Wednesday, October 24, 2012

when blood is thicker

Monday the boys clammered into the van after Read Right Run practice.  "Mom," Meiners whined.  "Today T made me be buddies with him and I wanted to be buddies with my friend."

I paused to inhale a big breath.  My Wednesday small group ladies have been devouring Lysa Terkeurst's book Unglued, and this could definitely become one of those destructive meltdown mommy moments if I wasn't careful.  First of all, that whole whining thing?  It immediately shoves me angrily plummeting over the rocky ledge.  But loyalty to family is a trait we constantly impress upon our children and here was my son bucking that concept.  Boldly.

"Son," I exhaled.  "I don't care what friend or what girl is on whatever team or space you are in from here to eternity."  I began.  "When your brother asks you to help him by buddying up, you buddy up.  Period. The end."

I don't suppose this concept flies everyone's kite out in the world, but that is how this family rolls. 

Two hours later, I sat in the van in the driveway of T's violin teacher with the two little kids.  The radio played; the rain poured; I may or may not have taken a nap.  Apparently, the lights of the van were left on.  When I turned the key in the ignition to take us all home, there was a *click click click.*   And then there was nothing.

My brother- and sister-in-law live just around the corner from violin lessons.  We live a long way from there.  I called my sister-in-law and, within a few minutes, her husband was on his way to save us from our cul-de-sac nightmare.

Later, as we drove home, my boys marveled at how blood really is thicker than water.

Thanks, Uncle Michael, for saving the day ~ and for giving your nephews a nice little object lesson.  You're a family hero!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

my life by iPhone

I have 607 photos on my iPhone.  I know this because tonight I went to upload a few photos to share here as a ~ sort of ~ monthly memoir, and as I pushed the buttons to transfer the photos from one device to the other, the number 607 popped up.

Why on earth would anyone have 607 photos on her phone?  It's not like I use my phone's storage to share photos of my kids with strangers I'm just meeting or anything techno-savvy like that.  I enjoy a nice perusing once in a while that jogs memories of that lunch at Bread Co with Sara or the 16 funny faces Pooks took of herself at the pumpkin patch Saturday, but 607 random photos on an iPhone seems extreme.

That's why I'm uploading 607 photos to my laptop tonight.  Apparently, storing them on a laptop carved out specifically for only my eyes seems like a much more legitimate location to store 607 random photos of my life.

I hope it's not a mistake.

A rare one with me and my pooks.  Love that girl.

A favorite Bread Co moment with Sashi and her Daddy

Oh my gosh - isn't she so cute??  At Rocky Mountain National Park.

On a scavenger hunt in Chicago during family mission trip.  "Hug an employee."  Check.

On a date with my sweet boy.  After Pi?  Cupcakes Baby!

Really there are no words.  He is an original.  At pick up at heart camp.

Oooooooh!  Flying across the northern coast of south america!

Me and my baby daddy before his company Christmas party.  Quite a night.

Hahaha!  The day after Meiners took a hit to the face in basketball. 
He refused to go to school, so we went to the zoo.
Don't tell anyone.

My last morning in Lima before my private tour guide arrived.

Gorgeous sunset at Parents vs. Teachers football game.

What mom is doing at every school event through the eyes of Pooks.
PTO Photographer

Meeting my lil niece for the first time last summer.

First pair of earrings I made for Monarch.
I wear them constantly.

Pretty impressive mother-daughter pancake duo,
if I do say so myself.

Wow.  Such a great shot at the zoo!  Love this guy.
Who's watching who at the St. Louis Zoo?

Trying to snap a photo of Meiners with his pets for his
All About Me page in scouts.

Fashion Documentary
Some days are better than others.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

So ~ What about Compassion??

I have to tell you about Compassion International.  I firmly believe it is imperative that you understand what Compassion is doing for the children in Peru ~ and around the world, I am sure, but I can speak from experience about Peru!

First, I went on this trip with a misguided sense of what Compassion does.  I've read blogs and followed Compassion-sponsored trips for a few years, yet I envisioned a school with a giant billboard, arrow pointing down at some sort of pale colored building, reading "Compassion School!"  Of course, this makes little sense, as much mission work is frowned upon in Peru (as in many other countries, as well).  So, it took some time to process the realities of what we were going to see and then what we did see.

Compassion is not a school ~ in the sense that children attend public and private schools for their readin', writin', and 'rithmetic, if you catch my drift.  No, Compassion partners with the local church, and focuses on four needs: spiritual, economic, social and physical.  At the project we visited, these areas are addressed in before or after school programs.

*screeeeeeeeeeech!*  (brakes, friends.  Puttin' 'em on for a lil demo-demo...)

This is my Nicole:

Oh my goodness isn't she adorable?  Look at that smile!!!  *I miss you sweet baby!*

Monday, Nicole and I sat for two hours doing this:

For two hours!  We sat and played with these little blocks - I can't think what they're called --- but they are very similar to blocks that we use in the US during intelligence testing.  For two hours I asked her about animals and colors and numbers, and home.  I discovered my spanish is just good enough to communicate with a 6 year-old ;)!  Three times adults came by and told me in perfectly fluent spanish (!!!) about Nicole's life.  I found a translator, and this is what I heard about this sweet angel baby:
Today Nicole is six. When she was three, she was a very hyperactive child. She was so uncontrollable her mother locked her in her room all day because she was not able to control her. Nicole would scream and cry and bang on the windows in her efforts to escape the room. The neighbors called the church and asked them to intervene. She began attending Compassion classes. But she would escape her classrooms and climb the walls of the church. The pastor was afraid for her safety. He asked the psychologist who works weekly with some of the Compassion kids to work with her. Meanwhile, the Compassion folks helped her father find a steady job. Now three years later, she sits, plays, and is super, super intelligent. Pastor Jose described her as, “intelligentissimo!” VERY smart!
Seriously ~ wow, right?  What would have come of this amazing human being if not for God's grace through Compassion??  Here's more.  Nicole clung to this petite tangerine.  Here's a pic of another little girl holding tight to a similar piece of fruit way past lunchtime:

Nicole hid her tangerine in her lap, behind her back, one time it sort of rolled away and she crawled across the floor to retrieve it.

"Why don't you eat your fruit?" I asked her.
"I save it for home," she answered.

Like a stab to the heart.  Here's what Compassion feeds these kids while they are at the project:

That is a huge plate of food.  Made from scratch, friends.  Compassion has strict nutrition guidelines the cooks have to follow ~ no pre-fab chicken nuggets or any ketchup considered to be a fruit in those kitchens!   The children receive a meal like this three times per week through Compassion ~ every day they attend.

Here's another - oh man my mouth is watering!

Look at these adorable ladies who cook for the kids every day ~ aren't they super?!

With our two crazy gringa friends ~ they sure had a good time together that day in the kitchen!  I loved watching them interact ...

But back to my story.  Why did Nicole save her fruit for home?  Because this may well have been her kitchen:

It was 10 year-old Melanie's.  And I can tell you there may be days when a tangerine from Compassion is all there is to eat in that place where Momma struggles to work for a few coins each day and five mouths to feed.

But there's MORE!  MORE FOOD!  MORE that Compassion does for these kids!

So I've told you how they feed these sweet children and teach them about Jesus and provide counselors and psychologists and even developmental screenings and medicines.  But also?  Also?  They help kids learn skills that will help them get jobs that will help them break the cycle of poverty.

This is a cooking class at Compassion:

And that food tasted sooooooooo amazingly good!

I had to fight them off like wolves I tell you...

Oooooh yeah.  You gotta know I loved that heavenly morsel to post that awful picture!  Aaaack.

Classes.  To teach the children job skills.  Classes in cooking, sewing, other trades.  A future.  A future that breaks the cycle of poverty.

That's what Compassion is doing in Peru.  That's what Compassion is doing around the world.  That's what God is doing through Compassion around the world.

And you wanna know how much it costs?  Seven icee mochas a month.  Yeah ~ I went there.  Pretty convicting.  $38 per month.

Here's where you need to go now.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"How Was Your Trip?!"

She smiles at me from across the hall, 28 shiny faced kindergardners in tow.  She asks across the table over doughnuts at church and on the phone and in a text. 

The question is posed by people I love the most in my life.  Their genuine desire to hear my answer ~ unquestionable, to be sure; but how do I answer it ~ enough ~ when our expected interaction in the halls of school or the doughnut line at church or in that text message is a moment and I just need a lifetime?  How do I answer so that they will see my words not as my mouth forms them but as my heart cries out?

I don't have an adequate answer to their question.  I don't know how to answer any of them the way my brain says I should.  My words seem cold and flat against a warm fiery ember that burns and has always burned but snatches at the wind and catches a spark and feeds a flame.  I went to Peru to find a little girl named Keila.  I went to Peru and found Nicole and Natalia and JammiLuz and Diana and God ~ and then ~ Me.  And I can't wait to go back.  Right now - Today.

My prayer is that over time, words will come fast and God will fill in the blanks, but for today my words are broken and inadequate.  And I am not going back ~ Yet.  I am here in my comfortable home on this fluffy friese and the two inch pad and just wondering at the wonder of it all.  How God can be so big there where their needs are so great and yet here we make Him seem so small.  Yet He is Him.  The great I Am.  He doesn't need us to make Him big or small or anything at all.  He just is.  Why is that?  Why is it that we cling to Him as the plane crashes yet we turn away when the captain turns off the saftey belt sign?

Crazy.  It's a crazy upside down world where I have a heart full of love for my four babies here at home yet I have to fly to Peru to feel my heart swell big enough to fit them all inside.  That's what God did to me on this trip.  He tipped my world upside down and inflated my heart so that I could see His children are my children.

I am startled by the magnitude of His love for us, startled by the love He gave me for my four children here and all the beautiful little ones we met along our paths in Peru.  I am irrationally jarred by His grace and love.  I am so grateful for such a time as this, a time to reflect and narrate and think upon His blessings.

And I answer her.  I answer her with a tear in the corner of this eye and a smile that radiates through both: I am changed.

"How was your trip?" she asks.

"He changed me," I answer.  "And I can never be the same."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer's End: Peru

My prayer this evening is to write for Him.  So often I have evaluated and reavaluated blogging and motivations and time and inspiration.  Tonight, I lay on my fluffy friese carpet with the two inch pad and I desparately want to say something meaningful on my blog, and the best I can bring to word is: Him.

I sat with four young girls today and explained away the gifts their sponsored child sent them through me.  I arrived home just yesterday ~ literally 24 hours ago at this writing.  With delays in Lima and further delays in Miami, the coming home was challenge, yet full of time that I seem to lack here in the every day.

"It's like The Little Drummer Boy," I explained as we gazed at a styrofoam plate shaped and colored to look like a swan, at crepe paper twisted and sculpted into heart shapes, and at foam shapes pasted meticulously into fish and hippo faces.  The little girl who lives on the other side of the world from my daughter and her friends sent what she had to give ~ no gift fit for a king or for what I may have deemed right for these American princesses, yet she gave her best for them, and they ogled and giggled and loved every item, passing each piece around and deliberately choosing which one to keep.  They still get it better than I do.

I am reminded time and again that God smiles at me when I simply do my best for Him. Sometimes that's writing about my messes.  Sometimes that's writing about the babies He gave me.  And sometimes, it's writing about Peru and life and change.

For Keila in Peru and four young girls here at home, it simply meant a backpack of school supplies and a styrofoam plate.  Isn't that beautiful? 

I took 2,500 photos last week.  I promise I won't share them all.  But my goal before my trip to Peru  was to write and photograph all that I saw and did while there.  To care for people and to make a connection.  I wanted to learn what Compassion is doing in Peru.

My voice has been quiet on this blog.  As time sped away and I spent summer moments with my children, my words were absent.  This week, my prayer is that I can suggest to you through my words the powerful impact that is occuring in Peru through the Christ-centered Compassion organization.  I pray to get my voice back to write ~ with time and with inspiration.  I pray that you will be inspired to seek God's will in your life.  Maybe sometimes it is true to "Never mind searching for who you are.  Search for the person you aspire to be."   ~Robert Brault~  

Or better: Ask who He wants you to be.  And be ready to listen!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

meiners hearts

Yesterday it rained.  I sent the boys out to cover the sand box in case more rain came.  Meiners flew back in the house and deposited a plant in my hand. 

"Here," he said casually before racing back out the screen door.

I looked down at my hand.  There lay a stem with three pristinely shaped heart leaves hanging breezily from its end.  I sucked a breath in and let myself smile slightly. 


My all American rascally athletic rugrat who throws his arm tightly around my neck and draws me in for a morning kiss but chases out the van door with a thoughtless wave backwards in the school yard.  So intent to find beauty in his surroundings and to share it with his mom, yet careful not to stick around long enough to be thought sweet or nostalgic.

Meiners Heart.


Monday, June 11, 2012

SOMEone turned FIVE this weekend!

A little bit of cuteness celebrated a milestone birthday Sunday!  I remember my fifth birthday!  I wonder if she will remember hers...

The night before her birthday, I waited and waited for Sashi to finally fall asleep so I could dec out her room in the style the kids have become accustomed!  Two of the sibs were still awake and helped blow up and distribute the balloons!  I sure appreciated the help!

I left the doorway unfettered since the last time I paper~taped one shut Mr. T busted through it instead of the intended recipient (Meiners!)!  I also didn't want little Sashi to get scared or have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and have no way out of her room!  Taping the doorway shut may be an older kid fun-omena!  Taping up the bed with a distinct escape route was top notch for this five year-old!

Sash insisted we not do Bread Co in spite of our long-standing Sunday morning ritual.  She wanted pancakes.  What Momma could say no to that face?  Pancakes for a princess indeed!  And they always get their number, so I of course had to oblige!

Saturday Dad and the boys built this stellar playhouse ~ so that was the primary entertainment while Sashi waited for her cake I mean party! 

I've wanted one of these for the kids for a decade! How cool would it be to be little again and have this house in the backyard for hours upon hours of imaginative play?! Three of them played all afternoon in there, taking orders and answering phone calls!   Loved it!

Between playing and cleaning up for the family party, the kids decorated Sashi's birthday cake.  She wanted a cake with her face on it.  My friend Christi made a stellar RAINBOW cake last week for her daughter, so when I suggested this one to Sash, she was all smiles, and a birthday cake concept was born!

Oh man ~ I may complain about the details along the way (and I use the term 'concept cake' loosely!  Rosie sure makes it look easy on her blog!), but I loved the anticipation of eating this fun cake!  I have a few lessons to learn about fondant, but when you're five, do you really care if your cake has extra cracks and pleats?  Wouldn't Fancy Nancy just call that "unique enhancements?"  I think absolutely.  :)

Everyone had a chance to put something meaningful on the cake!  From her love of flowers and all things watering them, to her desired 'face picture' alongside maybe even a few of those siblings' favorte things...Using the edible markers was a challenge, but we got the hang of it, and I really love how it turned out!  Wrinkles in fondant and all!

Sunday was a busy and fun-filled day for our five year-old super star!  Here are five of the top reasons why I truly think she is a super star!

1.  She is very responsible.  (It may not be fair to say the most responsible sibling, but it's true and life isn't fair!)  When you tell Sashi to do something, you can turn around, and she'll have it done!

2.  She is a hard worker!  This goes with number one, but not only that, she said yesterday, "I love to work hard Dad" and that is Truth.  She desires to vacuum like the big kids.  I vote we let her!

3.  She colors constantly and has a great eye for putting colors together in unexpected ways that turn out beautifully!  She loves to color with me, too!  (Except my color combinations are not as fun as hers!)

4.  She has a sweet tooth that just won't end, but she'll eat any combo of fruit, vegetable, or other to get her hands on a piece of the sweet stuff!  She's one of my best eaters!  (As long as I don't let her snack all day!)

5.  She is just the most adorable, squeezy, sweet, little cuddler and baby girl around and I love her to pieces!

Love you Sashi~girl!  To the moon and beyond!  Can't believe you're five!  I'm so proud to continue to watch you grow and mature and develop while being your momma!  God's got the greatest of plans for you! 

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!  And yes, you'll always be my baby!
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