Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reno Time OVER

Well, it was a long six weeks, but it's over. You must know by now that Mike was in Reno, NV for the last 6 weeks attending the Maynard Institute's Journalism & Editing Program ... well, he's home. Early yesterday morning I loaded up DJ & El, telling them (really only DJ) that we had a long drive but at the end he'd get a great surprise. Then we drove up to Christiansburg, Va. where Mike had spent Sunday night (after flying into Philadelphia to meet the guys for a day game Sunday afternoon) with our friends, Bridget & Chris. The whole way there, between telling me about LOTR (which we've only seen, oh,a million times), DJ was asking me what his surprise was ...
"an Anakin Skywalker? I've always wanted an Anakin Skywalker ..."
"a speedracer? I've always wanted a speedracer just like Brayson's ..."
"the white TransFormer? Are we going to McDonald's to get the last one?"
"some new crayons?"
"a horse? Mommy, did you get me a horse? I see you laughing ... you did! You did get me a horse!"
and on and on ...
The drive was really not bad as far as 4 hour drives go. Once you get out of Charlotte ... Lake Norman is a beautiful area, but the traffic is yuck. From Statesville (about the mid-point) on, the scenery is beautiful and not at all boring (not that driving on I-26 to the beach or Columbia, ahem, is boring). The drive into Virginia is green, hilly, lots of pretty rivers (I always feel at home when I'm crossing the Pee Dee!!) & lakes, & lots of cows ...
We got to Chris & Bridg's right at 12:30 ... Mike was peeking out the window, so I got DJ out of the car, covered his eyes & told him his surprise would come outside to him ... when I took my hands away, he squealed & jumped into Mike's arms. As I stood there smiling, DJ peeked his head up long enough to say, "Mommy, I knew my Daddy was my surprise!" Then he got back in the car, ready to drive home with his surprise!

Then we had the luxury of having lunch with Bridg (sandwiches ordered from & delivered by Jimmy John's - next we'll know to split one!!) and then the boys got play, while El tried desperately to get in on that action. We had a short but nice visit with Bridg (Chris wasn't able to make it home) but the boys enjoyed playing together for the most part. We finally loaded up and headed home at about 4:30 ... DJ asked as we were pulling out of the driveway, "When can I come back to play again with Charlie & Jackson?" ... so hopefully a lengthier visit is in our future. We stopped at Julie's brother-in-law's Chic-Fil-A in Statesville and were home by 10 p.m.

So, a long (but well worth it) drive for a great surprise.

And one more thing. Are you reading this? I don't have a "counter" that lets me know that people are reading this (probably using it as a sleep-medicine, but still) ... if you feel like it, let me know. And "hi" to Angie, who is reading this & making me feel really nice.

Signing off ...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Looking for perfection

Wow. It's barely 9 a.m. and we've already had what I like to call an "ah-ha" moment. You probably know that DJ was at the beach earlier this week with my parents, but we're just now getting to clean out the suitcase & go through the beautiful seashells (and sand - lots & lots of sand) DJ brought home. And wow, did he bring home some fabulous shells ... but not the ones that I'd have brought home. I like to look for the perfect shell - the ones that have somehow made it to shore still whole, or if they're broken, small breaks that aren't that aren't noticeable. I also love to find pieces of shells that show off the perfect - hollowed out conks or sand dollars. But not my sweet boy. No, we were sitting down, going through the bag of sand and shells that he brought me. Pieces of shell, black rocks, pieces of rock. And with each piece he's telling what makes it so beautiful.

In the Christian faith, we talk often of brokeness & being made whole in Christ. We talk of the imperfections that through faith in Christ are made beautiful. But I'm not sure how often we mean what we say. I mean, if it were true that we understand the heart of Christ, that we truly see imperfection as He sees it, would we be searching out the shore for the perfect shell? And I happen to know that I'm not the only one out there seeking perfection - in things bigger than seashells. But this morning, between asking for Lucky Charms and watching cartoons, my sweet boy reminded me of how I believe Christ sees us - broken, but still beautiful, still worth salvaging. Worth bringing home.

"... because with one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy ..."
Hebrews 10:14

Friday, July 11, 2008

Have you ever listened to two four-year olds argue? I'm sure most people have, even if you don't have two of your very own like I do most days (I'm referring to my own child, DJ who will be 5 this month & my nephew, Brayson, who is 7 months younger) ... anyway. Today Brays stayed home with us rather than go to daycare so the boys could play. It was great. They shared, no one hit, bit, kicked, or otherwise maimed the other (what more could I ask for, huh?). So we (I) decided to take a short roadtrip to McDonalds. And here, in the car where there's no escape, is where the argument took place. I can't remember exactly how it started - something to do with Moses & Noah somehow morphed into a talk about the Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now, I've tried to break this idea down to simple-ish terms for DJ, equating the Trinity to how he's part of me and because he's part of me, he's part of his Boppy (my dad) - part of, but not the same. So he & Brayson are screaming at each other, El's crying because she hates for them to fight or cry, and Lord of the Rings is playing on the DVD player & I'm trying to pay attention to the road. It was actually a kind of neat argument to overhear, since they were arguing over wether or not Jesus was dead or alive. They agreed that Jesus had died on the cross ("a really long time ago" - DJ), but the real problem this posed came from the little knowledge they have of death (two dogs have died in their lifetime, one just before Mike left for Reno). Back and forth they went:

Brays: (very matter-of-fact) Jesus is dead. He died on the cross. Then he went to Heaven with Micky (the dog).
DJ: Jesus isn't dead. He's alive in Heaven.
Brays: No, dead.
DJ: Alive.
Brays: Dead.
DJ: Alive.
Brays: I learned at church that he's dead, so he's dead.
DJ: (at this point screaming) ALIVE!!
Brays: (sing-song) Dead, dead, dead ...
DJ: Alive.
Brays: My daddy says he's dead (that's not a true statement, but it's Brayson's favorite way to rile anyone - me included - to just throw out the "My daddy says ..." or "My mommy says ..")
Dylan: (finally calm again & in his very best, "I'm older" voice): No, Brayson, he's alive.
Brayson: How do you know?
Dylan: I heard about it in the Bible.
Brayson: Oh. Hey, look at that barn.

End of discussion . Ha. I just thought it was great. By the time we got to McD., the boys were happy as larks & as if there was never an argument. But I also loved how DJ was so upset that Brays was arguing with him, when he knew he was right ... how he got upset, and then when he'd sort of reasoned out the best way to make his point, he calmed & was so confident in his knowledge, his faith.

Have I mentioned before that I love that kid? Cause if not, let me say now, I love, love, love that kid.

And also, today Mike graduated from the Maynard Inst. & tomorrow he hops a plane to head East - to us. He'll be home Monday after catching a Phillies game with the guys Sunday afternoon. YEAH!!!! Mere hours separate us!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rice Bowls soapbox

Today I talked to the nicest lady on the phone - not an unusual day for me. My job as Campaign Liaison at Rice Bowls entails making a lot of phone calls, getting in touch with our partners across the United States. Many times the calls are brief and end within a minute or two; most are more than pleasant if brief, but occasionally I'll reach someone like Ms. Frances, from Haymarket Baptist Church (Va.). Ms. Frances has been over Missions at Haymarket for the last few years and was over the last Rice Bowls campaign. We talked about different things for about 20 minutes last week - her love for missions and how important she feels missions are within any church, her desire for children to know that there are others in the world who are in need and that even the smallest of children can help another. Our phone call took an interesting turn when she mentioned her Associate Pastor. Turns out not only is he from this area, I grew up with he and his sisters, and his Dad performed my & Mike's wedding (both of his sisters were bridesmaids!). Just a reminder of how small the world we're in really is! But back to today ... I talked with Erin, the secretary at another of our partner churches. We ended up talking for about 15 minutes, laughing, and just enjoying a short conversation about (you guessed it!), Rice Bowls! I asked if she recalled how many bowls her church had ordered, "well, I'm pretty sure we ordered 25 bowls." "Well, you must've given out 25 because you can only order in increments 50." For some reason (I'm not sure why), this struck us both as immensely funny and led to our talk on missions and children and how exciting it is for children to have a hand in helping to raise others up.

I know I'm biased, but the concept of Rice Bowls is just such a great idea! We give you bowls (yes, GIVE - Rice Bowls are free!), you give them out (to friends, neighbors, family, church members, students, anyone!), then you collect them, count the change and send us a check. We distribute the funds to our partner orphanages to provide their food ... how easy?

That's my soapbox for today ... my El is sleeping, we've had rain, my DJ is at the beach and Mike is still in Reno (six more days 'til Reno time is OVER!) ... time for me to turn in ... signing off ...

Monday, July 7, 2008

to the beach ...

My parents (a.k.a. Boppy & Gam) picked DJ up this morning for their beach trip (3 days, 2 nights) ... My stomach is sort of in knots thinking about all the things that could go wrong, so I'm trying to focus on the things that could go right! Trying to remember how great it feels to walk on warm sand, the way it feels as the waves rush in and out over your feet, the breeze coming off the ocean, the laziness of the lazy river, going to sleep after a long, fun day in the sun, fresh seafood ...

But for now, I have laundry to finish up & a baby girl who's begging to be held ...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Thoughts on Independence

Happy Late Independence Day! It's so hard to believe that we're already just past the 4th of July ... El is 6 months old this week & DJ will be 5 later this month. Amazing. This afternoon he asked, "Mommy, what does the American Flag mean?" Amazed, again, at his knack for asking just the question, I thought for a minute before answering, trying to encompass all that the American Flag stands for in a nugget or two for an-almost-5-year old and boiled it all down to this: The American Flag stands for Freedom ... Freedom to talk about anything you want, anywhere; Freedom to go to church whereever you want; Freedom to live where you want ... I was on a roll before DJ interrupted me to say, "Mommy, I think the American Flag stands for America. That's why it says the American Flag." I guess there's not much more to say on thay subject, is there? The Flag is just a symbol of the nation, the nation a uniting of the people who believe in the same ideals. And while there are many different opinions, dreams, desires, hopes, goals ... they still come together, united under a flag that tells the world, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ..."

So, tomorrow I'll kiss my little boy good-bye as he goes with his Boppy & Gam & cousin to the beach ... his first such trip. Say a prayer & wish me luck as El & I are truly "home alone" ... Mike will be home in seven days ... yeah!! Oh, and go read Mike's blog, Raising Two Americans - he just started blogging last week, but his posts are great ... Signing off ...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Secrets to Life

Mike has this theory ... He believes that babies are born knowing all the secrets of life. And if you've ever seen one of those babies who looks at you with his or her big, all-knowing eyes, unblinking as you make stupid decision after stupid decision, then you know what I mean when I say "old souls". His theory is this: Babies are born knowing everything, but they have to choose: have the knowledge or have the ability to articulate it. So he's been pretty concerned that while he's in Reno, El will lose her access to the secrets ... and he'll miss that transition phase. Thankfully, even though she has cut two teeth since he left, she hasn't intentionally used any words (yet). She says a lot of these, though:

  • mamamamamamama

  • buddah buddah buddah (wishful thinking has me believing this is her version of 'brother')

  • Hey (yes, hey ... I'm not sure if it's intentional, but she's been repeating hey for months now)

  • and most recently .... dadadadada ... she says this most often as she's making motorcycle sounds & drooling spit down her front. It's pretty great.

And that DJ ... oh my. His "lovey" is a stuffed Spot (from Dr. Suess' Put Me In the Zoo) and it has recently become something he can't live without. He's been to daycare 2x this week & neither day did he take a nap because he says, "Spot isn't enough - I need you, Mommy". And he wrote Mike an e-mail this week that said in part, "I'm having fun with just my mommy and eelly", as if we're the last 3 people on earth (which it sometimes feels like it is) ...

Just making note of the little things ... oh, the little things ...

Liberal: To Be or Not to Be

I can't really say what I want to say better than this, so I'm posting a quote from one of my all-time favorite shows, The West Wing. This is by far not my favorite episode, but I think it's one of the single best stand-alone quotes from the entire series ... it's from the Episode The Debate and this is the response of Sen. Matt Santos (D) to Sen. Arnie Vinick (R):

... "What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican Party? I'll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things, every one. So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor."

I won't get into my politics here - suffice it to say that I'm more liberal than many of my friends and more conservative than many of my friends. Carey & Will have this coffee mug (which I've tried - unsuccessfully - to steal) it says: If you want justice, work for peace ... Just sitting here, thinking things, thinking things ...

No, nothing has happened today, specifically, to set me on this topic - it's just somethinhg about which I think of & on often. Am I doing anything to work for justice, to work for peace, fairness, for others? I don't know ... I hope & pray that I'm raising two children who will work for those things, who will make a difference - be it in word, deed, song, art, a laugh, a smile, a hug ...

So now I've wetted your appetite - go out & buy The West Wing ... cheer for the Bartlett administration, for Josh & Donna, for C.J Cregg ... ahh ... my friends ... and for more quotes from WW ... you know the drill ...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fireworks & Magic

I'm looking forward to Friday, the 4th of July ... to see DJ enjoying the magic of fireworks, to cooking out with my parents and El's first holiday experience. But first ...

I have to get through the magic of this week. El has a cold - nothing worse, really, than your baby being sick. Her nose is runny, her eyes are crusty, she's got that junk-in-my-throat-can't-get-it-out cough and she's having a terrible time resting. But she still lights up when she sees me, or DJ, or especially my Dad (who she has wrapped quite securely around her sweet fingers). Her bottom two front teeth have come through just enough that when she laughs, you can see them poking through. Is that not more than a little magic? DJ is slimming up - losing that chunky babiness in his face, his tummy, his legs ... everyday I see more of the little boy, the young man ... Catherine Newman, who writes this great blog called Bringing Up Ben & Birdy wrote that (& I'm paraphrasing here) one of the saddest things about being a parent is that everyday you have to say good-bye to the person your child is today so that you can say hello to the child he/she is tomorrow ... Never has that been more true than now, I think, when it's so obvious that everyday they are re-inventing themselves. Be it in their dreams (artist, song-singer, fireman, teenager, cell-phone user, teacher ...) or in the their smile, still more gums than teeth, but brighter, more inviting, more mischevious, more everything with each day that passes, coming closer to the the people they are growing up to be. Thrilling, exciting, terrifying to not only bear witness but to help mold, to guide ... to be there for the laughs, for the tears ... magic or miraculous?

You know, six years and some days ago, Mike and I exchanged vows in a small-ish church where our family and friends bore witness. We promised, among other things, to be each other's best friend, forsake all others, and of course, the in sickness & in health, for richer or poorer parts ...
And even though both of us wanted children, I don't think either of us considered what exactly those vows would mean down the road ... but on weeks like this (which, Mike, I don't care to repeat without you!), when things are going so fast, when our babies are growing up to be the people we've imagined/dreamed/hoped they'd be, when there are sniffles and coughs and laughs and weepy moments (mine & theirs) ... fireworks, fairy dust, magic wands ...even the magic of Hogwarts can't touch the magic that's sleeping down the hall or snuggling right next to me ... I'm so thankful that not knowing what the future held, we took that leap of faith in each other so that we could be here (2,000 miles apart), never having been more sure that I married my best friend and I can't wait to be old with him (well, he'll be old, I'll still be 8 years younger ...)

Sparklers, roman candles, bottle rockets ... pomp & circumstance is nothing next to this kind of magic.

... as you seek so shall you find ... ahh yeah
Runaround, Sister Hazel