From California To Christmas Like Crazy…and More Crazy

This could also be known as “the post with 32 pictures,” but it seems the best way to recount many of the things that have been happening around here since October.  If you haven’t noticed, I just love to archive everything, so this post is more for me than you! (But, OH the things that this mom and pastor’s wife just can not blog about, so I’m sure you realize that this is the fairly sanitized version of life! When I die, you can read my journals and get the real story ~ ha!) 
 I also just enjoy keeping connected with you guys by sharing what’s up around here, so thanks for indulging me in my love for show and tell.
So now here is my attempt to recount the major events of the last four months:
Kayla and I went to California in October!  It was wonderful.  We planned it early in the summer knowing that our new little nephew and cousin would be born in September.

We spent nearly a week doing this…snuggling, cuddling, bouncing, cooing, and marveling at the cuteness of little Uriah, and trying to help his incredible mommy, Rachel.

But we also snuck in a couple of hours of this:

I texted this photo to Robert in order to make him jealous of our warmth and sunshine.  It was about 90 degrees in Palm Springs, and about half that back in Massachusetts. Ahhhhhhh…..Vitamin D, how I love thee!
We also got a nice tour of Uncle Stu’s swanky country club golf course over which he is the superintendent.  It is absolutely beautiful, and he does an incredible job with the landscaping. We also got a tour of the new Bocci Ball courts (all the rave this year!) and the immaculate garage filled with state-of-the-art mowers that have very sharp blades.

Here’s a pic of my bro and his family now.  Aren’t they the cutest things you’ve ever seen?
Another reason we went to California was to surprise one of Kayla’s best friends who recently moved there.  Now California is a VERY big place, but happily, Jayden’s family moved to a town only about 45 minutes from my brother in Palm Springs.
Somehow, we managed to pull off the surprise, but it entailed us telling NO ONE about our plans… well, except for Jayden’s mom, my friend, Rachel (not to be confused with my sister-in-law of the same name)!  And since it remained a surprise, we wrapped Kayla up in a large box and stationed her on Jayden’s doorstep…

 We rang the doorbell, and I ran and hid behind the cars in the driveway. Jayden came to the door and was sort of stunned, not knowing what to do with the box.  Finally, Kayla popped out, and Jayden calmly said…”Oh, hi! How are you?”  It was hilarious.

 And then Rachel took us all to San Diego’s Safari Park ~ not to be confused with the San Diego Zoo. It was so much fun, and meant that we got to spend precious time with Jayden’s newly adopted brothers from Ethiopia.  Truly a privilege.

Such a fun trip for us!

Back home, we hit the ground running….literally in some cases:

Cooper had his best cross country season yet.  We went to most of his meets and watched his times get better and better.  He views it as conditioning for basketball only, but still.
Then we ran to Texas for a quick weekend. We didn’t really run, but it sort of felt like that.  We got to spend a bit of time with Kory at Baylor and meet lots of his friends and take him shopping at Target, and since his baseball game (which we planned to be there for!) kept getting postponed and eventually canceled, we took him with us to Austin for the weekend and let him lay on the couch watching football with my dad.  It was his fall break, and I think he enjoyed getting out of town for a while.
We took him and my sister, Melinda, to see the Congress Ave. Bridge bats one evening.

 And the next evening was spent at my 25th high school reunion, which I already told you about, so I won’t go into detail.  It was really wonderful to catch up with some special old friends.

I went to my friend, Izckra’s, citizenship ceremony, and was unprepared for the emotional time it would be. 800 people became citizens there that day, and the judge’s speech was incredible.  He also read off every country represented in alphabetical order.  It took quite some time, and there was clapping from those who represented each country when theirs was announced. So beautiful, and I’m so proud of this lady.  She is one of the most courageous, persevering women I know.

We fully indulged in the college football season this fall, especially since Baylor had a historical season and went on to win the Big 12 championship. Never in my life have I cared much, but somehow, having a son off to a school with an exciting team fully converted me into a Baylor Bear fan.  We all wore “blackout” shirts for the OU game…

…but maybe we should have saved them for the OSU game, because it was the only one we lost.  Overconfidence got the best of us, but Kory was still able to enjoy the weekend due to a little reunion with our dear friends, the Meffords. He and their oldest daughter sort of grew up together for at least a few years before we moved from Oklahoma to Massachusetts.

And now they are both freshmen in college! Whoa. Can hardly believe how fast the time goes, and it is just so much fun to watch these kids grow up. Kory and a friend from Baylor spent the weekend with the Meffords and went to the Baylor game at OSU all together.  The game was quite a disappointment for the Baylor boys, but the weekend was wonderful due to the love and generosity of the Mefford family. And I loved getting text messages from Brent and Tamyra all weekend updating me on how they were doing and complimenting Kory on the wonderful young man he’s become.  Always good to hear.

Robert and I went away to Cape Cod for one very chilly weekend and stayed with dear friends who live about a block from this beautiful beach.  I don’t know if you can tell, but those frothy waves washed up on the sand are FROZEN.

It was SO COLD, but that didn’t stop us from a long stroll on the beach.  At least is was sunny, but it was so windy and so we spent some time hovered against a rock ridge on the beach and just watching the wind and waves.

And then it was Thanksgiving, and the house was full of people…from toddlers to teenagers to college students to grown-ups.  We all love to have a houseful on Thanksgiving. Kory spent Thanksgiving with dear long-time friends of ours in TX and got to see his first football game at UT in Memorial Stadium.

The day after, we went to our favorite Christmas tree farm…

…and FINALLY found the perfect tree after much deliberation and defending of our individual choices and finding the most perfect ones already tagged, of course. Kama spent the day with us, helping to decorate, asking theological questions all day, and watching our favorite Christmas movie that evening ~ Elf.

We spent every Tuesday at Classical Conversations where I am teaching Cooper’s Challenge II class this year. I totally enjoy the students in my class ~ they are so delightful and intelligent and witty, but sometimes the subject matter is a stretch for me… Algebra II and Logic especially.

But I really enjoy Art History and British Literature!

Christmas arrived and so did my dad from Texas!  I was so glad he gave in to my pleas to spend Christmas with us, because it was really fun to have him with us.  He went to the gym with us, ate breakfast at Whole Foods with us afterwards, played two on two basketball with my boys, took us to movies and enjoyed dinners out and movies in and out.
These two won the first round.  Robert and Kory won the next round, and now Robert is in physical therapy due to throwing his back out while trying to protect his pride.  Pray for him!
There was a science fair, and I don’t think I have to tell you the amount of prep that takes.  Yikes.  Somehow, Kayla and I found ourselves making Jell-O at midnight before the last day of Classical Conversations, so she could have enough test subjects.  The science fair happened to be the same day I needed to get Kory to Boston to catch his flight back to Baylor and that Cooper had a basketball game in the afternoon and a friend to pick up on the way home.  Don’t tell anyone, but I drove about 85 mph through the pouring rain in order to pull this day off.  It was dumb, and unsafe, and unwise, but I caved to the demands of the day and my kids.

And now we’re skiing all day on Mondays in Vermont, because it’s just not okay to pass up skiing at a beautiful mountain and resort for $16 a day.  The program only lasts 6-8 weeks, so we’re packing one more thing into the week for now, but what fun!  Here’s a ski lift selfie which we texted to Robert while he was in Texas on a preaching/fundraising tour:

It’s also currently basketball season, and we’re enjoying watching Cooper give his all to his passion.  He loves everything about basketball, and we love watching him improve his game and contribute to his team like never before.
And I’m back to teaching after a nice long Christmas break.  This semester involves a dissection nearly EVERY WEEK for biology. Ugh. I think I already mentioned my love for Art History and British literature, and I’m pretty sure that equals NOT loving biology and dissections. But I ordered all my specimens (frogs, earthworms, perch, crayfish, and fetal pigs) and I’m delving in for the sake of these great kids.  The earthworm dissection was just this Tuesday, and I survived. I also survived cleaning all of the dissection tools and trays yesterday here at home.
I received this book in the mail this week ~ anonymously. I have to admit that I felt a bit ashamed in opening it.  I realized I must be complaining about the pace of life and my inability to thrive and stay positive and joyful when things seem so out of control.  But I’ve read more than half of it so far, and it is WONDERFUL.  I am finding so much encouragement and practical wisdom from this pastor who is ME in male form. It is a relief to me to discover that I am not the only one who struggles with performance based acceptance and pride and lack of trust and the tendency to think everything is up to me.
So, if YOU are the anonymous book-sender, then THANK YOU.  It has been a huge encouragement already in 75 pages, and it’s funny, too, which helps lighten my heart and the seeming seriousness of the situation.
Okay, there are probably a million typos here and a million things I left out, but it will have to do for now, because the day calls, and a friend is on her way over, and there are algebra problems to help with a logic truth tables to decipher!
But I hope to return soon, because sharing all of this with you is also an encouragement and helps me to see what an absolutely full and blessed life the Lord has given, despite the struggles and the things I can’t blog about!
Thank you!  Have a wonderful Thursday!

Twas The Night Before My Birthday…

Twas the night before my birthday, and all through my abode
Lots of teenagers stirred, friends new and old
The dishes were washed, dried, returned to their places
In hopes that tomorrow would be easy, slow-paced
The electric blanket turned on, the bathwater running
A magazine and epsom salts awaited for soaking
Kayla in her flannel pjs, and me in Smart Wool
Trying to stay warm in weather much, much too cool
When up on the wall, in peripheral view
My calendar loomed scary with activities anew
Check-ups, play practice, lots of chauffeuring
Gymnastics, basketball, grocery procuring
The moon on the breast of the iced-over snow
Revealed work to be done, obligations to uphold
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
but my burgundy Bible and journal so dear
And a short, little book, so intriguing, so bold
I knew in a moment, Daniel had truths to uphold.
In unmistakable clarity a theme was revealed
“There is a God in heaven.” Simple, unconcealed.
Now, Worry! and Anxiety! now Stress and Fatigue!
On Discouragement! On Despair! on Pain and Frailty!
To the Old Rugged Cross! To Christ’s Calvary!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away, flee!
And as leaves that before the wild winter winds fly
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
So to the foot of the Cross, the darkness it flew
With the burdens of grief and tragedy, too
And then in an instant, as I kept on reading
Heroes of faith I just kept on meeting
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, of course
Refusing to bow, not fearing recourse
They were dressed in belief though of outcomes unsure
Cast into the furnace, hearts and minds pure
And the bonds with which they were angrily tied
Were loosed by a fourth man mysteriously arrived
His eyes – how they loved! His protection, how near!
His arms were so strong, His sovereignty so clear!
His glory brought even King Neb to his knees
Declaring His might, instituting new decrees
“How great are His signs! How mighty His wonders!”
Yes, this is the truth I must line up under
He has power, control, and a purposeful path
That sustains through the furnace and worldly wrath
He promises no freedom from the affects of sin
Except be it in found in salvation, be it known in Him
He spoke, it is written, His statutes, my songs
When life feels so hard, when things seem so wrong
His every word, breathed straight to my heart
Hope He teaches, right perspective He imparts
My calendar still swirls fast and furiously
I still look at life much too seriously
But He springs to my side, loosing bonds, taming fires
Assuring me that circumstances aren’t quite so dire
So in the warm bath I sat and breathed deep
Praying that my mind, His promises would keep
And while laying my head down at half past eleven
Came Daniel’s refrain, “There is a God in heaven!”

Apologies for the sporadic blogging to the ten of you who love me enough to keep checking in. I’m not sure how I ever found the time to read, let alone WRITE a blog!  Yes, the calendar is swirling, and never in my life have I felt like I had no control over my schedule like I do now.  Every day seems dictated for me with not a moment for much else but what is necessarily on the agenda that day.  When did I ever cook before?  When did I clean my house?  I have no idea! Blog? Ha! 

Though Robert is out of town for 12 days ~ in TX and OK ~ preaching, reporting, fundraising ~ I did have a great birthday!  It started with time on the treadmill and circuit weights at Planet Fitness.  The kids had breakfast made and gifts on the table when I got out of the shower. Next, I had to take Kayla to her 13 year well-check at the pediatrician ~ complete with immunizations that I’ve delayed for years. (She only got one of the 5 they wanted to give ~ no flu or Gardisil for us!) But we sweetened the deal with manicures and pedicures afterward and lunch at our favorite gluten free burger joint. Then we came home and made a paleo, raw, vegan cheesecake, which sounds horrific, I know, but is really one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth! We took it over to my friend Betsy’s house to eat for dessert after the birthday dinner she made for me.  Played Wits and Wagers and Up and Down the River (interesting version of Spades), and finally got home around 10pm after I made Cooper drive me to CVS to get MORE epsom salts, because yes, God heals and strengthens me through His Word on a daily basis, but He also gave us epsom salt (magnesium) and Vitamin D to help us get through the dark and dreary ~ and ARCTIC, FRIGID, INSANELY COLD (this year) New England winters!

Thanks for loving me and wondering if I’m ok when I don’t blog and for the sweet, sweet birthday wishes I received from so many of you.  (Facebook makes you feel extra important and special on your birthday!)

Life feels like a perpetual furnace sometimes, but there is a God in heaven!