Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

My husband thinks I’m beautiful.  

I’m not sure why, exactly, since I often see the extra padding I carry for emergencies, the lines that have cropped up around my face, and the gray hair which has been reproducing at alarming rates lately.  

I look in the mirror and see imperfections.  

My husband seems to look at me and see more than that.  And I am grateful.

We were camping in northern Michigan recently, and we were at a restaurant on a beautiful vista looking over Lake Michigan.  My entire family was milling about the area, kids running around and adults chatting and trying to keep order.  I didn’t spend much time with my husband while we were there, busy as we were with the family.  But later, at the campsite, he told me that he had looked over at me during our time there, and thought, “She is beautiful”.

As you can imagine, my eyes teared up.  How often do I tear myself down, quickly find all my flaws and assume that is all others see as well? He has seen me at my best, but more often he has seen me at my worst.  He has seen me when my face is contorted with frustration, or sadness.  He has seen me in the throes of childbirth – five times over.  He has seen my body change over the years, and my face age.  He sees all these things, and loves me in spite of (and sometimes because of) them.

By worldly standards, I am not beautiful.  But who cares what the world thinks?  I’ll take his opinion any day.  And I’ll cherish the love he has for me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Five Quick Takes

A few oh-so-special moments from our house to yours:

My dear five-year-old daughter asked me the other day, ever-so-seriously:
"Mommy?  Is there such a thing as a plain-bow? Like a rainbow with no colors in it?"

My eldest son recently finished his baseball season, and was awarded the only trophy on his team:  for Most Improved Player.  It was engraved with his name and everything!  He was very happy to receive it, and my husband and I are very proud of him.  He was iffy about playing baseball this year, but happened to meet his coach on evaluation day, and that sealed the deal. His coach made this year great for him, and our son learned so much - about baseball and about life!  He enjoyed his teammates as well, and most of all, really was able to enjoy the game this season.  Home run!

I was driving my two youngest children to DQ the other day to pick up an ice cream cake for their brother's birthday, when the driver behind me laid on his horn and dramatically sped by me.  I didn't think I had done anything wrong, but apparently he thought I had.  After a moment, I stopped thinking about the incident and went about my merry way.  Until I stopped for a red light several blocks away - and the man pulled up next to me, leaned out of his window and yelled an angry sentence complete with an obscenity.  I was rather floored and just looked at him.  Luckily, the light went green and he sped off just after he yelled at me.  But my two young children heard him, and the whole thing bothered me.  I don't particularly care what this man thinks of me, but to be yelled at with such rage was not especially pleasant!  Boo!

For birthdays at our house, we go around the dinner table and have everyone give a heartfelt sentence or two about the birthday person.  Examples are "I really like how nice you are to me, and how you play with me!" or "________ is really funny and always makes me laugh".  You get the idea.  Sometimes it's hard to come up with something, and we have to allow for a little more thinking time, but everyone comes up with a compliment or two for the birthday boy/girl.  On our 11-year-old's birthday last month, his older brother wowed us with an amazingly heartfelt testament to his brother.  My eldest son is not prone to flowery words and compliments, so our hearts were greatly moved when he told his brother how much he admired how he's handled all he's been through (he's the child with some medical issues).  He told his brother how he respected his ability to rely on his faith during his challenging times.  It was really moving.  I was proud of my eldest son for going out of his comfort zone and voicing his thoughts, and also proud of my middle son, because the things his brother said are true.
After the moving moment passed, I reminded everyone what my youngest son said about his oldest brother at his last birthday dinner.  You can read about it here.  We all cracked up.

My monkey-in-the-middle son recently wrote me the following poem for a Mother/Son night.  Enjoy.

I am a fart,
but you are a pop-tart!

I am a toot,
but you are a fruit!

I am a poop,
but you are a loop-de-loop!

And he read it to me with great expression and love.  And I loved it!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Jesus Take the Wheel

We're entering into uncharted waters over here at our house.  Friday afternoon marked our first trip to the BMV for a Learner's Permit.

For our child.  Enabling her to get behind a wheel and drive a car.  Legally.  

I'm tellin' ya, this child was just in preschool the other day.  Seriously, she cannot possibly be old enough to operate a moving vehicle.  But the state says she is, so it's all legal-like now.  Time flies, and I've gotta hustle to keep up with it.

So Saturday afternoon, I figured I should let her give driving a try; after all, we must start logging all those hours sometime.  I told my husband I was going to let her drive around our very quiet block a couple times in the Suburban.  He wisely suggested she drive the Astro instead (duh?  what was I thinking?).  I'll tell you what I was thinking - that she would be a driving expert on her first try.  

That is not exactly how it went down.

We got in the ol' Astro (fondly nicknamed the Deuce), and I realized I better tell her a few things before we started moving (are you shocked at my naivete about this?  Obviously I needed to show her things before we started moving - what was I thinking?).  After I gulped down my fear when she suggested she use her left foot for the brake, I gathered my wits and showed her all the basics on the dashboard.  With my feet firmly planted, my hand on the dash and my heart in my throat, I suggested she put the van in drive and ease off the brake.

We were moving.  So far, so good.  After about 10 seconds of driving, she overshot her first turn.  She got to practice putting the car into reverse in the street (something I reminded her to never do again!) and tried again.  We made it this time, and she began to accelerate.  She floored it. . .to about 10 mph.  Dear readers, 10 mph never felt so fast!  It felt like we were going 70.  "Slow down!" I yelled  calmly instructed.  "We have to turn again in just a sec - and there are several parked cars you have to navigate around!"  She slowed, with an exaggerated sigh, and managed to drive between the parked cars, with nary a fender bender.  We made it home and then did it again, this time slightly slower, and with no missed turns.  

Later, we ran to 7-11 to get our free slushies (did you get yours yesterday?), and she (jokingly) suggested she drive us there.  I practically fainted.  

Apparently I am a control-freak as well.  What if she panics and pushes the gas instead of the brake?  I was sitting helplessly in the passenger seat.  She's a very responsible girl, logical and smart.  She actually did just fine for her first attempt -it seems I was expecting perfection right out of the gate.

When our youngest gets her permit, I'll probably be reclining in the passenger seat with a coke and texting pics of how cute she looks.  I doubt if I'll be freaking out like her older sister experienced.  My husband and I will know what we're doing in this category on the fifth go around.  My poor first child - getting to pave the way for her sibs.

So if you see my daughter driving the Astro, and you see me in the passenger seat, white-knuckled, say a little prayer.  Not for her - she'll likely be doing fine.  But for me, a control-freak mamma who can't believe her daughter is old enough to be licensed!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Vacay, Camping Style

Fourteen people, two tents, one pop-up and a giant canopy/kitchen complex.  Eight days and nights of family time with my whole family.  Countless memories.

We had a fabulous time camping, hiking, walking, beaching, shopping and eating.  I am thankful for these times together.  As the kids get older and busier, finding time to schedule such vacations is harder and harder, but still ever-so-important.  I’m grateful I have such a wonderful extended family!

On the front end of our camping trip, I took a Mother/Daughter trip with my oldest girl.  We were able to head north a day earlier and spend time shopping, exploring, and laughing.  I’m telling ya – I can really laugh with this girl!  Nobody else laughs at my ridiculous sense of humor like she does.  We were both doubled over in laughter more times than I can count (slightly problematic while I was driving!). What a blessing she is to me!

And at the end of our trip, my husband took a Father/Son trip with our oldest boy.  They backpacked on a remote island and ate freeze-dried food and beef jerky and did lots of boy things.  They enjoyed the time together as well, and I am often reminded lately just how mature my son is becoming.  Personally,  I would take my girl trip of shopping and hotel-sleeping over backcountry backpacking any day, but I guess that doesn’t sound very appealing to dudes.

And now we’re home again.  The remainder of the camping laundry is still sneering at me from the laundry room floor.  My to-do list is long.  But it was all worth it, for those memories made sitting around the campfire, working together at the campsite and playing at the beach. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ode to Aldi

Oh Aldi.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

You save me thousands of dollars every year.  (I could stop right here and this would be a sufficient poem, having summed up the most important point of all).

You never leave me gasping at the register, shocked at the subtotal (like I do, perhaps, at Target sometimes. . .though I do love you, Target, truly I do).

You ask me for a quarter for your carts, ensuring that no cars are dented by runaway carts, and that prices stay low by not hiring a cart-boy (or girl).

You give me the quarter back at the end of my visit, a pleasant little gesture.

You save me ridiculous amounts of money.  Did I say that already?

You carry very few name brands, and are therefore able to provide deep discounts on the Aldi product line.  Your suppliers, however, are often the very same as the national brands (I had a friend who spotted the Dean's milk truck delivering to your store).

Your checkout process is lightning fast, due to the fact that each product has multiple UPCs printed.

You don't provide bags, we bring our own, therefore cutting down costs and encouraging recycling.

You don't accept credit cards, thereby pay no retailer card fees, thereby saving me more money.

You carry a huge selection of gluten-free and organic products!  Everyone can be happy at Aldi!

Your average store has only 6-8 employees, and you pay them much higher than people in comparable positions in other stores.  Good for you!

You are cousins with the revered Trader Joe's.  Everyone should realize you are just awesome by association!

Your low costs give my family more disposable income, to spend on the important things, like say, the electric bill, or a special broom to sweep up all the dog hair.

Your employees are friendly!  This seems to be a rare commodity these days.

Oh how I love thee, Aldi, you with all your money-saving ways! Thank you for being my weekly destination!

And I close with this wee verse to all of mankind:

Roses are red, 
Violets are blue, 
Aldi saves our budget,
Let it save yours too!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Six Quick Takes

  • Yesterday was my "monkey in the middle" son's 11th birthday.  Every year on his birthday, I reminisce about his birth.  It was rocky, it was scary, it was emotional.  And it was wonderful.  As we gazed down upon his little body, hooked up to more pieces of equipment than I could keep track of, we were overwhelmed with love.  I look back on those early pictures and compare him to the healthy, athletic, strapping boy he is now, and I can hardly reconcile the two images.  God has blessed him abundantly, and He blessed us immeasurably by giving us this child!
  • On the same subject, this certain 11-year-old is at camp this week.  It was very strange yesterday to think about his birth without him present.  He didn't mind at all being at camp on his birthday (possibly because campers get to "kiss the moose" if they happen to be there on their birthday), so I knew it couldn't bother me either.  And I've been fine. . .but I am ready to see my boy today, and to be celebrate eleven years of him!
  • In an effort to eat less, be healthier, and have less of, well, me, I discovered this new way of making a cake.  I think the end result is not much different from a traditional boxed cake - and with way fewer calories!  You simply add a can of diet coke to a cake mix, and voila!  You can have your cake and eat it too! (I couldn't help myself!)  Here's a pic of my girl helping me make it (it took about five seconds - she was disappointed there weren't several ingredients and  measuring cups):

  • Summer is in full swing over here.  Tennis lessons for the boys, cheer camp, baseball (including All Stars for one of the boys), camping, camp, a summer theater production. . .I gotta say, it feels almost as busy as during the school year!  It's all good stuff though, and I'm trying to soak it in and encourage the kids to do the same.  Before we know it, we'll be shopping for school supplies and having our Mommy's nights.
  • Shadow (or The Shads, as he is affectionately called around these parts) loves tennis balls.  I mean, he really, really is into tennis balls.  Today I took him with me to tennis lessons so he could walk with me while my son had his lesson, and every time we walked by the fenced-in courts, he lunged for each ball the zinged by.  Every time, he pulled hard against the harness, attempting to chase the ball (through the fence, remember).  He also is very fond of whichever tennis ball is under the couch.  It matters not if there are three tennis balls near him on the family room floor, it is only the one that has rolled under the couch that will bring him untold bliss.  And so he will bark and whine and whimper at us until we reach under (or move) the couch and retrieve it for him.  
  • One last thing, which perhaps I will write more on at a later date.  Are you shopping at Aldi?  If not, you must.  I feel I would be remiss if I did not tell you how much more money you would have if you simply shop at Aldi.  Try it once (take a quarter for your cart deposit!), and you won't be sorry!  That is all.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

We Are Family!

This weekend, I made a whirlwind trip to my hometown.  I was in town for just over 24 hours, and spent six + hours getting there to spend those 24 hours.  I took all five kids, one of whom vomited overnight during our stay.  It was a crazy trip, but it was worth it.

Why was it worth it, you say?  Because on Saturday afternoon, my kids and I (my husband had to stay home to work) spent seven hours with about 50 members of my family.  We attended our annual family reunion of my mom's side of the family.

This reunion has been a yearly event for as long as I can remember.  I recall being a young girl at my great aunt and uncle's lake house every year for the reunion.  All of my cousins and I swam, we rode in the boat, we ate all day.  We played the player piano with all of our might, pumping our legs up and down whilst wearing our swimsuits and listening to the adults standing behind us singing.  We curled up in our mother's or grandma's laps and rested the requisite half hour after eating before we were allowed to swim.  Sometimes, if we were lucky, we got to spend the night in the upstairs of the lake house - a room with beds in every nook and cranny to accommodate our ever-growing family.  We sat on the upstairs deck and talked to our cousins, and played cards and ball all day.  We listened to the stories of our great aunts and uncles and ate the special dishes which seemingly were only prepared for this event.

It was a wonderful day each year.  Going to the lake -so full of promise and fun and excitement.

Fast forward 30 or more years.  We no longer meet at the lake, but the reunion is still going strong.  Many faces have been added over the years and many beloved members of our family have gone home to heaven.  It's not the same to me now, as an adult.  I have to prepare food to share (though my mom covered that for me this year!), I have to drive a few hours since I married and moved away, I have to watch my children and keep them out of trouble. . .you get the idea.  As an adult, the family reunion is no longer a day full of carefree play.

But it is still a very special day to me.  I am not able to make it every year, but when I can, I relish those around me.  I don't see them often, but it doesn't change the fact that they are my people.  We all share a common family tree, memories of our childhoods together and many of us share our faith.  Going to the family reunion shows my children, and reminds me, that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Our extended family is our story, is part of who we are.  I spent the day catching up with my cousins and watching our children play together.   I had a heartfelt conversation with one of my great aunts about old family stories, and laughed with my second cousins.  We sat and sang with a cousin playing his guitar.

We missed the family members who were unable to make it this year, and caught up on their news from their immediate family who were present.  We looked at pictures and talked genealogy and marveled about how big everyone's kids were getting.

It was good stuff.

We get so busy these days, and we disconnect.  It was so nice to come together with all these people, many of whom have known me since I was born, and reminisce.  We can let down with family.  We can be our true selves and feel confident that we will be accepted.  I thank God that he has placed me in this family.  I thank him for my parents and sister, who provided me with a loving, solid, Christ-centered childhood, and I thank him for my grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles who rounded out our immediate family in that special way that only family can.

And finally, I am grateful to God that he has blessed me with my own wonderful (not-so-little) family.  My children, my husband - these are my people.

You don't choose your family.  They are God's gift to you,
 as you are to them.

Desmond Tutu