Spent the morning on the beach, but this is peak jellyfish season and the kids were a little nervous after we spotted five in the first five minutes, so after we played in the sand and sorted shells for a few hours, we moved on to the hotel pool and hot tub. There were two older European ladies there, and Randy and Ian had them wrapped around their little fingers instantly. They do have a way with the ladies, regardless of whether they speak the same language. Then we caught a late lunch at a local seafood restaurant (crab cakes....yum). This afternoon we napped and afterwards went to W*lMart--we can't get away from that place even on vacation. We stocked up on our meal provisions, beef sticks, microwave popcorn, and bottled water, you know, bare necessities. When on the road, we keep restaurant meals to one per day, we're cheap that way. The kids really don't mind the snack-and-graze method of dining; they fervently believe Slim Jims and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are gourmet food at its finest. The five oldest are now taking one last swim in the pool with their daddy. Cara says, "Enough of this insanity! Give me back my schedule!" Tomorrow, we board the retired aircraft carrier, The Lexington, and then we make our way back north.
Hip, hip, hooray for the master's laptop! I'm getting to blog on vacation--pure luxury I tell you. It is nice and quiet in our hotel room, the master having taken Randy, Ian, Abby, and K down to the pool for an evening dip. Marina--having missed her nap--was toast at 6:00. So, I had her lay down, and two seconds later she had drool running down her mouth, fast asleep. We decided to let her try to catch up on her rest instead of waking her for the pool party. Vacations are still very tough on her. Cara, too is way behind in the shut eye department; she is conked out in the pack-and-play beside me. I believe I will just have to join them as soon as I post. Yesterday we hit the Museum of N*tural History in Houst*n. I had fond memories of visiting from childhood, but of course much changed in 20 years. For one thing, it is much smaller! And, as I wouldn't have known anything about PAYING for things as a kid, it seemed much more expensive. It cost the same for us to get in the museum for one day as your "typical American family" pays for a season pass. The really interesting exhibits required special tickets ($$$$), so we only bought the extra passes for K and the master to go see the Chinese Terra CottaWarriors on display. K was desperate to see those because they were featured in a recent issue of his Disc*very Kids M*gazine. All that to say, the kids loved it, but I was a little disappointed. Today's visit to Cara's hospital and subsequent trip to the Tex*s State Aqu*rium was great though! Man did going back to that hospital bring on the memories! I know it has not yet been a year, but it seems like an eternity. As we got off the elevator on the third floor NICU, a lump actually came up in my throat. And then it was wonderful to see the staff and nurses who took such great care of my baby, I thanked them all again. They all exclaimed over how big she has grown and how beautiful she is. I even got a picture with her social worker for her book. I had not thought to get a photo during her three week stay last summer, so I was excited that we managed to visit while she was on the floor and available. Uh-oh, here come the water babies, more later.
Closing in on the last of the packing. The children are pumped and the master and I have made it through without any major fights. That's great for us! Packing for 8 for 6 days is quite an undertaking, and even if we didn't need a vacation before we started, we certainly need one now. See you all in a few days!
K is not a normal kid. Never has been. I suspected he wasn't normal when the old ladies shook their heads sagely over my infant son and said, "Honey, don't ever have another one, because you will never have one like that again." I knew he wasn't normal when he stood by the window at barely 16 months old and clearly asked, "When Daddy coming home?" It was pretty clear when he began reading at three years old and writing his own books at four that the kid had brains. But it is more than talking early, or reading and writing early...something I can't always put my finger on. His precociousness goes beyond mere intelligence; he's strangely mature in the social, emotional, and spiritual areas as well. We often nod our heads over him (vaguely reminiscent of his earlier prophetesses) and comment, "He's an odd duck." Typically, really smart children have difficulty fitting in with their peers. We decided early on that we would keep him at his age level and not push for him to "skip" grades as he is quite capable of doing; we wanted him to learn to socialize with children his own age. I've waited and watched for this struggle to unfold, armed and ready to help my child overcome, but my fears never materialized. Therefor, I was quite unprepared for the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. And I am left wondering, "What do we do now?" It's a concern that has been building all year, but with the end-of-school hoopla has hit me full force. At first, it was the occasional encounter at the grocery store or gas station: "Are you K______'s mother?" (asked in hushed, almost reverent tones) or "Did you say Su____? As in, K_____ Su______?! (excited, as though they had just met a celebrity). Little things that left me shrugging my shoulders and thinking, "Well, that was...wierd." There were unexplained--pricey--presents at Christmas and "secret admirer" Valentines in February. Then once, when I was walking K out of school, a young man and his mom were on their way in, I heard the boy whisper, "Mom! Mom!! That's him right there!! That's K_____!" K smiled at the pair and I thought the kid was going to bust from the acknowledgement. When we got in the car, I asked K who it was, embarrassed that I didn't recognize a special friend of my son's. K stared at me blankly, not comprehending. He had no idea who the kid was. "I was just being friendly, Mom." I'm not up at his school much, so I had no way of knowing that these were not isolated incidents. But between honor's programs and field trips, dinner theatre and track day, I've come to the startling conclusion: my child has a cult following. They love K. They yearn for him to speak to them. It is considered a privilege--a fourth grade status symbol--to be noticed by him. They think he is capable of anything and everything. And it is not only the children! Parents--many parents--have approached me, singing his praises, applauding his conduct, and asking my parenting advice. THESE PEOPLE ARE COMPLETE STRANGERS! One mother even admitted to me that she has instructed her son to spend as much time possible with K, going so far as to ask the teacher to move her child's desk next to his. I'm not making these things up, ladies! So far, I haven't observed anyone reaching out to lay hold of the hem of his garment, but frankly, at this point, it wouldn't surprise me. I've gone from feeling proud, to flattered, on to awkward, and finally to wondering if a restraining order is called for. But how do you "restrain" an entire town? And how do I keep my son from becoming an insufferable ego-maniac? Even if he remains sweet and loving, I'm not at all sure the stress of being placed on so high a pedestal is good for him. The pressure of everyone always watching you? Until, maybe one day, they stop. I mean, what happens if the popularity train pulls into the station and puts him off? I've never had that kind of popularity, so I don't know how people react when it's gone. And what about the other five? I don't envy their growing up in his shadow that's for sure. Abby is already chafing under it; she's mad at the kids on the bus for calling her "K's sister." I can empathize. I'm getting a little tired of being called "K's mom" myself. Suggestions?
FOR TODAY, Monday, May 18, 2009 Outside My Window...unseasonably cool night, and tomorrow's forecast, another BEAUTIFUL day like today. I am thinking...over all the bad press and stigma that is being dumped on the word 'religion'. Even more thought provoking--the number of Christians trying to distance themselves from the term with catchy slogans like, "It's a relationship, not a religion." (Um, it's both), and "We're not religious people," or "I'm not a religious person." (Oh, really? Funny, because Jesus, you know the One we claim to follow, was deeply, perfectly religious and commanded us to be a people who practice pure and perfect--yes, I'm not afraid to use the 'r' word--RELIGION!). There is even a website: http://www.notreligion.org/. I realize there have been many false, oppressive, and empty versions of religion over the centuries, but I believe this is a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Hey guys, instead of reacting, apologizing, and pandering to the world, which, I remind you, is never going to understand us anyway, how about we try this: let's use biblical terms in biblical ways. Radical idea you say? Well, maybe, but let's give it a shot. Who's with me? Post to follow on this topic. I am thankful for...supportive comments on the last post. That was a tough one for me. From the kitchen...delicious Enchiladas Verde. The Mexican cookbook just keeps giving and giving. But I am a total failure at Spanish Rice--the main recipe I bought the book for! I love restaurant style Spanish Rice and over the years, I've tried countless recipes hoping to create that same flavor within my home and budget. I'm beginning to think it is not the recipes, but the chef. I am wearing...denim capris with peach embroidery and peach peasant style blouse I am creating...a sundress for Marina and a slightly dressier dress for Abby. I am going...last of the field days tomorrow and shortly after this week wraps up, Corpus Christi for vacation. I am reading..."12 Extraordinary Women," and a retired Dallas pastor's memoirs entitled "Stories I Couldn't Tell When I Was a Pastor." There are some funny stories in there, but I'm sorry to say their isn't a companion volume, "Stories I Couldn't Tell When I Was a Pastor's Wife." Guess I'll have to write that one myself.
I am hoping...we get to see on our vacation many of the nurses who took care of Cara last summer and the social worker who helped match us with our precious baby girl. I am hearing...puppy chewing up a pencil at my feet, the dishwasher. One of my favorite things...this big screen monitor is so nice. Around the house...not looking too good. Monday is usually my catch-up day from the weekend, but I had to take Randy to the doctor, grab a few missing notions for the sewing projects, try-out my new enchilada recipe, and attend ball games this evening. I only worked in two loads of laundry and two dishwasher loads--not enough to put a dent in the mess. A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...Still more school programs and ballgames (will it never end?!), and pack for vacation, finish up dresses, help the master paint the hall, take Randy on to the specialist on Friday....I'm stopping now because the prompt reads "A Few." Here is picture thought I am sharing...
Think the folks in Corpus will recognize her? Yeah, I doubt it, too.
I don't think I've ever done an anniversary post. The master and I have--more often than not--chosen not to commemorate this day. We've celebrated our relationship, our commitment, our love, but thisday? Not so much. It was not an altogether happy occasion. It all came back to me today as I looked through our photos. My father's somber countenance. My mother's strained features. But as I made my way through the album, it struck me that the master looks quite oblivious to it all. He is too open and artless to hide or fake anything, so I think he must have been genuinely joyous. He had his share of struggles leading up to the wedding, I know, but I can tell--as of that afternoon--he was at peace. Indeed, his expression mimics the proverbial, "cat that swallowed the canary." Perhaps then, he decided to downplay our anniversary out of deference to me. That would be just like him. When I look at my pictures, I remember what a mess of emotions I was that day. How could I forget when they are written all over my face? Happy, yes, to be marrying the man I loved. Relieved to be making it right (as right as we could). Blessed that so many of our friends and family came, without invitation, to show their love and support. But--truthfully--every bit as worried as my parents. The concern I saw in their faces magnified my own fears. I felt shame for disappointing them, and I wondered along with them if our marriage stood a chance. Worried that he felt trapped into marrying me. Was he going to resent this for the rest of his life? Worried that we were making a bad mistake worse. Realizing--even in my youthful naivete--that we "didn't have a pot to piss in, or a window to throw it out of." Selfish, petty sadness, too. I wanted my dream wedding. I'd imagined my wedding day since childhood (what little girl doesn't?) and though everyone went to great lengths to make it nice, very little was like my vision. I missed my hometown and my home church. The dress was borrowed and not what I would have picked. There was no photographer, just snapshots from a 35 millimeter. My girlfriends watched from a pew, instead of standing beside me as I so often pictured them. No exotic destination for a honeymoon; we drove around the block and later went to our married housing apartment to cram for Monday's finals. They say hindsight is 20/20, and I would have to agree. While I still wouldn't mind taking that first honeymoon, I no longer grieve my "perfect wedding." As I've matured, I've watched what circuses weddings can become, and I'm not sorry at all that I "missed out." Last spring, my borrowed dress was gifted to me. I look at it every morning as I dress, and I think it quite lovely now. I will probably have it cleaned and boxed soon so that Abby can have the option of wearing it one day. And the master and me? Well, guilt may be a strong motivator, but it lacks staying power. Eleven years and six children later he's still here and happy. I consider him stuck. We've grown accustomed to the poorer end of "for richer or poorer," and we're making it work. My mom and dad are both prodigiously proud of their preacher son-in-law. If push came to shove, I do believe they'd take his part over mine. I earnestly pray my children arrive at the alter blameless and carefree. I want that for them and their future spouses. Looking back will always be somewhat bittersweet, but it grows sweeter every year. And at the tender age of nineteen I learned a life lesson of forgiveness from my Lord that I would not forfeit for anything. Truly, He is a God who
"provide[s] for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3"
The tractor party came off without a hitch. Hardy, har, har. I'm so witty.
I think three years is about the perfect age for a party. Even if you aren't in to big theme parties, you should try to swing one for that magical third year. I have special memories of K's Thomas birthday (we rode a real train with 15 of his closest friends), Abby's Strawberry Shortcake party (complete with stand-up Strawberry), and Ian's Farm Birthday (Petting zoo). Now Marina did not really possess that ability to form connections between the occasion and the celebration until a little later. Also, at three, she was still highly susceptible to over stimulation and a big hoopla would not have been fun for her or anyone else. Consequently, we went all out for her four year old birthday (Hello Kitty). Yes, these events are BIG WORK, but their new awareness and anticipation that all the fuss is for their special day is quite gratifying. It does a mommy good. Randy was SO excited all week, going on and on about his "tractor party" (pronounced 'paw-tea'). He greeted each new item with squeals of delight and rapture. It just made my heart melt when he clapped his hands over the party favors crying, "These tractors for my FIENDS!" (friends).
Well I know you are dying to see some pics, so here they are:
For the tractor, I used a Wilton cake pan Grandma found at a garage sale. I viewed many adorable tractor theme cakes online, most of which were too elaborate for me to pull off, but great for ideas. Since I knew the tractor alone would not feed my crowd, I adapted a few of them for a trailer (loaf pan and cupcake "tire")and hay (toasted coconut) bales (also cupcakes.)
We rented this train for the master to pull the kids around with our lawn tractor. It wasn't bad--only $40.00. Of course, the men got together and decided that for the next birthday, we could make one of our own. Who knows how much that will cost??!! But I tell you what, the kids didn't get tired of it, no matter how many times they rode.
The local party supply shops carried J*hn Deere themed party ware, but at prices like $4.50 for 8 plates. Debbie suggested trying W*llM*rt, but I checked both of our area stores and didn't find anything. I couldn't see spending that much on stuff we were going to eat on once and throw away, so I went with green and yellow supplies from Just A Dollar. It made for a cute table at a considerably cheaper price. I ended up splurging on the favors. Each guest got a small tractor from Tractor Supply, a J*hn Deere fruit snack, and a balloon.
You could get silent movies on Netflix? The master wanted to watch a good sword fighting movie, so he ordered "The Three Musketeers." There have to be 15+ versions, but he decided to go with an older one, so it would be clean for the kids to watch. He went a little overboard. It must have been produced in 1920. Pretty sure this piece of cinematographic history is not going to hold the children's attention. It was good for a chuckle the first two minutes--reading the "dialogue" from black slides, absurd over-acting, and funky organ music--but after that I was like, "Turn it off, honey." I'm really concerned for my husband. He is still in there watching it.
FOR TODAY Tuesday, May 5, 2009... Outside my window...the master says, "It is kind of pink outside....beautiful. Kind of hazy. The kind of night that makes you glad to live in East Texas." I am thinking...I've inhaled to much Kilz to be thinking clearly. I am thankful for...two new nephews! My older sister received a referral for a little boy in Dallas and will be visiting him later this week with the possibility of bringing him home early next week. My younger sister went for her first obgyn appointment to find that she was not 6 weeks pregnant, as she thought, but five months pregnant. What a shock! They scheduled a sonogram immediately and she is having a boy. From the kitchen...tonight I broke out that new Mexican cookbook and made quesadillas--but not like my usual quesadillas. These had two kinds of peppers. The kids weren't too enthused, but I thought they were great. Also, the leavings of the first watermelon of the season. We tried to eat it on our beautiful, big deck, but we were swarmed by another of the season's "firsts." The kind that makes you NOT so glad to live in East Texas. Mosquitoes. Time to break out the citronella and propane fogger. I am wearing...blue jeans, T-shirt, and a considerable amount of white primer. I am creating...party planning is in full swing. I need a tractor cake, a tractor backdrop, and cutsie tractor party favors by Saturday. Also trying to get boys' room finished before company arrives for the weekend. I am going...no travel plans this week. I am reading...VBS curriculum. Yes, it is that time of year again. I am hoping...that a brilliant idea for a Mother's Day gift will suddenly hit me. I am hearing...Dishwasher humming away. Around the house...little boys are sleeping soundly on the same pillow in the guest bed. The master is hard at work painting in their bedroom (I will join him shortly), and the others are all tucked in to their appropriate resting places. One of my favorite things...Weight Watchers 2 point cheese. A few plans for the rest of the week...Wednesday church. Friday ballgames and company arrives. Saturday party in the noontime and wedding in the evening. Sunday Mother's Day. Here is picture thought (um..SmileBox slide show) I am sharing...
Well, the recognition service came off nicely. I was sweating it right up until the last moment (everyone was supposed to be there an hour early. Hah.), but a whole van full of kids arrived just as we were beginning our processional. I ended up with 25 kids, which is average for Wednesday nights, but as we were having the service on a Sunday, I had no way of knowing who would show up. I try not to get too caught up in numbers--success has far more to do with quality than quantity--but after years of serving in churches with teeny, tiny children's ministries, I must admit feeling somewhat elated by the size of the group. And speaking of the size of the group.... We had some visitors in the congregation. At first, I thought they must be the parents of one of my Wednesday-night-only kids. You know, those folks who will only darken the door of a church if their kid is in a performance. But when none of my kiddos sought them out after service, I really began to wonder. You typically do not have first time visitors on a Sunday night. Then the master made a big to-do with introducing me (I had the distinct impression he wanted me to oversee their welcome and comfort) and finally it clicked. This was the gentleman the church is considering for the youth pastor position. I found the closest phone booth and presto, change-o--PERFECT PASTOR'S WIFE. Which, we all know, is a role I play so very well. *cough, cough* The master, having sent me the silent message, moved on to shake hands, hug necks, kiss babies...pastoral stuff. After I made small talk with them through the fellowship line--which wasn't difficult as they had a chubby toddler to ooh and gooh over--and we were seated, the wife congratulated me on the service and asked, "So you have four children?" I'm assuming she counted the kids with the last name S_________ listed in the bulletin. She said "four" as though it were some impossible sum and surely must represent a typo. "No, we have six." I'm betting the master didn't mention that, because Mr. Youth-Pastor-Prospect spit his tuna sandwich across the table. Mr. YPP: "Did you say, 'six'??!! sputtering. Does he have a hearing problem? Me: "Yes." Mrs. YPP: talking to her child "WOW! She's a better woman than your mommy." Um. No. Not better, not worse. Just me...and by the way, at this point, you know next to nothing about me. Why does hearing that number conjure up in people's minds a paragon of strength and virtue? For all they know, I might be a really crappy mom (and I am on occasion). This never ceases to amaze me (and I hear it alot. Can you tell?), because I don't meet a mom of one or two and think, "Man, she's a pitiful excuse of a woman." I realize she probably meant it as a compliment, but when people say this, I don't feel complimented. I feel like a freak of nature. And what am I supposed to say to that, anyway? Thank you? Why yes, you're right, I must be vastly superior to you? Me: silence with a plastered smile Mrs. YPP: How do you do it? Mr. YPP: What are their ages? Me: The same as you. One day at a time. And they are 10 years to 10 months. Mr. YPP: 10 years to 10 months??!! There goes that pesky hearing problem. He really should get that seen about. Me: That's right. Mr. YPP: Well, we felt blessed to have one. Ooooh, I see. In contrast--since your inflection clearly indicates a perceived difference--how do I feel about my six? Bored? Unaffected? Ungrateful? Entitled? My oldest is sitting next to me. What does that comment say to him? You didn't fill up our "blessing cup," so we had to keep having more? Well, we felt blessed to have one.....six times over. Me: bigger plastered smile I see Randy needs a drink. You'll have to excuse me. exiting hastily
I still hope he comes as youth pastor. We are getting close to summer and if we don't fill the position, guess who'll be taking the kids to youth camp and weekend trips? But after they are here, I'll be glad to take my little ole self and my ridiculous number of children to a far away table and eat my bean dip in peace.