Sunday, April 29, 2012

{Wedding Adventures, Part II: In Which We Cry, Hustle and Finally Swim}

My apologies for the awkward lapse in time between parts one and two of the wedding adventures. I was kidnapped by a band of mischievous fairies who have only now released me to my writing.

As we made our way into Abbotsford, British Colombia, my only regret was that I had used the "s" word in Little Miss Avery Kate's presence. This should never have happened, and it haunted me for a full 30 hours. But it's true. I said it: "You'll get to go swimming at the hotel!"

That word firmly lodged in her brain, and throughout our trip every other sentence involved her jumping up and down begging, "When do we get to go swimming?!"

Now, for the adults in the group, the wedding was obviously the main event. It was why we were there, and our energies joyously poured into getting ready for the celebration. But the children were lured by other temptations. Such as swimming. And vending machines.

So it was unfortunate that, on Saturday morning, my sister and I casually mentioned that they could go swimming after breakfast.

It was not one of our more lucid moments.

With only a few hours until the wedding and my sister's involvement in helping the groom's family with preparations, it was ridiculous to think that we could sneak in a swim before donning the wedding finery.

When the reality hit me, I approached Miss Kate with fear and trembling: "Honey, we won't be able to go swimming until later. We'll go after the reception, though! It will be so fun to go swimming at night!" (This with excessive raising of eyebrows on my part.)

She handled it more stoically than I expected. This might have had something to do with Papa's expert iPad distraction techniques.

The morning quickly wore on, and it was soon time to prepare for the big event. The girls were bathed and curled and pressed and primped. Finally, with Dad waiting patiently at the door (I was reminded of the many, many Sunday mornings that involved Dad waiting and waiting at the front door for his girls), we headed toward the chapel.

I have since referred to this part of our trip as a taste of heaven. You know those moments when your heart simply overflows to the point of bursting? It was one of those moments. Friends and family gathered to witness the joining of two remarkable, godly people who publicly declared their devotion to God and each other with clarity and conviction.

The groom, our pastor's son, stood with his siblings and close friends surrounding him, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride. Tears welled as I gazed at the beautiful people before me -- people that I had the privilege of babysitting long ago. People who played dress-up and giggled wildly and wore baffling cloth diapers that required the use of pins. People who provided a nurturing environment for a teenage girl to learn about caring for others.

These people, grown. Strong, beautiful and faithful.

And so the bride and groom became one. We laughed and cried as the bridal party made their way toward the reception hall.

It was at this point that I again regretted the use of the "s" word. Miss Kate, squirming from the pew onto my lap hissed, "Do we get to go swimming now?"

I distracted her with Altoids and informed her that we would go after the reception.

We made our way to the reception, settled down at a table and attempted to mingle pleasantly while the hissing continued. "When do we get to go swimming?" She was rather offended when she realized that a reception usually lasts a number of hours. Nonetheless, she persisted in reminding me with alarming regularity that we were going to go swimming right after the reception.

The bride and groom took the dance floor, and my girl was finally distracted. She gazed on the couple with her sister and cousin nearby, and I could imagine their little hearts fluttering with the tender hope of what might someday be in store for them.

When the invitation was issued for everyone to join in, we made our way to the dance floor. Miss Kate adamantly declared that she would not dance and firmly planted herself at the table. And so my sister, mom and I approached the floor with Bethie and Alainna, just in time to learn the hustle. The groom's sister, Sarah, led us all with charming, clear instructions (she's a teacher and truly sparkled in this role) and we attempted to follow.

For some reason I have always thought of myself as somewhat coordinated and at least slightly in shape. This hustle quickly proved otherwise. I am neither. But we sure had a lot of fun.

We made our way back to the table where Miss Kate was waiting. I anticipated her demand. "We'll still be at the reception for a while, honey. But think of how fun it will be to swim after your bedtime! You'll be up so late!" I got some mileage out of that one. We even watched her sneak in a dance with Papa (although she still insists that she did not dance).

At last the toasts were made and the bride and groom were whisked away. I glanced at the clock and was a tad nervous on Miss Kate's behalf. It was 9:30. The pool would close at 10:00. There were still many people with whom I had hoped to visit, but a girl clinging to a swimsuit and a promise is not to be crossed.

We raced to the hotel with fifteen minutes to spare. I felt guilty. Here she'd been waiting all weekend for this moment, and I hand her a measly fifteen minutes. But she slipped into her swimsuit and threw herself into that pool as though she were the happiest creature on earth.

As the girls splashed and giggled, my sister's mother-in-law joined us with a perfect bit of good news. She'd approached the front desk and explained the girls' thwarted swimming plans. The security guard kindly offered to keep the pool open until 10:30. Just for us. The girls were over the moon. A whole pool, all to themselves. At night. When they were supposed to be sleeping.

Needless to say, they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We basked in the joy of childhood bliss and wedding memories, savoring the splashing little women who will all too soon be creating wedding memories of their own.

Sunday morning dawned and our weekend drew to a close. We piled back into the car, said our goodbyes and headed down toward the border. We weren't quite as nervous about the crossing on this end. The guard feigned displeasure and, upon viewing a back seat full of wild little girls demanded, "Where are you taking these brats?"

I sighed just one perfect word: "Home." And we giggled our way back into the country.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

{Family Movie Night, Take Two}

We've enjoyed family movie night on Friday evenings for quite a while now. We've shared plenty of laughter, plenty of tears (I simply cannot make it through Maria's bridal march to save my life) and, unfortunately . . . plenty of disagreements.

Yes, it's true.

This discord is largely on account of three factors:

1. We are all sinners. All six of us. This means we are all selfish. Which means we all want our own way.

2. We are all different ages. All six of us. This means that a teenage boy and a six-year-old girl will not necessarily both be thrilled when the movie choice for the night is Star Wars. Someone's gonna object. But I'm not gonna say who.

3. We all have different interests. All six of us. (Have you noticed a theme here?) I like 40s classics. Jamie gets a kick out of the old Disney movies. The boys like . . . boy things that shout and make noise. The girls would watch Little Women every week if they could.

I'm not sure how many times we've started a movie, only to find that half of the members were bored out of their minds (or asleep). This usually meant that we ended up resorting to choosing a couple of Andy Griffith episodes which we knew would be a hit. But still. Variety is nice. And I really hate the thought of sitting in front of the television "just because."

What's a family to do?

Thankfully, my brilliant husband recently came up with a solution. We each take turns being in charge of family movie night. How easy is that? We're starting with Miss Kate. This means that tonight she gets to select the movie.

This also means that everyone else gets to selflessly put themselves into the shoes of a six-year-old girl and grow to appreciate her interests and tastes. We don't balk at her choice, but eagerly enjoy the time spent together.

Furthermore, each person will be enriched by a greater variety of film choices which will eventually lead to stimulating discussions and a widened understanding of the world around us. (Of course at this point in the game Dad and Mom still preview and carefully monitor the titles that are available to the children.)

I know that the older children will start to see the dilemma that we parents face: How to select titles that a wider audience will appreciate? They get the idea of wanting to enjoy a flick while also being aware of other viewers in the room. I'm interested to see how this all pans out.

For now, Miss Kate has Enchanted on the brain. Bethie is eager to share Anne of Green Gables in a few weeks, and Aidan is trying to decide between Cars 2 and Newsies. I know which one I would choose, but I shan't say a word. This sinful old mom (who prefers musicals) will quietly step aside and thoroughly enjoy whatever her nine-year-old pops into the player. Because that's what family movie night is all about.

What are your favorite family movies?

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

{Not Too Spooky}

I've been told that a child can be analyzed by careful observation of his or her artwork. A child that feels safe and secure will portray himself with open fingers, while an insecure or frightened child will draw balled-up fists on the ends of his stick figures. I've not studied this further, but the idea intrigues me.

My girl typically draws the cliche rainbow, meadow and wildflower pictures you'd expect from a child. A tree on the left, the sun in the upper right hand corner. No balled up fists. God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.

But occasionally I do happen across fanged creatures and other gruesome caricatures. For some reason, a dragon or Ninja from Aidan doesn't cause me to bat a lash. But when Miss Kate produces the grim, it catches me off guard. What am I to make of it?

A recent work, hastily sketched in colored pencil, appeared on my desk. It was not sunshine and roses, but a charming little phantom.

Miss Kate, aware that I don't tend to embrace creatures from the dark side, added the reassuring title, "Not Tooo Spooky!"

According to the artist, the specter earned this distinction for two reasons:

1. His speech bubble says "hi." He's polite and welcoming.

2. He has fire coming from his rear end. Apparently this, too, lends a certain charm to ghosts. (I had no idea.)

So if you're ever approached by a phantom who greets you with a chipper "Hello!" and has fire issuing from his hind quarters, fear not. This ghost is not too spooky. You'll be just fine.

P.S. I am a little hesitant to hand this piece of artwork over for psychoanalysis. Let's just say this confident girl has a unique streak of creativity. Which is certainly nothing to be scared of. I hope.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

{Wedding Adventures, Part I: In Which We Leave the Country}

This weekend my sister and I packed up the girlies and joined our parents for a trip to British Columbia to celebrate the wedding of our very dear friends.

Avery was thrilled at the thought of leaving the country. She counted down the days until "Canada," quite aware that tossing around the name of a distant land held a certain, impressive distinction.

Finally, the big day arrived. With enhanced licenses, birth certificates and "permission slips" from the fathers neatly tucked into a manila folder, we crammed Dad's truck full of suitcases and every other thing a girl could possibly need for a weekend. (Including two swim suits apiece. Because you never know.)

After much cramming-of-gear and purchasing-of-mochas-and-hot-chocolates, we hit the road. It was perhaps on account of the beverage purchasing, however, that we didn't make it far before it became necessary to visit a rest stop.

And so we inched our way north.

The adults were required to speak in code for the first half of the drive. This was because we had devised a surprise detour for the girls. So when Miss Kate announced her need to use the restroom (again), we casually said that we'd be able to take the next exit in Seattle. The next exit seemed very far away to a desperate six-year-old, but Noni pulled out every distraction technique in the book, and we made it.

That next exit led us to a certain mall, which just happened to have a certain restroom, which just happened to be right across from the American Girl store. There was a substantial amount of jumping and squealing and hand clasping.

We had never been to an American Girl store. It was wonderful. I felt like a little girl again. (And I really wanted to buy myself a doll.) The girls had saved up some money, so they were delighted when I told them that they could pick out an outfit.

We looked over every inch of that store, watching the girls weigh the options (and watching Dad take his exit, choosing to not shop at the Doll Mecca). They made their selections, bright-eyed and a bit awestruck, and we hit the road again.

For dinner we met up with other wedding-bound friends at the Olive Garden. We filled the dining room with laughter and garlic, then parted with good luck wishes for the border crossing.

We were well prepared with our border crossing documents. The girls were quiet as church mice in the back seat. My sister was at the wheel, and Dad and Mom were ahead of us in their truck, paving the way.

We timidly approached the gate and handed over our documents. The man-in-the-booth did not crack a smile once. He grilled us. My sister forgot where she lived. He stared. He punched numbers into the computer. He memorized the birth certificates. He demanded the permission notes. He stared some more.

It was all very solemn.

After what seemed like ages, his gloved hand eventually extended, returning the documents, and we breathed a sigh of relief when he finally muttered, "Have a nice evening." It seemed a rather contradictory farewell, but we took it.

We pulled back into traffic, hearts fluttering, eyes wide. "We did it!" The girls nervously giggled, and we realized that we could talk normally again. No more booth man. No more birth certificates. No more practicing of "How little girls should speak when questioned by a stern guard." We had arrived in British Columbia.

That obstacle behind us, we completely relaxed and anticipated the delightful weekend that stretched out before us.

To be continued . . . .
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

{How to Mend the Little Things}

It's funny how we become accustomed to nagging little things in our lives. Take, for instance, this lamp.

See that trim? Hanging right off. For a very. long. time. I really have no idea how long I lived with it. Just sort of hanging there.

Dejected. Sloppy. Incomplete. Ignored.

It became so normal that I didn't even think about fixing it. Didn't even acknowledge that I could have it whipped back into shape in a mere five minutes.

That is, until our recent move. When the surroundings were different, I saw that lamp in a new light. (Ha.) I said to myself, "A glue gun and two minutes will have that baby restored. I can have my lamp back!"

So I grabbed the glue gun (it did help that I had it out for another project anyway), applied a ribbon of glue to the trim, and pressed it back into place.

Voila! That's all it took. And my lamp looks happy and whole once again. After far too long.

I wonder if I've let other imperfections slip into my life without giving them a second thought. They've become routine. A part of the normal backdrop.

Attitudes. Words. Habits. Thoughts.

And it doesn't occur to me to do one single thing about it.

With the lamp it took a change of scenery. Perhaps it's the same with the heart? A carved out space of quiet to move away from the normal and to really observe what's going on. To get out the glue gun and mend a thing or two.

Better yet, to hand the brokenness over to my own Creator. To lay it all bare and pray the prayer that David uttered long ago.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

The wonderful thing about handing my hurts and imperfections over to the Lord is that He doesn't just repair it. He makes it new.

New ribbon ensconced in light. Fashioned by His own hands. Now that I can definitely live with.

Beautiful Things by Gungor
Psalm 51:10
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Thursday, April 5, 2012


Giving thanks this week. For rest, for play, for family.

For cousins . . .

And curiosity . . .

For health . . .

And inspiration . . .

For sisters . . .

And sons . . .

For creativity . . .

And another year to celebrate . . .

A fourteen-year-old and the joy that he brings . . .

For the path ahead and the path behind.

For this I give thanks.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Aidan recently got it into his head that it would be most efficient to group his LEGO collection by color. I calmly smiled and said, "What a great idea, honey."

Inwardly I performed a number of gravity defying leaps and pirouettes. My child. Creating order. Hallelujah.

I quickly devised a plan to acquire some cute little, Pottery Barn-perfect canvas bins in which to store these delightfully organized bricks. In the mean time, Aidan resorted to shoving each pile into separate gallon sized zip lock bags.

It was tedious. Too tedious to wait for the perfect bin.

So when I found some serviceable little plastic bins at the dollar store, I snatched them up.

My plan morphed just a tad, and I soon envisioned his shelf lined with these substitute bins. I would alternate the bins: blue, green, blue, green. Yes. That would be so pleasing to the eye. Each bin would have a darling printed label naming the LEGO color contained within. It would be a thing of beauty. My heart skipped a beat just thinking about it.

When I brought the bins home, however, it became quite clear that Aidan had a plan of his own. No sooner had I deposited the bins in his room than he began to dump the contents of each LEGO bag. Much to my horror, he also grabbed a green Sharpie and started labeling those bins. On his own.

Without the cute little labels I had envisioned.

I mourned for a period. It took every ounce of willpower in my possession to let this child create his own order and to smile over the work that he was so proud of. And to watch that green Sharpie desecrate the surface of the tidy bins. Which were not placed in alternate order by color, but grouped by color.

The nerve.

Of course, I could have said, "Aidan, this is how we will arrange your LEGOs." And that would have been the end of it. But I knew that this would also have been the end of his contribution to the order. And I truly wanted it to be his work, his order. His growth.

So I stepped back, bit my lip, and witnessed the continued attacks of the green Sharpie.

Later that afternoon, when I returned to see the completed project, I was more than thankful that I had let go. I was given a window into his world through which I could see what "order" means to him.

It was clever the way his labels ran on like a sentence, each color or description followed by a comma as though the bins were all attached to one another like box cars on a train. The final bin was labeled with a description of its contents followed by a squiggly little period:

Oh, this child. To think that I would to force my own order into his world.

Sometimes our plans for order are good. And sometimes letting those little ones around us make their own order is even better. It's all a part of growing up. Especially when Mama acknowledges that they really are big enough to wield a permanent green Sharpie.
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