Friday, December 26, 2008

The Rest of the Story

"If you get out on these roads today, know that you're taking your life in your own hands." This morning's warning from Alan, that snow plowing brother-in-law of ours. Turns out I was somewhat prophetical in returning my ski gear yesterday. While Alan was up early to plow and rescue all those Kia-driving Texans, we experienced the white-out from the warmth of the cabin. We took a couple of hours to get out and play for awhile - snowmobiling and snow-scooting and sledding and shoveling. I don't know what was more fun - watching Esther's first real snow experience, or howling with laughter at Jamie and Mom's attempt to sled together.
It's interesting to watch life happen here in Eagle Nest, regardless of weather conditions. We had a visit from Joe on Christmas eve. 60ish, never-been-married with no family to speak of, this kind and rugged and unpolished man arrived around 9pm with a Christmas offering of organic nuts in a ziplock.
The fire department tones sound periodically from Charles' desk, interrupting dinner or a card game or a movie or conversations or whatever happens to be going on. The dispatcher's calm yet alarming voice fills the living room with a description of the seven-year-old boy struggling to breathe, or the house fire in town, and Charles does what he can as Chaplain to support these three area fire departments.
Today Cameron (Corbin's sister) got a call from some friends-of-a-friend who needed a place to stay. They are now snuggled in Cameron and Alan's back bedroom for a few nights, hunkered in along with Cam's (darling!) friend, Corrina, from New Zealand, who has been here a couple of months. Cameron is preparing her home for "Christmas" tomorrow with Alan's family - now she gets to add this other couple to the mix, a couple she's never met before this afternoon. This is after she went yesterday - Christmas day - to clean a neighbor's home because rats got in while the family is out of town. Not pretty.
So in the midst of our playing and eating and celebrating, it's always eye-opening to me that Charles and Jamie and Cameron and Alan don't stop. Even a snowy Christmas doesn't give break to extending help or friendship or a warm cup of coffee or even beds to strangers.

A few photos from our snowy play... grateful for this time of rest and family.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Diary of a wimpy skiier

What fun to spend Christmas day on the slopes. I think what I love most about skiing is the proximity it allows to nature - to be IN the snow, in the trees, rounding a curve to breathtaking views of the white-blanketed valley below and Sangre de Cristo mountains beyond. Breezing past skeletal, once-glorious aspens juxtaposed with full evergreens stretching to heaven, branches weighty with dollops of melted marshmallow-like globs of fallen snow.
I especially love skiing on sunny days. Days where sunglasses are as essential as ski boots, with warm enough temps that render me indecisive about whether or not to wear a scarf. Days where the blinding, glittery snow reflects radiant sunshine in every direction. All of this with powdery snow from a recent storm. My perfect ski day.
Today was not one of those days. Overcast and gray and cold(!), we skied through the snowstorm that readied tomorrow's powder. I told Corbin on our second run, trying to sound optimistic, "We are not dressed properly for this!" I'm not sure what proper attire would have been, but I'm guessing heated glove liners, full face masks and a Bunsen burner in my ski pants.
We were ruddy & red-faced from the howling wind & snow pellets. At any given moment the landscape looked like a flurry of thick powdered sugar - lumps & all - shaken from the sky with a huge power blower blasting a perfectly horizontal wind.
I keep forgetting that when we ski, Corbin and the boys take every possible lift, getting in every run before the mountain's dreaded 4:00 closing. Branson & Hudson do this for adventure's sake. Corbin is further motivated by the money we spent on today's rentals and lift tickets. And while I know I should be propelled to make the most of our ski time as well, my tingling finger tips & numb toes scream otherwise and instead beckon me to the mountain cafe, where I can spend even more money on a steaming cup of coffee.
Coming down the last run, with about 10% visibility through the whirling wind and snow, Corbin called out "Hey, no neck!" as he whizzed past his frozen, nearly petrified wife. Bran and Hud's giggles echoed behind me. I have no idea how long my shoulders had been hunched up to my head, as if tightening every muscle in my body would will the blustery snowstorm away. All I kept thinking was, "Just get to the hot tub. Just get to the hot tub."
I promptly returned my rented skis and boots and poles by 4:30 today. I felt kinda bad when Hudson leaned out the car window and called to me as I walked into the ski shop, "Mom, puh-leese ski with us tomorrow. Don't you want to spend time with me?"
And then I felt even more kinda bad when Corbin told me we couldn't get a refund for my rental (already paid for tomorrow). But then a few minutes later when our 4-wheel drive truck was stuck in three-foot drifts of snow, waiting to be towed (helpful here to have a brother-in-law who runs a snow plow business in the area), I looked at my phone and saw that the high tomorrow is 27 degrees, and the low a big fat zero. WITH snowstorms.
At that point, I didn't feel even kinda bad.
I anticipate enjoying a steaming cup of coffee tomorrow morning, watching the ski runs through Mama and Papa's big picture windows.
More power to you, boys!

**The photos above are from around the lodge - just a glimpse of the snow. I didn't take one picture on the mountain - even with my camera in my pocket, no photo was worth un-gloving my hand to snap a pic!**

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Not me, but Hudson.
That's right.
In this month's (Dec) Highlights magazine, Hudson's drawing is published in Our Own Pages.
How cool is that?!
He's excited, but smug. Has hardly said a word. Even with the magazine prominently displayed in our foyer, even with a school friend calling and asking for his autograph, even with a subscription base of two million...
even with a PROUD mommy & daddy...

Check out this press release. Way to go Hud!
Fort Worth Child Published in National Magazine
1st Grader Hudson Wilson to appear in Highlights magazine

November 24, 2008 (Columbus, OH) – The December 2008 issue of Highlights for Children has published a drawing titled “The Prince” in its “Your Own Pages” section by 6-year old Hudson Wilson of Fort Worth, a 1st grade student at Tanglewood Elementary. Hudson, the child of Corbin and T.J. Wilson, enjoys baseball, drawing, cooking, art projects, board games, animals, football and reading. He hopes to be an artist and veterinarian when he grows up.

Each year, Highlights readers send the magazine more than thirty-five thousand submissions. The magazine selects work by boys and girls of all ages and from many different places in the world. By showcasing a representative sample of all the work, Highlights hopes to foster children’s creativity.

So next time you're flipping through Highlights in your physician's or dentist's office, be sure to look for our little artist!

**A huge thanks for Aunt Kay for our annual Highlights subscription - and to my blogging friends for letting me indulge in a little parental pride**

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Georgia Thanksgiving

How many Jameses does it take to change a liglhtbulb? No idea. But I do know that it takes about 12 to get a gallon of milk from WalMart in rural north Georgia.

I always say being with my brothers is like a holiday, and so this past week was double the fun - a week with my brothers and their families AND celebrating one of my favorite holidays of the year. We're becoming quite a crowd. In addition to our four kiddos, we’ve got three little cousins and one on the way... Bogan from Tulsa and then Marshall and Ashlyn from Alpharetta, and the newest little one from Georgia due in April.

A few highlights...
- Meeting SWEET Ashlyn for the first time - "baby Ash-a-lyn" as Basden says
- Rock City - it really is amazing! (and the Starbucks across from the entrance doesn't hurt)
- Crystal's burgers & onion rings, Corbin's homemade chex mix, Julie's breakfast casseroles and baked cinnamon apples, Daboo's taco bar, cowboy rolls, cream cheese mashed potatoes, and Amy's AH-mazing home-home-made pumpkin pies (she makes it look so easy...ha!)
- SkipBo - the interaction between Mom and Amy is way more fun than the game itself
- Chris the Barista - nothing beats a yummy latte in a cozy cabin with the rain beating on the roof
- Kung Fu Panda and Daboo's new popcorn machine
- Essie chasing Marshall around the couch with a pink Barbie hairdryer
- Cappy's hike with Bogan, Bran, Hud, Basden and Essie - who we found out is not comfortable in two feet of leaves
- Monsters in the dark during the hayride - the kind of monsters who bear gifts of glow-in-the-dark bracelets after attempting to scare the tuna salad out of everyone
- Bogan's watchful eye and sideways glances... doesn't miss a thing
- Marshall's continual grin
- the five pounds Corbin and I BOTH gained...

What a handsome crew!
Chris & Crystal... and baby James due in April
Trey & the women... we're just missing HIS woman!!
Bogan flanked by Essie & Basden - he politely puts up with Essie's antics.
Aunt Julie, Ashlyn & Essie
Julie and Luke make everything more fun
Trey and DARLING Marshall
Those big boys are getting bigger all the time

Look who's responsible for all this!
Thanks, Mom & Dad for the cabin, and to everyone for the memories. Already looking forward to the next time!

Monday, December 1, 2008


Check out my post on Morning Coffee today. My friend Renee has been kind to include me in her devotionals each month. Enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2008


How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young - a place near your altar...
Blessed are those who dwell in your house...
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage...
They go from strength to strength...

Tuesday is a big day. Our good friends here in Fort Worth close on their home Tuesday, with no new house to call home. They are packing their belongings and filling cardboard boxes, all the while not knowing where - in just a few short days - those cardboard boxes will land. Their young children dance around the empty, echo-filled rooms with great expectation, while Mommy and Daddy assure them the Lord has a perfect new home - somewhere - and meanwhile keep an eye out for a ram in the bushes.

Another friend will be moving Tuesday as well. But instead of moving his family and furnishings to a new home, he will hug his wife and children good-bye two days before Thanksgiving and exit his court hearing, handcuffed, to his new home behind bars. Tuesday will simply determine where and for how long. Corbin will be by his side.

Psalm 84 describes the plight of the pilgrim - a soul yearning - even fainting for the courts of the Lord, for the living God. The description of going from strength to strength, having set their hearts on pilgrimage...

This Scripture is not relegated to shepherds in fields before the time of Christ. It speaks of these two families, facing change and uncertainty and trusting God with their very shelter. It speaks, too, of people and families all across our country who cry out to God, this day, November 21, 2008. For those losing homes in foreclosure with the economy... for mothers trading their cozy kitchens and holiday baking for needles and chemo in sterile clinics...for soldiers in dusty tents separated from parents and spouses and children and friends as the holidays approach... it speaks of the brave Pilgrims we celebrate next week, who faced change and uncertainty and fear head on, going from strength to strength.

Father, we do trust you, and we pray for our friends and loved ones in seasons of pilgrimage right now. Blessed is the man who trusts in you, O Lord Almighty.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kyle Ogle - Died Young, Lived Old

"He died young, but lived old."
That's how pastor Tommy Nelson described Kyle Ogle during Monday's funeral. Kyle's life ended at a much-too-young 38, but in the process he touched many with his full and deep and overflowing magnetism. Before the cancer and with the cancer, he was a bigger-than-life kind of guy.
As I mentioned in a Wednesday Wonder post last year, Corbin & I appreciated and admired both Kyle and Darla during our Baylor days. Kyle was a year older than Corbin, consistently kind and friendly and warm, a natural leader. Darla was tiny and lovely and classy and engaged others with her generous smiles. Carrying out the quite-coveted role of KOT sweetheart, she displayed a warm and nurturing and caring spirit even in college years.
It was said at the funeral that if you'd met Kyle for even five minutes, you knew him - what you see is what you get. The same could be said for Darla. Another commonality is their over-the-top, brilliant smiles. And their kids didn't miss out in the gene pool. God created Ogle smiles to be dazzling and and wide and contagious.

My take-aways from Kyle's service:
- The privilege of attending. Of joining a thousand people to honor Kyle and his family. Proximity allowed Corbin and I the gift of participating in this outpouring of love and gratitude for Kyle's life.
- Kyle's dazzling smile in every photo - with hair, without hair; with his arm, without his arm; that grin consistently exuding a supernatural joy.

- Hearing Kyle's two friends, Tommy Saxon and Jeff Turner, speak beautifully and honestly and sincerely about their life-long friend. They offered MANY moments of comic relief relaying stories. Among my favorites were descriptions of the junior high boys hunting, skinning, and frying north Dallas squirrels (or cooking them over a campfire - in a shovel), and Kyle scaling a neighborhood tree with an automatic BB gun to "welcome" younger brother Brad's friends to their home.
- Kyle worked hard to make others comfortable with his declining health. Keeping things light, spouting classic one-liners and hilarious come-backs, and keeping an eye on the eternal. Before his amputation, Kyle threw a "farewell to arm" party with his friends.
- Sharing the experience with my dear friend and roommate Kristin - an unexpected gift of time together. And watching Nan dart about making things happen. Incidentally, Nan is one of Darla's best friends, so she and Jeff flew in from San Diego for the weekend, leaving Mike and his brothers in the care of both grandmothers.
- I could write pages about Darla, and I haven't talked with her in years. Simply from observation - her balance of including others in this journey along with truly protecting her family. Her full-time job of caring for Kyle and making home a sweet place for the four of them. One of the guys related a story about a recent treatment phase, with Kyle exhausted and nodding off as Darla read aloud the side-effects of his drugs. At the top of the list was "inappropriate humor." His eyes flew opened and he flashed that grin. Now he had an excuse...

The deep and humorous and full atmosphere from Monday's service can be summed up with the poem Darla had printed on the inside of the program:

On a miserable day during the worst of chemo in 2007, I wrote a spin off of Rudyard Kipling's "If" for Kyle to cheer him up. He read it and flashed me one of his 1000 watt grins. I hope it makes you smile. - Darla

If... for Kyle

If you can do more with one arm than most can do with two.
If you can smile though the reasons are few.
If you can face suffering with courage and grace,
And not begrudge others who aren't in your place.
If you can look at the odds and know they're against you
But fight even harder because "lose" is not in you.
If you can count your blessings in the midst of pain
And refuse to give up, even with little to gain.
If you can trust God when things don't go your way.
And remember that Heaven is just a breath away.
If you can face a world obsessed with perfection,
And know you are complete, no matter the reflection.
If you know life is short but that it can be wide,
And you grab onto it and make the most of the ride.
If you can look Death in the face and still grin
Then no matter the outcome, I say you win.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lawrence Update - 2.5 weeks Out

Friends - Jeff and Nan and all three boys are still in San Diego and Mike is continuing to slowly heal. Precious insight from an e-mail Nan wrote a couple of days ago -

I was asking God to bring himself to us. It's no longer the question, "Can the God of the universe do it?", it's "What will He do?" I don't feel anxious about provisions, I don't feel like I have to "plan" out our day, I don't feel like or even want to control what each day holds.

And then, He swam among us. A few days ago there were hundreds (yes hundreds) of leopard sharks that came close to the shore line. Since we spent the last eight months going online to study sea creatures (in preparation for our vacation) we knew leopard sharks were harmless. We took Mike and Luke out, holding them close to our chests and walked waist deep into the water. The water was calm, remarkably almost no waves. And clear, so clear you could see the finest detail of the sharks fins. They swam so close they brushed against our legs. As we stood out there we thanked God for his creation. And if sharks were not enough, giant sea turtles with shells four feet across appeared out of nowhere and slowly swam to the deep. As the sea turtles disturbed the sand, frisbee sized sting rays arose and glided by. It was an orchestra of sea life in perfect harmony for our family to enjoy.

We spent the next few days talking about God's creation and what a remarkable gift it was that He allowed us to see a picture of His creativity in the wild.

And then yesterday, as Luke would say, "God brought us a whale". It's not whale season. We were told they don't ever come this early and never ever that close. Well, our little family seems to be defying the odds lately. And so, God, once again, brought Himself to us. We looked out our window and there it was. So close you could see the details of the hump and fins as it played in the water. For hours, it stayed in front of our room, going back and forth along the shoreline, never out of sight. Once again, we picked Mike up, gathered the other kids, sat on the sand and marveled at our God. Others were grabbing scuba gear and I, in my excitement, too rushed out in the water to swim with the whale.

He walks among us, with us and He is here orchestrating everything from the fall to the whale.

So many have asked, wanted to give you a couple of ways to keep up with the Lawrence family.

For photos and updates, go here, and to sign up for meals and prayer go to their care calendar. For the calendar, use these codes:

Monday, October 13, 2008

What I'm Learning This Week...

- Never underestimate a pink-plastic-high-heel-wearing two-year-old with an enormous planter of dirt

- Rhinestone necklaces and high heels and taking a break to teach ballet are critical elements for a family bike ride

- No such thing as enough photos of my girls with Cappy

- Long-lasting friendships really are golden (happy birthday, Paulette!)

- I'm finding contentment in watching Branson (top right-blonde) bloom where he's planted...

- Hudson is slow and steady and meticulous with just about everything he works at...

- Purdy brightens any room, any situation (we've known this for awhile)

- Always expect the unexpected with Uncle Trey's surprises

- I always, always want to be known as Bill's daughter and Trey's little sister (and Corbin's wife and Hudson's mom...)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lawrence Update - A week out

A quick update on Mike Lawrence through an e-mail from Jeff & Nan -

Today (Saturday) is day seven at the hospital in San Diego. Mike is doing well under the circumstances and in good spirits most of the time. He's out of ICU, and he's been much more active over the last few days. We met with the doctor yesterday, and they still expect a full recovery, which is absolutely miraculous. The doctor said it very bluntly, "Most kids that have a fall like that are looking at death. He's very lucky." We would call "luck" something else, and we are still blown away and grateful to God that our boy is doing so well, even though there is a long road still ahead.

Mike has a serious liver injury that will take some time to heal. His liver is badly lacerated (basically deeply cracked in multiple places), but should not need surgery as long as things continue to move in the right direction over the next few months. The location of the cracks is in a dangerous place (near the biggest vein in the body going to the heart), so the main concerns are reopening the cracks and internal bleeding if Mike were to fall, be bumped, be run into, be hit, kicked, catch a ball wrong, or basically anything that would cause pressure to that organ until it completely heals. It is the internal injury that the doctors are most concerned about and why we will be in CA for a month. Once cleared to travel, Mike will still be on "house arrest" for another three months. Also, Mike's arm is broken, and he's in a cast from hand to shoulder. We'll have follow-up X-rays next week to make sure it is set properly, and then he'll get a more permanent cast. Main concern here is that the growth plate heals well. He also has a facial fracture but this is not something that needs surgery. His bumps, bruises, etc are looking better now with the swelling and bruising beginning to dissipate.

We are scheduled to leave the hospital on Sunday, Oct 12th, and then we will stay together as a family in La Jolla (San Diego), CA for another three weeks. The hotel moved us to the other end of the property and into new rooms. We will be more or less confined to the hotel room, except for short, slow, safe walks (seriously, is that really possible with three little boys??). We've spoken with several specialists who have recommended that we all stay together as a family for this time, so we are going to make that happen. After that, we'll return to North Carolina. There we will try to resume life as "normal" as we can with the added change of Mike's new schedule (still no running, sports, rough play, climbing, etc for those three months). We aren't sure what all that will mean, but we are starting to make the necessary adjustments for life on the other side.

-- physically: liver heals as it should with no new injuries; arm sets and heals as it should, esp no growth plate problems down the road; no surprises along the way; sleep for all of us
-- relationally: that we would love one another even when tired, stressed, bored, jealous, sore, etc. over the next few weeks and beyond
-- emotionally: the trauma of the last week takes a toll that is not measurable but is real nonetheless
-- practically: that we would discover how to make life happen in a hotel room in ways that are stimulating and fun and relationship building for our boys and for us
-- spiritually: that God walk with us and work through us in all things
-- Also, pray for Jan and her son, Jack, who is in the hospital down the hall. Jan is a single mom that Nan has gotten to know over the last few days. She is caring for her sick son. Those of you that have sent food have been feeding her too, she is very grateful.

I'll continue to post updates and prayer requests... Jeff and Nan have expressed multiple times how HUGE it is to be surrounded by such great friends in the midst of this experience. Thanks for your interest and comments here as well - very encouraging.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday Wonder - A Miracle for Mike

Hudson, would you like to pray for Mike?
"Mom, sometimes things are too sad for me to pray for out loud.
This is one of those times."

Our friends Jeff and Nan Lawrence and their family are suffering a tragedy this week.
Their nearly six-year-old son, Mike, tripped and pummeled out of a vacation condo window, falling three stories onto a concrete staircase. Jeff and Nan and Mike's two brothers saw him fall, and everyone looked down to see him lying on the concrete below, unmoving and not breathing.
That's about all we knew Sunday morning as I asked Hudson if he wanted to pray. E-mails and phone calls and texts frenetically traced Mike's constantly changing diagnosis through Sunday's afternoon and evening hours.

I spoke with Nan on the phone Sunday morning shortly after they'd gotten Mike to the emergency room. Listening to her scattered, rambling description of Mike's fall and thinking of the ER physicians working to save his broken and bleeding body seemed incomprehensible. The few times I'd spent with little Mike and his twin brother Luke flashed through my mind: Nan lugging both infant carriers, one in each arm, into my den, and laughing as the baby boys watched the whilrwind of superhero-clad Branson and Hudson prancing over and around their little carriers. A couple of years later, Mike and Luke's highchairs side by side in a Fort Worth restaurant, the boys literally covered each other with bright blue jello. And again I watched Nan cradle one boy in each arm like footballs, carrying them to the restaurant's bathroom and then emerge with clean but faint blue smurfs.

I met Nan through my friend Jude my freshman year at Baylor. Nan was a sophomore - really smart, really beautiful, and really original. She didn't take much time or energy to worry about impressing people. One of my first impressions of Nan was seeing her on a street corner as Jude and I drove to church one Sunday morning. In shorts and a t-shirt with her long blond hair tied back in a loose ponytail, Nan laughed and talked with a handful of young African American boys. Rather than spend her Sunday mornings in a church pew, Nan got to know the neighborhood kids by showing up each week on a street corner with an enormous box of doughnuts.
It wasn't long after that Sunday morning that Nan called me out of the blue.
"TJ, I've been thinking about University High School."
"Uh huh?"
"Yeah, and how there's no Young Life, no Campus Crusade, no ministries on the campus at all."
"Uh huh?"
"So I've been thinking about University High, and all these inner-city kids, and I keep thinking about you."
"Uh huh?"
So the next day I found myself sitting in Nan's car in University High's empty parking lot, praying with her for teachers and coaches and instrumental leaders the Lord might use to bring these kids into a relationship with Him.
And the next three and a half years I found myself volunteering as the cheerleading coach for the freshman, JV and Varsity girls.
A little Nan goes a long way.

Nan has influenced many, many lives, and along the way has endured her own share of crazy trials. I'm talking, crazy. I won't expound here, but she's an open book if you can catch her for coffee. Her years of walking with the Lord have been deep and difficult and rich and startling and glorious and pain-filled all mixed together. But through the marvelous seasons and through the miserable ones, the Lord is producing in Nan a strong and stable and steadfast heart that longs for Him. I have seen that when her flesh and her heart fail, the Lord provides her strength and hope.

Back to Mike.
The happy update is that God is choosing to spare this precious little guy. After scans and x-rays and surgery (and who knows what else), Mike remains in the ICU in a San Diego hospital with broken bones and some serious internal injuries but a clear MRI. I'm overwhelmed with God's grace for Nan & her family, for Mike's life. Evidently so are the doctors. Mike has a long road to recovery, but at this point his physicians anticipate a full recovery.

The real Wonder here is not Nan or even Mike, but the Lord who named himself Jehovah Sabaoth - our Protector - and Jehovah Rapha - the God who heals. That a six-year-old boy can fall three stories head-first onto concrete, and via God's protection and healing can that very day ask a nurse to move away from in front of the tv because "I can't see through you" - now that's a miracle.

Jeff and Nan (pictured next to me, second-to-right) live in NC, where Jeff pastors a church and Nan explores their forested back yard with her three boys. They had just arrived in San Diego Saturday night for a family vacation and anticipated celebrating their twins' 6th birthdays on La Jolla beach and at Legoland.

Thank you, Lord, for Mike, that his life will be celebrated as never before on his 6th birthday tomorrow. We will never understand the implications of your provision. Thank you for Nan, for creating her into the capable and perfect mommy to these three active and tender-hearted boys and as the perfect compliment for Jeff. For the friend she is to so many, and for her heart that overflows with you. We trust you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Morning Coffee

Hey friends - check out my guest post on my friend Renee's blog, Morning Coffee. Blessings!

Monday, September 22, 2008

What did you do today?

Years ago, after moving to Fort Worth, our friend Chris Wolfe would stop by to visit and ask me, "Hey TJ, what did you do today?"
I gently taught him early on that you don't ask a stay-at-home mom, "What did you do today?" It's like asking a pregnant woman how much weight she's gained. There's no win-win answer to that question.
Take today, for example.
Theoretically, I have Mondays from 9-2 with all the kids in school. Five hours, right? Five hours to read and watch TV and eat bon bons.
So here's my day:
9:00 Drop off girls (Corbin took boys at 8 - bless him)
9:15-10:15 Prayer group for boys' school (a very necessary way to start off my week!)
10:30 Straight to school to pick up boys and take them to orthodontist.
12:15 Drop boys back off at school, head home to pay bills and do paperwork.
1:15 Get call from school office that Bran's teeth are sore, can I bring meds?
1:30 Leave house, take meds, pick up girls, go by bank, get to boys' school in time for 3:00 pick up.
Fight the masses of parents at pick up and shuffle all the kids around to the PTA closet at the back of school to check inventory for the Fall Carnival Cake Walk booth. Meantime, Esther has filled her diaper. After sorting through cardboard boxes and felt spiders and year-old posters and plastic pumpkins, I determine the inventory looks acceptable.
Carrying Esther in such a way as to not overflow her diaper in my arms, a friend and fellow carnival mom sees me and explains that she already sorted through the carnival props a few days ago - but thanks for coming.
Hudson cries all the way to the car because his mouth hurts. Mental note - I will never again forget Advil on orthodontist day. We make it to the car - and why does it feel like a hundred degrees on Sept 22nd? We walk to the far end of the playground to get to the car because the playground gate is locked. Get to the car, change Essie's diaper in the back of the suburban under the watchful eyes of a man mowing the grass right next to our car. The cut grass blows into the back of my suburban and onto Esther's exposed behind.
So it's now 4:45, and having given up on homework, we're off to Hudson's baseball game (if I can convince him to play through the pain of his orthodontic-treated mouth... oh, the drama). He's supposed to be there in half an hour. And I just realized that I need to get Hudson's glove from Branson's baseball coach before getting Hud to the field early for batting practice, as we accidentally left his glove at Bran's game last week...
Back to the "what did you do today" question. Incidentally, Chris Wolfe's wife, Sarah, had a baby this morning. Their fifth. Nathan Bademan Wolfe, boy #5 in the Wolfe gang, with the oldest only six years old.
I'm guessing Chris doesn't ask Sarah "What did you do today?" too often.
Corbin knew better than to pose the question to me tonight. Unless, of course, he wants to hear, "I wrote this blog post, didn't I?!"

Footnote - In conjunction with my previous "Fully Two" post, watch this. Caught her yesterday in her normal, happy, into-everything antics.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Esther - Fully Two

We celebrated Esther Jamie's second birthday recently, and I just can't let the benchmark birthday pass without lavishing love on her little life. A letter to our baby...

Little One -
You have acquired a handful of nicknames in your two years: Spunky Monkey, Little Queen, Messy Essie... you are quite the caboose to our already colorful family train. While this letter will never capture the entirety of our love for you, perhaps it will capture a bit of your radiant personality.

. Quick as a flash, too. I've attempted many times to sneak upstairs for a moment alone, but haven't figured out how to get out of the room without your little feet padding behind me.
S - Sibling love fest. Every time you walk in a room, "Hi Basden! Hi Branson! Hi Hudson!" You wrestle with them, copy every move they make, pull their hair to get attention (poor Basden, I'm a little surprised she doesn't have bald spots at this point... thank goodness for thick hair and thick skin.. she is patient with her little sister).
T - Talk talk talk. Incredibly verbal. You sing 24/7. Could sing entire songs before you could talk. Favorite songs: "Jesus Loves me" (as fast as you can), "Deep and Wide," "I love you Lord," "Baa Baa Black Sheep," the "B-I-B-L-E," "Happy Birthday," and anything by Toby Mac.
H - "HI" to everyone we meet - absolutely everyone we pass. In every store, on every sidewalk, even in the car as we pass joggers. And you continue with your greetings, pitch steadily increasing, until they respond back to you.
E - Everywhere. Worth repeating.
R - Really so darn cute I can't stand it.

Essie, you absolutely FILL the room - for better or for worse, depending on the mood. Most of the time for the better, but believe me when I say FILL. You are exuberant and comical and jovial and funny and LOUD and lively and lyrical and larger than life.

A few more tidbits we don't want to forget:
- You say "welcome" instead of "thank you." When given a cup of OJ: "Welcome!"
- Love to fuss in your carseat. When you become inconsolable, you'll calm down immediately if Corbin or I reach back and touch your leg or toes. Upon removing our hand, you start again. And then stop with the return of our touch. We've driven hours with aching shoulders for the barter of a quiet car.
- Hud calls to you "Come here girl." Wonder how long before either of you figure out he's summoning you like a puppy. Corbin and I laugh every time, neither of us wanting to correct him.
- At two, you are noticeably becoming more directable. Talking more, fussing less.
- Explore everything. Curiosity. If there's dirt or mud, your hands are in it.
- Inexpressible delight when the doorbell rings.
- "Here ya go" or "Up ya go" or "Thereitis!"
- You do not want to miss out. You stand at the door anxiously waiting for Daddy. Scurry up on a barstool. Cram your body into the blue plastic car - along with whoever else is already in it. Join your siblings in singing chants. Yell "Go Branson!" or "Go Hudson!" louder than anyone else at a baseball game. Yell for the other players by name, too.
- Vocal in the car. Daboo made fun of me for letting you start a pacifier at two-years-old. I let you keep it just to hush you up while I'm driving. Last week after an hour-long drive in her car, Daboo asked me where we keep that pacifier.
- Most content with two fingers in your mouth and snuggling with a satin blankie.
- When Bran puts his Toby Mac CD in the car stereo, he turns the volume up and we all look at you to see your huge cackling grin and involuntary dancing as the music ramps up.

The best thing about you, Essie, other than adding this bundle of LIFE and JOY to our family, is watching your big brothers and sister with you. They pamper you, laugh at you, take care of you. Last week we got a new trampoline at the lake, and I watched from the house as you made your way down the hundred concrete stairs from the porch to the yard, wade across the tall grass to the trampoline, and then before you could even lift your arms in a gesture of help, Branson was quick off the trampoline, in the grass, lifting you up past the net. I watched as Hudson carefully removed your shoes and helped you onto the trampoline bed. They instinctively altered their gymnastics and high jumps to accommodate your chubby (but muscular) two-year-old legs.

It's magical to see how different all four of you are from one another, the beauty of God's unique creation. Your little body is totally different from your siblings, you've got your unique shape and muscular body and dimples all over. Your big brown eyes showcase your curiosity and mischief and questions and adamant opinions.

We love you, little Essie, for who God has made you and for the COLOR and life you bring to our family... thankful for this bright and lively caboose!

What do you know about Wicca?

This is an interesting book, friends. I'm pretty uninformed with the world of witchcraft, especially how it manifests itself in today's culture. Ask me what I know about witches, and my mind goes to the Puritans in Salem in late 1600's. Or to Elizabeth Montgomery in the 60's. Or more recently to the Harry Potter book on our kitchen counter, or to the enchanting and winsome characters Justin, Alex and Max of Disney's "Wizards of Waverly Place."
I don't typically frequent the wicca section at Barnes and Noble. But Generation Hex is quite an eye-opener and one I'm glad I've read (and will likely re-read as my kids get older.) It raised my awareness of the explosion of Wicca in America and its popularity among children, teens and young adults:
Studies confirm that Wicca is the fastest-growing religion in America. By some estimates, it will be America's third-largest religion by 2012 (after Christianity and Judaism).

I was anxious to read Generation Hex, just released in July. My friend Marla Alupoaicei and I got together for dinner a couple of months ago in Dallas and she was able to fill me in a little on what she learned through researching and writing this book. Marla co-authored Generation Hex with her brother-in-law Dillon Burroughs, both DTS graduates.

The theme of the book, according to Dillon: "It’s simply one, two: “What is Wicca?” and “What Should I Do about Wicca?” In 176 pages, we cover the basic of what Wicca is, why it matters, and how to influence those involved in it with the love of Christ. I guess you could say it’s part awareness, part outreach."

One of Marla's goals for Generation Hex is to educate and equip Christians to know what Wicca is and what it is NOT so that we can teach our children about it, be aware of this powerful spiritual trend, and share God’s truth in a gracious way with those caught up in the practice of witchcraft.

So, if you're a parent or grandparent or work with children or youth or young adults at all (have I covered everyone?) there's a compelling reason to know about Wicca and what's going on in our culture. Generation Hex is thoroughly researched and is a simple yet informative tool.
For more Generation Hex reviews check out these blogs:

A Peek at My Bookshelf
Aspire2 Blog
Be My Guest
Bible Dude
Blog Tour Spot
Book Room Reviews
Camy’s Loft
Christy’s Book Blog
read DB
Footprints in the Sand
From the desk of Flutecrafter
Gatorskunz and Mudcats
Good Word Editing
His Reading List
i don’t believe in grammar
In the Dailies
Leap of Faith
Lighthouse Academy
Morehead’s Musings
Mystery, Suspense, and God, Oh My!
One Voice in a Big World
Portrait of a Writer . . . Interrupted
Quiverfull Family
Reality Motherhood
Refresh My Soul
Reiter’s Block
The Friendly Book Nook
The Reel Katie Morgan
The Sosbee Story
Wide Eyed Fiction
Windows to my Soul
Write by Faith
Writing on the Edge

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Can someone find me an organic Happy Meal, please?

I went to bed last night with a heavy heart. Going through a pile of mail as we returned home, I scanned an article in last Sunday's paper entitled, "If you want to go to heaven..."
Evangelicals are neither as numerous nor as uniform in their beliefs as once thought, they are not immune from the shifting of American culture.
The reporter continued with a couple thousand words describing the yuck among today's (and especially yesterday's) Christian culture.
Reminded me of a recent conversation when my friend felt clearly irritated as we discussed another friend's "conversion." Just another marker that we don't see eye to eye.
I don't like feeling at odds with others, especially not with other Believers. And yet division feels rampant among Christians especially. It seems every author I read is controversial - makes me tired. And all these passionate dialogues about where Christianity has come from and where it's headed... the simplicity of Christ seems snuffed out. And it's not just theological matters where we all differ, that's the tip of the iceberg. It's school choices and medicine/vaccine choices and food choices (thus my title) and all the details of life.
I suppose that because so much of our parenting and marriage and life choices stem from prayer and a desire for God's best, it seems that if others make different choices, someone is off.
So I went to bed with these heavy thoughts of division and dissension and bickering among Christians. And then this morning I happened upon this post by Sally Clarkson. She read my mind, but with a little more wisdom and eloquence. She posted this a few days ago... worth reading. I do hope it's not too controversial.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Meet Baby Rowan

Well, we met her! Finally!
Rowan Beth Benjamin, our new little niece. Three 1/2 months old, she is just beautiful. And CONTENT. I’ve met just one baby as “easy” as this one - my friend Sarah’s little Joseph was the same way. Make so little noise, you forget they’re in the room.

So all week we got to hang out with little Rowan in Eagle Nest, NM. Cameron took me to her fav spa one day (absolutely unbelievable, that’s a blog post on its own), with signs everywhere that read “Whisper.” Well, no worries with Rowan, she didn’t make a peep the entire day. Just hung out in her infant carrier, and when I would glance her way she’d give me an open-mouth grin, just thankful for the attention. What a little miracle she is, and as Cam mentioned a couple of times, “Can you believe she was frozen?!
We’re headed home today, always difficult to leave Papa’s Mountains. The end of summer is such a beautiful time up there - rain showers every day, wildflowers still in bloom, warm enough for hikes but cool enough for fires and s’mores.
We managed somehow to keep our now-very-familiar virus flowing from one family member to another. This is going on three weeks. Basden (again) started our trip with the yuckies, Essie (again) held onto it our entire stay, Branson got it (again) a couple of nights before we left (in the middle of the night on a campout, thanks Papa & Uncle Alan for the clean-up!) and Corbin is somehow making the 11-hr drive today with a yucky tummy. Want to join our pity party?! It was more than a little disappointing to deal with this crazy sickness.
But even so, I loved our week in the mountains. Hud and Bran BOTH passed their Papa-administered “4-wheeler tests,” certificates and all (evidently Foster passed his a while back). Basden and Nettie May collected daisies and feathers and fairy dust on their treasure hunt. And Essie, well, she simply stayed in mommy’s arms all week - all week. Mix in bike rides and zillions of air-soft-gun wars and yummy meals, and you've got a glimpse of our week. Papa and Mama are due a few days of rest and restoration with our crew’s exit.
As we piled in the car this morning, as usual, Mama couldn’t keep a dry eye. And as with each time our suburban pulls out of the scenic driveway, Branson remained teary-eyed through the canyon. He’s in the back seat now planning our next trip to Papa’s Mountains...
Papa & boys reloading for another air-soft war
Basden and Nettie May
Papa & Essie
Hud crawdad fishing

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cold Tangerines

Agh!!! I LOVE this book!
First, I love the layout. A collection of 4-5ish page essays, easy & entertaining to read whenever and wherever.
Second, I love Niequist's insights into the spiritual snippets of every day life. She dives deep into the motives and intentions of her heart and describes with refreshing honesty how God creates beauty in the midst of chaos.
Third, this is a funny girl. Laugh-out-loud, oh-my-gosh funny. I cannot get over the way her brain thinks, her outrageous metaphors and similes, and her witty thought processes. Niequist is relatable and quirky and self-deprecating and clever. And quite intelligent.
Read a few chapters here to get a taste of Cold Tangerines.
Enjoy, and know that as you’re laughing out loud and wiping away tears, you will be richer for the reading.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hyatt Hill Country and Hyatt Lost Pines

Just returned home from a week in San Antonio and Austin. We turned Corbin’s conference at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort into a family vacation and then headed over to the Hyatt Lost Pines outside of Austin for the weekend. What beautiful and fun vacation spots! As with any family vacation, ours had its share of comedy and errors and mishaps and adventures. Here’s a few (un?)mentionables:

- I anticipated leaving Fort Worth mid-morning last Tuesday. So by Monday night I’d finished laundry and made arrangements for our home & Yukon, but saved the actual packing for Tues morning. About 10:00 pm Monday Corbin informed me his conference started earlier than he’d realized, and we would need to leave the house by 6:45 am the next morning. Hmmnnn.
- Deciding we could unload and carry our menagerie of bags and suitcases without help from a bellman... yikes.
- Esther’s diarrhea streaming all over Corbin’s shirt and onto his pants as he held her in his arms a few hours after we arrived at the hotel.
- One child throwing up in the middle of "Cinderella on the lawn."
- Another child vomiting on Mommy as we tubed around the lazy river. Can't get the horrified expression from a near-by mom out of my mind...
- Trying to come up with "disinfect" in Spanish
- Attempting unsuccessfully to avoid the arcade. Why in the world do they have an arcade??!
- The sanctification that occurs when all six of us stay together for a week in a not-so-large room. Add a nasty virus to that room, and it gets even more exciting.

Thankfully, everyone felt well (other than Bran's croup, go figure) by the weekend, so we enjoyed a fabulous few days at Hyatt Lost Pines. All things considered, it was a great week full of laughter (and bickering) and loads of fun.
And if you happen to hear of anyone coming home sick from their vacation last week at Hyatt Hill Country, you didn't read it here!