our good times are gifts for us to selfishly enjoy.  Are not the gifts also a part of His plan?

I don't mean to say God only gives with strings attached.  Most definitely He wants us to enjoy the blessings we have been given.  But when we get that raise at work, are we quick to see where we can give more readily to His purposes, or are we too busy planning our next vacation?  When the promotion goes through, are we glancing at that bigger paycheck, or asking how our new position can be used to further His Kingdom?  When we get the new house, are we too busy mentally filling the rooms and decorating the walls to see how He might use this home to shelter others or to make welcome the guest?

Let us, then, turn to God and seek His will not only through the storm, but also through the warmth of His shining grace.

1,000 Gifts:
685. Just the right song at just the right time
686. Fresh raindrops on the skin
687. Booming thunder overhead
688. Lawn chairs in the fading light of summer evening
689. Round baby bellies
690. Hugs, a long time coming
691. Sharing our hearts
692. A well-timed text to remember His love
693. Her hair, all sweat-soaked curls
694. Counting ten thousand reasons for my heart to sing

Photos of Recently:
When we arrived home from our Sunday School Class shindig on Saturday, some neighbors were creating their own fireworks show, so rather than head inside we pulled out the chairs and settled in.  Well, Emmett gave up only after a minute or two, asking to go to bed instead, but you can see the grin on Micaiah's face, even in profile.  This girl digs it!

Humidity/sweat turns this girl's hair into a head of curls.

Enjoying the show.

Joseph in his sea of penguins (his baby quilt from Gram).