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Dear Benjamin,

This month you turn 8.  Happy, happy birthday son! I can’t tell you how awesome it is to watch you grow up.  To watch you fall in love with everything you do, to watch your personality shine, to watch you grow in your passions.

This year you added Taekwondo to your growing list of hobbies. You’re trucking along, learning and growing, and it’s been encouraging to watch you pour your heart into a physical activity that requires strength and discipline.

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I love watching you and Daddy practice together!  Sometimes you help him, sometimes he helps you… it’s a beautiful sight to see.

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You’re getting more aware of social media. You now provide me input on what I can or can’t post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and I’m mindful to ask because I believe you should have a certain amount of control over your own image as you grow up.  It makes me consider these letters, which I currently post online for all to see, and I wonder if maybe these are quickly becoming something to keep just between us.  Time will tell. But in the meantime, you’re continuing to use your intelligence and charisma for forces of good, and I’m happy to say that every day you prove to me how much older and more responsible you’re getting.

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Speaking of responsibility… we started letting you walk from Taekwondo practice to piano practice. It’s only 2 blocks, and it’s a pretty easy route. So when I was out of town and Dad was at work, we let you walk. This created lots of problems, because concerned citizens called the cops on you….repeatedly.

We even had a shirt made, but it didn’t help!

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Here are a few token Benjaminisms from this year:

  • You were sitting in the backseat of the car saying how cold it was. I told you to rub your hands on your legs to create some friction. You do this for a minute, then exclaim, “ahhhh, I love physics! Well, I love physics… but hate physics too.” Why do you hate physics, Benjamin? “Gravity! I mean, I like gravity, I just wish it wasn’t so strong, so I could jump higher.” 
  • “Integrity is very important, Eli!” You admonished Eli after realizing Eli changed your Legos while you weren’t looking.
  • You, Eli and I were reading “Santa Duck”, a story about a duck who wears a Santa hat and everyone walks up to him saying what they want for Christmas. A turtle wants a fast racecar, a cow wants an ice cream machine, etc. A squirrel wants a bunch of nuts.  And you’re all, “Why, Mom? Why is that squirrel asking for nuts right then? Shouldn’t he already have collected them all and be eating them at this time of year when Santa is out?”
    Forget the fact that it’s a talking animal. Why is he asking for nuts when they should be stockpiled already?!
  • “Can we go swimming today?” “No kiddo we gotta pack for camping…but I definitely want to go soon…maybe next week.” “For sure next week?” “Nothing is ‘for sure’.” “Except that God loves us!”
  • One day you told me you learned how to make paper fortune tellers. Me: “Oh, cool! Where did you learn that?” You: “At CHRUCH! Can you BELIEVE IT MOMMY? I learned how to make fortune tellers at CHURCH!” You then proceeded to laugh ironically, which made me laugh even more!
  • We were talking about fake names on the internet,  and it blew your mind that I could have a fake name on the Internet. It led to a very good reminder to him that anyone can say they are anyone on the internet, and no, son, it’s not illegal to use a fake name on Instagram. Your response to this was “well then that means somebody could pretend that they were a dinosaur. And that could cause mass panic.” (I’m still not sure you’re wrong)
  • One day you were talking about dinner and said: “I’m not complaining, but…” So I told you that anything you say before you say “but” doesn’t count. At least 3 hours later and you walked back up to me: “Mom. I’ve been paying attention and I say ‘but’ a lot. Is it really true, what you said?” Me: Yeah, pretty much. You (in kind of a desperate wail) : “I don’t think I can survive like this!!!” (you do!)

You love, without abandon, everything you do.  We try to channel it, or shape it some way, but honestly it feels like we’re trying to stop you from being wholly you and we don’t want to do that.

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You went to your first “real” concert, a really awesome musician that Aunt Teresa and I love, named Alan Doyle. You have this uncanny ability to inspire people to do kind things – we have no idea if it’s because we’re exposing you to things too early, or because you’re lucky, or blessed, or whatever. We had several people at the concert insist on giving up their seat for you, and then someone went to the bar and bought you a bottle of water.  Randomly. For no reason other than just to give you something. You loved the concert, but you were falling asleep standing up by the end of it.

Alan was SUPER nice after the concert.  He gave you a pick and signed your shirt and you wear it to bed frequently.

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I know I’ve said this before, son: I hope you use your powers for good.

Ahem. Anyways!

You got to see snow for the first time ever in real life this winter. Woo-hoo!

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Aedan remained your best friend, even though you annoy each other and fight more like brothers. I’m so thankful for your relationship with him!

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So, you’re a lot like your dad in terms of the way your brain works. You are very literal, very reliable, you take the rules seriously and you think through things. So this year you and Eli have spent a lot of time building legos, and here’s one of the examples side by side.

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These spaceships perfectly represented your personalities. Eli’s is all about muscle and force and drama – he’s built an attack ship with guns and dreams of blowing up stuff. Meanwhile, you aren’t interested in guns or attack; you want a sturdy, reliable efficient ship. You built a transport carrier. I pointed this out to you, and you responded with: “Yeah mommy because even if it gets attacked, it’s so sturdy it wouldn’t even break a little!”

I love your brain so very, very much.

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You got out of school early one day so you could watch the solar eclipse. You LOVE space, still, and desperately want to be an astronaut.

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Your Dad and I sometimes struggle with how best to encourage you. Honestly, we don’t care if you become an astronaut. It would be pretty cool – and we could house sit (bonus!) but honestly… want you to be kind. To walk with integrity. To love God and love people the best way you can. To protect the vulnerable.

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Luckily, not surprisingly, you have plenty of backup plans. If you can’t be an astronaut, you’d like to work on spaceships in some capacity.

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If you can’t do that, you can just work SOMEWHERE at NASA working on “space stuff.”

If you can’t do that, you could always teach.

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When I see you with your brother, I can’t help but think you’d make an amazing teacher.

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You’re always trying to teach him the way to do something, or how to make something work a different or better way. The relationship you two have is one of my greatest joys.

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You’ve kept advancing in piano. You love pop music, and this year you’ve learned several songs by your favorite band (Imagine Dragons) and we got you concert tickets for later this year. I love sitting in your music class listening to you practice. You’ve been with Chris for several years now and you love how he keeps you engaged and challenges you.

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You guys have rocked out on several occasions.

We took a family vacation to the beach, and you LOVED swimming and body surfing in the ocean.

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Your favorite part was probably the Blue Angels show, though, and really…who could blame you?

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We’ve had a busy year, Benjamin. I hope you continue to grow, learn, and find ways to be kind. I hope you keep being hilarious, and awesome, even when it exhausts us, because you’re perfect just the way you are.

I hope you continue to teach me how blessed I am to be your Mama.

I love you son. Happy Birthday!
Love,
me

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Dear Benjamin,

Today is your 6th birthday!!!!  The past year has been so much fun, and you’ve grown up so much.  You completed your first year of school (Kindergarten with Ms. Smith) and learned to read.  You learned how to swim (including jumping off the diving board). You’ve continued to learn the piano and had some pretty awesome recitals.

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You lost 2 teeth and started wearing glasses (took my breath away the day you lost a tooth and got your glasses, so grown up!)

You’ve gotten stronger, faster, and maybe a little bit kinder.

You try passionately to be a good kid.

We’ve given you quite a bit more responsibility this year.  You’ve got chores that are your job, that we expect you to do.  Things like helping with the dishes, cleaning the living room floor, and feeding the dog.

Overall, I would mark this as a year with lots of growth.

We talked yesterday to you about some of your summer chores – one of which includes a certain amount of reading.  It was pretty clear to us that even though you’d “read” you hadn’t actually retained anything you read.  That was a pretty common thing when we were growing up – especially me – so I told your Dad the way to fix it was to make you read out loud for your “required reading.” You got upset at us; you told us that you didn’t mean to get in trouble, that you were still learning how to be a good reader.  We told you that it was OK, that we were learning how to be good parents, and sometimes we have to adjust the rules so we can all be better. It’s a small lesson, but hopefully one you will take to heart.

You learned a lot more about being a good friend from your time in school.  I saw you talk through problems with your friends, challenge them, and lose with just a TINY bit more grace than you have in years past (you still hate it though).

You have a strong internal desire for others to follow the rules.  Half the times you got in trouble in Kindergarten was because you were getting on to the other kids for not following the rules. You hated rug time because you had to sit criss-cross apple sauce, but you’d sit there patiently with a bubble in your mouth UNLESS you were telling the other kids (who weren’t listening) that they needed to sit down too!

In spite of your rigidness regarding rules, you were well liked and enjoyed by your classmates. You went home frequently lamenting that you were having problems and no one liked you, but over and over again we saw evidence that your classmates adored you.

And, true to family tradition, you were enjoyed by your teachers. They said they’re going to miss you SO MUCH.

You’re finally understanding what a “figure of speech” is.  The past year your literal nature has led to lots of misunderstandings when your Dad and I say things like, “You took the words right out of my mouth!” But yesterday you used that line on Dad, to which he replied “that sounds painful” and you painstakingly advised him that you were just using a figure of speech and you weren’t REALLY taking words out of anyone’s mouth.

It was such a simple thing, but it made me really happy for you – it was a sign that your brain was growing up, right there before my eyes.

You’re slowly starting to see the world around us.  You got kind of upset at us the other day because there was a homeless person panhandling and we didn’t give them any money. We told you we didn’t have any money on us at the time, to which you replied that we needed to have money on hand in case we saw someone who needed help.  You asked about why they were homeless, and what it meant.  You’re going to collect money for your birthday to give to homeless people, since you don’t really need presents.

Your silliness makes life more fun.

There were a few things this year that were very very awesome, where we got to make fun memories. We got to go visit Uncle Alan, Aunt Mandy and Cousin Ethan in Oklahoma. We had a blast!

It rained a bit, and we played video games for a bunch of it, but even for the short trip we had it was memorable.

Also, we went to the NASA space center in Houston.

You love space and rocket ships, so it was especially awesome. We didn’t have nearly enough time, honestly, but even the few hours we got was well worth the time.  We’ll go back as soon as we can!

I love spending time in the kitchen with you. You’re quite a good helper! You can chop vegetables, help stir things as long as they’re not too hot, and most recently you’ve helped me measure and read directions. Cooking with you reminds me of all the happy memories I have of doing that with MY mom, so I’m glad you play along (even though some days you’re just as likely to prefer a few minutes of screen time).

You and Eli have become quite a pair.  He drives you a little crazy, but you obviously love him and dote on him.  You’ve started trying to teach him things, but you also often try to take advantage of him to get what you want.  I can’t blame you, I’m sure I did the same thing with my little brother.

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I see so much of myself and your Daddy in your personality. You’ve got my competitive streak and my desire to be a people pleaser. But, you’ve also got your Daddies logic and intellect. You have his intelligence, and right next to it, strong awareness of when you fail to meet your own expectations. We give you frequent reassurances that you’ll get there – you’ll figure it out, you’re still learning how to be a person – heck, sometimes your Daddy and I fail as people, and we’re much older! I just hope you learn to give yourself the same grace that Jesus gives us, the same grace we give you, because loving yourself? Man, kiddo, that’s tough some days.

I have a feeling this is something you’re going to need to hear frequently, so let me just say, for the record: You’re a great kid. You are loved. You are cherished. You got this.

If you ever doubt my love, you’ll have these letters to remind you. I love you Benjamin, and I’m always going to cheer for you, no matter what.

Love,

Mom

When I was a young girl, my Mom showed me a picture of my Nanny (her mother) as a child with her family.  She showed me the people who had committed suicide; the people who were alcoholics, the people who had fought battles and lost.

She looked at me and said: “The cycle stops here. With us.” She told me and she hugged me, she said we were going to be different, that we would succeed where others failed.

I lost her, too.  Just a few years after that conversation.

I sometimes wonder if in her fight to escape she forgot that she also had to fight to live.

There are echos of generational brokenness scattered across our culture.  I’m not talking about “generational curses” that were talked about in the Old Testament. I’m talking about an alcoholic family producing alcoholic children because that is all they know.  Or an abusive husband who raises a son who is an abuser too.

Generational brokenness is everywhere when you start to look.  I see it when I see local stories of families destroyed by two generations worth of bad decisions that cumulate in tragic loss.  I hear echos of it in the voice of a man who shoots his daughter and 6 grandchildren.  I saw it when my father shot my mother and I see it when I look at my husband and my children and I know that we have to fight.

I can’t speak to your story – I can only speak about mine.  And I know that in mine there are generations and generations of brokenness.  I bring alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence with me into my marriage with my husband. He brings alcoholism and bi-polar depression.

We bring ourselves, and written on our spirits are fingerprints of the past.

For better or for worse we are children of the generation before us.

Where then, is our hope?

What then, can save us?

I don’t have all the answers.  I can only guess. But here are a few things I can tell you.

  1. Being aware is crucial – I grew up knowing that my parents were fighting against the bad things they had learned from their parents, just like their parents surely had fought against the bad things they learned from theirs.  Each generation the combination changed.  I didn’t see my parents alcoholism until the last few years of their life, but I grew up seeing their domestic violence (not that I realized it at the time).  I grew up from age 5 knowing the effects of suicide.  Being aware helps you actively fight against it.
  2. You have to actively fight against it – I can only speculate, but I suspect that my parents actively fought against the errors of their predecessors for a very long time until they slowly stopped fighting as hard. And eventually, day by day, they got a little bit more lax, until finally they stopped.  And it was when they stopped that darkness took over and it wasn’t long before they went too far and lost their lives.  Fighting is the only option.
  3. It’s not easySometimes it is exhausting.
  4. Where there is brokenness, grace abounds – God is, thankfully, much bigger than the broken situation we find ourselves in.  Nothing is too shattered for Him.  Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 2:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

I don’t know if I can successfully fight the brokenness I’ve learned from my parents.  But I do know that I’m going to fight it at every corner, at every turn, and work hard to stay aware of it. I’m going to keep myself accountable to my husband, and vice-versa, because together we are stronger.

And at the beginning of every day, I’m going to try to lean on God.  Because it is exhausting to fight, and he is strong.  Life makes me despair, but with him I feel hope.

Ephesians 6:10 reminds me to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

He is our greatest hope.

Camping was an integral part of my childhood.  We all loved the outdoors, we were never more at home than when we were in the middle of nowhere.  There was one particular spot that we found when we were pretty young that became “our” spot.  We always called it Cherry Lake.

 Jake, Jennet, Alan and Dad

That was the only year it really snowed while we were there.  I remember pulling up to the campsite and hiding in the car while Alan, Mom and Dad set up the campsite.  While we slept, snow fell across the campground and blanketed the world in white.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.

I remember waking up when we camped there.  It was always so cold in the morning, so I’d be buried deep in my sleeping bag and listen to the rustling of the tent, the songbirds, the crackle of the fire.  I could hear my parents hushed voices and the occasional laugh as they shared their morning coffee.  If I close my eyes I feel myself transport back to those moments, when the world was perfect and at peace.

As we visited and grew older we wandered further and further away.  The following picture is the “Rock Club,” a place just far enough away from the campsite to make us feel independent.  We would wander there daily, hang out on rocks and talk about life, or have adventures in between the cracks.  We would climb to the top of the rocks, and look out, terrified of falling and thrilled at the prospects ahead of us.

 

We went there every year, sometimes twice a year.  I remember being 9 years old, laying on a hot rock and contemplating the grandness of God.  I remember learning to whittle sticks, and trampling through brush to find a “walking stick.”  I remember seeing a water snake for the first time in the lake down the hill.

It was always the most beautiful place on earth.

 

I climbed up this wall once, and got all the way to the top.  On the way back down I felt myself losing my grip, but something pushed me back against the wall.  I believed in angels before, but that experience pretty much cinched the deal.

 

The last time we visited Cherry Lake it was 2002 and right before we moved to Texas. 

 

Ten years is a long time.

Since that time, my older sisters have tried in vain to find our old campsite.  They’ve combed Stanislaus Forest and driven around for hours, all to no avail.  When I visited in 2010 I tried to help them find it and we were yet again unsuccessful.  I told them I’d see what I could do in the future for my next visit.

So I contacted the Stanislaus National Forest Office in Groveland, since that was closest to where we thought the campsite was.  I spoke with a charming lady named Gail who was willing to listen to my story and my plea for help.  She gave me her email address and I sent her a bunch of pictures, and a map of the grounds (as best I could remember).  Then I waited.

She called me back just a short time ago and thanked me for giving her such a fun project.  She said she had some of her park rangers act as detectives – print up the pictures and try to match up the pictures while they were out driving around.  She thanked me for the map I had drawn, and said we had done a good job remembering.

An old ranger, one who had lived there forever, knew exactly where we were talking about when he saw the pictures.  We had always called it Cherry Lake, but the park rangers knew it as Cherry Barrow.  Gail told me if we drove to the Groveland Park Ranger station she would be able to show us exactly how to get there.

I cried when she told me.

 

I’m going back in just over a week – I’m flying to California Monday for Amy’s wedding and after the wedding I’m heading to visit my sisters.  We will go camping, hopefully at this spot, and I will once again drink in the beauty.

I can’t wait.

Last week was not a good week for working on my balance.  However, it was an amazing week for working on my work-related development!  I was able to take an instructor course that helped me learn how to create lesson plans, match a power point to said lesson plan (which I pretty much knew, but the review was beneficial) and teach within a certain amount of time.

Those of you who know me will not be surprised to hear the hardest part for me was keeping it within a certain amount of time 😉

Usually training is not very energy-consuming, but this class took up all of my time/energy/brain power to pass.  It was very informative and definitely worth the effort, but I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with the family.  I’m really looking forward to next week, which will be much less stressful and unbalanced.

It’s interesting how much more mindful I am of the “balance” of my life now that I’ve listed that as my word to focus on this year.  I always had issues with resolutions, and this is much less of a resolution and much more of a constant reminder – it seems to be working so much better.

I have grown to love bath time with Benjamin when he’s not being a complete and utter pain.  He eagerly wants to help us wash him, as long as it’s not behind his ears.  And I know I posted this on facebook, but it bears repeating:

Justin and I tend to give Benjamin baths together.  It is one of the few, precious moments where we can be together and enjoy each other’s company without someone running away (ahemBenjamincough).  One of our favorite things to do with Benjamin is teach him words.  Words, my friend, are power.  Words help people communicate and ask for their way!

So we teach him words, especially animals because that is the age he’s at right now.  And he loves it.  He loves horses, dogs, frogs, fish, turtles, sheep, pigs, cows, bunnies, dogs, bears, monsters, and did I mention dogs?  So we’re in bath, and Benjamin has this mat from Target (which I love because of the Octopus, which is sadly not pictured).  We ask him, where’s the shark? He points to the shark.  Good job, Benjamin! Where’s the fish? He points to the fish.  He also identified the octopus and the yellow fish (hey, it’s never too early for colors!)…the yellow fish thing might have just been a good guess, though, because he couldn’t find the green fish (or red fish, blue fish, haha, just kidding Dr. Seuss).

Then Justin asks him to find the frog.  He starts looking.  I get a bit confused – I’m looking at this very clear underwater sea diagram and thinking “oh no, am I losing it? I don’t know where the frog is!”

But then I spot a frog, beautiful and tiny and green, on the washrag floating in the water by Benjamin’s left foot.  I look at Justin. He grins.  “Snnneeeaaakky!” I tell him with a smile.  He shrugs, “I know. I want to see if he’ll find it.”

Benjamin, meanwhile, is staring furiously at the bath mat looking for the frog.  He finally expands his search, his eyes travelling around the length and width of the bathtub.  His eyes dart back and forth, his tiny perfect hands still with dirt under their nails searching the air and water for the frog.  He is still at this age where he searches with all of his being.

Finally… he finds it! He points to it triumphantly and says “FROG!”

My heart swells.  Such joy from such a tiny creature, such love in these tiny moments.  When this stuff happens, when my heart grows to bursting and my tears want to fall at the beauty of everything… it is in these brief moments that I feel the most balanced.

p.s. If you have a child (particularly a son) I highly recommend reading this.

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

I would like someone to write a song, please.  I don’t have the skill for songwriting.  I would like you to model it after “Does Anybody Hear Her?” by Casting Crowns.  I would like you to tell a different side of the story.

She is trying but the canyon’s ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart

The song is about a broken woman who wants love and acceptance and help from the people of the church but does not get the help she needs.  I would like you to write a song about the people who offer love and acceptance and help to a broken person… to no avail. 

So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She’s another two years older
And she’s three more steps behind

I would like you to talk about how heartbreaking it is to sit beside them and watch them run in the wrong direction.

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today?

I would like you to talk about having an opportunity to help them.  About how scary it is when they move in to your world and how happy and hopeful you are that this time, this time it will be different.

Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

Sometimes we do see.  Sometimes we see the hurting, and the broken, and the bruised.  Sometimes we say to ourselves: Hey, we should be like Jesus and try to help them.  Sometimes they ask for help and you see an opportunity.

 She is yearning for shelter and affection
That she never found at home

So we invite them into our world.  We take them to church.  We hug them and cry with them.  We feed them and clothe them and pray for them and with them.  Sometimes it works for a while. 

She is searching for a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day

Sometimes you tell them their worth and they nod, and they smile, but they don’t believe it.  You tell them to have faith in their own worth.  You tell them that they are God’s precious and loved child, and their lips say “I know” while their heart can’t believe it yet.

You pray for them.  You kneel at your bed and you cry for their soul.  You pray that God will give you the words you need to reach them in the midst of their brokenness. 

And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

And then… then they tell you that they’re leaving.  That they’ve found another path, another way out, one that doesn’t involve the hard work of facing the pain.  They’re leaving so they don’t have to deal with someone loving them, but telling them that they need to make better (and admittedly more difficult) choices.

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can’t see past her scarlet letter
And we’ve never even met her

You watch them go.  Despite the sacrifice of time and energy you watch them leave.  You know it’s fruitless.  You know they’re not ready to change.  You’ve seen for some time now that your argument was ineffective. 

One of the worst parts about this, in my opinion, is that when it’s all said and done there is a small part of you that is relieved it’s over.  Don’t get me wrong: the overwhelming emotion is grief and sadness.  But there is also relief tinged with guilt – relief that your time of sacrifice is over, and guilt at being relieved.  How can you be relieved they’re going back to their broken life?  But you’re human, and you’re glad that this means less stress and sacrifice to you and your family.

And there’s a bit of doubt.  Did I try hard enough? Did I show them enough love? Could I have changed the situation a bit and had more success?

The important thing to remember here, and the thing I have to remind myself, is that I can’t fix anyone.  I can’t make them better.  Only God can.   That is what I hold on to.  When I feel all these emotions so strongly, I remind myself that God is the great physician and we are his broken church.  Ultimately, He is the one who heals.  We just point people in His direction.    

So, dear reader, if you decide to write a song about one of the other sides of “Does Anybody Hear Her” then please make sure you talk about how in the end, God is the great transformer…not us.  I know I’m asking a lot, and I know you probably won’t write a song about such a sad and helpless place, but my request has been made. 

I’d like a song that reminds me that sometimes we fail, but at least we tried.

(all italicized words from “Does Anybody Hear Her” by Casting Crowns from their album Lifesong.)

We got a new dog! 

He was abandoned at a local business, and after our amazing Animal Control Officers rescued it I got to take a peek at him when he was impounded.  I immediately fell in love with the little 6 week old puppy, his big blue eyes, his soft fur, his spotted nose and ears… I don’t normally melt over dogs, but I totally fell hard for this one.  I called Justin and asked begged him to let me keep it.  I think he was surprised I was asking such a question!  I hadn’t really wanted another dog, but I hadn’t known about this pooch.  Justin, my mother-in-law and Benjamin all came to visit me at work and meet the puppy.  Benjamin and the puppy chased each other around, Benjamin sat down and the puppy crawled into his lap and licked him.  Benjamin laughed.  My heart melted.

So, to make a long cute story a little shorter (there were lots of puppy kisses from the puppy, and puppy eyes pointed at my husband from me), Justin said yes to a new dog!  So the little blue-eyed puppy has a new home.  I told Justin no one was allowed to name him until I got home, but that I kind of liked the name Frank in honor of Ol’ Blue Eyes (whose music I happen to love).  As soon as the puppy got home and introduced to my Father-in-law he said “So are we going to call him Frank?”

That pretty much decided it.  We named him Frank Sinatra (Frankie for short) in honor of his beautiful blue eyes.

Everyone in the family likes him except Lucky (my other dog).  But, Lucky has been an only dog for his whole life (7+ years) so I figure it will take some getting used to.  He did OK when we dog-watched for my cousin a few months ago, so I have high hopes as to his adaptability. 

I forgot how annoying puppies could be though… especially at 3am when they wake up wanting to play and then whine when you put them on the ground.  Oooof.  Whining dogs drive me craaazzy.  Having a puppy really makes me appreciate how great of a dog Lucky is.  He never whines, rarely barks, and really just wants to be loved.  I’m hoping that with a little training and a lot of love that our newest addition will grow to be a great dog too!

Anyways, without further ado, meet Frankie:

I’m having a hard time relaxing at my new house these days because there is still a lot of stuff that needs to be done. Boxes of junk to go through and I just honestly want to throw it all away. But I have to sort it – junk, to be filed, to be donated… and honestly I just want to take the box, dump it in my trash can, and be done with it. I realize people could use it, that I can donate it to a better cause, but honestly I don’t know that it’s worth my sanity at this point to do a good thing. But at any rate, I can’t just throw it all away – nevermind all that, there’s so many random boxes of junk that there’s no way to tell where all the really important stuff is! So I have to find it all by sorting through every single box. And it’s driving me crazy!

It’s driving Justin crazy that it’s driving me crazy, because I am (unintentionally, of course) resenting the fact that he can relax while I’m constantly feeling like I need to be cleaning or organizing or decorating or…something. This is much worse than at my prior house, but at my prior house I had everything unpacked and organized within 3 days. This has only been a little over 2 weeks, but with a kid and a family and a full time job it’s been a bit harder to organize. My OCD is going CRAZY. I only have a tiny bit of OCD, just a bit, but the little bit I have right now is making me anxious and irritable and making Justin miserable. Which, in turn, makes me miserable. Because no one wants to be the source of their spouses misery.

I am eternally grateful that Justin and I can handle our fights like two people who love each other and patiently explain back and forth what’s going on. But honestly, I just need to chill the heck out.

I find myself at an impasse, of sorts. So much has changed in my life in the last two years (losing my parents, having a child, getting out of debt, buying a house, living with so many relatives, etc) that I find myself in desperate need of some time to re-evaluate myself. I need some time to meditate on who I am, who I want to be, why I act the way I do and ways I can better myself. These things will make me a better Christian, spouse, parent, friend and worker. But I can’t adequately do that until I get everything finished at my house. And I can’t do that with so many interruptions.

I’m trying to relax. And I’m taking breaks here and there, just not like I need to be. I’m going to try to limit myself to 1 hour of cleaning after I put Benjamin to bed tonight – we’ll see how that goes. I honestly don’t think I realized how bad it was until yesterday. So I’m trying to fix it. Wish me luck.

This weekend was a constant stream of boxes back and forth, furniture turned upside down, heart-bursting help from my church and a 103.3 fever that had me scared. In other words, it was a busy weekend and I’m actually VERY glad to be back at work.

We moved this weekend, and at 10am Saturday morning, with the truck backed up on our lawn, we started seeing church members trickle into my house asking how they could help. I am not kidding, we probably had almost 20 people there to help. Pastor Tony brought some kolaches (we had actually bought some too, we wanted to keep everyone fed!) and in ONE HOUR we had all our boxes and furniture (with the exception of the pool table and our bed, which were moved the day before) in the moving truck. Amazing! We drove it over to the new house… everyone came back….and 40 minutes later everything was unloaded and in the correct room. After we were done Tony called Justin and I over into the garage and everyone prayed for us and our new home. I teared up. Every time I doubt I’m where I’m supposed to be God gently kicks me in the face and tells me I just need to realize I’m exactly where I need to be, of course.

Benjamin ran a fever most of the weekend. It started Thursday and went until Sunday morning off and on. It got so bad that we had to give him a cool bath. It was scary. We think it may have been some sort of virus, as he had 0 other symptoms. No noticeable ear problems or anything. And even though he was burning up, he stayed in pretty good spirits. That made me happy, that my son is happy even when he doesn’t feel good. It was a little tiresome to hold him all night each of those nights… but I just remind myself that he is a tiny scared baby who can’t tell me that he needs me close, and he won’t be this way forever. So I enjoyed the snuggle time and made the best of it.

Right now my house is in sad disarray, but I’m so excited about the house that I don’t mind. There are boxes everywhere and lots of little things to do, but I’m already enjoying being in “my” home. Most of the kitchen is unpacked, but the pantry still needs work. My room is a mess of boxes and bags of clothing and Benjamin’s room (which is kind of the most unpacked room of the house right now) still needs rearranging. I’m hoping to get my room unpacked this week.

I’m about to go back to dayshift, which is awesome and happy and exciting for me. We worked out an arrangement with my mother-in-law to watch Benjamin on the days Justin and I both work. We have yet to decide if we are going to stay on the same weekends off, but I’m leaning towards us having different weekends off to limit the babysitting she needs to do and also give us each time on the weekend with just Benjamin and either Mommy or Daddy. I think that time will be more important later on, and any weekends we want to do things together I can usually request off from work with a little bit of notice. But we shall see. It’s also nice of us to have weekends off together to go do things. There are a lot of pros/cons we have to figure out, but thankfully we can decide that stuff later on. After we unpack!

One of the most important things for us to do right now is organize and purge. We very desperately need organization in the house to ensure sanity in the coming years. Purging will help with that. So we’re on a mission to simplify our lives and I’m excited about the prospects.

If I can manage, sometime in the next week or two I’ll try to get some before/after pics of the house. It’s AWESOME, you guys. Seriously.

This weekend was the madness of scraping popcorn, sanding, caulking, sanding, priming, painting a ceiling and priming walls. So. Much. Work. We decided to hold off on scraping the popcorn off the ceilings of the bathrooms and extra bedrooms due to time constraints, our bedroom is the only one that got scraped – and it was during the process of that one that we decided we just didn’t have time to do three more rooms, even if they were small. So those will be projects for later dates.

Friday I went to the paint store and spent a ridiculous amount of money. Between that visit and the one last week I have bought: 20 gallons (total) of primer, 10 gallons of flat ceiling paint and 10 gallons (so far) of eggshell wall paint. I also have a gallon of semi-gloss paint in the ceiling color for the bathroom ceilings, a gallon of oil primer for the cabinets, and a gallon of super-durable-fancy semi-gloss white for the kitchen cabinets. We are getting our paint from Kelly Moore, slightly more expensive (only slightly since I get a discount) but hopefully a better quality product. So far it’s been a good choice and the folks at Kelly Moore have been more than helpful.

The color we selected for our walls is Kelly Moore’s Dubai Sand (you can visit their website and search to see the color, but it’s not totally accurate on the screen). We wanted something that looked like White Sands, New Mexico and Dubai Sand fits the bill nicely. It’s a little grey, a little brown, and not very in-your-face. It is the main color for the house so we wanted something that would fit in all over the place. Since the color is so light already we just mixed it at 50% strength for the ceilings. This leads to our ceiling color being a very beautiful shade of super light light brown (and not anything like the ugly brown that was on the walls!). So far we LOVE it. We were a bit concerned when we were done painting (at 9:30 at night) because the paint looked a little yellowish, but we were happy to see the next day that it’s much more tan than yellow. While the guys were doing the painting and spraying I was in the garage working on the kitchen cabinets. Two coats of oil primer have been applied to all the doors and MAN that was exhausting work. They’ve had two full days to dry so now we need to sand them down and start on the actual cabinets. We are doing a classic white for the doors with copper hardware and I can’t WAIT to show you the finished product. They’re gonna look pretty!

Tomorrow we will start painting the walls and priming the actual cabinets. I can’t WAIT. We are still on a time crunch, but I think we’ll be able to do it.

Now that you’re somewhat updated on the house (with the glaring exception of pictures) I want to share with you the COOLEST THING EVER.

See, It’s not often that I see something so amazing that I have to literally hold my hand back from hitting “add to cart.” If I hadn’t just bought the house, I would probably have already bought this. And it’s not the cost that is holding me back: 50 dollars for a print this unique and amazing is nothing. No, I haven’t bought it yet because I don’t know where I would put it. Right now I’m debating between the hallway, the entryway, or the half bath. I was looking for something cool to put in the front entry when you walk in, but I think it will be a little close to my bright sunrise game room. It could work in the living room, but Justin and I would probably rather have a huge map on the wall. I might smuggle it into my family picture wall (location to be determined still). Of course, with Benjamin’s room being “Science theme” I could put it in there. Maybe that’s what I’ll do.

It’s very convenient to be able to look at something I love and go “Nope, this won’t fit with our decor” but it’s heartbreaking when you see something so awesome and can’t find a place for it. I’m just gonna have to get creative!!