Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Use Your Gifts

Today, I hosted a spring brunch for my Bible study.  (The spring part is ironic as snow is currently blanketing our yard.)  Pink napkins and little flower pots dressed the table.  Pastel Easter eggs filled a glass bowl in the center.  Coffee mugs lined the counter.

A few days ago, I began the preparations.  I wanted to make gifts for the ladies, little tokens of appreciation for sweet friends.  For hours, I scanned Pinterest.  The adorable images appeared effortless.  I gained a confidence in my nonexistent ability as a crafter. Surely anyone with access to a glue gun and stickers could whip up something adorable!  But, my head spun with the endless amount of choices.

I called my friend Melinda for some guidance.  Melinda makes Joanna Gaines look like an amateur.  My dear pal knows her way around a Michael's store.  I would put money on the fact she could walk blindfold through the aisles and still find her way to every item on her list.

On the phone, Melinda listened to my ramblings.  I'm sure it came across as an incoherent stream of consciousness.  Me trying to decipher the array of crafting options; Melinda taking deep breaths (I imagine).

Finally, Melinda cut into the conversation.

"Please don't take this the wrong way," she began.

That start always makes me nervous.

She continued, "Becky, do what you do best.  You are not a crafter; your gift is words."

I love a friend who can speak both truth and wisdom in the same breath.

Melinda was right.  I was trying to force a square piece in a round hole, and it wasn't working.  God didn't create my hands to hold a glue gun; my hands were made for a keyboard or a ballpoint pen.

I scraped the nonexistent craft project, and I prayed about how God really wanted me to encourage these ladies.

Within minutes, I was pulling out my Bible and multicolored index cards.  As I thought about each friends, the words flowed onto each card.  Scribbles and scratches.  I wrote letters to each woman.  They included words about their gifts, moments of blessing, and Bible verses that sprung to mind when I thought about each woman.

I wondered if the ladies would appreciate index cards filled with my ramblings.  Would they rather have a leader who devoted her time to created gifts of potholders or puffy paint t-shirts?

The woman shuffled into my house around 9:30.  Within minutes, our plates were filled with egg casseroles, fresh fruit, and baked goods.  Around my dining room table, eight women feasted on food and friendship.  The laughter was contagious. 

When the last morsel was consumed, I pulled out the letters.  One by one, I spoke to my friends.  I retold the words God had put on my heart about every single woman.

I told my friend Kara she is bold for how she courageously shares her testimony.

I told my friend AJ that she is beautiful, because she is a beautiful creation in Christ.

I told my friend Melinda that she is a light, because she shines her light onto everyone in her path.

There was not a dry eye.

Today, my friend Melinda taught me a valuable lesson: use my gifts.

I've sworn off Pinterest.

God has better plans for me.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Raising Teenagers

Feels like he was just pushing around Matchbox cars!  Now he is behind the wheel!

My favorite girls: Erin and Rosie!  I think they hit it off!

March Madness: Third grade style! 

Snow and frigid temps wouldn't stop this group from celebrating Nicole's birthday!

We had triple the fun celebrating running friends Gwen, Gretchen, and Nicole's birthdays.

We run to be able to eat yummy things like this!

Blessed to run through life with these friends!

I'm a chronic under-estimator.  It's one of my fatal flaws.  I believe mountains are really molehills.  Challenges are really adventures.  Fat is really curves with a little cushion.

I tell myself things like....

Marathons aren't really that far.

I won't miss giving up sugar.

Traveling with kids will be a delightful experience.

The problem is somewhere along the way, things become hard.  Really hard, sometimes.   At that point, my glass half full, Mary Poppins attitude starts to wane.

I carry this same attitude into raising children.  Perhaps I watched one too many Brady Bunch episodes as a child, but I believed we would be one big happy family all the time.  (And what I learned from the Brady Bunch is that if family members had a disagreement, they would work it out within the span of a 30 minute show.  Remember how Marcia forgave Peter for throwing the football at her nose?  It happened before the commercial!)

With two teenage boys and two preteen boys, reality is started to become apparent.

Ya'll, teenagers are hard.

They love me when I tell them what they want to hear.  They hate me when I say no.  And I have to say no...a lot.

I'm officially a mean mother.  Or so I've been told.  We are the kind of mean parents that seemingly spoil all the fun, ask too many questions, demand accountability, and require household participation.

I'm beginning to understanding that raising teenagers will be a mountain of responsibility, not a molehill.  They will require energy, stamina, persistence, and PRAYER.  But I believe if we can stagger up the mountain together, the view at the top will be pretty amazing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New Driver!

Posing for his learner's permit photo!

The sister dogs (the Brinkruffs have sister Reyna) were elated to see each other again.

We had the privilege to celebrate another birthday with sweet Claudia!

How many kids can fit on a couch:)

Cooper proposed a nature walk.  It was cold and rainy, but I agreed to join him.  Although the conditions were less than perfect, the time with him was a joy.  

"What are you reading?" Caleb asked me as I gazed into a book.

"A book on loving others well," I responded.

We both burst out laughing.  The irony was not lost on either of us as we both sat in the bureau of motor vehicles waiting to get Caleb his learner's permit.  (Caleb referred to the license branch as "purgatory."  I called it "the place where souls go to die.")

At this point, we had been sitting for about an hour waiting for our turn.  While we did bring books, people watching was the more enjoyable way to pass the time.  The license branch certainly provided a full and complete picture of the American population.  My strongest observation was that pajamas are acceptable (and seemingly wildly popular) license branch attire.  Rarely have I felt overdressed in public, but I suddenly felt like my jean/sweater ensemble was akin to wearing a ball gown at a fast food restaurant.

Angela, the license branch employee, finally called our number.  We greeted her with a smile; she barely looked up.  My second observation of the day is that Angela may not have a future in customer service.  I would best describe her as no-nonsense and a stickler for documentation (which I suppose you want in a government employee doling out licenses, but not when you are the one who didn't bring the correct documentation!).  

The residential documents I brought did not include my name on the papers.  I suggested my husband take a picture of the papers and text me the photo.  While that appeared to be an easy solution, the license branch doesn't do easy.  I honestly think they specialize in figuring out solutions that will triple your wait time.

I'll spare you the boring details about how we finally received the correct papers.  The quick version is it took us an additional hour to be seen again by branch employee Shelly.

Compared to Angela, Shelly appeared bubbly.  With the correct documentation in hand, Caleb was given permission to take the written test and vision screening.  He passed both, and he was promptly ushered over to the photos.

Within minutes, we were signing a stack of documents.

"Do you agree to be financially responsible for him?" Shelly asked while scribbling some notes.

Suddenly, the weight of receiving of a learner's permit hit home.  Caleb is months away from being a licensed driver.  With this privilege comes both the joys and fears associated with a new driver.  Having a child behind the wheel is a scary prospect.  I wandered if I was ready to have my child take on all that responsibility.

I eyed Caleb, and I had my third observation of the day: he is ready.  This son of mine has shown himself to be responsible.  It's time to let him go.  

To let him go behind the wheel.  

To let him go where roads will take him.  

To hope he'll always come back home.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ice, Ice Baby

Best expert on the red panda!

I love running through life and celebrating birthdays with my running friends!

Sunday night, the weather did a number on Indiana.  Freezing rain left a thick layer of ice over our entire yard and neighboring roads.  Poor Rosie took one step out the back patio and learned how to skate.  I prayed that I wouldn't take a tumble.  A neighbor told me to take "penguin steps" to avoid falling to which I complied (but at the same time wondered if I was being punked).  I don't know which looks more funny: a fall on the ice or an adult walking like a penguin.

Church attendance was low.  The ice scared away those who were not interested in doing the penguin walk into church.  The icky weather left my boys feeling cooped up with excess energy to burn.  And so they decided church was the best place to get out the "wiggles. "  (Something seems off when I'm yelling at my kids while walking out of church.)

As a surprise to no one, the ice did not scare Cooper.  After church, he slid on his slippery shoes (his pool slides) and raced onto our icy drive.   Somehow, he convinced Rosie to join in the fun.  (How I wish I would have shot video!)  While I know the South Korean olympics have more professional looking performances, Cooper and Rosie provided just as much entertainment.  If asked to judge, I would have flashed them a ten for their tandem routine.

Today, the weather took a turn for the warmer.  The ice has practically all but melted.  The Vitamin D from the sun has transformed all of our dispositions for the better.  But Cooper holds a grudge and misses having his own private ice rink. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Puppy Love

Miss Rosie.

When ice is forming on your face and hair, you know it's a cold run!

Before we picked up our puppy Rosie, I'd be warned about dogs.  Friends cautioned about the chewing, slobber, hair, and carpet stains.  I was also told that despite my kids many promises, I would be tending to the dog.

I always believed that my family would be the exception.

It's a fatal flow of mine.

Within the first week of being a pet owner, I experienced every stereotype and byproduct of having a puppy.

On Sunday, I encouraged (strongly) the boys to take the puppy on a walk.  From their comfortable places on the couch, they uttered a litany of excuses.

It's too cold.

She doesn't need a walk.

I'm tired.

On the 19th excuse, I snapped and yelled loudly encouraged them to walk the dog.  One son jumped off the couch.  The other sons cowered in the corner, afraid to unleash one more word.

The rest of the day, my foul mood trailed with me.

That evening, Chris arrived home three hours late from his ER shift.  His scrubs were doused in blood, and his body look beat.

"I'm so mad at you," I exclaimed.  "I can't out-bad day you."

And with the infusion of a little humor and a dose of perspective, my mood began to shift.

A friend told me that owning a dog is great if you get past the first year.

We've got 11 months to go.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Meet Rosie

On Sunday, Chris walked into our home with a St. Bernard puppy.  Four sons raced to see who could hug her first.  This was our dog.  Our first dog.  We named her Rosie.

Rosie was a bit overwhelmed with the situation at first.  Four new "brothers" can do that to a dog.  She cowered in the corner and then found her spot on the carpet.  For the next 24 hours, she slept on the floor, and then slept some more.  In my world, she was a dream dog!

Last night, the honeymoon was over.  Rosie suddenly experienced a burst of energy.  Our seemingly docile dog took a flying leap and landed on our bed.  When we shooed her down, she found it a great time to explore other avenues of mischief.  

Her cuteness was beginning to wear off.

This morning, she woke us up at 4:30 a.m. and abruptly peed on our carpet.

Rosie is officially on my bad side.

My friends say this is all part of the process.  She'll learn, they insist.  

I just wonder if my carpet and sanity will make it through.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Finally, a girl!

I had a sweet birthday celebration with my dear friend Erin.

Mom and Dad provided another great birthday companions.

No shirt required when it comes to birthday cakes!

My new 9 year old!

Where does the time go?

My (our) birthday present.  Meet Miss Rosie.

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be looking at a dog for my birthday, I would have laughed.  

Full-belly laugh.

Your crazy laugh.  

But life if funny that way.  

On my 44th birthday, I was sitting in the living room of a breeder staring into the eyes of a dog.

I think one should know that "just looking" at a dog is dangerous.  It's like "just looking" for a house.  Odds are you will walk away with a new house.  Or new dog, in our case.

The night before, our friends the Brinkruffs announced that they were considering getting a new dog.  Their new dog has a sister, they mentioned.  My usual response would be "so nice for you." Instead, I peppered them with questions.  Why so many questions? I can't explain.  Something about the dog and the situation was intriguing to me.  Before ordering dessert, we agreed to visit the breeder with them.

On Sunday (my birthday), we traveled 45 minutes to the breeder's house.  The first dog that greeted us at the door was a monster.  The owner laughed at our reaction and explained this dog was a St. Bernard/Great Dane mixture.  (Which means the dog was the size of a tank.)  I suppose seeing the largest dog known to man makes every other dog look petite.  And so when I gazed at our puppy (a plain ole St. Bernard), she looked smallish.

The 50-pound puppy was docile and sweet.  She definitely put on her best manners for "adoption day."  (I'm sort of wondering if they gave her Benadryl before our visit as she was so dang calm.)  She nestled up to my leg and cuddled near my foot.  In an instant, this non-dog person became a convert.

Chris and I agree to "talk it over" which basically involved all the males in the house telling me it was going to happen.  We called the breeder and agreed to be her new owner.  I guess the Woods' dog philosophy is "Go Big or Go Home" as we will have a dog as big as a house.

Rosie, as we are calling her, will arrive on Sunday.  I've spent the last few days getting familiar with Pet Smart and learning a new lingo: pet-speak.  Many friends are eager to share advice.  (While some share pet horror stories that scare the socks off me.) For good or bad, we are ready to start the next adventure: dog owners.  Rosie has many hands that will love on her, and hopefully lend a hand to help too!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ice Skating

View of our snow-covered house.

California band trip.

Basketball tournament winners.

Despite the cold, outdoor ice skating can't be beat!

Look for us as one of the competitive ice skating teams in the winter olympics!

This one adored the ice.

These two learned to love the ice.

On Martin Luther King day, the kids had the day off school.  The bitterly cold temperatures dipped above zero for the first time in days.  I rejoiced at the sliver of hope that winter was on the outs.  With time on our hands, my friend Nicole recommended ice skating at a new outdoor rink.

What I can say with confidence is that we will not be recruited for the US figure skating team.  Half of our group spent the majority of their time clutching a wall; the other half exuded too much confidence that resulted in many backsides colliding with the ice.

For me, I tried to channel my inner Nancy Kerrigan.  Even though I lacked the fancy skater outfit, I pulled off some pretty sweet moves (like skating backwards and turning right)!  I even attempted to add some dance moves (swaying and arm pumping) to my slightly disjointed skating gait.  A lot of other skaters took notice, and I believe the smiles were a nod to my exceptional skills!

In typical Cooper fashion, he took on the ice with gusto.  He treated the ice rink as if something to be conquered.  Cooper would race across the rink at full speed only to have it end with a icy nosedive (or backslide).  And repeat.  And repeat.

Connor and Collin were more timid.  The ice was not something to be trusted.  The put in their time on the rink, but have no short term plans to return.

I was bummed when our skating session was over.  If I have any hopes of becoming the next Nancy Kerrigan, I need a bit more time on the ice!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Post from the Frozen Tundra

I treasure the individual "dates" I get with a son.  Caleb let me join him at the art museum.  I love watching him transition from a child into an interesting adult.

It's 29 degrees right now, and I am giddy; it feels tropical.  I'm tempted to toss on a tank top and lather on some sunscreen.  Last week, temperatures dipped under zero degrees.  The "feels like" temperature was too upsetting to record.  For days, we cocooned ourselves under blankets and layers of clothing.  We prayed that God would teleport us to either Florida or to April...asap.

To make matters worse, water stopped flowing from our faucets, showers, and toilets yesterday morning.  I think it was just too cold to move.  One doesn't truly appreciate running water until it's not running.

The fact that we lack running water has been met with mixed emotions.  The boys feel like their prayers have been answered with the non-working showers and the encouragement to relieve themselves in the great outdoors.  Chris, ever the frugal optimist, believes running water is right around the corner.  He assures us that there was no need to bother a plumber.  Spring will come soon enough.  As for me, the lady of the group, showers and working toilets seem like a necessity, not a bonus amenity.

This morning, the faucets were still silent.  The garage was flooded with water which had spilled out onto our drive way.  We now have a homemade ice rink outside our back door.

I'm no plumber, but things seem off.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  A professional has been called.  With everyone else battling their own busted pipes, he is slated to visit our home tomorrow. 

Until then, we're praying for water, or spring.  Whichever comes first.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Missing Quiet

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Christmas lights did not disappoint.  As an added bonus for the boys, we drove on the track!

Monument Circle....all dressed up for the holiday.

I can't recommend the Winterlights at the Indianapolis Art Museum enough.

Of course if the temperature was a bit over 3 degrees, we would have enjoyed it even more!

The candlelight portion of Christmas Eve service always makes me smile.  So pretty!

My casual Christmas Eve crew.

Christmas morning.

Our annual Christmas morning run continues!

The celebration continued into the day.  Christmas dinner with the cousins.

Adulting on Christmas.

I've stopped asking why.  I heard the melodious sounds of the saxophone coming from outside.  I opened the door to discover Cooper serenading the kids playing in the snow!

Back to snow season.

 This was last year's Christmas present that didn't get used until this week.  This winter, we are not so lucky.

My Christmas Eve date at the Colts game.

Chris spent Christmas Eve working in the ER.  I enjoyed the evening with this crew of party animals!

I've often heard people say they want a "quiet evening at home."  For us, "quiet evenings" and "at home" are oxymorons.  Our home is never quiet.  Clamor and commotion are intertwined in the daily workings of our house.

Young entertainers are banging on the piano.  Budding musicians are belting out notes on brass instruments.  Aspiring athletes are bouncing balls.  Fiery siblings are hollering.  Feisty boys are wrestling.  Clumsy sons are crashing pots and pans.  Defiant offspring are arguing.  Spectating males are cheering for favorite teams.

The cacophony of sounds is enough to push this mama over the edge.

I miss quiet.

I know it exists, buried under the mound of noise.

Someday it will be quiet, I'm reassured.  But by then, I won't know how to live any other way.