A Simple Gesture

If there's one thing I've learned over the past eight years of marriage, it's that it doesn't take a dozen roses and an airplane writing in smoke across the sky in to demonstrate love perfectly.

For me, and I think most people, love is about all of those gestures we don't stop to think about - the kind we easily take for granted.

Please bear with me -

When we first moved into this house, we quickly realized that we needed some sort of system in the bathroom - a hook, a bar, a table, whatever next to our shower.  Our bathroom was one of the many reasons we knew this was "the" house.  Without meaning to brag, it's just it.

Except for the little fact that when someone emerged from the shower without the help of a little hook, bar, table, whatever nearby to provide quick access to a bath towel, it was a bit of a hike to the nearest linen cabinet.  Those are, quite possibly, the coldest four or five steps in the history of the world.

So Sam and I went shopping.  Stopping at all of our favorite, discount stores, we ended up with a lovely wrought-iron-looking tall, skinny table, most likely meant to hold a plant or some other decoration (about which I know next to nothing).  This little table fit perfectly right next to the shower door, and became the official towel holder - if there is such a title.

Over the years it has held countless towels.  We went through a phase where we stacked up a bunch of them - bath towel, wash cloth, bath towel, wash cloth, and so on.  It felt like a time-saver for those harried mornings.  Most days, though, whoever gets a shower first gets out two sets of towels and lays them there.  It used to be me.  I guess you could say I started the trend.  Now, Sam is the early riser.  And I can always count on waking up in the morning and finding a bath towel and wash cloth waiting on that little table.

No matter what.

Even if I had one of my typical hormone-related meltdowns, or fought dirty, or threw something away that I shouldn't have, or said something hurtful the night before.

The towels are still waiting for me on the table.

And it just makes me smile.

And reminds me that I am loved.

This week, after a way-too-long hiatus from the Simple Pleasures Party, the unfailing promise of the sight of this

is my simple pleasure.

For many, many more simple pleasures, please join Dayle at the Simple Pleasures Party.


More things that remind me I'm a mom.

While your childhood sports of field hockey and lacrosse are virtually non-existent in the south, you attempt to teach your athletic four year old the rudimentary fundamentals using nothing but a plastic baseball and a butterfly net.  And you know what...she's pretty darn good.

After a helpful demonstration by her older sister, your toddler suddenly realizes she's capable of escaping from her crib. The first time she tries, just moments after you put her down for a nap, she dramatically exits her room by flinging the door open and riding out on her play firetruck with the biggest, proudest smile on her face you've ever seen. And all you can do is shake your head and laugh.

When you look up and realize that your toddler has wandered out of your sight for the last 30 seconds, you run off to find her, of course, being bad - doing something like deciding to start taking a bath all by herself while still wearing her footie pajamas.

Every sixtieth time (give or take), however, that she wanders out of your sight and isn't making a sound, you find her doing something sweet - like playing innocently with her big sister's dollhouse.  (And actually, she didn't make the rest of the mess...that was all Big Sis.)

You notice that your seven year old is as obviously as nervous as you are about him having to play defense against Shaquille O'Neal himself.  (And you thought your son was one of the tall ones...)

(Note:  It's purple wristbands vs. purple wristbands.)

Your heart just melts when your seven year old recognizes all of the organizing you've been doing around the house and compliments you on it - "You're doing a great job with the house, Mommy."  (I just love that boy.)

Of course, you're conflicted about how to feel when you inspire him to start his own organizing mission to alphabetize his bookshelf - because his bedroom floor has looked like this for more than the number of days that should be required to accomplish the task...

You were more than surprised to see your toddler sidled up next to big sis watching a Barbie movie on the computer.  Of course, you shouldn't have been - she does everything her big sister does.

You have no idea how breakfasts that include syrup and/or jelly can result in sticky footprints - but you've ceased to be surprised by most things when it comes to your kids.

When your seven year old pops a tire on his new bike and walks it home in tears, the helpful nine year old neighbor boys ring your doorbell with advice on where to buy new ones, because, as they so willingly chime in, "We pop our tires all the time."  At which point you see another teaching moment and remind your son that he needs to be careful so as not to run over the broken barbed wire fence behind the backyard because you are not willing to replace his bike tires "all the time". 

And just because I can't end on a grumpy one...

After the banner week your toddler has had regarding "milestones" including climbing the bar stools, mastering every doorknob in your house, overcoming the child safety locks on the kitchen cabinets, and learning how to remove any article of clothing you dress her in - right down to turtlenecks and diapers, you have stopped being excited about milestones, and, instead, fear with every ounce of your being what the precocious little imp will tackle next.  (Okay, maybe you're a teeny bit impressed...but mostly scared - wink, wink.)


Eight years later...

Today, January 25, 2011, as I sit at the computer, unemployed, home with my girls - one of whom is watching Up (the world's best and saddest Pixar movie) and the other who is scaling bar stools and attempting to eat a bag of homemade play-doh, I have the chance to reflect on that day - eight years ago.  A day that seemed so surreal and so perfect...and it was...both of those things.  If you asked me on that day what life would be like for us in eight years, I would absolutely never have guessed we'd be where we are today.  I think for as much worrying as I have done about "the future", I've never really anticipated anything about it.  The future has just unfolded and played out the way God planned for us. 

I woke up late on the morning of my wedding.  Of course.  We rushed off to the salon - I'm not even sure I took a shower.  The stylist was a lifelong friend of my soon-to-be mother-in-law's...because that's how it works in small town Georgia.   She up-do'd my hair (as I begged her not to go too poofy) and did my makeup (I'm fairly certain that was the first time I'd ever worn it in my life).  If I might say so myself, I think she did a great job with what she had to work with - that is, a tomboy of a 19 year old girl with a mid-winter complexion and impossibly straight hair.

We chatted while she worked, and suddenly, we looked at the clock and realized that we were late.

That's right, folks.  I was late for my own wedding.

Okay, so it wasn't the wedding proper...but I was late for the pre-wedding photo session.  (It just sounds more dramatic the other way.)  And if you know our reputation, it's all too apropos.  We're the couple that if something starts at 7pm, the hosts tell us 6:30pm as they're winking at each other.

Anyway - I'll spare you the play by play of our wedding day.  I'll save it for some other time.  It really was fabulous (thank you Mrs. Lisa for all of your hard work to make it happen!!!!).  Instead, I want to focus on some of our highlights over the past eight years - per the advice of a very wise couple on the marriage panel of our January marriage series at church who said the key to keeping the joy alive in a marriage is to keep a journal/scrapbook/whatever of the happiest times in your life, and when you hit a low - go look at them. Iit helps to remind you of the good and helps you to forget the bad.  They had recently celebrated their 50th anniversary and were challenged by their decorator to think of one significant (happy) event from each of their 50 years of marriage.  Then they, in turn, challenged our young married Sunday School class to do the same - only more frequently.

Here's to our last eight years -

Hahahahaha!!!!!  We were 11 or so here - about a month before our wedding.

January 25, 2003

Moving into our first owned-by-us house just days before Mr. Ben made his appearance.

 Beautiful, pink, plump Ben's arrival.

 Spoiling that little boy rotten and soaking up parenthood in the midst of a very chaotic season of life.

Beginning (or, rather, continuing) our annual Destin tradition.

 Finishing engineering school (No, seriously, HALLELUJAH!)

 Selling our first house...

 Buying our second - and present home.

Meeting our little blonde sunny-side-up angel, Abby.
Seeing Ben turn from baby boy to big brother.

Taking a kidless trip to Austin, San Antonio, and New Orleans.

More fun in Destin...every single year.

Another kidless trip to Salt Lake City - with a secret #3 baby brewing inside.

 And our "surprise" gender baby was bouncing baby girl, Sarah.

Then we ran away from our kids (again) to the great city of Chicago.

Which brings us up to date...

I can't lie.  It hasn't been a perfect eight years.  I am imperfect.  We are imperfect.  Shoot, even Sam is imperfect (every once in a while).  But it has been a perfectly and equally challenging and rewarding eight years.  And in keeping with tradition, I'm not even going to try to guess where we'll be eight years from now.

I trust it'll be awesome though.

Happy Anniversary, Sammy.


I absolutely believe...

In a world where having absolute beliefs is becoming as taboo as witchcraft in the 1600's, I find myself in a constant state of "Really?" (think Seth Meyers and Amy Pohler on Weekend Update).  And while I realize and even understand why it's appealing to exist in this life without a definitive set of standards by which we measure right and wrong and strive to obtain the former, I'm going to take a hard line here and just say what's on my heart.

All that "gray area" - It's wrong

I believe in right and wrong.  I believe that there is good and that there is evil.  And I even believe that evil dominates.  I believe that we are innately "bad" from the day we are born.  We are, from birth, born to rebel against good.

Those are absolutes.

I believe in absolutes.

I believe in the saving grace of a sinless Savior who came and died on the cross by accepting a punishment so severe and gut-wrenching it caused him to sweat blood from the anxiety...all so that we, each and every one of us, would not have to experience the same wrath from God that we so very much deserve.

I believe that, as parents, we are duty-bound to teach our children by first setting a proper example by living the way we want them to live and secondly by disciplining them.  Even when it's hard.  Especially when it's hardest. 

I believe that punishing our children for wrong-doing is not just appropriate, but necessary.  Consequences aren't always sunshine and roses. 

I believe that by exclusively praising our children and ignoring their bad behavior we are creating monsters -   self-centered, self-righteous monsters who have no reason to believe that the earth revolves around anyone but them because that's what they've been made to think their entire lives.  We don't need to tear them down, but it's also not productive to only build them up.

I believe that the only way to raise children who will grow up to be selfless is to remind them that they are a very small part of a whole.  And then to remind them that they are loved, so very loved - by their parents and their Heavenly Father, in spite of the fact that they are but one tiny part of a humongous whole.  Because, no matter what tiny part they play, it's a vital one.  We are all a part of the body of Christ - maybe he's a leg and she's a hand and that guy is one of the ears and you're the brain.  Separately they're worth almost nothing but together - man, they can move mountains.

I believe that manners should be taught first by example and secondly, if necessary, by force.  What is important is that they are taught.  Manners are not a dying art.  They are a disregarded courtesy.  Courtesies in general have died because we have shifted from a culture of respect to a culture of self.

I believe that even though it seems like the nice guys finish last, some day, they will be rewarded - even if it's not on this earth.  But then that reward will be more than imaginable and more than worth it.  The hard part is teaching our kids to do the right thing when there is no visible reward and the wrongdoers are the ones who seem to be getting ahead. 

I believe that by giving our children everything they want we are depriving them of the lesson that you have to work for what you need.  Self-control is a fruit of the spirit and to exercise it is to exemplify Christ - whether with finances, speech, remaining faithful to our partner, our ability to quell an angry reaction...whatever.

I believe that every mistake we make is a learning opportunity.  But first we have to be allowed to make them.  If the mistake affects someone else besides ourselves, we have an extra opportunity to learn - because we get to humble ourselves, admit fault, and ask for forgiveness.  You know...do the right thing.

I believe that waiting in lines is one of the few opportunities in our instantaneous world that we have anymore to learn and practice patience.  The people in front of us in line aren't for trampling on or passing.  They are to be waited for.  And at the very least, when we witness people trampling on others in front of them - that is yet another teaching moment for our kids.  As in, "Never do that."

I believe that our children need guidance from strong parents who are willing to take a stand against gray areas, "It is what it is" post-modern thinking, and self-centeredness.  There is hope.  Our future depends on it.

This has been a soapbox post.  I would ordinarily apologize, but today, I just don't want to.  

I plead with you - just try to put other people first.  We're all selfish.  But we should at least try not to be.

And while we're at it, let's try to use our common sense too. 

Have a blessed weekend, guys.


Squeaking the Mom Things in Late this Evening

It still cracks you up that your seven year old refers to your four year old's drawings as "potato people"....

...but it's less funny when you find one of these potato people sketched on the side of your washing machine. (But still a little bit funny.)

You know better than to leave stray pens lying around the house because...well...this happens:

You fear your daughter is going to become a graffiti artist when she gets older seeing as how from the moment she could form the letters, she began tagging all of her belongings with her name.

You are elated to realize that your expertise on how to make Nintendo work again has been passed on to the next generation - apparently blowing on the bottom of the game cartridge helps Leapster games work too.

It only takes a half-second glance at one photo of the bottom of your four year old's foot for you to make a mental note not to dress the kids in white socks the next time you go to Monkey Joe's.

Not unlike the temptation to throw a trash can in front of the speeding cars in your neighborhood, at drop-off and pick-up times at your son's school you must resist the urge to throw a bookbag at all of the parents who think they are too-cool-for-school-rules and do whatever the BLEEP they feel like no matter how potentially dangerous and undeniably rude it may be.

With each passing day you are further convinced that the reason God gave you children is to try to even-up the balance between truly terrible kids and pretty okay ones (like yours).

You can't help but be a little bit proud when your 20-month old's inexplicable climbing skills are the talk among the moms at Monkey Joe's.

Maybe it's because she's your third, but you think it's funny that your toddler has developed quite a taste for coffee, to the point that when she sees you drinking it, she runs to get a spoon so she can lap up some sips of her own.

You think you might have the only child in the world who asks if he can go home and research the water cycle before you even get to the car after school.  (Nerd.)

When your toddler locks herself in the pantry, you laugh at her and take a picture as she nonchalantly calls your name from the crack under the door, because why have kids if not for entertainment?

As much as you hated it when people touched your belly when you were pregnant, you find yourself resisting the urge to reach out and touch the cute little bellies when you see them.  It's just undeniably miraculous.  (And everyone else's bellies seem way cuter than yours did when you had to lug all of that around.)


Task-ful Tuesday

My husband, sometimes, deserves a medal for putting up with me. There's just no doubt about that. I confess to being more emotionally unstable lately than probably ever before in our marriage. And that is saying a lot, my friends.  But I poured it all out and he mopped it all up, and truthfully, I'm feeling much better now.

Wait, but that is not at all what this post was supposed to be about.  Or was it?

Yesterday was one of his beloved federal holidays, so on top of the 3.5 day weekend he had last week from our "winter storm event", he had a 3 day weekend home with the four remaining crazies this week as well.  Since we played hard all day Saturday and rested up on Sunday, on Monday, Sam looked at me and said, "You want to knock an item off your list today?"

Oh yeah.  The list.

But what he was saying was that he was going to help me in the form of encouragement and presence.  I can't tell you how motivating that is for me.  So - I looked over the list, ruled out all of the outdoor activities because we were mid-deluge here in central Georgia, and narrowed it down to "Make Abby 10 new hairbows" and "Make Abby & Sarah matching dresses using my grandmother's sewing machine."

And since I had help in the form of Sam - I opted to prep for both.  So we loaded up and headed out - with coupons of course - to Hobby Lobby, Hancock Fabric, and Michael's.  Then, just for kicks we went to Walmart where I scored some black Rik Rak for $0.75.   (As if I know what to do with it.  Apparently, I have big plans.)

I almost feel like I should take a poll here because he did actually do all of that with me:  How many of your husbands would willingly tag along with you and your children to craft stores?

[And just a little aside to let you know how cheap thrifty we are - we were out long enough to take advantage of Sonic's Happy Hour where we got a Route 44 Cherry Limeade to share between the other four of us, I got a 99 cent large coffee at Dunkin' Donuts with my Flint card, and then I ran into the Target cafe for a $1 bag of popcorn.  The afternoon snack for the five of us totaled a whopping $3.17.  True story.]

The point of this rambling, incoherent post is to say that I got it done.  One of the items anyway...

With the help of this youtube tutorial and then this youtube tutorial (which proved much more helpful - or at least yielded better bows, in my opinion), we got these:

# 66 ~ Make ten new hair bows...check!

I'd be remissed if I didn't mention the little fact that I wanted to post this picture and blog post yesterday, but someone (named Sarah) hid two of the ten new bows so the picture would have been incomplete.  Turns out, the little escape artist had, at some point last night, let herself out of the house into the garage and deposited the two little bows by the side of our van.  Then, apparently, her work was done and she came back inside.  It's a very scary day in the life of a parent when you realize your 20-month old can operate a doorknob and accomplish sneaky tasks like these without your knowledge.

Maybe tomorrow I'll face my sewing machine fears and attempt the dress-making, considering I'm equipped with three types of material and I'm faced with two nights of no-husband time to fill.  Of course, since Sam is in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a couple of days, I fear I won't find the inspiration.  But now, I'm accountable. I said it out loud.


Sunday Fun[dip]day!

Today's post will be brief. Because, after all, this is a day of rest, and I have been doing a whole lot of nothing during it. We got back from a morning of church followed by a delicious lunch at a restaurant-that-cooks-like-home and we were super tired.  So I put the girls down for their nap, changed into my Ravens 2001 Superbowl shirt (BIG FAT SIGH) and settled down for a nap myself.

I'm not a good napper.  I usually wake up mad as a hornet.  And then I'm even more unable to sleep at night than usual.  What can I say?  I'm just crazy.

But this weekend, Grammie was here.  So with free and willing babysitting services at Sam's and my disposal, we made a full day of it.  After our standard Saturday morning basketball game (where we are spectators - not players), we went out for lunch, stopped by Target (where we pulled off one of the greatest money-saving heists ever - but it's just too long to explain - take my word for it, it was awesome), played a tennis game, double-dipped on our Kroger gas savings, watched the Ravens hand the Steelers the game on a silver platter, then headed off to Carrabba's for dinner and a late-night Kroger run.  That's how we celebrate our anniversary.  (Lame-o's.)  That doesn't sound like a lot, but I guess my stamina is down.  I was spent.

Hence - the nap.

When we woke up from the nap, Abby remembered the "treat" that Grammie had handed to her on our way off to church this morning before she left.

There seems to be a handbook somewhere with all of the grandparent rules in it - including tickling the kids at bedtime, sugaring them up before naptime, letting them watch "forbidden" shows (like Spongebob), and, of course, handing them all some candy right before church which they end up talking about for the remainder of the day and, apparently, wake up from their nap thinking about it.

Abby eats like a bird.  Except when it comes to candy.  It's the only thing that gives her a ravenous, insatiable appetite.  She was allowed to open it and enjoy it since she'd been so patient all day waiting.  (Ha!)

Long story short - 30 seconds into that Fun Dip, she'd already devoured the Lik-A-Stik.  So she resorted to consuming the unnaturally blue powder with her finger.

Which brought us to this...

She was so proud of it - until she realized it wasn't going to come off with any old soap and water.

(That's a look of true sorrow, I believe.)

So, thanks, Grammie.  For that.  We owe you one!  (You know we love you!)

But really, I think my kids just love to dye their mouths (and shoot - the rest of their bodies) random colors.  I'm afraid we can't blame that entirely on Grammie.

Remember the stamp-pad-eating-five-month-old?

The creative eyeshadow made possible by, you guessed it, a stamp-pad -

The lollipop festivities at Christmastime (this one actually was a Grammie) -


And I'll stop there since I'm pretty sure this already qualifies me for either the "Worst Mom Ever" award or at the very least warrants a call to the authorities...

In closing, Abby wants to tell you all that she hopes your Sunday was a fun day as well.

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