Monday, October 5, 2015

Tower of Texas

We had the most fun yesterday. We piled the girls into the car and drove to check out a newly refurbished park in Downtown San Antonio. The  HemisFair park has been around since the 1960s when it was built as an attraction at the World's Fair. Though I'm sure it was state of the art for 1968, it was desperately in need a makeover. The designers did a phenomenal job bringing it up to date with creative and beautiful touches this year.

There are fantastic structures for kids of all ages.

 And super fun swings in which you lie down.

And spinny seats to rotate kids into vertigo-esque oblivion. 

Once both girls were good and dizzy, we made our way to San Antonio's tallest structure which is right next to the park. Why not take the wobbly kneed young ones into the tallest building in the city when their center of gravity is at large? We're clever parents, obviously.

The tower,  which was built as the theme structure for the 1968 World's Fair remains the tallest building in the city. In true Texas form, it's called the Tower of the Americas because it's in Texas. I mean, 'merica, baby! The state pride of native Texans continues to both amuse and baffle me. But mostly it's amusing and inspiring to find so many people downright smitten with their homeland.

In truth, we learned that there was a contest held to name the structure in which it was suggested that submitted names be original and continue to live on as a tribute to the community of nations in the Western Hemisphere. But I prefer my version that a bunch of natives named it for "The Americas" because it is here on their beloved homeland which they believe should be its own nation anyway. Whatever the story behind its namesake, this impressive spire is 750 feet tall, has a wonderful observation deck, and offered a beautiful view of downtown and beyond. Best part? It's breezy up there. As in cool winds on a warm October afternoon in Texas blow wild and free up in the sky. Experiencing that bit of goodness was worth the price of admission and then some.

I love this picture of the girls showing how relaxed they were high above the earth while Dirk kept a death grip on them just in case. Sure, it was fully enclosed with steel encasements, but there's something that made him want to hold them with his own hand all the same. They might have still been dizzy, after all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

On Wednesday and a Parenting Milestone

It's something she's been asking to have for years. But I just didn't know if she was ready, if I was ready. I mean there are probably debates on every side of the issue as to what age is appropriate for such a thing but, at the end of the day,  it's something one has to decide for themselves. So, before school started this year, I gave in to her request. She seemed so happy with the decision that I couldn't help but celebrate with her even though I was unsure if either of us was ready for such a vow. 

I'm sure by now you've figured out what I'm talking about: 

Days of the Week Panties. 

As I suspected, now that they are a part of our lives, my fears are confirmed that I am absolutely not ready for this kind of commitment and preparation day after day. Though I aim to keep them washed and organized in some semblance of calendar order, still, I have to go all Christopher Columbus each night in her dresser in search of the next day's prescribed pair. And when I find them washed and ready, it's glorious. I mean I really do feel a sense of relief and celebration inside. I have braved a new world and made a timely discovery, which maybe is worth the price of the seven pack after all. 

So, without further ado, I welcome you into this world of goodness and present Wednesday to you on, yep, Wednesday. 

Cue the angel's song.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sleepovers and Bedtime Stories

Ainsley went on her first sleepover on Friday night. I felt so grateful that such a dear family whom I trust and like so much were the ones to invite her. I had no hesitation in sending her to their home other than the swarm of butterflies in my stomach at seeing her off without me. She insisted on packing her own overnight things into a messenger bag designed to hold a few pocket folders and maybe a slender notebook. But baby girl managed to pack a stuffed animal, PJs, a change of clothes, toothbrush/paste and a full sized pillow into that thing. I'm reasonably sure the contents exploded into the house like a coiled up toy snake from a tin can when she went to unpack. 

The mom was dear enough to tell me she would call if Ainsley experienced any homesickness or cold feet and she would whisk her home no matter the time of day. I really thought I might get a call since Ainsley and I are together all of the times.  But the only correspondence I received was a simple text and photo of my growing up girl having a wonderful time out to dinner at In-N-Out and later playing happily in the home of her dear friend. 

It still seems impossible to believe that she's old enough to stay anywhere overnight without me. She has happily been my Velcro child for seven years now. Her favorite place to be is on my lap, much to my dismay when I am trying to see the computer screen over her shoulder. But I did miss her warm snuggles even after just one day apart, turns out. 

Her absence opened up a spot for Emerson and me to have some time alone, which is a rare treat. We watched cake decorating shows and made a simple dinner together. Dirk was under the weather with a cold so we submerged ourselves into a girls night without hesitation. In the girls' room, Em and I sat up and read stories together and after about an hour or so, Emerson said, "This is just the most fun." My heart was warmed to the very middle. She's ten now and isn't as keen to sit on my lap or shadow my every move, but she loves time with me all the same. When we laid down to sleep she asked if I would make up a story for her like I used to do when she was a tiny girl. 

I gladly told a tale of a girl who was as dear as anyone who walked the earth. She was so lovely both inside and to look at and she was in fact a princess by heritage, though she didn't know it yet. This girl was misunderstood by some who didn't yet know of her heritage, but she lived in confidence in her unique identity, even  before she understood the fullness of it. On a walk through the forest, she came upon the King's footman, who asked if she'd like an audience with the King.  Though she felt herself unworthy, she went with him since he was worthy of her trust and assured her that she would not only be welcome, but be received as an honored guest. She went to the castle with the footman, met the gentle and loving King, and was bowled over to learn from Him that she was a daughter of His and royalty was her birthright. Of course the story was about the very girl who was laying in the bed next to me, a princess of the Most High God.  I hope she'll hold the message close in her heart. I pray that she will continue to realize all that is hers as a child of God whose identity is unshakable and sure, whose birthright is glory.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Autumn full of Wonder

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."  George Eliot

Yesterday was the first day of fall, or so I've been told. In Texas, September 23 is simply another hot Wednesday. Growing up in Illinois, fall was always my favorite season. It was the Rockwellian dream of leaves crunching beneath my feet, cozy sweatshirts, festivals, and a dazzling display of color in the tree's leaves. I do miss that part of Midwest living. 

Fall was always my mom's favorite season too. When I lived in California she used to send me pictures of the gorgeous trees that lined the street of my childhood home. Remember when pictures used to have to be printed to be seen? There was something altogether magical about opening a hand written letter with photos tucked inside. Today finding such a thing in your mailbox would feel extravagant and lush yet it remains my favorite type of correspondence.

My dear niece Sarah sent this to me last October. A glimpse of fall at her college Southern Illinois University. It is magical to be sure. 
 It's been a long time since I've lived somewhere with a proper fall. In Minnesota fall is a unicorn, a fable, something everyone wants to believe in but no one has seen. Summer melts into winter with jackrabbit speed. The leaves do change to create a beautiful kaleidoscope, but they are off of the trees so quickly with the onset of heavy winds and rain. Minnesota falls were still a sweet time for me as they felt like a change of season, which was something we didn't feel much in Southern California.

In Texas the weather doesn't feel too compatible with pumpkin spice and sweatshirts.  But the season has changed all the same. Sometimes we move into another season and barely notice. It still feels like the kids are in footed jammies yet they're reading chapter books and making dinner for the entire family. We have blinked and look what happened. It still feels like summer but the calendar says Autumn is here. 

As one who savors the moments and tries to keep blinking to a minimum, I welcome the change of seasons of all kinds, even the ones that take me by surprise.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

First Grade is Hard

My Ainsley comes home from school so tired and spent. Even after ten hours of sleep every night, First Grade is exhausting, turns out.

Sometimes the smallest things unplug the drain of feelings and her tears begin to flow. I know that whatever served to tug at the drain is not really what's upsetting to her. The girl is tired. I get it. On Monday she walked into the house, unlaced her little shoes and unzipped her backpack. She pulled out a folder full of papers and before even opening it, started to weep.

"Every paper is handed back to me with marks off. Every single one!"

"I'm tested on everything. Quizzed all of the time."

She handed me the paper and I expected to see a score south of 70. What I found instead was this:

Oh, boy. I can't imagine where she got that perfectionist tendency. Dang it, apple. But we're working on this and I'm quick to point out my missteps to the girls so that they can see that not only do I make mistakes but I am quick to forgive myself and move on. I'm ever mindful to tell the girls that I couldn't possibly love them more. That 100% scores aren't what elevate their status in my heart. They're in, all in. They're my heartbeat if their grades are high or in the tank. Of course I want them to give their best in all they do, and they do --that's why the score is irrelevant to me. But I get how good it feels to get a good grade.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

That time I went to Jen Hatmaker's House

So I went to a party at Jen Hatmaker's house over Labor Day weekend.

Photo cred: Audra Ohm

It was so much fun.

Truly better than a vivid dream.

Jen was as dear, fun, and welcoming as I hoped she would be.

Yet the party was only a small slice of my incredible weekend.

The sweetest part was meeting people whose names I didn't know before six months ago. People whose names are now etched into my heart forever.

And a few of them live within minutes of me.

San Antonio Sisters: Me, Alyssa and Rebecca

The internet may be full of dumb stuff, but our tribe was born there so we're kind of protective of it. The irony that some of the most authentic, life-giving group of friends I have ever encountered emerged from social media is not lost on me. I have had an ongoing love-don't like at all relationship with Facebook and the posted  Christmas Card versions of people's lives. But finding authentic connection there was the sweetest surprise.

Brought together as members of Jen Hatmaker's Launch team for her book For the Love, we refer to ourselves as The 500 since that's how many of us there are: we're creative that way. :) We are as varied in background and life stage as you might expect with a number that size, and yet we have so much in common. We have a shared love for God, good humor, great writing, and a fondness for not taking ourselves too seriously. It proved to be a most excellent recipe for truth telling and soft landings. We have pulled back the curtain and shown each other our hurt places and lifted each other up over life's hard knocks and hilarious foibles. We are family. We are church.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Winner Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for a free copy of For the Love. A winner was randomly selected and....Winner, winner chicken dinner....

it's Debe W!!

Debe is a dear friend of mine who is officially no longer allowed to say "I never win anything." We once went to a home-show and on a lark all put our names in the hat for a free iPad mini. We kind of hesitated to even enter because who ever wins these things and then your name is forever on a mailing list as a "Potential Buyer," when that's not what we are. We are people who go to home-shows to get decorating ideas to copy ourselves at home with supplies we find in our recycling bin. But who gets the call that they've won the iPad? Miss Debe. Then a week later she enters a contest at a local fun eatery to win free food for a year. And who wins? Miss Debe. Food.for.a.year. So, though this contest was entirely random, I am not wildly surprised that Lady Luck was chosen to receive this great book. Sure, it's not an iPad mini, or food for a year at a fun restaurant, but it is something I know she'll really enjoy. Note to self: never bet against Debe.

I really would love for everyone to have a copy of this book. Today I was out getting some things at Costco and look what I found! $14 smackers for a hardcopy. Go and get it!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How Long is Forever?

So we're about to look at another summer through the rear view mirror. I mean, I guess it's officially done when we have hit the last weekend before school starts. The season rolled in with thunderous fun filled travel and camps and a good bit of time floating around the pool. But in the past week we I sort of found myself looking longingly at the pretty little bags of fresh and fancy school supplies. It just seemed like time to break them open or at least deliver them to their waiting classrooms.

At long last the Meet the Teacher day arrived for us to head down the school, bustling bags in hand, ready to make our introduction. We were all pleased with the evening. The teachers seem great and their classrooms cheery and ready.

So there I was, having arrived at the pinnacle of summer's end, the supplies safely delivered, the girls happily reuniting in the halls with their dearest friends, and yet my heart felt surprisingly heavy. It's all going so very fast. I mean, I know it's terribly trite but once the years are measured by the school calendar, time starts to pass at warp speed. How in the free world am I sending these little infants off to the first and the fourth grade in just a few short days? It seems altogether impossible to believe. Does this mean I am not ready to return the little lovies into the capable care of the prepared and precious teachers in two short days? H to the no. They can still go back, but I will miss them more than I realized.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For the Love of a Freebie

Last March a dear friend of mine sent me a text with a link to apply to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's Book For the Love. Her message simply read:
This is perfect for you. Get on FB now and sign up! 
Once I saw the text and got to the link, it had been up for hours. I read that spots went in two hours the last time they cast such a net, so I felt pretty sure I'd missed the boat. But just for kicks, I typed out my application. There was no time to self-edit or second guess -- I quickly hit submit and moved on about my day. I didn't expect any reply since I had thought so little about my response to why they should pick me. So it took me a minute to realize what I was reading when I found this in my inbox just a few days later:

Knock, knock. Who's there? YOU, because YOU are on my Launch Team for 'For the Love'!! Yeah baby!! We only had room for 10% of all applicants (what the??), and we think you got the stuff. THANK YOU for your amazing enthusiasm; I couldn't possibly love you more if I tried with all my might. You are leading well and using your influence like a boss. We all think you are amazing. We are going to get this thing off the ground together! Let me tell you, launching a book is really fun. And some of you are going to end up on the inside cover, so THAT. I said on January 1st this year that one goal was to spend less time pleasing "Not My People" ... well let's be clear: YOU ARE MY PEOPLE. I love you so. I really do. I am loyally yours forever. Let's do this thing. My marketing team will now tell you all the fun details.
- Jen 
5,000 applicants.
500 were accepted.
One of them was me.
Boom goes the dynamite.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” Emerson (Ralph Waldo, that is)

I've missed talking with you all. It's incredible to believe that summer is whipping right along and a full month has passed since I put pen to paper or rather clicks to the keyboard.

I've learned that I and my people like some structure and all the more so when school's out. I'm not an over-scheduler and certainly don't step into this role in summer (of all seasons), but with some simple math I concluded that in summer we have an average of thirteen and a half hours of wide awake time to fill. Though they are darling and hilarious and great fun, even a long-fused momma like me can lose her shizzle after the 37th inquiry of "What else can we do?" comes from the mouths of the darling babes before noon time. Bless. Camp Activities Director I am not.

So, for the past two summers I have reaped the goodness of the plentiful variety of Vacation Bible School programs for my children. There are more than a few things to love about living in the south, but one of my personal favorites is the amazing offering of fantastic and free VBS camps available to local kids all summer long. The churches absolutely count on members of the community (not just the congregation) coming to enjoy the programs. The schedules are set early in the spring and the resourceful parent can have their little nippers registered in a different camp every week from June to August if they so chose. I do not so choose, but I certainly do (unashamedly) send them to more than one (or two) camps each summer.