Monday, August 30

Do. Fun. Stuff.

As a concerned mom and a conscientious member of the human race, I try to teach my children to do good stuff, and I try to show them how to do fun stuff.

Pacing the Panic Room is one of my favorite blogs. I can't remember how I found it, but Ryan and his family (and his words, photos and videos) have captured my heart. He has a short guy in his life named Littlest Buddy who has a rare genetic disorder. Ryan wanted to do a good thing, so he created an album, with 100% of the proceeds going to research and case studies to try and learn more about LB's disorder. Ryan also likes to do fun stuff, so the album is chock-full of supposedly kid songs, though I might love the music a smidge more than my children do.

There are hundreds, thousands, of causes that are more than worthy of your time, attention, and money. You won't find me pimping many causes here on the blog. (Except, of course, my most beloved Heifer International and Habitat for Humanity. But those are other posts.)
But, I'm pimping supporting this cause today.


Please, take time to read about LB and Ryan and their supercute family, take time to check out the album, Do Fun Stuff, Vol.1 on iTunes, and if you're so inclined, blog, tweet, or write on someone's facebook wall about the Littlest Buddy and the very cool album.

Because it's not enough just to do good stuff. You have to do fun stuff, too.












Also? There's a song called Ladybug. And the album was released on my Ladybug's birthday. I'm just sayin'.






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Wednesday, August 25

a letter to Sawyer

I'm just like Ruth when it comes to my husband's family. His people are my people. I rarely refer to any of them as my "in-laws" because they are simply... my family.

My husband's cousin is pregnant with a boy named Sawyer. She and her husband (along with the rest of the clan) expect to meet little Sawyer in November.
This week my cousin (whom my children call "Aunt" Shanna) and her husband received would-be devastating news about Sawyer. I say "would-be" because, although it is heartbreaking, they have hope and they have faith in their Creator, in the Author and Perfecter of our lives.
God has called them to be a family set apart.

Jeremy (the other Jeremy, my cousin's husband) wrote a letter to his son, and I asked permission to share it.
(get your Kleenex out now. for real.)




Letter to my boy

Found out some news today that brought out anger I didn't know I had. Instantly, my body was separate from my mind and what I was hearing wasn't real. It was as if I were watching some TV show about another family. This certainly wasn't happening to my family, with all that we've already been through. Surely the merciful God that we serve wouldn't allow THIS too for our already fragile hearts. Today I found out that our worst fears weren't even close. We thought you might have hydrocephalus...and you do..but you also have spina bifida. You most likely won't be able to walk. My heart hurts so much, not for me or for your mom, but for you. I already love you so much and I want to do everything in my power to protect you, but how can I change cell division? If I can think of it, I can build it. If it's broken, I can fix it. Here I am, with God given talent in my hands that even I don't understand...and I am helpless. Thoughts of all the things you'll miss out on rush around like a whirlwind. You won't be able to do this, you won't be able to do that....we'll have to make changes to the house for your wheelchair...the financial strain we're already feeling with intensify immensely. How are your brother and sister going to react? They've already had to deal with the devastation of a miscarriage, now this?


Selfishly, I think "How can this be? With so many terrible moms having healthy babies...so many kids spitting them out and throwing them away...women killing perfect babies. How can we be a good, loving family and pray so earnestly for healing, only to not have our prayers answered, but for your condition to be worse?" How can this be? How can a loving God, blatantly ignore our pleas for healing? It was then, after the crying, the anger, this confusion..it was then that I heard God more clearly than I ever had. He might as well have been sitting next to me. I heard him say, "I love you. I love your family. I love Sawyer. Who better to love and take care of him than your family? I know your wife...Sawyer's mom, better than she knows herself and I promise...she's the one. I gave her patience and a deep love for children for a reason. You're the one. I gave you a servant's heart because he'll need you so much. Sawyer will live to do amazing things for me, but to do so, I need your help. I need Shanna to be his mom. I gave Ethan a loving heart.....to be his brother. I gave Mackenzie a sure foot and strong will to be his big sister. You to be his dad...Shanna to be his mom. I have brought your family through pain and heartache. Through troubles, trials, misfortune, death and life to bring you to this point. Now, and only now..will you be ready to be his family. Why you? Why not you?"

Sawyer, your mom has incredible patience. She loves children in ways only God can understand. Your mom was created to love you. She was given her gifts for you, your brother and sister...me.

Buddy, we have a long road ahead. I'll be with you every step of the way. There will be times when I'll be ahead of you, clearing the path...but you'll see me. Every stumble our family has been across was to prepare us for this moment. Now, you'll prepare us for His work. If God chooses to heal you, I'll be the first in the streets dancing...but if He chooses not to, we'll all be there and dance when you can't.




I got to spend some time rubbing my cousin's belly this weekend, and talking to my baby cousin/nephew. He kicked at me, he rolled under my hand. I told him how much I love him and how excited we are to meet him. I whispered gratitude from my heart to his, telling him how thankful I am to get to be his cousin/aunt. With my palms over her ever-increasing tummy, I promised Shanna I would not stop praying for her, for her family, for Sawyer.

We will certainly dance for him.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Monday, August 23

four

Four years ago yesterday, the barometric pressure dropped and nine women went into labor almost simultaneously. I wasn't one of them.
Having previously been through a 54 hour labor at six days overdue, I was not keen on doing it again. My ob/gyn is a big fan of inducing labor, and we'd planned to meet my new baby girl on August 22nd. As is the case almost 100% of the time, God laughed at my plan, and told me to wait. Be patient. Enjoy the last day. Sleep to the sounds of a late summer rainstorm.
My doc told me to call and check the next morning to see if we could try again.

On Wednesday, August 23, 2006 I was the only woman in town still waiting to deliver. A few short hours after the first dose of pitocin, a quick while after that blessed needle in the back, my Ladybug arrived... right on schedule.





A few months ago, a catalog featuring birthday party supplies came in the mail. My Ladybug thought it was for her, when really, I think it was sent in time for her brother's May birthday. In any case, she thumbed through, looking for a perfect theme.
Me: "Ooh, look! Fancy Nancy!"
She: "I like her, but I do not love her."
Me: mumbling "That's shocking."
She: "What?"
Me: "Nothing. Oh, hey, here's ladybug stuff."
She: "I will find another thing to have."
Me: "Hello Kitty?"
She: "It is not my favorite."
moments later...
She: "PINK PIRATE PRINCESSES!!"
Me: "Whaaa?"
She: "I would LOVE A PINK PIRATE PRINCESS PARTY!!"

And then she didn't stop talking about A PINK PIRATE PRINCESS PARTY for months. MONTHS.

So.
She had a pink pirate princess party. More emphasis on the pirate than the princess (until she started opening gifts, at least.)

My fabulous friend Audreya's superhero alter ego is Awesome Cake Maker Lady. Being a writer, you'd think she'd have a better character name, but it's nothing if not descriptive.
So, I called Audreya, gave her a scant amount of details "The Girl. Four. Cake. Pink Pirate. GO!" and she nailed it. The cake was probably Ladybug's favorite part of the party.
I had to restrain her from hugging it. For reals.







It was a good party. One suiting even the pinkest Pink Pirate Princess in the land.




Oh yeah, you can't really tell in the pictures, but she's wearing a pink tutu over black skull-emblazoned leg warmers.

My girl? She rocks. Hard.








 



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Wednesday, August 18

The fruits of my labor

I knew I didn't suffer a 41 week pregnancy and a 54 hour labor in vain.

Finally, after six years, he's useful.


He worked hard helping his daddy paint our (nasty tacky horrible) kitchen. 


Having worked up from his previous job as the cord roller-upper,
he is now a part-time vaccuumer as well.
(I still don't know how I managed to convince him this was a privilege, not a chore.)



He humored his wild-eyed, black-thumbed mother and helped plant things.
Then they actually grew.




Yes, he is worth all of my hard work.




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Sunday, August 15

homeschoolpalooza 2010 kickoff

We officially began homeschool last week, though, unofficially we've been homeschooling since the day each of our children were born.
I am working on a post that (sorta) answers the biggest and most frequent question we are asked: Why?
But for now, we have started, and we are loving it. Granted, we're five days in... check in with me again around the 100th day.

To kick off our school year, we did a Big Fun Project. I love doing BFPs with my kids. I've done them for years. We've planted gardens, we've painted walls, we've built things.
This BFP might be one of the best so far.

I got the idea from my most favorite pre-literacy/early learning blog, The Write Start. She wrote a post about Alpha Rocks, and I knew we had to do it. When she blogged again about Spelling in the Grass, I was on my way to the store. Cheap, easy, entertaining, educational... all things I adore.



So we gathered the materials from Hobby Lobby:

3 lb. bag of white river rocks: $2.99
3 lb. bag of dark river rocks: $2.99
Rub-On alphabet letters: $2.99
Mini-grill on clearance from $19.99: $4.00
(ok, so I didn't have to buy the grill, but The Boy's been wanting to cook like his daddy does... and it was so stinkin' cute and perfect! And on sale!)



After a brief explanation, we set up shop at the kitchen table. We even got The Baby in on the action.



That girl was so happy to have a few rocks and her nesting cups. She played for over 20 minutes without a sound, except for a few pleased giggles.

It soon became clear that The Boy was better at rubbing the letters onto the rocks, and The Girl was great at mashing the letters down once they were on.



The Baby kept on at her hard work, too.

Eventually, we were done. We now have a whopping six pounds of Alpha Rocks to use for all kinds of activities.


The Boy can create entire sentences. The Girl can spell out her name and line up the alphabet. We can sort by color, size, and letter . We can count rocks, we can measure how long each word is.

We can leave messages for each other.



We can reference our blog.




I'm sure we can also peg each other in the head with our favorite letters, but luckily that hasn't happened yet.


And now... let the homeschoolpalooza 2010 begin!







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Friday, August 13

Going Barefoot!

I don't push it very much on the blog (though maybe I should), but I sell awesome products from Barefoot Books, an independent book publisher and cool toy carrier.

I'm not a good salesperson. I can't push people into something they don't want. I couldn't sell something if I didn't believe in it. But I absolutely love the Barefoot Books company and their wares.
All of their books are non-licenced (read: no Dora, no Elmo, no Mickey Mouse), original works. Barefoot supports a multi-cultural worldview, which means the kids featured in the books I read to my children aren't all pale-faced and blonde-haired mirrors of themselves. And I like it that way.
They also sell cool hand puppets, Putumayo music, as well as neat puzzles and activity how-to cards (yoga! gardening! kid chefs!).



Anyway, I adore Barefoot Books. I'm beyond excited because I'm going to have a booth during this year's Little Rock Family Education Expo at Arkansas Museum of Discovery!


Details about the Education Expo will come soon, but for now, there's a giveaway of sorts over at my Barefoot Books store.

Every order made between now and September 11th will be entered to win one free book! That's up to a $24.99 value! For free!


Just click on the link at the bottom of this post, or the permanent one at the right of the page, and start browsing.
*make sure to order from this link or the one at right, otherwise I won't know who wins the free book!


Beware: you'll fall in love with nearly everything Barefoot Books has to offer!!





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Thursday, August 12

Things I Love Thursday: the makings of a portrait

Because not one, but two people (not related to me) asked for a picture of my family yesterday.
Because we're too broke cheap to pay a professional.
Because Lee Cave at C Studio lives in Mississippi.
Because we haven't had a family photo since Easter, and before that, Christmas.
Because my best friend's husband is awesome....


We took some pictures yesterday.
arranging...


cheesing...


done with it.



There are more. Oh, there are more.






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Wednesday, August 11

bloggy beautiful

Last Saturday night the lines between blogworld and IRL became a little more fuzzy, a bit more distorted.
Kyran (friend, blogger, author, hostess extraordinaire) invited me to attend a ladies-only, burgers and booze and bloggy party: CheeseburgHer. It was an off-shoot shindig from the main one held in NYC: BlogHer '10.

A couple dozen bloggirls gathered at the top floor of a snazzy Little Rock tower to talk, to share, to encourage, to laugh, and to eat McDonald's burgers together.

Some of the women I already knew. Some I was eagerly looking forward to meeting. Some I'd never met before- online or otherwise- and my life got that much better after the introduction.

Because I'm still a baby blogger (and a little bit of a dope), I can't figure out how to get a picture from flickr to here. But, you should see the pictures. Beautiful women in beautiful attire, wearing beautiful bags on their heads. Audreya has great pics on her flickr stream. Kyran has some good McPics on hers as well. Kerri managed to steal some of Kyran's, but for the life of me I can't get it right. There is the cutest picture of my friend Sarah up on her blog, too.

Where are the pictures THIS wannabe photog took, you ask? Well. I cleared my CF card. I charged my battery. I managed to grab my camera before I flew out the door. So what's the hang-up? I realized half-way to the Rock that my battery was STILL CHARGING! So, I have one shady BlackBerry picture of the back of Natalie's head while Amy blew out the candles on her sparkle-tastrophy, superawesome cupcake concoction.



Anyway.
It was an amazing night. I got to hang out with incredible women. I stepped out of my own bubble and was greatly rewarded. There is such a neat community of central Arkansas bloggers (women, and men! Try this guy, and also this one to start you out), and it seems to be growing and changing all the time.
We were about as diverse a group as one could ever hope for. Business bloggers, "mommybloggers" (I'm really starting to hate that term), lifestyle bloggers..... Women who blog about shoes, garlic sauce, iPhones, law, puppies, books, clothes, kids, husbands.... Women who have found, or are still trying to find, a place for themselves on the world wide interwebz, and who all happen to live in the same state.

It was a beautiful thing. There were no awkward tensions, there were lots of screams. Some bloggals were anxious at first, but from what I could tell (I hope), we all settled into introductions and conversations.

I stayed up LATE. I mean, past midnight. I spent good QT with a few of my favorite new ladies, and one I've known practically since diapers.

It was late. There was humidity. We still had fun.


Did I mention we were on the roof? The ROOF of a gorgeous condo building in the middle of downtown Little Rock on a hot summer night.
Also, did I mention I had a glass of Middle Sister wine? I don't even LIKE wine, but given the company and the name, how could I not have one?
And, did I mention we got delicious smelling Arkansas-based Bath Junkie swag?


The best part of it all (aside from the staying up late with my friends bit) was that when I woke up the next morning, I had a list of lovely ladies and their blog links.

Here, for your clicking pleasure, is that list:

Kyran of Notes to Self

Katie of (NOT) Coming to a Uterus Near You

Heather of www.girlphotog.com

Cathy of Arkie Mama

Melanie of Arkansas Employment Law

Michelle of Tales From a Panama-mama

Stephanie of Evolved Mommy

LaTonya of 40s Reasons To Live, Love, & Laugh Out Loud

Susan of Rants from an Old Trout

Melissa of Gerbera Daisy Diaries

Sarah of The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Susan of My Sliver of Life

Brooke of Parenting from Scratch

Cynthia and Vicki of Stick Horse Cowgirls

Alison of Chino House

Kat of Team Hills

Hilary of Rock the Shops

Kerri of Damn You Little Rock

Amy of The Bee Dot

Pamela of A Thinking Woman
Audreyaof If You Ask Me

Natalie of The Juggling Act

Jennifer of Little Rock Family

Lindsay of Little Rock Family

Kelcie of The Huffsticklers



Some of the ones who missed out but are equally as awsome:

Jacqueline goodwolve.blogs.com/moxielife

Tobi www.tobifairley.com/blog

Liz of Mabel’s House

Tara Dennie.org

AnnaMary  www.hotinlittlerock.com

Monika of Little Rock Moms Like Me

JoBeth of BootsMcBlog.com

Lora of La Mia Vita

Kat of Tie Dye Travels

Jerusalem of JollyGoodeGal.com

Sarabeth of TheDramatic.com

Fawn Rechkemmer of Instead of the Dishes

Rebecca Buerkle of Cooking Up a Mess


And you know what, that's only a PARTIAL list of all the fantastic blogs in Arkansas. For a few more, check out Arkansas Women Bloggers. I know there must be more than two men in Arkansas who have great blogs... but, um... they don't party like the ladies do. :)





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Monday, August 9

my Ladybug

This is my Ladybug. This is her smiling-for-the-camera face. This is her gritted-teeth, no smile in the eyes, ok-fine-Mama face.




This is her real face. This is her middle-child, look-at-me-I'm-funny face. And boy howdy, is that girl funny.




But this may be the face I love the most on her (aside from her concentrating/tongue-stuck-out face). This is her open face. This is her who-I-am face. This is her I'm-watching-you-World face.

You know the old "a picture says a thousand words" bit? Well, to me, these pictures say ten thousand words. They are all written on my heart and, while some of them may eventually make their way down to my fingertips, most of what I feel for and about her is known only to me. Yes, I tell people how funny she is. Yes, I tell people she is the most pleasant child. Yes, I tell them she is a wonderful, loving, devoted sister. I even tell her. I tell her she is a blessing to me. I tell her that she is so smart. I tell her how beautiful she is, and I tell her that if all of her hair fell out and her teeth turned into marshmallows that she would still be the most beautiful girl in the world.



Tonight my Bees went to bed early and my husband did too. I wondered aloud (ok, I wondered to the twitters) if I could take time to write something for myself. There is a file on my computer that I haven't opened since June. One I think about, one I add to every day in my head, but am often too tired, too anxious, or to busy to actually type anything into.
Sure enough, mere moments after I put it out there, I hear my Ladybug sobbing. My Girl wants so badly to be brave, to have adventures, but at three-and-eleven-twelfths, sometimes she is still so very Little. Tonight she wanted to sleep, to camp out, on the floor of the play/school room. Her Bubby did it once this week, because he is fearless and because he is always looking for ways to get out of the business of sleep, and since my Ladybug adores her brother so, she wanted to try it out on her own.

She lasted all of two hours.

As soon as I heard her cry, I rushed into the room and gathered her up like she was a ragdoll. She slumped into me and threw her arms around my shoulder, her little body racked with tears. I asked her what was wrong, but I already knew her answer: "I (gulp) don't (heave) know (sob)!" Sometimes something wakes her up and she. just. doesn't. know. what.
I got her a sip of water and laid her back down on her pink pallet. I stroked her hair and face (the only thing that ever made her still as a baby was for me or her daddy to "paint" her face), and I covered her body with mine. I put weight on her and I whispered in her ear.
"You are never alone. I am with you. Jesus is in your heart. You are safe. You are wonderful. You are my sweetface girl. God is with you always. You are safe. You are not alone. You are loved."
The same sweet, calming words my mother used to whisper to me when I woke up crying for no reason at all. I comforted her until she went hiccuped her way back to sleep. I tucked her Baby under her neck. I brushed the hair out of her hot little face.


At odd and unexpected times I am hit in the chest, overcome with pure love. For my kids, for my husband, for my Lord, for my friends, for my family. When I was pregnant with The Boy and ever since, my eyes well up and overflow of their own accord. I do not give them permission to leak, but they do it anyway.

As I closed the door- leaving just her preferred two inches open- I began what can only be called "weeping." My baby girl is so Small, and yet is growing so fast. She is her very own person, no matter how much of me I try to instill in her. She is brave and kind and innocent and perfect and she is hot-tempered and easily disappointed and can scream like you wouldn't believe. I was crying over how many times I've let her down and over how many things I know I have done Right. I was missing the baby who would nurse in her sleep like a sweet dream. I was praying for the girl who will someday break my heart. But mostly I was thinking about how much I would do for her, the lengths I would go to in order to prevent her a moment's pain.

For all of her own-ness, she is still a walking image of myself. A sassy, sweet, strong, silly little girl. And when she needs to cry, I'll let her. And when she needs to be comforted, I'll hold her.



Saturday, August 7

Wha'cha Reading Good?

Title borrowed (ok, outright stolen) from a blog post by the same name from Jenny B. Jones.

It's summatime. And while we are still as busy as ever (why? why do we have things to do? it's SUMMER), some days just call for lazing around with a good book. I've read several books this summer, and only one I'd cal "meh."

Here are a few of my summer 2010 reads:

Devil in the White City, by Erik Larsen.
DitWC is this month's book pick for my new and fabulous book club, the LRTweadup. This was not a fast read, but it was incredibly engrossing. And, kinda gross at times. The name checking of people involved in the 1893 World's Fair Exposition was astounding. Edison, Tesla, Disney, and some guy who invented some big round thing, to name a few. It is dense with details at points, but I really loved it, and can't wait to hear my tweeps' thoughts about it when we discuss at our next meeting.





Second Glance, by Jodi Picoult
This is my second Picoult book, and will probably be my last. She's a good-ish writer, in my most humble opinion, but can be a little cheese-tastic with her words. I was disappointed in this book, because a little under half-way through, I had figured *most* of it out. I read her Nineteen Minutes and liked it better, but still, she's not going to top my  Most Fave list. (Also, this was a rec from my mother, who it seems has less and less of my taste in books)







 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
I absolutely loved this book. It is full of ridiculous, and Monsieur Eggers is a world-class crazyperson and a dang fine writer. Which probably accounts for why I liked it so well. It is the (mostly true) story of a boy and his brother, making life work for them after their parents died. Eggers makes no excuses for his self-deprecation, his self-exaggeration, and his self-esteem. He knows he's nuts. But he tells a good story.












Operating Instructions, by Anne Lamott
I read this when my second daughter was a few months old. Lamott is easily one of my favorite writers, but I love her more for her nonfic work than for her novels. Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies are two of my most loved books. After a tweet earlier this summer by my friend Kyran (see below) and then a conversation with my friend Sarabeth Jones, I knew I wanted to reread this treasure. It was really Sarabeth's words, ones that knocked at my heart, that made me go to my Favorite Books shelf in the living room to find the book again. She said she reacted to Anne Lamott in a very deep and connected way. Sarabeth said while reading Lamott, she read herself. She saw her own crazy there in black and white. I felt the very same way when I first read Operating Instructions. Here is a broken woman, doing her best not to break her child, and she managed to chronicle the whole thing. Now, I don't know if Sarabeth is truly crazy, or if Anne Lamott is for that matter, but this is a book that resounded and echoed through my head.




Just Between You and Me, by Jenny B. Jones
I really liked this book. Jones is a Christian Fiction writer, and she does her job skillfully. Some Christian fic books tend to be heavy on the preaching and light on any kind of plot. Jenny B. (I can call her that. We've emailed. We're totally buddies.) weaves a story about a woman holding onto everything but the Lord, and then learning how to... in essence... Let go and let God.



I also read a still-not-titled, as-yet-unpublished book by my friend Audreya. It certainly tops my "favorite prepublished works of fiction" list. Her writing is snort-out-loud-funny and warm and witty, much like her real life self. I can't say enough good things about the book she wrote and I can't wait for her to get up the guts to send it out to agents. (DO IT.)(Like, NOW.) 



I'm sure I've forgotten a few. I've actually managed to read more books than I thought I did this summer. And yet, I still have a huge TBR stack.
Here are some of the spines just waiting to be cracked; some of the pages ready to be sniffed. (Yes, I'm a book sniffer. A Kindle will never be good enough for me.)



With the exception of two, all of these are currently stacked on my desk.



I'm gonna need another summer.








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