Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Crazies!

Everyone has a story worth repeating around the holiday season. I'm referring to an event like you stood in line thirty minutes to check out items you worked two hours to make a decision about. While waiting your turn you calculate how much you are about to spend, validate why it's alright to splurge, and picture how perfectly these items round out what is stashed away in the bowels of your closet. When the checker announces the total you reach in your purse to find everything except your wallet! Sure the store will hold the desired purchase twenty-four hours but goodness knows what is penciled in hour to hour between now and then but you are certain it didn't include coming back to this store!! You think to yourself this is suppose to be the season of peace on earth goodwill to men but what you really want to do is scream and punch somebody! I have many instances similar to the above I could share but have chosen only two for your reading pleasure so as not to stir up too many " ba humbug " feelings.

I had planned a Christmas morning extraordinaire in my mind. Rebekah and Abby wanted big baby dolls which I adored and Joseph was into being a fireman. This had all the makings of a storybook memory and I set out to make it the best ever for all of us. Just think of the pictures and video footage! We didn't own a camcorder but Jeff had already figured out he could reserve the one our church had. Just one of the perks from being involved in the children's ministry! I began smocking nightgowns for the girls with matching gowns for their baby dolls complete with " made by Mrs. Claus " labels sewn in for authenticity. I felt safe to smock when the girls were asleep but not when it was time to sew on the machine. Easy to overcome, I would work at Aunt Nana's house on her machine. Of course I pushed the limit nearing the deadline but not to worry, I knew my mothering adrenalin would kick in and everything would be finished with elf speed! Much to my surprise at midnight when I was about to start home it had been snowing! Merry Christmas to me, I thought. How fun and beautiful I thought as I drove home until I turned onto the foot of the monstrous hill that led to my house! Suddenly all the excitement of playing Mrs. Claus was melting as the wheels of my car began to spin and I found myself at the bottom of the hill again. I'm from Texas and am petrified at the
thought of crashing on ice! Remember it's after midnight and cell phones hadn't been invented but even if they had we wouldn't have one.
And why isn't Jeff out looking for me? Isn't he worried about me? I didn't begin to have on the right shoes or coat for braving the
nonforcasted white stuff glistening all around me! The best I could figure was to park my car on the side of the street and hike home. As I
felt confident this would work it didn't take too many attempted steps to learn I was wrong. All I did was slide back to where I started no
matter how hard I tried! My next plan proved successfulf as I crunched through the lawns of my neighbors till I reached our uphill cove
which was even more steep! Step by baby step delivered me safely at last to my front door. Jeff was cuddled sound asleep on the sofa
with a few embers still alive in the fireplace clueless to my icy adventure. But early Christmas morning with Bing Crosby caroling in the
background, the camera ready to capture the squeal of children flying down stairs, and the first comments of joy at the sight of wished for
toys, all the hours of shopping and sewing and sliding fulfilled every anticipated thought for this very moment with my family.

Where to hide Christmas presents can pose quite a challenge from year to year. The more children the bigger the challenge and since I have four I had to be creative as they got older and more tuned in to the process. I would save some to wrap on Christmas eve while
" visions of sugarplums " were dancing away! I always participated in televised Christmas worship services as part of my Yuletide tradition
while placing the finishing touches on packages and stockings. My hiding places ranged from the back of my closet to the back of the Suburban ( fondly referred to as my sleigh! ) to the loft closet of the Stitchin Post to the family boat stored in Sharon and Winston's garage to Jeff's storage unit not far from where we lived! I was methodical each year because as the magical night approached I might have to gather everything together to make certain every child's presents looked balanced with the layout beside them. Santa even remembered where each child's yearly place in the den was located for instant identification! Wouldn't you know the one year I didn't go through the inventory activity prior to Christmas eve there was an item missing for Anna Grace. Not really just a present but her main present! Everything in her pile revolved around the missing doll. I couldn't imagine that I could be so remiss about something so important! Obviously Jeff had to hop to and backtrack through the possible locations to keep Christmas morning from being a diaster! After looking everywhere except his storage unit we were still shy one Bitty Baby. We felt somewhat relieved eliminating everywhere possible he could get to before morning. It had to be in his storage unit and he could wake up before the kids, get Bitty Baby and be back in place before the first "it's morning" was heard! The perfect plan! When Jeff got to his stiorage unit the gate was locked even though it was always unlocked by this time. He had to call the
manager for access to finalize the case of the missing present. Hesitantly, he responded to Jeff's call and opened the gate. Jeff search every inch of the square unit but to know avail! No doll anywhere ! Jeff couldn't stand letting the manager know that after the disruption his mission was unsuccessful so he grabbed a small box and hid it under his jacket. As he went to thank the manager for being so helpful he
patted the box indicating mission accomplished but before he could get a word out the manager spoke up and declared, " 364 days of the year we are open and the one morning we aren't, you show up! " In the meantime I received a phone call from Sharon announcing the mystery had been solved and Bitty Baby could be picked up and placed in her rightful place under the tree! Success at last!? Falalalalalalalala!

Monday, December 13, 2010

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Loaded Are Thy Branches

I love this season of the year! Starting with Thanksgiving through New Years Day I am in my element! From baking to decorating, Christmas carols to festive gatherings, coffee in holiday mugs to poinsettias, I become one of Santa's helpers to make certain I am spreading Christmas cheer! Although I do my share to boost the economy, shopping isn't the crux for me. I especially like the worst kind of shopping Susie Orman preaches to avoid, last minute emotional spending. If I recall her theory correctly, all purchases should be made by the end of the first week of December but I consider it my patriotic duty to extend the deadline a bit! I am referring to the purchases made with the thought, just one more for Jeff and the kids, or I think I will buy a gift for all fifteen great nieces/nephews, or the ever so popular that looks just like so and so, I can't pass it up! A commmon trap for me and I'm sure others as well. This year a new approach had to be considered so thanks to my daughters our house is glowing with holiday decor in all the typical places. For years I was a greenery snob and made my own fresh garland from clippings on the ground at the tree lot. But as the season's activities increased with four kids, nine.years of participating in the Nutcracker with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and eventually adding work to my schedule I was forced to give in and purchase garlands with no fragrance but easier cleanup. But the tree is another thing. We still support Frazier tree growers by finding the tallest, most perfectly shaped tree on the lot! We have tree shopped in all kinds of weather and have been unaffected by the hassle of getting the tree in the house, in the stand, and in the position showing best side. I purposely have a few ornaments that are the right size to hide the holes that never seem to show up in the selection process! The best tree adventure to date began with a family trip to the tree lot followed by breakfast at McDonald's and ending the day by trimming the tree with holiday music blaring. The third part of our Norman Rockwell day didn't go as planned. As Jeff and the kids began the process to get the tree ready for ornaments I received a phone call from Rebekah. She informed me that the tree didn't have a good side and daddy was mad! I immediately shifted to mom mode by saying all the appropriate statements to turn a bad situation around. At that time I worked at a specialty fabric store part time, trading my hours for fabric and lace instead of a paycheck. I thought I had devised the perfect plan so that I could participate in my favorite part of the tree experience, taking the kids to choose a tree and hanging the ornaments in just the right place. Skipping the whole getting it in the stand and in the house routine was my least favored part. It's the moaning and groaning from Jeff toward an innocent evergreen that I like to avoid! When I got home I was certain I could redeem all the critical remarks made toward our tree selection. Wrong! They were right, it was a horrible tree with no good side! I tried my best but to no avail! So on a cold, windy Saturday evening that tree was strapped back on the car and taken back to the tree lot to be exchanged for a more attractive one! Last Sunday evening as I watched the kids decorate the tree I had to chuckle inside as I reflected on the collection of memories encompassing this holiday beginning with my childhood to the present. I treasure their comments about certain ornaments or memories they have from Christmases past. I also had to heed my own suggestion from Puzzle Pieces of Parenting, Part Three, number fifty-five; allow some ornaments to stay where your children have placed them. It continues to be a challenge for me but somehow this time didn't seem to matter. Maybe I am finally growing up!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wakeup Call

Yesterday at Community Bible Study the last part of the morning was dedicated to the annual Christmas Program presented by the children of all the moms involved in the study. Children starting as young as age two and extending to preteens provided a few minutes of holiday delight ranging from traditional carols to memory verses put to original melodies to the pledge of allegiance. As always there is at least one child that captures some extra attention and this year it was my grandson, Hamilton! Not only did he look adorable in his funky reindeer printed long john, but the way he would stop mid song and say " hi mom, hi mommy, hi mom. Hi nana (his great aunt) hi mom! He ended his presentation running up the aisle to where we were seated but because I was positioned just outside the pew in my wheelchair I received his grand finale with a, " hi Nan" and a big hug! Merry Christmas to me! Instantly I was taken back to the first year I attended CBS with one
child, Abby, skipping on one side of me and baby boy Joseph propped on the other hip. That's why women have hips, you know! One of the fall trends that year were scarves and I had purchased one from the Limited along with large earrings covered in jewel toned stones. Can you tell it was the eighties? And yes there were shoulder pads in everything I wore! I thought I was quite the fashion statement! So on this particular morning I wanted to dress the three of us in a way that would demand a second glance. Abby and Joseph looked like
Christmas cards in their smocked outfits accompanied by finishing touches of a perfectly created hair bow for Abby and polished white high top shoes for Joseph! Yes I dressed my son in smocked garments I had made so all three children coordinated but not matched. You never know when you might take a picture! And don't concern yourself about Joseph, half of our garage looks like Bass Pro Shop with his hunting and fishing gear. Wonder where he plans to put all of it in the one bedroom apartment he and Bethany will live in after their January wedding! With the two of them ready to go, I proceeded to get dressed and was excited to wear my new scarf! When I purchased the scarf the sales clerk showed me several ways to wear it. It seemed so easy when she did it but somehow it wasn't looking quite as sharp as it did in the store. Adding to my frustration was the the time on the clock and I didn't have mascara on yet and mascara is a must in my book! So I loaded us In the car and planned to finish my makeup while driving because Abby needed to arrive early since the Christmas program was scheduled for the first part of morning. I knew it wasn't the safest thing to do but this was kind of an emergency after all. Plus I am a female and capable of doing two things at the same time! All of a sudden I looked away from the mirror and back to road to find my car headed straight into the back of the truck in front of me! I swerved to avoid a crash and came to a stop in the grass beside the interstate. I felt like an idiot! Here I am investing time and energy in the best bible study I had ever been a part of with a children's program that embraced teaching children as opposed to just babysitting and I just missed what could have been a serious accident all because of a scarf and masacara! What a wakeup call! I was intent on achieving an appearance that took precedence over everything else. We arrived just in time for Abby to march in with the other kids. As I watched my sweet four year old sing about the birth of baby Jesus complete with hand motions and smiles, I was impressed by how much she had learned. I had learned a valuable lesson myself.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Webster's definition of the word forsaken is to abandon, to refrain from, to renounce. This evening that word is constantly on my mind. Actually it is more than on my mind, it is how I feel. Not because I was by myself today or this evening, I seldom get to be by myself now. I feel forsaken by God, abandoned, renounced, refrained from by Him. Where is He with regard to what is occurring in my body everyday There are no improvements, nothing is easier. Frankly speaking, every day seems to present new and more difficult challenges. Daily I receive cards, emails, or Facebook messages indicating prayers are being offered on my behalf. Daily someone tells me, " I am praying for you." Daily I experience no positive changes. We may figure out a better, more efficient way to help me up, prop me up, dress me up so I look most like myself, get me up in the car, clean me up, and pick me up when I fall! What works today may not be safe and effective tomorrow because nothing about me is stronger, better, healthier! NOTHING! NOTHING! I am accustomed to scripture flashing across the screen of my mind when I encounter personal, parenting, marriage, or any kind of life challenges that channels my thoughts and actions toward the correct response or approach. This evening the scripture I keep hearing is Jesus crying out, " my God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" In the gospel of Mark, chapter 15, Jesus is on the cross when he experiences this emotion. His mother, brother James, and disciple John were there with him. He was not alone when he expressed this strong declaration. Nor am I void of family and friends fully committed to do whatever is necessary through my terminal digression. A faithful friend initiated a two week prayer and fasting vigil and as much as I believe in the disciplined, sacrificing effort what I experienced during that time was an even deeper decline physically. Today's visit to the ALS Clinic left me facing the reality of this cruel disease with a wheelchair, bi-pap machine, and feeding tube in my immediate future due to less physical strength/balance, decreased respiratory function, and weight loss. ( go figure that I would find myself in a situation where weight loss at the doctor's office isn't a good thing! ). I have lived and taught my children that we make decisions based on what we know, not how we feel. Relying on my feelings with regard to my physical condition will only cause more disappointment and frustration. Although I typically try to look on the bright side to approach my life, today I needed to present a very realistic view to offer fair balance.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Who Holds Your Hands Up?

Last Sunday Rebekah and my niece, Ashley, ran a marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rebekah has run several halves but this was her first attempt to complete the 26.2 mile run. It was also the first time to actually put her body through that much distance. The training schedule builds up to 20 miles, but not the full amount until race day. I guess the thought process is either that if you run 26.2 miles in training you wouldn't actually show up on race day or if you are crazy enough to complete 20 miles in training you are sold out enough to see it through! There are several unknown factors in a run of this magnitude. Weather, course particulars, body reactions to the distance, and mental stamina, to name a few. My money was on Rebekah's mental stamina to conquer any problem she might encounter. She and Ashley both succeeded in crossing the finish line. Hooray, awesome job, I knew you could do it!!! But as in all challenges they both experienced tough moments. Rebekah began feeling some knee pain about the 19 mile marker and at the same time rounded a corner in the course where wind coming off the Arkansas river at 30 mph just added to her frustration. Juston had positioned himself to cheer her on and noticed she was struggling. To help her through this tough spot, he ran the next four miles in front of her to block the wind! Unlike Rebekah's rookie position, Ashley has run three previous marathons so experience was in her favor, right? Wrong! She fought feeling nauseated the whole run so no amount of history with marathons could benefit her. A bystander detected the signs of misery and started running with Ashley! She herself had someone rescue her in a race where it was obvious she was in trouble and pledged to pay it forward. She accompanied Ashley the remaining distance. After learning all the race details, I couldn't help but associate their situations with some events of my own. As time passes I become less independent and more dependent on others to help me with even the most simple tasks like cutting my food, spraying my cologne, opening my lipgloss, spraying my hair, or signing my name when I use my debit card. I have always invited help from family/friends when I could benefit from their experience or expertise. I am smart enough to position myself with the best to produce the best! But ALS places me in a category I never expected, not for many more years if ever. I remembered a situation with Moses after he had led the children of Israel out of Egypt away from the slavery Pharoah placed on them. But although they had experienced deliverance it didn't mean they had easy street ahead. In Exodus 17, they were in a situation of battle where Moses sent Joshua to lead the way while he positioned himself to support their efforts with the staff of God lifted high. As long as Moses maintained that posture, Joshuah and his men prevailed in battle. But as time passed and Moses became tired he lowered his staff/hands, and the enemy prevailed. Aaron and Hur had accompanied Moses to the top of the hill. Now here comes the the main point so don't miss it! Aaron and Hur saw that Moses had grown weary and placed him on a stone so he could rest while they held up his hands! They steadied Moses' hands upward until sundown and Joshua overwhelmed Amalek with the sword in battle. There are some great life lessons here. First, Moses didn't attempt to enter battle out of his own strength, but knew he needed to move with God's help. Secondly, he implored the right men to assist him. Third, he gave honor to God at the end of a successful battle. Obviosly we all will need help sometimes. Some more than others but still the reality exists. Who will you have holding up your hands when that time arises in your life? When your marriage is shaky, your child is struggling in school or with friends, your company downsized and you didn't make the cut, your parents' health requires more time than you want to give, you are disappointed with your own health or lack of what you consider success, or life in general isn't falling in place like you imagined. I cant buthink where I would be without constant willingness from family/friends to help in any way during this crisis in my life! Daily someone is holding up my hands as well as Jeff and our children. On this Thanksgiving Day I can't help but recognize and be thankful for the blessings relationship provides! It is a scary future with this disease, but praise God I trust we will not face it alone. Moses built an alter to signify the victory and named it, " the Lord is my banner. " May we all move forward in our life challenges with the support of others while honoring God through the process! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Puzzle Pieces of Parenting... Part Three

If you are checking out this post it means one of two things, either you read ideas tihat will contribute to your family so you are hoping to learn more or nothing applied to your family in the first post so your are looking for possible tips from this list! Either way, the investment you make in your family is the most imortant transaction you will ever make, second only to your salvation and choice of your lifetime partner. With our present economic status we are daily being fed information to grow our savings account and retirement fund, but do not be misled, feeding your family properly with love, attention, discipline, boundaries, fun, and vision for their future will reap greater rewards than any financial investment. You may need to devise a plan to live on less than you thought in the retirement phase of life but you only have one chance in your child's life to build the relationship you will treasure much much much more than money! Do you get my point that relationship is more valuable than money, property, travel, jewelry, art, persoal appearance/fitness or any other worldly possessions we aspire to have? Somehow it feels alright to deal with the reality of not accomplishing everything I thought I would have in life but only because I quickly learned nothing was more important than the well being of my children once I held each one in my arms and breathed the precious fragrance of a newborn! I was hooked for life! Please trust me, the relationship Jeff and I experience with our children means more than I can express. I guess that means it is time to complete this list!
26. One free day to miss school. To spend one on one time with each child I would surprise them by allowing them to stay home with me.
I would suggest that we clean out our drawers while we watched a movie for part of the day. Not only do you win brownie points but
you accomplish something that always needs doing! This is the kind of day that reminds you what you love about your child!
27. Spend the night company. Two things with this issue. Make it a standing rule that if your child asks in the presence of their friend it is
an automatic no! Secondly, remember how much fun it was to spend the night with a friend when you were a kid and say yes
sometimes! I would allow everyone to ask a friend on the same night sometimes and then it is easy to say "no" the next couple
of weeks. Amazingly, if everyone is content playing you and your spouse might sneak in a movie!
28. First birthday sleepover. Get ready because they are going ask for his way too early. The last thing you want is a group of tearful kids
that want to go home at midnight. Take a stand that everyone can have their first sleepover when they are 10. Yes they will complain
but stand firm. Anticipation is a good thing! Refer back to the suggestion not to be effected by eye rolling and sighing!
29. The dreaded, " why can't I, everybody else is!" Some things are timeless and this is one of them! Countless times we said, " we don't
make decisions for you or our family based on what everyone else is doing.". ( or wearing, watching, listening to, etc...)
30. Extra activities. So fun to watch your child participate, respond to other adults, and develop natural abilities. Just don't overload
your child or yourself. You can only drive so many carpools or incorporate so many events and stay sane!
31. Snow days! For those of us in the south this is a big event! To help get the most fun out of this rare occasion collect snow boots and
gloves at the end of the season sale or at garage sales. Keep a bin full of all sizes to pass around. ( i remember one time Joseph
wore pink boots but who cares when there is snow! ). Allow your kids to play as long as they want and don't worry about the snow
getting tracked in. It wipes up just fine. Keep hot chocolate ready to drink while their clothes are drying for round two outside.
Purchase a Coleman gas stove for the times your electricity goes out so you can take advantage of the fun day.
32. If you have room put two swingsets or other play equipment in the back yard to keep kids/friends occupied outside. Keep cheap
Popsicles in the freezer at all times!
33. Tape bubble bottles to a slat on the deck or some convenient place outside to prevent spilling the whole bottle in the first five
minutes after you get home from the store!
34. Cutout cookies to decorate with icing and sprinkles is so fun! To make it more fun for everyone use a cheap plastic tablecloth so all
the spills won't freak you out! They won't look like the ones on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens but they will taste good.
35 Help makes forts, they are fun and free!
36. Allow your kids to be loud inside if they are having fun together.
37. Take an active role in your child's PTA. Volunteer to chair or cochair an event to maintain a strong presence. Make it easy on yourself,
choose something early in the school year or something that is naturally easy for you.
38. Be room mom while your child is in elementary school. They will progress to middle school so you wont have to do it for ever!
39. Chaperone as many field trips as possible. It's a great ego booster for you and your child. Every child will want to be near you and
hold your hand. It guarantees you that the next trip to the school you will receive multiple hand waves and your name
name whispered out loud!
40. Eat lunch with your child at school and hit the playground while you are there!
41. Get to know some of the parents in your child's class. It helps you enjoy school functions more.
42. Say " yes " sometimes when you want to say " no," and they know it.
43. Develop certain rituals around bath or bed time that make it fun and helps get the job done quicker. Jeff started the 7 minute rule which
made everyone squeal and run to the bathroom to brush their teeth then jump in bed for story time.
44. Set up a system for the car so that everyone gets to ride in the front on a weekly basis. This provides less arguing and dashing to
the car.
45. Never say shut up. Choose a phrase like, be quiet please or use your inside voice. You need to model good manners if you
expect them to have good manners.
46. Everyone should take their dishes to the sink and assign each child a night for KP, setting the table or filling the glasses. This is
obviously an age appropriate chore.
47. Allow your child to be involved with you on some level of helping others. If they grow up with this type of activity being a normal
thing they will likely carry that practice into their adult life.
48. Invite your child to help you cook sometimes even if you don't want to. Any mess they make can be cleaned up and the one on
one time is valuable. Look for ways to teach life skills in everyday activities.
49. Take a stand about what age is appropriate for things like piercing ears, shaving legs, calling or texting the
opposite sex, having a cell phone. ( Cmon, get ready and stand firm! Kids not driving don't need a cell phone! ) movies, music,
talking back, degrees of messiness that is acceptable, Facebook, car dating, ..etc. ( who decided 16 was the appropriate age
to date and drive anyway! )
50. Two things that should NEVER be allowed in a child's bedroom are...the opposite sex and a computer. Some things should always
be in plain view. If you tend to disagree with this one, just think back on your behavior as a kid!
51. Say yes as often as you can without compromising things you determined you wouldn't allow. As an adult I like to go places and have
fun and our kids feel the same way.
52. Fathers, take your daughters on dates. Take your wife on dates so your kids will learn that you value your relationship with their
mom. We tend to spend time, money, and energy on the things we value the most.
53. Celebrate life landmarks with some type of ceremony. If you aren't good at this kind of thing get someone to help you that is. It is
a reference point for you and your child that both of you will always remember.
54. Commit to spending money on food with your teenagers. If you provide food they will come! You can learn a lot of good things
about your child and their friends around the table.
55. Allow some Christmas ornaments to stay on the tree where your children place them. This is a big challenge for some of us!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Puzzle Pieces of Parenting...Part Two

We just ended a wonderful family weekend together. As Jeff and I are relaxing in the quiet it seems like the perfect time for me to begin sharing ideas I think helped to shape our family. Understand, we by no means believe we handled every situation correctly. In fact part of our discussion/laughter throughout the weekend was reflective of certain instances with each child when arguing/disobedience/reaction to discipline occurred. But I must say I truly like my kids! I really liked each stage of their growing up. Each stage poses specific levels of challenge but specific levels of joy as well. To help through the journey it seems that one child may be on auto pilot while another is causing you to regroup on a daily basis! ( that is a nice way of expressing the need to scream, pull your hair out, or hope they get on the wrong bus and end up in someone else's house for the afternoon! ) Think of it like a scale. The goal is a balance and arranging your efforts will create what you and your child needs. One of my favorite life words is "normal." How do I get to that normal place? I can do normal! Everything doesn't have to be perfect, " normal " will do just fine! The list of ideas will not be in any specific order, they just popped into my head in my brainstorming session with myself. You can shuffle them around or recreate them in a way that will better fit your child/family. I hope to challenge you in a way that revs your parenting engine! This can be a fun ride with some bumps or chug holes along the way but staying the course and keeping your engine finely tuned will provide a more successful outcome for you and your children!

1. Allow and promote open communication. If you are going to be at fault let it be on the over communication side. Create an environment
where your children are not afraid to tell you what is going on with them. This also means you must stop and listen or you will give the
appearance that what you are doing is more important than what they want to tell you.
2. Answer each question as honestly as is age appropriate to establish your interest and availability and to reinforce that the lines of
communication are always open.
3. Practice keeping your eyebrows down for the times your child tells you what they heard on the playground or asks you questions you
prayed they never would! Eyebrows up are a guarantee they have set off your alarm and they will be less prone to come to you in
the future.
4. As parents, do not argue with your spouse in front of the child about decisions concerning that child. If you are unsure how you should
handle the situation, just say you need time to think about it. Don't let your child create a wedge between you as parents.
Work together to keep a firm and united appearance on the home front! If you are a single parent you need time to know how
making a certain decision will effect you and your child. Ask a close friend or family member you respect to talk through the
situation with you so you feel more confident about your decision when you approach your child.
5. Commit when your child is a toddler that it is a priority to teach them to respond and obey. This is no easy task but the sooner this is in
place the smoother every day will be for you and your child. Children will respond to boundaries but you must commit to enforcing the
boundaries so you aren't sending mixed messages. Don't tell them to do or not to do something if you don't plan to follow up. This is a
sure fire way to let them know you don't really mean what you say. If you are not in the mood to follow through, let it pass. Try to be in
the mood to enforce the desired behavior more often than not!
6. It is a good thing for your child to have a healthy fear of you. This will help confirm the boundaries you have set. You can't and shouldn't
try to reason with a toddler, preteen, or even a teen for that matter about everything. Your words should initiate a response toward
obedience. Of course there will be times when discussion takes place regarding certain situations but you can't reason with a toddler and
and shouldn't set the precedent that everything is up for discussion. Make your expectations clear and enforce them. It is not your goal to
be your child's friend. There will come a time when your relationship will reflect certain images of friendship and it is a great thing but it
occurs way down the road!
7. Truly live/model God first, spouse second, children third, family/friends fourth. Verbally teach the order of relationship and make it part of
your prayers for them that they will apply this order in their adult lives.
8. Hug and kiss your spouse appropriately in the presence of your children. This will give them a sense of security even though they
will exclaim, " ooh dad, get a room!" It also teaches them how to interact with their spouse should they choose to marry in the future
9. Say I love you everyday.
10. Hug and kiss your child even when act like they don't you to. Not in a public way that would embarrass them, of course. You never
want that type of interaction to feel awkward so if you never stop it never will.
11. Avoid being effected by eye rolling and sighing from your child when they disagree with you. They will use this tactic
so be prepared!
12. Enforce the practice of making your children call their siblings by name, not by how they feel in the heat of battle!
13. Ask questions you really want to know the answers to and avoid asking too many that are unnecessary. This involves thinking
and discipline on your part.
14. Laugh as much as you can together!
15. Surprise your child occasionally with a treat. This means you cannot buy them something every trip to the store.
16. Let your child feel the pleasure of giving to others by asking them to choose a good toy to give away.
17. Live by the philosophy of saving some things for when your child is older, pace yourself. If you do everything too early you may get
yourself in an expensive situation. It shouldn't be your goal to keep up with everyone else.
18. Have home birthday parties as long and as much as you can. Celebrations don't have to cost a fortune and especially younger children
are thrilled with cake, ice-cream, and friends.
19. Invite families/friends for meals at home. The dynamic is different than at a restaurant.
20. Allow your house to be a gathering place for adults and children. This is a lost art so help bring it back!
21. Pray daily as a family before meals you eat together. Yes this means in a restaurant! This doesn't have to be limited to mom and dad.
Allowing your children to pray not only provides you the blessing of hearing their sweet voices and thoughts but will assist their
comfort zone to pray out loud in front of others. Just choose one family member per meal. It's a good idea to hold hands as well
to provide your children the opportunity to touch their sibling in a peaceful way. They won't like it at first but so what!
22. Clutter Cleanup. Set the timer on the oven for 10 minutes and have everyone pick up their things and put them away. It's amazing
how much neater your house can become in a short time!
23. Sunday Lunch Choice. Initiate a system where each family member gets to choose which restaurant. This will drastically improve
the time it takes to come to an agreement, plus everyone complains less since they will have a turn at some point.
24. When planning a big grocery shopping run, ask family members what they would like to eat at the evening meal. This will cut down
on time deciding what to have and ensures everyone gets their favorite dish. You can also have each person help in the meal
prep. By doing this you get some one on one time with your child plus you will be teaching a lifeskill as well. ( Taken from
Multitasking for Moms, 101! )
25. Indoor Picnics. For fun spread a quilt on the den floor and eat together like you would do at the park. This is especially fun for
younger children.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Puzzle Pieces of Parenting

I was one of a family of six, two parents, two sisters, and a brother. I was number three child so I was in the middle. I liked our big, busy family and as a girl dreaming of what my life would be like, I always saw me in the same type of family. I started babysitting as soon as I was old enough and played house when I was in someone else's house. I remember organizing the dresser drawers of one little boy I watched! Wonder why I didn't carry that desire into my own adult life! I like to have organized closets and drawers but somehow it isn't as fun when it is real! Our closet has a split personality! Jeff's side is perfect with everything exactly where it should be and then there is my side. That is another post by itself! At the age of twenty-six I had my first baby and so the dream became a reality. As much experience as I had with babies somehow it didn't carry over in the beginning of motherhood. With the cradle in our room I would panic at the sound of Rebekah rustling around. I mean what do you do with a newborn that shouldn't be hungry, has had her bath, and doesn't have a dirty diaper! So my journey as a parent began and as much as I thought I was prepared, I had so much to learn! At the time Jeff played guitar and banjo and sang backup for Marty Robbbins. They traveled a portion of every week so I was totally responsible for this baby a lot! He even had to leave the night we brought Rebekah home from the hospital! Thank goodness my mom and dad were with me at the time! But eventually they had to get back to their own lives in Texas. We had no family in Nashville to help me. Jeff's family lived six hours away and mine ten. I had to put on my big girl shoes! I'm so glad Rebekah didn't arrive with the ability to talk. Can you just imagine the tales she could tell about her rookie mom? But somehow we both survived and it must not have been too painful as I repeated the process three more times! Now we are talking about some serious parenting! Somehow the other three didn't come in the exact same package as the first one. Even though I was more confident in my baby skills, I constantly had to adjust and add more skills. And so the title of this post, "Puzzle Pieces of Parenting.". The basic skillset of parenting is the ability to put in place tactics correctly in the lives of our children that fit properly for each personality. And like a puzzle it requires trial and error to get it right. Even though we are frequently wrong with our first attempt, we have the chance to shuffle things around and try again. With patience and persistence the picture can become a beautiful work of living art!
Jeff and I have totally loved being parents even with all the ups and downs that accompany the job! And yes, we have had to confront ups and downs. Our family has been very "normal" in that category! But to give credit where credit is due, our children allowed us to work out the kinks and continue in forward motion. And for that I am very thankful! Several people have asked me to write a parenting book. I'm
certain it is because they think with four kids a person would have experienced the gammit! One afternoon Abby and I were resting on my bed and I began jotting down things I thought were helpful in our parenting journey. When I stopped I had listed fifty-five!
It was like a trip back in time and my life was flashing before me! I was entertaining myself and laughed out loud as I recalled specific scenes of Jeff and I doing our best to figure out how to function in this craziness we call life with children! I don't think I'm organized or disciplined enough to write a book ( you should see my recipe box! ) but I am good at making lists and am glad to share anything we did
that might be useful to those of you who are at any stage of parenting. Please don't assume we thought of every idea ourselves. Remember everything is original only once and then it is up for grabs! Who cares if you thought of it yourself or not, in the parenting business you should take advantage of anything and everything you can get your hands on to ensure success! This list will come in more than one post so hang in there with me! I wish only the best as you diligently place the pieces of your parenting puzzle together to create a breath taking picture you will cherish for a lifetime.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Big Shoes, Little Feet

Don't you love to watch toddlers and little kids attempting to imitate what they see adults do? When I play catch with Hamilton, who is two, he not only has a bit of a windup but he has already developed a cool move of hiking up one foot when he sends the ball back to me! He has picked that up from watching his daddy and uncles throwing the football around. Grandson or not, I'm a sucker for things like that! One " Hey Nan " from my grandsons, "Aunt Nancy " from my nieces and nephews, or "Ms Nancy" from children and teens and I'm all about it! Children bring a true view of what the environment they are surrounded by is teaching them, intentionally or not. In one of my previous posts I referred to ways I had adopted some traits of my mom in jest. But in all seriousness, we are the main classroom in our children's lives! I recall when Rebekah was two she began saying " oh my gosh " with a heavy southern drawl on the " gosh " and she learned it from me! It was a phrase I added in numerous situations of conversation. I know it isn't a terrible thing to say by any means but I didn't like the way it sounded coming from my cherub faced child! So I had to break us both from the habit on my part and the new addition to her vocabulary! On a positive note, when she was sixteen, I overheard her on the phone giving advice to a friend about boys and she was repeating word for word a prior conversation she and I had. In my twenty-nine years of parenting I have had multiple opportunities to observe the positive and negative influences our behavior has had on our children. They are watching and listening to us live our lives and will incorporate what they see and hear into theirs! It is natural to assume they are not tuned in to what is going on, I mean they are little kids, right? I am amazed at the details my children remember, think they remember, and talk about when we are all together. We have some serious laughing sessions, especially when we watch one of the twenty-six VHS tapes of Christmas mornings with Bing Crosby singing in the background, birthday parties, school programs, football and soccer games, dance recitals, jumping in piles of fall leaves, the precious days when we had enough snow to go sledding and have snowball fights, the neighborhood talent shows, and the all time favorite question, " Mom are you sure that was in style?". Believe me, they are taking it all in! It begins when they are babies. Think about it, they learn their first words because we have said "mama" or " dada" a hundred times just waiting for that first sound you have been waiting and longing to hear! This summer before Hamilton was two we found him in our
bathroom in Jeff's deodorant smelling it and putting it on! Cute, right? Of course it is cute but it reinforces how even our little ones are
paying attention. Hudson and Hamilton spent Friday night with us so when Jeff picked them up they went straight to the music store to play
the drums. ( Even though he is four Hudson can really play the drums and has been interested since he was two! I'm not just saying that
because I'm his Nan! ). At dinner Jeff said, " Hudson, you really play the drums good! Do you think you might be a worship leader when you grow up?" Hudson replied, " I'm going to be on your worship team, Papa J! ". Whether he does or not, a seed has been planted by watching Jeff play, going to rehearsals with Jeff, having " band time " with his parents and other family members, and being allowed to build and bang on boxes and bowls when Hamilton wasn't napping! The tricky part is we can never be sure when they are tuned in or tuned out or what their interpretation of our words or actions might be. Quite a bit of pressure, huh? You bet it is because once we decide to be responsible for the life of a child it should become top priority in our life for twenty plus years above everything except out relationship with God and our mate! Whoops! Am I preaching here? Hamilton likes to put on Rebekah's shoes or mine sometimes when we are getting ready for the day and there is makeup and blow dryers going like crazy! It's such a funny sight to see his little feet walking in those big shoes! Just think how much he has to learn, starting with which side of the closet he should be selecting his shoes!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Make a Joyful Noise

About the age of ten I could sing harmony, mostly alto sometimes tenor. I took piano lessons so I could read music but I didn't have to read the notes, I heard parts in my head. I loved to sing! One of my favorite things at the summer camp I attended from age ten through seventeen was the daily event of hymn time. I always wanted to sit near the front, even when I was in my teens and had a camp boyfriend who was way too cool to sit near the front of hymn time! My dad always picked me up from camp and my sisters and I would sing every new song we had learned during the camp session on the drive home. Dad could whistle like a bird sings and it was a good thing because he could not remember lyrics! He was always impressed that we remembered the words! I loved the " Sound of Music " and my piano teacher ordered me a book with all the songs from the movie. With that I could accompany myself singing and did I ever love that! Sometimes I was goofy enough to sing in my room with the door closed using a hairbrush as a microphone! I took chorus in high school but even with this passion for singing I didn't really consider myself a singer. I was the cheerleader/athlete type which shaped the identity of myself more than music. That identity kept me from participating in one of the choruses in college which I regret to this day. But during that phase of life I started dating this guy whose single most important love was music. On one of our early dates we were in the park and he brought his guitar along. He wanted to hear me sing and I asked if singing was like a prerequisite or something? I finally gave in but said he couldn't look at me while I sang! That afternoon opened up a part of me that led to some of the best and most rewarding moments in my life! Singing did become part of my adult identity, ministry, and fulfilled the passion I had felt all my life! I sang with Jeff and friends, I sang to our babies, I sang backup in a recording studio, I sang as part of a western chuck wagon dinner/stage show we were part of starting, and I eventually sang with a contemporary Christian group which committed to weekly rehearsals, recorded several albums ( yes albums, then cassettes, and eventually CD's, and I know many of you reading this remembers that order! ) and traveled frequently on weekends to sing in multiple settings. In my pharmaceutical tenure we sang Christmas carols in three part harmony to doctors, staff, and patients in the waiting room
which was as fun as being Santa Claus! I have spent countless hours rehearsing before any presentation was made. In December 2009,
while singing on the worship team one Sunday morning, I noticed my voice seemed different. This was in the beginning of experiencing an occasional speech mishap and while driving home that day I realized my speech/singing ability was in jeopardy and I began weeping. What had been as natural as breathing to me is now gone. That is like telling a bird not to sing, a dog not to bark, a rooster not to crow! Take away those traits from each creature and what is left? Psalm 96:1 says " sing to the Lord a new song " and in one way that is definitely what I do now. Really, it isn't so pleasant to hear what comes out of my mouth these days! But in Psalm 95, 98, and 100 of the English Standard Version Translation the phrase, " make a joyful noise " appears which is great comfort for me because " noise " is exactly what comes out of my mouth! Occasionally because singing takes place in your head as well as your vocal chords I can think myself to hit a certain note but other than that it is noise! I have found that my noise will eventually hit/blend with the melody/harmony for a note or two and I have to admit it makes me giggle inside! Never before has the scripture in Ephesians 5:19 that says " sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord " been such a comfort to me! I mean what if my ability to sing was the only way to worship God? The goal of singing is not to be heard or to sound pleasing to others but to praise the creator of our voices! I am so thankful that worship takes place in my heart and mind, not totally through my ability to sing. Because of this my worship has not changed at all! Consider how we greet someone we love. We get excited, embrace them, and exclaim words of joy because of our feelings for this person. Our approach to our Lord and Savior should be the same! I hope this encourages anyone that holds back because of their lack of singing ability! Verse 20 of the same chapter says to " always give thanks to God the Father for everything.". I am still working on that part but when I consider these words from this song I am inspired to try! " Our God saves, there is hope in Your name, mourning turns to songs of praise, our God saves!"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice...

She was sitting on the porch waiting for us to arrive and as soon as she saw us she ran into the house to tell her mom. As we walked toward the house I saw traces of chalk on the sidewalk, just one of the signs indicating a child lives here! One would have thought we were someone special by the excitement on her face and the wiggling taking place! It was the first time we had visited her new house and she could barely contain herself! She was dressed in a new, long sleeved pink shirt with a caricature of a little girl applicayed on the front. From my experience I could spot a new, long sleeved shirt that had been purchased in the summer just waiting for the first cool morning so it could be worn! She had a pink with white polka dots bow in her hair and it was a bit lower on her head than it had started out to be in the morning I am certain. There were a few loose curls framing her sweet face, an indication of a day full of play activities and maybe even a few minutes "rest" on her pallet at preschool. After a tour of the house we decided to eat on the deck since the weather finally had cooled down bringing us a hint that fall was finally here! She wanted to help expedite the whole meal process of course and asked for our preference of drinks. She actually made it from the kitchen to the table outside placing each filled glass correctly and without spilling a drop. How that happened is short of a miracle! During dinner conversation she interacted like she was one of us, the four adults exchanging news from the day and even showed us a few tricks she knew about her mom's iPhone! She recalled names and places like she had lived here forever instead of the short two and a half month tenure. After dessert we went back inside and I requested that she share with me one of her favorite books. As we sat on the sofa side by side with my arm around her so as to scoop her as close to me as I could get her, in an instant that posture with her made my mind race with memories of the countless times, minutes, books I had shared with my own girls dressed in a pink long-sleeved shirt and a pink with white polka dots bow in their hair. It felt so natural to me and I knew just how to giggle at the right places in the story even though I was reminiscing as I listened. ( God made moms able to do that, you know! ). I can't begin to count the number of pink, girly items I have purchased or made during that time in my mom life! The hair bows to match a specific outfit or season of the year alone was monumental! From hair bows to smocked dresses, ballet shoes, tights and tutus, to back packs and lunch boxes our house was filled with pink indicators that girls were on the premices! I loved every minute of coordinating outfits with shoes and bows so that my girls looked like a doll come to life! I didn't spend a lot money for them to have the look but rather accepted the challenge of accomplishing that by shopping for sales, garage sales, passing around items with friends and family, and working at a local specialty fabric store as my mother's day out two days a week for fabric instead of money. Our house reeked of pink with three daughters to dress! I'm not sure who had more fun, the girls or me! I do know that I cherish the memories of all the challenges that accompanied that stage of my life. It doesn't require much for me to be back there in my mind. Just the appearance of a little girl sporting a little pink and I'm there!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How Do Those Words Taste?

Do you remember a time in your teen or young adult years when you declared to yourself you would NEVER do something the way your mom and dad did? If you just thought "no" then I feel pretty sure you aren't being honest! I definitely remember thinking that on more than one subject and about to admit three! I don't remember exactly what age I was when I noticed my mom's bra had three or four hooks as compared to mine that had two. When I asked why mom said because it was more supportive than a bra with just two. All I could think was I would never wear one like that because I didn't like the way it looked! I don't remember exactly when but I think it was sometime after baby number three that I stood in front of the dressing room mirror at JC Penny's in University Mall ( which is no longer there but has become a new Super Target ) when I actually allowed myself to try on this bra style the sales clerk brought me that had three or four hooks in the back! Really? Did she not see how young I was? What would make her think I needed a bra like that anyway? But being the polite person that I am I decided to try it on since she was being so helpful and by then had probably brought me twenty different bras to try on! ( picture how many of those little hangers are lying everywhere! ). Then it happened! I stood quietly for a moment, moved my arms a bit to see how this harness felt, and said, " I have become my mother! " It wasn't that I didn't like my mother, I just didn't think I would ever wear a bra like she wore! One of those rare nights that Jeff and I actually had a date night with no kids, we were at the movie and I was miserable because I thought the theater was freezing! Then it spurred my memory to a few other times I was cold in a restaurant or in the church building. I remembered my mom always wanted to have a " light jacket " just in case she got a little cool!". I began either wanting to wear a top with a long sleeve, three quarter length sleeve, or have a "denim jacket " with me. That was different than wearing a "'light jacket," right? Wrong!
Now for the third confession. When I was a child my dad's car dealership was right across the street from the hair salon my mom went to every Friday. You have to understand, when I say every Friday I mean every Friday no matter what! I remember so well that salon with seated hair dryers lined up all along the wall and the smell of perm solution in the air! I loved to go with mom and hang out between dad's dealership and Miss Kathleen's salon! When I became an adult I thought how did mom get her hair done every week when I washed and dried my hair every day? I knew my mom didn't run every day like I did so she didn't really get hot and sweaty. In fact my mom made it a point not to ever get hot! Air conditioning was used at our house any day of the year the Texas temperature was above eighty degrees outsde! Lately I have a difficult time blow drying and styling my hair. I am not into fake nails that require biweekly attention or regular facials or message therapy but I have always liked to have a good haircut, style, and mascara! So I am miserable trying to do my hair to my standard, it's not just happening! So I did something I never thought I would do. I made an appointment to get my hair washed, dried, and styled yesterday! It was a Friday and I found myself in the hair salon. Once again, I have become my mother! Because my parents were smart I know there are more than these three things I mimic but these are the ones I remember that make me laugh! What about you?

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Thing About Pride

Proverbs 16:18, Pride goes before distruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. This post is an exercise in admitting a prideful spirit. Actually I should be even more honest than that and claim that I have a strong dose of pride. So I am confessing. I don't have the kind of pride like Naaman, an Aramean general with leprosy who declared, "I thought he (Eliisha, a prophet) would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.". No, I don't have that type of arrogant pride at all. Mine more mimics Hezekiah who had a prideful heart and did not respond to the kindness shown him. So I feel compelled to lay it all out on the table and be done with it! This whole ALS thing is totally cramping my style. Not only has it taken away one of my true joys in life, the ability to speak at a race car pace, but it has placed me in a position physically of not being able to do anything I want. I am amazed at how quickly it has sapped me of strength and coordination. Needless to say that means I need help often. ( it pains me so to admit that I am having to force my fingers onto the keys! ). On Monday I had my first appointment at the ALS Center at UAMS and the occupational therapist informed me that I needed to use a walker most all of the time. And he had the audacity to say it in front of Jeff and Rebekah! Of course they were snickering in the background which made this piece of instruction worse! I had already allowed them to bring in our house the kind that has two wheels on the front and most of the time they have two tennis balls on the back. I said no way to the tennis balls even if it meant my wood floors might get scratched. The only tennis balls I wanted were some to cram down their throats ! ( Not really, but the thought came to mind and I thought it was funny!) When the doctor echoed the need for a four wheeled walker with a basket and a seat I thought I would just fall apart! Then we had to talk about the color! For the first time I thought I might want something camouflaged, as if people can't tell something is wrong just by my not so smooth walk! It gets worse. After having birthday lunch on Wednesday with two of my daughters, four nieces, one sister-in-law, one great niece, and my two grandsons I crossed paths with a real grandmother using her walker with tennis balls on the back! The only difference except that my walker didn't have tennis balls on the back was that she was probably in her eighties, had completely gray hair, and was totally wearing a grandma outfit! But now the new, blue walker with four wheels, a seat, and a basket has been delivered to my house. Last week my children, sons-in-law, and one of my nieces met to come up with a plan that would provide some assistance with meals, laundry, and someone to be with me part of the day so Jeff won't worry as much while he is working. Can you believe they didn't invite me to that meeting? I begged to wait awhile longer before we started accepting help but I lost that battle. ( it is really difficult to argue your point when you cant be understood much and can't type as fast as you think! ) I'm sure you can see where this is going with the whole pride thing. The truth is we do need some help occasionally since I cannot begin to operate at normal Nancy capacity. Those cleaning/ cooking fairies haven't found our house yet! And since I have fallen several times I do need to use a walker to do all I can to prevent any possible injury. It's just not an easy thing admitting and giving in to the fact that for the first time I need this kind of help for this type of reason. Except when I had my babies and my mom and dad would come for several days to help and friends would bring food, I have always been on the giving side not the receiving one. I like being able to help others so why is it so hard to admit/accept that I am in a position of needing help? Proverbs 27:1 says, Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Nothing could be more true in my life! Last September I was living life never considering that by my next birthday my body could experience such an about face. Never a thought of not being included on the fall schedule for worship team, resigning from work, having to consider how I use my energy for the day, and for sure not needing to consider help from family and friends! Now for a really hard confession. This morning I used my new blue walker with four wheels, a basket and a seat to take my coffee cup back to the kitchen, take birthday cards/presents to my bedroom from being displayed on the kitchen bar, and piled a load of towels on the walker and took to them to the laundry room and started the washing machine. I would not have been able to do that as easily or effienctly without the walker. Ouch, that hurts! I am more thankful and grateful than I have words to express for family and friends willing to do whatever we need to survive this life change. Even if it means going to the degree of admitting a prideful spirit!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More Manners, Please!

I grew up in a family of six, two parents and four children. Our household operated like most with lots of laundry, chores, laughing, fussing, crying, disagreements, disappointments, school activities, piano lessons, sports, jobs...the works! Every family has their own set of how to do certain things and ours was no different. And like most parents, mine set out to have a home that operated smoothly and somehow landed in the middle of their goals. I think that is called life! But there was one area where the middle just wouldn't do and that was with regard to our manners! We were taught to say "yes ma'am, yes sir, no ma'am, no sir, please and thank you." We were expected to use those phrases on a regular basis. When I went to college I had friends from different parts of the country that did not understand why I used those terms to college professors or any other adults. Are you kidding me? Why not use those phrases, I always thought! That is just what we do! While I thought I was showing respect, their thoughts were the opposite. They would say it was being sassy. It didn't stop my use of the terms that were so ingrained in me, I still use manners every day. Actually I say please and thank you 100 times a day since I have to ask for help doing certain tasks! In fact I think I say those words more than any other in my vocabulary! Jeff and I taught and required our children to use polite ways to address us and other adults. I won't mislead you into thinking it is any easy lesson, although you would think it might be. It should be easy to teach them to put their clothes away without being told, or not wait until the last minute to start a project or paper for school, or never ask if you can have a friend spend the night in front of the friend in case you want to say no! The list could go on, right? I have experienced endless conversations with my kids that ended in, "ma'am ?" or " excuse me what should you say?". Multiply endless by four kids and that equals countless! But somehow I determined it important enough to stick to it and see it through! Eventually you will begin to see results that are worth the investment of time and energy. There's just something about a twelve year old that has disobeyed and is smart enough to remember to say "yes ma'am" or "no sir" in the heat of battle that makes you think maybe they are really good at heart and you won't kill them this time! Seriously! I can remember our children beginning to say " thanks, mom for dinner" or "thanks dad for taking us to the movie." Oh the feeling that accompanies the right response! Success! You are getting somewhere with your kids and both parties know it. They won't always like it, but they know what to do, how to behave and respond and it is good! I have had the opportunity this summer to listen to Joseph on the phone with recruiters or possible employers and have been impressed with the way he communicates respect! I guess i will never tire of the use of good manners! Will you please commit to staying the course of teaching a life lesson that will benefit you and your child? THANK YOU!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Not Always Positive...

The last full day of our trip to Estes Park was picture perfect! We left the lodge early, stopped to get Starbucks, and headed to Rocky Mountain National Park! ( even a morning meant for some back to nature time is better with a tall bold with steamed breve! ). The beautiful day had already drawn long lines of cars at the park entrance but with Winston's newly purchased Golden Park Pass we were able to get ahead of the crowd. Not too far into the park we saw several cars pulled over by the side of the road which meant one thing, wildlife spotted! We could easily see the huge elk not far from the road enjoying his morning feed and wasn't at all bothered by the tourists snapping photos and seeing just how close they could get to this monster buck! What a thrill! We continued to drive to all the places we specifically like to see each visit there and as always the sights were stunning. We stopped and got out of the car again to look closer at a waterfall that turned into a flowing stream over rocks and trees that had fallen. With Jeff and Winston on each side of me, we walked up to a fence to watch and listen to the sights and sounds of nature at its best! In an instant I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the moment, it took my breath away and I burst into tears. In this setting of God's creation I was taken back by the beauty of nature untouched by man, an area landscaped by God. Suddenly my thought process changed to the possibility that I might not see this place again, and worse than that I might not see it through the eyes of Hudson and Hamilton for their first visit here! I already felt robbed that during the summer I wasn't able to play with them in the water like I did with my kids when they were little, that our gardening together consisted of me watching them dig in the dirt as opposed to last summer when Hudson and I planted flowers together, that I have to watch stories on my ipad with them instead of read to them, and worst of all that I can no longer sing to them or with them! Why couldn't this have happened to another " Nan " that didn't really want to be so engaged with her children and grandchildren? I know they are out there, always meeting their grandchildren at Chucky Cheese so their house won't get messed up and they won't have to cook, or going to the movie so they can ease their conscience that are doing something with their grandchildren but don't really have to exert themselves much! The more I thought the louder I wailed and the
madder I became! Why wouldn't the God that created all this for me not want to rescue me from this nightmare that has taken over my
body? I have things I want to do and they don't include building a bigger house or driving a more expensive car or having Botox or a facelift!
( I will admit to coloring my hair! ). Those things have never controlled my life so why start now? One of my dear friends and I use to talk about how we and our husbands could be a four member team in missions after our children were grown. Last summer Jeff and I started "Nan and Papa J Camp" for our grandchildren. We had Hudson spend four days with us and our theme was how God made our food, since Hudson didn't embrace all types of scary veggies. We cooked together and cut out pictures of different foods to eat and learned Genesis 1:12, paraphrased for him to memorize. I envisioned grandchildren counting the days until it was time to fill our house for camp with a scrapbook full of pictures capturing each summer. I imagined a period of life past being a pharma rep just being available to whoever for whatever. And speaking of work, did I say I was finished because I was not ready. I always thought I would get to choose when it was time to step down. I could even handle not being able to speak or sing if I could just have the physical strength and coordination I had before.
Back in the car, I was exhausted from such a roller coaster ride emotionally. Taking in the fresh air as we drove, I pondered how I could
simultaneously experience such opposite emotions, how could my thoughts travel from one extreme to another in an instant and how could I deal with such disappointment if God chooses not to intervene in the way I want Him to? And this was one of those times when even I didn't
want to think of the typical answers we try to tell ourselves day at a time, the best way I can, praying continually, with the help of others, or staying in the Word. This was a time when I allowed myself to be angry, feel sorry for myself and my family/friends, and not try to
determine an answer. This time I allowed myself to feel the full weight of disappointment with no positive come backs. This time I faced the
possibility I have avoided giving in to. How could what started out to be such a great morning turn on me so fast? The answers I know I don't seem to like so much! Ok, enough complaining. Time to move forward with what I can do but reserving the right to revisit the not so positive side if it comes up again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Right Message

Jeff and I attended our first Grandparent's event this morning at Hudson's pre-school! He was so precious wearing his 2nd Presbyterian Preschool T-shirt along with his blue eyes and and great smile! Hamilton wanted to be part of the excitement so he carried Hudson's lunchbox and knew just how to " sign in " for the day. Another piece of preciousness! This is the same preschool Anna Grace attended which started a whole line of Chandler kid attendees. ( 10 to be exact with more to come! ) After taking in all the sweetness we could stand, Rebekah, Hamilton, and I traveled to Harding University an hour away from LR to visit Anna Grace and take her to lunch. The return for making the trip was a guarantee that she would make us laugh and we were not disappointed! When we were coming back, I remembered something funny Anna Grace had said to her teacher, Ms. Libby, when she was an excited preschooler in the art center one day.
The class was coloring and Ms. Libby noticed Anna Grace's work to be more outside the lines of the object on the page than inside. She said, " Anna Grace, you can color inside the lines and then you will see the picture better." Anna Grace replied, " oh my mom loves scribble scrabble!" The truth is I don't like scribble scrabble! I mean you always act like your child has colored a work of art but never would I prefer scribble scrabble to coloring in the lines for a neatly colored picture! I would rewrite a paper before turning one in with a crossed out word when I was in school! ( Of course with every child I bore I released some of those high expectations in several areas of my life. I always thought that was why God blessed me with a big family! ). Sometimes we assume our children know or understand what we think about all kinds of topics. I mean they do live with us, hear our conversations, and should just by osmosis take on all the characteristics we deem worthy and important, right? Wrong! Just because they are part of us doesnt mean they will " get anything " without being told, coached, explained to, and told again! That is why they have us, their parents, to continually communicate to them without questions or reservations what we want them to know. In our family we believed in the theory that over communication was better than under communication, never hoping or assuming they know what our expectations are, but making certain they fully understand why we do or don't do whatever. Does this mean they will follow our every teaching 100%.? Not at all, our children do have their own mind and style and should be allowed to carry out those ways appropriately. This is not a petition for turning our children into mini me's, just an encouragement to be totally involved in communicating so there are less misunderstood assumptions.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Making Changes

Sunday was our last morning in CO and we enjoyed one more Starbucks with the view of mountains and blue skies from our room while taking in every moment of the cool breeze coming from Lake Estes. We spent some time looking at pictures of family/friends and the precious capture of the day our son, Joseph, proposed to our future daughter-in-law, Bethany! Technology allows for so much to be recorded and placed for all to see! After leaving the lodge where we were staying we made one last stop in town to purchase salt water taffy and caramel corn that taste better if you buy it Estes, of course. Then we had to make a decision about where to eat lunch and we agreed on a local place where you can sit outside or inside, have breakfast or lunch, but guaranteed not to be disappointed! In fact we liked eating there so much that we hit it 5 out 7 days! The staff practically snickered when they saw us! The name of the restaurant is Claire's and I highly recommend it if you make a trip to Estes Park! When it was time to leave I wanted to say something to the three waiters that had served us. That is a very natural thing I do frequently in many situations and is just part of my personality. It isn't something I plan, it's spontaneous.
They had done a great job and I like to compliment people whenever I can. Everyone likes a high five and I love to pass them out! To me, praising people for a job well done or acknowledging simple things such as a dress or shirt and tie that enhances someones's eyes, a sweet baby in the cart at Kroger, or a new haircut is one of the easiest opportunities we have to brighten someones's day. It's free, it only costs a few words and the acknowledgement that someone other than yourself is worthy of a compliment! I still naturally want to do that but it is harder based on the fact that my speech is getting more difficult to understand. I know I can type whatever I want to say but by then the moment has passed or it is too awkward to open up my iPad to the right place quickly. The only thing I do quickly is think! So far that hasn't changed! Being spontaneous isn't created, it just happens as a result of the situation you are in or because of the people you are with. I still participate freely, but have to be cautious when I laugh too hard because I sometimes can't get enough air. It is still so worth it! It is life's best medicine! I plan on continuing the behavior of giving compliments that I think important because it is part of who I am, but since I can't do it as well, some of you may need to pick up the slack!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Remember When...

Jeff and I are in Estes Park, Colorado this week. We flew to Denver on Monday, and drove up the curving road to a place we love to visit. We lived and worked here the first two summers after we were married. Jeff had already spent two summers here while in college playing guitar and singing baritone at the Lazy B Ranch, a chuck wagon dinner and western stage show ranch. His family visited Estes when he was a child and working there was something he always wanted to do. The first summer we both had three jobs. I had one more year of school and Jeff thought since we were married it was his responsibility to pay for my tuition. My dad fought him on it but lost! I waited tables at the Holiday Inn during the breakfast and lunch shift, and worked in a gift shop on the ranch in the evenings. Jeff worked at Ripley's Believe It of Not Museum along with his duties of serving brisket to the folks before the show began. We both sang for tips and a free meal at an outside cafe called The Mustard Seed downtown Estes in between our other daytime jobs! We were so rich!! We lived on our tis and saved the rest for tuition. We didn't work all the time. We played tennis, hiked in the Rocky Mtn National Park, we to the late movie after work, and watched Star Trek every afternoon along with other activities before going to the chuck wagon seven nights a week! We had to have some rest and relaxation! Did I mention we had lots of company? That's what happens when you live at the base of a national park! What a great adventure we were having! As we drove outside the city of Denver and the landscape began to change, I watched for so many landmark places that I had memorized the many trips we made together on the drive from Denver. I know there are certain rock clusters I recognize! Can you imagine how many times we have said, " do you remember " ... I bet at least 50 times and our trip isn't over yet! It doesn't matter how many times I visit this place, I am amazed at the majesty of these mountains, evergreens, wildlife and the bluest skies ever! The lack of humidity isn't bad either! It isn't unusual to see an occasional dead tree or even a patch of trees that have been attacked by beetles. But I have never seen so many as I looked along the countryside and even more in the national park this evening at dusk when we went to check out the elk. As I considered the rows of dry, brown trees and the different appearance it presents, I still had the same feeling of amazement at the creation of such beauty. My mind tends to have application moments and tonight was no different. I thought
about the differences Jeff and I have experienced since we were young adults living a dream summer 33 years ago. We are still pretty cute, but we have made some changes just like the view I saw as I looked at the mountains! ALS aside, we have a few weathered scars and broken branches. But just like the mountains, we are still standing tall and ready to face winter. That's what they do and that's what we have done in our life together! We haven't questioned if we could face changes rather how we would face them. I wondered as well, how will
all those trees get replaced, there are so many, how would that actually happen? There is no way to have all the answers to life's challenges, but somehow it all comes together one answer at a time!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A New Image

As long as I can remember I have had a compassionate view toward people. I know that sounds too generic so let me give some examples.
Kids being corrected out loud by an out of control parent in public, an obviously very sick elderly patient waiting to see the doctor by themself, someone driving a car that is so banged up and taped together in places you wonder if it is legal to drive, a woman eating alone with her head in a book trying to make everyone around her think she wants it this way, the physically handicapped part of our population, people we know who always seem to have one crisis after another in their life, and what in the world do we do with the men and women that stand at certain intersections holding a sign and in need of more than name a few. My children have been irritated at my attempt to defend someone, even if they don't really need or deserve defending. I don't mean to try to make me sound like a great person, I have done my share of being critical! But I know I attempt to make eye contact that seems genuine, or speak to or open the door for anyone I think might need noticed in a kind way. It probably helped that my parents were very involved in the lives of a family in the community where I lived growing up of a mom and four children, three of whom were retarded. I cannot begin to guess the times I rode with my mom or dad to pick them up and carry them home from church. My dad was a car business owner and I knew many times he was given homegrown vegetables because he had helped someone with a car payment or repair. Whether it is because I was born with a compassionate heart or because it was modeled before me or some of both, all I know is how relieved I am that I have been kind and not rude to people that may be different than the norm because now I know how they feel! Starting with a difference in my speech and now adding a choppy walk with Jeff hovering to catch me if I lose balance, I feel eyes lingering just a little longer like they are trying to figure it out. I remember the first morning at the drive through window of a Starbucks after struggling through my order, I thought, they probably think I am drunk and it's only nine o'clock! Determined to still be able to use the drive through I began to drive directly to the window so that even if we had to work through my order they could see by my appearance that I was alert! Jeff and I recently stopped to get some dinner to go for me and as we went to pay I said something to him and the lady taking our money asked him if I was deaf! Really! Jeff said, no she's not! We laughed when we got outside at her logic or lack of to ask such a question right on front of me! Everything we experience provides an opportunity to learn. For me, losing some of the " normalcy" of my physical posture or verbal ability has placed me in a position of developing a new image of myself. It isn't quite as easy or as comfortable in situations where people don't know me and a great reminder of the need everyone has to be accepted as normal. We don't live in a perfect world but we can make a better one by just treating everyone as normal, no matter their circumstance.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Blog

In mid December of 2009, I was making a presentation after a brainstorming session at the corporate office of the pharma company I work for. Out of nowhere I noticed an occasional word or syllable didn't flow as easily as it should. It was only noticeable to me but believe me, I noticed it. It was the last day of our meeting so I flew back to Little Rock but didn't tell Jeff about the incidence. I wanted to see if he picked up on it but he didn't. Two weeks later I finally told him what had occurred and then we proceeded to have a fight because I thought he was watching my mouth instead of listening to me! Close to Christmas, we made a trip with our children to Grand Rapids, MI, to visit Rebekah, Juston, and our grandsons, Hudson and Hamilton. Even though we were in close contact with each other and when we are together you can count on much discussion taking place, no one noticed anything. Jeff had mentioned this to our daughter Abby, who is a speech pathologist, but she concluded it must have been nothing because she noticed nothing different about my speech. After Christmas and back at work I seemed fine in the morning and even through most of the afternoon but by evening my mouth and jaw would be tired. We noticed on the weekends my speech seemed better because I didn't have to talk all day like when I was working. But still, that was the symptom that stood out and I felt fine otherwise. I was even training for a half marathon in March! Finally Jeff forced me to visit our family practice physician who sent me immediately to have an MRI to rule out any chance of stroke. It showed no evidence that anything of that nature had occurred which I felt great about, of course! That began our search down a long and frustrating road to know what was going on with me. The good news is that I am a really healthy 54 year old in all areas except that I was eventually diagnosed with ALS. Are you kidding me? I have been extremely blessed with terrific health my entire life and was proactive to take care of myself trying to avoid the unhealthy heart genetics possibly passed on by my parents! I use to tell mom and dad I was planning a bypass procedure around age 65 just in case!
Needless to say I am devastated by this diagnosis since there is no cure. I have loved the life I have been privileged to live and I shouldn't complain but I just not that compliant with this type of news! I am so thankful to have lived the dream I had of loving my husband, raising our children to become faithful believers in God and His son, and basically working hard at whatever I thought worthy and just loving life! I just had a different plan in mind...many more events to be part of on this earth. I am praying for God's mercy to pour over me and restore the physical strength I once had! In the meantime, I am trying to remain focused on the same things I have always thought important, family and friends. I see no benefit in changing my life pattern just because of ALS! I am starting this blog out of respect to my children and friends that have requested I write a book. I don't think I can pull that off but those of you that know me know I love to talk to everyone, knowing you isn't really necessary! I am the person that wants everyone to feel included, even in line at Starbucks! And I must admit that I have strong opinions about whatever is very important and so the title of my blog, " More to Say ". Very seldom do I not have something to say, even though it has been an adult challenge of mine to learn to be silent in many circumstances! I sense this blog will become an outpouring of the numerous thoughts and moments I observe but cannot comment on because it has become very difficult to speak or to be understood. Hopefully I can share these because you can be certain, I may not can speak but I still have more to say!