On Bones, and Wood, Down Here At The Farm

He picked up the bone muddied with wear, “Is this wood?”

“No buddy, that’s from a cow, probably his leg.  But it sort of looks like wood after being out all this time in the weather.”

“I sure wouldn’t want wood in my body, mom.”  I agreed and we wandered through a conversation about historical artificial legs made from wood.

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The wind whipped our faces, a reminder that the day wasn’t as harmless as the sky led us to believe.

Our feet crunched on the gravel road as we picked our way back from the hay barn to the main farmhouse.  As boys are prone to do, he discovered another interesting artifact largely obscured by the clover.  He held it up proudly for my inspection.

“Set that down.  It’s sharp and rusty metal, we don’t want to have to go in for a tetanus shot.”

It’s rare this time, just he and I.  One brother was feeding cattle with daddy on the tractor.  Sister was settled into grandmother’s art studio over the hay.  We talked about the time daddy had to get a tetanus shot in the emergency room and about where we might find the crayons to make a picture and about all the clovers that peppered the cold acreage.

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The children had danced in all day with fistfuls of clover flowers which began to overfill the little glass we used for a vase.

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Grandfather happened by on the four-wheeler, and as his offer was a ride to feed the cattle, I lost out and found myself making the last leg of the journey alone.

There was a bi-plane in the distance.  Wind you could hear blowing through the trees.  A cow mooing.

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Alone feels good here.  Restorative.

I had a call on Friday that unsettled me.  I sat with the unknown and found tears leaking out late into the night.  I thought I’d be more scared of the quiet, but here I stood craving it.

I heard his refrain, “I wouldn’t want wood in my body.”  I imagined I wouldn’t either though I’ve certainly settled for a heart of stone, head full of nonsense and eating trash.  But wood?

I imagined those men of old, losing a leg to war or disease, and grateful for the wooden part fashioned to help them balance and walk.  And I could hear Jesus saying to those listening to Him speak, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…” (Mark 8:34)  I wonder if there’s not some balance that worn old cross would give my life if I took up that wood and followed Him wherever He set out each morning?  I wonder if the longer I took up that cross if my bones might begin to look more like wood too?  If someone wandering by might look over and say, “is this wood?,” and I could reply with eyes dancing, “Yes, yes it’s the cross.”

I don’t know about a body full of wood, but a body relying on the old wood of the cross might be exactly what we should crave.

Seeing Red

Happy Monday!  I didn’t know how to capture all the good, and less good, from the past few days and seeing red seemed to sum it up.

First up, drum roll please, a NEW FRONT DOOR!  I have wanted a new front door since I moved into this house in May 2006.  We have a gray house with black shutters and less than inventive landscaping.  Our black door with an inset glass middle featuring a 1980s style etched palm tree drove me bananas.  But new front doors are expensive.  And my dream door was impossible to find.  Why my darling hubby finally agreed to a new front door this Christmas, after years of asking, I’ll never know (though I think that his father may have helped), but I sure am grateful.

I found the slab at a home building company that was the style I wanted.  From there, I selected the black hardware I wanted for the door as well as the cherry red I’d wanted all these years.  It took several weeks for the handyman we hired to sand, paint, and install the door but HERE IT IS (molding still to be finished)!  And just in time for our fourth neighbors table; literally, he was cleaning up the porch as neighbors began to arrive for our Valentine’s celebration!

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Next up, while Bray and I had a nice dinner out Friday night, the gift card I had for the restaurant was declined!  I was furious and seeing a whole different kind of red.  A company here in Houston owns several high end restaurants, and I was told the card could be used at any of their establishments.  Yet when we went to pay the bill (I’d picked this particular restaurant because we had the card), they said that it could only be used at the place it was purchased.  What!?!?!  Yes, I’m on a mission with their corporate headquarters today to fix what fast became a dinner pricier than we had budgeted.

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Bray headed out Saturday morning, and we woke to a festive Valentine’s Table.

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The festivities didn’t last long; the eldest took a serious turn for poor health.  Every symptom you could have, he got it.  Fevers and shakes all day, throwing up to the point of dry heaves on the way to Texas Children’s Saturday night, headaches, back aches, stomach aches.  The doctor was wonderful.  She ran every kind of test and saw how pitiful he was just laying there.  We couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but she got us on zofram for the nausea and called in Tamiflu because he was so flu symptomatic even though the initial test came back negative.

This was my Valentine’s date:

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I joked that I spent Valentine’s Day like I did when I was 16 – at home with my mom, except this time I’m 30 pounds heavier and have three kids :)  Thank heavens she came so that the other two weren’t completely neglected.

Finally, we decided since Valentine’s Day was such a bust, we’d celebrate on the 15th.  We couldn’t go to church since the eldest was still contagious, so we did church at home and then made a big yummy lunch (the big guy had so quickly improved my Sunday morning that I never even started the Tamiflu), and we baked a cake and the kids decorated it.  We were seeing red with our big red sugar heart in the middle.  We played outside before the rain hit and ate well and redeemed the weekend.

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How about you?  How was your weekend?

Mommy Madness

I had a long weekend.  A sweet precious wonderful weekend but also a hard one.

No matter how good things are with me and the trio over the weekend, I end up losing my temper because they don’t listen and disobey.

I come from a long line of temper losers.  And actually, my long line was worse about it than I am.  So I’m sort of improving on history, but mercy do I have a long way to go.

I don’t talk to any people in my life like I talk to my kids.  I love on them and hug on them and affirm them regularly, but I also get overwhelmingly frustrated and then I yell.  I actually tried to use other words for it that sounded softer, like raise my voice, but it’s yelling.  Maybe bellowing even.  Sigh.

We have good days, like today, where really the only shouting was the zillionth time trying to get the boys to stay in their room after bedtime and when we were crossing a busy street at the grocery.  But Friday I was fried and probably drained from a long work week, and my frayed emotions let small things that the kids did pick at me in a way that it shouldn’t have.

It seems to me, and maybe I’m wrong, there’s a lot of mommy madness going around.  I talk to my girlfriends who are struggling with it.  I read blog posts about different moms takes on how to be better, and I really do read and try to incorporate those suggestions.  Heck, there’s even a whole website devoted to one mom’s work getting over her temper with her kids.

I think it’s because so many of us mommies today are plum worn down.  Wiped out.  Spent.

So many moms like me have to balance a career, pressure to stay fit which requires time to work out and shop for organic kale (bleck), time for your husband, time for your kids, time for your extracurricular activities (seeing girlfriends, serving the community, etc.), time for your kids extracurricular activities, etc.  I just got a master family calendar so we could see who was doing what when.  And that is with the hard and fast cap on only one activity per child (just so happens this semester they all picked a different one) and significant limits on what we accept by way of outside invitations (we decline dinner parties, birthday parties, etc.).

I don’t have a ton of wisdom to offer yet because I haven’t mastered the art of how to love better and yell less.  But this is what I’m working on:

1.  State their age.  There is tremendous power when you speak it before you lose your temper because you realize they are 2 or 13.  This week I said to one, “would you stop whining and act like a five year old.”  I wasn’t yelling at the time and still it stopped me in my tracks.  Remember, he is still just five.  Five year olds whine.  You shouldn’t let him whine all the time or no one will marry him, but cut him a little slack

2.  Say you are tired (if you are).  I started saying recently, I am really tired and trying super hard to help you color your picture and make dinner, but it’s wearing me out.  Can you let me finish this one thing before we move to the next thing?  Fill in whatever it is, that’s just an example, but somehow it helps your kids realize you aren’t superhuman and that you’re doing as much as you can as fast as you can.

3.  Take a break from being called mommy.  You can’t do this often, and it’s only for moms of littles, but it ended up cracking us up and lightening the mood.  With all three yelling mommy, mommy, at the top of their lungs, all wanting something different or ratting the other one out, while you’re trying to pull clothes out of the dryer and check on the chicken in the oven and pull on some shorts lest the mailman see you in your drawers, well it’s all too much.  So I told them, “you can continue to speak to me but you may not call me mommy for five minutes.”  I just needed FIVE minutes without the whining of my name.  They kept talking, but I got everything from “Gindi” to “hellooooooo,” and it made us laugh a little and realize each one of us might need to relax.

4.  Laugh.  If there is any possible way you can break the tension with a joke or a silly face, it sure serves as a wet rag on a fire about to blaze out of control.  We try to create a funny moment just before things reach a boiling point.

I get it wrong every day.  I’m always praying for patience.  (That’s a terrible thing to pray for by the way.)  As far as resources go, there’s a lot of insight in Lisa Jo Baker’s 10 Things to Do Differently Before You Lose Your Temper.  I love her acknowledgment of the apology which I use often, but I want to get past having to apologize.  Not all the time, but I’d love to go a week without having their five year old impatience trigger my own.  The Orange Rhino set her goals much higher than that, and her website is filled with wisdom from when she set out to stop losing her temper for a full year.  I am reminded by Ann Voskamp that a parent must self-parent first before running all helter skelter judging her child.  And we’re all just a work in progress.

So cut them some slack.  Cut you some slack.  And try to work in a family nap.

The Gift of Girls

This was a gift of a weekend.

And absolute cotton candy, pure joy sort of weekend.

When the babies were born, I bonded with the boys the weekend they were born.  Little bit took a little longer.  She was like a cat and the boys were like dogs.  She just wanted me to feed and change her, but the boys were all cuddles and cooing.

That has changed.  I mean, the boys are still like puppies, but little bit has become my favorite buddy.  Not as in my favorite child, but we LOVE hanging out together.

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At the last minute, Bray ended up taking the boys to the ranch to play with their cousins, so it was just me and my girl.  Friday night we ate at the mall (lord have mercy, I NEVER go to the mall), explored every inch of the American Girl store (she is all about dolls and loved the exploration without ever asking for one), and then shopped for a birthday present for a classmate.

When Bray is gone, I’ll let one of the kids sleep in our bed.  I figure that their interest is nearing its expiration, but for now it’s considered quite a treat.  Instead of staying up to get on the computer or watch t.v., I went to bed when she did and we read stories and snuggled up and just laughed.  As terrible as my memory is, I don’t think I will ever forget having our faces inches from each other’s and giggling until we had to go to the bathroom.  If I could bottle that moment, I would do it and take a sip every time I felt gloomy.

Saturday we were like women on a mission.  We had breakfast with one set of girlfriends, FINALLY got my phone after it took a bath on Monday, and then had lunch at a birthday party.  We napped and played games and looked for Easter dresses and watched a silly movie.

Sunday was a lazier day but was just as perfect.  We went to church together and at the end of the service she said, “Mommy, I want to say hi to the pastor.”  We have a new pastor and she’s only met him once, and I’m not the type to stand in line to chat with the pastor after church.  But wait we did, and as he got down on his knees to visit with her and she threw her arms around him in the kind of hug only a preschooler gives, I thought I would just burst into tears.  I am so grateful for my church and for knowing the people who lead us to know God more every Sunday.  So grateful.

We came home and painted the bottom of our crazy multi-color neighbors table and cooked and played more games, and she preached in the driveway on Bray’s workshop stool.  (It was hysterical. I videoed the event.  I won’t ever post it because it’s her thing, but trust me you would have fallen out.)

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We got cleaned up and in p.j.s and watched some Pollyanna while we waited on the boys arrival.  Oh we were so grateful to have them home.  But I am so grateful to have had these sweet moments with her.  I know she’ll probably hate me when she’s 14, so I’m going to hold on to every ounce of this.  Because mercy, it is just that good.  To quote her as we left the store holding hands, “I love holding hands with you mommy.  It makes me happy.”

Merry Christmas

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