Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Wishes

I'm thinking tonight, on New Year's Eve, of a New Year's Eve over a decade ago. I was working as a hostess at an upscale restaurant and I really wanted to look hot that night. When I walked in to work in a plunging-neckline dress borrowed from my mom and an updo that totally worked, I felt hot. I felt the sexiest I've ever felt in my life that night. My body rocked, my outfit rocked, my hair looked amazing, and my makeup was perfect.

Tonight? I weigh - umm, a lot more than I did then. My hair's in an updo alright, and my bangs are pinned to the side with a bobby pin. I'm wearing green velour sweat pants, and Alif's not exactly drooling over me - instead, he's watching a movie on his laptop while I talk to you on mine.


I've been considering today what I might wish for the new year. I'm not even sure I know. Isn't there something wrong with that, to not even know what I want to accomplish? I have a hard enough time achieving goals I am really excited about.

But here's the truth of the matter:

I want my Mom to remain healthy in 2010.

I want to lose weight and reclaim myself in 2010.

I want to fold in to my Lord in 2010 and stay safely under his wing.

I want healing in 2010.

High hopes and a big, big God. Bring it on, 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

52 Books in 52 Weeks

I saw this intriguing project on my friend Daisy's blog and thought - hey, this is a good idea! I think that, like Daisy mentioned, it will help me spend less time on the computer and more time reading books, and that would be a good thing. I already have a big stack of books and can't wait to get started on this challenge! Head on over and sign up!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Pageant

The kids have been practicing for a couple of months for the church's annual Christmas program. Malachi was not excited about this at all and in fact, at one point he cried and said, "I'm not a stage kind of person!" I said, "Well, you're already committed to doing it so you are going to perform, but it's your last year in this." I felt a little guilty about it but come on, it's just a church Christmas program! It's not like I'm asking him to perform in front of thousands, you know?

And ok, maybe I'm living vicariously through my children a little bit. Because I love to sing and would love to perform in something like this! My Mom and I were in a musical a few years ago and it was so, so fun. There just aren't that many opportunities for adults to do things like this, darn it!

Of course I made them pose for a totally unflattering, cheesy picture before we left . . .
Canaan performed too but stayed with us in the audience until it was his turn to sing. When our children's director called for the 2-year-olds to come up, Canaan just walked right up to the stage, all by himself. Big boy!
Each of the boys had a speaking part. Graham: I can't even load my iPod, 'cause they don't have internet (in Bethlehem)!
Malachi: Of all of the places they could send us! Surely they are kidding! (sounded like: of all of the places they could send us surely they are kidding.)And afterward - happy it's over, I guess? LOL

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gingerbread Cookie Decorating Party

Years and years ago, when my boys were - oh, 2 and 3 I think? We had our playgroup friends and a few extras over for a gingerbread man decorating party. It was adorable, and I still treasure the pictures I have of the kids going sugar-crazy for one special day.

Every year we talk about doing it again, and I guess every year I just haven't been up to it. This year though, we got the house all cleaned up for Graham's Birthday party and decided that it would be a perfect time to have a few friends over to consume massive amounts of sugar with us!

Thanks for coming, friends! We had such a nice time!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ballerina Girl

Ballerina girl, you are so lovely.
With you standing there, I'm so aware of how much I care for you.

I can see in you my dreams come true.
When I hold you I only want to say I love you.
Ballerina girl, the joy you bring me!

Every day and night, holding you tight
How I've waited for your love!
Ballerina girl . . .
you are so lovely.

I can see in you my dreams come true.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hold these things

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

A mother knows what it's like to hold a newborn baby. She marvels at his tiny fingers and toes, his rosebud lips, the way his pudgy hands have yet to make way for knuckles. She admires the way his hair swirls gently against his head, listens intently to every gurgle and cry. She sees the way he moves and is amazed at how his movements mirror the way he felt in her womb just hours or days before.

She cannot believe she has been blessed with this child. That God has chosen her to mother this tiny little being - to raise him and know him, to laugh with him and hold his tiny hands, to dance with him, to nurse him, to teach him and guide him.

A mother cherishes her baby child every minute of every day in that babymoon time. She keeps a camera close by and captures his sleeping moments, the way he looks in his new pajamas, his precious little feet, his big baby yawns. She just can't get enough of this new person in her life.

I remember dearly those new days with each of my babes. The way I was absolutely overwhelmed with adoration for them.
In Canaan's favorite Christmas book, The Christmas Story According to Luke, I read for the first time this verse about Mary . . .

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

I'm sure I've seen the verse before, but it struck me anew this week as I read it to my son. I suddenly pictured Mary with her baby, the Christ child, and how completely overcome she must have been. She wasn't just a new Mommy. She was a new Mommy to the King. The King of Kings. The Lord. The creator of Heaven and earth. The Savior! I can't wait to sit with Mary in Heaven and ask her to describe what she felt in those days, as she cradled and nursed our Father God. She nursed our Father God! Talk about wishing there were a manual by which to raise a child! Wow.

Christ the Savior is born.
Christ the Savior is born!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Not just their journey

We met with our charter school resource teacher today. We all love our resource teacher, but it was not the easiest meeting ever. We have not been completing as much work as we should. While Graham has improved considerably in his reading class, Malachi has not. There was talk of keeping him in 6th grade for another year. And as long as we're on a suck-fest roll, Graham's been having some behavior issues in his enrichment classes.

I left feeling deflated.

Here's the thing about being a Christian mother. We know that we have hope in all circumstances. We know that God is bigger than any situation. We know that he loves our kids even more than we do, and he's not about to give up on them, ever.

But. I also know how many times I have failed my kids. That I have always struggled with discipline and when I am not disciplined, my kids pay for it.

How to make these two balance? The whole drive home my mind kept going back and forth: "You're such a loser of a mother."
"No you're not. You discipline consistently, you love your kids, and their faith is infinitely more important than their reading level."
"But their reading level is important, and you're failing them. That reading teacher, why didn't she tell me it wasn't going well with Malachi? She said in 10 short weeks she would fix my boys. They're not fixed."

And then . . . "I am a God of hope, and I love you. We will get through this together."

I heard the voice of my God, still and peaceful in my heart. And then I realized. I'm not just a neutral in this homeschooling journey. It's not just their journey. It's mine, too. God has not only called me to homeschool my children because it is what's best for them - it's what's best for me, too. I need to grow in discipline. I need to grow in grace. It's not just for them. I'm not lost in some whirlwhind of a 20-year homeschooling journey. I'm here with purpose. FOR a purpose. My God is faithful, and he will never, ever give up on me.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Beach Fun

Growing up, we spent a lot of time at the coast. My Grandparents lived there in a darling beach house that was so close the the water, we could walk from their house to the sand in about 5 minutes.
We created so many memories of that little beach town that I think we all felt that we had ownership of it. We knew each little store and restaurant, the names of all the streets, where the steps led down to the sand.

When my Grandparents got too old to live in their home, it had to be sold in order to pay for their care. I know that our treasures are in Heaven, but losing that home was like losing a piece of my heart.

The first time we went back there, I couldn't even get out of the car. I started crying as the freeway exit approached and didn't stop for a full ten minutes. We drove up and down a street or two and when Alif asked if I'd like to get out I told him I just couldn't do it. It was just not the same without my Grandparents to greet us, without the familiar home away from home.
A few years ago my Dad and his wife started a Thanksgiving tradition of renting a home in another small beach community. It was nice to get away and spend time at the beach again. Over the years, though, it's turned into much more than that. It's a healing place. A place we can return to year after year. My kids are starting to know all the little shops. They know which streets lead down to the sand. They run with reckless abandon into the freezing cold water. They look forward to walking down the pier on our last day and then eating at the fish & chips shop nearby.

I know that God cares about our hearts, and I'm so thankful to Him for making a new tradition. It will never be the same as my Grandparents' home, of course, but it's wonderful nonetheless.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Year of Graham

Happy 10th Birthday Graham!!
In January you wore over 30 shirts to Awana for layers night or some crazy thing. You had so many on you couldn't breathe and we had to stop and strip off some layers. I was genuinely frightened.

This year you have grown to really enjoy reading. I wasn't sure I'd ever find you reading just for enjoyment but that has happened many times over the last year. You recently read the book "Holes" and loved it. I read it too and could totally see why you enjoyed it so much. Great book!

Your love of photography continued. I love that you make sure you have your camera and fresh batteries when we go somewhere. It cracked me up when you showed me how you had taken a video of our whole car trip one time. You've done it a few times since.In April we went to Home Depot and built their free project. We've done 2 or 3 of them now and you always enjoy it. Grandma Baldwin even took you to one when you spent the night at her house!

Also in April we went as a family to a local farm and picked berries. You enjoyed playing in the corn and ate blueberries all the way home.
You played baseball again and liked it ok.You let your hair grow for a while. I'm not sure it was the right look. You never really seem to care too much about things like this, and when I told you one day that it was time to cut it you just said, "ok."

Grandpa Payne took you to the school by our house and practiced soccer with you almost every day this summer. You improved A LOT. At the beginning of this soccer season you said the worst your team would ever do would be to tie, because no one would get any balls past you. You really were a great player and even scored a goal this season!

In November we took our annual trip to the beach. As usual, you loved it and had a blast playing in the sand and water with your brother, playing checkers with your Dad and this year we had a mini Birthday party, at which you received things like duct tape and hot glue guns. This made you so happy that you proclaimed, "there can never be too much duct tape!!"

I love you, son. I love you.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Graham's Last Day of 9

This little baby all in stripes was born on December 4, 1999. He weighed 7 lbs 12 oz and was 21" long. He was the perfect addition to our very small family - baby boy #2, the second son in 20 months' time. We knew how to do baby boys, and we felt ready. Then he arrived, and literally slept 20 hours a day for his first two weeks. He was such an easy baby!

But let me back up a minute. That December was the most precious Christmas season to date for me, and actually, Graham's December birth has made Christmas ever so much more meaningful for me than I ever imagined it could be. Something about expecting my own baby son, singing hymns to our Lord and remembering when He came to earth as a baby - I did lots of crying that season! Joyful crying - I felt so connected to Christ's birth, and thinking of the intimacy of it brings me to tears even now.

He continued to bless us as a toddler, too. He's the boy who would bring a smile to our faces all day every day with his silly sayings and his facial expressions and just his funny way of being who he is. He had to have something fuzzy with him at all times. First there was fuzzy bear, then there was his fuzzy green blanket, and then there was Spot. Actually, there continues to be Spot, a Build-A-Bear gift from Grandma Baldwin. I can't even count the times I would be asking him to do something and he would have to stop and gather whatever fuzzies he'd gathered before moving on. It could be a fuzzy from inside a stuffed animal, pulled from a sweater or pillow - anything fuzzy would do.

Graham started to throw a loop in things when he was about 3. He'd been such a delightfully easy baby and toddler, and suddenly he . . . wasn't. He wasn't easy.

We certainly have never wavered in our love for our son, but life with Graham can be trying.
Very trying.

But oh - my - gosh. Be still my heart. How I love and adore my son. How I mourn that today is his last day as a nine-year-old. Letting go of the single digits is painfully hard today.

Dear Graham,
Son, you are storms and sunshine in my day, every day. We may battle the whole day long, and then at the end of it you might pray to God and thank Him for such a wonderful day, leaving me to weep at the many times I yelled at you to stop whatever crazy thing you'd been doing.

This past few months in particular have been like walking an emotional tightrope, haven't they? I started to suspect that your Tourette's Syndrome wasn't the only thing causing your days to be difficult. I stumbled upon a site about Asperger's Syndrome and my stomach churned as just about everything I read described you perfectly. My heart leaped with hope and nervousness as I sought more information, and eventually, assessments and help. It sunk in sadness when the first therapist we saw said that she was "unusually certain" of this diagnosis for you.

We might be walking a tightrope, Graham, but I hope you always know deep within you that we're walking hand in hand. You, your Daddy, your siblings and me. We all love you more than you might ever know. I worry that our long days might leave you exhausted emotionally, that the negatives so far outweigh the positives. I am praying that as we seek help and guidance, we can turn that around and make life more enjoyable for us all. I wish I had known all of this years ago and had avoided a lot of pain, but I trust that God's timing is perfect.

Graham, I joke with you about just turning 9 again instead of moving on to 10, but someday you will be a Daddy and you will understand how desperate a parent can feel at times to preserve these days. I love waking up and knowing that I will see your face every morning. I love tucking you in at night and hearing your sweet prayers. I love teaching you. I love playing with you. I love watching you grow and change and mature. I love being your Mom.

I love you, just as you are, now and always!