/> Raising Angels: September 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Augusta Ironman 70.3

Today was the big day. And the weather today was a cool, overcast day - perfect for racing.

Brian is the one swimming in the red cap. I love that I caught him swimming. I love that silly look on his face. He looked great here.
This is right after his transition. I mean can you imagine getting on a bike after swimming 1.2 miles? These athletes are truly amazing.

Somehow I managed to get a photo of the best looking spectator at the race.

This was Kevin's first Ironman event and his first real open water swim. His goal was two-fold: not drown and finish in under an hour. He did both with plenty of time to spare.

And he was hap, hap, happy about it.

Can I just say best fan club ever? You're a lucky dawg Uncle Kev.

We bring quite a cheering squad with us. We had so much fun cheering for everyone. The kids especially loved giving the runners high fives as they passed by.

I love this picture. Doesn't he look happy and free? Now I'll ask, what would you look like after swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and then going out and running 13.1?

Max was super duper excited about this photo opportunity.

This is Brian right around 10 miles. He's not looking so happy and free here. Believe me, he was not feeling either of those emotions, but he was moving forward. He was getting the job done. He was amazing.
Finish line pictures are the best. There's that smile again. There’s genuine happiness. There’s sweet relief.

Brian you were amazing today! We are so proud of you!
Kevin, we think you're pretty cool too. Great job guys!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Seven Quick Takes

1. I substituted in the fourth grade today. It felt like home. I was struck by how old I thought my fourth graders were and how young today's class looked. This may have had something to do with the fact that one of them happened to be my son.

2. Met some friends for a quick lunch today to go over carpooling schedules for Social. After discussing needs, etc. one of the moms said, "Well I work on this day and this one but other than those days, I'll just do all of them."

After I stop feeling guilty, I'm going to go over to her house and throw my arms around her. I now include her in my gifts from God.

3. We’re having our family picture taken outside today and since I'm all organized and stuff, I knew by the time I got them back, ordered and in, it would be time for Christmas cards. Consequently, I went out and purchased coordinating long-sleeved shirts and sweaters for everyone. It's 86 and sunny.

If we have that wet and sweaty look when we arrive in your mailbox in December, you'll know why.

4. Sunday I'm going to cheer my brothers on in the Augusta Half Ironman. Kevin is swimming on a relay team and Brian is doing the whole thing. I'm very proud of both of them. I'm also very glad I'm a spectator and not a participant. I will enjoy this much more.

5. That being said, I'm signed up for a half in Athens next month. I've been much more relaxed about training this time around. I've been following a plan but not really pushing myself at all. I'm doing the race to support a friend. I will be at my slowest ever and I've decided that although I would love to be fast, I don't have the time or ability to work on it. This is a hobby and I'm finally ok with that...most days.

6. The week after next, we head to the beach. We decided that this year, Mackenzie will not be staying the whole week. Missing that much instruction time at the middle school level really left her struggling last year.

She hates this idea. I hate this idea. An era of our life is over and it's kind of sad.

7. Max has moved from cowboy hats to ski masks and gloves today. I'm not sure what I'm going to say when he tells me he needs snow...except, "That would be great wouldn't it?"

Check out more quick takes here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Searching for Peace

We've had a very long week. Just as an example, we’ve had three days during which we left the school carpool line to get to games followed by events after the games. This meant that several nights this week have led to very late bedtimes.

Consequently, my peacefulness...hmmm...I was going to say it had gone somewhere but then I didn't remember really having much to begin with, but I digress.

I'm looking for suggestions. When you walk in the door at 6, 7 and 8 PM with four kids who need lunches packed, showers taken, and homework done and said kids want to focus on these tasks about as much as they want to do them in the first place, what do you do? How do you stay calm as their silliness, loudness and all around craziness escalates?

How do you keep your family peaceful in the midst of your busy life?

Mind you, we've had a dinner planned every night so that's one victory. I have no desire to resort to the fast food temptation. However, that's where my preparedness ends for the dreaded after school to bed chunk of the day.

By the time I see Nelson, which is sometimes after all this has transpired, I have a tendency to dump it all on him and trust me, after a ten hour day, that's the last thing he wants to hear. So tonight I decided to dump on you.

How do you keep peace in your home from 3:15 until bedtime? I need some new tricks.

It's a Jungle for this Cowboy

Max has been into playing cowboy lately. He's found our reserve of cowboy hats and has been galloping around the house shouting, "Nee how!"

He galloped through the kitchen today riding a big stuffed elephant he has (Roll Tide!). "Nee how!" he shouted as he pulled its ears to a halt.

"Max, you know, cowboys yell, 'Yee haw!' Try saying that. Yee...just like yellow."

After a few practices, he finally got it and away he trotted, only to return moments later, this time with a cowboy hat on the elephant as well.

"You know, Mama," he said in the exact tone I had just used with him, "I need you to buy me a horse. Cowboys ride horses, not elephants."

Knowing he was right but not wanting to commit to a horse just yet, I offered, "You're right buddy. Cowboys DO ride on horses...except, when they're in the jungle. Cowboys definitely ride elephants in the jungle."

His eyes widened and his dimples deepened. "RIGHT! They DO ride elephants in the jungle. Yee haw!" And he trotted off into the sunset, hat on head.

Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes

1. I have 16x20 portraits of each of the children at three years old hanging in my living room. It's a tradition my mom started and I decided to carry on. That is until Maximilian came along. Now before you gasp and think I forgot him, let me assure you that I got his made too...about a month or two before he turned four. Technically I'm in.

However, I got that far and then never ordered the darn thing. There are a myriad of reasons this hasn't happened but none of them excuse the fact that the kid is on his way to five and he's still not hanging in the house. Well, yesterday I did it! Amazing the burden such a simple task has been and how great I feel knowing that he will not grow up thinking I forgot him.

2. I’m helping a friend with his wife's birthday party tonight so I volunteered to do the cake and an appetizer. Then I thought that for a party that's not a sit down kind of affair, cupcakes are really a better option. Along those lines mini-cupcakes are superb. People are much more likely to grab a bite-sized something sweet than cut themselves a piece of cake.

It's a good idea in theory. Practically, frosting and sprinkling 60 some odd mini-cupcakes takes exactly as much time as you imagine it would. On the positive side I finally bought my self a tiered plate stand to serve them on and I love it.

Dang, I may have to do these again now.

3. Nelson flew out to Philly yesterday morning and will be back tonight. Is it weird that I feel the need to celebrate my surviving his absence since many days we go this long without seeing him anyway?

Sigh, he's my heart.

4. In the 10 minutes the kids got home from school today and began to complain about how they didn't get to do this or that they wanted to do that...all while I'm trying to frost those little bites of torture, all three big kids got calls to go play with friends.

Excuse me while I jump up and down and thank the good Lord above that He knows when I need some time and space. Whoo-hoo!

Ok. I'm back. And, I love my children.

5. I'm still thinking about the cowboy boots. After I wrote about them, I started searching for the perfect pair. I was a little taken back by the fact that my perfect pair runs upwards of $150. Needless to say, this suburban mom in tennis shoes has not been able to justify this purchase.

I feel certain when the time is right, I'll find a pair for a steal, at which point I'll probably be over this weird phase.

6. Tomorrow night I'm hosting a dinner for 15 at our place. I've pulled out all my fall stuff and will put out the china.

I have finally owned up to the fact that I go a bit over-the-top when it comes to entertaining. I even said it out loud to someone the other day. I used to complain about all the work it takes to do things with such gusto but the reality is that I love it and wouldn't have it any other way.

When you come into my home I want you to feel special and loved. I want you to feel relaxed and welcome. Come see me sometime and I'll show you.

7. Mackenzie was getting ready for Social the other night (a program that teaches ballroom dance along with Southern etiquette and social skills...it rocks!) and I caught her in my bathroom with my mascara in hand. Other than a wedding and a photo or two, we haven't delved into the world of make-up yet, and we had talked about how we thought 13 might be a good jumping off point.

I told her she looked great, that she could put on some lip gloss and then she had to go. "You look beautiful," I reminded her as she sighed that come on mom it's only mascara sigh.

I was telling Nelson about the incident later that night and he said, "You know, we're trying to get her to dress nicer by telling her this is a special occasion, seems appropriate for her to wear a little make-up. Might just encourage her out of her ultra casual approach to dressing. You have to face it doll, she's growing up. You have to let her."

You can bet I cried off my own mascara that night.

I didn't expect to have growing pains along with my kids.

Happy weekend. Go check out some more quick takes while I finish frosting.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Have a Little Faith in Him

When you know and love a lot of people, you have the opportunity to experience the gamut of emotions available to the human race.

My mother-in-law has often said that we attend more weddings than anyone she knows and she's probably right. We are honored to share such a monumental occasion in people's lives. It also reminds us of what we're doing, how in love we were on our wedding day, and how much better and deeper that love grows over time.

We know lots of people having babies and I've even been present for a birth or two that were not my own. It's a miraculous moment, one in which I have a hard time believing that anyone can witness and still say there's no God. Holding those tiny, squishy newborns is one of the most awe-inspiring feelings out there.

On the other hand, when you're close enough to be present at the birth of these children, you're close enough to be involved in their lives. We've made grocery runs for Gatorade for kids throwing up. We've prayed for friends' children struggling with educational and emotional issues. We've watched in admiration as friend's lovingly raise kids with disabilities and serious illnesses. We've cried together with parents because we know that when it's your kid, it is a big deal.

We have attended more funerals than I care to count. We've said many a good-bye at a loved one's deathbed. We've made meals, loaned black dresses and shoveled dirt graveside. It is heart-wrenching to feel the loss of someone you love. Sadness, anger and depression often rear their ugly heads. And yet, when people have faith, when they really love the Lord, death can also be a thing of beauty - a rite of passage so to speak. Funerals are a reminder to all of us of what we have to endure to see the glory of Heaven.

I have prayed for years for friends to get pregnant. I've had other friends ask me to pray that God give them a little break in the fertility department. I've prayed for people to find a good job, a good husband, a good car. I have prayed for people who were dying and are still here to talk about it. I have also prayed for people who were sick to be healed that never were.

Over the past few months I've added to my prayers several long time friends who are really struggling. One is trying to adopt a sweet baby, another is suffering the agony of a divorce, and another has had cancer return. My heart-is-heavy.

When so many heavy things happen at once it's tempting to doubt God but more appropriate to question His methods. I think God's okay with the questioning. We're only humans after all. But I'm finding more and more, the older I get, the less angry I get with God over these matters. If I've learned anything from my life, it's that God's plans are much better than mine. Knowing that makes it hard for me to be angry with Him for too long.

I make meals, run carpools and clean house for friends in need but the most important thing I do, the thing that makes the most difference, is to pray for them. I pray in great faith that God can work miracles. I pray with the knowledge that God is very good at working with plan B. I pray above all that no matter how much it hurts, or how much I don't want it, I pray His perfect will be done.
And I look to Max and his unwavering faith. God's got this.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Child's Faith

Lately Max has had a lot of Jesus questions.

Questions like, "Is Jesus bigger than the Devil? How big is He? Can He really do anything?", and the like have been popping up here and there.

I answer, we discuss and then he moves on. Yesterday was one of those every question leads to another question kind of discussions but I could see his little wheels turning so I didn't mind.

I am often amazed at the depth to which little minds go to try to know their Savior.  I've had similar conversations with my other children and they have all ended exactly the way mine did with Max.

"Mama, when can I go see Jesus? I want to go to Heaven right now!"

They get it. And when Jesus told us we should be like little children, I think this unbridled faith in what we say we believe is exactly what He had in mind.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ten Minute Tuesday

Just when I thought I was back on a roll, life happened and the blog did not.

Here are a few things that occupied me between last week and now.

I have four children. Really, do I need to say more? Probably not, but just in case you're of the slightly older generation and have forgotten what this means and absent-mindedly ask me, "So what are you doing with all your free time now that the kids are in school?", I'll tell you. There are carpools and volleyball games and doctor's appointments and Cub Scouts and piano lessons and soccer and Social and homework and chores and a few little things like feeding, clothing, cleaning and raising them that are occasionally added to the mix. Today it took me no fewer than 10 texts, 2 calls and personally talking to 3 mothers to work out a carpool for tomorrow. Sheesh.

I've also found that my time is spent announcing rules that I never, ever considered would even need to be rules. For instance, "You are not, and I mean NOT EVER, allowed to open your bedroom window and put your naked 4 year old brother out on the roof.  And no it does not matter if there are people in our yard or not!" Seriously, that's all I can say about this other than yes, this did happen and I absolutely sent Nelson to deal with it so I did not put the offending brother out on the roof to sleep that night.

I had visions of gloriously finishing all these lingering projects I have now that the kids are in school and I've yet to do any of them. Well, I did clean out both freezers but that's not saying much as they are currently in their 3rd week of school. The day goes kind of like this. We wake them, feed them, comb hair, brush teeth, double check homework, pray together and then I cart them off to school. I go home, blink, and it's time to pick them up again. I have determined that getting clothes clean, keeping a house in order and having a meal on the table takes up a tremendous amount of time. Nelson asked me this morning, "When are you going to get to that pile of ironing?"

Ironing, I feel sometimes, is the bane of my existence. I know this is not true but it takes hours to iron and finding hours in a day is complicated. My kids go to school every day in clean, wrinkled clothes. Apparently this is not acceptable in the work force...especially sales.

Tomorrow, I will iron. I hope.

*Thanks Rachel for the motivation to just get something down!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Whole Picture

I've discovered something about myself lately. I am a half scripture kind of girl.

Let me demonstrate.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
I know He is God. I've never doubted it. I am terrible at the whole "be still" thing.

"Take up your cross daily and follow me." Mark 8:34
I'm all about following Jesus. In fact, I can say with a good deal of certainty that I've spent most of my life trying to determine what Jesus wants me to do so that I can do it. I tend to leave out the whole "take up your cross" part. I've never really embraced suffering.

"Go in peace." Luke 7:50
I can go. Man, oh man, can I go. I am often amazed at how much my life requires me to go, but I do it. Kind of gets back to the whole problem I have with being still doesn't it. What I miss...no, what I yearn for is the "in peace".

Are you seeing my point here? If you're not, don't worry, the message is for me and I'm getting it. In fact, lately God is knocking me over the head with it.

So the whole thing for me means, "Be still and take up your cross in peace." I'm going to work at it. I think my life will go much better when I focus on the whole picture instead of the half. Things will be, at the very least, much clearer viewed and practiced as a whole.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Times have been a changin' round here with our tween girl - things that have changed our little girl into a little lady. And when things change, discussions occur.

Last year about this time I toted her down to our local Catholic hospital (which is no longer Catholic) for a class they call "Growing Girls". The teacher, who happened to be a very dear friend of mine, did a wonderful job of talking about the changes and why they happen.

I was surprised how beautifully she handled it all. We talked freely on the ride home. And then came the question, "So Mama, if you make an egg every month, and you get a baby from an egg, how come you don't have a baby every month."

What I thought was, "SHOOT!" This was not the conversation I wanted to have in a car. In fact it was not a conversation I was prepared for at that moment. I remembered the best advice a wise mother gave me in handling these conversations. She told me to answer their questions when they come up and if their curiosity is satisfied, that's usually enough.

I forged ahead. "Well, in order for there to be a baby, there has to be a mom and a dad."

"Oh," she said from the back rather matter-of-factly, "you mean they mate?"

"Exactly," I said. And, that was the end of that.

I remember discussing this subject with my mother at a very young age. She got a call from another mother saying if she wanted to be the one to tell me about the birds and the bees, she needed to do it now because my friend had found out from an older sibling and the word was out.

My mother, the nurse, gave me a book to read and talked to me about it as much as I could stand. I don't remember much other than thinking there was absolutely no way MY parents did that. After our discussion, she informed me she was going to send my dad in so I could ask him any questions. Here my memory gets very clear. I was sitting on the kitchen counter and my dad walked into the room.

"Do you have any questions?"

I quickly muttered, "No."

He said, "Okay," as he walked out of the room and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

So here we are, in the blink of an eye later and I have a daughter who I now have to give a few more details so she won’t forever have an Animal Planet view of how babies are made. Because our last class went so well, I figured I give it a shot for the next batch of information. Yesterday I signed us up for a class called "The Birds, the Bees and Me" at the same hospital taught by the same friend.


This is not the part of parenthood I considered. When I was holding that teeny bundle of sweetness in my arms in the delivery room, I considered school, career, marriage and the like. I did not envision what would have to happen along the way to get her to these dreams.

We’ll get through this…she better than I, I’m sure. It’s not the information or discussion that gets me, but the undeniable fact that she is growing up faster than a speeding bullet. Sometimes I get lucky and catch it for a moment but mostly I stand in awe at the air it moves as it whooshes past.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

I Want to be a Cowgirl (or at least Dress Like One)

This afternoon I was driving the family home from a wonderful weekend with family. The kids were watching a movie with their headsets on*, Nelson was surfing the net and I was in a happy state of silence.

I have never really loved driving. Mostly, I like to ride....because I like to sleep. My husband has sent numerous photos of me in the passenger's seat, mouth open, head cocked to the side (and yes, occasionally drooling) to various people. And, why I do not appreciate him embarrassing me (he swears he only sends them to my brothers), I take solace in the fact that I was, indeed, sleeping...in the middle of the day, without any guilt at all.

Nelson, however, abhors driving. He argues the fact that at least he can get things done as a passenger (as if sleeping were an unnecessary occurrence) and that he's a much better navigator than me (evidenced by the fact that as he navigated us today we missed one turn and had to turn around twice - you know I love ya babe!). Over the past few years I have finally given in because: a) I love him, b) driving is often easier than doling out snacks, adjusting headsets and choosing the fastest route and c) I really love him.

I have learned to relish the time. Sometimes we have great conversations, sometimes I sing along to whatever music I choose, sometimes I use the silence for prayer, and sometimes I busy myself by solving all the world’s problems. I’ve learned to love the quiet.

Today’s drive was particularly beautiful. The weather was nice and the sky was a soft blue with fluffy cotton ball clouds scattered throughout it. We drove little back roads so we passed lots of barns, cows, horses, fields and the like. As I drove down a road with trees on either side that made the perfect tunnel, it was as if I transported myself to another life entirely.

Suddenly I was with my little family on one of those farms in the middle of nowhere. There’s something about the slowness of that kind of life that is totally appealing to me. I imagine getting up with the sun to a hot breakfast as fuel for the work ahead. I see myself helping the kids tend the animals. I imagine myself in front of an apron sink watching my husband’s silhouette as the sun lights his work in the field. I can almost smell the meal I would make from the things we grew and raised right there on our land. I know how good we would all sleep at the end of that totally productive day. I love the idea in all its golden simplicity.

Then I think about how I don’t even want a dog or a cat because I can’t stand the idea of someone sitting on my furniture and standing up covered in fur. I remember that I’m not a big fan of bugs or manure. I realize that I would love that life for awhile and then I would probably yearn for human companionship other than my own little family and if we lived out in the middle of nowhere, that would be hard to come by. And, truth be told, as much as I love steak, I would not have the heart to kill ole Bessie to get it.

That is what I was thinking today as I drove in silence enjoying the beauty of the land. And then it occurred to me how I could have my cake and eat it too…so to speak. What I need, I decided, is a pair of boots - not the fashionable flat-heeled riding boots, or the high-heeled slick black ones but a real, honest-to-goodness pair of cowboy boots. These boots would give me the feel and look that I might have if I lived on a ranch somewhere, without the danger of actually needing them to walk through what cows and horses leave behind. Shoot, I might even need a good hat to go with them. I might also be compelled to yell, “Yee haw!”

The longer I drove, the more I felt the need for said boots. Actually, I decided a few months ago that this would be the year, the first one in my entire life, in which I would allow myself to own a pair of cowboy boots. Suddenly, I could see myself in my sweet flowered sundress paired with my boots. I saw myself in jeans and the hat at the boys’ football games.

I was happy with this very useful time I spent driving. I felt a need deep in my spirit (for a simpler life, not the boots of course). Then I found a way to fill that need without rearranging the life God has already picked out for me. Especially considering that I’m married to a man who abhors mowing his own yard. Yes, the boots, I think, will be a fine compromise. And today provided me, finally, with a good excuse to get some.

Ah, the clarity a few hours of silence can bring.


*I'd love to kiss the person who invented this - traveling in silence while the kids are perfectly happy = pure bliss for all. If you want to debate me on this topic bring it on. I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to use this...seriously. A discussion on our reasons and rules for the thing begs its own post but I'm just saying that I have never once regretted it's presence on long car trips.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Just a Teaser

Oh I have so much to say but no time to say it.

Starting back to school has put so many more irons on the fire that instead of freedom I've felt busier than before. I've got to go back and honor my sweet girl for her birthday but I don't want to do that until I have some real time. I want to share some about our summer but it took me 2 hours last night to upload all the pictures from the summer and edit them and file them and then it was too late to post them.

I think it will settle down a bit in the next week or two as we all settle into our new schedules. I might actually be able to work in some projects while they are at school instead of searching for the items that they still need and that their teachers forgot to put on their lists. You know, life with kids.

My heart though is full. It's full watching my kids get bigger every day. It's full seeing some changes that come along with the inches grown. My life is good, so very, very good that sometimes my heart feels as though it may burst.

God is stretching me and using me in ways I have never imagined. And yet, though my imagination had not gone there, my mind is totally getting why I am where I am. But sometimes, it's also thinking, "Like when did I get old enough to be the adult?" Yes, my mind is still a teenager stuck in the 80's like, totally.

So that's it. I'm going to have to leave you hanging until time is on my side. We're going out of town this weekend to spend some time with family, which will involve tubing, eating and lots of fun. It will not involve blogging.

Here's the reward for sticking with this all over the place entry. I came in from my 9 mile run Saturday morning and found Max and Mackenzie playing Just Dance on Wii. It was so stinkin' cute I quietly picked up the camera and recorded until Mackenzie discovered me. So happy weekend to you.

I hope yours is simply dynamite!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The First School Day and Days That Have Gone By

Oh my goodness it's been so long since I've visited this space I had to sign in to my own blog. Last week was our final week of summer and we were much too busy celebrating for me to be writing. I'd like to say that I've finally discovered the art of getting a good night's sleep but the truth is we've been partying, traveling and labeling a million tiny book bag fillers.
But we made it. We survived our summer and were ready for school. And as I sat in the assembly and casually mentioned to Max that he had one more year until he gets to join his siblings, I actually had to hold back tears.
Tears because I know that even though there will be days during the year that will make it feel like an eternity, I've been around the block enough times to know that it will be here before I know it and all my babies will officially no longer be babies.
Gulp - swallow hard - blink a few extra times.
Okay, I'm back...and so are they. Here's to a great year!
Oh how the years go by...
Last year...
The year before that...(even though the photo date stamp says otherwise)
The year before...
 And before...
 And before...(the new house even)
 And before...this one is first grade. Holy smokes where did this little thing go?
Sniff, sniff..
I'll be okay, really I will, but every once in awhile I have to be a mother.