As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2: 4-5

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I got to be a mom today....

instead of a teacher!  I got to go on a field trip with Hannah's kindergarten class today, and I decided to take Charlotte with us.  I felt as if I had drug them with us as we went to competitions, play practices, cheer practices, Spivey...that we deserved some time together.  So after I dropped the girls off, got my classroom ready, and dropped Hannah off in her classroom, Char and I went to the car to wait to follow the bus.

Here's Char-"I not in my seat!"-lotte playing "hide and teek" under the blanket in the back seat.

 We got there and found Hannah in line with her best friend, Gracie.
 Charlotte in the stroller, in which she stayed in for about 2.5 minutes
 Soooooo excited to see the farm!
 The first stop was to learn about how cotton is grown.  "Where are the cows?"
 This brought back memories.  When we were moving from Wisconsin to Alabama, my mom made my dad jump a fence to get some cotton to show us.  Also made him stop and get some peat moss!
 Finally....time to pick our pumpkins!
 They had five minutes to pick a pumpkin.  Hannah took the entire time to choose just the right pumpkin.  Charlotte picked about 13 pumpkins in five minutes and wanted to keep them all!
 Next it was hayride time...
 and time to handfeed the cows!
 Love this picture!
 What would a trip to the farm be without the giant inflatable jumping mattress?
 or the cow train?

 Our trip ended with ice cream and pig races, but I didn't get pictures.  The girls and I spent the rest of the day together.  Just what I needed!
One of many gifts this weekend...

93.  Finding Hannah, who had dressed herself and asked her father to do her hair, "reading."
94.  Being able to be "Mommy" today instead of "Mrs. Stone."
95.  Watching Hannah with her friends when she didn't know I was watching.
96.  Soft cow ears.
97.  Getting a compmliment from a stranger about how well behaved my girls are.
98.  Tortilla chips.
99.  Snuggles from a sleepy Charlotte.
100.  That my husband didn't suffocate me with the pillow last night.  I have a nasty cold and while I am getting better--and getting my voice back (try whispering all day to a classroom of first stuff), as soon as I lay down, I start coughing.  I slept from 5:34-6:24 this morning.  Tonight at dinner he said, "Tonight, I will kill you."  He kids....I hope! :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Visit to Toccoa Falls...full of gifts

Saturday after Daryl got finished working, we loaded up the car and went to Toccoa Falls to visit Josh at "college."  We had a great time, loved being with him, and now Hannah thinks that college means hiking through the woods an waterfalls.  It always blesses my heart when we can be all together, even if it is only for a short time.
 82.  How the little girls just love their "Joshy."

 83.  Goofy pictures, even if they are a little blurry
 I forgot to pack the stroller, and Charlotte pretty quickly got tired of walking, so Josh and Daryl took turns carrying her.  She wasn't too fond of riding on Daryl's shoulders, but I am so thankful that Josh and Daryl were strong enough to carry her while we walked around the campus and hiked up to the little falls.

 She did want to walk for maybe about 2 minutes.
 We finally got to the top.
84.  God's beautiful creation--litte Toccoa Falls.
 85.  The way Josh watches out for his little sisters.
He made sure that Hannah didn't get too far ahead, that Charlotte had a hand at all times and stayed off the slippery rocks, and that both girls got safely up and down from the rocks.

 86.  All my children together, happy and healthy. 

 After a while at the Little Falls, we climbed up the rocks to go to another little waterfall.  It was so sweet to see how the big kids helped Hannah (and me) across the slippery rocks.

Other gifts from this weekend....
87.  Pigtails
88.  Josh and Maranda celebrating 3 years together.  What a blessing it is to see how gentle, sweet, respectful, and thoughtful he is with her.
89.  An answered prayer, when a young couple came to Sunday School this morning.  He didn't stay, and they both didn't come to church, but I had been praying that they would come.
90.  Lunch at Nanny's
91.  Visiting with Darlene and Angela at Nanny's, and talking about her upcoming wedding
92.  Leftovers for dinner...I didn't have to cook!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Too old? Or too blessed?

Last night, I was having an internal meltdown.  My family would say it was not so internal, but I digress.  I came home after the longest week ever to a dirty kitchen, at least 10 loads of laundry that needed to be done, unmade beds, floors that needed to be swept and mopped, a playroom and a little girl bedroom that you couldn't even walk through, and dogs.  Dogs that stay outside all day long....for sometimes 12 hours a day...and yet insist on emptying their bowels and bladders on our floors.  With a weekend jam packed from dawn to dusk both days, I didn't know how I was going to get it all done.  So I leapt into action, fixing dinner, throwing the first load of laundry in the washing machine, instructing the big girls to spiff  and vacuum. And while I worked I thought about my Facebook status would be:  "I am overwhelmed by my weekend."

Later, after I had folded two loads of laundry and was waiting for the next load to dry, I was trying to pick through clean clothes, clothes in suitcases (Hannah had played vacation a few nights ago), and the entire contents of both girls' dressers on the floor of their bedroom.  I sat down on the couch to try to relax for a few minutes when it started. It started out low and it started to grow. (name that book.)  The pounding.  On walls, on furniture, on the floor.  Two little girls, dressed in "princess" dresses and my jewelry, hitting everything they could find with plastic hammers.  And again, I thought of my Facebook status:  "I have decided I am too old to have small children, especially those that regularly empty out drawers and laundry baskets, borrow and then break/lose my jewelry, and insist on hitting anything and everything with plastic hammers."

Neither of those became my status, for I quickly declared bedtime and as soon as they were in bed, I retreated to my own messy bedroom and escaped into my book.  This morning, the mess, the laundry, the active, imaginative, LOUD, little girls remain.  But I no longer feel too old.  OK.  I do. Let me rephrase that.  I no longer feel only too old.  I also feel blessed.  For how many of my friends are lucky enough to have little children at our age?  How many of my friends long to have even one child, realizing that their window of time is quickly closing, and would love to have the chaos that reigns in my house?  How many of my angel mommy friends would love to hear their child, who has gone on to be with Jesus, would kill to hear the footsteps and hammering and yammering of a young child?

I am not too old.  I am overworked, overstressed, overwhelmed.  I live in chaos, mess, noise.  I live in house that daily reminds me that I am not organized or disciplined enough to conquer it, that reminds me daily of my housewifely shortcomings.  I will never have enough time, energy, or skill to achieve perfection or even a consistently clean/orderly home.  But I am not too old. 

I am too blessed.  So without further ado, .....

81.      Little girls who run around hitting things with plastic hammers, empty drawers and laundry baskets of all their clothes, and try on my jewelry to play “princess” and then break or lose it.

I am indeed too blessed.  Happy Saturday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hump Day, last

What a week.  Such a week that it doesn't even warrant an exclamation point.  I love love love my job, but the kids have been squirrely, and I've struggled all week with food.  And even though my pants are literally falling off (in the Chick Fil A parking lot), I feel myself losing control and sliding back in to old habits.  I'm being kind to myself, not beating myself up, and starting each day anew, still running and exercising, hoping that my resolve returns.  If not by Saturday, then like it or not, it's back on the wagon. Back on the scale to face the music.

Until then...more gifts...

65. Singing “All in All” in church

66. Daryl’s arm around me

67. Holding a new baby

68. Hearing Daryl talk about when we found out we were pregnant with Hannah after years of waiting and wanting and praying

69. The case of diet coke we ordered being delivered

70. Sarah talking to me of her plans for the future, after “praying about it for a few months,” and “hearing God speaking” to her

71. Girls who like hats

72. My wonderful baby sitter, who bought Charlotte these shoes, after she said, “I want those Kay Kay.”

These are Twinkle Toes.  Cute as can be--and they light up--and she loves them.  As well she should--they cost $45.  I don't spend $45 on shoes.  Kay Kay spoils Charlotte terribly.  Buys her clothes, doesn't make her go to bed if she says "no." Does everything all day that she wants to.  How she loves my child....She whispered to Charlotte as she was leaving today in her new shoes and new jacket, "Your mommy and daddy will never know how much I love you."  Truly blessed we are to have found her.

73. The smell of the heater being turned on for the first time

74. Chick Fil A dinner with my girls

75. Watching Maddy be an Indian in the school’s production of “Pocahontas.”

76. Sweaters

77. Girls in winter jammies

78. Starting each weekday in prayer with my coworkers

79. Sarah’s art displayed at school

80. “The Middle”

I am sooooo Frankie Heck....complete with fast food eating family and whispering child.  Watching this show makes me feel normal! 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sweet Saturday...and more gifts

49. Shaved ice

50. Hand me downs

51. Finding a bin full of Hannah’s old clothes

52. Free books

53. A friend, who has struggled with miscarriages, infertility, and failed adoptions finally becoming a mommy

54. Reading my favorite childhood book to Hannah’s class

(If you've ever read this book, my room was really like Jennifer's--a total mess.  I've since grown out of my slovenly ways, but my house screams otherwise!)
55. A full calendar-although I don’t often see it as a gift, it truly is a gift to be so blessed

56. “Mommy, look what I can spell!”

57. Watching my girls cheer

58. Writing samples in my first grade class, and an opportunity to see the growth

59. Having one of my students tell the class he wants to be a missionary when he grows up

60. My baby girl loving to color (Hannah always hated to color, and as a result, has difficulty with handwriting and neatness...this gives me hope for Char!)

61. “Ha-yay-yoo-lah” from the back seat

62. A message about discerning God’s will at a faculty meeting—just when I needed it

63. Dare I say it? Georgia football with my loves!

64. “Mom, look at this cool trick I can do with my eyes shut!”

(and no, it wasn't getting dressed in the dark.  The outfit was on purpose.  She was "looking like a cheerleader!")

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Gifts

Today's the kind of day where it's hard to look and see the gifts.  Warm bed, good dreams, annoying alarm clock. Sinus headache. Crazy kids cooped up after two days of rain. Late day at work.  Hard hard workout.  Messes everywhere.  But still...I counted.  Kept a piece of paper on my desk.

38. “I love you” whispered in my ear at the lunch table

39. A love note handed to me by a wild and wooly child in my class as I was scolding him for crawling under my desk. “What are you doing, Luke? Get out from under my desk and pay attention.” “I was just making you this note.”

40. An unexpected hug from a student

41. A quote on someone’s wall on Facebook

42. A daughter who isn’t afraid to ask the hard, and embarrassing questions

43. A dream that sticks with me all day

44. A long hot shower

45. A sweet email from my sister

46. Sharing birth stories with friends, and for the first time not wanting to do it again

47. A size large

48. Having dinner ready when we got home (thank you Daryl!)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

Have you heard of or read this book?  I had seen mention of it on countless blogs, but really had not given much notice to it.  I thought to myself, "I've done this before."  You know, Oprah's gratitude journal.  Which I kept for about as long as I do any journal--until the need for sleep eclipsed the need to write.  I noticed friends posting #207, #334, and #78, followed by things that they were thankful for--some unique, some interesting, some touching, some banal. But it's never been something I really wanted to do.  Until now.

What happened to change my mind?  Friday did. (Warning: what I'm about to tell you will probably convince you that I am a complete and utter mental case.)  As I was walking through the lunchroom, I thought about dinner the night before.  How Sarah had made the entire dinner herself.  How self-sufficient she was.  And then.  The morbid thought crept into my mind--if something happened to me, then she could take care of Daryl and the little ones.  All of the sudden, what I later identified as a panic attack, began.  I spent an agonizing 8 hours in the midst of a panic attack, trying to teach and pretend to all of the outward world that nothing was wrong.  Eight hours of convincing myself that I was having a stroke, a heart attack, a brain tumor.  That I was going to die and leave my kids motherless. (Wacko, right?  I KNOW!) Finally, at the end of the day, I got the courage up to go and get my blood pressure taken by the school nurse.  It was a little high.  Not stroke high, but definitely higher than it should be on medication.  I was crushed. Angry even.   I'd lost 90 pounds since my first diagnosis.  Started running 30 minutes a day.  Cut out most bad foods.  And still?

So I came home and did what most neurotic hypochondriacs do.  I consulted Dr. Google.  Typed in my symptoms and watched as time after time, no matter how I typed them in, the first five results were anxiety related.  Sigh.  Why?  Why now?  Why still?  Why couldn't I get control of this?

Dejected, disappointed, and ashamed, I lay on the couch and surfed the web.  And everywhere I clicked, it seemed as if mention of this book appeared.  So I went to the website and spent two hours reading.  Read the first chapter online, then found excerpts from the other chapters here and there.  And there it was in front of me--me.

How often am I too consumed in the "grubbiness" and chaos of my everyday life to stop and appreciate all of the amazing gifts that God has given me.  How often do I tell God, "It's not good enough."  "No, God."  "Not Your way, but mine?"  How long had I lived a life full of frustration and fear because of my desire to be more, have more, be in control?  And all the time, God had been giving me exactly what I needed at that very moment.  The hard times, the good times, and yes, even the messy times.

So it is, with a humble heart and great transparency that I begin my list, my one thousand gifts, and share it with you.  And hopefully, through this journey, I will learn to live fully in the chaos instead of wishing it different, and wake up to see all the ways that God shows me His amazing love.

 1. Daryl

2. Hannah

3. Sarah

4. Madeline

5. Josh

6. Charlotte

7. Little girl who never stops talking, revealing all that is in her heart and head

8. Being able to run.  I've wanted to be a runner all of my life, but have always been too fat, too lazy, or too out of shape (and usually all at the same time)

9. Becoming healthy

10. This panic disorder, that hides at times, and then emerges when I need to remember that it is all HIS doing

11. Josh being home

12. A phone call with my mom

13. A reunion with an old friend

14. Having Daryl home on a Saturday

15. A Saturday with nothing to do out of the house

16. A good night’s sleep

17. Hannah’s unabashed, unembarrassed love of the Lord and her unwavering belief in His goodness

18. Not being “obese” any more

19. 90 day supplies of my meds so I don’t have to worry about getting more during this rough financial time

20. Sarah working so hard to do well on her Socratic seminar

21. The confidence of Sarah and Josh

22. Time to do laundry

23. Marriage to my best friend

24. A laptop

25. Josh being at Toccoa Falls, and thriving

26. Daryl’s letter to Michael—a chance for me to see into his heart and his head, a chance I so rarely get

27. Daryl’s work—I miss him. I wish he was home. But it gives us the extra money that we so desperately need.

28. Charlotte’s head on my shoulder after nap time

29. A message at church so timely

30. Mrs. Conkle’s cookies—and the willpower to eat just one

31. The sound of Josh playing guitar in his room

32. All of my family home at the same time

33. The girls doing children’s church-that they are willing, and that they are spiritually and emotionally mature enough to work together to share the Word

34. Sarah singing in church

35. An unexpected break from AWANA’s

36. Clean, folded laundry

37. Finding a new way to cook fish every Sunday, so that everyone will like it and want to eat it.  I'm finding I like to cook, and that  something I make can actually taste good!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homecoming Week 2011

Can I get an "Amen" and a "Praise the Lord?"  Because ELCA homecoming week is OVER!!!  For those of you who are not familiar with the week, it's a week where the children big and small dress in a different theme every day, and the teachers try to teach while said kids are just plain whacko.  Take the kid out of the uniform and instant chaos ensues.  It's been a week--at school where it was not only homecoming week but end of the grading period as well, and at home, where we were scrambling to find clothes and create costumes.

Day 1- Super Hero Day
(by far my most prepared day)
Note the cute super hero cape I made for Hannah out of an old t-shirt
 Supergirl, Harry Potter (who I say is NOT a superhero, but I was outvoted), and a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle minus the mask which she ruined one minute before walking out the door. 
 Day 2 - Team Day
Easy for the big girls.  But for Hannah, the only team t-shirt she had was long sleeved, and since it is still mid 80's here, that wasn't an option.  So she wore one of the big girls' shirts and we tied it in the back. 
 She doesn't look too thrilled above because just moments before, she looked like this.  Ah yes,....the early morning right before school meltdown.  Gotta love it.
 Day 3 - Western Day (Which was originally Cowboys and Indians Day, but that was deemed offensive and politically incorrect, so at the last minute I was informed that Indian costumes were taboo.  So I was forced to find a cowboy outfit for Hannah without spending any money.  And that morning, we had lost her only pair of jeans that fit and she refused to wear the bandana that pulled the whole outfit together, and I was frazzled and sweating because I had on boots and a long sleeved shirt and like I said, it's still hot and what can I say? I'm a sweater--as in, someone who sweats buckets, not woolen piece of clothing.  So no pictures then.  But that afternoon, it was the pre-homecoming festivities.

Maddy worked (yes...for money!) at Sno-Biz
 Sarah played in the powder puff game

 And Hannah and her new friend Frankie participated in the long standing ELCA tradition of jumping down the bleachers and playing on "the hill."
 She also somehow sweet talked Frankie's mom into buying her a sno-biz "shaved ice experience."
 Day 4- Friday- Blue and Gold Day
My sweet class...who were still sweet but oh my goodness wild and wooly
 After school, Daryl brought Charlotte to the school so we could eat together.
 "Free" food from the Varsity.  (the quotation marks are around free, because you only got a free ticket for your meal if you donated $10 out of every paycheck to the ELCA fund--so really, it's a $120 free dinner from the Varsity)

 Hannah and Charlotte had fun playing Duck Duck Goose
 Hannah, Charlotte, Kristen, Gracie, and Julia Rose
 Three of the "Fab Five"--Sarah, Natalie, and Ellie
 Sweet Maggie, one of my homecoming representatives
 And Cole--her escort, also from my room
We won, the kids had fun, and Josh came home as an official "ELCA alum"-so all was good.
Looking forward to a normal dressing, somewhat calmer, less chaotic week!