Thankful Thursday #124

Learning how to play cribbage
Side note: that just a week after learning he beat his Mama!
2083. board game playing afternoons
2084. snow covered evergreen branches
2085. meeting new friends
2086. hearing God's heart
2087. maps on the wall
2088. underlined words jumping off the pages
2089. countdown coming to an end
2090. stamps with hearts
2091. clean sheets
2092. healthy dessert bars

Another Birthday Come and Gone

Well, here we are a few days post birthday celebration and I am another year older.  The birthday didn't quite ramp up into the month long party that it usually is and I'm strangely okay with that.  It was quite a packed weekend.  I am confident that when I'm sitting in the sand later this week that I will still be having a little party of my own.  That being said I was spoiled to no end by my sweet family and friends. 
Our weekend began with some fresh snow and an impromptu sledding date in the front yard.  I was determined to build a proper snowman to adorn the front of our house and welcome visitors and passerby's but I was quickly informed that this was not the right type of snow.  I ignored the warnings and made a feeble attempt.  Fruitless efforts.  We did make some spectacular snow angels. Thing 3 and Thing 4 built a few "jumps" to enhance their sledding fun and after about 45 seconds of it all I ran inside to warm  up.  Yes, I am a wimp.  How do these kiddos do it?  And that was Friday, a bowl of hot noodles and some Cosby show and we were happy campers.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 were away for the night so we were a family of only 4.  They missed out on the snow but I'm certain they were exactly where they were supposed to be, serving others.
Me and Thing 3
Thing 3's snow angel
Saturday mornings are a busy time in this household.  Between acting classes, football training and all the other commitments we are typically taxi drivers for the Things.  Husband Jared did wake early to prepare breakfast for me though.  He even separated eggs for the first time.  Fluffy egg whites are a necessity for Belgian waffles.  So proud. So yummy.  The waffles folks, come on.   
My man in the kitchen
It was our turn for Thing 4's football carpool and since the temperatures were not runner friendly I joined Husband Jared and we were able to run together in the dome.  Translation, flat terrain, no ice and warm.  Thank you.  And thank you.  That was a birthday treat in and of itself.  From there we came home and Thing 4 decided he wanted to make lunch for his Mama, grilled ham and cheese with fruit.  Excellent choice.  The Things took such great care of me all day.  So thankful they have had Husband Jared's example.  While we were running earlier in the day Thing 3 was busy baking.  This time it was chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Our after lunch surprise. 
Putting the finishing touches on the cake
Decorating done by Thing 2 and all photos courtesy of Thing 1,
 the new family photographer

Make a wish!
I blew out all the candles, opened cards and presents, we stuffed our faces and then we played a fun game of LIFE.  When I say fun what I really mean is there was banter between all the Things, conversations over what their plastic spouses names would be, how many children, if they were driving in England or not and what college career choice they would have.  Not to mention the discussions over mobile home living and double wides.  I say this with love of course.  And for my memory so that someday when it's just Husband Jared and I sitting around the table playing a game we will fondly remember the competitive nature all family endeavors seem to take on.  Whether it be a friendly board game or cards, even chess or cribbage. 
Another surprise of the day was mine and Husband Jared's date night.  We snuck away after pizza was ordered for kiddos and they were settled in with some friends for a movie night. 

I'm really not sure what is going on with my hair here,
it seems to be growing not longer but wider?  Any suggestions?
A quaint Italian restaurant amidst commercial buildings was the place where we feasted on arancini, sea bass and a pork ragu over stuffed cavatelli.  My oh my.  The highlight of the meal for me was the chocolate Panini with salted caramel gelato.  Yes please.  Food may very well be my love language.  And boy did I ever indulge on my birthday.  Yet it really was the conversation and the live pianist and stand up bass that provided the most delight. 
While the birthday has come and gone the memories will linger over gratitude for the way my people chose to celebrate me.  Love in action.  I am one blessed Mama. 

Thankful Thursday #123

* Do I even need to explain?  This is our family. 
 Well, the grandparents and the grandkiddos at least. 
2073.  sunsets later and later
2074. sweet "I miss you" texts
2075. airport lights against a dark sky
2076. crunching of snow beneath my feet
2077. 8 days and counting
2078. countdown pictures from nieces
2079. hearing wisdom from the mouths of Things
2080. a good day
2081. chatter as they gather round, sharing their day 
2082. whip cream on chocolatey drinks

More Love, More Compassion

As I sit and type this post, the one that's been on my heart for over a week now, the irony is not lost.  Ziggy Marley's "Love is my Religion" is playing in the background.  The acoustic version.  And maybe this is not what Ziggy intended when he sang that song but the words are bringing me full circle. 
Remembering love.  Love should be the language first on our lips.  Flowing from our hearts.  My redeemed heart.  Bought by a savior who only knew how to love.  He did it well.  Perfectly in fact.  His love stretched from the Pharisees, orphans and widows to the prostitute at the well to the religious in the temple and all those that weren't worthy.  That aren't worthy.  Those that don't deserve a second look.  And yes the ones that do too.  Meeting them where they were at.  Whether that be on the fringe, not able to be on the inside because of a disease plaguing them or right there in their homes with women at his feet.  Just wanting to be right there.  In the moment.  Loving Him back. 
Makes me think of Compassion.  The God ordained organization that meets those right where they are.  Fills them up with the mighty Word.  The love of Jesus.  Takes the command to "love your neighbor" on a whole different level.  Heck, an entirely elevated, out of this world height.  An inspiring and overwhelming ministry that loves and loves well.  Serving all those with less than and sharing the sweet love of Jesus by meeting their basic needs. 
We first stumbled upon this ministry at a concert.  I saw the sign, did a quick glance over the table and walked away thinking it wasn't for us.  There was no "extra" money in the budget.  Completely relative, right?  At least I thought so at the time.  Then the days that followed I couldn't get that word out of my head.  Compassion.  Certainly that wasn't for me.  For us.  We just couldn't afford it.  And like a lightening bolt from the sky I was struck.  Struck with a compulsion so pressing that it could not be ignored.  These verses.  That undid me.  Read them slowly.  One. Word. At a time.

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make  joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others."
Philippians 2: 1-4

Paul is addressing the Philippians here.  It says in my NIV study Bible that the intent of these letters were to encourage the people, unite them in spiritual unity in order to spur them on to a purpose greater than themselves.  The people of Philippi had met the needs of Paul.  At the time these letters were written Paul was imprisoned  in Rome.  Yet despite his less than ideal circumstances he is filled with gratitude, even joy, for people that went beyond themselves and cared for him.  Particularly the Christians in Philippi.  It seems as though Paul was so encouraged by their service that he wanted to encourage the people to carry on, continue with this love.  In hope that then and only then would they be able to experience the true joy that comes from loving and serving others in Christ's name.  Yeah, I'd say that sums  up Compassion.  Following this recommendation, living it day to day and offering others, believers or not, to do the same.  To take up and care for someone less than because we have more than.  An opportunity to come along side and love.  In a different way.

The beginning words of the chapter, "If you have...", laughable to me.  If I have, I do have.  And when I thought there wasn't money in the budget to share there was.  "Consider others better than yourselves", humility.  That was one I needed to work on.  Still do.   Compassion offers the means to place others above myself.  I am so grateful they do.  They are caring for the "interests of others" and allowing us to do the same. 

So when I say Compassion came to me, it really did.  When I say it gives our family more love.  It does.  When I write how it was so easy to participate.  It really is.  Our family gathered around the computer and Oswaldo was chosen for us.  His big brown eyes boring a hole in our soul, at least mine.  And that is how it came to be.  A concert where there was a table.  A verse placed before me.  Prayer.  A computer screen and the six of us huddled around.  A few clicks and taps of the keyboard and we were on board.  Alongside Compassion.  Doing just a small part.  Establishing a relationship to start, "being one in purpose".
 Back to that song I mentioned earlier, "Love is my Religion".  We could make it so.  Throw out all the joy stealing legalism and simply love.  Love others like we love ourselves.  Everyone.  Those with less than, more than, not enough, too much.  I'm not just talking financial standing here people.  All of them.  Because we have unity.  We have fellowship.  We have the Spirit.  We have a Jesus that showed us how to.   For me, that's what Compassion is steeped in, just loving others.  Plain and simple.  More love.  More Compassion. 

* This post is part of a linky party on the Compassion website, click over here to take a look and read through some inspiring stories, or maybe even consider sponsoring a child, if the spirit prompts.


Show 'em Some Love

That we did.  Due to a full schedule on Valentine's day itself we chose to celebrate together the morning after, with breakfast.  Stuffed French toast, bacon, fruit and OJ.  Is there anything that says love quite like bacon?  I think not.  Fairly certain that the other five would agree. 
My heart was a bit broken that our two eldest Things would not be with us on Valentine's day for our traditional family love dinner, but we all compromised with breakfast the next day.  Thing 1 was with a friend at the movies and Thing 2 and her girlfriends went to dinner together, all dressed up and giggly.  They were even privy to witnessing a proposal.  Cliché, I know and that is exactly what Husband Jared said when she retold the story here.  We are nothing if not brutally honest.  Anyhow, with the eldest two away for the evening that left Thing 3 and Thing 4 home with us for a relaxed dinner of sesame noodles and a little Duck Dynasty; Our latest "thing".  Oh my word, we laugh and laugh and stare at the TV in amazement.  Sometimes Husband Jared will even quote Mr. Phil Robertson with a little, "happy, happy, happy".  We've all been guilty as of late with walking around the house spewing one liners from season one.  We just can't help ourselves. 
It was a good night.  Husband Jared and I exchanged our love cards and he even surprised me with my favorite mug that I've been coveting from Anthropologie.  And well, Husband Jared, all he got was a dark chocolate candy bar with hazelnuts.  We had an agreement that there were to be no presents.  Hmm.  I was grateful though and in fact as I sit here typing my newest monogram mug is right beside me, filled to the brim with my morning jo. 
my coffee cup, filled with chocolate peanut butter hearts, my man knows my love language

* the quality of this photo is not the best and clearly does not accurately portray his excitement over the chocolate!
The Things did have a little package from Poppi and Nani that they opened the morning of Valentine's day, I couldn't let them leave empty handed.
So that was Valentine's day itself and our little love celebration began early the next morning.  Name papers printed, table set with a small token of love and French toast stuffed.  The Things meandered ever so slowly to the table on their day off from school, as we woke them early since the grown ups of the house still had to go to work. 

Love table
Showing their presents
Nutella stuffed French toast for the Things
Cream cheese stuffed French toast with homemade blueberry compote
for Husband Jared and myself
Then began my favorite part of our Valentine's tradition.  Love papers.  I print every one's names at the top of a blank sheet of paper.  We pass the papers around the table and we all write two things we love about that member of the family.  After we read what everyone wrote and soak in all the love and sweet, sweet words.  Or we laugh and  are mocked for something deep that we wrote.  Which may or may  not have been the case for me.  OK, it was.  That's alright I meant every word and I wouldn't take it back.  So there.  These special reminders are hung on a wall in our family room for all to see.  Maybe just for us to look at when we need to be reminded.  Reminded that we belong to something bigger.  That we are loved.  We are known.  Here we are accepted.  This family is all about LOVE. 

*not the best photographs with the shadow of my head and all but hey, I'm an amateur!
And this dog, let's just say he was probably licking his chops because he scored a piece of bacon from one of his people.  And this dog seems to have laid claim to our sofas, and the pillows and my favorite blankets.  How does that happen? 
Well just look at that face, that's how it happens, oh yeah I'm a softie. 

I'll leave you with that vision of dog perfection above.  Hope your love day was full of, well, love of course.  Keep showing them the love too, don't stop. 


Thankful Thursday #122

* Disneyland 2006, a trip with Mama
2063. for love day
2064. for hearts and glitter and sparkle
2065. these three words, "I love you"
2066. surprise packages from Poppi and Nani
2067. shimmering snow in the sunlight
2068. a sweet niece celebrating her 4th birthday today
2069. cribbage games with the Things
2070. our public library 
2071. a valentine from a student
2072. valentine's breakfast being planned, a day late


* Never published before, from August 2012

Because fifteen years is a long time, because I am married to my best friend, because I believe in celebrating even the smallest things.  Even though fifteen years is not a small number, at least when it comes to marriages. 
Earlier this month Husband Jared and I had our fifteenth wedding anniversary. You have read about it on the blog recently with our trip to NOLA and the Things' anniversary dinner present.  We make the most of our special occasions and I tend to continue the celebrating for as long as possible.  So why not have one more post about the man I love. 

Our relationship, we often joke, has been quite the rollercoaster.  Two undergraduate degrees, one MBA, various part time gigs, financial troubles (short version), deaths, serious vehicle collisions, countless moves, four Things in under five years, a bout with cancer (he was victorious), and not to mention all the growing up, both mentally and spiritually, together and apart,
thankfully mostly together. 

Countless other trials and victories, some small and others not so much.   All the in between.  Around the world or halfway and back again.  A few scattered states and many cities.  Here we stand, fifteen years in and I fall in love all over again.  Not just because I love him.  Because I find myself falling head over heels for him.  In new ways.  Because I choose to.  Because he continues to choose to. 

When the dishes are done after a meal cooked.  Vegetables being chopped without asking.  The late night pick ups because he knows I don't like to drive at night.  Father-son talks.  Father-daughter dates.  Fighting for time together.  Alone.  Making this relationship a priority.  Because he loves God first.  Random texts throughout the day.  Calling to see if I made it safely in the snow.  Shoveling the driveway.  Planning Amazing Race scavenger hunts for the Things.  Laughing until our sides hurt while watching the Cosby Show.  Sending me thank you text messages.  Telling me I serve our family well.  Accepting my apology and gracing me with forgiveness.  Again.  Waking early to help with lunches or make coffee just so I can have my quiet time.  Praying.  Together.  Reading his Bible to me.  Checking the oil in my vehicle.  Planning trips to the sunshine.  Because.  Love. 

So when I say I love him I do.  To the moon and back.  It is a privilege and one I don't take lightly that I fall in love with him over and over again.  In new ways and sometimes because of the old ways.  Sometimes just because I get lost in those blue eyes.  Other times because I have to choose to. 

Marriage aint easy.  But because I was first loved I can love.  Because love letters and the fluttering in my heart mean something more than just romance.  Because holding hands in the dark and falling asleep together is real life.  Because compromising is part of it.  Because of grace.  Because of forgiveness.  Because he loves me.  Because we know how to make up.  Because we can laugh together and at each other and it's still funny.  Even after all these years.  Because we have inside jokes.  Because we have memories.  Because we have four Things.  Together.

Because WE choose to. 

Another Love Post

* Flashback post from November of 2012, never before published

Have you ever felt love actually flow out of you?  An outpouring.  As I lay in bed with Thing 4 last night that is exactly what happened.  He was having trouble sleeping.  Restless.  Unsettled.  I knew exactly how he felt.  We've all been there.  When our mind won't stop and our thoughts wander and we just can't pinpoint what it is.  He tiptoed downstairs.  Stood and watched Husband Jared and myself on the sofa.  Him reading his newspaper and me enjoying my chocolate chip cookie.  Then we heard him.  "Please Mama, lay with me".  Um yes.  Insert lump in my throat now.  My heart was softened.  There are times, let's say it, usually, that I would give the standard response.  I've said prayers, scratched your back, given you water, you NEED to sleep now.  Emphasis on the now and more on my need, not theirs.  Last night I didn't.  I did however finish my cookie, hey I'm only human.  Trudged upstairs, opened his door and found Polo laying on the floor and a Thing somewhere under the Man. Utd. covers.  His legs scrunched up and his hands over his head.  I slid in next to him and began scratching his back.  Then to still him I rested my arm over his chest.  He stopped.  There we lay together.  Mother and son.  My breathing began to match his and my heart began to ache.  Ache in a way so powerful that I felt it physically.  Mind you, I am aware I love my children.  This was different.  While we were there I felt love leave my body.  Surreal.  Strange.  Overwhelming in such a powerful way.  A mother's love does run deep. 

Thankful Thursday #121

Beach in Turkey
2053. training started for next race
2054. feeling strong again
2055. tears cried out loud
2056. memory work, the best kind
2057. snowy afternoons
2058. countdown to vitamin D
2059. turquoise candles, a bright pop
2060. long catch up phone calls 
2061. a new and improved menu this week
2062. baking dishes waiting to be filled


I am sitting here at my desk this morning.  Remembering the way the pink filled the sky just above the horizon.  Watching my youngest board the bus from our window, just to make sure.  Smelling the sweet teenager perfume hit me as they hug me goodbye.    Listening to the blow-dryer go as our tween-ager styles her do.  Gazing on a contagious child sleeping away curled up under the covers.  Then I hear it.  Words that singe my heart.  Reminding me that this time is fleeting.  The moments we try to capture are passing us by.  And yes motherhood is a bit like trying to keep all those memories in a live scrapbook, you know like the newspapers in Harry Potter.  They just don't exist.  If they did, though, you can guarantee that mothers everywhere would have that market cornered. 

This parenting job, the responsibility of being called "Mama" is a tad overwhelming at times.  And while I'm on the adolescent years my siblings are in the toddler and infant stages of it all.  When I talk to them and the exhaustion oozes from their words or when I hear the latest battle of wills that has taken place I smile.  Ok, sometimes I laugh and more often than not I do stop and say thank you that isn't me.  I remember those days.  Oh so well.  With four that were all under five years of age I will admit they are a bit blurry.  But they are some happy times. 

Jared and I went from the two of us to the six of us in a blink of an eye.  We learned together and how I wish we were at liberty to have bottled up all those firsts and miniscule moments that seemed like no matter and save them in a jar.  Save them for a rainy day when we needed to remember.  Or hear a sweet giggle.  Maybe for when I needed to see the twirling around.  Or to find out who really took my lipstick from my purse and made beautiful body art.  Who took the sharpies from the drawer and colored on the sofa, the clothes and the table.  Oh, not to mention their own body and those of their siblings.  Hmmm.  All the park days and zoo visits in the heat of Arizona summers.  Dancing in the hot summer time rain.  Swimming until their little fingers turned pruney.  Moving across the country and having family road trip become a mantra for us.  Catching fireflies and playing spotlight tag.  Jumping on the trampoline under summer skies and fishing at the lake.  Climbing trees and talking in tree houses.  Going halfway around the world together and loving every second of it even when fear gripped us so tight.  The dinner table conversations that have evolved from learning manners and asking to be excused to contemplative thoughts ranging from our current state of government to travel dreams and geography games.  Late night discussions and prayer sessions intervening for friends or family or just praying that whatever it is that has a strong hold over their hearts is taken from them.  From lighthearted laughter and playful games to the heavy, deep intrusive job of living life together.  Of not being a friend but a parent. 

All those priceless moments bottled up, shown in a reel in a newspaper, there at my disposal.  To remind me.  To compel me.  For me.  To show up.  Be present.  Breathe it all in.  To love more.  To love better.  To love deeper. 

If this post seems a bit all over the place that's because it is.  I followed the tangent and let my fingers do the weeding through.  I am grateful.  And when I think about the awesome job given to me of parenting these four and being a family of six it is sometimes daunting.  Sometimes swallows me up.  Tosses me around like shells in the sea, riding the tides and eventually being thrown on to the shore.  Then there are seasons of peace and understanding.  However fleeting.  This is my life.  So recalling all those moments inspires reflectiveness and thanksgiving.  A life lived.  Time on this earth shared.  Challenges met.  Battles lost and won.  People loved.  People lost.  All the in between.  There is purpose.  And the mere fact that I am standing, well sitting in this case, breathing, means it isn't over just yet.  Thank the mighty Lord. 

Sixteen Photos

Family Birthday Dinner: Fettuccine Alfredo, salad, bread

Surprise!  It's a camera!

Strawberry cake with strawberry frosting...16 candles
Friend Pinterest Party

Homemade pizza dinner

Bracelets Unite... craft time

Husband Jared giving a demonstration on bracelet making 101

Ice cream birthday cake

Enjoying the singing
Some one's homemade pizza, yum!

The group

More presents
Still more presents
Candy, copious amounts of this chocolaty goodness was consumed

Sweet 16

Happy birthday my sweet baby girl.  The first born.  And today she turns 16.  We were remembering that day over breakfast this morning.  The anticipation of such an event all the way to her being placed in my arms for the very first time.  I remember.  That day I became a Mama.  Her Mama.  What a glorious gift. 
And today we celebrate you Thing 1.  Your artistic nature, the way you view the world through your camera lens, your dry humor and your slight exaggerative nature.  The way you hug us and smile and snuggle on a cold day.  Your passion for those special kiddos and your calming sense when you're around them.  The way you trust and befriend and get lost in a book. All your pinterest pins and yes, even the tattoo ideas.  How you search and are OK with not knowing the path, at least right now.  Your confidence and your heart for Jesus.  Mostly your heart for Jesus. 
For all these last sixteen years have held and for all that is yet to be may it be spent walking side by side with the Creator.  I pray today that  you feel celebrated into the depths of your soul and joy unending.  I love you.