Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Supporting My Man

The snow flurries grew larger and larger until the flakes covered our yard. The drizzling rain-turned-snow made me want to pull the curtains closed, light a roaring fire, and settle in for a quiet evening. Instead, I glanced at my watch and calculated what needed to happen in the next forty-five minutes to get the kids dressed and loaded into the car, pick up Corbin from his office, and get to Irving by four-thirty.
We’d had this on the calendar for about a month now. One of Corbin’s doctors had invited our family to have dinner with he and his wife and their infant daughter. With generous hospitality, they insisted on hosting us in their town home and preparing a Indian meal for our entire crew.
Nearly an hour away.
In snowy/icy conditions.
And did I mention INDIAN food??!
I thought of all that getting us into the car entailed: the bag that needed to be packed with activities to keep our kids occupied; snacks to bring for the ride home assuming the spicy dinner would be less than kid-friendly; interrupting the three older kids half-way through their movie in the darkened den, all of them snuggled under blankets on the sofa, including Basden, still sore and nursing her injured leg from yesterday’s fall; and lastly, Esther, sound asleep in her bed upstairs, only about half an hour into her nap.

Meanwhile, winter weather in the low-30’s and steady precipitation brewed a perfect recipe for frozen streets - frozen streets that would take us an hour from home to a small apartment brimming with Indian food and then another hour back late tonight. And I wasn't sure I had the energy for making conversation with strangers. 

And then it hit me - what if we didn’t even make it home tonight?! I envisioned our family of six pulling out sleeping bags in the home of a family I’d never even met, falling asleep to smells of curry and waking to the same - what is an Indian breakfast like, anyway?!
Before getting too carried away, I called Corbin to make sure we were still going.
“Have you seen the weather? Do you know it’s snowing outside?”
“Oh yeah, but I think it's fine, and I don't think it's supposed to freeze tonight. You’re going to love this doctor.”
“So... we’re still going?”
“Sure. Besides, if we cancel tonight, we’ll never make it back over. Let's go and just not stay long. It’ll be fun.”
It remained quiet on my end. I knew that Corbin could tell I was less than enthusiastic, but somehow I was not capable of verbally jumping on board.
I finally mumbled, "I know they’ve prepared a ton of food and planned for us, I’ll load up the kids and be to you in a bit.”
So off to Irving it was. No glistening fire, no movie watching, no settling into pajamas early for a night at home.
Off we go to our scheduled commitment.
This is the story of my life. Being married to Corbin is SO EASY. Really. I try to remind myself regularly that it’s not normal to have a husband as helpful and easy-going as this man. Yet this is the burden of carrying his name - he is incredibly giving and accommodating with his time to others.
It took every bit of my energy to start packing up the kids and car and wake Esther from her slumber to back out of our powder-sugared driveway. Windshield wipers swinging, seat warmers on, blankets covering Esther’s bare legs extending from her princess dress, and we were off.
I knew I couldn’t complain to Corbin. I knew that given the choice, he would have chosen to spend the evening at home. Yet he needed my support - not only with a good attitude in heading to Irving, but in getting to know this physician and his family.
And yet since I was completely incapable of giving my support, I decided to just keep my mouth shut.
Corbin graciously gave me space to get over myself on the drive over. He tried asking some questions and getting a conversation going, but to no avail. I was simply not able to carry on an easy, full conversation in my frustration. I wasn’t rude, didn’t shut down completely, but simply responded with one-word answers.
At one point Corbin starting laughing hysterically.
“What? What on earth is so funny?”
“I was just thinking - wouldn’t that be hilarious if we got stuck over here?”
I stared silently at the alien who had taken over my husband’s body.
“I mean, can you imagine all of us having to spend the night over here if these roads freeze? We’d be telling this story for years to come. It would be a hilarious family memory.”
“Um, no, I don’t think it would be hilarious. Not really. Not really funny at all.”
He continued smirking at the thought while I looked at the cars ahead of and beside us, wondering what was so important that all these people were out on this crummy night.
Fast forward a few hours...
The dinner was lovely. The roads didn’t freeze. This couple was so accommodating, I cannot even tell you. Just amazing.
We were heartily greeted by the smiling couple waving from the porch, a sleeping baby, and an enormous spread of homemade Indian cuisine covering every inch of the countertops: cutlet and potato appetizers, chicken and rice and shrimp with orange curry, creamy cheese spinach, and a handful of different sweets. After introductions all around, Corbin’s friend took him in the kitchen and pointed out every dish. He grinned up at my husband and asked, “Can you see now why I’ve been looking forward to this all of Christmas?”
In addition to the prepared dishes, they provided cokes and pizza for our kids. (At Corbin’s request the kids sampled several foods, and even appreciated them, but in the end they were quite grateful for the pizzas!) Our hosts engaged in lively conversation with not just Corbin and me but with our children as well, which kept the bag of activity books and stickers in the corner, unused. A couple of hours flew by and true to his word, Corbin had us back on the road headed home before it was too late. But before getting in our car, this sweet man and wife placed a very thoughtful, very expensive Christmas gift in our hands.
Once home with kids tucked in their beds, I asked Corbin what he thought about the evening. Like me, he was struck by the couple’s hospitality and generosity in having us over. After seeing the work and time that went into preparing our meal, we couldn’t imagine having called to tell them we couldn’t make the drive. And we were grateful for the mix of cultures - both for our sake and our children’s.
Reflecting on our evening, this is one of the things Corbin does well - loving others generously and sacrificially. If his “mission” is his family and work, then the least I can do is to support that work, namely getting out of myself and engaging in the lives of those he spends his days with. Sometimes it requires a sacrifice of self and of what I WANT to be doing. Our kids, the boys especially, are old enough to realize it wasn’t an easy thing for any of us to stop our afternoon and head over there last night. But in the big picture, they'll remember their Daddy’s selflessness and commitment to others. Loving others well takes energy and effort, and I would be wise to remember that it goes down a lot more smoothly with a good attitude.
At least, a good attitude and really yummy Indian food.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Never a Dull Moment

As I smeared peanut butter across a piece of bread, her cries cut across the back yard and into the kitchen. I recognized the wailing as intense and immediate - a cry indicating physical pain. I rounded the corner of the kitchen island and swung open the door to Hudson half-carrying his hobbling little sister up the steps.
“Mom! Basden fell out of the tree!”
“Ok, ok, Basden, where do you hurt?”
She continued her wail, “A-l-l o-ver!”
Scanning her four-foot frame for injury, I started to scoop her up when I saw the blotchy puddles on the back of her pink leggings.
“Hud, what’s all this? Is this blood?”
“I think her leg caught on a branch coming down. Is she bleeding?”
I peeled back the edge of her pants above the calf and sucked in my breath at the mangled skin beneath. The dark pools of blood seeped onto my arms as I lifted my little girl and rushed her into the laundry room, where slate floors and an abundance of old towels corralled our mess. I wrapped Basden’s leg in an worn green towel and breathed a couple of deep breaths before looking again at the puncture wound.
Basden and Hudson had been climbing in a large crepe myrtle tree when Basden’s branch snapped. As she fell, a sharp limb took hold of her right calf and neatly inserted itself in her flesh. I’d not seen anything quite like it - the skin had rolled itself up into the wound and bits of torn skin and flesh dotted her pants.
Ugh ugh ugh.
So we sat huddled on the laundry room floor under the curious and concerned supervision of six hovering eyes. I held a blood-soaked towel around Basden’s shaking leg and hugged her tightly, trying my best to calm us all down.
Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to do. But I knew Corbin would. I wasn’t sure if this accident was “hospital-worthy.” I didn’t want to overreact and take Basden in, but on the other hand, I didn’t have a clue how to address the wound. Basden’s cries and whimpers flowed into the phone as I dialed Corbin’s work number. In thirteen years of marriage, this was a first:
"Corbin, I need you to come home, now.”
And so he did.
Hudson read a book to his sister while I scurried back and forth with fresh towels and orange juice and crackers. Corbin arrived quickly and calmly, his presence an immediate lift. He smiled as he sat down next to his Basden, his gentle eyes filling with tears as he wrapped his arms around her.
He spent the rest of the day taking Basden to be examined by a doctor and then to the Urgent Care Center for a few stitches. The pediatrician gave Basden a new doll, one that she seemed to cherish even more than her days-old American Girl Doll from Santa (!). Corbin held her hand and wiped her tears through the process, and it hit me how much strength Daddy carries in the eyes of his wife and children.
It wasn’t until later that evening that we discovered the goose-egg bump on the back of her head and a good bruise on her lower back. During dinner, with a sore and bandaged Basden propped in her chair, the kids recapped Basden’s accident to Daboo and Aunt Crystal. Hudson described the event from his point of view, relaying that Basden “softly hit her head on the brick wall." To our involuntary peals of laughter, he said he wanted to say “softly” to keep us from getting worried. Thanks, Hud.

Thank you, Lord, for a minor, minor accident. For two big brothers that care for Basden and are concerned for her. And for one in particular who wouldn’t leave her side or quit worrying until she was safe at home. Thank you for a Daddy who knows what to do, and can handle “emergencies” with grace. And thank you that in this precious family you've provided, never is there a dull moment!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Recapping a Very Merry Month

Thankful that it's been a pleasant, precious month. It's a Christmas season that will be remembered for great health, sweet family and friends, and a cup that runneth over. I'm grateful. In light of the pain and difficulties and fatigue affecting loved ones, I'm reminded of this "respite" season is a gift.
A quick recap of our month...

We returned from Disney and hit school pretty hard. Our November was VERY fun and full of family and travel. But it certainly made Christmas a little more daunting with the pressure of school lessons in the midst of holiday preparations. If we ever do school at home again, I might plan for a "strong" November and January so that December can be relaxed. But even so, I wouldn't have changed a thing. One of the goals of our year is to enjoy family and grandparents and cousins... and THAT is being accomplished.

Celebrating Mama's birthday in Fort Worth - Corbin's plans for Jamie's special evening included Riverdance at Bass Hall (ah-mazing!) and Tillman's Road House (yum!).

Iceskating at the Galleria with the Breedings - something we've never done before, but a very fun Christmas tradition. Especially with all of Dallas ISD still in school. ;)

Basden getting her ears pierced - by Mommy! The full story here on Krista's blog - funny funny! Best part - Basden's (uninfected!) ears look great, and Corbin's sister, Cameron, very impressed with me. Ha!

Basden and Esther's Christmas concert - so sweet, and got to celebrate Cappy's birthday with dinner after. My favorite - Esther's class singing "Feliz Navidad," and Basden performing Psalm 98:4 in sign language: "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." She practiced all month and LOVED learning some sign language.

Finishing up Hudson's flag football season. His smile here is evidence of making a great catch and running for a touchdown in the last game of the season. Go, Hud!

A very fun, very spontaneous Christmas dinner with dear friends, the Andersons and Sanders. We decided at about 4:30 the day of to get our families together and enjoy dinner, the Wii, and fireside conversations. Added a special dynamic for our family to share an unstructured, un-rushed evening with sweet friends.

Again, thankful for a precious month of great memories.
Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Magical Week

Greetings from Walt Disney World! We've finished day four of this whirlwind, wondrous vacation and are excited to have several more days ahead. True to my expectations, Disney World has proved to be a magical experience. Other than a brief trip to Disney Land as a toddler, I've not been to Disney before and couldn't even get my mind around what the experience might entail. After a few very full days at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios, I still can't really get my mind around it all.

It's bigger and grander and more elaborate than anything I was prepared for. Talk about sensory overload, it is simply impossible to experience everything here in one week. Everything about this place is carried out with excellence. When we think it can't get more elaborate, it gets more elaborate. The creativity behind the attractions and sets and experiences is astounding.

A few meager observations:
- Fast Passes rock.
- Disney Iphone apps rock. Tells our GPS location and distance from any particular attraction, as well as an estimated wait time. Brilliant.
- Disney at Christmastime - stunning. Decor on steroids.
- Breathtaking Christmas decorations aren't the only reason to come to Disney the week after Thanksgiving. We are loving, loving, loving walking right through empty mazes and finding great seats in half-empty theaters and rides.
- That said, a "slow week" at Disney is a relative term. We've been told this week is the slowest of the year, and we're basking in the contrast of what it would be like at peak season. But there are still plenty of people milling around the parks. Says a lot for this resort that a "dead" week is still fairly bustling.
- After just a few days here, Corbin could be a tour guide. He's got the parks figured out before we arrive in the morning, manages our fast passes, and has secured some fantastic reservations.
- At nine, eight, six and three, our kids are great ages to be here. BUT, Esther is definitely a little unpredictable. She's taken with the fireworks and parades and princesses, but has given Corbin and me plenty of opportunities for executing patience and consistency...
- Evidently it's impossible to scare Hudson, even with 13-story drops at Haunted houses.

A handful of things have made this week magical for me. Being here for the first time as a 36-year-old (I'll be celebrating my 37th birthday here at Disney in a couple of days!) I find myself watching the faces of my children more than actually watching the fireworks and parades. Basden's face flushes with wonder as Belle makes her golden entrance in a flowing gown and high-piled brunette curls. Hudson looks at me, stunned, when the futuristic video at the end of Spaceship Earth features the two of us as the main characters. Branson thrives at the pace of this place - being on the go with one adventure after adventure on the docket. And I love that even at a mature nine years old, he lights up when life-sized Goofy and Donald Duck appear on the landscape. And Esther - she's just glad to be along for the ride, bouncing between Corbin and me and Mama and Papa and Cappy and Daboo.

That's the second thing that's made it a magical week. Being here with all four grandparents - I feel like it's the trip of a lifetime. Corbin and I will never fully understand how fortunate we are to have these four parents building into us and into our children.

Third, it's magical to have the means and health and flexibility to be here. It seems like everyone's been to Disney, but I feel like it's such a privilege to take this kind of a trip.
And fourth - as gratifying as it has been to watch our kids enjoy the magic, I keep forgetting that I'm not the little girl. In a place where kids and grown-ups alike wear rounded mouse ears, where a glimpse of Cinderella's castle in the distance evokes long-forgotten girlhood dreams, and where Minnie Mouse and Snow White and Winnie the Pooh erase a few decades, I have to pinch myself that I'm the adult... and who is taking care of Esther, anyway?!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Price of Privilege

My friend Lori passed this title on to me, not necessarily something she deemed a "must read," but interesting food for thought. What she appeared mildly enthusiastic about has provided a very interesting and engaging read for me.

I started this book on our beach trip. While I do recommend the book, I would not suggest for the beach. After reading a few pages I realized I needed pen and paper for note taking - a couple of extra items for our beach bag, and something about being hunched over taking notes compromised my even tan. (When on sand, stick to fiction.) Not a chapter would go by without needing to jot down some important idea or concept, which later of course became fodder for discussions with Corbin.

I don't know much about the author, Madeline Levine, Ph.D., but she writes with wisdom. She also happens to come across as academic and intelligent, but the wisdom of her words draw me in. I found myself wishing Dr. Levine was my next door neighbor, someone I could share a cup of coffee with from time to time and pick her brain for my current crop of parenting issues. Someone who might listen sympathetically and yet offer objective feedback to the way I handle situations with my growing kids. Fortunately, I do have these "neighbors" in my life, in the form of parents and friends, and much of Levine's advice and observations seem to coincide with much their trusted advice.

This book, born out of thirty years as a professional child psychologist in Southern CA, encapsulates Levine's observations and instructions and warnings for today's families. Her writing is both sympathetic and comforting, while at the same time she gives her readers a kick in the rear to get it together and parent wisely. Obviously, the book is geared toward privileged families - which nearly any one of you reading this blog fit into. But filter out all the privilege part, and it's just plain good parenting advice.

If you read this book, just a head's up that the psychology jargon included is more lengthy than many traditional parenting books. The text reflects a psychologist-author, so she defends her studies with full explanations of the psychology behind them, and gives brief definitions of psychology terms throughout in order to fully communicate her ideas. Personally, this non-medical reader appreciated the brief introduction into child psychology 101. But be prepared to skim a couple of sections if you're not into that.

The three things I loved most about reading Dr. Levine's book:
1 - She provides a fantastic platform for discussion concerning modern-day parenting. It took me a long time to read this book because I found myself wanting to chew on the information a little at a time, and I loved talking with Corbin through the main points.
2 - Levine's voice of reason goes against the negative patterns of our culture. Reading through her ideas and instructions and examples, I found myself wondering how many enemies Levine might have made through the process of writing and publishing this book. She is brave and courageous to inscribe in ink her not-so-politically-correct opinions. Whether I agree with every single thing or not, her courage is admirable.
3 - I'm realizing how much my parents and Corbin's parents did right. Psychology lingo aside, our parents emulated nearly all of Levine's instruction. The points Levine makes for healthy parenting (ideas such as delayed gratification, the real definition of success, the dangers of materialism) are familiar and for the most part come naturally for Corbin and me, having seen these concepts modeled in our own home for years. Something we can't thank our parents enough for.

Well, I may not get to be next-door neighbors with this neat lady, but I'm grateful for her words to get me thinking. A great read - be prepared to be challenged.

Monday, November 9, 2009


“Hey, how long ago did you get this ticket?” Corbin asked, flipping through some papers on my desk.
“Oh yeah, I meant to ask you about that. What do I need to do with it?”
“Well, did you read it? Looks like you need to go to the courthouse. But it says within eleven days, and the date on this is Oct 19.”
“Agh! So today is day 12. Think that’ll matter?”
“I don’t know.”
“Think it’ll matter that I still don’t have a new driver’s license?”
“I don’t know.”
“Come on, you’re the attorney here. You really don’t know?”
“I really don’t know. But you need to go tomorrow.”

I was hoping Corbin could do something about my ticket - call someone or take it somewhere and make it just disappear. A couple of weeks ago I answered my cell phone driving through a school zone. Big no-no. The officer was merciful to fore go the automatic $200 fine, but instead issued me a ticket for an expired registration sticker. No kidding, the new sticker was paid for, sitting on my desk at home, waiting to be affixed to my front window.

So last Monday morning, citation and renewed registration in hand, I walked up the courthouse steps in hopes of getting my ticket dismissed. With $1.50 in the parking meter and the kids at lunch with Corbin I figured I’d bought myself an hour or so to take care of this annoying inconvenience.

Despite the crisp, sunny weather outside, the building’s dark, dank ambiance mirrored my spirits. After walking through a metal detector and waiting in line for the teller, I was summoned to courtroom five. Whoa. Turning the corner into the hallway, I joined the ranks of a mass of legal offenders. Searching for a kind face of someone who might speak English, I asked a lady where the line started and who I should give my paperwork to. She shrugged her shoulders and told me that the clerk would be by to get my papers at some point. I pricked my ears for any information and overheard comments like “three-hour-wait” and “been here since 9:30.” I couldn't make sense of the process and instead leaned against the tile wall and waited.

As my watch ticked by minutes. I contemplated how I would get back to add more change in my meter, and how Corbin would do with miniature shadows at work the rest of the afternoon. Was it worth the wait? How much would this ticket cost, anyway? Would this “process” devour more of my time with a driver’s safety course?

Glancing through the tiny rectangular window of an adjoining courtroom I saw my friend Kim, sitting as Judge on the bench, issuing verdicts to those who stood before her. Kim! If only she would look up and see me - maybe I’d be saved! But she never looked my way, and I was unfortunately assigned to the next court. I (barely) restrained myself from doing cartwheels and waving my arms frantically to get her attention.

At some point the clerk gathered my papers, and before too long I was summoned from waiting in the hallway to waiting in the actual courtroom. I felt the weight of disapproving onlookers as I left the throngs of listless hallway dwellers and entered the courtroom.
Following the clerk’s gestures to a bench, I sardined myself between two seated men, turned off my phone, crossed my arms, and waited. As a man pleaded with the Judge to revoke his warrant for arrest, to no avail, the young man on my right told me he’d been sitting there for two hours and had to catch a bus to Texarkana. The man on my left told me I should just leave and come again at 7:00 am the next day, as the courts open at 8:00. Another man in front of us asked the clerk if his name had been called, as he’d stepped out to use the restroom, and she part-laughed and part-huffed as she told him, “No chance.”

As person after person stood in front of the judge, arguing their tickets and violations, I dreaded my name being called. I was pretty sure I was the only blonde in the room, and quite sure the only one wearing a hot pink blazer. What was I thinking?! I stood out like a sore thumb, and I didn’t like it one bit. I slumped on the hard wooden bench, wondering what I would be asked and how the judge would respond to my delayed appearance. Beyond the inconvenience of throwing away these precious hours, I felt guilty. Guilty knowing that my real charge was worse than what I was actually charged with, guilty that I’d let too much time pass before taking care of this ticket, and guilty crammed among fifty or sixty others in the same position.

All of the sudden, the judge called out my name.
“Tonya Wilson?”
I kind of half-stood, not sure what to do, as I knew my name was no where near the top of her pile.
“Tonya Wilson - your ticket is dismissed, you may leave.”
A room full of strangers stared holes through me. I was one of the last to enter the room, and now one of the first to be leaving. I heard sighs from those across the aisle - not happy ones.
“That’s it? I don’t need to do anything else?”
“No,” the Judge said, “you’re free to go.”

So out I walked. Out into the crammed hallway, through the dim teller area, and down the marble courthouse steps. I squinted my eyes in the bright noon-time sun.

Free. Liberated. I was released, with no real explanation. I could have cried right there standing on the bustling sidewalk among lunch-hour suits. What just happened?

An unexplained pardon. It was such a picture to me of my debts being wiped clean - an undeserved gift. My entire wait was about half an hour, and I didn’t even have to go before the judge. My ticket was completely dismissed in mere minutes, while others waited hours. I was free to go. A humbling, startling picture that will go with me as I continue to appreciate the ultimate, real, eternal Grace.

Footnote: My friend Kim later explained that I was likely released because of the nature of my ticket - just one, and I’d given the clerk proof of my registration that had already been paid for. She never saw me through the window.

Friday, October 23, 2009

At least it's not J. Max

Sunlight filtered through our open car windows while a brisk breeze swooped crimson and golden leaves in merry-go-round circles on the asphalt. The day's brilliant conditions ushered in excitement for the emergence of Fall.
But all was not quite so sunny in our car as we sat parked in front of our church last Friday afternoon. We spoke with our pastor briefly as he informed my guitar-laden sons that Mark, their guitar teacher, was out of town.
Still, the sun shone and cars whizzed past and all seemed right with the world until the car doors slammed shut. Because at that moment, when I turned the ignition, shifted my suburban into gear, and headed out of the parking lot headed west instead of east, my oldest gasped, "Wait, we're going home, right?"
He made it to a crouched defensive position before I could say, "Well, the girls and I were going to run a couple of er -"
"Aghhhhhhhhhh! Errraaaannndddsss!"
Somehow this nearly ten-year-old giant of a boy managed to squish his five-foot frame into the floorboard of the front seat, twisting and turning and slithering, as if somehow his body language could push the inevitable errand-running into oblivion.
No chance.
You know, you hate to see your child struggling. I mean, so paralyzed that they're unable to form complete sentences... I put the car in park, turned sideways in my seat, and turned my full attention to the performance taking place in the adjacent seat.
Squirming, turning, twisting, with facial contortions and jagged contractions, Bran continued his display of distress with the upcoming errand-running.
"Wheeeerrrrree are we going? What errraaaannndddsss?!"
Well, first I have to go by Julie Nelson's -"
"Julie Neellllssonnn's!!!"
"Yes - Julie Neslon's - she hemmed Daddy's pants like five months ago and I need to pick them up. You don't even have to get out of the car, she has them hanging on her front door for me."
(Weakly) "Ok, Julie Neslson's. What else?"
After Julie's, we'll be right by the Plant Shed, and I need to get a couple of plants and pumpkins. It won't take long."
"Do you promise me we won't look at flowers? Do you PROMISE?"
(Laughing) "No, I don't promise, but I don't intend to look at flowers. And after that we might go to Ross. For you, for new boxers."
(Whispered) "Ross." Sigh.
Slumped in his seat having accepted defeat, Bran looked out of the corner of his eye at me and said, "Don't laugh at me."
"What? Why would I not laugh at you?! You are hilarious! This is one of the funniest things I've seen - and it's even a free show."
About that time the phone rang, Papa on the line. I passed the phone to Bran to talk to his Daddy's Daddy:
"Hey Pop. Yes, we're ok, except we're running ERRANDS. And we might have to go to Ross. But at least we don't have to go to J. Max..."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Kitten and Ducks

(from Hudson) I wrote this story today:

One late afternoon a mother duck's eggs hatched and a kitten got mixed in with the baby ducks. When it was time for the baby ducks to eat their first piece of corn the kitten ate with then. After that, it was time for them to take ther first swim. After the ducks jumped in it was the kitten's turn. At first the kitten did not like this idea but he did it to stay with the ducks. While they were swimming the baby ducks and the kitten followed their mother duck across the pond. After they were across the pond ther was a garden and the kitten saw a garden mouse and chaced it and then the baby ducks wanted to chace it but the mouther duck said no.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bragging... again

Check out my big brother, Trey... he's amazing! Can you tell I'm a little proud?!

James Listed Among Top 100 Most Influential in Accounting Industry

ALPHARETTA, GA, October 2009— Xcentric, LLC’s president and CEO Trey James was recently recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Accounting Industry by Accounting Today magazine, one of the leading news vehicles for the tax and accounting community.

Accounting Today highlights James’ contributions to the accounting industry, including Gray Matter, Xcentric’s fully hosted network solution, which allows firms to focus on their core competencies instead of on technology.

Candidates for this award were nominated by the Accounting Today readership, as well as by the magazine editors. The finalists were then selected based the editors’ judgment of the candidates’ impact on the profession over the past few years and in the immediate future, as well as on their knowledge of the profession as a whole.

“With their Gray Matter service, James and his company let more and more accountants focus on their work not their network, by hosting and deploying entire IT systems in the ‘cloud’”, as excerpted from Accounting Today magazine.

“I am honored to be chosen and thankful for the team at Xcentric that joins me in serving the accounting industry through technology specifically designed for CPAs, “ says Trey James, Xcentric president and CEO.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Six weeks in...

We're in week six of school, and I'm thankful to be here and not at week one. I feel like we're past the nervous anticipation of unfamiliar schedules and routines, and are slowly jelling with this new pattern of what learning looks like in our home.
Without question, the primary challenge has been attitudes and acceptance of our new roles and routines. More than a few days of our first month found one boy or the other in tears, in a fetal position on the carpet, crying that "we don't do it like that at school." The worst was when an "I can't" dissolved into "I just wish I were at school, I don't like homeschool!" - especially when it came just minutes after a proclamation that homeschooling was better than they expected. What drove me crazy was that when one boy faltered, the other's attitude remained upbeat and cooperative. Then the next day, without warning, they might switch. What in the world?!
But even the most frustrating episodes ended in contrite cooperation. This message scribbled on the dry erase board welcomed me one morning:

Enter Corbin with some positive reinforcement. Armed with bags of candy - good candy, expensive candy - he filled a glass jar and perched it on a shelf in the sunroom, a visible reward for good attitudes. Just one piece a day has been enough to get them in line.
Even more than the candy, though, time has smoothed out the wrinkles of unfamiliarity and anxiety. The boys know a little more what to expect, they are learning their new routines, and I think they are feeling some success in learning and even enjoying the new way we do it at home.

So enough about the kids, a few things that school at home has meant for me:
- Endearing me to my oldest. Branson caught on to the "pros" of homeschooling early on, and he has surprised me by jumping in with both feet. He wakes early and is a self-starter, and would have all of his work completed by 9:00 a.m. if I'd let him. I treasure his consistent up-beat attitude, his courage to jump in and try something new, and his amazing aptitude. (See all the pink post-it-notes on his folders - Bran scrawled "done" scrawled across each one to show me he'd completed his work... I think this photo was snapped before breakfast.)

- Laughing with my boys. We have laughed a lot - they are really funny! Bran is even funnier when he's trying not to be. Nothing beats genuine laughter with these boys.
- Having Bran and Hud to myself. The girls go to school three days a week, and Basden is LOVING her kindergarten class. I love that she's learning songs and poems and jingles - and not from me. I also love that she's getting a classroom experience with these sweet teachers and kiddos. Needless to say, Essie is happy as a lark to be with friends several days a week.

- Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. We're staying up a bit later and sleeping a bit later. I still can't get over afternoons and evening with no homework (!!!). I feel like the pulse of our home is a little more relaxed than it's been in awhile - the sabbatical from school deadlines has been a tremendous gift.
- Tuesdays with the Alexanders. Our kids LOVE Tuesdays, can't wait for the weekly trek to Arlington to be with this sweet family and some other friends. Emily is amazing in opening her home, Moody is amazing with science experiments and teaching, and Senora Mary Lynn is adorable teaching Spanish. And best of all - hot pizzas delivered between classes. So thankful for our Tuesday lunches and learning!

So far, our weeks have been a gift. That's the way I've been trying to anticipate this school year - a treasure. My mind's eye envisions a rusty old treasure chest filled with shimmering gold and bright gems and sparkly things that I don't even know the value of. I don't know what our treasures will be, or when we'll uncover them, but I'm counting on the fact that the Lord has something beautiful in store for us. One day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Our New Adventure

That's how I feel about this year and teaching our kids at home - "a new adventure." A one-day-at-a-time, stay-in-the-moment kind of adventure.
The past couple of weeks have felt both natural and alien, easy and difficult, and comfortable and exhausting. The good news is that we're on week three and we're all surviving. Even with my roller-coaster summer, riding through all the shifting emotions that accompany a major change, at the end of the day (even a difficult day!) I'm glad to be doing this. I'm thankful for the time with Bran & Hud - learning them better, and learning what they really know. And then it surprises me that I'm surprised.

Tomorrow Daboo takes the wheel for a couple of days as I head to Round Top with my sweet friend Cathy. So excited - I've never been, and my rain boots are ready by the door for what I anticipate to be a rather muddy scavenger hunt down Texas highway 237.

I'm leaving the boys in great hands - an entire post could be dedicated to Mom's creativity and helpful assistance with teaching and simply ordering our days. I'm watching a master teacher - wholly invested in her students - laugh and engage in learning around the table in our sunroom with two endearing pupils.

A huge thanks to Daboo as I'm off to my own antique-filled history field trip. And hopefully next month won't be too difficult a lesson in finance when it comes time to pay the bills...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What I'm Loving About Our Week

Well, first of all, we're at Rosemary beach this week. Near Destin, just down 30A along the Emerald Coast, past Watercolor and Seaside, Rosemary Beach is just captivating. I've never been to this little gem of a community before, but I'm totally enchanted and already hoping that this might become "the place." You know, the place we might return to year after year to take in smells of salty air and feel the blonde, silt-like sand and bike through the narrow, winding streets to the Sugar Shak for ice cream and old-fashioned candy.
There's something a little magical about this place, this quaint Mediterranean-ish neighborhood nestled along the gorgeous white sands of the northern Florida coastline.

For those of you I haven't talked with this summer, who may be wondering why in the world we're at the beach this week instead of in school, we've decided to take a year off and homeschool this year (!), and so we're starting off with a bang. This week has been a gift. I've relished these airy, carefree days with my little family putting around this charming cottage and even more charming community with no responsibilities except to eat and play and swim.
So there you go. Can you tell it's already Thursday night of a week-long vacation? I'm determined to fully enjoy our last couple of days and remain in total denial about starting back to "life" next week at home. Our real home, that is, in Texas. Not our "new home" here in Rosemary, as Esther has deemed it.

What do I want to remember from this week?
- Our first moon-lit night on the beach. Our family's excitement and wonder spilling over, reminding Corbin and me after a not-so-fun thirteen-hour drive that we did indeed love our children and wanted to spend the week with them.
- Watching our kids be kids on the beach - sprinting into the foamy surf, bounding over white-capped waves, snorkeling close to shore, fishing from the sand bar... a gift to experience all this.
- Following Basden along the shoreline, my feet pressing into her still-chubby footprints that are too quickly becoming long and slender.
- Meeting little six-month-old Joy Taylor James. Born in April, we thought we might have to wait for Christmas! But both my brothers in Atlanta coordinated their beach week with ours, so we're getting some precious time with Marshall, Ashlyn and little Joy Taylor. Oh, and Chris and Crystal and Trey and Amy!
- Nighttime crabbing with Uncle Trey and Uncle Chris. Thank goodness for the gear guys and their turbo flashlights. (We would have freaked out had we seen all those crabs our first night with only the moon light - thousands of albino crabs scampering underneath our bare feet and we had no idea!)
- Our boys venturing "out to play" unattended. They can throw the football on the beach, start ahead of us to the pool, or bike to the grassy lawn and throw the baseball - WITHOUT us. These short spurts of time give them freedom to burn some energy while we're putting Esther down for a nap, reading one more chapter, or simply pulling things together for the next outing.
- On that liberating note, this is the first summer in a decade that we're taking trips with ALL big kids. Meaning, for the first time in ten years we brought no diapers, no pack-n-plays, and no strollers. And the only one that requires a nap now is Mommy.

The only thing - besides grandparents - we're missing on this trip is Luke and Julie! Although I'm half-way expecting them to show up any moment from Tulsa with Bogan and two-week-old Broderick Kaleb in their arms.

Will post again soon (hopefully) with more, but in the meantime, I'm loving our week at the beach and excited about the new school year. Be back soon...

Monday, August 24, 2009

You send your husband to Costco for milk

and he comes home with this...

Wasn't expecting a screeching dragon to make my night. Happy Halloween in August, all!

Monday, August 3, 2009

First Fruits

A scruffy, haggard-looking man at Hulen and I-20 holds a sign that reads, "Injured in Iraq - please help."
A Pregnancy Lifeline display sits in the corner of our church foyer week after week, beckoning donations for this local ministry.
Compassion and World Vision magazines lay scattered across our kitchen counter, their photos of hungry and abandoned children interrupting the flow of our day.
Our friend announcing to his wife and three young boys that he's trading his husband/daddy roles for something more appealing.

I don't know if you ever feel this way, but the hurts and needs I encounter peripherally on a day to day basis can feel overwhelming, to the point where I'm often paralyzed before I even know how to help: Should we send money to this organization or person, and if so, how much? Is this the time to lend a hand and invest in this person or ministry or cause? What can I offer that would actually help?

So it's refreshing to see people who aren't defeated by massive needs, but instead keep their eyes open to what's already going on around them, and then jump in and do something.
The Broetje family in southeast Washington has figured it out. Talk about pouring their energies and time and finances and compassion into Kingdom work.
Broetje (pronounced Bro-chee) Orchards was highlighted this month as Costco Connection's cover story. The company's label - "First Fruits of Washington" - grabbed my attention, second to the fact that the article shone a brilliant light on the Broetje family's Christian faith contributing to their servant-leadership business approach.

This story is incredible. From their purchase of a few acres of cherry orchards as newlyweds in 1967, the Broejtes now operate an $80 million business and donate up to 75% of their annual earnings to faith-based, community-oriented initiatives.

The thing that strikes me the most in reading this article and then perusing is the family's comprehensive care of their employees from start to finish. They've taken significant vulnerable and financial risks in providing for the needs of their employees. All of the amazing things they invest in stem from an organic process of simply opening their eyes to needs around them, and then pursuing appropriate (and out-of-the-box) ways to meet real needs.

The Broetje's oldest daughter, Suzanne, is quoted in the Costco Connection:
"We don't want to just throw money at problems. We're in it for the long haul."

Yikes. That takes commitment - sacrificial, physical, emotional, financial - real commitment. Kind of overwhelming to think about, until you see the overflowing bounty this family has created through that kind of commitment.

Again, check out this article. Worth the read (even if you're a Sam's fan). Kudos to Costco for highlighting this family who will in turn push other businesses and individuals toward servant leadership. I, for one, am challenged.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Funny Girl

You're funny and fearless (except for loud noises) and fussy and fast friends with strangers.
You're quirky and busy and exuberant and giggly.
You're graceful and athletic and a dancer and a sprinter...
and today, you're three years old.
This little babe who surprised us and delights us and drives us crazy is growing from infant to toddler to fully three.

Daboo was the first to celebrate your birthday last week with a one-on-one party. Cookies, three candles, and a new baby doll that drinks her bottle and bats her eyes.
And again last night, against a backdrop of powdery blue skies and Angel Fire's mountains, a table of jubilant cousins and siblings bounded around the birthday girl and Mama's bright flowered cupcake-cake.
What joy - two parties, big grins, loads of sugar, and plenty of presents. All a girl could want and more.

Happy birthday, sweet Es.
When I think of your second year, I am reminded that most everything you do is Grand - grand laughter, grand hugs, grand fits and grand joy.

Some specific memories...
- Singing, singing, and more singing. Usually with your own lyrics to the tune of Jingle Bells or B-I-N-G-O or This Old Man.
- Digging in "my" desk drawer for pen and paper and "coloughs."
- Yelling at any and all airplanes overhead, "Cappy! Be careful! Be careful!!"
- Responding to just about everything with a two-syllable "oo-oh."
- "Nothing. Nothing. Absolutely nothing."
- Your uniform of Basden's outgrown and tattered ballet costumes (how can they already be outgrown??!)
- "Actually..."
- If there's dirt, you're in it. It's what kept you entertained at all those baseball games all Spring - big flower pots full of soil. All over you and the ballet costumes.
- Favorite color "puh-ple."
- Tight brown-sugar-colored pigtails swirled atop your head. Even better with ribbons.
- Only one among your siblings to be scared of putting your face in water, even after two weeks of swim lessons. But following a 45-minute session with 11-year-old Hannah, you're quite the fish.
- Long conversations on your Barbie flip-phone with Paul.
- Deep, deep affection for Avalon and "Jeffy." Are we in trouble here?

A few more photos that capture your year...
Grins for Cappy
Kisses for Papa
Helping Mama with her make-up
Bestest friend Avie

07.24.06 - your actual birth day



07.24.09 - even more captivating today at three!

We love you, Essie. What joy and spirit your bring our home. May you keep us laughing for years to come. You are a priceless gift!