Monday, November 30, 2015

A Different Thanksgiving

For several years now, we've hosted Thanksgiving at our house so I began the gathering of Thanksgiving food and began to plan the day. But at the last minute, Ben and Kristen decided that they would host Thanksgiving this year. Oh Happy Day! While I don't mind hosting Thanksgiving, it is   a ton of work to host the largest meal of the year. Of course I contributed food to the meal, but did I mention that hosting Thanksgiving is a ton of work.

This was the most relaxing Thanksgiving I can remember except when I was a child and I was clueless and didn't appreciate anything. I started the day with a run, after my devotion of course, in the cool crisp morning and except for feeling some guilt knowing that Kristen was stressing over hosting instead of me, I enjoyed it immensely. I called my mom and had a nice long conversation as I  prepared my side dishes. I even had time to put up some Christmas decorations.

It was definitely a challenge to safely navigate Papa's walker around Wyatt's dump truck and Chloe and Molly, Ben and Kristen's two small dogs, but we made it. I even had time to sit and visit with them more which was so nice as I'm usually the one running around getting butter and drinks, cleaning up spills, etc. I was so glad to have both of them healthy and able to be with us this year as they spent their 58th Thanksgiving together. You have to admire a couple who has spent 58 Thanksgivings together!

The turkey was delicious and I was so proud of Ben and Kristen as they worked together to host their large extended family. I loved so many moments of the day. I loved how happy Ben was to have his dad there. I loved how much joy it gave Nana to hold Panda, Kristen's tiny new puppy. I loved how Eric showed Ben how to carve a turkey and how the kids never tire of making Oreo turkeys. I love Eric and Summer making yeast rolls together. It won't be long before she will be making Thanksgiving dinner for us!

It was a day to be thankful for sure for all of our many blessings.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Change in Plans

Thank you God for the rest these past few days. Rest, I didn't know I needed, but you knew I did. Your love for me and knowledge of what I need is unexpected and humbling.

You have searched me Lord and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with with all of my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, Lord you know it completely. You hem me in behind and before and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain. Psalms 139:1-5

We had mede this trip before with our good friends and it was filled with long beautiful hikes in the Colorado Rockies. But this was not to be. Instead of beautiful warm fall weather, rain and snow began to fall as we made our way up the mountain. The snow came and the power went out on our first day. Our hike was fading from view.

Instead of hiking, we observed the slower pace of small mountain towns when we drove in looking for warmth a restroom and entertainment. We marveled at the beauty of new fallen snow on the majestic mountains all around us. I also marveled at how they could survive without a target! The power (boy did we miss you!) came back on and we sat by the fire, worked a jigsaw puzzle and played hearts (I'm not good at that game). We discovered all kinds of snow toys in the cabin like snowshoes (interesting and fun) and cross country skies (long and slippery). So we strapped them on and went out the door to explore in the snow. I  even drank my first cup of real coffee, coffee from a fancy machine that is ( I think I want one!) And we rested.

On our last day in the mountains, the sun finally broke through and we hiked the hike we had come for. It was a different hike than what we planned, but beautiful all the same. We braved it together through ice and deep snow and real apprehension. Should we try? We couldn't even see the trail! A sweet much younger couple came by and encouraged us to keep going. We persevered and found  snowy Limber Grove at the top we were looking for. After that we rested some more.

Thankful for friends we could be quiet with, rest with and hike a little with. Thankful for the snow. Thank you God for the change in plans. Your plans were better.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


It pays to volunteer to be the scorekeeper for your daughter's volleyball game, which incidentally is not easy. The only more difficult scoring I had to keep was Bible Quiz and I never got the right score!

Firstly, you can sit at the buzzer table with the big wigs and give thumbs up to the ref when there are substitutions. Secondly, you can witness your daughter score an awesome point for her team and watch her jump up and down with glee afterward. She is not of the"cool" variety of middle schoolers yet. Thirdly, you find out from a mom that her daughter and my son have a little romance going? What! And I thought he was coming to the game to support his sister! Not so. It's a younger woman on Summer's volleyball team who has her eyes on him and he more than ok with this. I'm hoping that at the very least this tryst translates to longer showers. More studying? Unlikely. Could it be the stinky hair gel that he started applying liberally?

Thankfully I have the Meghan Kelley of Eastside, The Summer Files, I call it. She is a wealth of information. Apparently, her friend has liked him from the first time she saw him! Is she using Summer merely to get to Lucas? I can't even go there. What happened to American Girl and Barbies?

I don't know if I'm ready to witness a boy go through puberty. No, I definitely am not ready to witness this. But you can bet I'll be keeping score again tomorrow at the volleyball game!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Humiliation 101

Our youngest child started middle school this year. That makes two of our children in middle school and one in high school. I would classify us solidly in the uncool and clueless beyond compare and embarrassing beyond comprehension according to our younger three children. To make sure my humiliation is total and complete, it appears I have been called to lead a small group in the Middle School Student ministry.

I know the above to be true and this was proven out when I asked my middle schoolers how they would feel if I volunteered as a small group leader in the Student Ministry at our church. My son quickly informed me that they are in fact NOT in need of leaders. There are leaders everywhere! When that didn't fly, he informed that he would not be able to concentrate on the teaching if I'm there so for his soul's sake, I should not volunteer. When that didn't fly, he told me no one wants their mom or dad there and that he would not be attending should I also be in the same room. In reality  80% of small group leaders have kids in middle school as I was told by the Middle School pastor. My daughter was slightly more agreeable or was she? Who knows what she really thinks? These are treacherous waters I'm swimming in.

My first Sunday down there was a trip back in time to Awkward Land  except with electronic devices. Middle School is just as awkward as I remember. I broke out into a cold sweat as I was immediately transported to my PE class in 1974 in my blue one piece uniform trying desperately to avoid being hit by the school jocks in a dodge ball game.

 Kids today have their noses buried in their phones watching videos, playing games, etc. All we had was Tiger Beat magazine! All the same, I could still spy the cool kids in cool cliques, the clueless boys eating donut holes (my son was one of those) and everyone else in between. I was very tempted to bury my own nose in my phone, but resisted the urge so I could engage these awkward middle schoolers. I had marginal success at best but hope to get better. Next week I plan to resort to the food method and bring donuts. Yes, I'm willing to buy engagement at this point. Is that bad?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Camp Workalot

The transition to summer isn't always an easy one for kids or their parents for that matter. The first couple of days there is the euphoria of sleeping in and no homework and then they begin to literally stand in front of me with a look of bewilderment as they stare down 10 or 12 hours of wake time with no set schedule. Sleeping and television watching are not permissible ways to fill ones day so then what?

Lucky for them I have pre-registered them for Camp Workalot. This is not a camp advertised in the East Cobber, the neighborhood happenings magazine. This camp happens to be conveniently at their very own house! Coincidentally, I also quit my job and signed up to be the director.  This round of kiddos, I have less time, not to mention less energy to train them up in the way they should go. This is a no brainer. They have nothing to do. I have too much to do. They are young, I am old. They have copious amounts of energy, I have a limited supply of energy that must last at least another 20 years. There's mulch to be spread, decks to be stained, garages to be swept, patios to be pressure washed, chicken enchiladas to be made.

I have nothing against, art camp, drama camp, dance camp, circus camp, space camp and the list goes on and on, but are these life long skills that my children need to become a productive member of society? Juggling and floating around weightless are fun but unless they are bound for Ringling Brothers or outer space, these camps are not a good use of their time or my money.

Before you call Child Protective Services on me, they are allowed breaks and all the gatorade they want on the mulching job, and they can attend a sport camp each if they want, along with some volunteer work at our church VBS to break up the mulching. Turns out, they love Camp Workalot! It's turning out better then I thought. They are working together which is a miracle in itself, in the hot sun and brokering payment deals with each other. It's amazing what working to earn money to buy Lebron James basketball shoes or an IPOD shuffle will do to motivate an 11 or 12 year old. We are hoping for a little longer term but it's a good start! It's worth it just to hear them come in from mulching and announce, "We're calling it a day" like they've been at the salt mines all day long. I've also seen them utilize creative ways to speed up the process like  one of them lowering a bucket of mulch with a rope to another to avoid going up and down steps with the buckets of mulch.

Except for the mulch that I am finding in areas of my house that have never seen mulch before and the black smudges on the door jams of the path from the mulch pit to the bathroom, not to mention tennis shoes and clothes that will need to go into the trash after the mulching project, I'm calling it a win.

P.S. The chicken enchiladas were delicious!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sippy Cups and Sharks

It’s been a long time since I put fingertip to keyboard. Instead I’ve been consumed almost entirely by 6th grade history and science exam review sheets for the last two weeks of school and regular 6th grade history and science and language chapter reviews before that to will my son through the end of the school year. This has been a tough academic year for my son and I and I don’t see them getting any easier. Are there trade schools for middle schoolers? If so, call me! Thankful to God in heaven that my other two children at home are doing ok academically on their own for the most part, give or take a 5th grade test here and there.

The last day of school finally came and we set off for Hilton Head Island where we would have a week of fun at the beach with our 3 children currently living at home as well as our grown children, their husbands and our 3 small grandchildren, all in one tiny villa. We unanimously decided upon arrival that we have outgrown a villa, condo, or anything smaller than an entire apartment complex.  After we unloaded everything from our 5 vehicles, we were unable to move. This included nineteen hundred sippy cups of every variety multiplied by 3. Back in the day, there was one brand of sippy cup; Tupperware and they only had two parts, the cup and a rubber lid with a small mouthpiece that had a slit in it. You have to have a degree in mechanical engineering to put my grandchildren’s sippy cups back together after washing them. This disqualifies me right away and happily so.  

The particular villa that I chose was just steps from the beach. You can actually see the beach from the back porch which was lovely. But carrying my 22 lb. 1 year old granddaughter over the dunes through soft sand, I couldn’t help but feel like Ralph Fiennes on the English patient trudging through the Sahara dessert to get help for the love of his life, Kristen Scott Thomas who lay dying in the cave. He didn’t make it in time to save her but thankfully I successfully transported Baby Bridget not once but several times. It was our special bonding time/cardio workout. Poor little one couldn’t last as long as her older, wiser, 18-month-old cousin Wyatt or her almost 3-year-old sister, Lucy. I didn’t really mind. It gave me a chance to hold her sweet chubby little body. Next time, she’ll be walking on her own carrying her own sand bucket. Lest you think Mr. Jakstadt was relaxing somewhere. He was carrying a tent to set up on the beach for our short stay by the ocean. That is a good man that I married and one good pops!

We walked, beached, biked, swam, ate, danced at Salty Dog Cafe, played Nertz,  and watched the dolphins frolic in the ocean, in spite of our tight quarters. The men got away on a deep sea fishing excursion and Pops caught a shark! The women got away for a grocery store run and our outlet mall shopping was replaced with a quick trip to purchase a cool straw hat for the sun. I think we got the short end of that stick.The last thing we needed was one more guest, but we got one nonetheless, the stomach flu. She came midweek and came home with us to Marietta as we drove home a day early. I do not like this uninvited guest one little bit!

And so we close another memorable week at Hilton Head Island.  Our very first HH beach trip,  Laura and Kristen were teenagers with their minds on boyfriends and getting a tan while Kelly Clarkston was just starting out with her hit, Miss Independent. Another trip Lucas, Summer and Stormy saw the beach for the first time when they were 4 and 5 and 8 yrs. old and Jason brought his very complicated kite that he flew. The kite did not make the trip this time, too many sippy cups I think. Summer rode in the bike carrier and Lucas could barely make it over the bumps in the sidewalk on his tiny two-wheeler. Another trip, Stormy ran into a tree with her bike and her finger swelled up so that Jason had to remove her new dolphin ring from her finger somehow. I couldn't watch. 

This trip our youngest are 11 and 12 and 15, they lead the pack on the bike ride,  they can walk to the general store by themselves and they help take care of their nieces and nephew.  We also gained a son in law, Ben, and two more precious grandchildren, Wyatt and Bridget. Lucy and Wyatt discovered that they love the beach and swimming with their new puddle jumpers! I couldn’t get enough of Wyatt’s dimpled smile and Lucy’s wild hair as they ran and played. They weren’t so sure about the pony ride at the stables and the reviews were mixed on the bike child cart that we pulled them in. All the same, vacations are to make memories and memories we always make. Until next time!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Red Sea

My friend asked me the other day how long did I second guess our decision to adopt our three children. I answered that there are days when I still second guess our decision. What I'm second guessing is not my children but rather my suitability to be their mother. It seems to me that he chose the wrong mother for my particular children. Why would he choose me, one so short on mercy, patience and most of the other fruits of the spirit to mother children who need those fruits more than most. Wouldn't it have been better to choose a mother who loves to cuddle and play? A mother who is naturally merciful and compassionate?

I'm not one to question God but sometimes I question God. I can relate to Moses when he called him to address King Pharoah. " Who will I say sent me? In other words, This is too big for me!  I'm not equipped. " That's because it was too big for Moses.  As I recall Charlton Heston ended up with a bushy white beard on the Ten Commandments and it wasn't exactly a smooth road for him even though God was with him. He did give him special powers like a stick that turned into a serpent among other perks like a personal spokesman. I think I could use the serpent/stick some days around here. I've also noticed that God has his own time table and doesn't rush, ever! That's a hard one for me. Now is better than later in my book. Still, Moses got to witness the Red Sea open up to save the Israelites and to show God's incredible glory. He didn't get to actually go into the promised land himself but I'll not dwell on that particular point right now. 

Did Moses feel equipped to do the job that God called him to do? He did not. Did God provide everything Moses needed to rescue his people? He most certainly did! Can God make me into the kind of mother that my children need? I think so.

Follow me and I will make you
Make you speak My words with power,
Make you vessels of My mercy,
Make you helpful every hour.
Follow Me, and I will make you...
Make you what you cannot be-
Make you loving, trustful, godly,
Make you even just like me. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Three Hour Tour

The sunset catamaran tour from Jamaica was our favorite memories from our last trip to Jamaica so of course we couldn't wait for another opportunity this year. The afternoons had started getting windy at the resort so we wondered if they might cancel it for wind. They did not. We decided to place our confidence in the captain of the ship and The Lord God of course. Well the Lord God decided to show off his power and remind us how small and helpless we truly are.

My first clue that this would be a very different trip was when stepping onto the boat, they insisted on practically lifting us on board because the boat kept moving away from the dock.

I would be remiss not to mention the colorful characters traveling with us on on the S.S. Minnow.  One of the newlyweds who I will refer to as smashed girl promptly told us that her new husband was mad at her because she likes this tropical "blank"and he doesn't. I'm not hopeful for that marriage. Boarded on a boat in Jamaica is not the time to find this information out. There was another young couple, tacky thong bathing suit girl and "don't give up on your dream tattoo boy who took photos of his thonged bride for the entire ride. Lovey and Thurston Howell III would not have been impressed. Thankfully there was a sweet southern couple from North Carolina , also newlyweds but neither smashed, tattooed nor thonged. They seemed genuinely happy to be married to each other and they renewed my hope for the future of our country.

The rest were mostly middle aged and happy to be escaping the bitter cold of the Northern states. Either that or the rum punch was kicking in.

The captain changed the route to mostly hugging the coast because of the wind. I think this was a wise decision. A dolphin joined our fun and put on a delightful show for us, jumping in and out of the ocean.  We stopped to swim but I found the waves too powerful so didn't stay out long. I was proud I went in at all as swimming in the ocean scares me!

The crew turned up the music and did a fun imitation of dancing like Michael Jackson to Billy Jean. It was time to sail back, normally timed for the sun to go down. The sail went up, the sun went down and the waves started getting huge, Master and Commander huge. 

I decided to "roll" with it and enjoy the ride. What choice did I have? I felt like I was at Six Flags riding one of those rides with warnings for Pregnant women and people who have heart conditions, only I was not buckled in. We were going against the wind so were making slow progress back to the resort. The sunset was barely mentioned as we were all afraid to let go of the railing to take photos. I truly feared for smashed girl's safety and hoped she was sitting down somewhere after making up with her husband.  Thong girl and tattooed boy's photo snapping also slowed during our bumpy return. Several crew members stationed themselves at the bow to assist passengers who wanted to move or to alert the captain in case someone went overboard. The crew had amazing sea legs and were solid as wooden soldiers. We were very impressed with them.

A few of the passengers were not feeling well but most everyone else seemed to do ok. I felt fine and Mr. Jakstadt, loving all things marine, was have a swell time riding the waves.

I kept my eyes on the captain who didn't seem particularly panicked but I'm sure that's part of his training. It's a good policy as what can he really do at the mercy of giant waves but sail on. Moms and teachers must practice this on a regular basis in order to survive a classroom of children or even one or two of them during stressful times. He performed well, serious but not overly so.

We made it safely back, way after dark and again were lifted back onto the dock. The crew was very cool and didn't act at all like they had barely made it back to shore. All I can say is, Mr. Jakstadt really knows how to show me a good time. It was a fine show all around and not a bad way to spend an evening.

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